Author’s note in the form of a poem:
The muse, that cabal of demonic clowns,
Never reveals without hiding, parcel-
Ing out omniscience like Zeno slicing
Cheese for beggars. What shadow overgrown,
Substanceless, lent aspect by need for farce,
A frail streetlight picked up for enticing
A lost imagination while disguised
As born, a lesser night violation,
The shadow, nothing really, a hunter
Of imagery: see the vermy brain prised—
Squirm, misplaced intestinal sensation!
The shadow, nothing really, is hunted
By minds alternately barren, bereft,
Shocked to stone density by shadow’s heft.
Trotsky is Notsky
Nothing drives a man like the combination of failure and the failure to come to terms with it. There is absolutely no doubt that if Todd Fullmer had lived he would have gotten to the bottom of the Kramberger business. Or at least one of the bottoms. Since we have already mentioned sinkholes, we will say that an assassination is like a karst landscape and the truth is a subterranean labyrinth—the absolute truth is the fresh rainwater that gets lost down in the vast limestone darkness, but there are all these sinkholes that dogged investigators who refuse to accept the official line end up finding whole puddles of trapped truth turning to stink therewithin. Had Todd lived, we would be looking over the fields and seeing the top of his head just clearing the lip of a sinkhole of a story much nearer the truth than the government version.
What gave Todd his extra drive, what allowed him to pursue the most difficult stories to the deprivation of many of his humane needs—to give a mundane yet resonant example, he once spent three months in a hunting lodge far outside Tomsk without a toothbrush—was his lifelong failure to come to terms with the assassination of Trotsky. To lapse briefly into his lingo, one of the greatest assassinations of all time, one that everybody knows about even if the ice pick is often confused with an axe or vice versa, and especially remarkable to Todd in that it took so long to carry out after the initial order was given—at least thirteen years. The problem was that he just could not figure out what to say about it. His head was alive with ideas, but they were vague ones, little puffs of sarin as opposed to gleaming bullets. The problem was not that everyone knew who carried it out and who ordered it and in a confounding, that-little-Stalin-in-all-of-us sort of way, why; no the problem was something else, and that something else was like what would have happened if Kennedy hadn’t been shot, a meaningless unknown that nonetheless rapaciously drives all else from the mind. It is probably safe to say that if there weren’t so many assassinations to go around during Todd Fullmer’s career he would have wound up on a Manhattan street corner, the same one always, repeating ad infinitum in a semi-distracted, semi-determined manner, ‘Trotsky is notsky, Trotsky is notsky, Trotsky is notsky…
The Second Man
You weren’t there so you don’t know what happened, but then again neither were you, so yous can talk about it on an equal basis. Added to that, had you been there, you might have been up there, too, leaving only you, which would take us back to me, a sitting duck, exactly what the three of us were trying to avoid.
The flying duck, as you can see, got pretty high up there, especially compared to how far he fell—what would you call it, one neck length? You’ve had an overly exuberant chiropractor move your head pretty far from your torso, but that would still be no more than half the distance his neck stretched.
You saw the police report, which is not a simple piece of paper. Cause of death: suicide. And it didn’t stop there. Likely due to stress. That left little room to record the conversation of the first officers on the scene of the…Catholic crime. You can imagine, though, one cop asked, ‘But how’d he get up there?’ Because it’s not so easy to get to the rafters near the midpoint of the ceiling of a gymnasium that doesn’t have a climbing rope, and that’s not what he used to hang himself, was it? No.
And there was no ladder.
But you hear the savvy veteran cop sum it all up: ‘Suicides sometimes go to surprising lengths. Nothing surprises me anymore.’
In Slovene, as you know, there’s no pun in the statement.
In America there’s that great strategy of giving a feller just enough rope he can hang himself.
The main thing is you’re writing this book and you’re half the distance back to the first person, which, again, is precisely where you do not want to be, in part because it might not be you, so before you continue you need to find some new blood, so to speak.
Editor’s note: I started The Collidescope so that I could give a home to work that is true to itself rather than diluted by the artless concerns of marketing and audience pandering. The aesthetic of the journal reflects my own tastes, of course: writing that tinkers with the mechanics of language, that itemizes etymology, orchestrates melody, writing that is logistically illogical and acts as the ouija board of voiceless dreams. Rick Harsch’s writing embodies all this and more. I never thought that I’d be serializing an amazing novel from an amazing author. I’m both honored and excited. So dear readers, be sure to bookmark The Collidescope and check back every Sunday for new installments of Kramberger with Monkey: A Comedy of Assassination by Rick Harsch.
Let’s start by rewriting the goddamn author bio: Rick Harsch is 60 years old. He was run down and mauled by the literary scene in the late 1990s, his Driftless Trilogy coming out like three gusts from a pistol preceding a flag that says BANG. The pistol is plastic. The flag is tissue. He moved to Slovenia in 2001, 9 days after the attacks on NY and D.C., an innocent man about to find out that condition stretched all the way to naïve. He wrote a lot, but only last year was his fiction welcomed in the US again, with Voices After Evelyn and Skulls of Istria. Everybody says they are great. Not many people have bought them. This year he is getting two books published by River Boat Books, his magnum (finally a magnum) opus, if it is, called The Manifold Destiny of Eddie Vegas, and a travel/sports book called Walk Like a Duck: a Season of Little League Baseball in Italy.
The book being serialized here by the young overmuscled writer George Salis is called Kramberger with Monkey. If you see fit, you can read these short chapters and see how a writer handles extreme adversity, as my fictional mouthpieces keep getting knocked off as the book goes along. It’s especially inconvenient when a death forces me into the second person. I’m used to being fourth. If you have time, please write and tell us whether or not you think the book should be bloodier.