He Has Not Forgiven You; He’s Made You Mad

fiction by Jason Edwards

Something wrong with this apartment, but I’m not sure what. Like when you flush the toilet, the oven turns on (not really). Or like when I’ll go to use the microwave, and the TV changes channel. I tried unplugging the TV, but then the shower wouldn’t work. Plug the TV back in, shower works, but only cold water unless I leave the front door open. Unnerving. Try to open the window to see if the dog is still there, the faucet comes on. Let it run once, because I really needed to see that dog. Got thirsty, looking at that dog. Picked up a the remote control where it had fallen off the coffee table, which opened the cupboard. Took out a glass, the alarm clock in the bedroom went off. Water from the tap tasted different than it did if I opened the refrigerator to make the tap run.

Maybe it’s haunted? Can’t really worry about that. Dog. Out the window, down the street, sunny day, dog standing there, on a leash, leash disappears into the bushes. One hundred percent sure the bush is not walking the dog. The dog is not tied to the bush. There’s someone hiding in the bush. I’ll call him the dog walker.

Thirsty again, faucet’s not working, or if it is, it’s working to turn the shower on and off. Think about drinking shower water but when I open the cupboard for a cup the shower turns too hot. Why did I try the faucet before I took out a cup? Go and check the window, bush is no longer tied to the dog. Dog is closer, tied to a mailbox, can’t tell if the dog walker is hiding behind the mailbox. That reminds me, check my email, click on the email icon, Minesweeper starts, play three games until I solve a sixteen by sixteen in less than sixty seconds, which turns on the faucet, so I jump to it and fill my cup and it tastes sort of chalky.

Turn off the computer, which starts minesweeper again, solve a ten by ten in less than ten seconds but only because I got lucky, shower starts, but I have to pee, so I pee and turn off the shower which flushes the toilet. Call that a victory. Open the refrigerator to wash my hands, window slams shut, jump over to it to find the dog. Mailbox is closer now, dog still tied to it, and both next to a different bush, bush probably hiding dog walker. Can’t tell what kind of dog it is.

Feel queasy, not sure why, want water, but decide I’m queasy because I touched the refrigerator and the oven (not really) after I went pee but before I washed my hands. Glad I feel queasy, proves I’m human. Decide to check anyway, open the cupboard to see if it does anything to my body. Nothing. Take out some sani-wipes. Open sani wipes. Nothing in the apartment changes. Wipe down refrigerator handle, window sill. Look for dog but only glance and purposefully not where he just was and don’t see anything and deduce. Feel like apartment is calming down . Feel like I’m calming down. Step on foot pedal of trash can without even thinking about it to throw away soiled sani wipe, TV starts, cupboards open, shower starts, toilet flushes, computer starts, shoelaces come untied.

Run around apartment turning things off and closing things and turning other things back on that get turned off by accident when I try to close something else or open something. Feel sort of relieved that there’s something still wrong with the apartment. Look for bottled water in fridge, find some, at least five different brands. Open cupboard, oven turns on (not really) for a jug, pour all of the bottled waters into the jug. It’s one of those jugs with a spigot. Consider not turning on the spigot. Sort of afraid what will happen if I do. Stare at the spigot for a while. Window slams shut, don’t remember opening it. Look at my hand, remote control in my hand, thumb firmly pressing “play.” That’s funny.

Open spigot, fill cup, walk over to window, open window, dog no longer tied to mailbox, mailbox back where it belongs, dog tied to bike rack, no bikes on bike rack, no bushes near bike rack, but nearby door stands ajar. Aha. Run around apartment turning things on and off and closing and opening things to see if it makes the ajar door close. Ajar door does not close. Try the remote control. TV comes on, advertisement for bottled water. Not sure what language it’s in. Not sure what language I speak. Open mouth to say something, hear a barking come from outside. Can’t possible have come from dog.

Run to window, spill some water on the way, don’t remember not setting cup down. Can’t decide if I should flush the toilet to open the cupboard to fetch the mop or risk taking batteries out of remote to see if it will make the dishcloth fall off the rack by the sink and maybe sudden odd wind from window will swirl dishcloth over spilled water. Or get on my hands and knees and lap it up. Like a dog. Check window instead, open it, computer turns on, ignore that, can’t see dog, mailbox now tied to bike rack, door no longer ajar, bush where mailbox was, not sure if there’s a dog hiding behind it or not.

Turn to check email, slip on puddle, fall, lie in it. Lie very still. Very very still. Try not to think about things. Try not to think about doors and handles and switches and buttons and levers and dials and hydrogen and oxygen and oxygen and dogs and leashes and dog walkers.

Or Melchior, Caspar, and Balthazar.

Or Plath and Wevill and Nicholas.

Or the father, the son, and the holy ghost.

Or lions and tigers and bears.

Become very still. Stop breathing. Refrigerator door half open. Water tap half running, shower half on, toilet mildly swirling, TV on but muted, Minesweeper demo playing itself on computer, water slowly soaking into my shirt and jeans. Am I wearing shoes. Gently wiggle toes to check for shoes. Wearing shoes. They feel loose. They feel like the laces are not tied tight. Close my eyes, imagine sinking into floor. Sinking into yesterday. Sinking into the sink.

Do not fall asleep. Wholly aware of my surroundings. Do not wake up next to a leash, an open door, a missing dog, and an empty bottle of water in my hand. Instead, simply stand, wait for head rush to pass. Calmly shut refrigerator, turn off shower, jiggle toilet handle, close cupboard, shut down computer, look out window. Can’t see dog. Can’t see dog walker. Lean way out to see further down street, no dog, no walker, one mailbox, easy to see it’s too small to hide behind, bush has sunlight streaming through it revealing all, which is nothing, lean out further, lean way out, lean way way out, there’s the dog right in front of my building, leashed tied to hand rail, start to fall, see the front door of my building closing as I fall, sharp pain in my hip, my knee, as shoelace is caught on window when it slams shut.

Dangling. Feel stupid. Dog just looks up at me, wagging his tail and panting. Blood rushing to my head. I can hear someone open the door to my apartment. I pray to God they don’t do anything to make the window open or I’m dead. I pray to God they brought their own bottles of water.

Flaubert’s Parrot– review on Goodreads

Flaubert's ParrotFlaubert’s Parrot by Julian Barnes

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

A cousin wanted me to read A Sense of An Ending and so I did and I liked it. Read my review of that, if you like, and when you find this review for Flaubert’s Parrot wanting, apply the other review to this one. They’re much the same. The books I mean, which should reveal for you how woefully unprepared I was for this one.

