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I was having an existential crisis, so I decided to go out on the streets and, you know, rave. As soon as I got outside I dropped my keys and wallet down the sewer and headed off to pawn my greatcoat. As I walked, I wondered what a greatcoat was. I figured I’d just pawn my parka. That was probably the same thing. I started thinking about imagery for my madness and desperation. I settled (with grave desperation, mind you) on a spider spinning a web within my skull. Each concentric ring of the web represented a new thought in my mad, sweaty head. For instance, in the very center of the web there was a thought about the girl with the red dress who strolled down Vergenstrasse most evenings. How beautiful, how mysterious she was! Would I ever have the courage to reveal my humble longing? Next out from the center was a thought about the dangerous and controversial essay I had written as a student called “Where There’s a Will to Power, There’s a Way to Power”. Next out was a thought about the local book merchants, Barnes and Noble, and the latter's wife’s Sacejewea sized nipples.
I entered through a dingy door into the pawnbroker’s shop. I hoped to get a few pennies for my greatcoat so I might perhaps get a crust of bread with butter and a tiny room for the night, to shelter against the coming frost. But the shrewd pawnbroker sat behind the counter and did not even raise his eyes to meet me as I entered. The plunge of failure filled my throat as I took off my parka-like greatcoat and put it on the counter. I nearly began to weep as the realization that I was lost washed over me. Utter defeat was now clear. All my hopes and dreams, that folly I had allowed myself to believe, now stood before me as a beaten slave, defeated, surrendered and utterly destroyed!
“Whoah, is this CB?” The pawn broker must have stood up and come to the counter. He was examining my greatcoat. “I’ll give you two hundred and fifty for it.”
He counted out the money and placed it on the counter. My heart leapt into my chest, or rather it stayed there, but beat faster. I picked up the bank notes, bowed deeply and backed out of the shop in silence.
The sky was gray and damp. A chill settled on the dark city. As I stumbled down toward the piers, the raw wind penetrated my thin Polo shirt and set a shiver in my bones. The oddest images appeared as if in a kaleidoscope before me. I’m well within my rights to not tell you what they were, but trust me they were the oddest! Perhaps it was too late for me already. Madness was setting in. I hadn’t eaten a crust of bread in forty minutes and my hunger had weakened me.
And then, in an instant I remembered the two hundred and fifty dollars in my pocket. Perhaps it would be enough to buy a crust of bread. It was my only chance. I limped toward the corner deli, hunched from hunger and illness.
On the corner I saw a young girl, no older than forty-five. It was obvious that some dishonorable gentleman had lured the poor child to the city, taken away her virtue and abandoned her to the mercy of strangers. This type is immediately identifiable by her Kate Spade bag and last year’s shoes.
I walked up to her, unsure of what to say. I just stared at her for a minute. She saw me but tried to ignore me.
“Perhaps you are lost. Can I help you?” I said.
“No, uh, I live right there.” She pointed to the high-rise across the street.
“The sins one commits, the secrets one must keep, the crimes one has suffered, these mustn’t destroy the spirit,” I said. Immediately I knew I had taken the wrong tone. Who was I, a half crazy beggar, to this woman? A fallen woman for sure, but she was still so far above me that my mere presence was impertinence. I became overwhelmed with shame and blushed deeply. The woman pretended she wasn’t paying attention to me and called somebody on her cell phone. I walked over to her and pressed the two hundred and fifty dollars into her hand. I felt my knees weaken and began to shiver violently.
“You see? Aha! I am not dishonorable,” I declared. “I may be half mad and starved beyond redemption, both in terms of food and also, you know, spiritually. But this is the sort of man I am, to give away two hundred and fifty dollars just like that to a complete stranger, and not even mention it, just walk away in silence.” I laughed a giddy insane laugh right in her face.
“You call this silence?” She snatched the bills and started counting.
I wandered off into the night cursing myself. How could I afford such a prideful prank? Now I would not be able to buy a crust of bread. I was lost, lost, lost…
Date Written: December 30, 2004Comments:
Author: Ewan Snow
Average Vote: 4.2353
01/5/2005 hagit mizrachy (4): siradescartesecalpgnidart
01/5/2005 qualcomm (4):
01/5/2005 Will Disney (5):
01/5/2005 scoop (3):
01/5/2005 The Rid (5): "My heart leapt into my chest, or rather it stayed there, but beat faster."
01/5/2005 Litcube: short
01/5/2005 scoop: I don't understand. Clearly this is a Craig Lewis short (note the obvious pot shots at Dostoyevsky) but his name has not been reinstated on the Authors/Stats portion of the site. Perhaps there is some type of technical error...
01/5/2005 Litcube: Once, while I was downtown, at a Starbucks? A homeless dude walked by off the sidewalk and plopped $15 down on the table in front of me. "You gnead theesh moahr then haye doo," he said. He walked off. True story.
01/5/2005 John Slocum (5): This is funny, skillful and a great read. Doesn't seem long at all.
01/5/2005 Jon Matza: I figured out this was Maniacs even before I checked to see if he's back. Sirloin, much?
01/5/2005 qualcomm: you're joking of course (?)
01/5/2005 John Slocum: Qualcum, me or matza?
01/5/2005 Jon Matza: Not a bit, brother. (If you mean about 'sirloin', I was talking about myself).
01/5/2005 anonymous: scoop, this is based on Knut, not Fyodor.
01/5/2005 qualcomm: you really think this is maniacs?
01/5/2005 Dylan Danko: I also thought this was Maniacs the minute I read it.
01/5/2005 Will Disney: This one is great.
01/5/2005 Streifenbeuteldachs (4):
01/5/2005 qualcomm: author: seems fyodorish to me, too. notes from underground, anyone?
01/5/2005 anonymous: Yes, that's true, but it is more directly based on Hunger.
01/5/2005 TheBuyer: Hey! That happened to someone I know. Some bum chucked a twenty at him, said "you need this more'n I do" and swerved off down the street.
01/5/2005 TheBuyer: uh...turns out it was Litcube. whoop, didn't read all that first.
01/5/2005 Jon Matza (5): qc: I based my sweet deduction on the narrator's happy-go-lucky, neutral-yet-curious tone & the rambing, surreal, picaresque quality of the "piece".
01/5/2005 Jon Matza: rambing
01/5/2005 qualcomm: well, i hate to state the obvious, but it's ewan.
01/5/2005 The Rid: No one thinks Snow? I think Snow.
01/5/2005 The Rid: Oh, QC thinks Snow, also.
01/5/2005 John Slocum: yes, snow, definitely. thought that instantly.
01/5/2005 TheBuyer (5): this short will likely be held up as a good example of something, someday.
01/5/2005 qualcomm: i know ramblingness was part of the point, but i think this could have had a good 100-200 words lopped off with no ill effects.
01/5/2005 John Slocum: so what? it was an enjoyable extra 100-200 words. What is wrong with you?
01/5/2005 qualcomm: well, that's what i'm saying: i didn't enjoy what i saw as flab. so that's what's wrong with me. the sensation you are feeling, is taste error.
01/5/2005 Dylan Danko (3): Slocum, maybe you don't realize this but QC has a 36 inch tv!
01/5/2005 Mr. Joshua (3): Can a short be carefully constructed, meticulously crafted and handsomely developed, and yet still feel slapdash and rambling? Slocum, I hope this doesn't change the way you feel about me. Friends can agree to disagree, right, wine buddy?
01/5/2005 qualcomm: slocum's a fucking twerp.
01/5/2005 John Slocum: qualcomm's a fucking twerp.
01/5/2005 John Slocum: Of course Mr. Joshua, no hard feelings. None for anyone (including qualcomm), why would there be?
01/5/2005 Mr. Joshua: What about the wine, though, buddy?
01/5/2005 John Slocum: Wine's still flowing.
