He was a widower and without children. He wore a hat despite the heat. His blue eyes, were always half close. His trousers took the shape of his stomach, and made his shirt bulge out at the waste; and his fair hair, which of its own accord grew in tiny curls, gave him a somewhat childish look. One might have thought that he wore a wig, so flat and black were the locks which adorned his high skull. His face seemed entirely in profile, on account of his nose, which descended very low. His legs, confined in tight wrappings of lasting, were entirely out of proportion with the length of his bust. His voice was loud and hollow. His laugh was explosive, sonorous, uncovering his teeth, and shaking his shoulders. He liked all authors indiscriminately.
A man who was his uncle had brought him to Paris to teach him commerce. At his majority, he received a few thousands franks. He then ‘took a wife’ as they used to say, and opened a confectioner’s shop, as they used to do. Six months later his wife disappeared, along with the cash-box. Friends, good-cheer, and, above all, idleness, had speedily accomplished his ruin.
His name was Leonard Arthur Williams. At the age of seventeen, just before he left home, his parents presented him with a suitcase decorated with monogrammed initials near the clasp. Even then, the letters—‘L.A.W.’—seemed to mock him and his desires. Not long after, he returned home to attend his father’s funeral. He found, in a drawer in his father’s desk, a list of names in his mother’s hand. The list was on a piece of paper folded in among other, unrelated documents. The names were, presumably, his mother’s possibilities for her impending, and sexless, child. The boys’ names were Kenneth, Howard, Donald, Andrew, and (most romantically) Harrison. The girls’ names were Lydia, Caroline, Rachel, and Phillis (so spelt). He had briefly imagined using the names to form professional aliases: Kenneth Harrison, Andrew Donald, and Howard Andrews. In the end, he settled on ‘Grant McDonald’, which would allow others to settle on ‘Mac’. He left his parents’ house for good, but he took the list of names in his pocket. He bought a new suitcase at the nearest town, and dumped the other case, with its still-gleaming monogrammed letters, in a side street.
This case was a second-hand RIMOWA Limbo in Polycarbonate Carmona. There was a name in the luggage label window. It said Suntain Agida in almost words. Who is that, he thought. They could be a person or different suitcase model or geological formation or new friend or gift exchange or program on Radio Caroline International or type of cream or fall release or musical instrument or voluntary agreement or bird’s nest or someone in particular or meeting point or loud unexplained noise. They probably had blonde hair or a charitable aspect or arduity in general or dizzy spells or support page or likely no sound at all or a slippery constitution or revised image hierarchy or vortex street drive or lemma of devotion or pendant formation or emotional Levenshtein distance of three or a run towards each other or, actually, no clear provenance. I’ve lost my anchor and ran aground, he thought. But here’s my suitcase, he thought, dragging it out of the side street into a knot or dismal haar and then back out:
‘Lee! Lee Patterson! I’ve been waitin all goddamn fuckin day for you.’
Before he realised what was happening, a man had seized Lee’s suitcase, lifted it up with the ease of someone much younger, and walked off into the chilling fog. Lee followed down the bitumen street trying to keep his feet from slipping while straining to see through the haze.
Eyes peered out through windows at the pallid young man, from damp, dark spaces between buildings, under hats pulled down to brows, looking at Lee with accusation. Lee, sensing their projected narratives and struggling to find agency, thought to himself how impossible it was for them to make anything but a fiction of him.
Lee looked back at the eyes, trying to give them something of himself, something to hold onto. But the eyes wanted different things: fiction, reality, doubt, didacticism, structure, confusion, fantasy.
Catching the man at the end of the dock, Lee announced:
‘I refuse to offer the expected!’
Shrugging, the man threw Lee’s suitcase onto the deck of a fishing boat, directed him onto said boat, promptly untied it from it’s moorings and gave it an almighty push. Lee was suddenly left out to sea.
Two years later the widower was reading at the sea side. He looked up from his book and out at that vast grey sea and his half closed eyes noticed a figure floating in the waves. As he realised what he saw, his eyes opened further. He called out to the figure who was clinging to a box of some sort. Finally emerging from the waves our floating figure introduced himself to the widower.
“My name is Lee”.
Thus, two ruins met. The widower was surprised to meet a man in such a way but he was more surprised to be reunited with his cash box. Now empty, it made a handy float.
They met on a spring day; the sun bright, the air cool. They met to discuss his position on the committee. Sitting on a bench, they could see the breeze picking at the trees’ lighter branches. Leonard (or rather, Mac) wasn’t especially interested in the committee. He was easily disillusioned with anything other than his own illusions, and he had always been clear-eyed about the group’s real meaning. Still, she was a member, and he was happy to entertain illusions about her. He wanted to spend time with the woman of, if not his dreams, then at least his daydreams. For her part, she was there because the committee secretary was concerned that Mac might be a spook, and he (the secretary) wanted someone to take a good look at their new member. She was looking at him now. She went to light a cigarette when a sudden gust of wind extinguished her lighter.