I wanted to read something good and since Sense won awards and I liked it, and since I’d seen Flaubert’s Parrot in one place or another for several years, I jumped right in. This book was way over my head. I’ve never read Flaubert. I have no idea if the narrator’s treatment of the man’s life and works is accurate or flattering or fictional or even farcical. I’m a fan of “fictional non-fiction” and so the best I could do was assume Barnes had made the whole thing up and that I was along for the ride.

But if he did, then that fiction stands in counterpoint to the truth, and that’s a layer I missed. If he didn’t, then I missed that layer too, and as he spends more than a few lines castigating critics, the irony went right over my head.

Three stars not because the book was bad in any sense or should be considered a lesser work. Three stars because that was the best that I could enjoy it due to my terrible ignorance. But at least three stars because Barnes is a master with the sentence, and I think he’s earned the right to recognize his gift and praise himself for it. “The correct word, the true phrase, the perfect sentence are always ‘out there,’ somewhere; the writer’s task is to locate them by whatever means he can.” Maybe you say he’s not praising himself. But that sentence itself follows “Style is a function of theme. Style is not imposed on subject-matter, but arises from it. Style is truth to thought.” And this in a book which is a about a man looking into Flaubert’s life, including in it lists and a “dictionary” and timelines and slapping on a coda about how his wife cheated on him.

The narrator’s wife, not Flaubert’s. Flaubert was never married. According to the narrator. I don’t know if Barnes is or was married, and like the narrator of Flaubert’s Parrot, and like Flaubert himself, I don’t know if knowing that sort of thing is even useful.

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Exegesis is Masturbation

fiction by Jason Edwards

If you’re reading this book it’s probably because you are student of Guy de Mont Chalice, and want to know as much about him as possible, via further study into the life of his third cousin Gregory Shellaq. This thin, tome, then, will be an utter disappointment to you, as there is nothing more to know about the author of Grendal’s Progress, Adolescence in Constantinople, A Queen’s Reverie, and Forgetful Minions of Flower’s Last Dance. By now you’ve read Watson, you’ve read Everly, you’ve read Tates. If you haven’t, do so. And once you have, come back to this page, and be assured: you have it all. So stop reading, put this book down at once, and go chase women or sniff daffodils or do whatever your sort of person does.

If you’re still reading, then let me be clear: I will not in the least apologize for what you are about to encounter, the vast stretches of nothing that make up the life of Gregory Shellaq and how it relates to his more famous, certainly more erudite, and if not worthy, certainly more interesting third cousin.

What is, exactly, a third cousin? Doing the math suggests that since cousins share grandparents, seconds share greats, and thirds perforce share great-greats, a designation that hardly bears bearing since even with this blasted century’s medical advancements in advancing the time spent wasting away into death the fruit of the advancements nevertheless usually fail to unite an infant with even one if its father’s or mother’s fathers’ or mothers’ father’s or mothers’ fathers or mothers.

Which is language’s way of adhering to nature’s nature as even while writing that last sentence I felt like an epileptic imbecile. We don’t have good words for great-great-grand parentage, because great-great-grand parentage is hardly worth noting; as the only link to a third cousin, it’s barely worth mentioning at all. There were people in de Mont Chalice’s life much closer in blood that no one in academia has bothered with: an uncle in Pennsylvania, a niece by marriage in Romania, a half-brother who died in infancy. No one’s writing books about them, either. Which is at it should be: historical criticism is bunk.

Nevertheless, one must paw at keyboards if one wishes to continue pawing at coeds, which as a replacement idiom for “publish or perish” is far less elegant if, to be certain, however, much more accurate. And so: Gregory Shellaq. Third cousin to the only person to have won the Grand Prix de la Société Littéraire Fantastique three times, bank teller, time traveler.

That’s got you. But I must insist: it shouldn’t. Yes, Gregory had a time machine, which he used for one of the most pointless endeavors imaginable. Imagine  being in possession of a genuine time machine. It sits there in your two car garage. Your car sits in the driveway all the time, and would do even if your garage didn’t have all manner of boxes and discarded bicycles and bags of old issues of France Soir and heirloom furniture too splintery to use but too bequeathed to chuck. Because you are too lazy to carefully park your car in the garage after a long day slogging away at jobs.

You already have the time machine and have sent it back in time to inspire you to build it in the first place, which, thanks to the time travelling itself, is actually the last place. You spend weekends working on it, and it goes slower than you would think, despite having itself as a model before you. It’s a big round metallic thing. It’s got a coned roof that points up into the rafters of your garage. It’s got a door made of corrugated metal, painted red. The door has a smoky window on it. There’s all manner of tubing and bundles of wire running in and out of its outer skin. Inside, for some reason, it’s lined in fake animal furs. There’s a computer console straight out of a 1940’s version of science fiction. Think diodes, think vacuum tubes, think the sound radar screens make as the glowing green arm sweeps and occasional goes bloop.

Your boss at the bank where you count out singles to old women cashing children-sent checks used to hate you, because you were so damn earnest. But lately you’ve been distracted, sometimes even coming in late, and now the old boy is starting to warm up. One day, while cogitating on how to get the freon capacity matrix to synch with the chronostatis maintenance field, you accidentally give a pottering great great grandmother of 90 a stack of twenties instead of a stack of ones. She doesn’t know what to do. She starts to cry. She thinks she’ll be arrested. Your boss seems to enjoy her misery.

He has you come into his office when your shift is over, and he offers you a drink. One of those awful liqueurs that the French were always drinking back then in the late 50s. The one made out of artichokes, maybe. He’s talking about truly witheringly irrelevant quotidia, the kind that explains how the French could have invented the single greatest word in any language: ennui. That’s what Sartre meant when said what hell is.

You drink the foul stuff and nod as appropriate, it’s obvious as hell you’re not paying attention to what he’s saying, because you’ll have to stop by the Bricolage on the way home to pick up some aluminum strips and a few demagnetized soldering irons (you keep melting them because the jockey switches aren’t balanced right and the iridium chamber isn’t shielded correctly). Of course, the problem is, in 1957, there were no Bricolages yet. And then your boss says “I’d rob the place myself and pin it on one of you wankers if I thought I could get away with it.”

