I sleep well because of the dreams

by | December 2020 A (Day 1)

 

We think the designer doesn’t know a 2×4 isn’t a 2×4. Or a 2×2. We measure and measure, but it’s not us, so it must be the designer. They must be fooled by the simplicity of names. If you don’t know you don’t know and I know that I didn’t know before I knew. That still doesn’t make me feel better about walking in the office and saying Hey boss, take a half inch off the 2 and the 4. Shave it off the top.

 

In this economy?

 

For two days my friends and I have argued over whether a hamburger is a sandwich. I say no and this fits me in the minority. I stand my ground even if over the course of the argument I realize I’m wrong. That is my identity. Lauren said I’m stubborn. I have the spirit of an old man. But not a creepy old man. One who has chickens and fights racoons. I do imagine what life would be like if I went around interviewing people about hamburgers and sandwiches. I daydream of learning not just where they fall on the debate and the details of their rationale, but also their untold stories, the real Americana of these people and the minutia of their lives, and I imagine the more I do this the more I’ll see myself in these people. I’m talking about real empathy. The stuff worth packing in a letter.

 

I should mention I wrote one to my dead friend, tied it balloons and let it float on and on and on.

 

And he replied in screws. I’d find them in cupholders, under the toilet seat, in the silverware drawer. They were always different, a drywall screw, rusty finishing screw, one of this tiny ones from a TV remote. I started drilling them into things. It makes sense to me. We don’t have enough hardware because the number lumbers are wrong and every time I go into boss’s office he’s working on engine parts for lawnmowers and we’re not even a landscaping company. I imagine he’s talking to someone through his ghost engine and the gearwheel zip of a ratchet he works with his hands over and over and over.

7 Comments

  1. Bud Smith

    Hello Kevin,
    This is my favorite piece of your writing I have come across, it is so full of life and full of so much wisdom that twists and turns around lived corners. Goddamn. I went to highlight the line about being an old man and wanting to fight raccoons but then I noticed the line after that was wonderful and then the line after that and I realized I’d have to copy past the whole end march to that stunning conclusion to this story. Screws. Good god. <3

  2. Amy Barnes

    Cut once, write once! Love the use of numbers throughout here to ground the story. Having the numbers and the lists help guide the pacing and storytelling. You do such a good job at immediately drawing the reader into the story by involving us in the planning and the conversations. By choosing something so universal and then twisting it, we are grounded in something we know but are surprised by your version. Love the humor of the hamburger/sandwich debate and the “old man”/chickens/fights raccoons. The image of the letter floating away with balloons is great too. It feels like somehow there is a break there that doesn’t flow as well into the “screws” section. It may just be formatting but the cool line about the floating letter gets a little lost there — maybe include a little more about that image? Great use of sound of “number lumbers”, “gearwheel ratchets” and the futility in the last paragraph.

  3. Neil Clark

    Absolute belter of a piece. I love the bit about the hamburger debate. I love the yearning in the bit about interviewing people. And the sentence about the letter and the balloons!

    I could keep gushing. I’m sorry to say I have no critical notes about this one.

  4. Janelle Greco

    This is really tight, Kevin. I could see you submitting this as is. I really fell in love with the hamburger paragraph. And the screws as well. The whole damn thing, really. The tone in this is fantastic. I can’t quite describe it, but I know it stays consistent throughout and that is something we yearn for as readers. The finding of the screws kept reminding me of the Dimes piece in our group. I don’t know what to do with that except to say that I enjoy this theme of finding things that those we’ve lost have left behind for us. I wonder about the narrator’s yearning for empathy too. Where does it come from? Why is this connection with other humans so important? There’s also something about communication here in the first paragraph. The inability to communicate with those close to us and in the second paragraph our desire to get on the same page with others. Just some observations. Really loved this piece!

  5. K Chiucarello

    Hey Kevin, this is great. I see my dimes are your screws 🙂 I just love disorienting first paragraphs that make you work to get into the story and yours does that job exactly. The reader lands so perfectly on ‘in this economy’ and the paragraph that follows is beautifully paced. I’m curious what it would look like if you were to explore the hamburger line (absurd feedback, but.). I thought that was quite funny and am interested in knowing why the narrator holds this stance. Also because every single person knows someone who as your line says,”I stand my ground even if over the course of the argument I realize I’m wrong.” I think it could add to the kookiness and dead pan humor of the piece. Perhaps if you want to keep this piece this length you could split this into two separate stories. I can see the screw narrative being one on its own.

  6. Martha Jackson Kaplan

    Hi Kevin, So, I’m one of the ones who has no clue about the difference between a 2×4 and a 2×4— it’s unsettling, and maybe you intended that? It will send me off to Google, and if that fails, to query someone who might know. But I do get the inter-relationship between the designer’s competence, incompetence, and the builders’. So it is obvious that you nailed the content here.

    I love the way you develop the character here who needs to be right, and the relationship with friends who also seem to need to be right, each digging in to a battle over naming that particularly American food. It a classic category issue, the generic v. the specific, but not considered in that light. Knocks me out.

    You did a great job moving this story along in a kind of free association way––

    “and I imagine the more I do this the more I’ll see myself in these people. I’m talking about real empathy. The stuff worth packing in a letter.

    I should mention I wrote one to my dead friend, tied it balloons and let it float on and on and on.” Very fine.

    The screws paragraph rounds out the builder’s sensibility nicely. Overall, good piece. Enjoyed reading it.

  7. David O'Connor

    I should mention I wrote one to my dead friend, tied it balloons and let it float on and on and on.—–And he replied in screws.

    The connection where I put the hyphens is pure brilliance. Whatever happened at that moment is magic, keep it, explore it, use it all the time… like logic meeting truth in narrative.

    I like the voice here. I can hear the character telling this… I could read much more of this. So many good moments, and one of superb magic!

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