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"The Kindness", short story excerpt

Friday 3/6/20

Wrote another story. Unreal. Unreal the amount and the level. Five new short stories since Saturday. "Lucian," "Mateus," "The #1," "Room Dark," "The Kindness." Plus, a 2000 word essay on Miles Davis's Bitches Brew unlike anything previously written on the record or Davis before, and the first 1300 words of an essay on Sherlock Holmes and breakfast. And lots of blogs and radio and podcasts. While these other people, who wish to entirely snuff me out and take any opportunity from me, or even the slightest chance of fairness, gather at the AWP conference and help to delude each other.


It was funny: I read on Twitter yesterday about the "brave" people at Hachette who walked out in solidarity over the Woody Allen memoir, who then posted about doing this for self-virtue and Woke points, and people just bowed down before them and licked, and licked, and licked--which is what they wanted, of course--saying what amazing humans they are. There has to be someone out there in this industry with intelligence, character, and vision. Who wants to make history. We will make a mint together. When that happens, or if that happens, or I just get it all done on my own, I do not know. But if you are out there, something infinitely bigger than all of the nonsense awaits. It is right bloody there, if you can see the enormity of what it is.


But that's rich, reading all of the comments about what heroes these people are. If anyone actually knew how publishing works, how doggedly, unceasingly unethical so many of the people in it are, how bigoted so many of them are, you would have a whole new industry on your hands. And there will be, as more people come to this blog and more come to know my work.


Regarding the Woody Allen memoir: it will be dropped, I'm sure. Should have have been signed up in the first place, because he sucks at writing. And his time is so over. It never should have even happened. The kind of dilettante who read The New Yorker in the 1970s was the kind of person who claimed to like Woody Allen movies. They could tell themselves they got the jokes about John Cheever.


As for Woody Allen in general and more about this specifically--I'm sure he's a terrible person and I never found him or his films or his writings remotely interesting. I've dealt with Michael Pietsch, the guy who signed up Allen's memoir. I should post the emails. He was also the guy who signed and was the editor for David Foster Wallace (and the hilariously bad The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach), whom publishing people pretended to worship--terrible writer though he was--before pushing back from him somewhat on account of his alleged misogyny, which I would not doubt was true, but no more so than the misogyny and misandry that dominates the very same people pushing back from his awful writing that they pretended to like.


By the by: The New Yorker had no problem publishing Woody Allen's fiction. He's written like forty pieces for the magazine. Bet you didn't know that. Kind of ironic, no? (You know who really hated Woody Allen? Orson Welles. Read some of his comments on him.)


I also came up with another story, but I will keep that in my head for now and work on it in my there while I climb the Monument which I will do in a few minutes for the ninth straight day.


I use Facebook as a means of gathering information, primarily. I am here to take down a vile industry--or, repair and rehab it (I'm open to whatever is going to work to the max good)--and get the world reading again. Not just get the world reading again. But also bring back truth. And identity. The lost art of being a person. So, I reach out to many people I have no respect for. They will go on Facebook and brag about things they got via cronyism, they will show off their bigotry, their sexism. All info I can use. And they give it up so easily.


Sometimes I meet people I like and respect. Sometimes I see people going through hard things in life, and I reach out to them privately and send them a few words of encouragement or concern. And sometimes I find some people so vomit-inducing that I can't even stick around for the info--provided the info isn't going to be the kind that helps my cause.


Like this one woman today, who had everything handed to her in life. She was a dreadful writer, but she was hooked up with all of these opportunities. Went to the right schools, looked the right way, virtue signaled the right way, but couldn't even compose a declarative sentence.


I looked at her scrawl, and you'd see the same phrases repeated half a dozen times in two paragraphs, then the same phrases in every piece she wrote. For fancy venues. And no one flagged this, or said, "erm, this woman has no ability." And she was just really dumb. For instance, she posted that if you did not vote for Elizabeth Warren, you were 100% sexist.


There are all kinds of reasons not to vote for any of these people. You can't think of any valid ones that might not make someone automatically a sexist? Which, of course, is a remark that only a sexist would say.


Maybe it was not Elizabeth Warren's gender that was the issue. Maybe it was not, as I read in a different piece, on account of her competence and how we hate competence (something, which, admittedly, terrifies me, because I think if I sucked at what I do, could do far less of it, let's say I was just a shitty writer who looked nebbish and went to Yale and had no knowledge and the right agent because I was their kind of smarmy and simple and unctuous, I would be in a much different situation, and my greatest fear is that the smarter you are, the more screwed you are, which makes me the most screwed, unpopular person there could ever be; certainly my numbers--as with followers and what not--bear this out; you could be 104 and launch a Twitter account in your rest home tomorrow and have no friends or family and inside of two days you'll have more followers than I do with the places I write for).


