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When in doubt, ass and abs

Saturday 4/17/21

It's five in the morning. Saturday. New week for me. A long day of working has begun. Watched some of Henry Hathaway's Five Card Stud (1968) to warm-up.

Motivation. Motivation is important for me. It is hard to have motivation without hope. Since the spring began, I have tried to walk at least three miles every day. To not miss a day. This statement can be misleading, because it is not like I often miss a day regardless. I had done a goodly amount of work, and it was cold, had been snowing, then it starting raining with howling winds. Temperature in the thirties. I didn't want to go, but then I think about these people who are denying me a life and a chance. I think about the bigotry. I think about them sitting there, with their easy lives, earning nothing. And then I go. I keep my heart strong so I can continue to endure, and beat every last one of them.

Motivation. It can be both a simple and complex concept. This is from a text yesterday: "That one day I saw Molly, she told me about a party she was at. This was when I hadn't heard from her and was writing like thirty letters a day. She told this jokey anecdote about having a drink in each hand. We were on Salem Street when she said this, not far from where you lived. It's kind of a moot point for me to say, 'and I'll never forget this,' because I never forget anything. But I'll never forget that. Sometimes, when I'm really close to giving up, when it'd be so easy just to die, I think of how she shared that story with me. Her glibness. Arrogance. How little concern she had. How untroubled she was by anything. And that keeps me going. To get to that day, that period in my life when so much truth comes out and so many people are held accountable. I'll never forget how she just laughed."

On the text theme. My sister relayed some incident yesterday about a person who had behaved thoughtlessly in a waiting room. My sister's experiences with people are far more sheltered and controlled than mine are. She'd tell you this. She's not exposed to what I am exposed to. I can find it quaint what someone thinks is not so very good, in relation to what I experience constantly. But she knows this, so it does not bother me, and I understand the nature of what is shared and the kind of prefatory remarks and caveats built into that sharing, which often involves things I'd never mention, because they'd be so slight and benign when measured against what I am fronted with all of the time. I responded to her, "One's first thought should usually be, 'How does this affect others?' So in life, so in art." I think that is a question that virtually no writers in the world ask themselves. They have no interest in how work affects anyone else. They don't even see that as a purpose. Because if writers did ask themselves that question, the answer almost all of the time would be, "It doesn't affect anyone at all, it couldn't, it's meaningless, there is nothing here to care about" and they'd have to start over with a different approach. You always have to ask yourself what the point is for someone else. What are you giving them and why. What does it add to their lives? Their hearts? Souls, brains? Their day? How they view the world? How they view themselves? How they view relationships? The point cannot be for you. "This affects me because I wanted to do it because I have nothing I am good at and I can fake it with writing and fake people who also are good at nothing can tell me I'm a good writer and that's my sense of self because there's nothing else, I'm a house of cards." That is the real reason for most. It's no good reason at all. I can scarcely tell someone how often I read something--and it's almost 100% with current day fiction--where I inwardly ask, "What is the point of this?"

Yesterday I composed two short stories. I have written over forty now in 2021. One was a jocular, witty work, which has serious, sobering overtones, called "Uncle Dad." It's not something I really have any plans for. Wouldn't be for Longer on the Inside. The tone would be askew with that book(s). Nor would it be for There Is No Doubt: Storied Humanness, the volume that will contain "Fitty," "Dead Thomas," "Transitionings," "Girls of the Nimbus." This new story is told in conversation between two guys. We can deduce by the end that it's probably a phone conversation, but we're not told outright. They're joking about the one guy stepping in and taking over the other guy's family if that latter guy--who works some kind of construction--dies. He sort of has this shallow wife, or an insecure wife, anyway, who puts up scantily clad workout photos on Instagram for thirsty guys and kind of thrives off of their comments. The guy who would step in has all of these stipulations, and they talk about the in-laws, a sexual tryout, the afterlife, Treasure Island.

