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Mail Romance.

1. An automythological account of this author's strange affair

The second most astounding day of my monkish and circumscribed life was the 19th of January, 1995--itself a double anniversary, for it also marks the beginning of a debilitating illness (the very date of infection, as it were), which I did not then know existed. Indeed, it could very well be that it did not then exist, and I have newly borne this affliction into the world. Bitter legacy, if true! Quel sale destin! Yet I was once an artist of some ambition, the kind that takes words as tools; I had labored long, long as the next sentence, which will attempt to explain; bear with me, dear reader, and do breathe deeply:

After fifteen years of writing daily without publishing--completing, in that time, a B.A., many horrible and not-as-horrible stories, three novels, dozens of poems and papers, eight workshops, an M.EA., course work for a Ph.D. in literature, several semesters of student teaching, years of tri-weekly writers' group meetings on Long Island and in New York City, and, before that, an entire childhood and adolescence that seemed, from my second-grade play adaptation of It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown to my fourth-place story "Can't Cry For Help" [1] in Scholastic Voice's national student writing contest, at its center a kind of preparation to be a writer; in the midst of what had become a long and widening stream of standard, lowesttier rejection slips from scores of literary magazines high and low--I found a foreign-looking envelope, emblazoned with the stately ocher-and-black Gettysburg Review logo, in my little gold-painted mailbox in the lobby of my Queens apartment.

Writers, even the most overlooked or uninitiated, will instinctively know what this means; but for those of you with the good sense to be outside the field, may I explain, firstly, that rejections customarily arrive encased in homely #10 self-addressed stamped Office Max envelopes (hereafter SASOME's, pronounced "say-somes"), which the unassuming author encloses with his manuscript, and, further, that on this occasion I suspected that other than to answer my request for publication of "Sister Rose," [2] The Gettysburg Review would have no real reason to write to me. And clearly, they had written to me: my name and address were typed, directly onto the envelope--no sticker; no "auto," asterisks or "ecrlot" (whatever that foul group of letters means)--and so I realized, before opening the envelope and reading its unironic, congratulatory contents, that the course of my writing career, lower-case c, was about to change, presumably for the better.

Immediately, perhaps even simultaneously, a writer searches for metaphors to describe such an event; it would of course never be enough to say, I trembled, I sobbed; these bald details must be linked to other things, incorporated, attached to the larger cloth of his life, of Life (or, at the very least, to someone else's work, preferably someone hardy: Shakespeare jumps readily to mind, but what about Isaiah? The ransomed of the Lord returning with songs and everlasting joy upon their heads, sorrow and sighing fleeing away[ldots]), and my chief one, naturally, was first orgasm. But more on that later; some words on the fifteen deathly years.

I would say literally deathly, but no, that is another metaphor (like cloth), also an unfunny pun, and here is why: I had begun to see that mailbox--not too much taller and deeper than the dimensions of a business-size envelope in the first place, and then perhaps three inches wide--as a kind of coffin; inside, every week, one or two of my anorexic, corpse-white, #10 SASOME's, the name of the slayer noted in my own hand in the return-address area. Once, when by an unfortunate coincidence I received four such missives in a day, I extended the metaphor to morgue: "Time to check the morguebox," I would say to myself--realistically[3]--then, taking leave of my dismal chamber, shuffle down the stairs with my mournful, clinking keys, a perverse St. Peter or snarling Cerberus, according to mood, I suppose, or weather.

Would Peter or Cerberus have been as Pavlovian as I? Who could ever tell? What a mash of the centuries--tough clearly dogs all; eventually, the envelopes themselves came to mean rejection: just a glimpse of one through the perforations of the yet-locked box was enough to nauseate and depress me; indeed, it seemed beside the point to open them, an unnecessary act of masochism. But what is a literary fiction writer if not an eager and longtime practitioner of unnecessary acts of masochism? I immediately opened them and proceeded to fixate morosely on their contents, and, further, on the bleak reality they represented: my story's useless foray, futile sally, via dolorosa ending ingloriously at a Midwestern university town's recycling plant, pulp for Sunday circulars, daily horoscope calendars...; and there my mind would draw the curtain over the array of environmentally-friendly paper products it might be churned into, the uses to which it might eventually be put. Manila homing pigeons! Yes, that was the image years ago: before submitting disposable manuscripts became common practice, one enclosed an SAS 9 x 12 for the return of the entire story--those were perhaps the glory days of literary masochism, when a writer, upon his pigeon's return, had the opportunity to instantly project his nausea upon his creation itself, usually its first line; within it, he could find cause for the harshest judgments ever meted upon words, fodder for the amusement of an imagined panel of eye-rolling editors, their overheard dialogue peppered with screen-freezing jargon: specificity, affect, formal rubric.

