[bracket bracket] 13 "Oh that's great, just great. Is it permanent?" Uncle George would have used his wonderful mastery of farmyard/barroom language if Aunt Mary was out of earshot. But they were both there, both staring at my new tattoo.

"Yeah, it's a real tattoo." Proudly.

"It's . . . what is it?" Aunt Mary was an old-fashioned, church-going, meek old country gal, but real sweet and understanding most of the time.

"I know what it is. Everybody knows what it is. What I want to know is: What does it mean?" George was flummoxed.

I was going to keep my patented passive-agressive smile on my face through this whole thing -- no matter what. I wasn't gonna let them make me feel like a little kid anymore. I was going to just stand there and smile, and make them go out of their ever-loving Buick-driving golf-clubbed minds. So I smiled my smugly smirking smile and slowly and quietly said: "It's a fork."

"So it is a fork." Aunt Mary was ever so slightly relieved. She had no idea what else it might be, but if she had to guess, her guesses were fairly dark and torturous indeed.

Uncle George was guessing too. "This is some gang thing. This . . . this means something. This isn't just a fork is it Keith? [My name's Keith, I just couldn't work it into the story earlier. Sorry.]

Uncle George started mouthing something and sputtering like somebody was choking him. He got real still as Aunt Mary looked up at him. Then he actually said: "What other boys at school have two inch long forks tattooed on their foreheads?"

we make our own suns "Wait, wait, let's just take it this far, OK?"

I was sunk. Here I had created and carefully crafted this beautiful little short story, and Claudio the supposed Comp Lit savant was drawing his penknife on the first of only three pages. I didn't think I was even suposed to be critiqued at this meeting anyway. This was an admissions essay, not a homework assignment.

"First. What is the point of view you're writing from? Who is Keith? We need to know more about him ."

"Well, my idea was just to keep the reader in the dark about point of view and gradually reveal it over the course of the story. That was kind of like the whole thing." I shouldn't have sounded so defensive. I don't even want to go to this fancy-pants writing seminar in Iowa. This was all Glorias stupid idea.

"Yes, of course. And the fork. But it's . . . it's too cute. It just doesn't work here."

"Well if you would just read the whole thing, you'd find out that the first person was really a poodle in the distant future where animals are real smart, and this was all what he, Keith Armand, poodle lobbyist of the future, was seeing on his virtual reality display. And then at the end, you find out this is just the introduction, just the setup to some sort of weird kinky cyber sex scene involving the poodle and the good decent midwestern farm folk. And then it just kind of ends and leaves you hanging . . . and hopefully thinking."

"That's the stupidest thing I have ever heard in 25 years of reading some of the stupidest pieces of crap ever written."

We stared at each other silently for a moment. I, to my discredit, looked down first. He leaned back in his chair, the little interpersonal battle won, and said, "But I do like the 'Yeah, it's a real tattoo.' proudly." "It's sort of like a stage direction -- proudly-- I like the economy of that."


stride through the jungle that we put there AMY: Well, you didn't have to read all of it. Just tell me how to punctuate that quoting a sentence with a quote in it. [She points to the second to last paragraph in the previous text block.] I end up with a close quote right next to an open quote. Which is kind of clunky.

BILLY: New paragraph?

AMY: Yeah, I thought of that, but I really don't want a new paragraph there.

BILLY: You could maybe put in some description about how [he looks down at the page] Claudio . . . leans forward again, or something.

AMY: Well, I don't know. There really isn't any good way to do this is there? To imbed all these quotes within each other?

BILLY: I don't know, maybe you could use indents. You know, set it off like an extract.

AMY: Yeah! That would work. [Excitedly] You could do anything with indents. You can do quotes within quotes within quotes . . . ad infinitum.

BILLY: Yeah, but it is kind of cheesy and indented text will wrap if someone is viewing the text in a small browser window . . . and you should use fewer elipses -- in web text you never know where the periods are going to wrap to a new line. . . . [he senses her disapointment] By the way, I really liked "golf-clubbed minds" up in this first stuff. [Billy playfully pantomimes clubbing Amy.]

AMY: [sarcastically] Thanks.

and at last merge our voices in song

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