Here's how it starts:

Guy 1: My wife is going to need a lot of compliments.

Guy 2: Clearly.

Guy 1: Why do you say that?

Guy 2: Because of her Instagram and posting all of the barely clothed workout photos from your living room for all of the thirsty guys who follow her and the cavalcade of smiley face emojis she shoots back at them when one of these geniuses says he’d like to come over and spells come with a “u.” And then she just posts more. But I’ve been thinking about this actually. Helping you out. Stepping in. For your family. You think a lot of things when you spend all of your time alone. So if you die in an accident at work, which is all the more likely because you don’t wear any of the safety harnesses…

Guy 1. Wait. This makes me uncomfortable.

Guy 2: What would you say the over/under is on your wife remarrying, time-wise? Six months?

Guy 1: Oh no, it would happen right away. She needs those compliments. The kind that come from in the house. About her ass. Lots of ass focus. When in doubt, ass and abs. But I don’t like talking about me being dead.

Guy 2: You have to have the right attitude with death. You’re thinking, “oh no, I’ll be parted from my two little girls for eternity.” It’s not like that. You go to Paradise. Whatever Paradise is for you, what truly means the most in your very soul. So if it’s your family, they’re there, and you don’t even know you’re dead, and the stuff that might have irritated you before doesn’t exist. You’re not actually missing anything. Or who knows. Maybe in your soul your greatest wish is to be some pink dolphin swimming in a tropical sea and that old roommate of yours who used to invite you into his room to film him fucking someone is your seahorse companion. I guess you’ll find out when you get there.

Guy 1: Yeah.

The other story was also likely not for Longer on the Inside. For one thing, it's not that short--1300 words. With that project, I've capped out the works at about 1200 words, but many are less than 1000. It could be for There Is No Doubt. This work was excellent. As strong as "Buck a Drive." It's called "Cliffs for Cliffs."

Here is how that one starts:

The girl had a precise definition of what constituted a cliff. A true cliff must have a direct aerial route to whatever was the lowest surrounding point. There’d be no rolling down a slope, like in the cartoons. A person had to be able to hit land or water, via the direct descent. She preferred what her father called full-state status. No half-measures. No hills for mountains.

The embankment upon which she stood was high, but it wasn’t a cliff. The sea gashed into the rock and bubbled in the crags sixty feet below. She couldn’t believe she had gotten used to putting on her clothes and walking just after dawn, and sometimes before. She didn’t even get tired anymore. That’s how it was for garbage men, when she’d wonder how the two on her family’s street could be so vocal and animated in the morning.

“I could’ve made that fucking catch last night, and I got them alligator arms,” one would say.

“Your mother could have thrown the pass better, too,” the other responded.

Her father wasn’t atop the precipice upon her arrival. That struck her as good a word as any for the non-cliff. It was as though the land had gotten a flat-top haircut, and she paced back and forth above its forehead, looking out to sea.

The mist was always in evidence at this hour. She squinted into it with the edge of her hand pressed against the skin over her eyebrows, a bony ridge similar to the one upon which she stood. Other people might not have known why someone would look through vapor in a manner normally reserved for sunlight, but they didn’t know this time of the day like she did.

She’d start by scanning for her father’s body floating off the shore, and work her way landward in concentric, confirming, half-circles of lessening tragedy. On this particular morning she saw what she thought was a cowboy hat rising and falling with the incoming tide.

“Hello,” she yelled, as loud as she could, calling out to a beige buoy of headwear.

One of the new pairs of shoes arrived. I've had the same shoes for about a half dozen years. I'll finally be able to throw them away. They're ripped and cracked everywhere, and the bottoms are wearing away to reveal this other layer which is basically foam.

Okay. Let's get to work. Our focus is laser-like. Our purpose is essential. Our cause redefines just. You are not losing to these people. Do what you need to do, and everything you need to do. Total focus, matchless art, no mercy when we get there.

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