01/5/2005 Litcube (4): Out of principle I really like short shorts, so it honestly bothers me that I thoroughly enjoy the flab here. I wonder if dudes who like plumpers feel the same way sometimes.
01/5/2005 anonymous: Yeah, this one could have been stripped down a bit, but I didn't for a few different reasons. I wanted it to have a several different episodes (he goes out on the street and thinks of weird stuff, he pawns his greatcoat, he meets the fallen woman). Also, I wanted the episodes to not be crowded one after the other like cuts in a movie, but get across a tiny bit of the feel of a novel. I figured I'd run the risk of having a little flab and rambling rather than stripping it down and losing the feel.
01/5/2005 Dick Vomit (4): Strip down/feel.
01/5/2005 Jimson S. Sorghum (5):
01/5/2005 Jimson S. Sorghum: This is so ballsy.
01/5/2005 qualcomm: nepotism is a stinky cologne, jimson.
01/5/2005 Jimson S. Sorghum: But it's sweet on the balls. Thus, I stand by ballsy.
01/5/2005 Jimson S. Sorghum: The problem with this is that it's more enjoyable having read the Knut. If that can be seen as a problem. It's a pitch-perfect parody (sorry for the offensive alliteration, QC).
01/5/2005 cuntry (4): i loved the first paragraph but it faltered some later on
01/5/2005 Jon Matza: How do you know, Jimson? Did you read this before AND after you read the original?!? Hmmmnnn? Did you? Did you? Did you? Did you? Did you? Did you?
01/5/2005 Jon Matza: Did you? Did you? Did you? Did you? Did you?
01/5/2005 qualcomm: are you smacking her after each "Did you?"
01/5/2005 Jon Matza: What?!? I never hit a lady in my life, discounting menials.
01/5/2005 Dylan Danko: Not that I needed Jimson's appearance to realize that I was wrong about the authorship but that and her inflated rating certainly confirm it.
01/5/2005 Dylan Danko: Ah, should have read QC's comment before posting. WHEEEEEE!
01/5/2005 Jimson S. Sorghum: I posted a response and it's not here. But, Matza: I didn't read it twice. Just once, after reading the Knut. So, yeah, I guess I was SURMISING. My mistake. I'm sure you enjoyed it plenty, ol pal. My vote was not inflated. There are plenty of Snow shorts that I have not 5'd. Stop taking pot shots and be a man, Dank. Step up.
01/5/2005 John Slocum: what about me Jimson?
01/5/2005 Jimson S. Sorghum: One more thing....Of course I knew immediately that this was a Snow short, even having never seen it before today. I'm not sure if I enjoyed more because of that knowledge. I really don't think so. I genuinely enjoyed it and my five stars expressed that. If I had given fewer stars it would have been intellectually AND emotionally dishonest.
01/5/2005 Ewan Snow: Danko, you really are depressing.
01/5/2005 Jimson S. Sorghum: Oh, I'm sorry, Sloc. Would you like to step up, too?
01/5/2005 Dylan Danko: Step up?? I thought I had. Here again is my massive frame looming over you. Yes, I think you occasionally overrate Snow's shorts for obvious reasons. This is not an indictment of Snow's writing which is some of the best on the site or of you who is a girl of the highest caliber.
01/5/2005 Mr. Joshua: Damn, Jimson....Tree's taking your husband to the woodshed over on the Message Board, and now Dylan and Z-Dog are having at you here.
01/5/2005 Dylan Danko: Snow, why am I depressing you as opposed to making you angry?
01/5/2005 Ewan Snow: Ummm....
01/5/2005 Jon Matza: I was helping!
01/5/2005 Dylan Danko: You can answer Mr. J first over on the message board.
01/5/2005 Litcube: Whoah! WHOAH! Since I started here, I was under the impression that Jimson and Snow were gay live-in partners. Not that Ewan has said anything to make him sound like he *was* gay, but that Jimson, I thought, was a man and that there were references of them living together and, perhaps, holding hands.
01/5/2005 Ewan Snow: Danko: Aw, forget it...
