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**PRINT: Our 30th broadsheet, GIVES BIRTH TO MONSTERS, by Chicago-based Spencer Dew, is a tale of one man's small heartbreak, the backdrop to a contemporary landscape of well-meaning but ultimately shallow political activism, fractured communicative lines, and more ultimately enduring drives toward total inebriation. In classic Dew fashion, he'll have you laughing all the way to brink of the void. Dew is the author of the short-story collection Songs of Insurgency (2008). This issue also features excerpts from our David Foster Wallace collaborative mini-tribute by THE2NDHAND editor Todd Dills and Bellingham, Wash.-based Doug Milam, author of our 27th broadsheet

THE FAT GOTHS S. Craig Renfroe Jr.
WING & FLY: DFW, Feb. 21, 1962-Sept. 12, 2008 | Todd Dills

Greggory Moore

Greggory Moore is a lifelong southern California resident, freelance journalist and fiction writer and poet.

"Mucho gusto," she called out as I drifted across the road after our second handshake and first kiss.

"Mucho gusto," I said, and laughed, and wondered about the journey just begun.

Columbia College Fiction Writing Department

We walked the sidewalk in comfortable silence. We reached her car and halted. I was enraptured by the tip of her nose and by the head of bouncy hair that hid most of the rest of her face (but not her glow) as she fished her purse for keys. Too quickly she began moving to the driver's side of the car. In impossibly broken Spanish, I delivered a line concocted as we had stepped down the concrete: she did not understand. I asked again: she was no less puzzled. I asked her in English and had no better luck. A fourth sally finally breached that linguistic frontier. "Can I think about it?" came the hesitant reply. Mi numero was offered con entusiasmo. She seemed unsure of how to enter it into her phone. "Yes," she decided upon apparently sufficient reflection, "I can go to the movies with you." I had provided my information in Spanish and checked the results so as to avoid the fatal gaffe of sending her home without a way to contact me. "Do you want my number?" she said with a hopeful smile.

The cover charge was five dollars. I shunned cover charges on principle. "I'll pay, I'll pay," she was saying and extended a second five to the doorman. But there had been no hesitation on my part, and he stood looking at identical banknotes drooping in his direction. He plucked mine from my fingers. "Call me old-fashioned," he said. And I: "You just ruined my chance to say, 'I'll get it next time.'"

She wanted only a soda, said she couldn't have even a beer when she drove. "I'm always cold," she clipped with her heavy accent, "no meat on my bones." We abandoned the bar for a table in back and talked as she flagged. "Estoy cansado," she drawled eventually, just loud enough to hear, beautifully gaunt, face upturned to counter a slumping fatigue, "I really need to go home."

I opened the door and wheeled to my left. She was still feet away, but I had committed. "Excuse me," I asked, bowing without intending to, "are you all right?" She wiped a tear with a palm as she regarded me for the first time ever with knowledge of the sound of my voice. The exact words of her answer did not register, but she said that she was, thanked me for checking. I had retreated a step without meaning to go and inquired about whether she would like some company. Again the words were unclear, but she was saying in English that her English was bad. I caught myself babbling something about the article I was writing, how I knew nothing about cars and would rather talk with her. The concept of a car article seemed strange to her; it seemed strange to me. "What is it you write?"

She didn't mind if I sat down, and we talked about her family, her nine siblings and the eldest brother staying the week with her and three sisters in their two-bedroom apartment. She was upset that they did not think alike, that he had some idea of something that she did not share, the combined lack of details and broken English communicating only the sense that he was disapproving in some way, and that she did not want to go home right now. But the coffeehouse was closing, I mentioned, and so would she like to go somewhere else for a drink?

A frisson made an instantaneous journey through my thorax as she cut through the periphery of my vision. My gaze remained on my computer screen, though nothing I saw was transformed into sense; my inner world was monadic: she. I turned to follow her movements: instead of going to the counter to place an order, she sat herself where I had last seen her. My view was partially obstructed, and so every half-minute I leaned forward to track her progress through this life. She was on the telephone for about five minutes, then sat staring absently in front of her. Shortly I realized that she was upset, then that she was crying openly. Concern for a fellow human in distress now mingled with my desire. Although I was not in need of more sweetener for my coffee, I ambled hesitantly over to the condiment counter. She sat no more than a meter from me as I snatched a packet of Equal from a bin. I froze, looked down: she did not acknowledge my presence. What could not have been five seconds seemed like fifteen, and I wrenched myself into a half-rotation, made an agonizing return trip across the room, passing on the opportunity for fear of being pushy.

I resumed my ritual of leaning forward now and again, and a few minutes later she stood up quickly and marched through the door. But she was not leaving: she plopped her tiny frame heavily upon a bench just beyond the large front window. There she sat, alone, for a minute, two, three. Repeatedly I turned in my seat to make certain she was still there, eventually settling on a position facing sideways. An inarticulate ache just below my sternum cried out: You will never get a better chance than this. I tried once, twice, then finally, with a breath, stood up.

A friend had given me a last-minute freelance job: two days to compose a profile of a souped-up Escalade owned by a San Diego Charger. For me there was nothing more ridiculous, but it was well-paying, and God knows I needed the work. My favorite coffeehouse was as good a place as any to write, but the real reason I made my way there was the hope of encountering her. There were plenty of seats when I arrived, but first I reconnoitered for her: no luck. I took a table in the front room, opened up my laptop, started to work. A half-hour in and I was beginning to make progress.

She was a regular; I had seen her many times. Immediately I'd been struck by her beauty, but there was no real reason to approach her. Once, she had passed by the chance to sit with me when there were literally no seats available except for the three at the large table I had to myself, instead asking a girl on a loveseat if they might uncomfortably share.

But then came that Monday. I walked in and went to the counter, forgetting for some reason to claim a seat first. I spun and almost ran into her coming the other way. She smiled politely at me and I at her, and then something happened. It was recognition. Our eyes met and locked, and her smile became one of another sort, having significance and familiarity. "Hi," she said as we passed, and I felt changed, felt that bodily I had been transformed. She was sitting with a friend next to the sweetener bins and decanters of creamer, and I sat myself down upon a sofa proximate to them. She and I exchanged looks, and when she left I experienced with her that same progression of smiles: the polite one, then its transformation into something else. She exited and disappeared from view, and I noticed that I was not breathing. Finally came a sigh. "Wow," I whispered, having no understanding of what I felt or whether it bore any kinship to a reality in the outside world. I breathed, I breathed again, needing to concentrate in order to respire.

I resolved then and there to speak to her the next time we met, and so launched myself into a future whose only known and inevitable quantity was hope.