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**PRINT: No. 34.2: Part dictionary of the outrageous, part chronicle of the manic twists and turns of American life, Atlanta writer Jamie Iredell's BOOK OF FREAKS (due fall 2010 from Future Tense) is A+ material, the best of its bits spawning raucous laughter and righteous anger read after read after. Check out several of the "freaks" in this issue, part of our mini-broadsheets series, along with Nashville-based Gabe Durham's similarly structured selections from "Fun Camp," a work in progress, on the back side. Durham is Keyhole Magazine's new editor.

**PRINT: COLD WAS THE GROUND, by Chicago's Scott Stealey, is No. 34 in our broadsheet series. Gina, protagonist, a rather lonely condo dweller/office manager, strikes up a fleeting friendship with one Porgo, an Eastern European construction worker who is burying on her property what Gina takes for a time capsule. But the metaphorical fix is in -- Porgo, an ESL student, may be leading Gina in directions she canít exactly get her head all the way around. Enjoy. Chicago writer Stealey is editor of the Please Donít online mag.

WERT'S DEATH Michael Peck
FORBIDDEN FRUIT Steven Schutzman
MY ALIBI Kevin O'Cuinn

Jill Summers

The second installment in THE2NDHAND's feature of work from the mid-2010 installment of Chicago's Ray's Reading Series, held at Ray's Tap on the city's northwest side. Chicago writer Summers is a repeat contributor to THE2NDHAND. Visit her website here.

PART 1 | PART 3 | PART 4 | PART 5 | PART 6 | PART 7 | PART 8

The bear is a solitary animal. When he climbs the white bark pine to break off cone-filled branches, when he dredges through the talus to find cutworm moths, cool and hiding under rocks, he doesn't share the bountiful torch or send wings on fire into other mouths. They are his own same footprints he fills again and again with the massive weight of his paws. And when he digs into the hollow of a tree, the high-flung sun at his back, it is to sink into this cave alone, to fill up the crevice with his body, and to dream of rotting logs, of berries, of roots and high grasses, but not the nuzzle of adjacent fur.

Beautiful, isn't it?

I wrote that.


A lot of the other readers have been sitting around bragging about how they wrote their text on the way over on the bus or at the bar waiting for Ray to pour their shots. But I'll be the first to admit, I've been researching my presentation since grad school -- where I finished my master's in wildlife and fisheries conservation.

My thesis concerned the lesser known research of Lee H. Whittlesey, historical archivist, lay biologist, and author of countless scholarly articles and books, among them Death in Yellowstone: Accidents and Foolhardiness in the First National Park. And while this text we are dissecting tonight is widely touted, by critics and the public alike, to be the "sexiest" of Whittlesey's texts, I would argue his unpublished dissertation research on the hidden social lives of the bears of Yellowstone is even more titillating, so much so perhaps as to make Death in Yellowstone appear a flaccid, floppy, yielding, semisoft text lacking any real hard-cock-like qualities at all.

Tonight, I'd like to share with you some excerpts from Whittlesey's lost journals, discovered just weeks after his mysterious disappearance in Spring 2005, and in doing so, pay tribute not only to the magnificent, lonely creatures he studied, but to Whittlesey himself, solitary too, his advances famously shunned by women, men and children alike, his rugged misogyny and steadfast racism the great stuff of legends, his forlorn corpse somewhere out there in pieces, rotting in Yellowstone aside the scat of the Grizzly he so loved.

March 25, 2005
Spring has come to Yellowstone. Though the lake is yet frozen, even the highest peaks seem obsessed with the thaw, and there are babies everywhere, steadying themselves, reconciling the newness of legs, following their whores of mothers about as if it would do them any good.

The Grizzlies have roused, too, and I see signs of them everywhere I look -

(Sidebar to reader: To be accurate, there are two types of bears here at Yellowstone, the great grizzlies and the less impressive black bears. The Grizzlies are naturally larger and more formidable and, according to Native American mythology, have been enemies of the black bears since Grizzly Bear Woman killed Black Bear Woman for being lazy. It was said by the Natives that Black Bear Man killed Grizzly Bear Man in retaliation, and when subsequent attempts to tap that Grizzly Bear Woman ass were unsuccessful there was a whole big "thing," and in any case, the Blacks will be referred to only peripherally, dismissively, and in passing in this research.)

I woke early today to concentrate my observations on the phenomenon that has become my obsession: the decipherment of the grizzly code, hidden in the bark of the Aspen Trees. Anyone could see these scars on the white bark that wraps the trees like mummies with too many eyes. The blemishes of teeth and claws, some as high as seven feet up the trunk, are clearly visible from the trails. But I alone can smell that they've been here, and not just rubbing their shoulders and backs and bearing their teeth and claws on the trunks, but dragging their swollen, moist genitals over the surrounding vegetation, a post-Bel-Air "Smell You Later," as it were.

Why does this fascinate me? one may ask oneself, I asked of and then remarked to myself. Because the bears do not want to see each other. They have absolutely zero desire to be near one another. They use these methods only to relieve the innate tension resulting from this lack of desire -- the friction between their biological need to communicate and the fact that they'd just really rather be alone and never see another bear ever again. These bears are like me - (but with people, not bears because I like seeing Bears) and we yeild our teeth and puffed up privates to all of Yellowstone as if to say, I am here - now leave me the fuck alone, I wanted you to anyway.

