Petty Manny / by Zak Block

Their marriage had to come to an end when it became apparent to Manny's wife that he was an inadequate provider. That doesn't make a lot of sense. He couldn't have always been an inadequate provider, of which fact she only then became aware, he must have become, at some point, inadequate as a provider, and then this must have become apparent to his wife, her friends, their family. I'm bored of this already. That it was apparent to friends and family might not have been relevant; but her becoming aware of his inadequacy—as a provider—was inextricably connected to their becoming aware of which, owing to the particular manner in which his inadequacy was, suddenly, made knowable to the world. So that it would be impossible to say whether this revelation had any bearing on her decision to end her, their marriage. So we won't speculate needlessly. And that I've mentioned it at all is not meant to hint that I think Manny's wife is petty. For whatever degree of pettiness her character may have had was manifest in Manny tenfold proportionately. As it were, his philandering, which was a petty tendency to philander; a petty way of philandering—these dalliances will serve to pad out a little this narrative, for that they are of interest; though, his wife, whose name is Elsie, never learned of them even if she did suspect them because an inadequate provider must necessarily be insecure and the insecure must also possibly philander and do so pettily—though she could confirm no suspicion, though she divorced him because he was (shown to be) an inadequate provider—despite all of that, Manny's dalliances are or should be of interest to anyone with an interest in his nature. I tend not to agree with Elsie that Manny's dalliances were, necessarily, an insecure business, I think he enjoyed and loved to philander as much as he loved and enjoyed Elsie and loved making love with her as he did every single day until the last day of their marriage: the day on which the divorce order was, by Manny, amicably assented to. And I don't think Manny ever lent it more consideration than I've just done. Which I suspect means that any additional psychoanalytic work undertaken by either me or the reader would be, possibly—petty, and most certainly haphazard. I hate most of the first part of that last sentence. This reads like it was written by a middle-aged virgin. I'm thirty, and I've slept with twenty-five women. Perhaps it was in his younger life that that he discovered the pleasures to be found in that he could make beautiful women smile or laugh and that he could delight in seeing them turn and join him of a sudden in the motions that would in time lead to a dalliance, stop using that word, it's idiotic. I really am bored, sorry, I did not mean to suggest that Manny was not a creature of mental substance, only that he was petty, in some way, in his manner of choosing women with whom he had affairs. And not even entirely petty: of course the women, even from the very beginning, must be highly intelligent, lettered, talented; able to find humor in his humor, smile or laugh at which; for he could not play to a cognitively subnormal audience—or anything approaching which. Nevertheless, he was an adept. Jesus, if only I hadn't made bedroomy eyes at this frumpy twenty year-old Asian woman she wouldn't appear to be in a state of desperate panic and fear at my presence, oh wait, I did no such thing it's all in her head I just turned and she was standing there looking at her murderer me like all this had already transpired several minutes earlier. This is all good use all of this. Manny boarded the M train to be gret by the stench of human shit. Gret isn't a real word. He had meant to board the E. He wondered why indigents shat in their own pants—he'd seen it, knew that it regularly occurred—when he had, himself, on many occasions as a small child, dropped his pants and shat in the street.


This behavior was tolerated, encouraged, by his mother and father, who believed that, should anyone ever witness this small child innocently shitting, he or she would undoubtedly be disinclined to suddenly become involved in an argument on the subject; and that, for a number of reasons: such as, simple embarrassment at having accidentally witnessed the act, or embarrassment at being known to have done, or embarrassment at possibly being regarded, by someone perversely cynical, as having enjoyed watching a child shit in the street. This isn't funny and reads like it was written by a pedophile. These are, of course, thoughts and ideas of the parents of Manny, not me; which thoughts offer the psychoanalyst in the reader ample opportunity to draw conclusions about their, Manny's parents', nature; and Manny's upbringing, and his resultant, or not resultant, nature—and any number of agents in this narrative. And she had a bouncy step as she skittered about. Bounced about bounced and bounced. Spring in her step springing her steps. Little thoughts about Manny's trip are the injections. Little hands, little feet. Little hands little feet slightly moving slowly slowly moving moving slowly up the escalator from Manny's wrong train. Up the escalator cross the street, bouncing stepping, skipping, bouncing, feet. Get out of my way. You slow moving fuck-idiot. I've got to get on a plane. It's going to get me away from things like you for a little while. Manny waited at the gate because that's what I'm doing, wonderful! What sick individual began this morose comic lie about New Yorkers being in any way shrewd. Manny imagined what the flight would be like and he was there, so get on with it! At Boulos' hotel door he knocked thrice. He heard his name, Boulos' voice; the door opened, Boulos led him in and soon they were sitting in recliners looking through the windows back of the hotel, into the desert at night. Boulos had been awake for thirty hours and Manny had just gotten off a plane so they slept for some time each to his own bed in the cramped hotel room, Manny awaking after four hours, at what time he did not know and ending up downstairs in the lounge where he bought a young woman a drink, a rum and coke, rum rum rum rumbly tum tum tum and yum yum yum yumbly Coca Cola in her belly welly well bell, “I'm Manny,” he said and she introduced herself as Elsie.


