Sixty or so stories that show how surprisingly human we all are, and dwell occasionally upon our remarkable ability to deny the fleeting nature of our existence... with the idle musings of whatever I've become thrown in, mainly because I wanted the thing to have a certain heft.
REVIEW: The stories in these books can be very compelling and compare well with This American Life/Garrison Keillor; in the larger texture of the books they have some of the flavor and impact of the non-narrative, anecdotal works of Richard Brautigan, as well as a Donald Barthelme.
Mr. John Reese, who never overheard a phrase, witnessed an event, no matter how
insignificant, caught a whiff of a scent, or saw another human being in motion without it
reminding him of a story, told me this tale a few years ago.
He and his dear wife were walking down Powell Street in San Francisco one fine day when a
sudden wind kicked up. Mr. Reese quickly grabbed for his hat to keep it from blowing away.
His wife reached up to save her hat too, but she was too late. They spun around in the hope
of (maybe) chasing it down, but the wind had already carried the hat completely out of sight.
Since there was nothing they could do about it, they just went about their business.
Returning to the hotel later that evening, as Mr. Reese told it... We discovered that wind was
not only quick, it was clever. It blew her hat all the way UP Powell Street, AROUND the
corner, THROUGH the front door of Cornell Hotel de France, all the way DOWN the hallway
to room 107, through THAT door, and deposited it neatly in the center of the bed, next to a
matching pair of gloves.
That tale inspired me to launch an online weekly called American Raconteur in 2003 (I think).
I published it for about two years, maybe a little more. Most of what you read here has been
exhumed from that now defunct site.
THE GOOD MISTER
When I was living on Clement Street, a thousand years ago, the nearly ancient old Russian lady
who lived across the hall somehow repeatedly got herself locked outside on our shared, fourth-
floor, fire escape. At the time the Shah of Iran’s ski instructor was also living in that apartment
along with an old old old Russian woman—a very good friend of mine, who was a journalist
though she could hardly see—as well as a middle aged Russian woman and her teenaged son. I
was convinced it was the Shah of Iran’s ski instructor who was somehow getting Marie out on that
fire escape and then locking her out, though I could not figure out why he would do such a thing.
Still, I knew it was him.
One time he showed me a binder full of photographs with him on skis beside the Shah of Iran and
his wife, all leering like puppet royalty into the camera. There were kids involved too. Their
arrogance was such that they still looked down upon anyone who had the audacity to glance at
them, no matter the distance or how many year had passed. I pretended I wasn’t impressed,
because I knew he wanted me to be, and, honestly, I really just, you know instinctually, didn’t like
the guy. Smarmy is an interesting word.
So, we—me and whatever woman I happened to be living with at the time—would be doing
whatever normal healthy people might be doing in a bedroom at whatever hour normal healthy
people might be doing such a thing and there would be a little tap tap tap upon the window,
behind the closed curtains. And I knew when I got up and walked over there and took a look,
Marie would be out there with contrition written all over her lovely old face. Through the window I
could read her lips as she pleaded, “Mister. Mister.” She clenched her hands in prayer and
bowed her head and pleaded, “Mister. Mister.”
So then I opened that window and assisted her inside with great care on my part, and some
difficulty on hers. When she was safely inside she always bowed and said, “Thank you too much,
Mister. Thank you too much.” Then I would lead her through our place and out into the hallway,
and I watched after her as she entered her apartment again.
You know, some times she’d end up out on the fire escape again just a few minutes later. It was
like a comedy routine.
So, whenever we met in the hallway she would take my hand in hers and pat me on the hand
saying, “Good Mister. Good Mister.” She always said it with tears gathering in her ancient eyes.
Tears in her eyes.
“For god’s sake,” I thought, “what the hell kind of mister would I be to abandon you to your fate
out there on our fire escape?”
Excerpted from "American Raconteur" by Henry Edward Fool. Copyright © 0 by Henry Edward Fool. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher. Excerpts are provided solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Henry Edward Fool
Thirty-some years ago I wrote seven full-length plays and, even after all these years, I strongly believe that any one of those plays, properly folded, might still make an excellent doorstop.
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