Pigeons, corpses, clinking keys, the daily doggy round, save, mercifully, Sundays and holidays--and so, with luck, bargain-basement therapy, and perhaps just an occasional switch in point-of view or tense, the literary writer stems his periodic suicidal impulses; he can then enjoy having become an accidental connoisseur of rejection slips, a storehouse of curious, useless information; he can look forward to continuing to store them, for even marginal success--and his success, at best, can be but marginal--will not stop, only narrow, the stream. Would you indulge me a moment? I have always wanted to tell someone that the slips from the Iowa and Santa Monica Re-view, although somewhat lengthy and sophisticated for their ilk--and proceeding, it would seem, from opposite corners of the world--are almost identically worded; the differences being: in Iowa, it is "this chance to read," in Santa Monica, "a chance to read" "your work"/"your story"; "and we regret"/"and regret"; both feature the tough-love phrase in r eturning your work, we admit that for the present we favor other offerings. Can this be coincidental? I think not; one review has obviously filched its wording from the other--or perhaps it is a case of a grumpy traveling editor. Either way, after such a harsh encounter, it is best to go straight to the Antioch Review file and make a fan of the many Return of your work does not necessarily imply criticism of its merit's; bask in The Sun's This isn't meant as a reflection on your writing's; in Manoa's We simply do not have space to publish all of the excellent work we receive's. There is so much more I could point out! At The Southern Review, for instance, where they seem to have a policy of leaving some brief human mark on each impersonal nay, I have learned to distinguish between the various assistant editors; their names, as I have come to call them, are Sorry, Thanks Very Much and Thanks and Sorry. Likewise, a Sorry has worked at Ontario Review for many years, signing her name in script on the upper-right corner of each tiny, not-quite-robin's-egg blue slip; her personality is such that she adds a dash after the y; I have collected eleven of these sorry-dashes: Sorry--Sorry--Sorry--Sorry--Sorry--Sorry--Sorry--Sorry--Sorry--Sorry- -Sorry--Sorry--Sorry--Sorry--Sorry--Sorry--Sorry--Sorry--Sorry--Sorry --(that is more than eleven sorry-dashes, true, but to guard against the rapid dating of this writing I have added for tomorrow and the farther future). The most common color for slips? White, by far, then cream, yellow, and that not-quite-robin's-egg blue; for reasons of connotation, I imagine, slips are never pink, a rare, unconsciously collective show of mercy. Some frequently recurring words besides regret? Unfortunately, elsewhere, volume, impossible. The most common sentiment? Thank you for sending us your work. The second most? Your work does not suit our needs. Our current needs, our particular needs, our needs at this time, our editorial needs, our current editorial needs. Every slip sometimes lies, to you or someone else; cons ider this undoubtedly common scenano: a manuscript so foul as to singe the editor's eyes, fingers, and soul from its opening lines; one he believes that even in its present, unpublished form has already served to make the world an uglier, more insipid place. Clearly, with such a submission the only honest, non-hostile remark its accompanying slip could carry would be: We are returning your work. An Editor Or perhaps, We will not be publishing your work. An Editor And I can assure you that after an arduous perusal of my vast and inclusive archives, you will find that those brief soldiers of upright rejection simply do not exist; dishonesty is the preferred avenue, finding its supreme expression in the rare personal comment scrawled at the bottom of a slip explaining that the large number of submissions received precludes personal comments. But that, as the rest, is neither here nor there--I thank you for your perhaps foolish loyalty in accompanying me thus far, and now, for all our sakes, enough of the curious knowledge and the fifteen deathly years.

Earlier I mentioned first orgasm and its association in my mind with the shocking acceptance letter from The Gettysburg Review, and I would now like to explain this point more fully; but you need not worry, I have no immediate intentions of assaulting you with a graphic illustration of early adolescent masturbation--for that I would refer you to my coming-of-age novel The Other Way Home,4 were it not unpublished. Instead I would like to compile a list of connections between the two events--publication/orgasm--despite my belief that we can never completely understand why we settle on certain metaphors, insomuch as we can never completely understand anything; but certainly there is much distraction and enjoyment in attempts at elucidation--or what is education for?--and so first and foremost, may I offer this obvious bit: both happened when I was alone; second, both produced a series of unexpected convulsions in my body and life; third, both terrified and elated me; fourth, both heralded a commerce with the wo rld I was completely unprepared for; fifth, both immediately obsessed and distracted me; and, sixth through infinitude, left me panting and planning for the next one. Like a child who has just been dangerously and thrillingly twirled though the air, I threw my hands up and said, Again. Again. Again.

And what, I ask you, is the drive toward every second and third orgasm if not the hope of replicating the astonishment of the first? With such an aim, I admit I became a bit of a whore: I would mail a story anywhere, to magazines I barely knew, or had merely glimpsed in passing in such dubious venues as Barnes & Noble, Borders, B Dalton (and why so many initial B's in the names of the giant chains? Surely this cannot be coincidence as well? Is it a kind of code, perhaps? an unconscious code? a sound code? Buh, the intonation of conglomeration--think of Bertelsmann, behemoth, Moby; like Poe's sonorous long O, perhaps B is the character of greed, of money, the sad, inelegant gasp of literature drowning in darkness). I had gone from a single line, you might say, to a seine; a market force of one, I kept the post office, paper mills and inkjet cartridge companies in business, all for one more strange envelope, one more bright logo, one more "It is with great pleasure that I write to accept. [ldots]" And not only would I send a story anywhere, but I would tirelessly print copies of it and send it to a dozen anywheres at once, a nefarious practice known as "simultaneous submission" (sometimes mistakenly referred to as "multiple submission," but let it be known once and for all that multiple submission is the sending of additional stories to a magazine before others have been returned, not the promiscuous unloading of one particular story onto the desks of every literary review in North America--much like the oft-cited million-spermswim racing to penetrate the one hapless egg, or better, the notion, delineated six score and nineteen years ago in The Origin of Species, of the hundreds of seeds cast by a single tree in the hopes that one or two will find the proper conditions in which to root and thrive; verily, it is important to get the name of your nefarious practice correct-even should it prove as extraordinarily nefarious as "multiple simultaneous submission": the sending of two or more manuscripts, all of which are being unloaded onto the desks of editors across the nation, within weeks of each other to the same magazines; but surely there is a lower circle of hell reserved for a writer as unscrupulous as this, and he should not be surprised to find himself, on that day to end all days, bunking with Judas and Pilate).

Sins of these kinds, however, despite their color and entertaining convolutions, are never very unexpected; who has not flirted with the charms of promiscuity, if but in his imagination? Much more interesting was the change that occurred in my attitude toward mail, and, in turn, my method of retrieving it: gone the daily dogging down to the morguebox; indeed, the mailbox-as-morgue metaphor sighed its last on Gettysburg Friday, dead for all the world before I had completely torn open the envelope, and was replaced, promptly the following morning, with the livelier, airier harbor--that is, I now began to think of the small, gold-painted, perforated door as a tiny, port-like mouth opening onto the deep sea of the literary magazine world, which, as had now been proved, might ever-so-infrequently toss upon my deck some actual, sun-reflecting, tail-thumping catch from its opaque and unfathomable depths. And so, by extension, the journey down became an ever more hopeful act, edged with wonder and an at first quite innocent eagerness.

Exactly when it acquired the urgent quality I cannot say, but I did eventually find that I was unable to concentrate fully in the hours before the mail arrived: after starting my computer and positioning myself, cracked knuckles and wiggled fingers poised, before the keyboard, I would be helplessly inundated with a tiderush of anticipation and reverie, my mind scarcely able to attend to any thoughts save those of what might be awaiting me in the harbor once the mailman--heretofore mirthless mortician, dreaded pallbearer, now a darling, beardless sea captain, pilot of the twin, navy-blue, treasure-heavy galleons, i.e., canvas satchels--arrived, invariably, at 2 PM. And I, like his landlocked, love-starved wife, would go rushing to greet him, and, perhaps too quickly, relieve him of his priceless cargo from the far-away exotic lands of the literary trade--Salt Lake City, Omaha, Kalamazoo--and, as this behavior became more pronounced, I took--altogether wittingly, I wonder now?--to getting up later and later, i n order to time myself with my captain's arrival, thereby eliminating any unbearable lag between rising and fetching. I metamorphosed, within weeks, from lark to nightingale, at first getting up in the late morning, then at noon, then at one; finally I found myself rising just minutes before two, and immediately stumbling, straight from the nether world of unconsciousness and dreams, down to the tiny mouth; in truth, it was all I could do to fully dress and pass a brush through my hair before sailing out the door, keys in hand, the small silver one selected and angled between thumb and forefinger for ready insertion.