Maybe people were put off by the fact that she lied to get ahead in life with the Native American background thing. The thing about a lie like that, is that even other liars who do lies like that are often bothered by it. They don't have self-awareness. They wouldn't like themselves if they met themselves. But they don't like people who cheat to get ahead. Even though they wold and do.


And then there is an old-timey expression called having a nice way about you. Now, somebody might say, "Donald Trump doesn't have a nice way about him!" and of course he doesn't. But I'm not talking about why you might not vote for him. There are loads of reasons for that.


Some people have a natural laugh, an easy way to them, a soft tone that is also not indicative of weakness. I feel like I sound this way on the radio. It's how I am. I hear it in some people at the Starbucks in line. Then other people are officious, they don't have that nice way about them. Doesn't mean they might not be nice, though I think it often does mean that.


She does not come across as someone with a nice way about her. She comes across as someone whom, if you're the barista at the register, you think, "eh, she's going to be a pain in the ass and fake smiley and nice but actual leaden and the niceness feels forced." I don't think she's this amazing intellect. I think she's pretty average, smarts-wise. But you have a guy who is obviously senile and another guy who is crazy-ish and feels toxic to me. I think people look at those two, think they're grandfather-like, as if there's this Santa Claus quality, get fooled by that or fooled into thinking, "eh, whatever, it's probably fine." I always have the sense with Warren that she's not being natural, that she's coaching herself to sound a certain way in her head. It's mechanical. You don't warm to it.


It's not like people really listen to their policies. (Trump is in part successful because he either realizes that no one listens or is too dumb to be able to think of anything in detail so he doesn't speak in specifics and policies but rather the way people do at the bar, which is to say, in generalities. People eat that shit up at last call. We're a last call type of culture right now, which is another reason I fight and I believe there is so much I can do, and that I am needed to do. Most intellectuals are fake intellectuals and they do the same exact thing, but with a fancy degree and more sanctimony.)


People don't think that deeply about anything. You're not reading smart tweets, one after the other, on Twitter from the so-called "cultural elites." It's just dumb fucking people with a Yale degree and a blue check mark. And everyone else. My point is is if you live under a bench or in Beacon Hill, you're probably tweeting and thinking on about the same level, and thinking as much--which is to say, as little. You're reading stuff at the same stupid level of four Boston meatheads discussing sports. (Says the sports guy who livers in Boston. But do you know how painful it can be to listen to four Boston bros discuss sports?) The meatheads probably think more industriously about the sports than the tweeters do about politics, which is obviously frightening.


I should say that we're not intrinsically stupid. We choose what we are going to know. If we're going to try to know things. To not be lazy, to not do the bare minimum to get through life. People make that decision to do the bare minimum. And the world is such that with each passing year, you and do less and less and get by. We've reached a point where we tend not to do our own thinking. Publishing and media helps the decline along, does nothing to try and halt it and get it going back the other way. Feels good to have a clue when others also have a clue. Makes for a better quality of life if that's what more people are doing. Makes for better self-esteem, better mental health. It's not college. Look at me. As I have said before, there is not one single thing I learned in college. I would be the same person, the same writer, and possess the same amount of knowledge if I never went.


And there is only one reason anyone is thinking about politics or tweeting about it or writing about it: It's plastered in front of their lazy ass faces, to mix bodily metaphors. If they had to go out and find it on their own, do any digging or research, it'd be tumbleweeds. If the joys of Windex were plastered in front of our lazy ass faces, people would post all the livelong day about blue liquid. It's not an actual interest or concern, because hardly anyone has actual interests or concerns anymore. They have a phone they look at. And when they press their thumb down to unlock it on the subway, they have apps and social media, and whatever is getting discussed on them is what they purport to care about. But it could be anything. So long as it is there. Because they will get very little from anything else.


And that terrifies me, too, and also in part explains the situation I am in. Because you have to come to me right now. There's no banging of the drum. There's no "hey, Colin is trending again." And then it takes time and energy and thought--and a complete suspension of belief, of all that you've known and thought humanly possible--to begin to grasp what I am.


There is a power here unlike anything that if it could be harnessed, put out there, it could do so much. But it's like being atomic energy when all anyone tends to be able to conceive of or allow as existing is a popgun, a homemade slingshot, a Fourth of July sparkler.


Today, Brian Williams and Mara Gay of the New York Times editorial board, are on TV and they say that if Mike Bloomberg took the money for a 500 million he spent on his campaign he could have instead given everyone in American a million dollars each. The real math comes out to something that wouldn't get you a small coffee at Dunkin' Donuts. And the commenters on Twitter were saying that this is where the media gets its knowledge, from Twitter, that these are the dumbest, most arrogant people in every room.


