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    February 2010

    9. I’ll Never Get out of This World Alive

    By Thomas Cobb

    “I mean Negative capability—this is when man is capable of being in uncertainties, Mysteries, doubts, without any irritable reaching after facts and reason.”

    —John Keats, 12/21-27/1817 in a letter to his brother

    Jeffrey, I say, it is beginning again. You have got that steel guitar in your heart and you are fed up. This is trouble, Jeffrey. You are headed for the depths and you do not swim well. Take hold, boy. Take hold.

    Jeffrey is fed up, being in uncertainties, Mysteries, doubts, etc. He cannot read his book, and he cannot write on his paper. Jeffrey boy, you are a good teacher, and a good teacher reads his book and writes on his paper. A good teacher would grab Mr. Keats and Mr. Shelley by the shirt collars and drag them into the classroom where the biscuit-brained students would nod and fall asleep as the wimpy old poets caterwaul in counterpoint.

    What a good teacher does not do, is sit in some bar—no, not some bar—the very Rodeo Bar where you are now drinking that whisky listening to that jukebox and rolling dice with the barmaid to see who pays for the music. You are only pretending to write your lecture, and you are fooling no one. No matter how much you like watching those little plastic horses pull that little plastic wagon in the Budweiser sign, that is their work, which they are doing, not yours, which you are not. Get to it, boy. Now.

    But I cannot do it. The heft of the Norton in its maroon cloth cover does not thrill me. And I cannot remember what it is you say to students about John Keats. They like the bright arterial blood, the coughing and the dying. . . . Read More.

    8. The House as Rita Sees It

    By Ben Greenman


    . . . Read More.

    7. French Artist Killed in Sunday’s Earthquake

    By Simon Van Booy

    The final moments of her life. Marie-Françoise lay crushed under tons of rubble.

    The fish she had been eating was still in her mouth.

    Her eyes would not open.

    She could sense the darkness that encapsulated her. She could not feel her body, as though during the fall, her soul had slipped out and
    lay waiting for the exact moment when it would disappear from the world.

    Then her life, like a cloud, split open, and she lay motionless in a rain of moments.

    The green telephone in her grandparents’ kitchen next to the plant.

    She could feel the cool plastic of the handle and the sensation of cupping it under her ear. She could hear a voice at the other end of the line that she recognized as her own.

    The weight of her mother’s shoes as she carried them into the bedroom.

    The idea that one day she’d be grown-up and would have to wear such things.

    Running into a friend.

    That time had passed.

    And then the rain of her life stopped, and she was in darkness, . . . Read More.

    6. Tennessee

    By Justin Taylor

    Off to the land of club soda unbridled
    —David Berman, “Tennessee”

    *

    My little brother Rusty was on the back porch, lighting up.

    “Hey,” he said.

    “Rusty,” I said. “The smoking.”

    “This is what Mom and Dad made you come home for? To try some weird bonding shit against my smoking?”

    “They didn’t make me come home. It was a choice. I wanted to come.”

    “Ran out of money, you mean.”

    “What’s with the smoking?”

    “Do you know how many Jews there are at my high school?” Rusty said.

    What happened is the family moved because my father lost a job and my mother got one. They left Miami, where we had always lived, and came to this suburb of Nashville. I think they picked it because it had the good school system for my brother, who hates his full name, Russell, and so goes by Russ in all circles except the family, where he has always been and will always be Rusty. Everyone agrees the move was hardest on him—especially him. Me, I say what’s one suburb to another? We didn’t actually live in Miami. Not like South Beach, Calle Ocho, and everything. We lived in a middle-class suburb called North Miami Beach, in the shadow of a wealthier suburb called Aventura, with the real city somewhere maybe half an hour south. These places were all part of the “greater Miami area,” which was understood to be among the biggest Jewish communities in the country. Fourth biggest, people always said, though I don’t know where they came by that number or who was in the top three. I was ten years old before I made a non-Jewish friend. (Her name was Marie Hahna and I fell right in love.) . . . Read More.

    5. I Was the Green Ray

    By Jon Stephen Fink

    October 11 1989
    My Kitchen
    18910 Pecan Street
    Apt. 8
    Mason New Mexico

    To Who It May Concern—

    I was The Green Ray. Now it can be told the Story which many tried to silence many refused to believe & many did not want to hear about. I believe that there are Contracts which prove this fact amid the papers of the late Mr. Howard Silverstein of Westchester New York. I do not know where those Papers could be filed today or even if they still exist but he was a V.I.P. and maybe all of them became donated to his Alma Mater back East. I am of the opinion he graduated from Yale. Or Princeton. One of those two or Harvard. If they are not there then I do not know what to tell you please take my word for it. My name was Ray Green.

    To tell you the truth I think it was the main reason why the V.I.P.s of the Liberty Broadcasting Company gave me the job on account of my name. Many choices which change a person’s Life happen on the spurt of the moment on account of hunches & Mr. Silverstein had a hunch about me because of my name. Since he rose up from messenger boy to President of Liberty by playing such hunches & angles (you may remember it was Howard Silverstein who took a gamble on the popular appeal of Spiller’s High Energy Buckwheat Breakfast Flakes & the rest like they say is breakfast food history) the other V.I.P.s took his word for it & lapped up the idea that I was the right man at the right time walking in. I will always be very thankful to him until the end of my Life which will be as soon as I finish writing this Note. . . . Read More.

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