You might think, then, that there was little further a person might go in his attempts to possess his mail as immediately as possible upon achieving verticality; however, I found certain other refinements possible, chiefly in regard to the speed of my flight from chamber to lobby, and, in this spirit, began to take the stairs, not the elevator, which is too maddeningly, almost hostilely unhurried (and who can bear to stand still that long at any time of day, perhaps shoulder-to-shoulder with some nameless downstairs neighbor, locked into embarrassing silences, inane pleasantries, protracted counterfeit smiles?). Even so, the six and one-third flights of eighty steps could seem an endless undertaking, and I would find myself leaping down them two or three at a time, all the while leaning a little too earnestly, too perilously far forward, a technique rather tough on my nearly middleaged knees (requiring, foremost, a pair of carefully-engineered sneakers--I personally recommend New Balance running shoes, which have an excellent tread, deep cushioning for the balls of the feet, and an optimistic name-though ideally one should stop at the door long enough to tie them properly before beginning his flight, to guard against all that to-and-fro whipping of laces), and which, one day, may quite possibly send me tumbling chin-over-feet down unforgiving steps to a new, rare, and decidedly more glamorous life of literary martyrdom; O Kafka, my Kafka!

Would there were no witnesses to my obsession, my blind and ardent streak to the box, but alas, there was--is?---one (and now of course, you, the dozen and four people left that constitute the national readership of literary fiction-hello, Larry!; hello, Katrina, Bill, Joyce!-- for I have done it, written automythology, shamelessly taken the undisguised--even if exaggerated or rounded-cornered--facts of my actual biography and c.o. [5] as the subject of my story, which I swore I would never do; O calamity! O hard fall from grace! how far from here to the soul-smothering brothel of my own Noon in the Garden of Creative Non-Fiction? Philistines at the Talk Show?). Did I mention the old woman with kerchief-covered hair? Often I pass her on the fourth floor, coming out of her chamber also quite regularly at several minutes after 2 (for her own strange assignation, perhaps?), but, as old women do--and, for that matter, as almost everyone else in my building does, young, old, male or female--she takes the elevator , and we have never gotten further than nodding to each other, save for the one time she denturefully shrilled, "Where's the fire?"--in any case, I believe that is what she denturefully shrilled--at which moment I froze and grunted ambiguously; but as I then intuited that any further conversation with her would also be ridden with cliches, I ducked my eyes and sailed quickly on.

I do continue to wonder, however, if she has ever figured out exactly what my rush is for--she has never to my knowledge caught me in the lobby, so fleetingly have I claimed the days' netted white assortments, ascertained their reliably disappointing contents, and started up the stairs again (albeit at a markedly slower pace, for obvious gravitational reasons: its force on a body of a certain weight and on that bumbling aforementioned emotion, hope); surely, I have mused, she must believe I am racing off toward the arms of some actual, fleshly lover, to the scented, secret lure of a perhaps illicit affair; or that I am some type of emergency medical service provider, called to the hospital, or to the grisly scene of a nearby accident; or it may finally have crossed her mind that I am indeed bound for just the kind of community service to which her initial cliche glibly alluded, in which case I could then quite pointedly cry, To shame with your sarcasm, madam; the fire is on Austin Street! But for the mail? H ow I would blush if the truth were revealed to her! You fly like a bat out of hell every afternoon, just to pick up your mail? I would try to defend myself: Imagine if every day were potentially Social Security Check Day; doesn't Ol' Methuselah get a little Mercury-footed then? Still she would scowl and shake her head, break into a mocking rendition of Maurice Chevalier, I'm so glad that I'm not young anymore[ldots]; and her accusation, of course, would be only partly correct: to get the mail, certainly, but, closer to the point, so that I might again lay aside all thoughts and hopes for mail, and more calmly get on with life until the next delivery.

I say more calmly, and on the whole this was true: I could then sit at my desk, coffee perking, and begin to compose additional fictions: "Fresh Air Flight" [6] "Please Do Not Touch the Works of Art." [7] But I must admit that every so often in the evening an irrational urge would overtake me to check the box again, as if, by a freak of nature, an additional missive might suddenly be lurking inside--overlooked somehow on my first retrieval (as improbable as that would have seemed), or perhaps my captain, having discovered, at the bottom of his satchel, at the end of his day, one leftover and important-looking letter, had taken it upon himself to circle back around to my apartment and make a special second delivery. Thankfully, however, I always found the box empty as a lovelorn heart at those times, or else I would have had to construct entire new philosophies in regard to the world and its workings, and what a frightful task that would have been! Because in truth, I found the world as it already was a consi derable challenge, my daily compulsion just this side of debilitating.

And yet much to my horror--did you feel it coming, Robley?--I was soon to discover I was merely in the beginning and relatively simple throes of mail romance, and about to be vexed much further: for quite unexpectedly, on the 22nd day of March, 1996, a mere eight weeks after that first and fatal chink in my perfect literary oblivion, my second acceptance came via telephone.

