Four New Messages
Mono was on the internet all day but did not masturbate. Porn sites went unvisited. He’d type in half their addresses then stop and delete, hating himself because the computer couldn’t hate him instead. The nonjudgmental nature of technology, if technology could have a nature—that struck him as unfair.
…I’d spend Midwestern quantities of time on the internet pursuing this one particular commenter I thought common to a spate of local sports blogs but under twelve different, differently gendered aliases and product recall news especially when it concerned the domestic automotive industry and searching search engines for “whats wrong with my story?” coming back from work still worrying the story and hating the story and thinking that introducing this Word into the story would be like introducing Mom who really wants grandchildren to a girlfriend who’s really a man, it’d be like inviting friends over to my apartment for dinner then serving them individual portions of my feces garnished with poems about how much I hate friends and the poetry would rhyme.
“The College Borough”
…I want you to write a story about our dinner tonight, but make me out to be the biggest asshole possible—I want to be fictionalized, hyper-fictionalized, let your imagination graze free on the range—have me robbing this joint, have me taking a shit in the rice and beans, out me as this pretentious pinko kikeabilly snob, though still deigning to rape your wives…
Staggering out of the restaurant he was slurring, But I’ll only read a story if it’s finished.
We will not describe it, we cannot—describe her hair, her dense brownblack hair and thickly furred furtive eyebrows of same, the brownblack but also yellowish eyes their flicking lids, sorry, we won’t describe them either. We will not describe her interview—brief because ashamed of accent and, he suspected, a deceiver in her answers—cannot describe her undressing, how slow it was and how methodical her removal of clothing to bare skin like a cashier she was meticulously smoothing one item at a time, folding each garment like a bill at the edge of that fantastic bed we won’t describe…
The broken bed widelimbed, a dead huge hairball spider—we won’t describe any of it.
That’s the problem with the screen, you can’t. You’re always one step, but the crucial step, removed.
One message from each story in Joshua Cohen’s new collection Four New Messages, on sale today from Graywolf Press.