Warren Adler

Historical Insignificance by Garrett Clancy

People’s Choice Award Finalist Story in the 6th Annual Warren Adler Short Story Contest.

I AM: unemployed once more, 4th time in past year, which is 100% tell-me-somethin’-I-don’t know info as

I AM: an L.A.-cliché, AKA failed TV writer, with lone 6-years-in-past credit, but 2-day is 2-day and

I AM: on Zuma sands, sweating ass in yellow plastic chair.

I AM: sans sunblock yet again,

I’M: still on Prozac, AND

I’M: reading something calculated to make me more attractive to some Baywatch beauty-type, though she’d need a degree in contemporary Lit or else won’t recognize name of author of same Grove Press tome which I hold, but don’t read really- a ploy, as I say, to gain the interest of some boobs and brain dream-combo and NOT the fully-dressed man with the John Brown-wild, granite-colored hair and beard who, as he stands like darkened dew-fat cloud between yours truly and the warm-as-raisin toast sun, is fucking with my George Hamilton, and who claims

I am your biological father

and who has tracked me here to this spot, he further elaborates, after having received tip from faux-Jamaican accented mama answering the telephone at 1-900 psychic thinggy – but he could just as easily have found my # & my address after B.S.-ing some nosey neighbor, Crazy Kelly no doubt, she with aged tattoo of weeping Jesus on Pillsbury-Doughboy white left ass cheek, latter and its twin in serious need of Thigh-Master action to point that Jesus, when Kelly sashays in satiny G-string bikini bottom after leaving my apartment door disappointed yet again, shimmer-moves and appears to be face from LSD flashback (Vermont, 1979, Neil Young plucking acoustic guitar in converted cow pasture, and me speaking aloud to any funhouse-mirror faced fellow concert-goer nearby fluent German, I think, having never studied same) all wavy’n shit and Kelly always slapping at same ass cheek with turquoise ring-weighted hand, reminding me that “he’s” (weeping tattoo Saviour) “got my ass covered!” then haw-hawing at own quasi double-entendre & extending invitation # 332 to me to drink Mickey’s tallboys by our apartment building’s kidney-shaped pool, said pool overflowing with water the color of that which passes thru same organ, but I digress; daddy, or so he claims, could’ve gotten info on my whereabouts any number of places/sources, though when he mentions

You were born in Washington D.C. to an Army Corporal mother named Sally Des Bladdes

he gets my attention, as that is my surname and mommy of mine was in fact a soldier once upon a time. My back stiffens as though I’ve just been informed that some black widow spider crawled upon same, then daddy, if he is indeed who he claims, pokes at cover of book I pretend to read and offers

Kathy Acker- dig her stuff too and here is a little something I’ve been keeping for you son which explains just how twas you came to be

and he hands me this gnarled blackened THING which I take, after contemplating three or so beats, to be a bullet, tho kinda looking now like a stubbed-out cigarette butt that’s been bronzed and left to tarnish

gouged it out

Daddy points to bullet with Uncle Sam war poster finger

with m’Swiss Army pocketknife from this bus stop bench in Austin Texas three days after same little sonofabit-chin’ bullet come within a cunt hair of givin’ me an impromptu pan-cree-ass removal an’ ol’ Charlie Whitman he’s the reason this bullet is the reason you are here as I dove like Johnny Weismuller for shelter behind said bench and fell a-toppa this pretty young filly wearin’ an Army suit- in the Navy once m’self – and we clung to each other two survivors Lucky as the so-named smokes all day and thru one sleepless shivering night and when I got back to m’ daddy’s ranch outside Laramie Wyoming a year or so later after working oil rigs in Tulsa Oklahomey and various other assorted bullshit gigs my own daddy showed me this faded kinda yellow-like-ginger candy Western Union telegram announcing the birth of my baby boy which’d be YOU by God I’d hardly recognize you and sorry and all that but I’ve got cancer of the balls see and by the way I hope you’re wearin’ sunblock case!

