Literary stories


They were the kind of people that read.

Read seriously.

What kind of people did not read—what type—seriously?

But Lucy—Lucy, enough—had had enough.

Every story, Lucy said, is robot love.

Man falls in love with the lady robot. Lady falls in love with the man robot. But if it is a lady, the lady is always a lady scientist. The man, it seems, suffers no similar occupational requirement.

And the story—that story, so old, so ancient.

Sure, he said, The Golem.

Not The Golem, you idiot.

Well, The Idiot—

Not The Idiot, Idiot. The old one. Greek. Sculptor and creation.

Creation, he said, oh.

Yes. She was right about The Idiot and The Golem and robot love, but what about The End of The World.

Why were they not speaking of that?


He tried to explain the double and the sense of the double and the importance, psychologically, conceptually, aesthetically, of the double.

You were not a double, she said, and you did not have a double.

You are, she said, a type.


Got a haircut.

Perfect head, he was told, for a Flat Top.

Felt pretty good.

But he noticed no frame.

No certificate.

No license.

Was there—even—a state board?

And why all these stories of haircut—haircut peace, revenge haircut, haircut murder?

Some place and purpose—activity—of male intimacy—asexual—rare traditionally—some refuge or respite?

Not that he wanted that.

Meanwhile, his relative, The Commentator commented, Look at you, wearing a Canadian Tuxedo, addicted to chicken tenders, sporting a Wisconsin haircut—what do you think this is?

Go fuck yourself, he said.

His reply—true—half-habit.

But with constant attack, and unlicensed, maybe, barber, what could anyone—what could the world—expect of him?

They were, incidentally—he and The Commentator—had—Canadian ancestors—couldn’t tell it from their name, but go back, dig in, there was plenty of French Canada in them.

Couldn’t tell it from a name, The Commentator said, what you think a name tells you ever anyway?

That was earlier.

Another time.


The writer was a theorist who studied theory and wrote theory and talked theory, and said, talked about, kept talking about, all these writers who wrote about desire.


As a theory?

Like a hand at the end of your arm or a foot at the end of your leg?

Or like saw a picture of food and got hungry?

Sex, yeah, and love, maybe, or appetite pure.

Desire in spaces small.

Covered a lot of territory.

Transitory function of existence come and gone as a gust.

What was there to say?

And words.

And language.

Some carpentered body with thought besides?

That a person is impermeable is not anything new.

Who did not know a person is waterproof.

More or less.


To fail to know what one was—to fail to know who you are, or was it to fail is to know who you are. Or what?

Who said this.

Who is speaking, anyway?


Blameless, he had walked days in the field.

All history of historical mistake behind him.

Friesk said his head clothed in a dream.

You are there, Friesk said. How is there out of that?

Life was a game or life was not a game.

He had heard both.

He had, for all of it, heard Friesk too.

All that hearing long ago from some fat father he could barely remember.

Like memory of sunlight through wooden chair back or on wooden table flat.

Or cork sole recalled.

Yet, trembling, he worked the key as though all nature about to scream through him.


Guy is on a ship.

Ship is a list.


Guy goes to the Engineer and says the problem.

Where are you, Engineer says.

Low middle, Guy says. Water beneath, and we’re headed down.

The problem, Engineer says, is poor engineering. Better engineering could engineer the problem out.

Guy says, So you can do it please?

Engineer says, I’m the kind of engineer keeps things running, not the kind of engineer who designs or creates, so you have the wrong engineer.

Sink, Guy says, we’ll be sunk.

Sunk first, Guy says, then me and us, then everybody.

You can’t, Engineer says, engineer against every eventuality.

He had trouble following.

Was this the one about the blind gardener and how does he prune?

Who’s this guy, Guy, he said. This guy’s name is Guy?

Is this, he said, in France?


Kafka, as is well known, held the patent on a miner’s helmet.

The patent, apparently, an improved design, safer, developed in Kafka’s work.

He wondered did Kafka make any money out of it.

If the design saw production.

Or what work for hire arrangement the social insurance agency—the Empire, really—had and enforced as Kafka—a lawyer, remember—would have understood.

  1. Whether a life told fast or slow, one sentence seemed a life sentence to do it.
  2. If everyone had a double or near-double, wasn’t word of that enough without gesture to Conrad or Dostoevsky.
  3. What was this double but the division of self—or soul—as all experienced or likely learned to experience.
  4. Car or sandbox aside, water was water and love was love.
  5. Whatever love was, it failed like anything else, though it might be perceived as a doubling.
  6. To tell a soul’s progress was to presume a soul progressed.
  7. Latin by his time gone except for some rear-guard wanted it all olden back, as looking back, who would not desire vacated ideal past imagined in full recurrence, and belief, separated from context, is not belief, but what could not be redeemed and would be junked—or end—or those were the same, unified in end in contradiction, or confusion, as undoubled—single—unified—certain end of all.


I’m going to give you a story, Marie de France said.

Long time ago he heard it.

Now, long later, he remembered it.

Give. Not tell or fabricate or recite or make or any of those words in her language of the time.

Given, it could not be returned.

Or recreated, exactly.

Given as a given, or given as a thing.

As if someone approached you, hand extended, offering a piece of fruit.

Entire and only in itself.

Greg Mulcahy is the author of OUT OF WORK, CONSTELLATION, CARBINE, and O’HEARN. His recent short fiction has appeared in NOON, Collidescope, Post Road, X-Ray Lit, Neutral Spaces, and Blue Arrangements. His latest book, FIRST TRILOGY, is available only as an eBook because publishers on two continents dared not bring it out.

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