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Vol. 2, No. 1

Public Burning
by Joseph Clark

E-MAIL:

To: carterj@uarizona.edu (Jonathon Carter) Tues. Aug. 23, 9:32 AM
From: eadams@anthrodept.uarizona.edu (Edward Adams)
Subject: Your thesis ideas & the missing first chapter?

  Mr. Carter,

  I received your cryptic note and I have to admit to being confused at first. I assumed it was filled with cyberjargon and only needed proper translation. It finally dawned on me that this proposal of yours was ironic. I do remember your charming and sophisticated sense of irony and will consider this "proposal" a form of satirical camp on methodology and subject analysis. I must admit that I did laugh. If I might, I would like permission to send this around, levity being in short supply these days in the hallowed halls. And while I'm remembering, where's that first chapter you promised me by this date? Just give me some ideas. Don't agonize. I expect a very rough first draft.

  Best,

  Edward Adams

  

  P.S.: If anyone could pull off a good hoax it would be you. I expect one could get famous for a well-done parody like the one you propose, but I wouldn't try it until you have tenure!

 

~

 

POWERBOOK ENTRY:
Time: Aug. 23@12:45 PM Size: 63K Type: Microsoft Word doc. [Meachum Notes]

  Man calls again. Iris and man engage in conversation about heat wave and sweating. They again discuss Mount Saint Helens and I cannot figure out reference. Is this a place they have been to together or are going to in the future? Children arrive home by bus. Argument over homework. Video games played. Iris talks on phone to best friend for forty-five minutes. Gabby talks on her private line from 3:05 PM until her father forcibly pulls the phone out of her hand and slams it back on the hook--6:22 PM. Gabby fails to eat her dinner of pork chops, frozen corn, and mashed potatoes. Iris and Ted argue about Gabby's behavior. Ted goes into the basement and paces and calls his daughter "a spoiled little princess and it's probably all my fault." Iris follows her daughter into her room and says, "Young lady, you have very few rules to follow. Why can't you just be reasonable?" Morgan takes the opportunity to play more video games. Phone call from Chet Moritz for Ted. Iris answers and puts Ted on the line. The voice is definitely the same as the one who has called her during the day. It's Ted's good friend and shooting buddy Chet. Good ole Chet. Ted, Iris, and Morgan watch HBO from 7:30 PM to 9:30 PM. At 10:47 PM Ted reads his Lighthouse of Liberty magazine. He reads an article about paramilitary training activities in Mississippi, then an essay "Why the Government Wants to Take Away Your Guaranteed Rights." Iris finishes the crossword puzzle from Sunday's magazine section of the newspaper. Iris and Ted fall asleep during the late-night news weather report.

 

~

 

POWERBOOK ENTRY:
Time: Aug. 27@11:51 AM Size: 42K Type: Microsoft Word doc. [Meachum Notes]

  The Liebnietz-Calley study plotted the consuming subject and came up with a model for predicting subcultural activities and potential proclivities. For instance, I factored in Gabby's posters of teen-meat boy idols and divide by the number of stuffed animals and unicorn posters. Then I keep detailed records of her food choices and note signs of weight loss and gain, and come up with a very reliable model for predicting her possible foray into Death/Goth or speed/techno culture (a surprising 67 percentile rating!), or rate her chances of developing pre-bulimic and pre-anorexic pathologies (a whopping 81 percentile rating). Her chances of getting pregnant by another teenager driving his father's General Motors midsized sedan (47 percentile). Her choice of unsweetened morning cereal and fresh fruit (all very surprising choices) helped balance out her natural leanings and perhaps keeps her from a complete decline into radicalized alienation and disaffection from her family, neighborhood, and school. Somehow she manages to plow ahead on a steady course. Truly remarkable considering the Liebnietz-Calley trajectory as I have graphed it gives her a 60 percent chance of making it to college.

 

~

 

POWERBOOK ENTRY:
Time: Sept. 3@11:43 PM Size: 62K Type: Microsoft Word doc. [Meachum Notes]

  The monitor shows them both in bed. Iris is reading a biography of Grace Kelly and Ted is pretending to read The Wall Street Journal. Gabby is in her room wearing headphones blasting Hole as loud as she can stand it. Morgan is already asleep with his feet sticking out from beneath his covers.

  "Why have you been so grumpy tonight?" she says, letting her book down and turning her head to the side. He's staring into the Mutual Fund page.

  "Guy from the IRS calls up today asking if I'm the owner of the business and whether I filed a tax form last year."

  "What do you think they were really after?"

  "I asked him point-blank, `Does this have anything to do with an audit?' He said it was routine file updating. He wasn't sure why my file had been given to him. Sometimes it means an audit and sometimes it only mean a file update."

  "Oh, god."

  "I expect a certified letter any day."

  "Are we in trouble?"

  "If they went way back the penalties could add up. We'd have to file for bankruptcy, and they could take away the business and the house. They can do anything they want to because they follow their own rules."

  Iris crosses her arms in front of her chest and they stare at each other for a moment.

  "Tell me the truth," she says.

  "The books are a disaster. The only way I've made any profit at all is to doctor them. Everyone does it."

  "We are in trouble then?" He says nothing, looks away. "Ted?"

  "Like I said, they could take everything."

