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Original Essays | August 21, 2014

Richard Bausch: IMG Why Literature Can Save Us



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    Before, During, After

    Richard Bausch 9780307266262

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1 Hawthorne Literature- A to Z

A Very Minor Prophet

by

A Very Minor Prophet Cover

 

 

Excerpt

Chapter IV

Where an Unusual Dinner with Annie Mercyx Takes Place

I made the man his triple espresso,

filled the next two orders, and basically

survived my shift. I wasnt really sure what

to think about the conversation Id had with Mercyx.

The night before, Id thought I would throw

all issues of His Church That Sunday into the

Dumpster behind the burrito shop or burn them,

but now there were a few more copies to contend

with. I was still embarrassed about them, but

clearly Mercyx had thought they were worthwhile,

so now pride mixed in with the shame.

Then there was this dinner with Mercyx at Blowfish thing.

Like I said, Blowfish wasnt a place Mercyx would go – she

had a sleeve full of tattoos on her left arm; short, cropped,

perpetually bleached hair; and muscled calves harder than

Schwarzeneggers biceps. Mercyx was a burrito-and-run kind

of gal, and we assumed, Beale and I, that she was a lesbian,

although I have to admit that despite all our adolescent conversations,

wed never ventured anywhere close to Mercyxs

sex life.

Its very strange, when I think back on it, that we hadnt.

Beales comics were all about masturbation and frustrated

libido, and mine occasionally dabbled in that direction; so

youd think somewhere in there we would have discussed

intimate matters, but it just never happened. Mercyx was

one of the guys – a fellow cyclist, pool shark, and zinester.

Dont get me wrong, Mercyx wasnt unattractive. If anything

she was hyperattractive – in a small tits, low hips, Suicide

Girls kind of way – but we kind of considered her an

untouchable. It was like if wed shown any interest in her, we

couldnt have been her friend. We saw the way she fucked

with other men in her brash, slick-tongued way, and decided

wed rather be in collusion than on a collision.

Mercyx was tough, and we were soft zine boys. At first, we

felt privileged just to be in her presence, and then later, since

wed been hanging out with her for almost a year, we forgot

her presence as a sexual being all together. She was genderneutral

Mercyx, the Photocopy Queen and our compadre.

So yeah. Id finally decided that the whole thing was no

big deal, that it was just the raw meat, that shed chosen Blowfish

simply because she had a primal urge to sink her teeth

into something fleshy and uncooked. There were better, cheaper

sushi joints in town, but it was near my apartment and she

knew shed have to cart the zine stash there afterwards.

I walked down the stairs of my apartment, took in the

cooling breeze of an unseasonably warm spring evening, and

sauntered down Alberta Street, not thinking anything at all

about my unwashed, after-cycling T-shirt, my threadbare

black jeans, my half-tied Chuck Taylors. I walked down the

street and arrived at Blowfish. And there I saw Annie Mercyx,

and Annie Mercyx was the most beautiful thing Id ever seen.

I am surprised, when I think back on it, that I got words

out of my mouth at all. Mercyx was wearing a strapless dress,

a kitschy cotton number with ferris wheels on it in pink and

yellow pastels. She had on a heavy coat of soft pink lipstick

to match, and an ochre-colored eye shadow that extended

cat-like to her temples. The contrast between the hard tattoos

and the soft colors of her dress was a visual fiasco, making

her appear comic and freaky and completely stunning all at

once. I suppose the average person would have seen her and

just thought she was strange; but for me it was all my fantasies

come to life, a beautiful alien from a sci-fi movie.

The words that came out of my mouth – oh, the lovely, stupid

words – were, “Annie, do you have a date tonight?”

Now the reality of it is that when I asked Mercyx if she had

a date that night, I was being completely sincere. I really

thought that she was setting up some office drone to do copies

for her. It didnt occur to me that this was the date, that

Annie had put on a dress and made herself up for me. Annie,

however, took it as flirting, as if I was up to clever tricks. I had

absolutely no idea what I was doing; and yet I was doing all

the right things.

