It’s a great pleasure to introduce my friend Bruce Stone to the pages of Numéro Cinq. Bruce is a graduate of Vermont College of Fine Arts, though he was never a student of dg’s and thus does not appear on the Former Student list. He’s making a career for himself writing fiction and criticism and teaching college. He wrote a long paper on dg for the Review of Contemporary Fiction and then pulled together essays from various authors and combined them in a book about dg’s fiction called The Art of Desire. It’s a lovely book, even if dg says so himself, and an example of the opportunities open for young writers on their way up. Readers of Numéro Cinq will be pleased to know that Bruce is a Viktor Shklovsky follower and has written criticism on Vladimir Nabokov–his heart is in the right place. Eons ago, we got to know each other sitting over meals in the Dewey cafeteria during VCFA residencies, talking form, structure, and VS. Give his story a read.
The Advantages of Living
“Remind me again of the advantages of living?” This I say to my girlfriend Svetlana, who pretends not to hear me at all. She’s far too preoccupied with the task, quite literally, at hand: namely, to bring to some sort of acceptable conclusion the handjob that began under the usual hurried circumstances, in the hall, outside my apartment door. I waited silently, burdened, for Svetlana to work the deadbolt, bracing the trusses of my arms against the groceries, their novel heft, their alien aura, bulging implausibly in polyethylene bags. They swayed and listed above the hardwood like twin worlds, grotesque, misshapen, stalled in a zone of veering space into which, shortly, Svetlana would deposit the keys, my keys, with a noise like breaking glass. As she bent to retrieve them, her shirt ascended and exposed to the air that little sacred band of flesh above her transparent linen pants (she goes around with her ass more or less wrapped in cheesecloth), and then the bags crashed to the floor, ejecting each one of their itemized contents, and I was clawing freely at her shirt.
We negotiated, somehow, the debris field-a shuffling, sloughing dance over tuna cans, yellow onion, solitary units of Jolly Good cream soda, a razor-sharp pineapple with negligible rind-rot-and maneuvered inside where those preliminaries graded into an hour of ineffective coitus on the living room floor (Svetlana’s face gradually taking on that cast of expressive accusation), which then lasted through dinner (I thought she almost had me when she brought out the colander), one and a half games of postprandial chess (I am a sore loser), and the phone call from the unemployment adjudicator who dispassionately informed me that my benefits are running out.
Now it seems we have come full circle.
Anyway, to my knowledge, she doesn’t speak a word of English.
She’s in a crouch, Svetlana, by the lower kitchen cabinets, directing the business end of my flexed equipment toward a saucepan. She does not perform fellatio, and I can’t blame her. From time to time she looks up at me, her face miming what she’s unable to say: “When it finally goes, look out!”
According to Dorland’s Medical Dictionary, I have a condition known as priapism, which, I must admit, has a certain old-Greek venerability to it, a bracing air of Trojan grandeur. But sadly, these heroic connotations bear little relation to the sordid facts of the case, the light of which compels me to refer to this predicament for what it really is: i.e., functional impotence. To all outward appearances, the equipment mostly works. I am erect almost constantly. And I go around dragging this piece of lumber, torquing it out of the way (I’m not a maniac) with the waistband of my boxer briefs-the type of undergarment I prefer because, I don’t know, despite everything they still make me feel athletic and capable. As I say, the equipment mostly works, excepting the gonads, of course, which Svetlana now hefts on her outstretched fingers, eyeing them sadly. No, those gonads are without question on the fritz: swollen, unresponsive, definitely not trucking their weight at all.