 

~

 

POWERBOOK ENTRY:
Time: Sept. 10@2:02 AM Size: 115K Type: Microsoft Word doc. [Meachum Notes]

  I woke up in the middle of the night and turned on all the monitors. The house was quiet and dark, and I sat there listening to the buzzing screens and actually missed the Meachums. Sent a note over to Davis in Geology requesting information on those damned volcanoes. Caller has also mentioned Mt. Kilauea, Mt. Vesuvius, and a Mt. Onanius. I do suspect a possibility of an affair. It's 3 AM and I'm pacing, wanting to wake them up to get rid of the quiet. I turn on my television, which is still hooked up to cable, and find it too terrible to bear. The Meachums have become the only drama able to keep my attention. The only way to get back to sleep is to replay some of my favorite study sequences, my very own high-concept trailer of their life together at 227 Cabot Court View. This only makes me feel worse, the reruns look pale and stripped of some ineffable but vital essence. I sit here watching and watching, like a predator, a parasite of real life. Bascom graph predicts economic/relational event within ten days. It has been wrong before.

  Saw Gabby naked today. She was alone in the house and inexplicably wandered from room to room trying out gestures, mimicking persona. In the living room she pretended to smoke and drink and carry on an animated conversation with imaginary friends. Even though naked, she managed to convey a sophistication, her body surprisingly mature. When she walked through the house, she moved in a purposeful and calculated attempt to induce a lulling trance in her audience. She tried a swagger at first, half runway, half school-yard strut. Then she slowed everything down, began stripping away the flourishes, cleaning up the lines, and focusing down to the subatomic levels of total self-possession--a seduction perversely effective in most of the population. She is still working on training wheels and will soon learn to take the curves at high speed. She began to skip, first one foot then both. This evolved into an arms-out twirl through the kitchen, her face showing a child's joy at being inside her own mind. She moved into the hallway doing wobbly cartwheels, then teetering-on-the-edge handstands that pitched dangerously close to lamps and collectibles but never disturbed more than the stagnant air.

  In the kitchen she climbs up onto the dining room table and lays on her back. She puts her knees up and stares at the ceiling. This most neutral and banal family space has now been consummated and marked with an eroticized charge.

  Gabby has started ritualized scarification by using white makeup, black eyeliner and jet-black hair dye. The tattoos are only temporary and she keeps them hidden beneath the Army-surplus field jacket. Has started calling both her little brother and her father "asshole." Liebnietz-Calley trajectory keeps her within 72 percentile for runaway attempt and possible alcohol intoxication via liquor cabinet. Bascom graph intertextuality scale correlates a 58.5 percentile rating for potential unprotected sex with a boy driving a late-model sport utility vehicle.

 

~

 

E-MAIL:

To: subcultman@aol.com (Guy Steiner) Sunday October 2, 8:07 AM
From: carterj@uarizona.edu (Jonathon Carter)
Subject: Is this normal behavior?
Attachments:34min/vidbitmassStrongHoldIIMac/os:ArcCovenant.DOS(DI NA/mdos)00005fcc

  Steiner,

  The clips show Ted and Morgan, and occasionally Chet Moritz, using some new device to manufacture ammunition for various guns. Another big surprise. Ted has a huge gun collection: rifles, shotguns, pistols, revolvers, some cap-and-ball black-powder muskets, you name it. As you can see, father and son are happily going about the business of loading brass shells with gunpowder and god knows what. Any ideas on how ordinary this has become in the white suburbs? They've set up some sort of short pistol range in the basement. Since it is an unpartitioned space and well insulated for sound, they've stacked a wall of old steel doors and sandbags and use crude silencing devices. There is nothing overt--all the targets are merely concentric circles and they keep score. Have detected no overt racist or ideological references. Liebnietz-Calley graphs place this within normal levels of American hobbies. When cross-indexed into Gordenstein's probability method there is a whopping 67 percent margin of a gun event. Most of these are statistically accidental but 41 percent are actual attacks by one family member on another. This is using the one-hundred-thousand-to-one scale and this city is already low on the margin for that sort of event. Perhaps I've discovered a thriving but dominant majority who do this in private. What could be the cultural antecedents and overall strategy? Liebnietz-Calley predicts a "libertarian" viewpoint and a 64 percentile chance of decline.

  Later,

  Carter

 

~

 

E-MAIL:

To: subcultman@aol.com (Guy Steiner) Monday October 3, 10:01 AM
From: carterj@uarizona.edu (Jonathon Carter)
Subject: Are you out there?

  Steiner,

  ARE YOU OUT THERE!?

  Carter

 

~

 

  OCTOBER 4th

  Strange camera angle and very low light.

  Carter reminds himself to go in ASAP and change the settings and reposition another camera if they begin a pattern. Chet Moritz pulls into the driveway at noon and brings two baskets of laundry into the house. She says to him at the door, "Oh, your machine broke down, how convenient." Somewhere during the second load of wash and the first load in the dryer, they start kissing big, full tongue kisses. Even with enhancement the images are reduced to faded silhouettes in Carter's camera angle. The sound is perfect and devastatingly primal. Iris hikes up her skirt, removes her panties, then sits on the lid of the spinning dryer and says, "It's so hard on my ass!" Chet drops his blue jeans about his ankles and is already hard. Iris laughs.

  "What are you laughing at?"

  "I've never seen one that looks so much like a banana."

  "You think it's weird looking?"

  "No, I'm not saying that. They're all just so incredibly different that it gives me a kick. Nothing personal." Chet leans forward and Iris helps guide him in. They fuck slowly at first then faster as the washing machine rattles itself into a violent spin cycle. At the end he pulls out and covers her stomach, filling her belly button with semen. He leans over her for a minute, balanced there, hyperventilating and sweating.

  "Are you okay?" He's unable to answer and she pushes him gently off her and asks for a towel to clean herself off with. Chet goes off to the bathroom, and when he is out of the laundry room Iris leans back on the top of the dryer and laughs in an unrestrained way that Carter has never heard before. She is happy and weightless and her lips move silently beneath the roar. She's going into her gooba-dust rag, eyelids fluttering and body settling into the rhythm of the dryer. Letting in the world. I'm riding the waves in my own beautiful laundry room. My wonderful, wonderful sanctuary from the house demons.

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