If distance had four wheels and the rear left popped at 65 miles per hour outside a gated community, would the generosity vector collide with the greed scalar before our grill crumpled into that into that 450 year old Maple blooming in fall? Would the app for adding text and/or gif to selfie work underwater if electric eels could tick boxes? I’m sure renewable energy companies, the ones who planted the windmills on tundras with red strobe lights that trigger family feuds are studying the data. Double fin verification seems to be the new hot security device. Often, putting a pillow between the ass and bench plank will silence unwanted projectiles. Every fish in the lake is anxious, scrolling, or gone.

On a borrowed clipboard, draw a huge S. Hold it up to the camera, all my mentors said to carry a clipboard everywhere you go, it opens doors, people ask directions, ask openly for jobs, favours, investment—-you look like you know what you’re doing. And I do. I did. I will. May we join?

In the morning, after Being There, after admitting the doctor said I have rice pudding stuffed between my ears, after not playing games with words to protect myself, after all on screen you look much smaller in real life, after the roots were grafted and roses deadheaded, after incorrigible optimism interviewed soiled myth, after we called each other civil, after all the unrecorded sex—-we stood barefoot and mirrored, mumbling ridiculous promises into another rising sun, having breed another survival tip.

10 Comments

  1. Jonathan Cardew

    David!

    Brilliant to see you here again! What kind of boat, religious trail, geographic locale are you on now? Are you still in Portugal, actually? We’re gonna be in Lisbon for a week this July!

    This surreal meandering trail of a story is EXACTLY my cup of tea. I love the “If…would…” construction of the opening and the way your sentences pack in layer after layer of detail like “would the generosity vector collide with the greed scalar before our grill crumpled into that 450 year old Maple blooming in fall?” This is very satisfying for a reader–all the technical and specific details add such richness and also create a dizzying feeling perfectly suited for a piece titled “Relatively Unknown.”

    Goodness, this line: “Every fish in the lake is anxious, scrolling, or gone.”

    I’m also fascinated by this: “I’m sure renewable energy companies, the ones who planted the windmills on tundras with red strobe lights that trigger family feuds are studying the data.” A news article? I love it!

    HOW ABOUTS:

    If you’re thinking about playing with this piece any more–and play you should!–my brain came up with some possibles, some howabouts (thanks Brain!).

    1. You’ve got three structural things going on here: 1. The “If…would” (il(logic) construction, 2. Commands, 3. the “After…” construction. I like these together, but it may prove even more powerful (for a short piece) to focus on only one as a frame (I’m particularly fond of the first…I’ve not really seen it done before).

    2. This line again: “Every fish in the lake is anxious, scrolling, or gone.” If you started the story (or a new one) with this line, I would gobble it up like krill.

    3. I’m imagining this piece as a very strangely “numbered” piece (1, 2, 11…etc.). I think you could really play around with the look of it on the page (even throwing in italics, parentheses, checkboxes etc.)

    VENUES:

    You know the drill: you write a story, you hate it, you write a story, you hate it, you write a story, you love it, you redraft it, you fiddle with it, you make paella, you hate it, you send it to a literary magazine.

    If you’re gonna work on this and send it out, I’m definitely getting HAD (Hobart After Dark) and Gone Lawn vibes. But what do I know?

    Thanks for sharing this! If you want, redraft it and send along a new version.

    Cheers,
    Jonathan

    • David O'Connor

      Jonathon, thanks for the notes, helpful. I’m back in Barcelona (viva Portugal mais…) for the foreseeable future, if you get this way, Vermut on me!

  2. Robert Vaughan

    Hi DOC, this line: Often, putting a pillow between the ass and bench plank will silence unwanted projectiles. LOL You are fucking brills, my brother. How you open with that cinematic crash offered as a question. The thread-through feels loose, spare, yet the poetic prose thrills throughout. Digging the long ambling sentences, the up-against-it without ever really defining what “it” is. More, more, more… how do ya’ like it? How do ya’ like it?