it’s her-editary and I am on my last legs as they say old hairy pencils at that so here we are

he breathes finally and sits down beside me on my beach towel, which is actually a poster for The Godfather, and of course is yet another ploy to…but it’s too late for that now; what cute/smart angel could even see it underneath Raggedy Andy’s bone-butt? and by God I’m seriously thinking about introducing this character to Crazy Kelly, dad or no, just for fucking with my serenity and new girlfriend-dream plans and interrupting my flow of such-themed thoughts with

here we are at what has got to be one’a the prettiest darn beaches on the sweet clean ass of Mother Earth and to be honest with you sonny I’m broke as Moses and tried to sell

pointing to MY bullet

self-same symbolic token of your existence and my near-death experience a’course as the chubby fella at the last pawnshop told me and he was right there just ain’t no real way to prove that there slug is the gen-u-wine article fired from that crazy-as-a-shithouse rat ex-Marine’s rifle on that awful awful day but ain’t it funny how I think often that I almost lost my life and made a NEW one all in the same 24-hour period but again as I say pawnshop owners don’t give a monkey’s ass about history so can you spot me say a ten-spot or a couple’a sawbucks sonny so’s I can die in some motel room in Malibu which has in fact been my dream for quite some time now

STOP

You’ve never read Kathy Acker

(In addition I’d like to know, though I don’t mention it, the whereabouts of some three decades-plus of back child support, seeing as I am, myself, broke as Moses or whatever he said, and could sure as fuck use even some fraction thereof)

Well o-kee so I lied ya caught me but I read a lot’a stuff in my Navy days stuck out on the battleship U.S.S. Virginia 6 long months at a time I mean you got your smarts from somewheres I suppose

YES – my mother!

Well I bet you ain’t read half the stuff I did stuff like Journey to the End of the Night by this French doctor Say-leen and mucho stuffo by Jack Ker-roo-ack whose name I mispronounced for a good year’re more til a Lieutenant J.G. from Massachusetts set me straight and then old Thomas Wolfe and As I lay Dying and Sound and the Something-or-other by William Fawk-ner and aww hell I ain’t got time to argue this shit out with you I’m dyin’ boy have an ounce of sympathy why don’t you by God show some appreciation for history that bullet is REAL fired off the University of Texas li-berry tower and it might be the ONLY true connection between us you’n me and do the math were you not born pretty much exactly nine months after the fact why how could I make such a thing up an ol’ cowboy like me who may or may not’ve read a couple’a good books and I’d settle for pocket change at this point kiddo maybe a ride back to Santa Monica a good word fer chrissakes even

PLEASE I think but don’t say and then it smacks me like Moe Howard’s hand across my too-thin superior lips that this has been MY dream, to see an old, dying man who claims to be my father show up one fantasy day, broke and much like this dried up husk of a John Doe (I still don’t know his name) who sits beside me – it has been my wish to take satisfaction in the suffering of he who abandoned me (and my mother) before, even, my very birth – but though it has been my hope my passionate desire to have this man, my father, beg forgiveness (in my dream it was from a piss-smelling wheelchair) for all his many wrongs just so that I could pass him by on Skid-row (though why I’d even be walking on such a street is unclear to me) with nary an acknowledgment of his wretched existence, don’t need you or recognize you are even alive, old man I dreamed of saying – but now I find I am inexplicably moved touched, empathetic even, wanting and wishing now I could help somehow this unfortunate!