She tried again, casting her eyes downwards like twin garage doors closing. This is just like trying to get reception, she thought. She stopped, bit the filter, danced a reel to herself. I wonder if anyone can smoke a cigarette with circular breathing, she thought. Circular breathing makes you more mixed-in with the world, with no bellowing runtime to sort between moments, and would she last as long if she just did not stop dancing a reel to herself and breathing in a circle? She was halfway down the street in the same gust of wind or margin of error. She couldn’t account yet for who else was there. If someone did turn up, she’d try to make a hornpipe from a reel without letting her leg falter like always before springing back. Everyone is here at various distances, she thought, 1-skip-2-grams. This gust of wind is upwards; we’re all in the air. Her leg faltered before springing back.
Leonard looked down at the puss excreting from the swollen, stitched and stretched flesh. Looking closely, surveying little pieces of triangular, square and circular tissue, floating in blood the colour of cheap wine. The leg sat in front of him awkwardly as if not attached to anything—abstracted from it’s context. Leonard examined the form further to distort it. Leonard fell into the image. The minute detail eschewed any realism remaining and crumbled time.
The event collapsed with a forward motion. A taxi door slammed shut. Leonard turned to the women who owned the leg, who was looking at Leonard with eyes that asked the question her mouth seemed incapable of forming, ‘For fuck’s sake, say something! Do something!’
Leonard not listening to the woman, suddenly floated outside of himself to recapture the experience of finding himself doing the thing he anticipated. Leonard, knowing that anticipation sometimes follows the event that recreates it. And the desire for an experience or for words, is the action and provocation that materialises said experience and said words. Leonard’s thoughts provoked action:
The woman’s mouth yelled, ‘For fuck’s sake, say something! Do something!
Leonard looked at the woman, ‘this is a huge problem’.
The response was simple: “The problem is yours”.
Their eyes seemed to close even further as if to register disapproval and disbelief, and they turned and walked straight past an enormous flour mill, built of reinforced cement on a platform in the port of Tunis, that had recently tilted 15 feet without cracking.
They did not notice the chairman of the committee sitting in his dark car parked across the road from the flour mill, facing their direction. The chairman had a handgun in the glove box of his car. He sat in his car smoking, wondering what he should do. A woman with a large pram passed the car. She, and the pram, seemed strangely out of place, dwarfed by the looming flour mill. The scene was bright and almost silent. A few birds and the steps of the woman were the only noises to be heard. The chairman threw his cigarette out of the car window, started his car, and—unnoticed by the three people in the street—slowly headed back into town.
Given that his car was moving, he was now Trofim Lysenko and always was, though. He drove into three or four towns at once. Along the way, because he was an agronomist, he surveyed and compared the yield of the crops and orchards that formed the topographical skin of the towns. When he saw an orchard of trees bearing fruit that turned from acai to blood orange to cantaloupe, he put both of his hands on the windshield. When he felt that the glass of the windshield was warm, he closed his eyes. The trees and fruit in the orchards came together like magnetic clasps, with a little easing, a rush, a moment where the positional record seems practically removed from your mind, an affectionate jostle wherein the destination is as moved as the source. The reeds at the feet of the trees turned from sedge to heather to straw. The road that the car moved upon was water chestnuts. The chestnuts moved like beads in a perspex tub. The car’s wheels didn’t crush the chestnuts, but rolled and spat them into the air in downward-opening parabolas. And if he weren’t Lysenko into three or four towns at once,
inhabited by voices that were not his own.
Slowly, laboriously, indecisively the world looked on feeling for moments of inspiration and suddenly out of nowhere the world became extraordinarily fluent, after never being fluent before.
The world heard the voices of those that walked upon it, like millions of directories and handbooks. Its imagination could not be constrained, appropriating and reappointing.
The world gasped and turned, understanding that this new agency was somehow beyond what was needed. The world was haunted by its own power. It did not want to tamper, invent of imagine, and yet it did and it continued to do and it can't not do it.
With headlong momentum and self congratulation, the aesthetic and formal qualities of words were shaped and projected by the world,
'Imagine yourself party to an agreement. Pencils scribble.'
Patrick Pound is an artist based in Melbourne, Australia. He lectures in the School of Communication and Creative Arts, Deakin University.
David McCooey is a poet, critic and editor. He is professor of literature and writing, Deakin University, Geelong, Australia
Rowan Mcnaught is an artist in Melbourne, Australia.
Kelly Fliedner is a writer, curator and podcast-maker, but mostly she just enjoys a good book club.
Design Ella Sutherland
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