A Prairie Anxiety
As guided by the Book of Ethan and foretold in The Way He Was at the Start
I was a writer who drank.
Then I was a drinker who wrote.
Now I’m a drunk who thinks about writing.
The Book of Ethan says, “You have to mine your own life. It’s the only way you’re gonna stumble on anything real.” There’s a mama racoon resident in my dumpster brain. I met her under my veranda. She showed me her drained teats and protruding rib cage. Her name is Rhonda and we share what we find. Not all of it is fresh but we’ve raised two healthy litters.
All my procrastination is exhausting—trying to divine what needs to be told; weigh what I feel like telling. We can know it all. I should ask the salamander tattoo on my forearm for advice, but it has never said anything of use.
I want to fix this, to get all my edges neat and clean. Scrape away the ugliness. But it’s easier to derail the truth, limiting it to unintended switches to hoary branch lines or just some minor juddering on the rails. Then last night, confused and anxious, I hurled a locomotive and thirty cars of Saskatchewan potash into Little Llama daycare. An anatomically precise sexual abuse doll and a brace of hamsters were killed.
It’s so late in the day. So late.
I’m a laggard, staring at the sun—a fading taunt on the horizon. I slouch in this comfortable chair—MacBook Pro burning my thighs a half pint of Buffalo Trace stretching my bladder—facing my limitations. A drunkard watching Mars chase the Moon.
The Moon floats to my triple-paned living room window and we have a whispered conversation while the tides of the Indian Ocean and South China Sea reverse and roar tsunamis toward the coasts of every country in Asia.
The Moon is shameless and unselfconscious of the acne craters, impact scars, and mountainous cysts that cover their face. They blackmail me with the lives of billions of people.
I piss myself. A relief. A prod.
This is a confession?
It comes too soon.
It’s a memoir. A plea for attention?
A speculation? A faux investigation, because I’m the culpable one?
Only I know it all.
Soon, everyone will know. I’m not sure I have it all down or know what’s real or what’s imagined or manifested and for some of it I only know what I’ve been told. Some of it hasn’t happened and will not happen if I don’t follow the Moon’s injunction.
Maybe you’ve heard this all before, crickets chirping before a thunder boomer. Maybe it’s happened to you. Maybe I did it. Maybe I’m doing it right now. Maybe I did it tomorrow.
Call me a monster, a root-rich hank of your hair wound through my shaking fist.
Every action an effect lacking a clockwork cause.
But pretend it’s all new even if it’s not. It’s not hard, we only think we know. Everything is hindsight and time makes a hash of memory; it’s not a fundamental ticking nor a flashbulb moment, so only extrapolations and lies endure.
So this is a confession.
It’s up to me; you won’t hear this from someone else.
Only from me.
Too goddamn late.
A previous version of this prologue is included in The Ravishing Corpse, which made the long list of the 2020 annual 3-Day Novel Contest.
Copyright © Todd Besant. All rights reserved.
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Best paired with a soldier of Buffalo Trace in the backseat of a Ford Escort