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December 8th, 2021

A Bibliophile With A Syncopated Footstep Walks Into A Midwest City

I take the needle in hand and push it through the pages. I grab the needle from the other side and pull the thread through, watching all the while as it sews the experiences of my life together.

Past and present becoming a seamless existence bound in which is writ the conjectures of all human drama. Sometimes tragic. Sometimes a hoot. Nevertheless unfolding before my very eyes a mystery. And as I move toward the Unknown, I notice there is a little brown package the size of a Rubik’s cube at my feet.

It had been another day at the bindery gluing and folding and stacking covers of RHETORIC. One more piece of the puzzle towards completion. Why I’m doing it I really don’t know. An impulse maybe. A need to share information. Connect. To involve myself with the process, the beginning and end of it. Only to do it all over again. This time something different. Additives from the old sprinkled in. Mixed around. Think stuff in a mason jar packaged for your pleasure. Staying in rhythm. Why not. I’ve got the time. The know-how.

I’ve always had a desire to customize my existence.

Since I was very young. To play-act in the tangible world. Only I’d forgotten this somewhere down the road. I became a victim of conformity. I lacked opinion. I stood still while the world came rushing at me. And I ate it up. Until one day, when I was in my early twenties, I held in my hands a book of poems called O.C.D. The book was written by a friend of mine. Weaver. I flipped through the pages. Read every poem. Every word. I couldn’t believe it. It was his words! His!

How did he do it? How could this be? What does it take to make something like this? And then I knew it instantly. I can do this.

This was all Bernardo Soares’ doing (Another friend of mine). And it was soon after that we began to work together, making things, bringing more word into being. More tangibles to be fingered over. Torn. Tampered with. Stained. It was he who showed me the way back to my Rosebud. Back to the curiosity of creation. Invention. Imagination (It was much later that I worked with him at bydeadface Press in an office building in Dana Point, California. Right behind Harbor House on San Juan Avenue (( Suite 230)) Our own private cathedral where reality became a template for us to implant our ideas and curiously watch as they grew into fully formed monstrosities of their own (((But that’s another story)))).

I go to work on the thing while Kevin fiddles with the loose pages of another Bible, the whirring of the oversew machine playing like a lullaby about the place of books and dust and drawers of typeset equipment.

It was about noon that old Joe stopped in to pick up his mail. That New England boy dressed in a bag of wrinkles and long red beard. Patriots beanie on his head. He laughs about Iowa’s loss to Michigan. Georgia’s utter defeat. He shares stories of being in the Navy. How he got shipped out to Spain. Guam. Alaska. All while a big bag of grass sat in the glove compartment of his pick-up back here at Offutt Air Force base. I go about my business, listening to him all the while. He laughed. “Oh man. BIG ol’ bag. Like this.” He holds up his hands for affect as if he were holding a melon.

“Fuck, man . . . When I got home and pulled out of the gates at Offutt, I turned off the road, and rolled myself a fat fucking joint, man. Ha haaa! . . . Oh yea. Smoked the whole thing too.”

Joe, with a carefree joy never revealing his pain (Because he has cancer and goes to chemotherapy once a week ((While still smoking a pack a day. (((One day when he came in all down in the brown, his stomach turning something awful, not able to keep anything down, all of it coming out of him like a muddy deluge. And he came in sat down only to get right back up and run down the stairs to the bathroom. When he came back up he set a stack of newspapers on one of the chairs at the front of the bindery before sitting down again. ((((I saw him a day later sitting in his little red truck in the rain and I walked up and knocked on his window. He rolled it down. I asked him how he was feeling. “I’ve made a mess of myself,” he says with a slight smirk and a look of shame in his eyes))))).

Joe, with a cup of coffee at Louis M’s at eight in the morning. The only Joe on Vinton Street (Not really. There’s one more Joe I know of that’s only partly a Joe with schizophrenia and will come into the bindery smelling godawful like a stale and sour mess mumbling under his breath about everything being connected and that it’s all going to work out because God is good and such, or nonesense about a woman named Starla being down in the basement doing godknowswhat. ((There is no Starla. (((Sometimes he’ll pick up a book, flip to a random page, and begin reading as if it were where he had left off sometime in the past)))). Mister Kool Kat of the Vintonese.

When I had enough, my back sore from bending over the table and my index finger blistered from pressing the bonefold into the creases between spine and cover, I called it a day, got in the Fifth Ave, (Mine and Guff’s 1988 Chrysler we call Datenight. ((We bought it last winter when the roads were covered in ice and the Volks was in the shop, its repairs climbing in cost as the days went on))), and headed down the road. I don’t remember what I was thinking about as I drove down Vinton to 24th. It could’ve been about the state my life. My finances. The hole in my tooth beginning to bother me.

I could’ve been thinking about how I was going to fix the tilt in the steering wheel that’s become increasingly loose and will sometimes shift gears while I’m making a turn (Unless I hold the whole steering column in place. ((I noticed it the other day while trying to park in front of Homer’s in the Old Market. I was turning into a parking spot in the opposite direction and a car was waiting for me to make the two-point turn into it. In a hurry I spun the wheel rapidly and the whole thing shifted into reverse and almost plunged into a parked car on the other side (((Shit!)))). Or I could’ve been thinking about nothing at all as I rolled down Dodge towards 50th and parked in front of the Bungalow.

Sometimes thoughts become convoluted and the whole thing becomes a white noise.

Almost meditative. And then when we arrive the thoughts seem to loose their meaning as when passing through the threshold of a new room and forgetting why we entered it in the first place.

I got out and headed toward the Bungalow. As I made to open the door I noticed something out of the corner of my eye. It was a small package. In Sharpie, as if written in a frantic fit, was the name Rourke and my address on it. Nothing else. No return address. No indication of its origin. I picked it up. Twirled it in my hand. Analyzed it. Wondered about its contents. Then took it inside. I climbed the stairs to my room. The wood creaked under my feet. I set the box down on my desk. Unloaded the daily lint from my pockets. Car keys. Wallet. Phone. Change. Then I sat down. Looked at the brown cube. It could be anything, I thought. Anything at all. Why not.

If a forest can grow from a single seed, why can’t this gift contain the world.

The universe. I pulled a razor knife from my drawer. Cut the thing open. Took out what was inside. First, what seemed to be a small stand. A little umbrella glued to the front of it. Second, a little yellow book. One inch by one inch. With a number “1” on it. I opened the book. On the inside of cover it read “It’s a MOOney! . . . Book” with little shifty eyes in the two Os of Mooney. I knew the name. I held the book in disbelief, unable to read on. How did he find me? How did he know where I was? (You see, this Mooney guy used to come around Suite 230 all the time ((bydeadface Press, remember?)). A real bibliophilic who talked to a syncopated rhythm how books don’t have the same magic like they used to. They don’t breathe life out from the pages. (((A real literary madman.)))

There was only a single page in the book. One side read “A”, and the other ““I”!”. I knew what this was right away. It was a game. He was calling me out. Telling me something. Why he chose to play this game with me I haven’t the slightest clue. He’s having fun, I guess. I think he’s out of his mind . . . I reread the little book . . . A “I”!

It wasn’t the universe. But the bastard was close enough.



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