About the Author

He says the tours are a struggle to go unrecognized in streets because to be recognized is to be validated. Validation, to have one's name highlighted in yellow and starred, with an evaluative footnote for each encounter based on estimates of Did this guy put down Updike for Tom Clancy and Can I be too certain he didn't finger a futon-crashed coed after his housemate's twenty-third and Does he really get it the way He Should Get It and Does he want to and Do I want him to? Dive bars he frequents a half-hour's drive from the campus of the moment are safest, as if his face is even knowable, and that's why he never has a picture on the back cover of his books, which is a means to more validation he never wanted. Except sometimes the clever-ass behind the bar underachieved so gracefully, stumbled to the right lecture hall at the right time in the right liberal arts school and couldn't help having that writer-face burned into his brain screen whether or not he reads all the books he says he does. He laughs at his joke and I mix another highball half-smiling to the familiar ghost over his hung head. He says he drinks to dull the something, but it's so dull by now it's lost all definition and I should keep on with my job, for which I have a singular talent.

Though I really should bring up the lecture at Binghamton four years ago, about Cult of Celebrity, about Literary Celebrity in which he said that Celebrity counteracts the creative process--murky vast stretches of unstimulated thought-synthesis like a slow radioactive half-life, which are his words. Like a chemical reaction, two clear liquids that mix and smolder then fizzle, ostensibly inert but for an aching slow steam, pink steam which collects in some scientific balloon at the topmost reaches of his brain. And thinking coalesces to tiny beads that slow-drip down coiled brain-tubes and then something like a torrent of thoughts hose and feed this miniscule spec somewhere else South of brain, and that's like the seed. But he claims he doesn't know where the seed is or where it came from, but it's from somewhere out there and then it gets in here. But It sprouts. It sprouts and It shoots up into the brain, knocks over all the chemistry bullshit and wrecks it.

The thing is though that It's not like a woody plant with fruit and flowers and you can't climb It or heat your house with It at all. It's a highly endangered cave fungus that only grows in absolute dark and still, so don't fuck with It. Don't crack your head open and walk around showing this or any schmuck and ask him what color and how many, and by all means don't try tearing your heart open to plant more, by all means don't.

Though I really should mention that lecture and I don't, he hears that aborted think-fetus flopping around all cartilaginous in my head. He laughs again and drinks again and again and I move down the bar to other thirsty beaten-in ribcages and pour other whiskey. And maybe he remembers the book signing a long-winded half an hour under four years ago, the book signing where I played the clever-ass across the table who asked him about vanity, about How can you reconcile this universal praise with this fierce and fiercely contrived introversion and Are you yourself not highlighted with footnotes once It hits page? Isn't that where the seed comes from? Doesn't It all start out there with he who fingers drunk girls, and the NASCAR fan who recognized you because he pays with time for a daughter in the right liberal arts college, pays with, he boasts, twenty-seven hundred fully-assembled cardboard displays every week day, and his productivity is the highest on the line and he used to make nine sixty-five an hour but now he's making nine-ninety and maybe next year he'll vacation in Virginia and Doesn't that cardboard display sometimes have your name on it somewhere, under plebian hands, on the line where he knows exactly what he's worth every weekday hour?

If he doesn't remember me, does he remember that cardboard display or any? Not me because my belly is taller and thicker now with the beer and maybe to him my face looks like a thousand thousand writer-faces thrown in a blender then poured over skull. But I hope my head's popping with fungus and broken test tubes. Maybe my skull is filled with thousands of thousands of fine luminous mushrooms.

About the author:

James Rymers lives in Athens, Ohio. He is currently a senior at Ohio University studying creative writing. Apart from men's room stalls, his short fiction and poetry have appeared in various independently distributed publications available on request.