Of course, he says it in French, and who knows what the mid twentieth-century French bank manager ergot for “wanker” would be. But something he says clicks. Whatever the word is, it gives you an idea.  Never mind the damned freon capacity matrix, or the stupid iridium chamber. The problem you’ve been putting off for ages, the temporal basin primer, is the real mess. And that fat fuck’s “wanker” has sparked something in your brain. Yes. Or oui, as it were. If you dimple the basin, create dimension n fractal spaces in each, you’ll have tiny little warp coils, not an infinite number of them, but at the same time, a fractional infinity of them, which is, actual, itself, infinite. And you know it would work because as soon as you think of it, you have a memory of it having worked, of having finished the time machine and sending it back to yourself so you could finish it.

What would you do then? I know what I would do. I would smash my rocks glass against the bank manager’s face, run back to my teller’s desk, unlock my cabinet, pull out fat stacks of cash, run back to the bleeding, belligerent, frankly shocked manager in his office, choke him with the bills, pour his disgusting Cynar all over him, set him on fire, kick him to keep him from beating out the flames. Discard my ruined shoes, leave, go home, finish the time machine, and use it to escape both capture and the disappointed, disaffected, disinfecting glare of my fat, boorish, cow of a wife, forever.

But that’s not what Gregory did. He just chuckled. He thanked his boss for the drink, and apologized again for the error with the old woman. Then he left. On his way home, the radio mentioned that his third cousin had won the Grand Prix de la Société Llittéraire Fantastique for the second time, for Constantinople. He considered sending the man a congratulatory text message, but text messaging hadn’t been invented yet.

There was still plenty he could have done, at that point. He could have gone straight to his garage, yanked the temporal basin out the guts of the Dyson housing, and using a golf ball as a model, set to dimpling. And then given the thing a test run. Napoleon at Waterloo, perhaps. Victor Hugo’s ravishing of his cousin Elisa. The birth of Christ, maybe, or even the alleged meteor strike that allegedly killed those goddamned alleged dinosaurs.

But not Gregory, oh no, not him. He did finish the time machine. And he did get in it. He went back about 50 years, or so. How he knew the exact time, no one is sure, but then when it comes to time travel, somehow knowing things is de rigueur. He landed in Issoire, outside a small house. It was night time. All was quiet. Candles lit up a window. Gregory walked to the window, peeked inside, most of his vision blocked by a burlap curtain. Or maybe muslin. Or maybe finest silk; I have no idea.

He waited, glancing at his watch now and again, which of course had stopped working. The time machine’s effect on regular, mundane chronography was predictable: it broke clocks. Behind him, said time machine loomed in the dark, tall pointed cone roof, round body swallowing moonlight, occasional wink of orange or red from the window, steam limply squirting from beneath it. And when he was ready, Gregory turned and walked and burst into the hut.

He caught a fat man with knickers round his ankles mounted on his emaciated wife, there in their one-room hovel. The man immediately jumped off, and the wife jumped up in front of him, covering herself only barely, nearly reluctantly. Gregory wasted no time, turning and running back to his machine before the consequence of his actions could catch up with him and it (he needn’t worry- his being there to witness that he’d witnessed what he done was assurance what he’d done couldn’t be undone by his having done it). He leapt into his machine, forgot to secure the door, set the damned thing for home, and was both bewildered and relieved that the door’s being open didn’t make a damn bit of difference.

And by now I’m sure you’ll have guessed what Gregory had done. He’d interrupted his boss’s parent In flagrante delicto, and in doing so changed the one-in-300-million chance that that particular sperm would reach the egg and make the boss in the first place. You didn’t need to kill Hitler’s great great grandfather to keep Hitler form being born, just give the man reason to wank-off one extra time before mounting der fuehrer’s erstwhile great great grandmother. (People can be so damned violent in their fantasy solutions, can’t they? With a time machine, a wank can replace a gun in almost any historical scenario you might imagine).

The paradoxes that resulted from Gregory’s folly are obvious. Different boss at the bank, so Gregory’s job life was much different. Boss was less of an asshole. Took no joy in the tears that fell from that old woman’s eyes when Gregory gave her too much money. Because  the boss was a different person altogether. Which means he didn’t invite Gregory back for a cynar on ice. Which means he didn’t say the word that inspired Gregory’s eureka. The temporal basin never got dimpled.

Back and forward through time, the paradoxes flexed, then relaxed, were absorbed by fate and inevitability, until all impossibility was accounted for, and only one immutable law of physics had to be changed. A very small one, it turns out. Apparently, it used to be the case that the color red was associated with sadness in the human brain, and not the color blue. Thanks to Gregory Shellaq, and his Worst Waste of a Perfectly Good Time Machine Ever, that tiny law was reasserted back in the big bang, having an infinitesimal effect on the way star stuff star-stuffed and thus how we beings made of the same hydrogen, oxygen, carbon and nitrogen developed from motes of dust into walking talking feeling fucking humans beating drums to make bears dance.

But there has to be a balance, there has to be a way for time’s arrow to be reversible, just in case, joke’s on us, there is a God, and he wants to rewind the VCR and watch the funny parts again. Enter Gregory Shellaq’s third cousin, Guy de Mont Chalice, author of Pembroke’s Whistle, and the highly overrated When Kierkegaard Roared. For years, absolutely no one has debated why, in the middle section of Flower’s, a minor character gazes at a red carnation and is filled with utter despair. As symbols go, it’s a tiny, easily overlooked hiccup in an otherwise mediocre passage.

But now you know why the carnation is red and not blue . It’s Gregory Shellaq’s fault. My understanding is that, every single time a time machine is invented, this sort of thing happens. And I sincerely do not care. I am utterly and completely indifferent to any of this shit. And I hope you are too.

Less Than Zero– review on Goodreads

Less Than ZeroLess Than Zero by Bret Easton Ellis

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I first read this about 20 years ago, or so, and I remember, at the time, I was rather impressed. This time, however, not so much. Then again I’m older now, more jaded and cynical, and not even the kind of jaded and cynical I thought I was when I was a fresh-faced post-teen. I’ve read a few thousand novels since then, and in as much as we can recognize these things when we’re in the midst of them, “contemporary literature” has changed.

(But I still like it more than Franzen).

(FWIW, I only re-read this one because a friend of mine was comparing his Girl Scout cookie addiction to the movie version of the book, and I decided to write a short story about it . You can read A Hazy Shade of Thin Mint if you want).