2. Voice-Mail and Cordless-Receiver Romance

In which are contained allusions to numerous other romances and fantasies, as well as an off-color wink at automythology ur- "Momma" I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings

And not even directly by telephone, but, to be more precise, through its trusty, nearby, and normally under-utilized squire (hereafter UUS, pronounced--if you will forgive the allusion to bridge-and-tunnel-New-York English that surrounds me so--"yous", as in "yous guys"), the answering machine: a message (now hauntingly termed, in some quarters, "voice mail") left on tape, and, for that matter, on an ancient and otherwise unplayable Panasonic microcassette, heretofore humble domain of announcements of new copyediting assignments or chiropractor tomorrow at three's. It came, of course, while I was sleeping, avoiding that late pre-dawn of mail: quite suddenly, I found my semi-roused self attending to an elegant female voice praising the satirical virtues of my Fire Island romance "The Summer of Anselmo,' [8] and requesting I contact her at Christopher Street so that they might publish it in their very next issue. But since this voice was not significantly different from the wished-for ones my mind was wont to c oncoct at almost any time of day, asleep or awake, it was not long before my blinking consciousness dismissed it, and my eyes, if they had ever opened at all, closed again. "Be still, heart," I remember then advising that suddenly wheezing, white-muzzled cur, "'tis but the fanciful thread of a dream; we know that such voices do not exist here in the flinty netting of actual life"--and with that, we quickly drifted off again into the professedly kinder, gentler realm of un-; upon which time did what it will, and, quite forgetfully, I rose at two and made the usual dash to the lobby. Therefore it was not until I breathlessly and fishlessly returned that I and the predictable machinery of my day were waylaid by the hyperactive twinkling of the new message indicator on the UUS, itself sufficient to dislodge the woman's voice from the Lethean depths of a complete and I am sure quite lovely cycle of sleep.

"What on earth? Real?" I scarcely enunciated this last word, for it was not Lost on me, even in those instants before the tape rewound and the circumstances of ma deuxieme petite mort were made plain, that my tiny harbor below had ceased to be a single port of entry: suddenly and without warning it had divided, duplicated--perhaps even quite modernly morphed--into something decidedly more complicated and uncontainable; indeed, much of the elation I might otherwise have felt during my subsequent conversation with the flattering, effusive editor was confounded by my frustration that she had chosen this less ceremonious, rather insubstantial--and, as such, regretfully unframeable--mode of communication. And so as I regarded the lone and fancily preserved Gettysburg article on the otherwise bare expanse of Wedgewood-blue wall above my monitor--perhaps the literary equivalent of a shellacked swordfish--and imagined, as any fisher will, other plasticized neighbors to the right and left of his now too-familiar, muc h-ado-already-made-about catch, i.e., an entire, triumphant wall of pleased to accept's, I at length found opportunity to inquire of the woman, at the end of our exchange, "Does this then mean there will be no letter of acceptance?" at which she chuckled so confidently--and, if memory serves, even went so far as to employ the phrase unnecessary formality--that I dropped the matter at once. "Of course," I said, biting back the word undocumented, which so tickled the tip of my tongue, as well as the more extended, You will forgive me for being so foolish as to request anything that might be even vaguely construed as unnecessary or formal, the two most disdained qualities of our age.

My disappointment in regard to the additional trophy, however, was decidedly dwarfed by several slowly steeling realizations which, in the days ahead, proved quite nettlesome indeed--chief among these: that not only could an acceptance now come from two different venues, but, in this newest, at any time of day that editors made calls from their offices or homes, the potential variableness of which infinitely unnerved me. Au revoir to the retrospectively quaint one-appearance-per-day of letter mail, and the one rush to retrieve it; now forevermore upon arising at two, it was necessary to race to the UUS-"Is it blinking? O let it be blinking!"--before then racing down to the harbor, and, returning, endeavoring to proceed with my day, but, it must be said, without any of the unexpectant innocence of yore, and its attendant, if not peace, then emptiness, of mind. For truly, until the hour that the literary magazine offices closed--or rather, the hour my imagination held such offices closed--I kept one eye on the curved and oatmeal-colored back of my new constant companion, Maya (so called for her characteristic and seemingly willful muteness), who, when not perched on the kitchen counter or towel bar just outside the shower curtain, nestled on my desk between keyboard and unabridged. And I here venture to claim that, on those infrequent, later-life occasions when the device actually did sing, never before did this sound effect so large a lift of hindquarters from chair; nor, for that matter, had it ever inspired such instant and animated strings of impromptu dialogue: "Mon dieu! Is it ringing? It is ringing! Who now? Who possibly? George? Speer? Bradford?"; or equally inane conjectured conversations, usually in the form of short, one-actor performance pieces, the recorded voice of The Calling Editor reverberating Zeus-like from above, Hello. May I speak with Da-dum Da-dum, please?, while The Astonished and Tr[acute{e}]s Petit Moi, seated at a toy-like desk center-stage, looks up from a teeny-tiny thesaurus, This is Da-dum Da-dum. Da-dum, this is Dee-doo Dee-dee from The Da-doo-da-doo Review. The Da-doo-da-doo Review! (Closing teeny-tiny thesaurus.) You don't mean that--? Yes, Da-dum, it's true. O my God! (Begins to sob mousily. Delighted laughter-cities from Editor.) "Princes, Very Late" [9] was selected from our ceiling-high slush pile--I can't believe it!--for inclusion in the summer 2003 issue! 2003! I could live to see it published! That's right, Da-Dum, and if you do, you'll receive eighteen dollars and two free copies of the magazine! Two free copies? How can I ever thank you? Well, now that you mention it, Da-dum, why not become a subscriber to DR? For just eighteen dollars, four literature-and-art-packed parcels will arrive at your doorstep throughout the year. Get your family and friends to subscribe, too! Give subscriptions for birthdays and holidays! I will! I will! Thanks Da-dum, but before we go, who publishes the best stories, poems, and essays? Without a doubt, it's the Da-doo-da-doo Review!

Unfortunately, however, those sudden and occasional chirrups that produced such dramatic ripples in the normally subdued air of my chamber were most often from solicitors, and this disappointing truth was rather quick in corning: for ever more frequently there were the tell-tale delays in response to hello, the first silent instant of which my heart had its answer, and did its practiced tumble to the gray carpet. These ruthless marketers, I read, were, with the aid of some new, unethical technology, dialing several numbers at once, hence the added second before connecting with the first baaing lamb. But let it here be known that lambs are not entirely without defenses, and I, for one, am proud to say the marketers were never very happy to have connected with me, particularly if they had the misfortune to begin their invasion with, "May I speak to Mr. or Mrs.--?", a repugnantly narrow and Republican formula of salutation which, to my mind, is not only an immediate give-away, but ample provocation for counter- attack: "This is not such a household," I acidly informed them before the "or" was out, "some of us are not even dating!"; or, for the sake of variation, and in the hope of disconcerting their puritanical sensibilities, I would assume a flagrantly campy lisp, "Thweetheart, I'm afraid the Mithtah and I have no money and terrrrrrrible credit"; a third option was simply to answer their inquiry with another: "Why? Is this The Paris Review?" "Who?" they said. "Glimmer Train?" "Excuse me?" "Triquarterly, Boulevard, Story?" "No," they said. "Then neither of us would like to speak to you."