April 1, 2005
The Aspens have always contained the most elementary of messages : "I was here," "Trout this way," "Hilarious Moose Remains to the Right."

(Sidebar to reader: You may be wondering at the mechanics of my translations. Rest assured that my methods are both biologically sound-tastic and exceedingly scientif-rific. The men among you might understand my methods were I to slowly explain their complex mechanisms. But probably not. So just suspend your disbelief and go with it. Don't be a dick.)

As I was saying, the Aspens have always contained the most elementary of messages, but this season I noticed a more complex set of markings about the bottom of the trunks. Based on their height, depth, and attitude, I deduced these were made by adolescent bears following each other in closer than normal proximity. And what they had to say was notable both in the content of their banter and the frequency with which they bandied it about, one bear asserting, another retorting, laughter apparent in the angle of the breaks in the bark. I had discovered, evolving among the new generation, a virtual community.

So monumental was my discovery that the event and resulting phenomena were christened in honor of the inaugural post -- yes, and lo that day the "Female 234 has a Big Wet Vulva" etchings were ushered into the scholarly cannon. I expected from this some measure of respect, some semblance of thanks from the community, a return call, a smile, a wave, an acknowledgment. Once again my expectations have been gravely disappointed by all but the bears.

April 7, 2005
On July 29, 1984, ranger Gary Youngblood was on duty at Canyon Ranger Station when a Swedish hiker, Brigatta Claudia, came into the office. She was beautiful, with raven hair and skin like the snowcaps, petite and rosy tempered, 5'5" and 120 pounds, probably menstruating. He issued her a backcounty permit for site 5-B, warning her against hiking alone and of the bear danger -- she should guard against hiking north of Fern Lake to meet the rest of her party. On July 31, her brother reported that Brigatta had never met them at Pelican trailhead as planned, and a search on horseback commenced. When they finally came upon her camp, the sound of bear bells on tattered leather cuffs cutting through the breeze, the mouth of her white pup tent was gaping and shred. Near the ravaged opening of her shelter, there was a piece of scalp with dark hair; near the sleeping bag, a bit of Brigatta's rouged lip. Only 258 feet away, at the end of a gory trail of bloody clothing, lay the rest of her body, half eaten and half there, beads of sweat visible on her still shapely legs, rigid and shoeless, peeking out from the brush.

That is such a great story.

April 15, 2005
Female 234 -- the one with the big wet vulva -- has apparently gotten wind of the posts on the Aspens in Lamar Valley, resulting in a rash of backlash markings scored on the trunks of two adjacent trees. Because of her sex, the markings are less coherent and can only be translated as far as their emotional content, which I am entering into the official log as "hysterical."

Meanwhile, it appears the original purveyors of the "Vulvetta Stone," as my colleagues have become fond of calling it, with all due respect I am left only to assume, have experienced a number of rifts in their original core group, perhaps as a result of the increase in information exchange and the development of individual rapport supported by the new system of communication.

On an only tangentially related note, there is a lone hiker camping in Dunraven Pass just past the turn off to Mount Washburn and she is most definitely menstruating. On an only tangentially related note to this tangent, climbing a tree only works if one has time to get up it.

May 15, 2005
There has been a complete and total breakdown in the sleuth.

Male Number 334 has been completely ostracized -- the trunk on which he used to concentrate his markings has become grown over with bark - barely visible are his final few posts, regarding how productive his morning had been both in intellectual output and in as far as physical displays and sexual conquests were concerned. This information was not well received by the community. Male Number 336 has caused stress by posting an overindulgent photo album with an insincerely modest caption; Male Number 338 for replying "not attending" too quickly and too universally to gathering invitations; and Male Number 331 for scratching exclusively for self-promotion and ego purposes. One female tried to enter the fray with a posting regarding the extent to which her evening trout had bloated her and was immediately ousted for being an idiot. A single posting from a Black Bear was incomprehensible and appears to have been ignored as possible spam.

The drama, while fascinating, seems to have inspired no little amount of revisionism from the older Grizzlies, who have tentatively entered the arena, mainly to lament the passing of the good old days and express their nostalgia for the sparse and treasured lore of their ancestors which they fear is being erased with every hasty, entirely useless post.

Their markings pander: "The quaint foolishness of the Victorians, women filled with ennui and menstrual blood, holding bits of candy up for us, standing so close as to allow our descent from hind legs to tear down their breasts -- who will remember them?"

But the new guard has no such romantic notions of the past - and neither do I. We shall tread new ground, we shall find new breasts to destroy. Like the two at Dunraven Pass, heaving now in sleep in an unsecured pup tent, just feet from where I make my notes. (Sidebar to readers: These animals are not real.)

Whittlesey's collected notes end here.

There is no record of him since and while there have been no formal lines drawn between his disappearance and the death of an unidentified female camper at Dunraven pass, remarkable for the uncertain origin of her wounds, unclear if inflicted by man or beast, questions have indeed been raised.

Despite the admirable research of my thesis, we may never know who pulled her through the hole in her pup tent, ripping into her skin, white as aspen bark; perhaps these journals hold no clues. Or perhaps, as I once theorized, the truth is in Whittlesey's pen, like the untranslatable bark of the aspen, and in the forsaken depressions of his footsteps, filled one too many times by his own feet.

PART 1 | PART 3 | PART 4 | PART 5 | PART 6 | PART 7 | PART 8


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