When a 19 year-old kid writes a roman a clef that winds up being a tour de force, one can’t help but read other things by him and make comparisons. So I read Rules of Attraction and American Psycho and found them to be pretty good; Years later, Glamorama and Lunar Park, not so good. The clef had gone flat, to abuse the phrase. The tour had lost its force.

Now, on re-reading, I’m thinking it’s just me that’s changed. Ellis himself, in an interview with Amazon, says that he, after 20 years, finally sees why the book is so awesome. So it’s definitely just me.

And now I’ve discovered that Ellis finally wrote a sequel, Imperial Bedrooms with all the main characters grown up and facing middle-age. So maybe there’s a chance for me to go, if not full circle, at least back in step with Ellis. I guess I’ll read this sequel. If it’s mediocre, perhaps that’s a sign of brilliance, that Ellis addresses his audience the way they address their reading. Youth is too enthusiastic, middle-agers are too mediocre, and mixing them for together, mediocrity always wins.

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How We Lost Our Jobs (Later We Got New Jobs)

fiction by Jason Edwards

Jackson points at a cardboard cut-out of Scott Baio, after that, Jackson’s on the back of a hog, giving us the bird and shouting obscenities in Hindi. Jackson was the sort of person who wasn’t very good at anything except not being good at things, so that when he did something you didn’t think he could, you were impressed for about five seconds and then you got over it. If Jackson ever walked on the moon, that would be it for NASA.

All of us after work walking through the mall. Because we worked at the mall. Who puts a call center in a mall? A guy who knows his shit, according to the guy himself who did it. A mall on its way to rot, to oblivion if we had enough Tyler Durden in us to scratch our itches. Usually our arms were too heavy to lift and so we got used to the itching and felt weird when we were clean.

Franklin O’Harris, a name to get tattooed on the arm you’re going to shove into a chipper to see if you still have nerve endings. Our boss. The genius. They guy who figured out a three month lease on an otherwise empty mall shop was cheaper than a one-year lease in a legitimate office park. The guy who figured out how to minimize overhead by outsourcing outsources. Call center technology had blossomed, from a zit-faced awkward pre-teen girl into a twenty-something roller derby behemoth with piercings and industrial strength dildos. Call center Indians in India were micromonitored 12 hours per day, and the stress to excel at their jobs was too much. Burnout and turnover and training new hires kept costs too high. So Franklin O’Harris picked up contracts and hired dipshit Americans in dipshit America. We never stressed because we knew Franklin O’Harris let the monitoring tools do the work and since he never checked them, we ignored them too. Half the day half of us took calls, the other half made calls. The other half we switched. On a bad day one call would take all day. On a good day we would call ourselves.

Not going to bother telling you who we were because we were as interchangeable as a billion Indians looking for work. If you want to know who we were, just go find a highscool, find the kids who’re dreaming about shooting everyone, blowing the place up, posting weird messages on Facebook and leaving scary post-it notes in the girls’ bathroom. The ones who never get caught, because there’s nothing to catch. And then they grow up and serve time in community college and finally get a semi-decent weed connection and set the cruise-control. That was us.

Jackson points at a cardboard cut-out of Scott Baio, and says, Franklin O’Harris is in love with that faggot.

8 in the morning, a night of call center yippy kay yeah. Let’s say you have a mall with more closed stores than open, how do you help it go even further out of business? Open the doors early. Good for us, though, as we walked empty corridors lit up with nasty neon. We had something to point at and make snide remarks about as we walked to the bus stop at the other end of the mall.

One of those movie stores. They don’t exist anymore. The internet killed everything.

One of us responds to Jackson by recalling a rumor that every girl who visited the Playboy Mansion from 1984 through 1989 had to sleep with Scott Baio. Bunnies included. And not “had” to in the sense that they were forced to, but “had to” in the sense that if you are ever in Arizona, you “had” to see the Grand Canyon.

Someone else suggests that having to see the Grand Canyon is because there’s nothing else to do in Arizona. The actual words spoken are “mother fucking Arizona.”

Someone else tries draw a comparison between the grand canyon and the vagina of a porn star.

Someone else punches that someone in the arm, very hard.

And then it is pointed out that Playboy is hardly porn.

And then it is mentioned that the premier episode of Joanie Loves Chachi was the highest rated show, ever, in South Korea, because in South Korea “Chachi” is slang for “penis.”

And then Jackson says, I have no idea what you faggots are talking about. Jackson used the word “faggot” a lot. When he suggested that Franklin O’Harris was in love with that faggot, that faggot being Scott Baio, he might have been talking about how Franklin O’Harris had a lot of respect for how many Grand Canyons Scott Baio visited at the Playboy Mansion. He might have meant the man respected the man’s work on Charles in Charge and Joanie Loves Chachi. Or, he might have meant that Franklin O’Harris was a homosexual, and that he want to have homosexual sexual intercourse with an accommodating Scott Baio. The point is, Jackson talked a lot. The point is, no one really listened to him.

Except this time, not listening to Jackson meant we were all thinking about how a shitty actor with no chin who could be easily mistaken for Ralph Macchio, for fuck’s sake, gets all kinds of pussy, and we get to work in a call center from 10 PM to 8 AM and will they even lets us drink beer at Denny’s where we go for breakfast when we can afford it before we go home to smoke a little and then fall asleep? No, not anymore. And Franklin O’Harris drives a H2. And Annie Hamilton, a girl we knew, in one form or another, with one name or another, in high school, was finally fat enough now we could probably have a shot at her Grand Canyon, and how pathetic was it that the only way we could ever get with our high school crush was to wait until adipose tissue had annihilated her self esteem.

So then someone else says, my cousin lives right down the street from Scott Baio.

And if Jackson had stopped walking, gotten a wild look in his eye, stood in front of us and had said, We should kidnap that faggot and dump him in Franklin O Harris’s office, we would have ignored him. But he doesn’t. He never breaks stride. He just says, We should kidnap that faggot and dump him in that faggot’s office.

So, when, the next day, same mall, same time of day, same cardboard cut-out of Scott Baio, Jackson says I know a guy who can help us kidnap that faggot, we can’t not know what he’s talking about.

So we go to Denny’s and order beer and they won’t give us any so we get grand slams instead. And Jackson explains how he went to this bar and he was sitting next to this guy in a jeans jacket and a nasty beard and they got to talking about the economy and Barack Bin Laden and teenage fagtards and the guy said something about the American dream was supposed to be about doing what you love and getting paid for it and Jackson said if he was a job creator he’d pay guys to stomp teenage fagtards and the guy said that’s the job for me and they got drunker and drunker.