But enough of conjectured conversations and the intricacies of the various forms of torture inflicted on telemarketers (for surely those two-bit capitalist teen-trollops, no doubt future publicists for some twenty-first century neo-King novel, only get what is coming to them); I mean chiefly to say that until five or six my attention was unhappily divided, and I would respond to the tweeting Maya in these unusual ways. And while it is true that after this time, the calm I once experienced just after two would gradually set in, and I could again immerse myself in the fabricated rooms and towns of my stories, and converse with their made-up and oft-times certifiable inhabitants, it did not continue thus for many days: for quite soon it occurred to me that an acceptance on the West Coast--where a largely regretful but not wholly inconsiderable contingent of the literary world resides--might come as late as eight or nine, and this immediately extended my period of jumpiness and irascibility three more hours. Eac h day now, following my initial acrobatics, there yawned a four-hundred-and-twenty-minute abyss in which I could only hope to get scattered bits of work done, and I cast around frantically for ways in which to supplement the bits, often resorting to pacing the dark, distracted length of my not overlarge chamber, or to engaging in tasks that did not require the full depth of my concentration, as in, for instance, the completion of ever-more-frequent copyediting assignments, or the preparation of additional multiple simultaneous submissions, or, at worst, the browsing of newspapers and remainder catalogues (the latter always such a treasure trove of literary fiction, and one of the few publications where fiction lists approach the size of non-). I felt, in certain moments, as if I were performing an endless, candleless vigil; at others, grimmer, in attendance of my talent's wake, mentally laying flowers before the striking titles and first paragraphs of stories that might then have been finished.

And yet, whether vigil or wake, I grew, as the months wore on, paradoxically protective of the time, and was increasingly loathe to admit any interference with it from the outside world; loathe to, but I do not mean to suggest that I ceased to keep my appointments with the chiropractor, student therapist, etc. I will admit, however, that on these forced office-hour excursions, I found myself frequently succumbing to the compulsion to call the UUS from the street or subway station (and here I am sure to be joined by other struggling artists--those piteous legions who, for fear of easy bankruptcy and perhaps more serious types of unmoorings, likewise remain in a contorted state of technological retardation on the peripheries of the ubiquitously raging "cell" revolution--in applauding the old-fashioned virtues of tollsaver), bi- or even tri-hourly awaiting with taut stomach that slight hesitation and muffled warbling that constitutes the transition between second ring and recorded message; or, if circumstances were such that they did not permit calling in, I could be seen for the second time in a day--by no one, of course--rushing to the UUS, this time from the front door, and all the while re-reciting my waking mantra, now in the second person and sung to the tune of "Frere Jacques": "Are you blinking?"; [10] Are you blinking?"10 and this all by way of illustrating how, with the first half of my day thus compromised, I soon became an adherent of the nocturnal nine-to-five, and learned to cherish especially the peace of weekends--indeed, I slept very little between the arrival of mail on Saturday and the opening of the offices on Monday, in order to make the most of that to-date sacred and unassailable space of time.

And yes, sadly, I did say to-date: because even this uneasy truce--which took so long to negotiate and implement, and appeared, just before its collapse, to be approaching manageability--was not long for the constantly-innovating, ruthlessly-Darwinian, obsolescence-planning world of communications. O dear and sympathetic reader--how many now? five? four? the hardiest and most antique of souls; one-time completers of Middlemarch, Don Quixote, A la recherche du temps perdu; Speer? Joyce? Surely you still?--imagine, if you can, what new and exponentially more complicated horrors awaited me when, in the fourth hour of the 27th day of May, 1997, I successfully installed a modem to my computer, and signed on for the thirty-day free trial of America Online.

3. E-Mail Romance

Herein the appearance of additional voices and the first relation of this author's fear of the impending demise of his craft, foreshadowed by an early and ominous allusion to Blake's visionary "The Sick Rose"

I proceed with trepidation, knowing that what I am about to confess may strike my precious remaining triad (truly, I was sorry to learn of Speer's departure, but kudos to the rest of you, mensches all!) as perhaps too repugnant; you have tolerated my affair with things paper, as readers are wont to do; also my affairs with two noted electronic objects and their transmitted sounds, recorded or otherwise; but the love and pursuit of--shall we call it a thing?--, which does not in and of itself exist in any dimension, may understandably stretch already-overextended loyalties to the point of snapping. Therefore may I seek to allay your frustrations (yours in particular, Joyce; and yours, Larry; Kevin, I know, will have more sympathy here) by assuring you that I, too, once looked with disdain upon virtual mail, and on those silly-seeming, pioneer-posing cybermavens who insisted upon including their "Net"--aptly named!--addresses on their correspondences and self-printed cards. Surely, I propounded--to no one, of c ourse--this was merely a game of a high order, spiritual kin to passing notes in geometry class, where the dimwitted but now adult technology victim, in another unconscious attempt to stave off existential despair, novelly transmitted his largely unnecessary missives to like-minded friends and associates, who then necessarily unnecessarily responded, ad infinitum. It was only gradually, over several months, that the rose of my natural and right-minded resistance was devoured by the cumulative appetites of a pair of pink wigglies, each of which, no doubt, flew into its crimson bed those very first nights I dared crack the window onto the much-trumpeted storm. "It will open up a whole new world for you!" the glib and red-polo-ed CompUSA saleschild had commented on my US Robotics Sportster purchase; ha!--et quel nom monstreux! a kind of coarse-grade sonic sandpaper! Asimov colliding with Raceway Park!--New World, indeed, and I a sissified Columbus who, at first ping upon petal, wishes to return to Europe forthwith.[ldots]

'Twould be lovely, sure, but since it seems now that we have rather irreversibly arrived, it is probably best to stop kissing William and identify the worms: one, the editor of an anthology--as it seems many of the cybermavens were--who, finding it easier, faster and cheaper to correspond via e-mail with his score of contributors (I to be one of the luckily corralled, and O, what clearer death knell to the written missive than easier! faster! cheaper!?), quickly became my first, and for a time only, virtual correspondent; the second, larger and more wiggly by far (sorry, mon patron--and here I apologize in spirit only, recalling the back of his head at the end of 1--but since you, too, have stooped to automythology, and that of the Miller/Nin sexual-confessional variety, we rather know of what we mean-hookedly speak), was the simple, three-and-a-half-word mechanical cry that, from its very first gasp-and-shiver-inducing puncture of the shrouded silence of my chamber (this despite the fact that it was merely announcing a series of automatic messages from AOL's Vice President of Member Services, urging me in a patternly parently way to protect myself against sundry cybernetic viruses, lurkers and queerly-spelled phishers [11]: "Never download from strangers! Practice safe surfing! Use two detection programs! And preferably this one from Dr. S--- of[ldots] (who's obviously paid us for the advertisement)"--i.e., my first junk e-mail or spam), [12] laid bare the extent to which this new medium would alter the course of, if not finally destroy, my existence:

"You've got mail!"

