New fiction: Like tar, pt. 1

Like tar


My mind’s need for signification is sticky like tar. Whatever direction I look in, there’s a hundred saints and angels and demons rustling in the leaves or leering out at me from the grilles of cars of mannerly drivers who stop for me even though they could probably get across the intersection before I could get to where they would smoosh me at low speed.

“I do like manners, Lord,” I say.

I used to try and grab onto the bodies of trees with my mind and swing around their infinite associations like a gnostic umbilicus with the good shit at the other end. “I thought if I ever would worship something, it would be trees,” I once said to a friend back when I was a hardcore atheist. Feel dumb typing that, but I was a real God Delusion-type you know, I’m just painting a picture. “I thought if I ever would worship something, it would be trees. It just seems so…natural,” I reasoned, probably high on speed.

Used to sing my songs with my guitar, oh, the shittiest guitar, and I sang them into my webcam and I made a record in my friend’s beautiful boiling hot attic room and then everyone said well hey that’s a pretty good Tom Waits impression, and then I stopped singing after a while.

Wasn’t doing a Tom Waits impression. Hadn’t heard a single Tom Waits record in my life when I made that record.

Oh well.

Recorded the traffic noise one windy day on the futon we had on the back porch of the house where my friend had that attic room where we made the record. This was after that. I went almost immediately into production on my sophomore slump. Anyway, I recorded the traffic noise one windy day, and there was some good shit, like our flimsy wooden screen door banged at just the right moment and a semi went by. Pretty good. Oh yeah, shit, and right at the beginning I light a cigarette and it sounds amazing. Then over that I put this really pretty melody I wrote on a zither my aunt got me when I was about 12, only song I ever wrote on it, it’s about my dad rejecting my emotions haha, but uh I ran it through this weird squeaky synth patch that made it sound like space aliens speaking Hungarian, and then there’s this really distorted tuned-up track of me just like smacking my shitty guitar’s back or jangling its strings or whatever, and over the top of that I’m reading this poem I wrote about, well, hearing my roommates banging, mostly, but with lots of art on top to disguise it. Oh shit, did I mention the part where I’m actually reading the poem twice and the second time is THROUGH A FUCKING MEGAPHONE PATCH aha-ha-ha.

Still, it’s not bad, though¤.

And that’s fucking exactly what it’s like in my head 24/7. I start telling you about my need for signification and then I’m describing a spoken word track I made almost ten years ago in fucking, like, pretty exquisite detail. I like can’t even look down anymore without becoming uncontrollably lost in a sandpit of stale associations HAHAHAHAHA.

Had to count the HAs.

Went back and forth between making “Had to count the HAs.” its own line or being the end of the previous paragraph. They both have their strong suits, and I guess your preference is whether or not you like my style. My style is for it to be its own line.

I could see how that could get to be a “thing,” though.

Someone asked me what I write the other day and I’m glad I got published enough for my work to be described enough by other people to know that the right word is microfiction. Or as I prefer to think of them, extremely short stories. I guess they’re not always extremely short which is probably part of my incessant need to cross boundaries stylistically amiable chuckle, but I mean without that canned answer I’d just be trying to explain this, and like, I mean.


’Like onomatopoeia. ’Like jargon and colloquialisms, and especially vernacular. My own mostly. ’Like writing the kind of sentences that would hive up my old high school English teacher’s arms. Yeah, hive up, spellcheck, ya dirty fucker. Wondered if I should change that to “dirty pigfucker,” but decided to leave it.

’d you know that?.. You know what, I’m just gonna be completely honest with you, the mechanics of writing “’d you know that” got my brain just crossed enough with itself to knock whatever little bit of trivia I was about to shake loose on you completely clear. ’Tried running it over and over – was it pigfucker? What was I thinking of? This part’s probably just the self-impressed writer though HEY HEY AMIABLE CHUCKLE shit I just remembered a while back there I honest to God started typing “write” instead of “right”, and I’m probably too good of a writer to have come up with that on my own.


My mind’s need for signification is sticky like tar. In meditation you’re supposed to gently draw your focus back to CENTER when it wanders. There’s a joke about the ineffectiveness of meditation in my first book and now I feel kind of bad about it, even though it is kind of a good joke. Ok, wanna hear it?

““I used to meditate, but I discovered that, at my center, there was only the burning need to pay my phone bill.”” OOH, I should write a proper MLA citation for my own work right here, that’s what I should do. [GO BACK AND WRITE MLA CITATION HERE ONCE YOU DIG UP THE BOOK©.®]

I am the king of telling people the power of meditation. Ok, maybe not the king, and not anymore, but in that way that hypocrites repent when the scales fall from their eyes, let’s just say I am a literal monster when it comes to telling people the power of meditation even though I’ve proper meditated maybe 50 times in my whole effing life. Works when it goes well. Mostly twirling your most terrifying thought like a yo-yo around a string made of your amygdala when it goes badly.

When you write a good sentence, it’s like, how’d it happen?

Thank you, Jesus!