Mercyx actually blushed when I asked. I, the embarrassment

king; I, Bartholomew Flynn; I was making Annie Mercyx

blush. Now it was Annie Mercyx who wanted to just ride

right by the store window.

Mercyx responded sarcastically, “Meeting Beale after

dinner.”

I totally didnt get it. I wasnt gullible enough to think that

Mercyx was serious about having a date with Beale – I mean,

Beale was the most awkward man on the planet – but I still

wasnt making the connect between the makeup and me. “No,

seriously, Annie, who are you meeting?”

Mercyx wanted this whole thing to go away. “Why do you

call me Annie? Everyone else calls me Mercyx.”

I still didnt get it, but I decided to drop the subject of the

clothes and answer the question. Mercyx was usually so deadpan,

it was strange to see her the way she was, verging on being

pissed off. “I dont know, if it bothers you, Ill call you Mercyx.

Its just old-fashioned or something. Maybe its the Little

Orphan Annie thing, you know? She had short, orange, funky

hair, and your hair, while its more bleached than orange, is

still funky. But then again, shes so much more wholesome.

Maybe its more the contrast between you and Little Orphan

Annie: like its kind of ironic to call you Annie; because youre

not an Annie at all, youre much more of a … of a Mercyx …”

Mercyx was looking at me steely-eyed. Between that and

the yellow streaks on her eyelids, I couldnt continue my

usual ramble. “What?” I asked.

“Why do you do that?”

“Do what?”

“Just go off like that.”

“Like what?”

“Like arcane bullshit about Orphan Annie.”

I did this all the time. Thats what we did, Beale and Mercyx

and I, we had long, inane conversations about nothing.

And there wasnt conflict. What was going on with Mercyx

all of a sudden? “I dont know,” I said, “because its funny? I

mean, we all do it.”

Mercyx was really making me uncomfortable. I knew she

was formidable – Id seen her in action at The Curiosity absolutely

tearing into the well-dressed yuppie types always

trying to get into her pants – but Id never been the target of

her ire.

“But its bullshit,” she said, “and you know its bullshit. All

those issues of OTT. That was the whole point of those issues,

to make fun of yourself for all the rambling you do. And then

this new church thing, that was the flipside: you showing how

much power you could have if you were only sincere. It was

brilliant. The OTT stuff was funny, mostly because you took

every conversation Beale and you and I ever had and ripped

it a new asshole, but That Sunday – I mean, dude, youre so

right – what if we were all really sincere like that preacher guy.

If we were to just tell it like it is. We all know how it is, but we

never actually tell it like it is.

“You have to tell me a couple of things, and you have to be

serious. First off, you have to tell me how you came up with

this guy and what you were thinking, and dont go off on some

tangent to avoid the question. And then you have to tell me

why you really call me Annie, and I dont want to hear any more

of that Little Orphan shit.”

Id never seen Mercyx with such metal in her eyes. They

were the gray-blue of a circular saw blade. It suddenly seemed

unreal to tell her the truth: that Booker was really a guy who

had stood up in his makeshift church that Sunday and talked

to me. When it happened, it had been odd but not unreal – if

anything, it had been ultra-real, like when youre on your

bike and the semi next to you starts to come into your lane,

Zoom of the pattern on Mercyxs kitschy ferris wheel dress.

james bernard frost 40 A Very Minor Prophet

and you know its going to turn right, and that youre about

to be a victim of the dreaded right hook, and that the dual

human-sized wheels next to you will crush you, but somehow

you slam on your brakes enough to swerve behind him and

survive, and then you look around and the world is normal

and traffic moves on.

But now it seemed unreal, like Id made the whole thing

up. What was even more unreal was that I hadnt even thought

of Booker, the person, since I left his church; in fact, I couldnt

even tell you if Id said anything to him. It was truly as if Id

made him up. But I couldnt have. Id been at his church, and

I could walk over, if I wanted to, the very next Sunday, and I

could show Mercyx and Beale the place that inspired His

Church That Sunday.

