(The original poem from which the comic was adapted.)
She has learned to love the sound of ducks,
because they remind her of her husband’s hands:
the way they smelled of oil and gun-metal.
In those last years, he
couldn’t even hold a pen to sign his name.
But when he presented her with a fresh carcass—
his hands were perfectly steady in those moments,
the moments of his pride.
She cleaned the bodies dutifully,
stripping away the feathers, the feet, the head—
such things had been the gift of man for woman
for thousands of years, and he still believed
these ducks were prizes for the woman he loved.
She never faltered as she worked on the little bodies.
She never loosed the bile in her throat,
even as they shared the meat at dinner.
When she eats alone—every night
for almost two years now—she thinks of
those meals that she hated so much…
and then she thinks of how he would softly touch her lips,
filling her with the gun-metal smell of his hands.
And now, whenever she hears ducks,
she wishes them dead—every one of them—
if only he could bring them into their kitchen himself,
one feathered carcass at a time.
Here’s the opening to the story I’ll be reading, in its entirety, at Emerson’s Bill Bordy Theater on Thursday:
Images of the dead are a form of gravity. We were pulled inexorably into orbit, spiraling down along the curves of space, clicking “next” and then “next” and then “next.” T-minus six months and the boy slaps one hand into a cake shaped like a rocket. Our orbit degrades, the well of gravitation drags us down. T-minus two weeks and the boy dances naked through a sprinkler. We burn in his atmosphere. T-minus twelve hours and the boy is in his father’s arms, each grinning like he’s won the world. The longer we looked, the more the boy collapsed in on himself, the more inescapable he became. He was a black hole; we never knew him, never would know him, would only ever know his crushing force.
And because we couldn’t resist the photographs, inevitably the fathers of dead children came. They didn’t come for the dead boy’s father, of course. He was now one among a plurality of solitude, a fraternity of nuclear shadows. In joining them he had been cut free to sink wholly into the singularity of his son. No, the fathers of dead children came for us, the ones still in orbit, still clinging desperately to our own tiny satellites. We heard them before we saw them; the fathers’ molecules emitted a deep gut tumbling thrum that hovered on the brink of nausea, vibrating at the frequency of unspoken recrimination. For themselves. For their wives and lovers, the mothers of their dead children. For the children themselves. For you. Resonance was achieved: our bellies turned over as our bodies hummed in response.
If you want to hear the rest, come to the reading!
I’ve just posted a distasteful one-pager that I made with Steve Harrison several years back. What I Learned from the Executive Bathroom first appeared in Issue 1 of Inbound, the anthology of comics from Boston, as a backup to Lending Can Openers.
I suppose this one could be considered very slightly NSFW, though of course it’s straight out of the corporate workplace.
On June 21 from 6pm-8pm, The Writers’ Room of Boston will be holding its anual reading at the Bill Bordy theater at Emerson College. I’ll be taking part this year, presenting my latest prose fiction, “The Fathers of Dead Children.” You are welcome to come! Fair warning: my story is every bit the downer it sounds like.
The event is open to the public, but Emerson security has asked that attendees RSVP–it’s not absolutely required, but you’ll get in faster if you let me know if you’re definitely coming, so that I can put your name on the list.
It’s been a long time since I’ve read my writing publicly, so I hope to see some familiar faces in the audience!
I just posted a story that I haven’t previously published online: Civil Disobedience OR George Enjoys Billiards, Apparently, illustrated by Dan Mazur. We did the story a couple of years ago for the anthology Show and Tell: A Collection of Comics About Teaching and Learning, which was sold at the New England Comic Arts in the Classroom Conference. It’s the only openly autobio comic I’ve ever published, based on events from my first year of teaching.
It’s been a long time since I was actively producing webcomics, and I don’t expect I’ll ever be the sort to post on a routine schedule on a constant basis. But I do want to get back to producing webcomics on an at least occasional basis.
I have a couple of small pieces that have appeared in print, but have never been online. Those will be going onto the site this week. I may also go back to creating the occasional piece for my old Simpleton sketchbook, though I won’t be aiming for a consistent schedule there. Most of what I made there originally was junk, which is fine, since that’s part of the process of experimentation. The few that I thought were more successful have been “graduated” to more prominent placement among my other stories. Maybe there will be more of these.
A potentially more interesting project, I’m also working on a modest experimental series with Tym Godek, based on formal ideas proposed by Neil Cohn. More on that soon.
A more dramatic difference will be a focus on new forms. I’ve been writing significantly more fiction lately, and I hope to use this site to promote that work a bit more. I won’t be posting many full stories here, as I’m trying to place them with paying markets (with some small successes), but I will be sharing some excerpts from pieces in progress, both here and on my Facebook/Twitter feeds.
I also hope to keep the blog itself better updated with information and essays inspired by my creative experiences. But I’ve said that before, so we’ll see what happens.
Update your feeds! TwentySevenLetters has been fully redesigned, including bringing all my comics from both PictureStoryTheater.com and TwentySevenLetters.com all on the one site. I’ve removed a couple of older stories.
Two of my old favorites (The Discovery of Spoons and Five Ways to Love a Cockroach) aren’t up yet, as WordPress.com won’t let me upload Flash files, but I’m working on a solution.
The RSS feed has changed, so please make sure to update your feed readers.