g r e g    m u l c a h y



He'd done it all wrong.

All of it. That was obvious. Obvious now. In retrospect.

He thought he should write it all out. Put it in a letter. His tenth attempt he could open by writing this is my tenth attempt at this missive.


As a prayer book was called a missal.

Must he know that? That as wrong as the rest of it.

I recognize, he might write, I exist in dark sorrow to what end until the end. Dark sorrow? Was that right? Could sorrow be actually described as dark? Yes it was a metaphor or maybe a cliché but that did not prima facie enable its inclusion in what might be the most important letter he would ever write.

There were considerations.

This was not some patched-together thing, patched and badly patched at that as though an accusation of its own poor repair.

Maybe not repair. Maybe creation. Or making.

Making one no longer heard much of.

I write this letter, he might say, in the full and true knowledge, but that perhaps asserted too big a claim. He needed to state, to outline, the facts, not make overblown claims or claims which might be rejected as overblown.

He needed to be taken seriously.

Though that, he knew, like everything else was wrong, part of the wrongness of the whole thing, his entire enterprise.

The letter too.

Why would it not be wrong?

He was a member of a mate and die species. Not one of the direct ones, one of the, say, 24 hour lifespan ones, but even so, hadn’t the biologist said humans were designed to reproduce at maturity and survive to maybe 30 to insure the maturity of their offspring?

Probably since he had lasted longer than that he'd last a good deal longer and end probably in a hospital. The hospital so complex it seemed almost an organism in its own right. Though it was not. It was a series of systems integrated with material reality to create a larger system.

Was he to reflect on it?

Or recount?

Tales of the Hospital Cafeteria, for example?

Perhaps that his letter, his—contribution.

Or consider the waiting room where he might watch TV because there was nothing else to watch. Watch in desperate hope of alternative, of possibility.

Send that out.

Hadn't thought of the recipient. If there were to be a letter, would this letter be an open letter? That made a kind of sense. For this kind of letter. Which though he had often begun it, or thought of a beginning for it, he had not written yet. Though it seemed as though he had. Hadn't he, it seemed, written this already—written it twice or thrice? An open letter to the people of—to the citizens of—to his fellow—something along those lines would be, perhaps, appropriate. But an open letter, that format, implied a structure or platform upon which to publish the letter.

He did not have that.

He did not know anyone who had anything like that.

If he were to address the letter to someone who had something like that, would he not most certainly have to include a request—a plea—for access to the platform, for publication? And would that be construed as him asking someone else, someone who likely had little or no interest in his letter, to do his work for him.

Though that was the way successful people did things; they got others to do their work for them. He had heard a successful person say that and go on to say only a fool would do otherwise.

So if he did otherwise, he was a fool.

Would a fool write a letter?

A letter to convey an important message to those who might be interested or capable of recognizing its importance?

Recently I have become aware—he might open that way. Or I can no longer accept this situation without comment.

Of course the recipient changed everything and he had failed to adequately consider that. Mate in life and die in hospital indeed? What possible response that might invite.

He had drifted from situation.

To another, broader, situation.

Bit there was a risk of losing focus.

Take the kind of artifact that really did something like a picture of Christ on a paper plate. That was something that knew what it was about and demanded of the viewer the focus it deserved.

Visual, though.

Easy enough to be arresting with the visual. Easy perhaps the wrong word. Still he could hardly draw a picture of a hospital cafeteria on a paper plate and call it a letter. Who on earth would know what that meant.

What was that supposed to mean?

Nobody was going to do it for him. He knew that. He knew he would no more find his concerns in the work of others than he might find music in the emergency room. And if he did what sort of music would anyone suppose that would be? Some whistled tune from another hanger-on?

A different hanger-on?

None of that would be in the letter. A letter could not be, or, at least, should not be, a list of things that were not. For one, where would a list like that end? No one could say. And what good would a list like that do? It was not as if people would begin filling the absences of the things that were not with things that were.

Things that were were already.

The world full of things that were which was obvious to anyone paying attention.

He would not dwell in possibility.

No matter how he was attacked.

Which—in a sense—these apparently ceaseless attacks—were the genesis of his letter. Which he had not, technically, begun.



GREG MULCAHY is the author of Out of Work, Constellation, and Carbine. His novel, O'Hearn, won the 2014 Fiction Collective 2 Catherine Doctorow Innovative Fiction Prize and will be published by the University of Alabama Press in Spring, 2015.

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