FICTION: Two by Padgett Powell
If you enjoy reading Electric Literature, join our mailing list! We’ll send you the best of EL each week, and you’ll be the first to know about upcoming submissions periods and virtual events.
Today we want to glue some wood to some wood. We will get all the surfaces clean with sanding and then by wiping the wood with our coarse brown paper toweling, which itself is limp wood. We will apply the good wood glue, which is the color of banana pudding, to both surfaces, liberally, and align the pieces and press them together. Before the final fit it is important to slide the pieces back and forth just a bit, or twist them a bit, depending on the configuration of the pieces; this lateral friction, as it were, is to displace small pockets of air that may be trapped in the glue if the pieces of wood merely come together head-on. Once we have a good airless fit with plenty of squeezeout we should wipe the excess glue with more paper and clamp the pieces firmly together or effect a clamping by means of weight upon the pieces. Clamping can also be effected by tying the pieces together, often with bungies. The pressure should be that of a very firm handshake. Wood being married to wood likes a good handshake. If there is more squeezeout it may be addressed after this clamping or the dried excess glue may be sanded off later. You can use your anytime minutes on small squeezeout. If one of you would go get me a Musketeers the morning would be better. Some of you know how I put a Musketeers in a Dr. Pepper and how the acid in the Dr. Pepper will make the Musketeers into something like a very tasty sea slug. Which if it goes too long though it can be difficult to lift it out in one piece. I call that the Drooping Musketeer and I don’t really like it, I don’t. At a certain point you have to just stir the Musketeer into the Dr. Pepper. A Baby Ruth looks like a turd. A Butterfinger is wont to explode. Never recap your Dr. Pepper if you are using Butterfinger. I must tell you that because the Surgeon General won’t. The cleaning industry tells you not to combine its stuff but the candy industry does not. If there is no caution statement on a candy bar telling you that it is bad for your health in several ways, chief among them obesity and type II diabetes, it is not finally surprising that they not tell you that under certain conditions the candy unit will explode and perhaps blow your pop bottle apart and blind you, or worse. The good wood glue we use here is pretty set up in an hour. Tomorrow we will start in on the router. The router is essential but many a one thinks it is just some kind of dangerous cosmetic tool. It is not. Get your wood and get to gluing and stop wasting time.
Not Much Is Known
There are people one wants to know, and people one does not want to know, and of course people one would want to know and people one would not want to know if one met them. A few people know a lot of people, many people know a few people, and some people know just some people. It comes down to the impulse to know everyone or to know no one. It’s a distillation column. At the top are the gregarious everyone knowers, at the bottom the hermits. At the top the saints, at the bottom the killers. Some killers just want to kill one person, some want to kill hundreds or thousands. At the very bottom is a man who knows no one but himself, not well, and wants to kill himself.
He has one pair of shoes and once had a dog. The dog liked to eat ice cream from a bowl, and its impeccable house habits and grooming habits deteriorated after it was struck by a car. After that it was accidentally closed in a car in the sun and died of heat prostration and the man found the dog with its collar improbably caught in the seat springs under the car seat. He, the man, was about twelve. The dog was not, as the expression goes, still warm; the dog was very hot. The man, or boy, pulled the dog out by the collar once he got him free of the undercarriage of the seat and laid him on a patch of green grass to cool down. He went inside and reported to his mother and father that Mac was dead.
Mac was a wire-haired terrier and looked handsome there cooling in the grass. His life had been hard after the accident with the car: a pin in his hip, the shitting on the patio, the no longer having a festive taste for ice cream from a bowl. The father freshened a hole in the backyard that had been begun by the boy for an underground fort and buried Mac in it. When later he could not find his reading glasses it was theorized that they had slipped from his pocket into Mac’s grave, and the mother asked the boy to dig Mac up and look for the glasses. What? the boy asked, and the mother then suggested it was not after all a good idea and desisted in the request that the boy dig the dog back up before the boy asked, as he later felt he would have, why he and not his father–who had alone conducted the burial and alone selected the depression left by the boy’s abandoned fort– why he and not the father was to dig the dog up, looking for the father’s, not his, glasses. The dog died trapped in a salmon-colored Renault. It was not known who closed him in it.
Not much else is known. It is not known why we become more frightened or saddened by things as we age rather than less.