More Openings & Closings II

by Richard Kostelanetz

EDITORíS NOTE: When Mr. Kostelanetz sent me his manuscript I was concerned that his writing was too cutting-edge for readers to understand. I know he is a proficient, well known writer with many talents, and I wanted to make sure that his manuscript got the full attention it needed. So, as a result, I decided to keep it in itís original form.

--Clifford J. Kurkowski

NOTE TO PUBLISHER: These stories are meant to be, alternately, the opening sentences in otherwise nonexistent fictions. In this manuscript, openings are in normal type, closings are in boldface. They should be similarly differentiated in print with, say, the openings in italic type and the closings in roman type, or the openings on the left-hand pages of two page spreads and the closings on the right-hand pages. (Inventive design is encouraged.) As these fictions are autonomous, not all stories need be used, and they need not be used in the order presented here, as no opening is necessarily connected to any closing.

Alone in the city, she found her first job as a salaried full-time lover to a married couple. Looking back, you could see that character was the element of fiction that interested me least of all. A professional thief, she knew how to find your things before you lost them. He fell into a deep, necessary sleep. A tiny woman, she feared befriending men whose penises might be too thick for her. Times change, and so have my purposes as a teller of stories. The experience of a 25th reunion is worth whatever it will cost to get you there. The clouds exploded, suddenly dropping a sea of rain. Accustomed to exercising power, she preferred the company of men who were unemployed and thus economically dependent upon her. Going home finally, he let his mind consider domestic pleasures he had disciplined himself to forget. And this fall, like every autumn before, the farm boys came into our city, looking not only for work but for ways to spend their harvestime money. Placate my soul; please placate my tortured soul. She frequently imagined herself growing up in the country her father had left. One rule he developed from years of freelance writing is that nothing should be considered "published" until it actually appears in print. They knew that the hotel where they would stay tomorrow night was in a city that officially regarded their favorite ways of loving as illegal. I learned my last lesson about hitchhiking. He felt most comfortable in bars patronized by foreigners. The final words we heard from him, over our radio, was, "Pooh poe, eenie meanie mynie moo." Not unlike other acquaintances who appear in my novels, she was reluctant to tell anyone that her life served as a model for a character of mine. That was his last trip; never would he leave home again. Although only a child, he felt guilty about living off the gifts of a man he had never seen--a man who had fallen in love with his mother before she died from giving birth to him. They wondered if each was ever in love with the other. As it was her fate to need to rent most of the things she had patiently accumulated, she felt that her life was out an loan. The nose of his plane was headed directly down to each, our of control. To escape from her unhappiness with herself, she dens the elegant party dresses of woman now dead. The concrete pavement exploded in the heat. A true genius, he reinvented the zipper. The house in which I was born now has a plaque. Wherever a pile of money can be perceived, recognized or discovered, mice will invariably gather to nibble. The ceiling above my head is buckling, the cracks extending in several directions. She transformed her appearance, as well as everyone's perception of her, by becoming outrageously skinny. There was no way properly to say good-bye to my captors. The direct descendant of twelve generations of rabbis, he felt the need to free himself of contracts that were made long before he was born. Their parachutes unfurled above them, the new lovers held hands all the way dawn. The funnel emptied, spewing forth radioactive debris. When she moved to another country, her aura was left behind. Challenge me, and you'll see whether I can, in fact, shoot three guns at once. He was rapidly making the discovery that her other lovers had made before himóthat she was not half as erotic as she looked. My stories will be no less true than the last fiction you've read, and no less false either. New sheriffs didn't last long in this town. Readers of mine old enough to recall the beginnings of my career will probably remember the mast embarrassing typographical error of all. Next year he might be more predisposed to accept the responsibility of marriage; he would be fifty-five. They had to decide whether this new novel should be published under his name or hers. After every night spent with him, she debated once again whether she should regard him as a lover to just her "boy friend." Whatever time he was allowed with the children who lived with his ex-wife became his opportunity to inculcate extravagance. She responded to his interest by kicking off her shoes, swinging her bare knees forward, and tucking her legs under her ass. The only politics true for an artist, the only politics true to both his profession and his art, is individualist anarchism. One person's perversion could be another person's pain and a third person's pleasure. Telling everyone he was first among equals, he invariably insulted his peers by putting his own name at the top of what was otherwise an alphabetical list. As a teenager she had established for herself a quota for love-making that was now filled; she was henceforth free to get married. Nobody had the courage to tell our guru that be was pissing into a swimming pool. He was incapable of telling the truth about his past relations with women. One prerequisite for her entering politics would be the creation of a false biography. Who blundered first--man in creating God, or God in creating man? Even before we walked in, the bartender took down the sign forbidding him to sell alcohol to miners. Unable to take the necessary leap, he remained a big fish in a small pond. He responded to the pleas of people most of us would generally ignore. My partner is so tall and broad-shouldered that, you see, criminals sometimes mistake her for a policeman. Only when we kids pretend to be asleep will our parents try to make love. She would never miss a chance to remind us that this husband, her third in as many decades, was for sure her best. Strapped securely into his pilot seat, he suddenly remembered that every part in his military jet, from the fuselage to the bolts, was supplied by the lowest bidder. If I could do better than my team of seventeen assistants, I would have written these stories all by myself. She was the sort of editor who judged the quality of manuscripts submitted to her solely by the quality of the initial sentence, which she invariably recited twice to herself before making her definitive judgment. His girl friend chastised him not only for making an evening date without her permission but then for failing to keep his promise to break it in deference to his relationship with her. He was thrilled by her offer to take him out to dinner and even more thrilled, utterly thrilled, when she spurned his offer to pay for it. It may well be that I myself will be the last to know how I spent my life. In this new hospital he insisted upon having all the professional prerogatives he had extravagantly exploited before. No less from women than men did she accept for long a lover who treated her shabbily.



RICHARD KOSTELANETZ has published many books of fiction, poetry, experimental literature, and criticism. He lives in New York.