Gordon Lish,  May 31

PSYCHISM

Fine. Prison would do me good, wouldn't it?

w
o
r
d

f
a
c
t
o
r
y

GOOD MORNING. IT’S NINE O’CLOCK. THIS IS BECKER TRANSNATIONAL DISCOUNT PHARMACIES. WE’RE PHONING TO INFORM YOU THAT PROCESSING OF  YOUR PRESCRIPTION HAS BEEN HELD UP OWING TO AN INSURANCE ISSUE THAT WE ARE WORKING TO RESOLVE. IF YOU WISH, PRESS SEVEN FOR FURTHER INFORMATION. OTHERWISE, YOU MAY NOW HANG UP. THANK YOU.

Hello? Oh, hello? Hey, hello there! I pressed seven. I’m pressing seven. Can you tell me what pharmaceutical we’re talking about? I use a lot of them. This is the first I’ve heard of your company. Did your company just buy out the company I’ve been doing my pharmaceutical business with? Another thing—are you, as the saying goes, are you guys on the level or is this like a joke of some new kind of marketing kind? Believe me, I’m not always all that on the square myself. Anyway, I’m always here. Call me back. No need to wait for a crisis, you know what I’m saying?

MR. LISH?
YES.
THIS IS FED EX.
YES
CONCERNING YOUR RECENT SHIPMENT.
YES?
THE THREE CARTONS YOU SENT TO BLOOMINGTON.
YES?
DO YOU HAVE THE PERTINENT AIRBILLS HANDY?
JUST A SEC. OKAY. WHAT’S UP?
REFER TO THE TRACKING NUMBERS, PLEASE.
YES. I’M GETTING THEM.
TRACKING NUMBER 3775492D.
YES?
TRACKING NUMBER 6653754D.
YES?
TRACKING NUMBER 8834299F.
YES, I HAVE THAT ONE TOO. THEY ALL JIBE.
SIR, THE CARTONS WILL BE DELAYED THREE DAYS.
I’M SORRY. WHAT’S THAT?
THERE WILL BE A THREE-DAY DELAY BEFORE THE SHIPMENT IS DELIVERED.
A DELAY OF THREE DAYS?
YES, SIR, OWING TO STORMS IN BLOOMINGTON.
THERE ARE STORMS IN BLOOMINGTON?
YES, SIR.
I SEE.
WE REGRET THE INCONVENIENCE, MR. LISH.
OF COURSE.
FED EX IS DOING ITS BEST, MR. LISH.
THANK YOU. BUT NO HARM DONE. IT’S NOT REALLY EXPEDITED STUFF.
EXPEDITED, MR. LISH?
IT’S ALL RIGHT. WHEN THE STUFF GETS THERE, IT GETS THERE.
WE APOLOGIZE FOR THE INCONVENIENCE.
NO INCONVENIENCE. SORRY FOR THE STORMS. PEOPLE HURT?
PEOPLE HURT?
IT’S NOT IMPORTANT. THANK YOU FOR CALLING.
THANK YOU FOR USING FED EX, MR. LISH.
NOT AT All. GOOD OF YOU TO CALL.
GOODBYE, MR. LISH.
GOODBYE.

Bastards. Dirty fucking stinking bastards. When in my life have I ever heard of anything like it? Storms? Are they fucking kidding me, storms? This is why you either stick to the U.S. government and the American post office or just pick yourself up and finally emigrate. Denmark’s nice. They say Denmark’s pretty appealing. Or what about that other one, Iceland? I could learn Icelandic. I’m not too old to buckle down and get a new language under my belt. So where is Iceland, anyway? I could wear my sweaters there. It’s like really big on sweaters there, isn’t it?

