Monday, April 20, 2009


The last few posts have finally been assembled into a finished “story” which has a working title of “A Private Symposium.”

“A Private Symposium” is the first complete short story I have written, apart from a quiet impressionistic piece (modeled on La Mer, by Claude Debussy) about a mad scientist’s attempt to resurrect a giant red squid using lightning bolts. This earned me an “A” from the boys in Mrs. Sugar’s 6th grade class, but a “D” in grammar from the Teacher herself, for mis-punctuating the phrase, “We’re fucked,” as, “Were fucked,” leading to some raised eyebrows among the School Board about the placement of one tentacle in relation to the mad scientist’s sexy, scantily clad assistant, Bubbles. This orthographical contretemps would not have been a problem in Japan.

The only other foray I have made into the world of fiction was a piece I slaved over for 2 years in the mid-90s. As I envisioned the work at the time, when I was 26, this story would be the first in a series of Jamesian character studies, centered on the adventures of one Professor Mooney. In the opening tale, Professor Mooney returns triumphant from a contentious conference in Boulder, Colorado, where he delivered a provocative paper on the position of commas in the sex life of Gibbons (descendants of the famous English historian of Rome, not the apes) at the Modern Language Association’s Annual Conference, only to find his white boxer, Marbles, dreaming of beef marrow bones in an inaccessible crotch of the elm tree in his front yard.

Most of the story we spend with the perplexed professor, orbiting the tree, trying to figure out how the dog came to be there. Professor Mooney advances several different theories which, to his nimble mind, seem equally credible: extraterrestrials, an earthquake, a mountain lion, Dick Cheney, ghosts, a tri-cobalt satellite (left over from an episode of Star Trek), the black magic of his gardener (Barney Haller), a cantankerous kite string, or a confabulation of faeries.

Being a professor of Comparative Literatures [sic], the most obvious solution to the problem of the dog, of course, never occurs to him: a deliberate prank perpetrated by the boisterous and be-freckled neighborhood Boy Scout, Tommy (boys bearing the name Thomas, as Dr. S.L. Clemens so clearly demonstrated in his seminal early work on adolescent male psychology, being the central source of mischief in the known Universe. And several dimensions yet to be discovered.)

For five pages we wander in circles with Professor Mooney under this tedious tree, looking up at his boxer, trying figure out just what has gone wrong with the forces of Nature in his secluded corner of Cambridge. It never occurs him to call the fire department, or grab the aluminum ladder the painters left under his lilacs and try to rescue his dog himself, so lost he becomes in a maze of thorny epistemological questions arising from the presence of a dog in such a tall tree: since, as you will notice, the word “Dog” spelled backwards is “God.” And we all know in what mysterious ways that gentleman works.

Sadly, I never got further with this story than the thin filament of drool connecting Marbles above to the Earth below before I abandoned it as totally unworkable. Comforting as the image of a ficticious dog sleeping in a ficticious tree might seem to me, I couldn’t imagine anyone else would believe it, except for the people of PETA, who would have burned down my house.

No comments: