A Silver Cliffs Sampler
Pretend Genius Press
Babel Books and Publishing, Inc.
by Bryan Edenfield
Hannah, the Backwards-Walking Champion of the World, turned eleven shortly before her birthday. Her suspicious parents said to each other, "She must have done something naughty, turning eleven sixty-six days before her birthday. She must have done something really really bad between now and her last birthday, when she turned ten on the day she was supposed to turn ten." But Hannah had done nothing naughty; she became Backwards-Walking Champion of the World, lost a tooth, had her hair cut, learned to develop excellent peripheral vision, and made a new best friend, Anna, who was so short and tiny that she could fit between Hannah's head and heels. Hannah told her parents these facts but they did not listen and insisted she be punished. Thus, she was sent to her room without supper and grounded for an entire year. "That'll teach her to change ages whenever she please," her mother said to her father. "Yes," he agreed. "When I was a kid, we wouldn't even dream of doing such a thing. My oh my, how times have changed."
Her Secret World, Carol R. Sugar, 1961
The first girl I fucked was Melanie Push. She was twenty four and I was twenty one and I had never even kissed a girl before, never called one my girlfriend, never intimately held hands, never slept closely and warmly next to someone, wrapped around them in an all night embrace. I had, though, recently been in love, an unrequited, half-realized, deformed love. A love that is not reciprocated may be no kind of love at all, but a lustful, emotional obsession. I would never know her kiss, her body, her true complete physical presence. This love, her name was Cayla Moss, would not be the last woman I'd pine after in secret or fail with completely, but she would be the last failure to truly matter, unless life twists and fucks me in ways that I will rescind back into that pitiful shell I once existed within, unless I devolve, become freshly naive and forget how painful and unnecessary inaction can be. Before Cayla, I had thought I was in love many times. I thought I loved Starr; we rode bicycles through the Sepia Manor Trailer Park, our home, and I jumped with her on her trampoline in her backyard. We were in third grade and for a brief period I seemed like a normal kid. When I lost her, though I never had her, for years I felt as if something was missing. I learned pathetic romantic obsession at a young age. I thought I loved Laura Gong too; we met when I was thirteen and I danced with her in a barn in the desert. In a better world, she might have been my first kiss. She haunted me for years just as Starr, in different ways, did. Jennifer Ocean, the quintessential high school crush, broke Laura's curse; if life were a television show, Jennifer would be the teenage sweetheart, the first true love, the first broken heart. But instead, she is nothing. Finally, high school ends, college begins, and Cayla Moss enters my life. We lay on the floor and complain about how terrible the world is. We take shots of vodka and try to learn to square dance. We drive aimlessly in the night through the dark mountains and arrive at a Denny's in Silver Cliffs where we eat and talk nonsense. Sometimes, she touches my shoulder. Sometimes she smiles at me.
The Amorous Exploits of a Pathetic Loser, S.W. Green, 2003
Lillian Gray starred in twelve films before she died from an overdose of sleeping pills, or maybe they were pain killers, on August 19, 1945, in a hotel room in Phoenix, Arizona. Of these films, my favorite, against critical sentiment, is The Lost Treasure, a strange and sloppy film noir in which Miss Gray plays a seductive Frenchwoman exiled from Vichy France. This was her second to last film. Charles Clay, my best friend since high school, sided with conventional wisdom; he spoke lovingly of her first film, her first known film that is, an overwrought drama titled Beauty. Miss Gray plays the titular beauty, a New York City dancer who becomes the obsession and muse for a down-on-his luck playwright. As the playwright, an aging Brandon Cummings, his silent career almost forgotten, nearly staged a brilliant comeback; truly it is his performance that gives the film any gravity it may have, but the movie, as a whole, lacks the playful, haphazard grandeur of The Lost Treasure. Nonetheless, our obsession, Charles and I, with Lillian Gray centered around neither of these films, nor the totality of her impressive body of work, pardon the double meaning. It centered, instead, on an unknown reel of 35mm film Charles discovered in an abandoned building on Blossom St. Dated October, 1931, three years before Beauty, it is a stag film in which the beautiful, and only 17, Miss Gray performed all sorts of unseemly acts with cooking utensils.
Lillian Gray, Caleb Sterling, 1999
Ladies and Gentlemen, I hate you with all of my gracious soul. Observe: poor fog face wafting down elbow avenue, the street of shoulder knocks. His mouth is agape and he drags a large bag; the handles twirl and tighten around his red knuckles with each pedestrian kick. He holds an empty bottle in his other hand (maybe sometimes it has water, sometimes booze) and barely picks up his feet as he ricochets through the maze of skyscraper citizens that sing their secret songs and recognize this idiot's existence only through coughs. Of course, he smells. They smell too. Witness exhibit B: the perfumed siren clicks like an insect as she smokes down the sidewalk. Her hair is a nest for beautiful dead birds and her business dress shimmers money. Red talons flick the ash and a red snarl smears words into her cellular phone; she is a songbird or a cicada depending on the conversation. And then, look there, at the fat man enjoying his coffee. He moves only when he needs to and shoats into his wireless hand-less brainless contraption only when he doesn't. Someone on the other end of the conversation, miles away perhaps, hates this quaking mound of flesh more than I do, and the air between the two is infested with those invisible signals, pregnant and oozing with his wide words; the menace of his thoughts brewing in a stew of bile and snot that festers in his sloppy jowls is then spat into the tiny machine attached to his ear. Off it goes, into space, to pollute the cosmos. We are all his reviled interlocutor. Finally, by the bus station, that automaton might be the masculine doppelganger to the insect bird woman. Fancy, pouting, good God I cannot believe I have to stand here next to these lurching bus-bound cretins (he thinks, rightly), he runs his effeminate fingers through his military hair and taps his foot nervously. What if the smog from their breath stains my suit? He gingerly lights a cigarette and hopes no one will ask him for one, but someone always does. How can I survive around all of this disease? He straightens his tie, though it wasn't crooked, is never crooked.
Landlocked Leviathan, Marcus Leviathan, 2007
June 5, 97. I only know fragments of myself. Today I slept in and I woke myself up by beating off, soiling my sheets with cum. I imagined a woman, a stranger maybe a banker, giving me a blow job next to a bank vault or maybe at a grocery store. I just masturbated again to some ripped up porno pages I found behind a mall and now I'm listening to an old Pigman record. I don't think I brushed my teeth today but someone on this planet brushed some teeth; a woman somewhere brushed her teeth and a man somewhere brushed his teeth and maybe they brushed their teeth simultaneously. Did they have the same color toothbrushes? Did they use the same hand and did they slide the brush across their teeth with the same pattern? All of the patterns in the world, there can only be so many, and someone somewhere brushed the same pattern as I did and who is to say that that person is not also me? That vile gorgon, Madam Geography? I ate breakfast and did not want to leave the house and I left the house to go to the video store and return three movies, a soft core, an action spy movie, and some foreign shit from the 70s. I hate it here. This place has turned me into a monster.
The Diaries of Jacob Walter, Jacob Walter, 2008
My half-sister, Fred, was a woman trapped inside of the body of a boy. Confusion wrote itself into her frame, into her blood; her bones became the uneasy map to the faltering mantle, the cracks in her skin bled the shaking earthly refuge of a dying, reborn planet. She was and was not; a contradiction, a confusion, colored everything she experienced and thought. In her dreams she was one person, in the mirror she was another. The gaze from others, that fleshy reflector, told her to move in one direction; alone she found herself in different private company. She was two broken parts at most, though usually, she was the gray zone in between. Seeing her for the first time I knew this; I saw her body as female and she felt it as male, she heard her voice as male but felt her womanly conscious, they saw him as a boy and she wanted to be a girl, and so she was nothing. This was, I later realized, our collapsing globe; only partially there, desperate to be realized, a secret truth suffocating underneath.
Of Ancestors and Animals: An Imaginary Memoir, Bryan Edenfield, 2008
We present to you here the curious tale of Oscar Manchester, a relatively unknown but prolific author who met his demise at the hands of a group of strangers whose lives he knew intimately. Events across the continental United States set off a series of incidences that eventually culminated in Oscar's murder. The story of his death is the story of Patricia Carlson, a quiet waitress living in Seattle, Washington. It is the story of Rodney Richardson, a beer drinking misanthrope residing in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. It is the story of Anna Wright, a bored teenager in the suburbs of Las Vegas, Nevada. It is the story of Eugene Warren, a charismatic couch surfer adrift in San Francisco, California. Finally, it is the story of Lilly and Grover Johnson, two married teachers living only a few miles from Oscar in Silver Cliffs, Arizona. None of these people knew each other, yet their lives would collide in the most unlikely of ways.
