the eerieness of alex rose: “slip on your leather gloves… that make you look like a strangler…”

Short fiction from Alex Rose via the inspired (but faintly sinister) Hotel St. George Press Web site.  When Ursula K. Le Guin famously described Philip K. Dick as “entertaining us about reality and madness, time and death, sin and salvation… our own homegrown Borges,” she could just as well have been speaking about Alex Rose. 


“Something about the gesture calls to mind a chapter of last night’s dream.  You were lost in a hotel, frantically looking for your room.  When you finally located it, you were shocked to find it occupied by a another man with your name; a man who had surreptitiously slid in to your space, like "castling" in chess, and was in fact withdrawing from your account, drinking your wine and groping your wife. 

Only now, of course, does it occur to you that the plot of your dream was itself a pale imitation of Dostoyevsky’s novel, The Double, a gloomy book you’d recently uploaded to the archive.  This seems to confirm a discouraging truth: you are not even original in your dreams.”


THE PLAGIARIST

 I have often noticed that after I had bestowed the characters of my novels some treasured item of my past, it would pine away in the artificial world where I had so abruptly placed it…[becoming] more closely identified with my novel than with my former self, where it had seemed to be so safe from the intrusion of the artist.

—Nabokov


It’s a rare thing—your leaving theoffice after sundown—and slightly disorienting, not unlike waking from a deep sleep, or stepping into the daylight after a matinee.

You’re glad to be out of there, away from your computer, the oppressive fluorescents, the endless queue of books, each lobbying for your attention.  Recasting the world’s literature onto an electronic database is hardly the enlightening, Zen-like task people presume it to be.  It’s neither monotonous enough to be meditative, nor involved enough to be stimulating. 

Outside, a brisk evening gale burns the cheeks.  You slip on your leather gloves, the ones that make you look like a strangler, and head south towards the subway.

In the icy, ash-scented air, the city appears lapidary, all gauzy and glazed, like a comic book metropolis.  Frozen condensation weeps down the sides of buildings in swooping sags.  A frail woman with hair like corn silk pumps open her umbrella; you’d thought for a second she was uncorking a bottle.

Something about the gesture calls to mind a chapter of last night’s dream.  You were lost in a hotel, frantically looking for your room.  When you finally located it, you were shocked to find it occupied by a another man with your name; a man who had surreptitiously slid in to your space, like "castling" in chess, and was in fact withdrawing from your account, drinking your wine and groping your wife. 

Only now, of course, does it occur to you that the plot of your dream was itself a pale imitation of Dostoyevsky’s novel, The Double, a gloomy book you’d recently uploaded to the archive.  This seems to confirm a discouraging truth: you are not even original in your dreams.

A blade of light swishes over your face, a cab lumbering past. 

The foggy November sheen lends a brushed chrome luster to the darkening cobalt sky.  Streaks of water slide down hotel awnings to drip from their fringed tassels.

Down below, the air is thick with subterranean fumes: starchy, alkaline.  You clank through the turnstile and climb aboard the crowded subway seconds before it departs. Clods of slushy snow are flecked across the ridged tin floor.  A seat is vacated as a jowly businessman collects his belongings and galumphs toward the door, wheezing.  You slip into his place, fold your damp coat over your lap.

PHOSPHENE

I can make a bong out of anything, says Neil.

I believe him.

We go to Store 24 and buy everything he says we need.  A tall black thermos.  A sturdy bendy straw.  A little dish.  Some innocuous office supplies of this and that kind.  Tape.

Don’t forget the food, he says.  I get a large bag of Doritos and a bottle of A&W Cream Soda and some of those little mini-muffins that can be swallowed whole.

Give me a half-an-hour, he says.

We go home to construct the bong.  The physics are not immediately apparent to me; what water has to do with the inhalation of pot smoke.  But, as I say, I trust him.

Neil and I met last summer at a thing.  He wore plaid flannel and frameless circular glasses and gigantic corduroy pants.  His look was rumpled and grungy, every article meticulously selected from thrift shops. I admired him for his lanky grace and his outcast charm.  Girls made out with him at parties.  He had an Asian fetish, if a preference for olive skin and black hair can be called a fetish.  He listened to Primus and tried, futilely, as many did, to play the bass like Les Claypool.

It is done, he says.

We throw the clunky black obelisk into my knapsack.  He takes the food and the small, tightly packed plastic dime-bag in his.  Bong water and dime bag are the vocab words for the week.

It is nighttime already.  We head down to the end of the block.  It rained last night and forsythia is in the air.  Along the small side street is a cement staircase leading to the basement of the Evangelical church, where they supposedly hold art classes.  The bottom of the staircase is a cube of blackness.  This was the designated location.  A bluish lamp from the churchtop throws a slash of dim light in the dark chamber, measuring a storey underground.

We descend.

The space—a peripheral glance on my walks home from school—is now charged with the illicit badboy shiver of clandestinity.  I am nervous, as if I’d taken a date here.  Neil carefully sets up the thermos, eyes wide in the dark.  Pot, he says to me, like scalpel. I hand him the tiny bag and he unwraps it.  It smells like mulch or a spice cabinet.  Something they’d make incense out of.

 

Read an interview with Alex Rose here.

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