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"Post-Fletcher"; excerpt

Monday 5/20/19

I'm heading out to climb. I've just composed 2200 words of my short story, "Post-Fletcher," which is now 3500 words long. It's a story about a man named Fletcher who lives in a New England coastal town. He is divorced. His ex-wife lives in California, with another man, though Fletcher and his ex-wife, from this distance, are becoming closer than ever. We don't know exactly what caused their marriage to end. That has occurred off-stage. And it really does not matter, necessarily, though the story makes some things plain--plain-ish--via implication and dropped hints. But again--not the focus, and fine for people to wonder, if they wish. This man Fletcher has shut down, in a way. He is living in the carriage house of his friends, Danton and Sandy. He dated the latter throughout high school. His old house--which he has been unable to bring himself to sell (or inhabit)--is down the street. He works as an illustrator, and when he sits at his desk, in the carriage house, he can see this old house. There is a problem in the town--Fletcher has a ghost. Even though he is not dead. This here--which I just composed--is perfect prose. This is what publishing does not want the world to see. What it wishes to deny readers. It is self-evident what this is. Any non-biased reader--any single one--knows exactly what it is. But because it is what it is, and because it was done by this artist, there are those who will do everything in their power to suppress it. And what is it, really? Great art that can bring so much joy, insight, and meaning to lives. Great art born of the right reasons. For people. For all kinds of people.

Fletcher didn’t talk to Trish on the phone that day. They spoke less on weekends. He knew she was going to a vineyard with Jerry. He was an oenophile, which made Fletcher hate the word, though he used to like it.

That night at dinner he didn’t tell Danton and Sandy about his plans. She was his friend from childhood. They were what people called “townies.” He had spent most of high school as her boyfriend.

“You know, you and Danton are still the only two men I’ve ever been with,” she had said one day, then motioned her hips a little, when she came into the carriage house where Fletcher was still asleep.

He remembered how she loomed over him in bed, like a great bird—a comely great bird. He knew she was trying to snap some feeling back into him. Trish had been her friend. Danton normally asked Fletcher on Saturday night if he had big plans, and always Fletcher would say that he was lying low. It sounded better than “no, nothing,” or “I’ll just go to bed.”

He sat at the desk in the carriage house, looking down the street at his old house. He figured he would draw. He was supposed to be working on a book cover for a romance novel. Doing so usually caused him to pinch the skin around his biceps and wonder if a gym membership would transform his life. Maybe it was that simple. But it wasn’t. People always say things are simple. But nothing, really, if you truly understand it, is ever simple. Not a drop of water falling from a faucet into a stoppered sink. It wasn’t even simple that people felt the need to tell you what was simple. His house was long and rectilinear. Like a ranch house with a growth spurt or a barn for horses, with a second floor. He and Trish were going to research what it had been initially. She was nervous that they’d learn that someone had died there. He hadn’t helped matters.

“Well, strictly speaking, lots of people have probably died in this house. It is from 1804. Unlikely to be a death-free zone.”

“Fletcher, you’re awful, don’t say that.” That was his favorite smile of hers. What it really meant is, “I really like you right now, say more.”

“Awfully accurate, I’d bet.”

The evening was cold for that time of year when you still had beach cookouts. Fletcher thought he could even see his breath, but when he tried to make it visible again in order to confirm the seasonal irregularity, he only noticed an owl in a poplar tree by the street’s only streetlight, like the light was the owl’s own personal reading lamp.

This owl was always in that tree. He was a standby. Standbys could be good, if you did not take them too much for granted. Fletcher gave the owl a second look on account of how he was trying to get better at this. For the future.

A mission of this nature seemed to require a flask and Fletcher had one so he took a sip of whiskey, which he also been doing with a degree of consistency. His house was not on a hill and it was not very tall, but it felt like it loomed above him, columnar, as he stood outside of it. He turned and faced Danton and Sandy’s house, a solid old Colonial whose oaken hue seemed almost polished, like the bottom of a freshly breamed frigate possessed of a couple hundred years of age, and presumably some form of accrued wisdom.

The light in their bedroom was out. He could barely make out the carriage house in which he had been living, as if the tight bank of trees behind it had enclosed it in a giant glove made of moonlit-fed leaves. It was a nice night. Nice nights no longer registered. It could have been sleeting. It wouldn’t have mattered. First he saw the glow that gave him the sharp, pinprick of thought that someone was in his house. Had he not shut off the electricity? He was no longer being charged for any. But the mystery departed when he saw himself in the window not more than twelve feet above his head. He recognized the shirt—from a farmer’s market he and Trish liked in Vermont—even though it, too, was glowing.

Fletcher wasn’t sure what to do, so he waved. Gingerly. Other Him—Post-Fletcher—had his gaze lined up with Fletcher’s eyes and forehead, he felt. Gaze accord. But it was clear that Post-Fletcher was looking beyond him, through him. Fletcher wondered if his guts were visible. His thoughts. His emotions. Or if there was just something better behind him, so he turned around to look, but there was nothing save the Robeson’s lawn ornament of a woodland sprite hovering above a foaming waterfall, plasticized bucolics. They probably wanted to accentuate the sylvan quality of their lawn, which they rarely mowed.

Fletcher went home and drank some more. He tried to draw Post-Fletcher, but it just ended up looking like real Fletcher. Not that Post-Fletcher wasn’t real. He obviously was. He checked the clock. It was only ten Pacific time. He could call Trish and see what she thought. But he thought of her as having sperm in her vagina from another man. She would probably still talk to him if he was upset—and he was—because that’s the kind of friends they were now, but he still didn’t want to be describing something as difficult as seeing Post-Fletcher—and he would have to explain about the name and the party at the beach and Russ—while wondering if she could feel that which had come from another man inside of her, moving around, maybe dripping out. Semen had a glow. Pearlescent. Maybe that was the message. No. That was not it.

What he really wanted to do, after he had exhausted all other options, was sit down with his ghost. He felt drawn to him, which is why when he looked down the street—not lovingly, necessarily, but with emotional interest—at his house, which usually caused him great pain to do so, he was relieved that he could denote some lambency coming from the bedroom.

A very soft glow. Like that from a nimbus that had been left out too long hovering in the sun, or a once-radiant watercolor, improperly stored. You had to be looking for it, maybe.

He was doing that. And he saw it. He had been sitting in darkness, as he did most nights, after giving up on the drawing, but now he turned his desk lamp on, then off, then on again, like a pattern, an emotional Morse code, in case Post-Fletcher was also looking down the road at him.

It’s an awful feeling to feel entirely alone, so much so that you know the word “feeling” is not the qualifier you wish it to be, because what you mean by feeling is instead “knowledge.”

He didn’t want Post-Fletcher to feel that way. Or know that way. Whichever it might be. Not that he had a right to assume his state of mind. Then again, he also kind of did. It was a delicate situation.

Well. There it is. I know how this story ends. I have it all worked out. I think the ending will be the most beautiful there has been in literature. Tied. I've had other stories and works--"Last Light Out," "Pillow Drift," "Funny Lines TK," and the close of Meatheads Say the Realest Things is, somehow, beyond elegiac to the point of being post-elegiac--about which the same could be said. But this ending is absolutely going to wreck people. In a good way. I don't know how many climbs I'm going to do today. I got up late and then I had too much coffee. I feel clammy. Shaved for the first time in ten days. I awoke in the middle of the night and started eating jellybeans. Strange thing to do. Probably did not help. Each time I do an entry in this journal, I have to illustrate it, either with an image or at least a link. I don't really have anything for this entry, so I'll just use this Kinks song from twenty-five years ago, which is virtually unknown but good. Snaky.


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