It was hard to do, but she was staring at me, and although

it wasnt in my nature – as usually when I talk to people my

eyes are all over the place, and never actually in the eyes of

the person Im talking to – I looked her back in the eyes, and

what I said was, “Okay, there really is a preacher dude, and

he really does do a sermon like the one I wrote about in That

Sunday. As for calling you Annie …”

Its funny how realizations hit you mid-sentence, like it

did on that day at Blowfish. Wed made our way into the restaurant

and used those little golf pencils to fill out our paper

sushi menus, and now I was sitting with Annie Mercyx on the

back patio, the late evening blue of the sky tinged a deeper

shade of blue; not pink like late evening skies are often described

– the air too clean and smog-free for that – but midnight

blue: a darker, softer, more romantic blue. There was an umbrella

over us, and nigiri in front of us, and cute little bowls

to mix our soy sauce and wasabi. Annie was beautiful and she

was Annie and not Mercyx. It wasnt the truth what I said,

because the truth was probably much closer to what Id already

said before about it sounding ironic: before this evening,

Annie Mercyx was always more Mercyx than Annie. But

somehow what came out of my mouth was more sincere than

the truth – and more importantly it was the right thing to say –

because the realization I had mid-sentence was that the reason

Annie had dressed up, and put on makeup, and confronted

me about my ironic bullshit, was that she liked me in a

much different way than as a fellow cyclist and zinester; and

perhaps even more importantly it was the right thing to say

because I liked her – and if I told her that I hadnt really thought

about it, that my calling her Annie instead of Mercyx was nothing

more than a quirk; then, although I would be technically

telling the truth, I would be implying a lie, which would be

to say that I didnt desire to be something other than her

fellow cyclist and zinester.

So the way I finished the sentence was this way, “I guess

I just wanted to be different. I wanted … I wanted you and

me to be different.”

I know, its such a cheesy moment – it makes me cringe

to write it out – it was so disgustingly sincere, but its really

what I said, and you cant change what you say once youve

said it.

Mercyx reached a hand across the table, in order to grab

mine, and then she said:

1.

3.

2.

Mercyx and I consumed our remaining nigiri in an uncomfortable

silence, and then agreed to meet the next Sunday at my

apartment for a visit to Bookers church. You would have

thought that my statement of affection and Mercyxs reaching

across the table for my hand would have led to more intimate

conversation, a kiss or two, and if this were an R movie or a

porn shoot, the consummation of everyones desires; but all

it did was make us feel really, really weird.

By the time Mercyx mercifully let go of my hand, the union

had become clammier than anything wed eaten that night.

I felt stupid. I wanted to be witty and charming but couldnt

think of anything to say. I wanted to at least

Product Details

ISBN:
9780983304982
Author:
Frost, James Bernard
Publisher:
Hawthorne Books
Subject:
Literature-A to Z
Edition Description:
Trade Paper
Publication Date:
20120403
Binding:
Paperback
Language:
English
Pages:
200
Dimensions:
11 x 8 in
Age Level:
from 18

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Fiction and Poetry » Literature » A to Z
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History and Social Science » Pacific Northwest » Literature Folklore and Memoirs
A Very Minor Prophet Used Trade Paper
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Product details 200 pages Hawthorne Books - English 9780983304982 Reviews:
"Review" by , "Bucking a headwind of despair, Frost pedals his verbal bicycle into the belly of the Beast, only to return bearing a brand-new Gospel illuminated with Voodoo cream and composed in the edgy vernacular of Portland's thriving freak scene."
"Review" by , "To date only Gus Van Sant has depicted the grim, dim, greasy, cramped world of Portland, Oregon. Now James Bernard Frost has given us the best novel, ever, about this strange underground world of misfits and heroes."
"Review" by , "A valentine to coffee and bikes and rain. Its a love story between an aimless twenty-something zinester who finds his purpose in a dwarf prophet, and a tattooed tough-girl bike messenger with OCD and a teddy bear collection."
"Review" by , "With all the poetry and skill of a deranged art collector, James Bernard Frost has thrown the zine scene, bumper sticker theocracy, bicycle pirates and hipster love into a coffee grinder of awesome." Xavier Robillard, author of Captain Freedom: A Superhero's Quest for Truth, Justice, and the Celebrity He So Richly Deserves
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