They had a second and a third round and, yes, she'd divined his intention, hadn't she—“Is that your game?” she said, placing the emphasis, interestingly, on the your. Because all of us, I suppose, had a game and all of that kind of thing, but how right was she, he said, that “My game is falling in love, making love, trying and failing to preserve love.” “And why do you fail to win your own game?” she said. “Or do you always win.” “Because I seek a psychic melding so perfect that it destroys mediocrity. That for which I strive,” he said, “is rare. But it is all I will accept under the name 'love.' The want of it, the failure brought about by which... what I mean is, I don't end affairs; relationships; I don't idiotically brand them dalliances—conquests—I exude my search, in every fiber of my being. And the abundant obviousness of my failure to find that thing brings about the end of the thing.” “Well,” she said, “how fortunate for you that you, for X-reason, do not have to 'end relationships.' I have had to end relationships. With men who thought they had found love and a place to be loved and express warm and tender exasperated love. I have had them beg me to 'take it back,' to stay with them; and, I have had to say to them, 'Would you like me to pretend that I don't want out?' And I've had them say to me they would cut their wrists—would murder themselves, pointlessly, in front of me, ruining me for life, for any other lover. And I have had to say, 'If you promise not to hurt yourself, I will stay. But would you also like me to pretend that I don't want out?' So, it's fortunate that your—high standards?—what is it?—impossibility to please?—that his has spared you that sort of 'ugliness.'” “Yes but it gets ugly, you see. You see, not all drama is melodrama,” he said. “That's a disgusting thing to say,” she put down the emptied glass and stood as though to leave. “Does this mean I win?” Manny said. “Oh rejoice, I've won again,” he said. “How I long to lose. Let me ask you something. If what I've said is so utterly unappealing... then why do you suppose I said it? What do I stand to gain from winning your disgust?” “You haven't won,” she said. “You haven't won it.” She returned to her room; he to Boulos'. Boulos was still asleep though there was some evidence that he'd been at some point up and about. As the sun came up Manny fell back to sleep. He had been watching The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, his favorite film, on public television.


In Mr. Valliance's waiting room, Manny told Boulos about Elsie, how she was in for a funeral, but that it wasn't a very sad occasion being as it was for an aunt with whom she'd been close in childhood but from whom she became estranged when her father insisted they, her family, come to the east coast for some reason. The ameliorating property of the inadvertent estrangement was, Elsie seemed to convey, “Crucial,” Manny told Boulos, “because it wasn't exactly a timely death.” “Oh, alright then,” said Boulos. “I'm assuming she either died young or... just really put someone out by dying when she did. Or by just dying at all, ever.” “Well, not old, not young.” “So in her fifties?” “Sixties.” “Fifties is pretty 'not old, not young.' But sixties is very 'not old, not young.'” “So she came back with a diagnosis for an highly treatable but only possibly curable cancer, said no to chemotherapy.” “I'd hate to piss on your newfound melancholy parade—“ “No, it isn't interesting, is it. That's not the point I'm making. The universality of her position is—intriguing—to me. Anyone in her position would have done as she's done. Flown in out of pocket for the funeral and left her grieving at that; had drinks with a fellow in the bar because it's not so solemn a rite to go celibate, of a sudden. And because anyone in her position would do as she's done—she could be anyone. My understanding of her identity is fragmentary, even after a two hour charged debate. She might still be anyone. Anyone, anything, any time at all. Any one, any thing, any one at all! Anything, any thong, any one, any tonne, anytime, any wine! Any! any! any! any; any, any any!” Mr. Valliance appeared and led Boulos, Manny, and his secretary into his office at three past two and the sun was a certain way. All of this is good leave all of this in. As usual Boulos would lead; Manny would, as ever, supply the and that's only one of the benefits of which and only one of the extraordinary things that will occur only so many months or years in. God this is idiotic. The secretary would take notes on everything said in both the pitch and possible ensuing discussion, which Mr. Valliance would later read, if he were inclined to do.


