Unlost: John Kehoe : from Q29 and Q30

Unlost is a way, or perhaps a place, where together we can read writing that is singular, important and attentive, that was published in a literary journal, but never read otherwise, in the form of a book. Unsaid is pleased to launch Unlost with two fictions by John Kehoe, which first appeared in The Quarterly, edited by Gordon Lish.

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I’D LIKE TO KNOW WHAT IT WAS I DID THAT WAS SO WRONG

It was raining and everyone had gone home. In his line there was no work in the rain. The water beaded up and ran down the windows and he sat behind the desk in his office watching this track of humidities. There was a legal pad at his elbow. He took a pencil from the holder and moved the pad in front of him and after a moment carefully printed this word:

Annabelle.

He looked at it and changed the period to a comma. Then, slowly at first, he wrote this:

-You I love, I love, I love. I love the feel of your skin and the smell of your breath, I love the shape of your hands and the line and fullness of your lips and the color of your eyes, I love, I love –

He stopped there and regarded what was in front of him. He did not know a woman named Annabelle and never had. His wife was named Christine. It was his conceit that the pencil seemed to be writing by itself and so he continued.

-I love your weight on top of me I love my weight on top of you I love the sound of you whispering and the sound of you talking, I love I love I love, I love, I love-

He put the pencil down. He picked it up again and signed his name. He folded the letter into thirds and put it into an envelope, and then put the envelope away. Then he stood, put on his coat, turned off the light and went home.

That night he ate a meal with his wife and children. She told him about a quarrel she’d had with a neighbor. His children were quiet and watchful. When he would look at them, they would look at each other and then away.

“How was school today?” he asked his son.

“I hate it,” his son said. “I hate going there and I hate being there and I hate everything about it.”

“Really,” he said. “Is that so?”

“Yes,” his son said.

A moment later he was extremely tired. With difficulty he stood and left the room. There seemed to be nothing under his feet and he had to lean against the wall as he climbed the stairs to the room he shared with his wife. He fell onto the bed and , still in his clothes, was quickly asleep.

He was aware of the legal pad for most of the day, but waited until the office had emptied before he centered it on his desk blotter. He took up the pencil and held it in his hand until it was nearly dark outside and nearly too dim for him to see.

He wrote.

-Annabelle, it is your breasts, your back, your throat, your legs, it is in our arch and collision, it is murmurs, hair, the pulse of a vein, it is of and beyond me, for I was born into it and do not know how to avail myself-

He stopped. He signed and folded this letter too and put it into an envelope and carefully placed it on top of the envelope of the day before, aligning edge and corner.

He stayed where he was for a length of time afterward. His intention was to take the letters with him when he left but it was much later when he understood he had not.

 

 

WHY HEMINGWAY KILLED HIMSELF

The dog (my dog) weighs 65 pounds. The cat (our cat) weighs 7 or 8 pounds. The refrigerator weighs 125 pounds or so. There’s a washing machine, it weighs 90 pounds. Maybe more. The dryer weighs 75 pounds, also maybe more. My lawyer weighs 190 pounds. The toaster weighs 1 pound. The lawn mower weighs 43 pounds. My wife weighs 130 pounds. Our bed weighs 100 pounds, mattress and box spring included. Our bed with my wife in it weighs 230 pounds. These are estimates, you understand. This pencil I’m using, it weighs next to nothing, I guess. The televisions weigh 40 pounds apiece; that’s 120 pounds. My daughter weighs 45 pounds. My wife’s doctor weighs 175 pounds. My father weighs 240 pounds. One of my brothers weighs 2,000 pounds. I myself have no weight at all, and am blown across lawns and yards by the slightest stir of breeze.

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