Perverse, loved cry! Insidious siren song, already forever engrained in my psyche! Newest appendage of oldest fears and hopes; O now the very tongue of hope, hope itself, an intact TV-dinner of a delight: "You've got mail!" What need to inquire further? Is it even advisable? One could leave the missive (missives?!) unopened, and repeatedly sign on, just to hear the cry again, and again: "You've got mail! You've got mail!" O love! love![ldots]

But here I have jumped ahead--or perhaps sideways, or even, into some computer-generated, directionless non-space; I was speaking of worms: they worked, as it were, in terrible tandem, and attempted to seal my doom; for the more the editor contacted me in regard to the anthology, and our virtual literary relationship flourished, the more, in turn, I heard the Voice, which slowly, and ever more efficiently, worked His rosivorous magic. Beneath His spell, I began to behave in ways I would at more rational moments have considered base, immoral, or simply idiotic: for instance, falling to the above-criticized ploys of contacting old acquaintances for no other reason than to receive additional missives, or listing my Net address on submission cover letters and in contributors' notes of magazines alongside the euphemism "welcomes comments and queries." Yet these sometimes underhanded efforts were not entirely without success, and in time my electronic letterbox was established as a not-insignificant third venue, i n deference to which I then found myself, at that by now infamous, semi-sentient start of each day, attempting to retrieve all three mails simultaneously--that is, signing on to AOL while listening to telephone messages and doffing my running shoes. "O speak, Voice, speak!" I would urge in the unbearable delay between password and Wel-come, "Say I have something! Say I have something!"

Inevitably, as with any intimate relationship, there were areas of vulnerability and insecurity, touchinesses, and even, spells of paranoia, under which I was wont to perceive all as ironic: in particular, that the open mailbox icon, with its joyously-raised red flag and little gaping door revealing the edge of an oversized virtual yellow letter (OVYL or "O vile!"), was specially designed to mock and torment me; or that the Voice, aware of His charms, delivered His virtually excited cry only to chuckle at the visual effects of the many butterflies it immediately released in my stomach [13]: the naively opened mouth, widened eyes, raised brows (for these I saw silverly reflected in the monitor, wherein I was also wont to find features of the Voice's ghost-face, grinning like a childhood antagonist). Here again, you might think I would have eventually grown accustomed and desensitized to such mean-spirited sportings, but as the weeks went by, the resultant flocks only thickened; in fact, the feeling in my stom ach could no longer be accurately described as the flitting of butterflies, for it now resembled the leaping of gazelles -- and grown thus, no doubt, due to the Voice's alternatives, which I came to dread, and do yet, and so loathe to mention, but will: Stillness: ah! the mailbox remains shut, its flag sadly flaccid; and worse, Silence: the seconds seep emptily, un-Voicefully by; a deep, terrifying Silence that, at its most traitorous, will unmask the subtle undersounds of existence one is not ordinarily supposed to hear: breath, heartbeat, the purr of the CPU -- processing, of course, very little at the moment, and certainly nothing complicated. (But here let me not go gently: must it necessarily be thus? Could the Voice not say, in the same virtually excited tones, "You don't have any mail!" -- as if He understood that there is also pain in requital and consummation, even in the most platonic of instances, and that continued e-missivelessness might in some cases be greater cause for celebration? Alas, it is an improbable reverie: those in the business of mail would most likely never agree to celebrate the absence of it; further, it would require a sophisticated sense of irony, and a modicum of self-awareness, even earnestness--comment declasse!; it would require the ability to tolerate ambiguity and contradiction, lack of resolution; and, like most American products, the Voice is art-fearing, mob-pandering, just wanting to have a little fun or money; it shuns unhappy or non-endings, eliminates negatives; is in league with Disney, Hollywood, Celine Dion; is also, like the editor who made her audacious comment in the second part of this automythology, informal--note the chilling "you've got"; manufactured familiarity! bleating from countless desktop and portable computers each day! mimicking [ldots] whom? what? a mail carrier? a roommate? a brother? a father? a lover? their smiling intonation as they hold out the OVYL? Note also the articles, the infinite indefiniteness: a brother, but never your own; father of m illions, but of no one in particular, the awe His gargantuan artificiality engenders rivaling that produced by the "How are you today?" from a tip-angling waiter, or, for that matter, the mountain-emanating, tablet-chiseling "Thou shalt not bear false witness!" from the DeMille epic we all have tried, but not succeeded, to forget. In the face of such, how can one ever believe another thing he hears? What can one feel but marooned on an orphaned island, lashed by an ocean of insincerity and bad acting?)

Enough rage, you say? Then so be it, Kevin; since you now constitute fifty-percent of the audience that stands between me and second-generation, perhaps permanent, literary oblivion--Shall we wave to Larry? Adieu, mon petit! I hope you will consider rejoining us at some later point?--it would be foolish not to heed your counsel. What's more, it was but parenthetical rage: more often, as before, the Voice is mon chou mechant, grinning within the monitor or lustily lapping my ear; but enough, then, also, of Him, and His counterpart of Silence, who, forces to be reckoned with as they may have been in and of themselves, were but servant and symbol of the much larger beast of electronic mail; and herein lay its power and the climax of this unfortunate tale: It is, to the romantic's horror, mail that can arrive at any time: there are no night- or weekend-disturbance laws in this abstract and uncivilized pseudoverse, no bells or buzzers to startle the worm-fattened early-to-bed's; no closing times, needs for paper or stamps; indeed, the virtual post office is eternally open and free, and there missives can ever be sent or retrieved on cybercat feet, feet that permanently erected the hair on the back of my neck as it delivered me to the threshold of a new and exceedingly menacing predicament: for as long as it was conceivable that an editor or assistant somewhere might respond to a submission via e-mail--which, merci a mon patron quitte (i.e., flown friend), was not only probable but forever possible--and as long as it was conceivable, too, that, burning the midnight/3 AM oil, he might then choose to send his decision, the chance that an important missive could arrive even in the wee hours of a Sunday, while not particularly likely, could not be wholly discounted (and here actual experience has corroborated my fears, for although I have yet to receive a virtual rejection, there has been a disturbing correlation between the lateness and relative importance of missives: take, for example, a 2:40 AM Saturday call for submi ssions--albeit a type of simultaneously-transmitted form letter--to an online magazine; or better, a 3:05 AM Monday note from a self-described "fan" in San Francisco: [gg] "Swamped" [14] has everything, the speed, the dexterity, the shifts and loops and whirligigs *I* have always wanted for mine, the excruciation and the triumph over fatigue and all the detritus of the world warring against the "self" and so forth [ldots] Oh, for one minute, or rather, for as long as it takes to write something really really fine, I wish I could be you! [ll] Too kind, Kevin, but thank you! thank you!). Thus, gravely, I bid my final au revoir to the last complacencies of the peignoir.

