I’m pleased to announce that my latest work of short fiction, titled “Nothing Extraordinary, Nothing of Note,” is now available in Issue Seven of The St. Petersburg Review. This is a story inspired in part by my Zen practice but also by a brief return to central Illinois when I attended an academic seminar and got to spend the night in Urbana.
The story’s main character is Milt Ilsa, an optometrist and socially awkward amateur poet who spends his time obsessing over lines he knows are loathsome. He has virtually no social life and lives a mundane, tiresome daily routine of meals in diners and visits with patients. One day, of course, he’s met with a realization—it actually happens while he is masturbating—that provokes an experience not unlike a satori, or a Zen awakening, in which the impermanence of all things becomes ultra-clear to him.
Here is a sexy excerpt:
The other woman Ilsa had known only as a teen. This was Deanna, the freckled and red-haired girl for whom he had felt the tender hell of unrequited adolescent infatuation. The youths had never shared any more than a few awkward dances at their high school mixers, nights when Deanna had come with actual dates while Ilsa had to muster all his courage just to show up to the gymnasium, then clench his raging heart into a fist and ask Deanna for a single slow dance. Sure, she sometimes sat with him at lunch, but she did it out of conceit, to feel how powerfully he wanted her. Ilsa knew but sat hoping for some miracle of Cupid. On Homecoming and Prom nights, Ilsa would lie in his boyhood room with the tortured thoughts of what Deanna was doing with the imbeciles who always took her out. On the spectrum of imbeciles, they were far worse than Ilsa, the sons of the Caltoon’s wealthiest: doctors, lawyers, one guy a former college quarterback, another the owner of a factory that packaged frankfurters into plastic.
Although he had never even kissed Deanna, and while he had last seen her more than two decades ago, he still fantasized about her, imagining an adult woman between twenty-five and thirty. The helplessness he felt to these automatic fantasies could actually drive him to fury. This Tuesday night he wanted Melanie, but as if on train tracks, his consciousness left her bed and curled down to the valley station where thoughts of Deanna waited. Of course, he imagined Deanna far more often than Vera.
Interestingly, he often didn’t touch her in his fantasies. The thought of her sitting naked for him at breakfast or on a boat in the middle of an isolated lake could drive him to agonizing climax. In a reoccurring fantasy, he saw her posing for him in a birch forest as he photographed her body, her pubis unshaved, a few yellowed leaves in her wild, frizzy red hair. He was having that fantasy now, himself in the birch forest, a fully manual 35mm Leica in his hands, Deanna leaning against a tree, then arching her back and lifting her arms toward the forest canopy. Now she knelt for him, knees pressing into soft moss, mouth open only gently, green eyes a shade lighter than the verdant background divided by narrow white trunks. For the next sequence of shots, she spread her legs and flashed an intoxicating glance, allowing him to adore her, remaining wildly beautiful for him, freely giving her beauty over so that he could possess it in photographs, return to it whenever he wanted, whenever she was absent.
Purchase Issue 7 here, or order it from your favorite bookstore in July.