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Fiction — “The Other Borges”

Author’s Note (For Context): This is a ficción, inside joke, eulogy, parody, and testament to the translator and writer Jorge Borges, in imitation of his excellent “Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius.”

I owe the discovery of a Borgesian doppelganger to the conjunction of a mirror site and an entry on Wikipedia. The mirror troubled the depths of my thoughts in my suburban home in Sugar Land, Texas; the Wiki-page was devoted to an author with a similar name, another Borges. My friend had been explaining the utility of a mirror site, a website replica created to divert network traffic, when, in jest, he said that mirrors and copulation were abominable, since they both multiply the numbers of men. The phrasing seemed too eloquent for his invention, and I asked who had said it. Jorge Borges, was the reply. A strange sense of unreality set in, and I asked if he had any relation to the Argentine writer of the same name, to which my friend said – I don’t think so.

We set about to search for this Borges on the Internet, but could find nothing, only webpages saying Page Not Found, since my Wifi wasn’t working. To save face, he searched again on his phone, but could only find the other Borges – the magical realist from South America. Again, he distanced the quote’s origin and this literary master, arguing that they were separate persons. I finally decided this had been a fruitless fiction derived from my friend’s pride and insecurity in claiming the passage for his own. Surely, if there had been two Borgeses, I would have heard of this anomaly, this controversy?

Years later, I would find a book by this alt-author in a used book store on 99. The work was titled The Garden of Forking Paths, and contained a slew of stories, all strange and wonderful and infinitesimally complex. I was leaving the store when in the Spanish aisle I saw the name Borges in bold print. It was on the cover of El jardin de senderos que se bifurcan – clearly, the work of the Original Author. I bought both works and brought them to my home for careful examination, or to use a word discounted by high school teachers, to peruse. What I found was astonishing. The two texts, by two authors of the same name, were completely unrelated in regards to content. In fact, one was incomprehensible, written in a language divergent from ours: Spanish. Yet the structures were identical, or nearly so, for both had Tables of Contents, chapter headings, a body of pages, a foreword and index. And the stories corresponded; their paragraphs and even their punctuation were terribly homogenous. I felt as if I’d found some otherworldly Rosetta Stone, some fragment of twin dimensions.

The pictures of the authors in the book jackets looked related, although one was much older, shrewder, with a drooping eye. They could have been twins, if it weren’t for the gap in years, or duplicates, as if God had multiplied Soul and Body – some error in creation buried beneath the continuities.

My final discovery was on the bookshelf of a woman I was wooing. She was a graduate student renting her professor’s small one-bedroom apartment while he was on sabbatical. There was an erotic nature to our connection, accentuated by strange phallic images the professor had put up on the walls. African tribal spears, bolo knives, and near-nude women with large breasts in Picasso-like frontality. On her shelf, or rather, the professor’s shelf, was a copy of Borges’ Forking Paths. One night, I brought my own copy from home (possibly by the same author, possibly by the Other) and compared the two. What I found led to my utter distress and subsequent destruction of the books. The works were the same and not the same, as if the two writers had plagiarized the same source, some ur-text, or precursor. In one book, the words read, “I have known that thing the Greeks knew not – uncertainty.” The other: “I have known uncertainty: a state unknown to the Greeks.” Both, despite distance, derivation, offered a glimpse into the unrealness of my world – its labyrinths, its mirrors.

I struck a match which burned like the sun above me, and put it to the books. For a moment, I thought there were twin suns crackling in the afternoon heat, before the bookfire rescinded, leaving behind its ashy droppings, a clutter of black fragments belonging to the libraries of Hell.

Published — “Saamiya”

I’m proud to announce that “Saamiya” was published in Issue 4 of HeartWood Magazine. Without giving too much away, I’ll say that “Saamiya” is about a depressed Muslim girl who encounters the brave but fatal heroism of Piggy from William Golding’s Lord of the Flies and finds common ground, perhaps inspiration. There are elements in this story I find important, including the guidance we receive from stories and the healing we receive from storytelling.

HeartWood is a digital magazine which publishes biannually in April and October. The editors prefer writing that “pushes into… its own truth” and “that takes emotional risks, that gets to the heart of the matter.” Because the magazine is run by the MFA program at West Virginia Wesleyan College, its voice has a very strong Appalachian presence. Luckily, they found enough merit in my short story to include it as well.

Fiction — “The Most Prolific Writer”

Tanner Harby is the most substantial writer of the 21st century, although since the Century has only recently started, that might be presumptuous. But I am already this far in my report of his craft, and if it emerges that there is anyone who has written as extensively and with such detail, I will kill myself. I will put a gun to my temple and blast away, because my life will have become a purposeless ooze.

What makes Harby interesting (abstractly, not in actuality) is his lifelong attempt to document his entire life experience – all of it. Every minute, every moment, every fart, as it occurs in real-time.

Obviously, this project has had its pratfalls. Harby cannot record everything. In fact, his novel (shared with me, and only me, through Google Docs) is abridged. His babyhood, his childhood, are fleeting. The true conceit begins in his dwindling teen years, specifically when he learned how to write at 16, and will end at his death. Most of it is typed, but some parts are scanned napkins, toilet paper scrolls, whatever’s available.

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Fiction — “Seven Days”

Day One
Not having anything to do, or to stave off the heart attack forming in my chest (it turned out to be gas), or to hold off a walk to the gas station for cigarettes, or to creep away from the wife awhile, ornery ever since she noticed a carpet growing on her chin (it happens at this age), I turned on the light in the garage. “That’s better,” I said, maybe to the dust, before I set up my canvas and paints. But I couldn’t think of anything to put to paper, so I went back inside and watched TV.

Day Two
The light was still on when I went in and sat on my stool and tried to think of what I was going to paint. Wasn’t there some guy who looked at a blank canvas for ten thousand hours and sold it for ten thousand dollars? Some postmodern garbage about painting with the eyes, or the meaning behind the effort. But you need to be an associate professor to pull that crap. I thought to myself: simple. Dab the brush in blue. A sky, maybe. No gradation. No atmospheric perspective. No clouds, either. Just blue. Like a Rothko.

It was a relief to be painting again, but I couldn’t think of anything particularly interesting beyond its base color. My wife was on the couch, reading a book about magicians. I kissed her head, and she made a waving motion like she was fanning away a fart. Take-out again.

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