“It starts with a simple dance,” said Boulos, standing and ever slightly assuming the physical attitude of one about to dance. But who would never dance. The tacked on sad ending was actually the beginning and a framing device for the narrative or perhaps I'm attempting something else entirely, a dance, a dance, a simple dance; a special dance, the dance. “The dance is—expressive, primal, emotive. The one dancing, say it's him—“ indicating Manny—“say he's our dancer—he, the dancer, works himself into a frenzy, expressing, emoting, thinking, thinking, thinking.” The secretary made a dash for a supply room to retrieve a new notepad, the first already filled to completion with her transcription and commentary and flung through a window into a pile of child's shit and she even danced her elderly gray bouncing self back in, the meeting was going that well, but it was Manny's moment now: “But suddenly. The healing light. And then it begins. The dance has ceased and so begins the making love; the singing of songs. All in time to the beating of the drum; all eyes sutured to the movements of bandleader. He stops, he clears his throat, and begins to speak. He sleeps, they sleep, and he dreams of the tale he's told." Dreams of self-starting businesses in the business of starting self-starting businessmen; businesses insuring themselves then killing themselves for the benefit of their families of businesses. One would simply create commerce by insinuating oneself in the commerce and custom of others, neither commodity or capital positioning itself between two agents, neither being capital, nor commodity—he dreams of this, a million times; and, of this happening a million times:—an industry, infinite industries, of sheer industriousness for the sake of industriousness. Neither capital nor commodity, stepping between neither capital nor commodity, and neither are capital nor are they commodity, it's idiotic and you're repeating yourself like a drunk. Then he dreams, further, farther, father, further mein führer: merchandising rights, moviebooktelevisionradiostagevideogame rights, confessional videos on DV before blowing your brains out, days-in-the-life—copycat crimes—homage; an arts movement, precipitated by the founding of an non-profit arts publication, precipitated by an elaborate dance-oriented performance art “happening”-event staged in a small college town in the Pacific Northwest. And that's only what he dreams of in the first year (of his eternal sleep).




He opened the overhead compartment and there was a naked quartered body bound with barbed wire, the other passengers began to vomit rotten fish profusely, he closed it.




Words which I don't know what they mean, which words I don't know, what they mean what I mean which words? Honeysuckle. It became apparent that he was no longer a survivor survivor a surveyor; honeysuckle. When they, she, learned of the failure of, the demise of, his success, but he had never found success, had never won, had given up finding it, he said he just wanted to touch her there,—where? The space on her, between her breasts, and he could feel the wire in her brassiere, and feel her breastplate under it, pushing the wire into her chest, into the bone beneath, impressing itself on the finger—that was itself a conquest. “She might be anyone: the most boring person in the world, the least boring person in the world. And of course Mr. Valliance went for it, they always smiled, laughed, and signed a check, but it was the embezzlement, which appeared in the local papers. Well what drove him to such a thing if he was, as he says, innocent of greed? When Boulos left the picture the businesses began to start and fold themselves, some folding before they started, and he was left with only the idea: no capital, no commodity, she, only in her bra, the bottom part done away with already in her room; the next night, his, Boulos already gone. But at the time Manny didn't see that some kind of exchange had taken place. What remained was Manny's melancholy parade, failure ad infinitum, the money gone, the marriage ended.



Zak Block's fictions have appeared in Quail Bell Magazine, Paper Darts, Gadfly Online, and Defenestration, among others. He is the founder and editor-in-chief of (the) Squawk Back, an online literary journal of transgression and alienation, baptized by fire in May of 2011.