The Lonely StoryMark Gozonsky
“The narrator is in denial about the natural process of decay,” interjected the sentence, unable to contain itself.
“He doesn’t understand that without decay, dead bodies would be piling up all around us.”
“Who said that?” the first sentence and the story asked together, almost exactly at the same time.
“It’s me, the second sentence: You know, ‘I understand about rocks eroding in nature.’”
“You can talk!” said the first sentence.
“But of course,” replied the second sentence, using the fake French accent everyone uses when they say that.
At this the first sentence was overjoyed. It instantly became best friends with the second sentence, while also remaining best friends with the story, which it was able to do because the first sentence was very good at making and keeping friends.
"So, should the narrator now be confronted with piles of corpses outside his house?” It was the third sentence talking now. Apparently all of the sentences were thoughtful, friendly and confident, although hard to tell apart when they spoke.
“Yes, but what kind of corpses?”
“Animals, at first.”
“I saw a huge dead crow on the sidewalk the other day. It was the size of a meatloaf, and its neck was broken. It looked like it had flown right into the sidewalk. I felt very sad because its feathers were still so black and shiny.”
The sentences all looked at each other to see who had said so much. Sentences were only supposed to say one subject and predicate at a time.
“It’s me. The author… I’m sorry I got so angry at you before.”
There was a moment’s silence, while the sentences and the story all considered what the author had said. In that silence, you could have heard a silent e.
Then the story spoke, speaking for all of the sentences: “That’s okay. We accept your apology, and we like the idea about the crow. A crow one day; a squirrel the next…”
“But wait!” said the author, and everyone tensed up. “Shouldn’t there have been some kind of itinerant stonemason near the beginning, who promises he can fix the problem for twenty dollars? He wouldn’t offer to fix it for free, because that would set off the narrator’s ‘You get what you pay for’ alarm. But if the narrator is really so fatuous that he believes his home should be exempt from decay…”
And here the author paused, because he sensed the sentences had become uncomfortable, as indeed they had, with his use of the word ‘fatuous.’ It struck them as judgmental. The author picked up on this, which was good. He was becoming more sensitive to the preferences and expectations of his sentences, and everyone was glad to see that.
“An itinerant stonemason,” reiterated the seventh sentence.
“He fixes the problem by patching the cracked steps and suspending the laws of nature,” clarified the eighth.
“He looks like a guy who once could have been a long and lanky pitching prospect, but then fell on hard times – steroids, gambling, everything – and then just continued imploding until now he’s just this sunburned dude with oily long blond hair in a ragged flannel shirt even though it’s well into the eighties outside.”
This from the author again. The sentences did not make fun of how he went on and on – because at least he was trying, and contributing, and that was so much better than before, when he was just running around tyrannizing everyone about how things had to be fiction all the time.
“All right,” the story stepped in. “So let me see if I understand where this is going. The lanky stonemason suspends the laws of nature. Then, incrementally larger animal corpses begin showing up on the narrator’s front lawn: crow, one day; squirrel, the next; then possum, then dog. The day of the dog, that’s a very sad day. We’re sad for the dog. It’s a lab/husky mix, the nicest kind of dog. Everyone is sad. The narrator gazes out his window at the sorry sight, and he gets the picture. He sees where this is going. He can’t just stick the dog’s body in a baggy and stick it in the Yard Waste Only can like he’s done with the others. The dog’s body is just too big. Plus, it’s a dog, not some critter. So he calls animal control and then goes back to gazing out the window, wondering what remains are going to show up on his lawn the next day. What’s the logical progression? A pony? A dolphin? It’s just too horrific to contemplate.”
The story paused, and the sentences all applauded, which made the story feel better than it had in a long, long time.
“What happens next?” asked the first sentence.
“Well, I’m not really sure,” the story admitted. “Either the narrator goes searching for the stonemason’s card, or else he sees the stonemason standing out on the sidewalk, waving at him, the pseudo-pitying mock-sympathetic wave you always see when the antagonist turns the tables in the movies.”
“Or the narrator could be startled by the smash of a broken window.”
The sentences all looked around to see who had spoken. It was the author.
“Go on,” said the story.
“The stonemason used the narrator’s twenty dollars to buy new baggies full of decorative rocks and his business card, to throw on people’s driveways, for marketing.”
“And he threw it too hard on purpose through the narrator’s window, just to stick it to him,” extended the third sentence.
“And because he had been a promising pitching prospect,” elaborated the fourth.
The author felt a warm glow at having his ideas picked up and run with by his sentences.
“That’s exactly what happens,” the story decided. “And you know the rest. The stonemason says yes, he thinks he can fix the problem, but it’s going to cost a lot more money. Two grand to reverse the curse, plus another two hundred for proper removal of the bodies. You can’t just toss them in the trash. There’s a big fine for that.
“‘Great, good, whatever,’ says the narrator. ‘Just keep my steps fixed and stop the body count.’
“’I’ll do what I can,’ says the stonemason. The narrator accepts in a flash of insight that he can’t insist on a no-death guarantee. So at least he realizes something. He does get a 10-year warranty on the steps. He figures the stonemason is good for it, because the stonemason is probably some kind of eternally recurring mythopoetic figure of some sort.
“And when the job is finished, the steps look just like they did before they started crumbling,” the fifth-to-last sentence said.
“Yes,” the story agrees. “And when the wife comes home from the business trip she’s been on this whole time, she’s very happy that the narrator took care of the problem using his judgment and initiative. That’s a little bit of non-dark magic the stonemason throws in for good measure, just so there are no hard feelings.”
“And what happens to the author?” the author asked.
The sentences paused and leaned forward, as if italicized, to hear the story’s resolution.
“The author sold the story for $2,200 to Concrete Character, a new and prestigious quarterly founded by an almost-billionaire who made a fortune in feldspar and now wants to give something back. The check was almost enough for the author to get his actual steps actually fixed.”
“Hah!” exclaimed the author. “As if that could ever happen.”
“You said you wanted fiction,” said the story.
And they all lived happily ever after, until the sequel.
The Third Jewel
On War and Remembrance
Spectacles of the Mind
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Katharyn M. Browne
The Lonely Freedom
The Missing Person
Upon Revisiting the Birthplace of the Preacher Billy Sunday
One Way of Looking at a Poet
Notes on Joan Crawford
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For Our Time
THE MOOR DANCES
The Lonely Story
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Saint-Michel: A Moment in Six Forms