DEAR MR. LISH:
AN AUDIT OF OUR FILES INDICATES YOU HAVE BEEN USING A G-CARD FOR THE PERIOD JANUARY 2014 THROUGH MARCH 2018. PLEASE BE AWARE THE G-CARD IS RESTRICTED TO CUSTOMERS WHO CAN DEMONSTRATE A DISABILITY OF 85 PERCENT OR MORE. YOUR USE OF THE G-CARD IS UNLAWFUL AND IN VIOLATION OF MTA REGULATIONS. REPORT TO 940 NINTH AVENUE, ROOM 1240, 16TH FLOOR, BETWEEN THE HOURS OF 8:OO A.M. AND 3:00 P.M. ON A WEEKDAY OF YOUR CHOICE. GO TO WINDOW 6. SURRENDER THE G-CARD AND YOU WILL BE ISSUED A TEMPORARY E-CARD SO LONG AS YOU DEFRAY (BY PERSONAL CHECK OR BY A VALID CREDIT OR DEBIT CARD) AN ACCUMULATED DEFICIT OF $218.50. BE PREPARED TO IDENTIFY YOURSELF WITH A PHOTO I.D. PROCESSED WITHIN THE LAST THREE MONTHS. PLEASE BE NOTIFIED THE G-CARD REFERRED TO HEREUNDER HAS BEEN, AS OF THE DATE OF THIS ADVISEMENT, CANCELLED.THANK YOU.
PROSECUTIONS DEPARTMENT
METROPOLITAN TRANSIT AUTHORITY

Oh, come on, cut it out! Fuck, fuck. I don’t believe it. I absolutely do not believe it. I mean, they can’t conceivably have a case against me, can they? Wait a minute. Just wait a damn minute—this thing, is it like a city thing, a state thing, or actually federal? I mean, there’s no chance of a jail thing with a thing like this, is there? Fine. Prison would do me good, wouldn’t it? Probably a blessing in disguise. Lose weight, get in shape. Come out and write a book about it. Get on that tour thing they have. Give talks. Develop a whole new thing, you know? Like a career that really pays off with the major bucks.

DEAR MR. LISH:
THANK YOU FOR YOUR LOYALTY AS EXPRESSED BY THE YEARS (FORTY-THREE, 43) OF MAINTAINING A CHECKING ACCOUNT (ENDING IN NUMBERS 519) AND THREE SAVINGS ACCOUNTS (ENDING IN NUMBERS 443, 386, AND 188) WITH THE BANK OF AMERICA BRANCH AT 89TH STREET AND MADISON AVENUE. WE HERE AT THE BRANCH HAVE BEEN PLEASED TO SERVE YOU AND APPRECIATE YOUR CHOOSING BANK OF AMERICA FOR YOUR COMMERCIAL AND PERSONAL BANKING ACTIVITIES. IT HAPPENS, HOWEVER, THAT AS A RESULT OF YOUR FAILURE TO KEEP AN AVERAGE DAILY CUMULATIVE BALANCE (ADCB) OF $5000 OR BETTER IN THESE FOUR ACCOUNTS FOR A CONSECUTIVE PERIOD OF SIX MONTHS, WE MUST YIELD TO BANK POLICY AND END FORTHWITH YOUR RENT-FREE TENANCY OF SAFETY DEPOSIT BOX #559669. AS A CONSEQUENCE OF BANK POLICY, PURSUANT TO WHICH WE ASK THAT YOU EMPTY THE CONTENTS OF SAID SAFETY DEPOSIT BOX (#559669) BY THE FIRST DAY OF THE FOLLOWING MONTH, TURNING OVER YOUR KEY OR KEYS TO SAID BOX ON OR BEFORE THAT DATE. YOU MAY, HOWEVER, CONTINUE, OF COURSE, TO MAKE UNCHALLENGED USE OF THIS CONVENIENCE IF YOU WILL, BEGINNING THE FIRST OF NEXT MONTH AND THEREAFTER, MEET THE ROUTINE MONTHLY CHARGE FOR SAID RENTAL THEREOF IN THE AMOUNT OF $34.75, WHICH REPRESENTS A DISCOUNTED MONTHLY FEE OF $5.25 IN RECOGNITION 0F YOUR LONG-STANDING RELATIONSHIP WITH THIS OFFICE AND ITS REPRESENTIVES. WE REMAIN READY TO SERVE YOU IN YOUR COMMERCIAL AND PERSONAL BANKING NEEDS AND HOPE TO CONTINUE TO DO SO IN THE YEARS TO COME. THANK YOU FOR YOUR LOYAL PATRONAGE.
YOURS TRULY,
BANK OF AMERICA (U.S.A.)

