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From Become Your Own Super Hero: Modern Fiction in Select Simple Stories

Wednesday 11/9/22

I have a friend who says, “You can write anything, and it will be something.” Here’s what I believe: you make the eye bop along and that will be most of it, that will see everyone through and carry them forward, bounding. That’s the key: the eye has to bop along.


People are like, “Oh, do you enjoy my luxurious background I’ve provided you? My setting of the scene like it was a magical banquet table for lords and ladies? Look at all of these paragraphs of description I’ve done.” But they can be fucking anything. You just want to get through them. Blah blah blah blah blah. Okay, we get it. You’re describing shit.


Here’s what you have to say instead: This is my story. You don’t actually say it. You think it. That’s it. It’s your story. If you want to have everyone walk around on their hands and exhale red smoke, then have them walk around on their hands and exhale red smoke. Just have it be that way. Act like it’s normal, because in your story, it is. You don’t have to apologize, make allowances, explain it away. That’s your story. Own it. All you have to do is be true to it.


People do that thing where they write something and under the title they add, “In the manner of so and so,” or “After the fashion of blah blah,” and insert some other author’s name. You could do it with Daniil Kharms, for instance, then do a pastiche, a homage, a riff.


Kharms would be like, “This is my story,” and people could walk around on their hands and exhale red smoke. No apologies from him, no sir. Who is Daniil Kharms? Because who is going to know that, right? Someone asked me earlier today what I was reading. I answered her and she said, “I hadn’t heard of that one!” to which I thought, “Did you expect you would have?” and “What are the chances?” and “How many do you know?” We’re holding our phones all the time. Surely we can look up Daniil Kharms. Why else are we always holding our phones if we can’t learn something once a week or whatever?


Anyway, in Daniil Kharms’ stories, it has always seemed to me that lot of people get tossed out of windows, but this is not the death of them. Annoying, sure, but like a paper cut is annoying and sizzles the skin a bit, before you realize it’s only a paper cut.


I love that we even have a word that means to throw someone out a window in this fashion: defenestrate. What a specific crime! Disembowel seems specific, too, but not nearly as much, right? The offense—the act—is also more common. People in Daniil Kharms stories get defenestrated, then race back inside to either screw a prostitute, pet a cat, stash some rubbles, or quaff some vodka, or a combo, but the vodka option is the most common.


But what if you were in a vacant building, like that was where you lived. Why is it vacant, why is that where you live? This again? Anything can be a reason. Everything is out there. We can skip the reasons right now. Don’t you want to? You’re in your room—the one you prefer, because, again, it’s a vacant building, so you pick what you wish—and fighting with this badass of a guy who has gained admittance to what you think is your palace, after a fashion. Your name is Park and his is Clark, so maybe that’s why it’s heated between you, because neither of you are distinct enough and you both want to be.


Blows are being received, blows are being delivered. You get him to the window and you chuck him out. Finally! But as you’re watching the street below, you see him hop back up on impact, and charge back in. Fuck, right?


So you go up another floor. Again, empty building, so you go where you want, and it’s your story, so say what you want with the rules you want. The standard rules of gravity—which you’re counting on as the you that is in the story—says that it’s whatever precise amount of miles per hour added—fifty!—to one’s descent upon going up another ten feet.


You get in that room upstairs, just in time, because here comes your enemy through the door and you do it all over again. Blows are absorbed, blows are delivered, you get him to the window—he seems to weaken near windows—and once again you chuck him out, though you’re not so confident this time as you watch him fall.


And sure enough, this fucker hits the ground and just like that he’s back on two feet. You race up another flight, and for a third time, the battle ensues, there’s an act of defenestration, until finally, an hour later—the process having been repeated for a few additional circuits—you’re both up on the roof. No more flights. The guy has kind of kicked your ass this time, or he’s winning, say, 60-40, and you’re near the ledge.


He takes twenty steps back and you think he’s done, it’s over, until you realize, oh shit, and he charges you, intent on both of you going over the edge and falling to the street below.


Who do you think is going to survive that? You have no reason at all to be confident. So there it is. It’s still your story, but what are you going to do?