And then Jackson tells us he hired a biker gang to kidnap Scott Baio.

Scott Baio isn’t a teenager, someone points out.

Jackson says, so?

Scott Baio is actually in his 50s, someone else points out.

Jackson says, so?

Scott Baio is a rabid republican faggot, someone else mentions.

And Jackson says, so?

And then we eat bacon and sausage and ham and eggs and hashed browns and pancakes and syrup and French toast and waffles and oatmeal with raisins and frittatas and one of us has a cheeseburger and one of us has a Reuben and one of us has a club sandwich and after we get done telling as many Mitch Hedberg jokes as we can remember one of us tells Jackson Scott Baio’s address.

Jackson smiles, and stands up, and says, Meet me by the back door tomorrow night. He doesn’t call us faggots. He does walk out without paying.

One by one, the rest of us leave without paying.


The next day, or night, we’re there. There’s no way any of it is going to happen. The guy Jackson was talking to, he wasn’t in a biker gang. And if he was, he wasn’t going to be able to get his gang to kidnap someone, let alone 52 year old Scott Baio, out of his home in broad daylight. And if they would, Scott Baio wouldn’t be home. And if he was, and they did, they weren’t going to bring him here, to the back of a rotting mall at night by the door we used to go to work because the mall was closed by then. And if they did, there’s no way Jackson could pay them for it.

This is what we’re all thinking. Someone mentions that maybe we’re the payment. Someone else points out that we can never go back to that Denny’s again. Then we start discussing last meals. What we would eat if we were on death row.

And then there’s a low roar which becomes a little louder and then a lot louder and a bunch of hogs are riding past us. One of ‘em’s got something in a buddle draped across his lap, and shoves it off as he passes us, like it’s nothing, like he’s always shoving bundles wrapped in white off his hog as he rides through an empty mall parking lot in the middle of the night.

The last bike goes by. Jackson’s on the back, giving us the bird and shouting, Bhen ke lode, assholes. We can’t tell if the biker he clings to is a man or woman.

And then they’re all gone, the sound of roaring motorcycles waning but never quit disappearing in the night We walk up to the bundle. It’s roughly man sized, but we can’t tell if it’s Scott Baio sized. It’s wrapped in rope. It’s red in places. It’s not moving at all.

Another roar, this one’s an H2. Franklin O’Harris. He gets out of his stupid faggot car and walks over to us. What’s this? He says. We don’t say anything. He bends over to take a closer look. We don’t say a word, we just fall on him, kicking and hitting and smacking and slapping. We beat the crap out of him. We don’t want to him to find out if it really is Scott Baio.

A Hazy Shade of Thin Mint

fiction by Jason Edwards

Liam is afraid to drive across bridges. Which sucks for someone who lives, works, plays and learns in and around Seattle. It’s close to 3 PM on a Tuesday in June and I’m driving Liam’s car. He met me at the airport, gave me a handshake and a brohug, threw my bag into the back seat and then got in on the passenger side. You want me to drive? And he said Yes, Liam is afraid to drive across bridges. In third person like that.

Traffic is terrible but the kind of terrible I’m used to. 6 months in LA. There might be a reason for someone to go to LA, but there are reasons to go other places first and if you’re lucky you’ll die before you use up those reasons.

Liam says, Where’s the party.


Fuck. Which one.

The one on 155th and Aurora.

Fuck. Shoreline?



I don’t know. Because they don’t charge for bags there, since it’s not Seattle, it’s Shoreline.



This part would be in italics if I thought whatever medium, you’re reading this in could handle it. But I can’t take that risk. I got a Facebook message from Kareem. He wanted to tell me he was going to throw a party. In Seattle. In a grocery store. Just let people eat and drink what they wanted and he’d pay for it. Why not. I sent a message back, saying I’d fly up for it. He told me not to tell Liam. So I told Liam, asked if I could get a ride from the airport. The day before my flight, Liam sent me back a message: Okay.


The traffic on highway 5 gets better after 130th, about a mile from our exit. I take 145th, a mile to Aurora, which is also Highway 99, old highway 99, not really a highway, just a busy street with old motels, old Taco Bells, and about a thousand tree dispensaries. I turn right on Aurora, and I’d be able to see all the way to Alaska if I had better vision and the Earth didn’t curve. But it does, the Earth curves.

Liam asks me to park his car as far away from the front doors as possible. It’s a gorgeous day. The sunshine is perfect, the blue sky is perfect, the sounds of radio stations through open car windows on Aurora is perfect.

There are two entrances into the Safeway. What time does the party start? Liam asks me.

2 PM.


We make our way towards the entrance more on the left. The one on the right has girl scouts in front of it.


Another part in italics. I’m not good at flashbacks—this one is from about two minutes ago. I turned off the car and didn’t say anything. Liam didn’t either. He just sat there, kind of hunched, like he was going to be sick or was finally done being sick. Then he opened the glove compartment. Just in case, man, he said. Then he got out. I looked into the glove compartment—it was empty except for a Sig Sauer P220 Platinum Elite with an ergonomic beavertail grip, front cocking serrations, front strap checkering, and custom aluminum grips (according to the website). It smelled used.


Inside the Safeway I lose Liam almost immediately. I see Jordan and Dane walking up the cold beer aisle. Kim has a shopping basket and she’s looking at the wall of gift cards. One of Kelly’s kids comes racing out of the aisle with all of the baking stuff, turns a corner and zips up soups. I walk towards chips and seasonal, and find Van and Shelly. Van’s talking to a skinny guy with bad hair.

Shelly’s smiling. Shelly’s always smiling.

Hey Jason, Shelly says.


Long time.




Suddenly the skinny guy with bad hair throws a punch at Van. Van takes it, laughs. I’d say you punch like a girl, Steve, but my daughter punches harder than that, Van says. The skinny guy stomps off. I head toward milk.

I can’t decide between buttermilk or half and half. I’m not going to drink any. I paid a thousand dollars to a kid in LA to get me UC, so I could work on my abs. I finally choose some non-dairy creamer.

I walk towards produce. I see Kim looking at celery.

Hey Kim.

Hey you’re back. She gives me a hug. She’s good at it.

I saw you by the gift cards. Kareem’s paying for gift cards too?

Oh, no. I paid for those myself. It’s my sister’s birthday next week. Where’s Liam?


