Here are the latest short-shorts from Hannah and me. You can find the entire archive (dating back to 2010) on the “playing at opposites page”
She really wanted to write a story rachel, May 25, 2015
She really wanted to write a story. Someone once told her that there are people that lead storied lives and others who seem to get just a pile of things and relations, images and desires all jumbled and leaning under their own weight. Life was unsequential and timeless; for these people it was always unclear where some of their things had gotten to, though deep down they surely knew these things were irreparably crushed, hidden somewhere in the rubble of the self. What these types of people needed, she thought to herself, was a service dog trained to fetch items upon request. A research librarian. A search and rescue team.
For a long time now she had hoped and prayed that she would not grow up to be one of the people without story. She craved narrative arc, rich character development, compelling plot twists, and subtly nuanced thematic elements. When she noticed that the milk was sour on every-other Thursday for three months she began documenting this as a trend. Maybe this was the beginning of a story. When she tripped over the same bulge in the sidewalk two days in a row she thought, “something is really coming now.” But then she sat down to try to remember that last time she had bought stamps and she couldn’t and she started worrying about the pile of junk that was probably rotting or lost in her mind and then she organized the bills in her wallet just to quit thinking of it. She went to the dog park but she didn’t know any of the dogs’ names so she couldn’t talk to them. Language is pretty useless, she figured, when there isn’t a story to what you want to communicate. All she had were the bits of life. No one wants to read that.
No one wants to read that hannah, May 26, 2015
No one wants to read that, says the note in the margin. She is able to make this out after some time spent squinting and turning the crumpled paper this way and that. She gazes for a minute, considering, knees in the mud.
It is May 26, 2015, and she has only lived in Texas for six months. Kneeling here in the basement, working under lanterns like kerosene, she thinks of it as six months of some darkness, some sadness, some time spent alone. She is a Michener Fellow, a fiction writer, well paid and prestigious, but she is far away from home. Where she comes from rain settles in the soil, turns fertile, and bears fruit. Here the earth is hard and unforgiving. The dust floats on the damp air, fills in the cracks. Having lost interest almost entirely in fiction, she has committed herself these past months to a fight against that dust. She has acquired brooms, brushes, and cleaning agents, transformed her wardrobe into strips of cloth. Now, of course, it is all washed away or turned to mud.
The call for helping hands came out on twitter, hashtag #atxfloods. The campus was on a gleaming hill, safe from the weather, but the Michener offices were down by San Jacinto, where the creek had broken its banks and come rushing in. Cardboard boxes had dissolved in the storm, papers caught in the gyre and deposited along the walls. Archival systems gone down the drain. History washed away with the rain. The past like a stream flowing by. Drawn to all that heavy symbolism, she pulled rubber boots over her jeans, tied a bandana around her hair, and trudged through the muddy mess of her own apartment down to the Center, where she thought she could help.
The task is simple. She is given rubber gloves and a plastic trashbag, told to sort out anything that looked valuable, get rid of the rest. She has already filled one bag and is moving on to the next, finding it unexpectedly easy to send all that paper away. She feels no ties to this past, the hard labor of the writers who have come before her. But this piece arrests her and she kneels, staring. No one wants to read that, it says, the marginal scrawl of a reviewer with a pencil and a bad attitude. The original poem, written in blue ink, has been washed away. I could fill that space, she thinks, and it is an optimistic moment. She throws it away and moves on.