Today while I was out walking, I was gliding under some branches hanging over the sidewalk when I heard this backup vocal line in “Under the Milky Way” that I have never heard in my life even though I’ve listened to that song absolutely innumerable times. And all I could think was “thank you, Jesus!” Because Jesus made the sound clearer?

He did my make vision clearer. I swear I can see clearer, literally, since Jesus came back in my life. Don’t know if Jesus especially cares about my perception of sound quality, but sometimes he does tell me to take out my earbuds. I mean shit when you’re walking around the city at 4, 5 in the morning what are you avoiding? Why wouldn’t you wanna hear the river, man? Why wouldn’t you wanna hear the birds?

Going back through my emails to find that book draft to get that meditation joke reminded me how fucking much I hated the editing process for that thing. But I mean, it’s like I always tell people, you can be precious or you can get published. Still don’t know why editors who don’t seem to understand even a single thing you’re saying accept your work, though.

Like at what point did it get lost that my style is “I’m severely mentally ill”? Feel bad a little, feel like maybe Jesus won’t think I love him, but it’s true, I’m mentally ill, and like, not a little. Not as bad as I used to be, but getting perspective on how bad it was also gives me perspective on how bad it still is. My mind’s need for signification is sticky like tar.


My mind’s need for signification is sticky like tar. Somehow can’t quite remember yet to stick out my gut, to lead with my gut, always end up holding my breath when I hold in my gut, and that’s when my palms get sweaty. Sometimes I remember to give it to Jesus and let him touch his hot hand to my chest.

For a while I couldn’t go on a walk ’less I was wearing sunglasses. Couldn’t bear the idea of people knowing where my eyes were looking, could never settle on where to put them anyway. Do you nod? Do you ignore people, do you perfectly act like nothing and no one is there? Do you rush to get ahead of people so they won’t feel like you’re following them, or will that make you look like an encroaching lunatic? If you can’t really get ahead of someone without making a dramatic show, how far behind them should you follow? How far out of your way should you walk to make it look like you’re not following someone even though you were never following them in the first place?

You ever notice how straight couples will just plow through any social situation with impunity? On a narrow sidewalk a straight couple will just keep charging straight at you, side by side, arm in arm, whatever, just like with no awareness that your choices are jumping off this bridge or stepping into traffic. Most of the time they don’t even look at you, but sometimes they glower at you like what the fuck are you even doing in our world? One time I was walking down Liberty in Ann Arbor, Liberty at Maynard, and I was carrying two big iced coffees, ok so I’m walking up Liberty to State and there’s sidewalk seating for the steak restaurant right there so the sidewalk is just fucked, and this straight couple is charging at me all googly-eyed and five feet across with no hint that my 6-foot-2 fire-engine-red-haired self is there and they pin me up against a wall where my shoulder scrapes up against this horrible metal sconce jutting out and both coffees splash up onto me and they just keep walking, at which point I turned around and screamed “FUCKING STRAIGHT PEOPLE!” and that’s an honest-to-God non-fictional anecdote from the life of the person who wrote this story, in case you were wondering.

Just realized this story is categorically not microfiction anymore.

©The book was upstairs maybe tops like 50 feet away, probably like 15 as the crow flies, ‘cept a crow couldn’t fly through my basement ceiling.↬
↬Yo but I like obviously had to make the conscious decision to leave this text in so how quirky am I now.⇍
⇍Oh and you’re like so fucking interesting with your nested footnotes⥍.
⥍Nested genitive is one of my favorite names for a grammatical concept.
®Steel, Schlomo⭊. If I Go Now. Portland: Gertrude Press, 2012. Print⤽
⤽I am the college-educated writer who wrote the book in the preceding citation, and I had to look up on the internet how to write the citation.
⭊Google does not recognize the spelling of my name as a word. Google also once flagged my name as probably being fictitious, preventing me from using its services while they decided whether or not I was, in fact, a person.
The alert reader will no doubt be wondering how in shit I put the joke in here before I went and got the book. Well, that’s what I was left wondering after I went back through this footnote maze after coming back about a half an hour later. I kissed my boyfriend, who was off to his second job, and then I made a sandwich and watched a little bit of the 18th birthday episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer (which is obviously the best show in creation). Then I stood around for a little while, half-reread an essay I published today when I got an email notification about someone liking it while standing up at the kitchen table and slowly drinking a Sprite. Then I went back into the living room and tried to decide if I should keep watching Buffy, and then I did some bong rips, turned off the TV, cleaned the toilet, and came back downstairs. And of course that’s when I remembered I did everything but get the book, which was the entire reason I had even gone upstairs in the first place. So then I went back upstairs and got the book.
Anyway, you will be relieved to hear that I did not know the joke off the top of my head, but did spend an inappropriately large amount of time looking through old emails for a draft of the book sent between me and the publisher. Much easier than literally at all moving, I guess. 

pt. 2

One thought on “New fiction: Like tar, pt. 1

  1. Pingback: New fiction: Like tar, pt. 2 |

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