Yeah. No shit. That's what I'm dealing with here. I used to think that the challenge would be to be the best artist ever. I realized that. It's like Jay says in The Inbetweeners: "Completed it," except I'm not taking the piss. I think I proved that, in terms of the reality, a long time ago. In terms of the body of work. Not the body of work that the entire world has seen. But what I do, the level I do it at, the amount of it, the range. I used to think that was going to be the issue. It's not. That's the easy part.


The hard part is that you are shackled to industry people who are completely incompetent and all but brain dead (and then maybe, after, if I get there, hated by the world at large, if the world at large simply recoils, as I fear, from intelligence, and does so all the more the greater that intelligence is). You're reliant on them not being those things and being smart enough to realize what is what and what to get behind. And to not be petty, envious, discriminatory people.


At the end of Frank Norris's McTeague, the title character is in the desert, handcuffed to a dead guy. So, he's not going anywhere. And yes, if you've read the book, I know you know McTeague sucks, he's a bad dude. Have a foam beer on me. That's not the aspect I'm highlighting here. What I am highlighting is that idea of being shackled to dead weight, dead brains, that you need to be kind of, well, not dead.


Do people in regular life--that is to say, not in publishing--despise know-it-alls? Yeah, I think so. Do they despise someone who appears to know it all? To actually know it all? Do you know how frozen with fear I am that that is true? It is giving me a panic attack right now. Then again, a know-it-all is partially, at least, despised because they don't actually know much of anything. But I have never been liked. I knew this person who thinks I'm going to have millions of fans and be as beloved as anyone ever has been, and we used to fight about this, round and round, it was exhausting. I didn't have five people in high school who liked me and I have thousands of people in an industry now who despise me. And like I said, I have like thirty followers on Twitter. And I'm nice and I'm funny and I mentor a little kid and I'm a good man and I'm all alone and I keep trying, I feel like I do not just everything right, but I do them right in the hardest circumstances.


My own webmaster--whom I cannot track down anymore--once told me that someone will either really love me or hate me. That terrifies me that she might be right. You need the middle group, you need the average person, the less-than-average person. Let's not be children and pretend that you can't think of people that way, because we all do, whether we are correct or not in our assessments. The people who seem to like me thus far are those one out of a million--or more than a million--people who are smarter than just about everyone else, and decent, and possessed of Socratic wisdom, and who like to learn and are welcome opportunities to do so. That's how Kimball is, and Julie, and maybe the publisher at Tailwinds and Dan and Bruce and Joe the Mason. But there are not a lot of Kimballs, etc. I am not going to make it on the Kimballs. I need all of those other kinds of people and people I wouldn't actually get along with for twenty seconds in life, people you have no common ground with.


The Beatles and Dickens got those people. And it doesn't mean you don't care about those people, or that you don't love them, that you are not creating for them. I want to get to where I am trying to get, and yes I want to make my millions but I live my life for those people, I gave it to them, just as I try to give it to me but a different way. And I try to have faith that while, okay, here we have someone who does know it all, they're open, they share what they go through, they inspire, they'll tell you they barely make it through every day, they haven't so much as had sex in years, they're scared. Just as I'd be the same way, I'd be honest and real if this was going as I want it to go, if it goes as I am trying to get it to go. And I hope that humanizes me.


I mentioned that I wrote this great piece on Miles Davis. And it is, it's truly great. You don't have to like Miles Davis to think it's great. The writing is very provocative, fun, the phrases, the ideas. But a lot of times, even if I was not hated and blackballed by an industry, if I pitched that idea, I'm pitching it to people--who went to Yale and Harvard, mind you--who have never heard of Miles Davis. And no, it's not an old guy thing, because I am not an old guy. They wouldn't know Frank Norris either. They don't know anything. They know what is trending on Twitter. So they talk about Bloomberg and Warren and coronavirus, write about it, and there's nothing else. The cycle is swapped out, then they focus on the new stuff. You suggest anything intelligent, and it's like it's obsolete. And everyone just writes these hollow, mindless, puff pieces for clicks that insult everyone's intelligence.


I'm going to do a post on how I am not a freelancer or a journalist, which is true, and I'll get into this at length, but let me give you an example of what a freelancer is in 2020. I'm on Facebook, and I see this other woman--again, she's in the places (New York Times Magazine, etc.) you want to be in, where I am banned (we'll do a nice long blog exposing the likes of Willy Staley soon enough), she looks like them, sounds like them, went to Harvard, went to a private junior high that cost $100K--bragging about this piece she wrote for a place in LA. And it was about how she went to this party where Millennials dress up their dogs in sweaters and polo shirts. Just pure mindless puffery. Imbecilic. Not even cute. Just stupid. And she interviews these people. I'd be mortified. This wasn't because she needed the money, like I always need money. This was a great piece to her, a real achievement. She posts it on Facebook, and all of these people post comments like, "You are on fire lately!" "You go girl!" "I love your writing!" "Brava!"