  3. Wilson Koewing

    David,

    Lovely to meet you through your work here, my friend.

    What a sentence level beauty. Also, tossing out profound abstract thoughts with considerable aplomb. You definitely belong in a Bending Genres workshop. There’s an enormous amount of confidence in this piece and while, IMO, it is is a bit meandering, you manage to punch a lot of people in the face on the ride.

    This is a tough one for me because I’m more traditionally focused and in many ways would consider myself a minimalist, who doesn’t really write stuff like this, so it’s hard for me to give the kind of feedback I’d like to which would be about plot and character and setting and all that silly stuff.

    I dug it immensely. My only vague suggestion would be to firmly commit yourself to a through line. Could possibly be as easy as the title. “Relatively Unknown” as a title, I think lends itself, slightly, to confusion. Doesn’t have to, but I’m not sure when I start a piece called that that this is what I’m anticipating.

    Best,
    Wilson

  4. Len Kuntz

    Hey King David,

    That is one hell of a first sentence. It really grabs the reader while also portending a wild ride, which it certainly way, a wonderful trip through and through. You use a lot of alliteration, and so subtly and effectively. I also like how you use introspection then throw in equal doses of bitterness and uncertainty. There were tons of great literary flourishes, two of my favorites being– “Would the app for adding text and/or gif to selfie work underwater if electric eels could tick boxes?”and “Every fish in the lake is anxious, scrolling, or gone.” I really loved it.

  5. Al Kratz

    This is awesomely poetic. I agree with Cardew that HAD would love this. I wish I would get stuff like this in the queue at New Flash Fiction Review. It’s quite unlike anything else. Such great lines. I agree it meanders but I’m not sure that needs any tweak really as far as through line or connection. It is interesting just to re-read it and sit with it. There are a few distinct voices. There’s a lot of macro questioning in the first paragraph, the sarcastic questioning and the I’m sure about the power companies. An external cynicism and then the second paragraph goes a little micro under the clever disguise of it being a tip for the second person. And then we go another level deeper in the third. Here I suspect is the heart but it’s kept a little distant from us, a little mystery, right? What is this Being There, what are these series of “after” and who is this new second person. I think it’s all a mystery and that’s ok. We’re still there for it and we still hear its truth. I think one of the mysteries here is that it really hasn’t meandered. It’s told us a line, but just chose to use poetry to do it.

  6. Kristin Bonilla

    For some reason when I finished reading this piece, I was reminded of a personal regret–that I often wish I had studied more math. Higher maths, abstract maths. And then I realized it was your first sentence. Classic word problem. I think I would have tried harder with the math if the word problems were this interesting.
    This was a fun read. This line was a stunner: “Every fish in the lake is anxious, scrolling, or gone.” I can’t decide if I like it where it is or if it needs to be front and center. Either way, nice work!

  7. Benjamin Niespodziany

    “after all on screen you look much smaller in real life, after the roots were grafted and roses deadheaded, after incorrigible optimism interviewed soiled myth” PHEW

    On a sentence level, this piece is ace. So unique and musical and vivid.

    The three paragraphs almost feel like a loosely related sequence or triptych when placed together? Might be interesting to see them numbered. I could almost see the final paragraph as a standalone piece (or something elsewhere) as I think it works fine as is. Same goes for the opening paragraph. It ends so nicely, I’d like to see this kind of math equation / science problem / research continue in this direction? Works as a tight little prose poem in this way.

  8. Todd Clay Stuart

    David, how you play with words to protect yourself! Such a telling line. I love all of the seemingly nonsensical, random lines, absurd images and references here. They effectively create movement in this piece, driving it to its ridiculously promising conclusion. Nice work!

  9. Martha Jackson Kaplan

    David! A wild ride of If/Then propositions, assertions and suggestions, as well as excellent clipboard advice on the status of late capitalism humanoids, and in the morning, after Chance, and other afters strung into the webs of roses and roots, grafts and, well, rice pudding, what can one say? Thank you for this delight.

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