They can’t. Can they? Oh, I piss on these people, I piss on every single one of them. But face it, who really needs a box, anyway? What kind of miserable remnant of coarsened humanity am I that I have to have a, you know, a box? To hell with them and their preposterous box! It’s about time I got serious and went boxless, by God! Where the hell are those Emerson essays? Lucky thing for me I can now really see through all the obfuscation going on all over the place and get the wheat separated from the chaff. Authentically speaking, if you know what I mean. Or is it the chaff from the wheat? Chaff—chaff? Sounds a little funny, chaff. Or is it funny a little that it sounds and I should have said that instead?

MY DEAR MR. LISH,
I WRITE YOU IN REFERENCE TO THE RECENT BIOPSY PERFORMED ON THE LIVER OF YOUR HIGHLANDER SHEPHERD MARY-LOUISE, WHICH TURNED OUT, AS WE HERE AT LUMSDEN BIDE-A-WEE ARE ALL DEEPLY SADDENED TO REPORT, BADLY. YOU HAVE OUR SYMPATHIES. PLEASE COLLECT MARY-LOUISE AT THE BACK ENTRANCE ON 77TH STREET AS NEAR TO THE START OF BUSINESS (7:30) AS MIGHT BE CONVENIENTLY MANAGED. THANK YOU FOR YOUR UNDERSTANDING. OUR MOST SINCERE CONDOLENCES.
JACKSON LUMSDEN, D.A.P.P., LLC
BIDE-A-WEE OF MANHATTEN, INC.

No! It can’t be! Mary-Louise, for crying out loud! Oh no, what horror’s next! But don’t they mean turned out bad? Isn’t badly wrong in that context, usage-wise at least? God, I’ve just got to get back to core principles. I’ve really and truly drifted to I don’t know what kind of disarrayment, or is that not a word? It’s a scandal. I’m a scandal. How can I have let myself go like this? Honestly, I’m really falling all to pieces—morally, intellectually, whatever. Maybe take up yoga. No, it’s the soul that needs work, the soul! Niebuhr. Niebuhr’s the answer! I used to love that shit. But I’m like Jewish, okay? So who was that other guy, like that Jewishy guy, like that, you know, that do unto others guy? I know, I know—the crucified thing and all, right? Oh, man, am I going to get good and spiritual like in a big way fast. Or say I said in a hurry, mmm?

DEAR MR. LISH:
OUR APOLOGIES FOR TAKING SO LONG IN ARRIVING AT JUDGMENTS IN THE MATTER OF LISH VS. CRACKEL AND IN THE MATTER OF CRACKEL VS. LISH. IT IS OUR UNHAPPY DUTY TO INFORM YOU THAT IN BOTH FILINGS THE COURT (HIS HONOR RUFUS S. ARMSWORTHY JR., PRESIDING) HAS FOUND AGAINST YOU. ALL COURT COSTS AND CONTINGENT FEES ASSOCIATED WITH THESE ACTIONS WILL BE BILLED TO YOUR ESCROW ACCOUNT AT THE BANK OF AMERICA, NOT EXCLUDING PROSPECTIVE FEES TO BE SUBMITTED TO THE COURT BY YOUR ATTORNEYS, UNLESS YOU REPRESENTED YOURSELF IN BOTH ACTIONS, WHICH, ACCORDING TO OUR RECORDS, IT APPEARS YOU DID.
VERY TRULY YOURS,
SUPERIOR COURT OF THE STATE OF NEW YORK