Didn’t he give you a ride?


Don’t let him see the girl scouts.

What girl scouts.

The one’s selling cookies.


The store manager is letting them sell cookies inside, to us. But not in the cookie aisle.

Maybe Liam’s in the cookie aisle, then.

I hope he is. When are you going back to LA?

Never I hope. Tomorrow.

Celery is too damn expensive.

I know.

No calories.

I know.

You look good.


Is that why you’re drinking non-dairy creamer?


Italics again. A trick I learned at a party in Westwood. Carry something you don’t like to drink, so you don’t accidentally drink it. Because when you go to parties, the instinct is to sip whatever’s in your hand. I learned the trick from a girl with the straightest, blondest hair I’d ever seen. I forgot her name. Either that, or I can’t think of something deeply pithy and symbolic to call her right now.


If this was a house party, everybody would be in the kitchen. What’s the equivalent in a grocery store. I walk to the deli. A bunch of people I don’t know. As I get closer, I realize they’re all pharmacists, so they must be Desiree’s coworkers. They are all of them extremely drunk. They are having a lot of fun. They’re talking about one of their coworkers, one of them that they really hate.

I try the aisle that has dog food and baby stuff in it. It smells really horrible. In the next aisle is household cleaners. Alan and Helen are sitting in folding chairs, drinking lemonade and eating chips. Alan has his iPhone plugged into a portable speaker, and they’re listening to Mumford and Sons. Or maybe The Lumineers. Or maybe Phillip Phillips. Alan is a doctor. Hey Jason, he says. UC? Looking good, brother! I honestly believe he is genuinely happy for me.


6 months earlier, right before I left for LA. Liam and I went to Uneeda Burger, in Fremont. Why LA? he said.

I’m trying to get UC, I said. I know a guy who knows a guy, and besides…

Besides what? he said, taking a gigantic bite out of his cowboy burger. Barbecue sauce gooshes out and the smell is incredible. Foreshadowing. I gulped down hefeweizen. I hated hefeweizen.

I shrugged. I dunno. Usually this would be the part of the story where I finally reveal that my mom was dead. Or my dad. Or I got dumped by a girl who later got hooked bad on drugs.

Wife? He said, frowning.

Doesn’t exist yet, I said.

And she never will, he said, and we fist bumped. Let’s go get some Tagalongs.

It was the saddest day of my life.


There’s no one the Asian aisle, which has Mexican food in it too, and Indian, and Kosher. I walk through it to the front of the store. Chelsea is talking to a check-out girl, and her fiancée Walter is flipping through tabloids. The other Chelsea walks through the front doors, takes off her sunglasses, blinks a few times, puts her sunglasses back on and walks out again. In the video section, there’s, like, a hundred girls scouts. They are terrifying.


I wrote a short story, once, called “The Taffy Mafia.” It was supposed to be a sort of spoof on zombies. Except instead of the walking undead, there’s these little girls running around, almost feral, selling taffy for some school fund raiser. No one gets hurt in the story, no one’s even in danger. But everyone is scare shitless. They’re even more scared than when, a while earlier, the town really was overrun by actual flesh eating zombies.

I submitted the story to a literary journal, a no-name rag run out of a no-name community college. It was nominated for a Pushcart prize. It won. I stopped writing after that.


The girl scouts come to some sort of conclusion, and scatter. Except for one girl scout, who looks like she’s about nine years old. Her girl scout clothes are pristine. Perfect. Her hair is golden blonde and the curls are absolutely perfect. Her rosy cheeks. Her bright blue eyes. Her perfect white teeth as she smiles. She reaches up to grab a copy of Sex Lies and Videotape. At her feet are other DVDs: Bad Influence, Crash, Two Days in the Valley. I start to get very queasy.

The party’s starting to wind down. The windows are tinted, but eventually the light doesn’t change every time the door opens. So the sky is now the color of tinted windows.

Crystal and Kevin are at one of the self-check lanes. Kevin’s running the same bag of mini carrots over the UPC reader, over and over again. Every time it goes beep, Kevin says “Fuck you, Kareem,” and Crystal says “Yeah.”

The bakery section. Laura, Tammy, Melody, Eric, and Keith are sprawled. They look like dead angels. Greasy hair, flushed cheeks, dirt underneath their fingernails, perfect abs, perfect fucking abs, every single one of them.

I decide to find Liam so I can leave.


The last little interlude. The big epiphany. The whole point of the story. The chunk of cookie lodged in my throat that makes me choke. Anticlimax.


Liam’s in the cookie aisle. He’s sitting, he’s crying, he’s shoving handfuls of girl scout thin mints into his mouth, chewing them, brown goo pouring out of his mouth. There are boxes all around him, like dead soldiers, dead children in a schoolyard massacre, dead bugs beneath a bug zapper, dead fish at low tide, rumpled up tissues surrounding the most persistent nose bleed of all time. But they’re just boxes, green and cheery.

Liam looks up at me as I approach. Dark circles under his wet eyes, nose is running, and all that chewed up cookie drooling from his cookie-soaked chin. The Safeway fluorescents make his skin look yellow, like old damp newspaper.

Please Jason, he says.

I pull out the Sig Sauer, point it at his forehead.

Oh god, thank you, he says, Thank you god, thank you god.

I pull the trigger. There’s a lot of blood. A lot of blood. But there’s way more chewed-up cookie.

Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore– review on Goodreads

Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour BookstoreMr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

So here’s another book about books. Not a bad thing, not at all, as I love books about books. Lately, thanks to the internet and all those Amazonian algorithms, I’ve been reading more and more books about books—each one leads me to another. I’m sure there’s some deep seated spirituality that can be gleaned from this kind of thing. So even if, in the end, Mr. Penumbra’s 24 Hour Bookstore isn’t, actually, about books, that it’s considered to be about books will nevertheless leads me to other books that are.

Do you follow me? No? No matter. This was a fun read anyway. I read it one day, more or less, a feat that requires free time (I was on vacation) a decent writing style (Robin Sloan’s sentence crafting is fine) and a compelling plot (it’s a book about a puzzle). I’ve seen other reviews compare Penumbra’s to The Da Vinci Code, The Shadow of the Wind, and The Name of the Rose. (Let me add Ready Player One to that list). I’ll agree to those comparisons with a grain of salt, like I said above, in as much as it means people will be led to this book and others of the same ilk if we allow the comparison.

