Fiction — From the October 2009 issue

The Dreaming Jaw, The Salivating Ear

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O jaw u should of seen it when u werent around he was dominating this place just screwing with everyones minds pretending he was u and sayin if im the jaw ur my bubblegum ur my popcorn ur the gunk in my back molars and u ought to wait im gonna floss u out eccchhhh gross jaw hes such a lowbrow cant u do sumthing signed desperately yrs justiny


More ruined rooms, unbearable even to specify in this log—so many of them now, chambers of my soul forever sealed against the night.


I built too near the sea. The salt air corrodes the inlaid rosewood veneer. And at the moon’s perigee the tide licks my door. On some nights I sit in the parlor of my sad savaged blog and think it was only a dress rehearsal, a dry run. That I will build another blog elsewhere and make its seams tighter, armor it and therefore myself better for the world. But to abandon this one now would be to betray justiny. I say this to myself even as I hear the waves crashing nearer than I ever wished them to, the waves that are like a pulse of hatred beating in my forebrain.



We coexist, invisible to one another, an uneasy blind roundelay within the forgiving architecture of my blog. Here, I find evidence of justiny’s self-effacing encampments: squeezed-out tea bag neatly wrapped in a paper napkin, glass bearing a wilted daisy, scattering of dandruff, faint odor of lemon verbena or chamomile. There, I wander dismayed into rooms Whomed: overturned or demolished in derision, furnishings all glued upside down on the ceiling as in sophomore japery, library volumes with their pages torn or twisted from their spines, a turd curled in an ashtray. Once, I found a parlor cleared of all its treasures and bric-a-brac, which had been replaced with paper slips, fluttering on the floor like fortune-cookie fortunes, each bearing the name of one of the vanished items: wicker loveseat, brass birdcage, croquet set, and so forth. I conduct my rounds in mournful diligence, reordering what can be reordered, sealing off quadrants when I must. At certain times I persuade myself an admirable stasis is attained: my blog abides, adapts, is made worldly by its users. At other moments I feel we three stalk one another: prey and predator that have each come under my roof, my own role unknown as yet. It is then I think I hear the blog ticking like a bomb.


O jaw dont ever leave us again like that u scared me so bad im shaking all over the place cant u see youve got responsive abilities now especially 2 me yr number 1 fan justiny


I decided I ought to take a week away from my blog, to absent myself from the site of creation, therefore to allow the inhabitants dwelling there to regulate themselves. It is an egalitarian space I have made, with its own social ecologies, and it would right itself, I was certain. When I returned I found someone had set ablaze the guestbook, as well as the burnished ebony Bible stand on which the guestbook had stood. The blaze singed the plaster scrollwork ceiling, soot and ash from the pyre forming a kind of rude tombstone or epitaph to itself, like the remains of a Klansman’s torched cross or the horrendous skeleton of a lynching tree. I hadn’t the heart to repair the damage to it and instead sealed the alcove where the guestbook and Bible stand had been placed, and now though the blog has innumerable rooms and no one would miss one little nook or alcove I feel it as a missing limb, a deletion imposed on me by forces malign, a first mortal blow.



Dear jaw be strong you cant let the haters get you down yr blog is a very fine blog with two cats in the yard now everything is easy cuz of u also try imagining a place where its always safe and warm come in you said ill give you shelter from the storm xo justiny


A descreator, a desecraptor, a desa-critter—why such difficlutties spelling the word?—has violated the hallowed corridors of my sanctum. I found his words slathered in dripping red bold graffitist’s capitals unscrubbable across the raw terra-cotta tile:


I’ll content myself imagining such a soul writhing under its own torments, and not give the defamer even the honor of my rebuke. He’ll have moved on, I assure myself of this. Shambled off to pick on something his own low size. Still, I see his little haiku as if neon-imprinted on my eyelids’ interior when I shut my eyes to sleep.


Someday the world will build a highway with an overpass leading to a cloverleaf feeding to an off-ramp to a parking area that will be full of tourist buses full of visitors hungering in anticipation, there to join the multitudes tramping hour after hour clutching snack-bar goodies as they marvel through the corridors of my blog, then to reboard amid the waves of satisfied oglers clutching geegaws, keychains and can openers and T-shirts from the gift shop adjacent to the restrooms near the parking lot of my blog, but until that day comes I hear the steady pulse and recoil of the sea and see the moonlight through the skylight and reflected off the polished banisters and I know that if it is only justiny, whether she or he is alone or stands for secret lurking others now or in the future, I have made it and it is good.


A first appreciation has come. A tentative thing, a shred of sensibility, something that tiptoed in on little cat feet and graced me with praise. A he or she, I can’t tell from the byline: justiny. i wuvvv your blog, justiny said, in a note, a seashell-pink crayon scribble on a fragile curl of tissue, the equivalent of a whisper, a thing I found stuck to my boot as I made my proprietary rounds, polishing brass railings and marble doorknobs and suchlike, and which I might so easily have failed to notice. I had a moment’s impulse to whisper back: My blog loves you too, justiny, in its way. But I think my blog’s love is more cosmic or Buddhist, more impassive and impersonal, than to need always to answer. My blog is for all ears that might listen, and who knows how many might be? justiny happens to have piped up. (Barely.)


Though I promise myself I’ll be patient, I find myself visiting my blog ten or twelve times a day, tracing with my echoing footsteps the boundaries of its magnificence, wondering when I’ll know—or if I’ll know—when another sensibility has sensed its noble call, the siren or lighthouse of my mind beckoning to theirs, and come to the doorway of my blog, entered and roamed and learned that they are not alone out here on the fringe of the real but that others have come before them and blogged so that they might feel less lonely. But I myself am not lonely. It is enough to have my blog.


I Sing My Blog Electric!

I made my blog in the shape of a tesseract.

I made a blog and it is good.

A small blog, of clay and wattles made. Nine bean rows will I have there, a hive for the honey bee, and I shall have some peace there, for peace comes dropping slow, and I will hear the ocean water lapping with low sounds around the pilings, while I stand in the foyer of my blog, within the exoskeleton of its architecture, feeling myself to be its deep heart’s core.

My blog is as big and small as my desiring.

I tried counting my blog’s rooms and found myself retracing my steps.

It has many doors and yet there is only one way to enter it.

I tried painting my blog in oils and ran out of canvas.

I shall follow mine blog wherever mine blog shall lead.

I offer this, my blog, to the world, but I do not require the world to need it or accept it, for it is my very very own blog.


I made my blog strong, I made it with my hands, fitted the joists and the beams and the floorboards neat, planed the crooked surfaces, sanded the knots where there were knots and varnished the sanded knots until a blind man couldn’t tell you their location. It was a fine labor of many days and it stands, my blog, by the salty beseeching sea, a stone’s throw from where the searching tidal claws at their highest point mark the sand. My blog is an outpost on forever.


I have had a lovely inspiration: a blog at the ocean’s edge, a blog-by-the-sea. I think I shall call it The Dreaming Jaw, The Salivating Ear!

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’s eighth novel, Chronic City, will be out this month. Two of his essays from Harper’s Magazine were included in his 2005 collection, The Disappointment Artist.

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