MASSAGING MY FATHER
I sit on his butt and I rub while he groans. He is lying facedown on the floor. We are in front of the television. Blue Bloods is on. When I finish he gives me ten dollars.
The two white hosts, elderly both, handed checks to the winners, stammering and struggling to pronounce—then mis-pronouncing—the names of the non-white writers, as well as the titles of their books.
A sixteen-year-old, who, before her meteoric rise to superstardom, "had no energy, no friends and didn't speak to anyone," who, prior to school striking, "just sat alone at home, with an eating disorder," became a messianic figure to many when she rode a solar-powered yacht across the ocean with her parents, successful in film and theatre, to the U.N. Climate Action Summit, where she gave a speech in which she said, among other things, "I shouldn't be up here."
AT THE END OF THE WEEK DURING WHICH HIS GRANDMOTHER DIED, HIS GIRLFRIEND HAD A PROBLEM AND HE FELL BEHIND AT WORK AND FELT LETHARGIC
He surprised himself by Googling "best legal testosterone boosters."
The most influential fiction editor of the second half of the twentieth century, known for editing the work of a prominent American short story writer in an unprecedentedly severe manner, but also for his ego and his relationships with women, his various proteges, and, to a lesser extent, his own writing, sent the independent publishing company I work for an email, requesting that a story by him that I published online (which was initially published in an early print issue of the magazine) be taken down immediately, and that remuneration be paid for "grievous damages" to the tune of $2,500. The email, written by the 84-year-old editor this year, included, among others, the sentence, "That material, once published online, more or less exists there forever is not lost on me." I deleted the story; it is no longer online.
A COMPASSIONATE MAN
A man who prided himself on his compassionate nature, and who identified compassion as his single greatest motivator, screamed while pumping his fist in the air with the fists of other compassionate men. They shouted compassionate slogans, spit flying from their mouths, faces contorting, voices hoarse and indistinct. When they came upon a man without compassion—easily identified by his lowered fist, closed lips, and curiously singular behavior—they beat him.
MASSAGING MY FATHER 2
I sit on the bed in the guest room, responding to an overdue email and looking at Twitter—my secret, anonymous Twitter—when his voice calls up the stairs.
"Jay, you want to make a couple bucks?"