Not only did I now find it necessary to check for mail throughout every hour of every day--similar in character, no doubt, to calling the UUS from the street when I was forced to be away from my chamber, this behavior had now infiltrated the chamber itself! the desk itself! quelle horreur abominable!: my lovely, sanctified altar to imagination, become a kind of street!--but three or even four times an hour, depending on how nettlesome the particular paragraph or page before me was proving, the more nettlesome, the more frequent. "O," I would say, looking up brightly from bloodied nails, "perhaps I have gotten mail," and so sign on for the sad second it took to discern that all was yet Stillness and Silence--and not, should my check have been during office hours, an instant longer, for fear of preventing an editor from reaching me by telephone--and, moments later, once again, "Well, perhaps something now." (Intermittent reinforcement! the most enslaving of learning paradigms!: a missive indeed sent in the fif teen-minute interval between the literary writer's sign-ons [15]; or consider this nameless and possibly more damaging phenomenon: while the writer is idly and momentarily checking the status of mail sent--no doubt in the later evening hours--or rereading some archived item in hopes of rekindling an aging bliss, the Voice suddenly speaks, as if by accident, or willed by the force of yearning; the writer starts in his chair--"What on earth?"--only to find that mail has just arrived--mid-check! he is able to retrieve it almost instantaneously! he contemplates never signing off again!). And in conclusion, as there was now no hour of any day--indeed, no moment of life--free from the possibility of receiving, or the urge to check for, mail, I resigned myself to never again experiencing the dismal peace I once had felt before the Gettysburg acceptance. [16] Woe was me.

4. L'Amour Sans Fin, or, Four-Color Lover with Floating Hearts

A second relation of this author's fear of the impending demise of his craft, followed by the rather inconclusive conclusion to the ongoing affair, and, consequently, the story

And in worsening woe, I remained. Though I admit it had once been my ardent hope to have all my short works on hand taken by magazines, when that cozy store of backhogged--pardon, backlogged--stories was in fact nearing depletion (and but salty old sailors left at that, beaten by innumerable voyages, and fated, one or two I feared, for deaths at sea), this prospect became a source of dread, and threatened to drop the veil on a most disturbing development:

Development? Oh yes[ldots]that my rate of literary production was indeed slowing, perhaps markedly so; for surely, I noted at times--and these were dire times--that there should have been newer recruits lining up behind those wizened few, an entire strapping company of mature, completed works ready to man the decks; yet it seemed that between my endless distractions--one hoped it was just some temporary, how does one say[ldots]bloc d' ecrivains?--I would jump from file to file of would-be story sketches, tinkering with unanchored paragraphs here, spats of dialogue there; they would inch forward, pause, perhaps inch forward again days later, but without acquiring the solid shapes and destinies that only deep, sustained concentration eventually suggests.

And I am sorry to report that at present it continues thus. Yet I fear the full toll the latest and rapidly-evolving technologies will take on my already much-compromised existence is still to be determined, though it is difficult to imagine a more encompassing or paralyzing effect: days, perhaps, in which checking and waiting for mail become the chief, then only, component, consuming my last, pale, scattered attempts at creation, and finally--is it possible?--my life? Might I not patly and anachronistically expire, like a literary broken heart? Even neatly dematerialize, so that there are no corporal concerns? I picture myself then, featured on some turn-of-the-millennium urn, to be described by some future Keats--alas, not I--enmarbled, hungry hands reaching for a large, proffered envelope: for ever wilt thou love, and she be fair!; or incorporated into the next version of AOL's You've got mail! Icon--a reduced, four-color figure rushing toward the OVYL, all outstretched arms, a cloud of perpetual [ 3 question marks graphics] and Sally-Brown [ 3 hearts graphics] above h tragic, Daphne-esque transfiguration of a once-promising literary talent--"Help, father! Destroy my baleful beauty that has pleased too well!"--into the cartoonish essence of yearning and hopeful pre-ascertation; this simply, and finally.

To add to this anxious stew, there have been several unsettling aberrations even in regard to the more conventional mails: last month, an acceptance in a SASOME! (Had my particularly obstinate brand of masochism not continued to require me to read every rejection I received, I might have missed it entirely!) How angry I grew at it for so confounding my metaphors and expectations: SASOME's could be corpses only, envelopes with logos from our friend the stork. Could the editor not have come up with the thirty-two cents to spare me the terrible weeks of unlearning and disassociations his thriftiness spawned? Too, there have been calls from others expressing interest in one or another of the wizened few--and these interests developing, over the torturous course of weeks, into a probable, then actual, acceptance, and then a probable, then actual, rejection, each seeming quite likely to morph--that word again!--into the other at a moment's notice. And now just days ago I received via e-mail what I have learned is unfortunately called a solicitation: that astounding, table-turning, and hopefully not licentious event in an author's life when, after nearly two decades of rapping on editors' doors, one quite unexpectedly raps on his (with, of course, the naive assumption that he is still capable of completing stories, that all yet flows from a bottomless, unpoisonable well): Won't he please submit work to Da-doo-da-doo, where it is sure to be read with special interest? "What on earth? Special interest?" Instinctively my head jerked backwards, I felt a not-too-comfortable slip of sand beneath my feet: it seemed nothing would behave or stay put, everything insist on fashionable flux....

