Friday, February 21, 2014
The meet at midnight under the Arc de Triomphe with a bottle of wine, a claw hammer, a ball-peen hammer, a sledge hammer, an oyster knife, baling wire, a back issue of The New York Review of Books and a freshly oiled and gassed-up chainsaw.
It has rained all day into tonight down on the Champs-Elysees and the street shines greasy like the back of a killer shark, going under.
They wait, grinning in the flash of headlights.
“What did he say to you,” the one in black leather asks the other one, who is wearing a blue beret and bright red lipstick.
“He said that I was derivative but that I had made an acceptable though banal first attempt. He didn’t even look at me when he said that. What about you, what happened?” the blue beret and red lipstick asks, pulling on skin-tight black leather driving gloves, checking her lipstick in a gold compact mirror.
“He asked if I thought I was Celine or Cendrars or Stein to write the way I do. I was about to say maybe better when he told me that I was
He said it just like that, like the words were on three different lines.
Then he said: ‘maybe someday, maybe - but I’d be artistically disingenuous to falsely encourage you.’ How do like them apples?”
The woman takes a long swig out of the bottle, tests the tightness of the chain on the saw, says:
“He told me my work is off-putting. Can you believe that shit? What does it mean? Then he started talking about the shape and potential of my oeuvre. I think he was probably flirting with me, at that point.”
The man in black leather, eyeing the sharp point on the oyster knife, nods, says:
“He had the gaul to ask me,” he says,“ ‘do you think you’re Papa Hemingway with your tough little sentences?’ He asked me that in front of the entire class.”
“Are you saying that spelled g a u l l e? That’s wrong, you know.”
“Gaulle, gaul, de-gall - I don’t care, because then he went on to say that my work is puerile. But that it’s good work... of it’s kind. Come to think of it, when he said that he wasn’t looking at me, either.”
“Of course not. Well look, he asked me where I’m from, and when I told him Oklahoma, he completely stopped talking to me, and left the room, though he came back later and called me a regional women's writer, which didn’t hurt much, though he wanted it to, I could tell.”
“Oh I know. He asked me if I'd been to New York, that the real writers are from there, or at least they’d better get packed and go there.”
“That’s stupid. Hasn’t he heard of Tennessee Williams? Obviously, he’s from out of town!”
Footsteps coming in the rain, a shadow getting larger; they begin to whisper.
“Hey, by the way - why The New York Review of Books? I’ve never seen you carry that around, not until tonight.”
“For wrapping, you know, the smaller parts, and I have The New Yorker here, to wipe it all up with.”
“Oh, yeah. Good thinking.”
“Now listen: you have the chainsaw, so make sure he gets that through-line he’s always going on about,” says the man in black leather.
“Oh yeah, don’t worry. When I get through with him more than his participle will be dangling,” says the woman in the blue beret.
The hissing rain gently increases, the shark’s back shines greasy,
but their footing is sure.
The woman in the blue beret pulls it low across her eyes then
pulls the cord on the chainsaw.
There is smoke and the smell of gasoline in the rain.
“Here he comes. Let’s get him.”
(translated from the French)