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**PRINT: SMALL COUNTRY, by Lauren Pretnar, is No. 28 in our broadsheet series. Pretnar, a frequent contributor in recent months, has crafted a grand wedding tale, a deft rendition of the raw emotion of life forever tugged by the past, present and future. This issue comes with an excerpt from Spencer Dew's wonderful new book, Songs of Insurgency.

MANDY C.L. Bledsoe
WING & FLY: COMMITMENTLESS AGE: a review of Victor Serge's "Unforgiving Years" | Todd Dills

Michael Duffy

In Part 2 of this series Bob's former wife stood up to give her side of the story. Now, a man who knew Bob only care of a chance encounter delivers Meritxell's parting words to the world -- and the dummies.

Let the record show that every word that I speak, including the ones coming out of my mouth right now were written for me by an eccentric recluse named P.F. Hart.

DecomP Magazine

Hart somehow crossed paths with the deceased long enough to make a big enough impression for Bob to ask Hart to say some words tonight.

Hart, being a recluse, declined, but he agreed to send me to read a statement, which he prepared for the event. I will read that now.

To Whom It May Concern:

Silky Bob is dead and here are my words, and some of Bob's from beyond the grave. Oooooooooh.

To set the scene.

At roughly three o clock in the morning on April 5 of 2003, eight years after both of my parents drowned in a boating accident and two years and seven odd months after my trollop sister abandoned me to pursue a squalid life of sandwich shop pee-pee sucking, I went out to my swale as I was prone sometimes to do in the wee hours to mull over life's quirks and complexities. For those of you unaware of what a swale is, it is a filthy ditch.

Once, while I was in there I saw and later killed a small snake. I brought the carcass into the house and looked it up in a snake book that my mother got me before she and my father died, leaving me alone to raise a fifteen year old sister, who would eventually (in her 20s) leave me so she could have intercourse with strangers for money in the restrooms, parking lots and landscaping of casual eateries. The book said that the snake I killed was harmless, and I felt bad about what I had done.

On this particular morning I remember it was brisk at 3 a.m. According to two of my journals, the low temperature that night was 31 -- my third journal stated a low of 42 and the blue journal made no mention of the temperature, which is odd, because typically entries into the blue journal tend to include more true information and diagnostics, which allow me to put myself back in situations as they occurred. My point is that it was not snake weather in my in my swale that night, maybe if it had been, I never would have met Bob.

The area around the swale was dark. It was almost silent except for the occasional semi truck on the freeway a mile down the road, but even that was faint and once you heard enough of it, you stopped hearing it, like the ticking of a clock.

Now at this time I was drowsy, usually I like to take some cocaine with me to the swale, but this was not a night for thinking. I was too lonely to think -- also, I was running low on cocaine.

I relaxed into the bank and let the damp chill soak through my sweater and my shirt and into my back and I looked up at the clouds and listened to my breathing. I could feel something peering out at me from the empty drainage tunnel that ran under the road that stood above my swale. I often felt like things were looking at me in my swale, I assumed or rather I hoped that it was just fear of the dark and my constant dread that I will die alone and my body will not be discovered for years on end because nobody loves me since my parents died and my sister became a slut bag.

Every so often, a sound like something scurrying in the tunnel, a faint movement, a sigh, and then, the rustle of a bag, the crunch of tooth on cornmeal snack followed by the faint scent of powdered cheese and the suction of closed lips on a finger. I made my body unnaturally stiff like a board, so maybe whatever was in the tunnel wouldn't see me or maybe it would think I was a swale corpse or a cadaver that fell off of a truck and leave me alone. Instead, it spoke.

"You're not going to start jacking off, are you?"

"Who are you?"

"I'm Bob."

"How did you get here?"

"I drunk drove from the city."


"Because the bus is for cunts."

I could barely make out his profile, and I was terrified, but also I found his casual use of the c-word to describe people exhilarating. Up to now I had only heard the word used to describe very active and raw sex parts in The Tropic of Cancer, a book by Henry Miller that made my sister go bad. I closed my eyes and hoped he would leave, I heard some rustling and shuffling and when I opened my eyes again, he was out of the tunnel and sitting on the muddy bank five feet from me.

"Are you OK?"

"Me?" I asked.

"Yes, you seem tense."

"You scare me."


"Because everything scares me."

"Do you want a Cheeto?"

"Yes, I do, but I'm not going to have one if that's all right."

"It is."

"What are you doing in my swale?"

"I was driving around, drinking a lot and I got lost."

"Why were you drinking and driving?"

"Ray's is closed because Ray is not feeling well, my apartment doesn't have a radio and the bus is for cunts."

There it was again, apparently people could be c-words, I liked this idea. Bob and I talked for a while. We had things in common: our parents were dead, his ex-wife was a whore and so was my ex-sister, we would both take these women back if they were willing to come back to us, and we were both terrified that when we die, people will notice because of the smell and not because they miss us.