Everything, of course, save me, who, for perhaps more worse than better, have remained constant and true to my romance, in whatever form it takes. Daily, I am rushing still--to the UUS, the Net, the box--, a slave; among other truths, this one has come upon me too late: to save himself from the vicissitudes of mail and its mutating metaphors, a literary writer must marry, early and well. [17]

Tom House's fiction has appeared in many literary magazines and anthologies, including Gettysburg Review, Christopher Street, Best American Gay Fiction, Harper's, and Men on Men. His story "Swamped" was published in Chicago Review 44:1, and nominated for a Pushcart Prize.

(1.) about a high school swimmer who is so obsessed with practicing for the Junior Olympics that he does not notice when his little sister falls into the diving area of the family pool and begins to drown

(2.) in which a nun of suspect mental health gives a passionate anti-masturbation lecture in a ninth-grade religion class

(3.) and also quite aloud, for I lived, as I do now, alone, and were it not for these small but amicable exchanges, I might never have heard the sound of my own voice from one day to the next

(4.) in which a shy Long Island boy takes to hitchhiking from Catholic school in the late 1970s, and is befriended by a charming pederast

(5.) curriculum obscuritas

(6.) a troubled health professional cannot keep himself from becoming the leader of a smoker's strike when an airline flight is declared "smoke-free" in 1989

(7.) a man with an archaic and not altogether integrated sensibility leads his first dates through the painting and sculpture galleries of the Museum of Modern Art in order to determine their suitability

(8.) in which the ravishing, exotic, and risque poolboy of the title goes on a campaign to win the gaze of the long-celibate, rooftop-gym-running germa-phobe, Manly Mason

(9.) three scenes from a sexually-and professionally-frustrated literary writer/bartender's erotic dreams, with a cameo by F. Scott Fitzgerald

(10.) the repeated instances of which eventually hacked through the many frozen layers of Unpleasant Memories Lake (danke nochmals, Franz), where, after only vaguely glimpsing the ghostly eels of old, parallel behaviors, I inevitably rediscovered that I had already had a voice-mail obsession in my twenties (coinciding, it seems, with a rather prolonged stint as bartender at a local nightspot), those now seemingly prehistoric years when I used to have romances with people--or, at least, bad, sporadic, abbreviated affairs with them. So too, flush-cheeked with some new prospect, I would come bounding into my chamber after the briefest time away in hopes of the blinking light, upon which my heart would fall--with a similarly hard thump to the then slightly brighter gray carpet--should I find it still and dark, that hideous, glowing red zero on the accompanying message number box suddenly my worth on a scale of one to ten for everything; and so it often went. At last in my thirties I came to the conclusion that i t was not only impossible to have two lovers, but to continue even to hope for such, and, in turn, the telephone rang less and less, the glowing red zero no longer the measure of my worth, but the scale in its entirety, the very state of scalelessness, of nothing whatever to measure. [lOa]

(10a.) True perhaps, but for such maudlin and self-pitying observations we all have little patience. Hang ups! This is what more properly concerns us, however tangentially: a singular torture for the sufferer of voice-mail and cordless-receiver romance before the era of Caller ID--or even into the era of Caller ID for those who, for deeply repressed psychological reasons, or for the simple fact that the phone company cannot be paid by credit card, have postponed acquiring it; they invariably spawn endless reveries as to who the caller might have been and if, because he was not immediately able to get hold of the unfortunately unavailable writer, he might have thought again and given the Whiting or 0. Henry to the next poor slob on the list

(11.) post-Christian, neo-pagan "hackers" utilizing so-called Trojan Horse devices--oh-la-la!--to capture passwords

(12.) a word ripe for acronyming; may I be first to suggest some prostitute's annoying missive?

(13.) Hypocrite voix de machine, -- mon semblable, -- mon frere!

(14.) in which a sexually- and professionally-frustrated literary writer/bartender exhibits his penchant for compulsively sabotaging intrigues with attractive customers

(15.) [gg] Held on long as I could--seeing my e-mail in print last straw; write your own shit, man; write some *fiction* for Chris' sake. You've collapsed, given in; detritus up the wazoo. Can't watch anymore. [ll]

[gg] Farewell, Kevin! Thou art too dear for my possessing! [ll]

Joyce? Joyce! Ah, thank goodness; as they say in earthier circles, It's you and me against the world, babe

(16.) I here propose an invention, a kind of e-mail alerting system, if you will (perhaps one already exists?), which, while the literary writer is offline, could keep a virtual eye out for incoming missives and gently hail his attention upon arrivals--with a subtle chime, for instance, or cool blue light on a nearby device, or even, a small and plashless screen pop-up, noting sender and subject; he could then choose, should the mail actually be from an editor or grant-giving organization, to immediately sign on and retrieve it; or, in the more likely case that it be another update from the New York Times, or other unpalatable spam, endeavor to continue composing fictions. (Although again it remains a question whether or not the writer would purchase such a product, even should it become widely available--for, the obstacle of its cost and inevitable monthly fees aside, there are those dark and twice-aforementioned forces of his personality and of Life which may by then have forever bound him to the state of constant possible communication, the quarter-hourly O let there be mail! O who now? What bring?--still, one can clearly see how it might benefit a more typical cross-section of humanity)

(17.) Marry? That's it? After all this?--Yes.--Traitorous!--I think not. But if it were, what fear? The last reader was lost pages ago; look at the note she left: I'm not your babe. Imagine! Over a little tongue-in-cheek sexism! Fine, then; let her go. I can write anything now with impunity: the foulest cliche, the most shameless diatribe. Bitch.--But what about artistic integrity?--If a story falls in the forest.[ldots]--What about personal integrity?--Your personal integrity wears army boots!--And what was all that 'repugnantly Republican' wind about?--Chiefly alliteration.--`I came to the conclusion that it was impossible to have two lovers.[ldots]'--Life is a box of chocolates!--You yourself could not even marry, in the strictest sense of the word.--In which case there is always the broadest.--But that is not what you said, you specifically said marry, which has unequivocal social implications!--Yes, and two quick syllables; consider the unwieldiness of take some kind of human lover--But that's completely differ ent!--some loyal second fiddle--Uh! and who are you now, Lord Tennyson?--And he can always fall in with a Dutchman--Philip Larkin's Tennyson indulging in Wildean repartee!--be better off in Holland anyway; much more likely to get funding from the government--Little slavey to pay the bills and answer the letters--Marry marry marry; marry a Dutchman and move to Amsterdam--so you can sit like a baby/Doing your poetic business--And now if you will excuse me, perhaps I have some mail.[ldots]
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Publication:Chicago Review
Article Type:Short Story
Date:Jan 1, 2000
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