Any Resemblance, Living or Dead, Israel Farmer, 1979
We here at the Society for Disbelief believe in not believing; as such, we do not believe in not believing any more than we don't believe in believing. Following the logic of disbelief, we cannot be held accountable for anything we say or do, but as we do not believe in irresponsibility, we take credit for everything, even, and especially, that which we had nothing to do with. Moreso, we take credit for that which never happened and which cannot ever happen and we believe, no, we disbelieve, that the impossible happens on a daily, if not hourly, basis. Working within the logic of disbelief, which is, in fact, not a logic, we must admit that we are not actually a society for anything, and as we do not follow the customs and rules of grammar, society, language, and genetics, we do not know and cannot follow even our own statements, which are, necessarily, retractions by definition, retractions of themselves and assertions of the opposite. As they are retractions and assertions of the opposite, they are assertions and retractions of what they actually say, which is, to put simply, not-truths. This is not to say that they are lies; they are as much not-lies as they are not-truths. A not-truth is not a truth but it is not a lie, that is to say, it is not a not truth, but a not-truth, which has more in common with a knot truth than a not truth. We do not, though, know anything about knots or knot tying, though we know quite a lot about not tying, as we rarely tie anything, especially if it means tying things together. We would much rather unravel, but what we unravel is not a knot so much as it is a tangle of unraveled knots knotting into a straight line of strings made out of not-truths and not-lies. A knot lies next to me, and I may not be aware of it, but that is not to say that I do not know it is there.
1st Manifesto for the Society of Disbelief, The Society of Disbelief, 1968
On November 18th, 1926 Pittsburgh's famed Oyster Opera House burned down after a riot erupted following the showing of Kreval's latest and last opus, The Brick Walls. Kreval was an unusual figure in the world of classical composition; he came from a poor, rural background, was entirely self-taught, and had lost his right hand in a farming accident as a young child. He, thus, composed his pieces on a piano with only one hand and a stub, creating alarming, often dissonant and deceptively simple pieces. He gained popularity mostly as a novelty and high society quickly latched onto his "working class" sounds. The Brick Walls was his fervent anti-bourgeois and antiupper-class statement, and the opera upset the audience so much they preceded to try to force the musicians and actors off the stage. A fight ensued, eventually climaxing with the Oyster Opera House in smoldering ruin. Kreval barely escaped with his life, his career ruined and his face horribly burned.
Invisible Machines, Iris Black, 2007
Ah, Albert. Come down, dummy, forget Gary's harassments. I just jogged, limped, made no negatively pensive questioning remarks, so to undertake vicious, belated, enquiry. Your wounds are bleeding. Can dear old friends greet, huh, honey? Jesus, jams just zing, no? Open, please; quietly respect smiles, treats, love integrity. Won't we wonder, when words wreak wondrous wombishly warm friendships, can his harmful jabs, karma kisses, mean nothing? No, but better let assholes existence, every ounce puts standard dudes in pleasant quarters. Qualms? Why yes. Come climb, crawl, down from tremolo trees. Test this open ground. Zephyrs zither by, zygotes undulate vapidly, worms x-out your name. Albert, as all our zigzagged vestiges vex your fragile soul, Kara lumbers moonlike now, over past quarter retro-spaceship videos, towards us. Wouldn't xylophones quake in her presence? Courage, Albert. Enough fussiness. Gary is ugly. Jagged kites loom menacingly, nullifying, obfuscating, permanently, quiet respectful summer time dreams. Verify, would, could you? Zesty alcohol bleeds crazily down, entering, from Gary's hole, into justice, killing lush meadows, nourishing opulent, putrid quasars. Kara sits. Kara understands. Vroom! While eating you voraciously as he (Gary) does, embittered forever, there lounges Kara, juicy Kara. I must not observe pests. Questions I ask. Tears, unsalted, volley within x-rayed yawning zipping aching breathing corroding dusty enameled freezing gashed hearts. Inside, jovial kicks, xxx moments, narcotic erotic pulsating queefing rushing sex sensations. Upper lips. Wounds. X marks the spot. X carries journeys. Enough, egghead! Get down! Good. July ain't no time for openly x-ed out eyes. Siesta! Table joy! Villainify when winter warily wanders between beautiful caresses, dressed eunuchly for garish hell in jumbled killjoy lanquidity. Usher zero vertical zits, quarter sized, unto terrible unhappy valleys. Wow, xerox yourself zillions apon zillions of doomed loveletters, for I have gone crazy. Krazy? Little bit.
A Small Presentation Concerning the Wingspan of Certain Nocturnal Insects, Isadore Damascus, 1995
special thanks to the
Wordless Dictionary Society