Because in the end, there’s not much of a puzzle at Mr. Penumbra’s, more of a mystery, which is fine. I do like how Sloan uses the internet as a thing and the internet as a theme to sort of modernize a philosophy of what it means to be creative. I liked the allusion to Erasmus, and even though it was a bit one-dimensional, I liked the earnestness of the characters.

There were a few things along the way that were not handled well—pretty much everything the book mentioned about Google was just silly, especially the big brute-force puzzle-solving fiasco near the end. (Spoiler alert—they fail to break the code, but I can tell you from even my limited knowledge of puzzlecraft that, actually, a brute-force approach would have worked, given the actual final solution). Major flaw? Sure, if this was just a book about a puzzle. But if you let the book be more about other themes, about the human condition, how people are the real resource of interconnectedness, I suppose such flaws can be overlooked.

I overlooked them for The Da Vinci Code and Ready Player One, and Penumbra’s better written than those, in my opinion.

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Don’t Go, Jason Waterfalls

fiction by Jason Edwards

Sober, skinny Jason Waterfalls trots across the tarmac, rucksack wrapped around his back like the shiny shell on a ladybug. The bag is full of treasure, mirror and razor-blade treasure, all of it paid for, all of it precious. The mighty tarmac is windless on a blazing hot day, but a tiny breeze finds Jason’s jacket back under the rucksack and billows it playfully. If it were longer, and made of something sturdier, and this was an old Western Town and he was a gunslinger, it would have looked gorgeous. Instead, it’s unremarkable. Jason sinsg, softly to himself, “Never gonna give you up,” and runs up a set of mobile stairs as if he’s done it a thousand times before, which would be true if he’d done it 999 times before.

Inside is cooler than outside, and cooler too: leather and chrome and a flight attendant on the right side of plump. Asian, maybe. Or Mexican. Jason sits down, is handed champagne, and the door closes, and the plane starts moving. Just like that. Just like a domino falls when a domino next to it falls towards the domino it will then fall into.

The door to the cockpit is closed, the stewardess is behind him and strapped in, so Jason points forward and says to nobody “follow that cab” and laughs and takes a sip of champagne and spills some on himself. Goddamnit. What kind of piece of crap airline are they running here. The lady bug on the seat across the aisle next to him rolls off, hits the floor, and slides towards the back of the plane, out of his sight. Who cares. Not Jason Waterfalls.

“Boy,” the man had said. “We need some new goods. You’re going to go fetch ‘em.”

“Yessir,” Jason replied.

“Like a good boy.”


“Like a good dog.”


“Doggy like to fetch?”



“Yessir.” Jason didn’t need this shit. Except he did. He’d been a courier, a go-between, a messenger, a delivery boy for a while. He’d been promoted from packages wrapped in cellophane to packages wrapped in cellophane that could be unwrapped, skimmed, and rewrapped. Which he’d done. Ray-Bans Vans and tans. Not a lot, but more than he could afford on a courier’s wages. At least it was worth it. At least he looked good. For fuck’s sake.

“City airport, tomorrow, before noon.”


“I just told you. Buenos Aires. You speak Spanish?”

“No. Sir.”

“Neither do they.” He’d handed Jason a slip of paper with an address on it. “Don’t fuck no whores.”

And that was that. Jason Waterfalls could have gotten a baseball bat upside his head, some piano wire around his neck, a few bullets through his heart, a knife in his gut, his own Jason Testicles fed to him. But he’s one of those sons of bitches that charms people. It was an iffy business, and it paid the big guys to give the lucky guys a little free rein, see what opportunities they knocked up.

So he’d gone to the airport at ten AM and wandered around and like a lucky bastard found the desk where they organize the private jets and was lucky enough to get the one gal who thought Ray-Bans were sexy and was still new enough on the job to not think it was weird that a solo passenger on a private jet didn’t know where to go and didn’t ask for a passport and was lucky enough to ignore her terrible directions and find the plane anyway and climb on board and was handed champagne that didn’t spill god damn it and took a nap and ate some rare steak and more champagne and a cup of coffee and decent shit in the airplane bathroom bigger than his apartment in Miami and after eight hours landed just like that. Piece of cake.

Cab, address. Some old dude, wrinkles like ravines, terrible job at shaving, yellow eyes with bursts of red. Backpack. Called it a rucksack. He looked Jason over for a long time. “Abatido” he said.

Jason just shrugged. “Arigato,” he said back.

The old man laughed. You expected, when an old man laughed, a mouth with just a few rotten teeth left. But not this guy. Huge perfectly white teeth. Scary goddamn teeth. Handed Jason the backpack. “Don’t fuck no whores,” he said.

Jason went out and fucked some whores.

Sometime in the night, lost his Ray-Bans. Sometime in the night, lost his Vans. But he never lost that backpack. That shiny red backpack. Never opened it, either. Was tempted. Could use some blow, after that night, those whores. “Como se disse blowjob?” he said. “I don’t speak Spanish, asshole,” the whore said, but in a good natured way, and then she blew him. He paid with stolen cash, but that was all right. He’d stolen it before he’d gotten this assignment, and since they hadn’t killed him, but given him the assignment, that was like permission. Thankfully, she took US dollars. It occurred to him he should check her, see if she was really a dude. He’d heard that sort of thing happened in Argentina. He decided to rely on his luck. The next whore, anyway, had a vagina.

She was actually kind of sweet, a young thing, whimpered a few times as he went at it, a longer session thanks to the earlier blowjob, asked him his name, smiled at him, fell asleep next to him, woke up when he was putting on somebody else’s shoes in the little house she lived in. “Don’t go, Jason Waterfalls,” she said, and if he wasn’t carrying eight pounds of cocaine for a Lupe Blanco and wasn’t starting to feel like he needed a few penicillin shots and didn’t think the water here was going to kill him and didn’t think, all things considered, Buenos Aires was a filthy town which he was rapidly becoming extremely sick of, he might have considered it. But if she wasn’t eighteen she was sixteen and in the morning light he could see she had one of those Latina-girl mustaches so he got up and left.

Cab, airport, tarmac, stairs, champagne, fuck.

The plane levels out and the stewardess walks up, with the backpack, setting it on the seat next to him across the aisle. She sees his empty glass, the wet stain on his shirt, makes a face, trots away. Jason squirms in his seat. The wet on his shirt, the heat in his crotch, an itch in his shoes—he wants a shower, and bad. This is a private jet, right?