01/5/2005 Phony Millions (5): Ewan and Jimson are part of the transgender community - but just roommates. Knut I'd have to know better to get his feel in this one that the author mentioned, but definitely felt Fyodor all the way - in the self-loathing serious quasi-Christian tone.
This one gets 5 stars from me because it pulls off IMO something that's rarely seen around here, namely, irony - the real issue mind you, not some easy slapstick stuff. The tone itself is ironically surprising. The short really does not seem like it's going to be funny, although you're aware that the author is trying to be funny - or so you think to begin. In fact it almost seems amateur because the protagonist is slipping back and forth between a modern slacker tone and a tortured late 18th century tone as he tells his tale, and it seems sloppy and incongruous, not fitting altogether. But then there's a certain consistency that starts to grow on you to the inconsistency in tone, and you realize it's the author's strategy, which is why the length is justified for me - he needs time to build that up, to let you see that the flabbiness is the rub. Then it's not so much that the author is trying to be funny, but he just is funny - he's poking fun for me at least at the notion of trying to be funny and overblown seriousness all at once.
Particularly this poking fun at trying to be funny is a deconstructive comment on Acmeshorts itself.
01/5/2005 John Slocum: Jolly well commented, Brad.
01/6/2005 qualcomm: shut up, you idiot
01/6/2005 qualcomm: evans, i think you're reading too much into the juxtaposition of tones. i daresay author just likes bumping modern english up against some stylized, 19th century shit. it simply amplifies a certain stupidity inherent in those old, romantic ideas. no biggie.
01/6/2005 John Slocum: Qualcomm's a twerp.
01/6/2005 Phony Millions: Yes, he's the resident gadfly Slocum - and guards his position with fierce, defensive love. I still say, QC, and it pains me to use such an 80's critical-studies word, that this short's humor is deconstructive, or to go back further and use the language of the 19th Century that it's poking fun at, it has 'romantic irony': Protaganist is working in a locus of self-consciousness whereby he knows that we know he's trying to be funny, and he's playing with our expectations a bit, and that in itself becomes another tier, if you will, of humor. This meta-humor shit is very Ewan methinks, and all the more funny because it's off the cuff, or seems to be. One wonders how much Snow chisled away and deleted and mulled to get his final short here - or was it really just off the cuff?
01/6/2005 Ewan Snow: Thanks, Brad. I wrote it more or less all at once, but I got the idea while I was reading Hunger last week. It reminded me of Raskolnikov's raving through the streets in C&P, and I started thinking about the trappings of the literary existential crisis, and the idea of a modern dipshit having an existential crisis (or pretending to) and trying to live out the same trappings one reads about. After all, an existential crisis is not about facing one’s mortality and the abyss of a meaningless universe, it’s about pawning your greatcoat, starving for a crust of bread, and having poignant interactions with “fallen women” one meets randomly while raving through the streets. I did feel it needed time to build, to get across a tiny bit of the weight of a real existential novel (at least as far as a short goes) and so erred on the side of long rather than short.
01/6/2005 qualcomm: locus. what a dicknut.
01/6/2005 Ewan Snow: You're locus is all over the place, qc. And dicknut's not a real word.
01/6/2005 Ewan Snow: *your*
01/6/2005 John Slocum: yer. By the way, I'm having an existential crisis because I finished all my monkey bars and Ea$y $treets. Fuck. I noticed over the course of 6 or 7 monkey bars that there was some variation in the product, totally to be expected in an artisanally crafted, hand made candy bar. I think the variation was in the stuff the nuts were embedded in - sometimes more moist, sometimes less moist, almost 50-50. When the bar was on, it was better than ea$y $treet, when it was 'sub bar,' it was slightly not as good as ea$y $treet. Anyway, I shall get more bars anon as they are delicious.
01/6/2005 Jon Matza: Maniacs: is Evans right in his assessment of your shorts?
01/6/2005 Mr. Pony (4): I thought it was fun!
01/7/2005 Phony Millions: Gonna read that Hamsun...