Since I’m sick with a cold and classes are over, I don’t HAVE to go out. So I’m not going out. It takes a few days of being cooped up in the house before I actually want to start organizing. That time has come. So I am slowly going through the pile of papers on top of the filing cabinet. It’s a little unfortunate that my yen for organization tends to visit me after business hours. I can call to activate the Macy’s card I let myself get talked into back in October. But the AAA card that says it will renew automatically has an obsolete credit card on file, and I can only change that from 8-5. And, as I unpack my new Film Independent membership materials, and registration documents from the WGA, AND the Macy’s card paperwork, I realize these will require new files, and I don’t have the files. I need to go buy more files. So for the moment I can only make piles, and by the time I have a pile of piles, it looks very similar to the pile I had to begin with.
Anyway, as I do this, I am also listening to Radios by Jerome Stern. His is a name I am familiar with, as he directed the Creative Writing Department at FSU for a time, and wrote articles and texts that I used while there. He died of cancer in 1996, almost ten years before I arrived to study, but I could feel that for many of the professors there who were his friends, his loss still felt fresh, his contributions present.
He wrote a lot “micro-fiction,” very short stories or essays that today are more popularly called “flash fiction” or “short-shorts.” I think he might have been amused by and written some brilliant Facebook status posts or Twitter poetry. Here’s a piece from his I’ve taken from an old Florida State Times:
by Jerome Stern
I get bad news in the morning and faint. Lying on tile, I think about death and see the tombstone my wife and I saw twenty years ago in the hilly colonial cemetery in North Carolina: Peace at last. I wonder, where is fear? The doctor, embarrassed, picks me up off the floor and I stagger to my car. What do people do next?
I pick up my wife. I look at my wife. I think how much harder it would be for me if she were this sick. I remember the folk tale that once seemed so strange to me, of the peasant wife beating her dying husband for abandoning her. For years, people have speculated on what they would do if they only had a week, a month a year to live. Feast or fast? I feel a failure of imagination. I should want something fantastic – a final meal atop the Eiffel Tower. Maybe I missed something not being brought up in a religion that would haunt me now with an operatic final confrontation between good and evil – I try to imagine myself a Puritan fearful of damnation, a saint awaiting glory.
But I have never been able to take seriously my earnestly mystical students, their belief that they were heading to join the ringing of the eternal spheres. So my wife and I drive to the giant discount warehouse. We sit on the floor like children and, in five minutes, pick out a 60-inch television, the largest set in the whole God damn store.