All through our time together I found Bob to be frightening and exciting. He seemed to have an incredible amount of rage about seemingly random and meaningless things and he said that sometimes he wanted to drop everything and run away to somewhere that people would never find him, I noted that this was in direct opposition to his fear that nobody will notice when he dies, but he ignored me and said he'd like to find that place and go there and then die. That would show them, he said, but he never clarified who "them" was.

Eventually, we went and got his car -- it was in the ditch just on the other side of the road. I helped push it out and we went back to my house and sat in my kitchen and talked about what if he really ran away and what it would look like and he kept saying that he would tell all the "dummies."

"Tell them what?" I kept asking.

"Just tell them," he said, then started to pass out.

I think that maybe all of you people are Bob's "dummies."

The next morning, I was hoping he would go away, but he didn't. Don't you have to work? No, I called in and told them I couldn't come in because I got trichinosis from French kissing a woman who had been eating tainted ham. I said that it was possible that her tongue was coated with the sickness and it passed to me that way, but it was more likely that some pieces of ham had been pushed from her mouth into mine by her sprightly tongue. I told them that this was possible because we stopped kissing several times so she could take bites of a ham sandwich that she said she had found in a bathroom on the Metra. I told them that there was a good chance that I might catch pleurisy from this.

What's pleurisy?

I don't know, but it sounds really bad, doesn't it?

Yes, it really does.

If it's OK with you, I'd like to stay here until lunch. It's nice here, I feel very relaxed. Is that OK if I stay until lunch?

Sure Bill, I guess that's OK.

My name is Bob.

It's still OK.

We sat and listened to Wally Philips while we had coffee and the rest of Bob's giant bag of Cheetos.

It wasn't until mid-morning that I really looked at Bob and realized that he seemed to have an unnaturally silky quality.

People frighten me. I live alone; I have rare contact with people who I don't know, and at that time in my life I had only had contact with about ten different people that I could even remember. I am not forward and I don't understand what will make people mad, but I'm scared that everything will, and I'm sacred of the violence that seems to live inside of people, especially people who crash their cars into ditches while they're drunk and then hide in storm drains and look at me while they eat Cheetos. But Bob looked so silky that I couldn't resist. I asked Bob if I could touch him; he didn't even ask if I was gay. He just presented an arm and let me stroke it for a minute and a half, maybe two minutes, and then when he'd had enough, he took it away. That was as far as it went.

Apparently, other people had asked to touch him before. Maybe it helped him succeed in the linen business. I wanted to rub my cheek on his arm, maybe nuzzle it a little with my nose, but I could tell that that would be going too far.

A little while later I sniffed the fingers I used when he wasn't looking, but they just smelled like fingers.

After I touched him, we talked for a while about what we each felt was wrong with our lives and what we could do to make the things that were wrong better. I won't go into what's wrong with me. I am still alive and I am still working on my list and I have Halloran and Lena now and my life has improved. Now me and Halloran have Duffey and Wallace to be our face to the world, I guess I'm about as happy as I'm ever going to be. Hopefully Bob started to feel a little happier after our talk that morning.

We devised a system. We each identified the five things that we hated the most about ourselves and/or our lives. We were going to put the lists in notebooks, and we were each going to get those blue and white four color pens. I already had one from when my sister Doris was getting her masters in library sciences from a small but well-respected local university. She liked to color-code her notes. That's probably where I got the idea to color code our plans for self-improvement.

We would write one of the five things we hated about ourselves every 20 pages or so and then use the blank spaces in between these things to journal about our progress and whatnot. The color of the ink would indicate how we felt we were doing with fixing what made us upset. It would start with red -- that would be the worst, like nothing could ever fix something this bad. Then as things got a little better, we would start to write in black, then blue and then when things were good, we would switch to green.

Bob left me a copy of his list along with an envelope that he said I had to promise to read at his funeral. I said I wouldn't do that because I'm afraid of strangers, but I would try to do something if he died before me, I would try to get it read anyway.

He said it was the least I could do.

Bob's list:

Five things I hate about myself, by Bob:
1. I hate that I hate the CTA, actually, I hate that I hate a lot of things but I will start with the CTA.

2. I hate that every time I make a good change in my life, I get back into the rut of drinking at Ray' every night.

3. I hate that she left me and it was because of me.

4. I hate that I didn't know that I hated myself and my life was a trap and that I was a genuinely bad person who brought joy to no one save the one woman who for a brief period saw the good in everything and I hate that that got so bad. Don't ever get married.

5. I miss my wife's little boobies, I miss the rest of her too, but I miss her little boobies and her little jagged chiclet teeth the most. This is not something that I hate about myself. It is just something that I hate.

Now I'll read Bob's letter.

Dear dummies,
I assume that if you're listening to this letter, I never quite managed to turn it around and if you're here listening then I just want to say that I'm sorry.

If I ever got ugly with you or scared you, I was probably having one of those moments of conflict between what life was and what I wanted it to be. Sometimes when I got off on those tears, people looked really scared and I hated them even more for being scared of me because they had something to protect ... something to lose, but ultimately I felt sad for them, ultimately, I still do feel sad for them. I also feel sad for me.