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Ive wept tears of blood, he said.

Really?

She did not believe him.

Tears, anyway, he said. They felt like blood.

What about the alternate life? What about his alternate life? She did not seem to consider that.

His history.

He recalled how 15 years before a man belittled him and berated his project. Did she consider that? He was not sure she knew about that. The man who had bitched at him was dead now.

Or that other one. That guy whod betrayed him and tried to get his girlfriend at the time to drop him. She dropped him regardless; it was only a matter of time. That other one was dead too.

First that one, then this one.

One said this and the other said that.

They were not saying anything now. Indeed it appeared they could not.

Dead man A and dead man B.

Dead man A committed suicide.

Dead man B, he could not be sure. Maybe some self-infliction somewhere.

Only he knew what had happened with him and dead man A and dead man B. Only he remembered.

In a way it was a story. He could tell her the story if he wanted to. He had to ask himself if telling her the story would somehow advantage him. What good would telling the story do? And what if telling the story were to somehow disadvantage him.

It was quite a story what with God increasing the pressure on the narrative by killing off those around the protagonist.

That was maybe taking it too far.

You know, the arc and all.

Or was it a triangle?

He thought it was both—the two different models or something—the two examples.

Illustrations.

Dead man A and dead man B.

Both gave him trouble but he had not wished them dead.

Done him injury yet he was not delighted at their erasure.

After all, he was at least ambivalent about the erasure of his identity.

There was really no point in telling her the story.

Her name was Marie.

He might say, Marie, would you like to hear a story. He could end with and you know those guys who treated me so badly, they are both dead now.

It would be like he showed them.

He hadnt. He understood that. But in the story. The story would be like that and he might be well satisfied in giving her a story like that.

Marie might be satisfied too.

She was not cruel. That was not what he meant. He was just thinking that Marie might well be the type who finds a good story satisfying.

Dead man A was, in a sense, his teacher. Not in the formal sense. But dead man A taught him things.

That was why it hurt when dead man A turned on him. He was embarrassed. Dead man A told him his project was no good and he understood by extension he was no good.

He did not want to tell Marie all that.

That it still bothered him even though dead man A could not come back and repeat the charge.

If this story was working through to whatever end it was working toward, it was working beyond his understanding.

Dead man B had betrayed him, his friendship. Dead man B was his friend. That was why it hurt. Dead man B should have been embarrassed but he believed dead man B was not embarrassed.

Dead man B was proud. Proud of his betrayal of a friend because dead man B wanted to humiliate his friend.

He had been humiliated. He did not know why. Perhaps because he had trusted dead man B. Perhaps because dead man B had acted not as the dead man protested from desire for a woman, but out of pure malice.

Dead man B had hated him and he had not recognized it.

And so dead man B had been forced to demonstrate it to him.

Because he was a fool, dead man B had made a fool of him. In front of his girlfriend of the time.

It was raining.

Why the rain mattered.

At times it did not.

Why the rain sometimes mattered.

Who had said that?

Hed have to break the dead men apart if he were going to tell a story. As it was they seemed almost indistinguishable in death.

As though in death they had melded together.

And how would they like that.

Or what would Marie think?

For dead man A it had been a rebuke.

For dead man B it had been a gesture.

The gesture nothingness.

Raining.

He sometimes wondered what there was. Even now. After all this time.

The dead men had showed him.

Pathetic.

Pitiable.

Were pathetic and pitiable the same thing?

If a thing could not be distinguished from another thing, the two were the same thing.

Hed studied that.

Distinguished or differentiated?

So much forgotten.

So much to forget.

 

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GREG MULCAHY's collection, Out Of Work was published by Knopf in 1993, his novel, Constellation, by Avisson in 1996.