No! No, no, no, no, no, no, no! I’ll fucking sue, I will! I will absolutely fucking sue the court! That’s right. You heard me. How come nobody ever thought of this before? Sue the fucking court, that’s the thing! Unless the law’s not exactly set up for a stunt like that. Fair enough. Hard but fair. Hit the books. Gordon, first thing come morning you are going right down straight to the library and start informing yourself from A to Z! Is this or is this not the American way? Did not some of the greatest legal minds start out just like this from scratch like really late in life? Of course they did! Judge Learned Hand, Oliver Wendell Holmes. Wait, better check that—Learned? That needs a diacritical mark or something up topside there? Wendell Wilkie, boy oh boy, now we’re cooking with gas! No, Wilde, Wilde—Oscar Wilde, sweetheart, there’s the man, he’s the man! I mean, let’s start getting eristical here, goddamn it, or is it heuristic? Maybe slip into the writing game—maybe that’s the right move for me right now, ontologically speaking. Haven’t I always been crazy about words? Is there anybody who adores them more? Holy cow, look at all of the words everywhere! Man, the fucking abundance of them! The bounty, the copia! The whole field is waving to me singing come right on in, Gordo, we’re wide open for creativity, yes or no?

GORDIE!
HELLO?
HEY, GORDIE, FOR CRISSAKE!
WHAT?
WHADYA MEAN WHAT? IT’S CHARLIE!
CHARLIE?
FUCK, GORDIE, IT’S CHARLIE RUGGLES!
CHARLIE RUGGLES?
FROM FIFTH GRADE, GORDIE! HEY, MAN, LOOK ALIVE!
I’M SORRY. FROM FIFTH GRADE?
GOOD GOD, MAN—HOW CAN YOU NOT REMEMBER FIFTH GRADE?

It’s a plot. No two ways about it—there’s a plot against me, all right, but I for one am wise to them, the dirty filthy rotten stinking bastardos. Guess what!—they picked the wrong grade when they picked the fifth grade because Miss McEvoy was the teacher in the fifth grade and that made the fifth grade my favorite grade of all the grades because I was nuts for Miss McEvoy like mad and this is exactly why I, Gordon Lish, happen to know the fifth grade of all the grades inside out. Or is like the back of my hand that’s the right expression for you to deploy in a case like this? Is that the right expression? Like the back of my hand? Uh-oh, what’s this? This is curious. This is very curious. I’m positive this wasn’t here when I last took a look at the back of this one here, was it? Gee, it looks a little sort of not impossibly greenish a little, doesn’t it? Oh man. Oh man oh man! Greenish is not not good. Greenish is definitely ungood. Of all the colors, unless you’re a plant, no shit, greenish is indisputably nicht gut! Or is it nichts? You know, I should really go back and get my French up to snuff again. Well, not again—again’s extrinsic or extraneous or exogamous, isn’t it? In that context, a word like that—maybe nugatory maybe. Or inutile. Hang on, did I ever chew snuff? No, honestly, but really, did I ever? Not that snuff is actually something you chew, is it? Isn’t tobacco the chewable one, whereas what do you do with snuff? Hold it just a sec, just take it easy—this is definitely probably one for Chomsky or for old Reinhold, choose. All right—Noam or Reinhold, which one?

OKAY, EVERYBODY, ALL TOGETHER NOW—SURPRISE, SURPRISE!—OOOH, FOR HE’S A JOLLY GOOD FELLOW, FOR HE’S—

I don’t believe it! I do not fucking believe this! People! People are simply sickening, aren’t they? Oh, come on, Gordo, you’ll be done with them all of them soon enough—put up with it in the meanwhile, can’t you? Not many more of these outrages in store for me, is there?—oh, I see I see I see the dickhead there in the back there who’s not really singing his heart out. The rat. It’s times like these when you really get a bellyful of what people are made of. Oh, that no-good rat bastard! How dare he show up here on a heartwarming occasion like this! The cheek! The unvarnished cheek, goddamn it!

HELLO? HEY, HELLO? DAD? ARE YOU THERE, DAD?

Oh, yeah, sure, sure—you bet, don’t worry, I get it—I promise you, thank you very much, I totally fucking get it—Dad.

Gordon Lish wears brown.

You Might Also Enjoy

Thick as Thieves

Philippa Snow

In Widows, what should cause tonal whiplash is, in Steve McQueen’s hands, disquieting, exhilarating: capital-R Real.

word factory

Baffler Newsletter

New email subscribers receive a digital copy of our current issue.

Further Reading

Heads Up: We recently updated our privacy policy to clarify how and why we collect personal data. By using our site, you acknowledge that you have read and understand this policy.