I go to her website. And everything she writes is this kind of piece. She knows nothing about anything. You get an assignment, you show up at something stupid, you ask stupid people stupid questions, you type up their answers. You went to Harvard, you've always had money, awards, privilege which you extend by posting links about how awful men are and patriarchy, and you're going to hate me, of course, because here's the fit, athletic-looking white male in Boston who is the expert on all of these things, who is entirely self-made, who didn't go to Harvard, who is smarter than anyone who did, and yes, that is publishing. That's who you are dealing with. And that's freelancing. Freelancing means, "I am connected and I come from the elites but I know nothing about nothing, and I have no shame, no perspective and as a writer there is not a single thing I offer the world."


The deeper you dig into me and what I do, or my background, the more links you read, the more you realize, "shit, he writes on this too" and "shit, look how much fiction he does as well," and you listen to some radio clips, you hate me more. So yes, it's that same person who goes on TV and says something stupid, who whines all day on Twitter about misogyny when they have never deserved and earned anything in their professional lives--or likely their lives--on merit. That's what I'm dealing with. More, that's who I am reliant on to get on my side and give me a chance, back me. What's more, one person like that backing you doesn't do it. You need 2500 of them working in concert. That's how they Roxane Gays of this world happen. A lot of people have to decide, in the industry, to work in concert on someone's behalf like that. And of course they'll work on her behalf, for all of the wrong reasons.


This was really just supposed to be a story excerpt. So, here is that. Another unique one. Ghost story, not a ghost story, so different.


***


My friend Camille said it would be good to kill the man who walked in the woods because we would be doing him a kindness and kindness was a rare thing in this world, though that was more like something her mother would say.


“Remember, your heart is God’s little garden,” she’d tell us if she heard us talking bad about one of our classmates. She smoked a lot of Camels and was always going for a waxing.


“My mom must have the hairiest pussy,” Camille said, and I told her it wasn’t something I wanted to talk about.


“You don’t talk about it, dummy,” she added. “It’s just something you point out.”


We wouldn’t say words like that until we’d shut the lights off in her room. Then we’d take turns at the window with the binoculars. That was one of my main reasons for sleeping over as much as I did, to see the man in the woods. Sleepovers were the nights Camille’s mom didn’t home. She considered me responsible. Or the two of us together, anyway. Our ages added up to nearly twenty-six, which was good enough.


“How do you know he wants to die?” I asked her.


“Because I talked to him.”


“You can’t talk to a ghost.”


We could see him through the binoculars at night in the woods behind her house. He wasn’t from our time. He was a soldier, but there was no metal on him apart from a musket over his shoulder. No metal hat. His coat was long, down to his knees, with brass buttons the size of cherries the length of it. We watched as he tried to shoot himself with the musket, but his arms were not long enough. One evening he had some vine and he threw it over a tree branch and made a noose, but it went right through his neck each time he tried to hang himself and he just dropped to the ground.


“What if we let him fuck my mom?” Camille suggested. “I think she has the AIDS.”


“Your mom doesn’t have AIDS.”


I had asked my mom if Camille’s mom maybe did, because she was with a lot of people. Camille would tell me she spoke to her father more even though they did not live together, but he hoped they all would at some point again. My mom said that Camille’s mom was probably fine and she was a nurse so I told Camille that but then I would change the subject.

“What if we go out there tonight,” I said, “and we ask him if there is anything we can do? He probably just wants to get to the right place where he is supposed to be. Maybe he can communicate to us what could help. Without words.”


“Like charades?”


“Okay.”


We put on lots of layers even though it was mid-September. I remember the school year barely felt like it had started. Camille had been in a fight with Pamela Shae, who was a junior. She said Camille’s mom was a slut who got her parents divorced. I’d never seen Camille fight before. You didn’t think girls had actual fights. On prison shows, maybe. Not at private schools. Pamela knocked out one of Camille’s teeth and when Camille saw it on the ground she lost it, became this other person the kids watching were not ready for. Sometimes when she was really angry she’d say she could cunt punch someone, which was a term we never said to anyone else but we said it a bunch to each other. She punched Pamela Shae in the neck and when Pamela fell down, she kicked her neck. Everything went to the neck, like she wanted to leave the rest of her body alone. The tooth wasn’t even a tooth. It was a piece of apple from lunch. She must not have chewed her food very well. I thought she was so pretty but I remember thinking that Camille’s mouth was gross after that. No one picked on her any more and when I asked her how she knew how to fight she said her dad taught her how to defend herself. I wasn’t sure if I should have felt my dad let me down because he never talked about what I should do if someone hit me or a boy kept going when I didn’t want him to. “Are you starting to want them to?” my mom asked when I told her about Camille’s dad and if there was something I should have been told or taught. She kissed my head when I told her no, which was a lie. Her mouth smelled like the beach when it came in close to my face. Or lotion at the beach on your back.