CONJUNCTIONS: A Web Exclusive
Three Conversation Pieces from Unlucky Lucky People
Rikki Ducornet’s The Complete Butcher’s Tales in conversation with Daniel Grandbois’s Unlucky Lucky People
Despite the soot that tumbles from the sky, our old people look good—the color of milk and veal roast. Margaret gathers them up and gives them clean teeth, while I show them a variety of lifelike images and make them answer question after question. Tubes and wires prod the ceiling like forked hazel wands. Always, there are sounds like hiccups and belches. And cheese stacked upon a board the size of a door.
One man’s eyebrows press together, as if they are hands clasped in prayer. I shave them off and sew them lengthwise. I find myself whacking him over the head with the eyebrow, shouting, “Luck is luck.” It would relieve the pain, or so I was told. After the beating he is very tired.
This goes on day after day. In the hall, those waiting their turn do terrible things to the dog, forcing her throat open, for example, and making her eat dirt, earthworms, spiders, and moths. They have no idea what else to do with themselves.
Margaret hasn’t the energy to twiddle her thumbs or bake an apple, but it’s important to get old folks soaped and combed. She gobs a mouthful of petals, juicy, sour-sweet, stuffs toilet paper in her ears, and gets herself into position. She looks wistfully into an old woman’s smiling face before removing the lips, the nose, the eyelashes and wig. The look on the now cow-y mug suggests that the woman is a bit befuddled though, at her age, willing to make the best of it. Before our eyes she is metamorphosed into a pool of mucous.
The pumpkin yellow school bus comes for Margaret and me. Head spinning, I run to my hotel and upon reaching the room am sick on the carpet. A hot bath, a good rest—and the nerves unravel like spools of thread. Everything is simple. I give myself a terrific sudsing. Afterward, I walk hours in a city where the air clings to my beard and skin like a rancid oil. “We’re making headway, we’re making headway,” I tell myself when, in fact, we are only making more holes.
Robert Pinget’s Mahu or The Material in conversation with Daniel Grandbois’s Unlucky Lucky People
Three of her limbs were bent backwards. I had to do something, you see.
One day, she saw me at the gates and called her friends over. Their eyes clear as daisies, they put their tongues out at me. I went and told mother.
When I’m in a café, I dare not look at people. Beneath skin, striated muscle props a quarter smile under my nose. Mother forbade me to open my door, but here I am, loaded down with blueprints of myself. I know all her noises by heart.
I escaped to the restroom and returned a lesser man.
I think about it all the time.
It doesn’t do to think too much. I get everything mixed up. Be a mold, I tell myself. A mold shapes candles, so it could shape your thoughts.
Every evening Mother says, “I want to see you fill out a bit.” It’s all this worm-powder she’s been taking. She goes about sweeping, as if not to bother me, but leaves my door open and makes broad strokes with the broom whenever she’s in my sight. Who paired me with this clown anyway? I could swim through her larger blood vessels.
“So this is it, is it?” said my father at last. I was ill at ease in the blue-striped shirt, so he gave me a clean one and I drank milk.
I looked everywhere for him, under the bookshelf, under the chair. He was sitting in the middle of my room with only his underpants on. I circled him like a long-legged bird. The breath in the room was hot and bitter and strong smelling.
He said, “I’m sorry about the bit of trouble you had with my daughter.”
Rick Moody’s The Ice Storm and The Diviners in conversation with Daniel Grandbois’s Unlucky Lucky Days
Had it to do with kids and Halloween? But it was Christmas. In the corner of the room, for a split second, unusually large ears. Or, was it Easter? There was little difference anymore. Within a half hour, he would be there, slouching in front of the wall, his splashing and sloshing in the bathtub afterward leading her to imagine all manner of savior.
She’d left the door open. A single glass remained from the afternoon. He’d tried to explain self-abuse. The implications were there for anyone to see.
When the moment arrived, her body was on her side of the bed. His use of tools was limited. The woman shrieked.
The shape of the stain suggested her luck was about to run out.
Next, they’re in the condition of not knowing how to stand there. They lack a certain freedom. The proper formation of a thought often escaped him. The edge of her mouth is drooping. In the corner, for a split second, a blind cat. The sudden recognition gives them both a start.
He goes for a walk. Her eyes remain fixed. She lives alone in a small circle. She holds up the glass. At the window, beneath a crust of snow, she hears screeching birds, which are everywhere, always. In the maple, where the birds should have been, the face of a chimp. He’d meant to carve his own face, but his use of tools … The snowman beside the tree has the maple’s broken-off limbs for arms. Everything is moving. An uncomfortable dream in the midst of a grueling hangover. Were those weed stalks and feathers now sticking to the window?
What is there to understand? They had trouble untangling themselves.
The bedroom was lighter inside than she had expected. She goes to the kitchen and opens the refrigerator. Into a jar of strawberry jam, she slides her middle finger. It lay dormant in there for forty-three years before the then old woman took it out again, and the finger beckoned her under.
Daniel Grandbois is the author of the Believer Book Award Reader Survey Selection and Indie Next Notable Book Unlucky Lucky Days and the art novel The Hermaphrodite: An Hallucinated Memoir. His work appears in many journals and anthologies, including Boulevard, Mississippi Review, and Fiction. Also a musician, he plays in three of the pioneering bands of the “Denver Sound&rdquo: Slim Cessna’s Auto Club, Tarantella, and Munly.