The stewardess returns with a towel, crouches next to him.

“Is there a shower on this plane?”

She shakes her head, saying nothing. She dabs at his chest with the cloth. It does absolutely nothing. “Nevermind,” he says, pushing her hand to the side. She growls, slaps him, and goes back to daubing, her face once again calm, betraying nothing.

It had happened so fast he was stunned. It was so out of place, had it happened? He’s about to say “what the fuck?” when she stands up and walks away again. This is not the same stewardess as on the plane on the flight down. That one had been blonde. Not a milf, but, like, older-sister age. This one, Asian one, can’t tell her age. Jason turns in his seat. She’s back in the galley. She’s rattling something around. The clink and clank of what is probably bottles and can sounds like heavier, shinier metal.

He hasn’t had much sleep, has been to some pretty greasy parts of town, has eaten and drunk and smoked and snorted some things, so, clearly, he’d imagined the slap. Some bygone memory from when he was a kid and his mom had done something like that, out of frustration.

He settles back into his seat. She’s bring him lunch, he’ll eat that, take a nap, take a shit, watch a movie, get off the plane, go home for a shower, deliver the rucksack. Just another day in the life of Jason Waterfalls.

The stewardess comes by with a tray, but doesn’t set it in front of him, going instead to the cockpit. Door opens, door closes. She’s in there for a while. The fasten seat-belt light comes on. They hit some turbulence, and the backpack falls onto the floor again. Jason leaves it there. She can pick it up again.

At last, the cockpit door opens. Is the stewardess adjusting her skirt? Is she touching her lips, making sure her lipstick isn’t smeared? The little slut, he thinks. But in an admiring way.

She walks down the aisle, stops at the back pack. “Did you open this?” she says.

What the fuck business is it of yours? Jason doesn’t say. “No,” he says.

She glares at him, picked up the sack, puts it on the seat, shoves it all the way to the window. Walks away again.

Jason rubs his eyes, runs his fingers through his hair, allows himself a mighty yawn. Fuck it. Sleep first, then eat. He closes his eyes.

He openes his eyes. He feels like hes glued to his seat, shoved down into it like a blanket stuffed into a tiny closet. He pries himself up, stretches. Looks back towards the galley—the stewardess is there, strapped into a jump seat, lolled, her legs spread apart just a bit, a little unlady like. He takes a few steps towards her, trying to make out—is there something staining her stockings? He wants to smile, takes another step, almost trips on the backpack. It’s on the floor again.

He picks it up, looks at it. Shiny and red. He’d known his luck could only go so far, and that he was pushing it if he wasn’t careful. Not opening the backpack, it was sort of a gesture. Because after all, nobody told him not to open. Not Blanco, not the old man. The only one who brought it up was the snoring stewardess. And you know what, Jason Waterfalls, she had, indeed, slapped you. So what are you going to do, fuck whores, or take orders from them? He decides to open the rucksack.

And so he does He kneels down, right there in the aisle, and unzips it. There’s a hiss of gas escaping, a truly awful smell. Like what vomit would smell like if it was rotten meat taking a shit. Jason tries not to gag. The stewardess comes instantly awake. She unbuckles and runs towards him.

“What did you do?” she says.

“What the hell is it?” Jason says, knowing she wouldn’t know, but knowing somehow she would know. He wants to look inside, but he wants to be away from the smell. He stands up.

“Pituitary glands. But you broke the seal, and now they’re ruined.”

“It’s not cocaine? I thought I was picking up cocaine.”

“No, you dumb asshole.”

Something funny about her voice. Did Jason think she was Asian? Her mouth seems to have a lot of teeth in them. Her eyes seem to have a lot of yellow, with red bursts in them. He takes a step back. “What the fuck.”

“Well, I’ve got one, I guess I can get another.” She hosld up a hand. Is she holding a knife? No, her fingernails are knives, big long yellow crusty knives. He takes another step back, and then another.

“Where are you going to go, asshole? You’re on a plane.”

Jason turns, jumps at the cockpit door, opens it, slips inside, shuts it, looks for a lock.

The smell of copper, hot copper, Blood everywhere. Every surface, every angle. Pooled on the floor. Jason falls over. Something on the seat, torn clothes and clumps of something meaty and bloody. And heat, the cockpit is tiny, drenched in blood and hot like a sauna. Jason’s head starts swimming.

A wrenching sound, the cockpit door ripped away. The stewardess, skirt torn, blouse torn, stockings torn, not stained, but torn. Covered in hair and muscle. Her nose is getting longer. Her eyes are getting yellower. Jason is trying to scream but he can’t.

“So, asshole,” she says. “Did you fuck any whores?” She leaps. The pain is outside of him. Who was going to land the plane, he thinks, as she stands over him, ripping his body to pieces, scratching huge chunks out of his forehead.

Hit and Run– review on Goodreads

Hit and Run (Keller, #4)Hit and Run by Lawrence Block

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

If you’ve read the other Keller books, this one stands out. At first. There’s a plot this time, not just a theme, and it covers, more or less, the entire length of the work. Instead of a collection of hits, Keller’s dealing with one hit in particular (sort of—I don’ t want to give it away). But I mentioned theme, and the quiet, almost subdued, tone of the stories is very predominant here in this “novel” version, and so, this is just a longer story, with a few extra complications thrown in to make it worth the increased length. The bottom line is: if you liked the first three Keller collections, you’ll like this one, and if you got tired of the sameness of them, Hit and Run will be especially tedious.

I’m couching all of this in the assumption that you won’t be reading Hit and Run on its own. I’m not sure if I can say it would stand up on its own—just like the second, and third collection, Block makes several references to occurrences in previous stories. Then again, as subdued and understated as the tone is, a matter-of-fact flash back is, indeed, just as good as having read the original. So maybe one could read Hit and Run without having read Hit Man, Hit List, and Hit Parade.

Then again, in this novel treatment of Keller’s version of angst, he’s got more space to be contemplative, and that’s not the same thing as subdued and understated, is it. I think Block invites his readers to be contemplative right along with Keller, and so, in as much as there are flashbacks, they can work as flashbacks to the reader’s own experience as well. In this way, of course, this novel cannot stand alone. Unfortunately, if what one contemplated was tedium and frustration, then Hit and Run doesn’t stand a chance.

But if you’re like me, and liked the meditative quality of the first three books, this novel will be easy to get through, and will be as enjoyable. But, I have to admit, not any more enjoyable. Just the same.

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