Fiction by Scott Morris
Part one of a six-part serial.
Editors' Note: Beginning this month, The New Yinzer will be indulging in an experiment.
In the old days, magazines regularly published works of fiction serially,
a bit at a time, to ensure customers would buy the next month's issue.
We're going to revive that old format with Scott Morris' fiction. His
work lends itself to this format. It is elliptical, poetic
and daunting. It lets us in on a restless story, one that we must try to
catch as it flies by. Alas, like most tales worth telling, it is
long—too long for these virtual pages. So tune in. You'll be coming
back for more.
My way is back down the hill, across the bridge—exactly how I came—maybe for the last time. None of this belongs to me, this haphazard chain of landfills slumping off in every direction, the remnants of other progeny that I’ve assimilated into a room-shaped self. Anyone I’ve ever known, now living beyond me, must be doing the same, getting closer to that perfect place—a room-shaped self—driven there by people known and made unknown—people fallen for over a riff, a chord, a single note, and left for a song.
I’m trying to get out of this skin, exchanging static flesh for fluid flesh that runs downstream toward a street, a row of houses, a number that I get hung up on. I’m looking for someone in the boxes left unpacked. I’m not going to find anything here. I’ll move it all back into the houses I can’t return to.
My whole existence comes later and somewhere else, somewhere I’ll never be again—in a woman’s half closed heart, a friend’s half closed mind. I am explaining myself away, being pushed off the page where I find myself falling to the concrete, scrabbling against a wall, knuckle-taut skin broken open early morning wide awake.
Spinning in three directions, I hide in city, book, mind, body, pain, and imagination. Adjustment takes time for a chemical body driven by electrical functions, but not for the stripped down, sense-sensitive body —not for the body of film and interior monologue projected and amplified in city-boxes that recreate me—not for this quick-witted shape that enters bodies that give birth to and burn in cities. Everything is plastic, malleable—I force a few inches here and there. Every box and body is connected by an omniscience from which I cannot hide—my own big idea hanging around my ears. It has gravity stronger than the friendship or love of others—all the differences in the world tangled up inside until something comes to an end and I am left with the whole deal, the nameless thing—somewhat larger than before but forever within the bounds of city, book, mind, body, pain, and imagination.
I have to push myself through this to I don’t know where. I’ll unfold myself until all the creases are exposed, all neurotic recreations laid bare—taking this origami-soul back to the flat, bare page.
Lights out: a phone call
Things are being slammed and broken at a solemn interval. The noise is too loud, the silence too hollow. There are the flies at the window. I can’t breath, settle into my own body, lay in my own bed. I’m counting sheep in wolves clothing—wolves holding stopwatches, gad flies in hair shirts, lunatic gentlemen with cell phones—calling, counting, timing, waiting for me to sleep. If I could just shut it all out for half an hour. If I could just settle in, settle down, or settle up. If I could just stop counting, pulling time out of a hat, handing mine over to maggots on meat—skinned dogs that wait on me for a bone.
This is what happens. Like angry change made from a friendly behind-the-ear coin, I count eight threatening incompetents—madmen known and not known to me. They step out in succession with a loose look in the eye—limping and leering, spreading out around me, pacing, tapping their feet, tapping pens, tabulating sums, champing at the bit, raising the nib, raising the bar, the axe, the chisel, the gavel. Down! Down, judgement, down! False friends, false benefactors, making a mockery of real power, ready to give me a very real and mocking sock in the face or kick to the groin at the drop of a hat. They circle further, closer, like the rabbit and the dog—vicious cowards.
One gets off track and moves in. He’s clicking his teeth—entirely disinterested but obliged to take notice of me. It’s high time I said something. I really should be asleep. You and your associates are welcome, really, but wouldn’t you rather lodge the night elsewhere, somewhere more accommodating? I don’t have much, you can see that yourself. There’s nothing here of interest for so refined a gentleman, so distinguished a… I really should be sleeping—you understand.
The dog makes a face that passes over me like a lens. Please, sir, don’t look at me that way. So many problems of late. I’d would explain it all to you but I can see you already know too much, comprehend everything. You know me too well, all too easily. This unfinished business grows dull. So much to do, so many problems, but really, I’m fine. Really… I can’t even remember what it was all about. Surely it’s nothing. Surely there is guilt without blame?
It seems like a reasonable question, the thing to know, but that handsome man is turning a white equestrian ear, a brackish doggy snout, toward the wall behind me. What? What is it? Surely I should speak up. I know I have some explaining to do, but it isn’t what you think. It isn’t anything at all. I can’t even tell you. Is it something I… something… what is it? Let just say… or let me sleep. It’s too much. It’s too… it’s nothing. Let me, let me… I should sleep now, I think.
From a deep pocket he pulls a small silvery phone, turns it in his beakish claw. Should I tell him? I mean, I think I should be asleep. I would be if it weren’t for the noise—things being lifted and thrown against the walls.
A piggish ear twitches—his thin hand lifts the phone. I can’t bear it. I shouldn’t have to. He leans in—light blooms across the bastard’s face. It can’t be born. I should… The filament flashes once more, then snaps—broken and useless forever. For a moment—just a moment—nothing happens. I really think I should…
The phone rings.
A whisker twitch, a devil dance, that old fox trot smiling. “This stuff is hot.” In the darkness he goes on, like a lover, “The only solution is the last one, the very last dance, that grasping chance to win, to begin, to come again and again, to never say when, never say it. Get it through your head—no one leaves the Devil’s bed. No morning after, no hereafter. It’s neither here nor there if you don’t have a care. Get it through your head, if you don’t have a care. No one calls the Devil’s bet. Here, your ear is wet. Let me whisper to you. I’ll tell you something. I know you’re afraid, but I’m the only one you’ll never hurt. I’m the only one you can’t betray. What do you say? No let me. Get it through your head, your head, your head. It’s all been said, and said, and said. Get it through your head, and get it over with.”
Click here to read part two.