creature, my father…and it is then I see the porpoises. A pair. Dipping disappearing re-appearing slippery in and out of the Earl Grey-tea colored seawater behind the surfer dudes hanging-zero and lazier, even, than me. Smooth, Flipper’s second cousins are, diving again like black…bullets

by God look at’em go

dad says interrupting my thoughts, once again, my very fears

free as rain what a great and wonderful thing it is to be free as rain

LATER, after I have driven us the re-united to my Van Nuys $510 per month failed screenwriter special shit-dump, and after I was sure as he lay there on my tequila and cheap beer-stained passenger car seat (that trip to Ensenada with Frederick and Nickle-bag Boy) with eyes closed, spittle fizzling over lower lip he had in fact already gone to swim with Flipper’s second cousins forever, and after Crazy Kelly nosed in and was actually welcome for once, a regular Candy-Stripe 19-70’s drive-in movie theater exploitation half-angel/half-whore Colleen Camp nurse-maids, and who whines “oh, the poor old cowboy why didn’t you tell me your dad was comin’  to visit you what kind of son are you he’s a real looker too do you think he wants a beer?” and after he opened his eyes just as CK , mini-skirted simply because it was Tuesday, was bending over in front of dad prone on my lone sad couch to remove his socks blacker than an Arabian horse neck and saw the weeping Jesus tattoo smiled and cried

I do not deserve your piteous tears Dear Lord but take me home and end my general discomfort and let sonny-boy know by sign or miraculous intercession that he was although a stranger indeed be-loved of me

After all of this I want to say WAIT DO NOT DIE ON ME, but do not as I know by now, though deprived of paternal guidance and affection these 36+ years, until this moment that is, that strange events such even as the visitation of ghosts do not cannot occur without there being (though dog-years may pass without genuine clarity concerning same) some MEANING attached…

And thus it was epiphanic and clear to me, pretend-reader of great novels, terminally-unemployable, borderline cruel rejector of too-many-to-count advances of Crazy Kelly, that we had, my dead father and I, all along shared so giant (Gibraltar-like, really) a THING in common, the THING being that which was the explanation for every tear ever shed, every mirror ever shattered with closed fist by your’s truly –

I got Kelly to lend me a hundred dollars and promise to water my cactus plant once every three weeks in exchange for letting her call 911 to report the death of the strange man on my couch in order to give her something to talk about for the next two months (“my gawd it was awful right in front of me he went just like that – SNAPP!”), and also, though I hate to admit it, one long, sad night of forced (on my part, of course) lovemaking during which I was afraid to put my hand on the quivering vision of weeping Jesus for fear I might (once again) offend and hurt him

I load my car with books to make me seem serious &  learned &  in general a threat to no-one on Earth to any cop who might mistake my porcupine cheeks and haven’t- dozed- a-nano-second in 26 consecutive hours eye-glaze for a potential Charlie Whitman redux, and figure I’ve got just enough gas & food & beer $$$  to reach Las Vegas. I hold in my T-shirt pocket the address of the son I abandoned 6 years before and his mother, with whom I had spent a few sweet comforting nights not so long ago but never knew really, but who is now the very Lotto ticket to all of my future character and purpose….

My name is Abel and so-named is my little boy. He’ll probably want to bring his gnarled and tarnished bullet to school for Show & Tell. He is, it dawns upon me I as I drive thru Victorville, not far off the age of the Latino boy shot-dead in the stairwell of the UT Li-berry tower as daddy called it by the firer of my ballistic memento (tho my recollection of same tragic moment in time comes via the Kurt Russell-led MOW I saw some years back while waiting for my un-employment benefits to once again run dry and so might not be 100% on-target, pun intended all the way.) I’m listening to a block of the Stones on KLOS as I cruise east on the I-15, ass-deep in the midst, as I intimate, of my 19th Nervous Breakdown. I have, tho, Sympathy for the Devil, and I hope like my momma did when she was shivering behind that Austin Texas bench in fear for her very life that my new family will, alas, take pity on me and Gimme (the) Shelter I so desperately desire &  need.

  1. Very powerful and unique voice. The legacy of dysfunction is quite powerful here, layers and layers. The writing echoes these layers: sad, funny, angry, lonely, rigid and soft. Outstanding.

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  2. Layers? Seriously, this is just an odd story with no rationale thread for a reader. Weird for the sake of weird is not great story-telling.

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  3. This one is too avante-garde for me. If stories were food, Historical Insignificance would be on the Acquired Taste menu. Some people like experimental, but I get frustrated if I need to work hard to find and stay in the meaning of a story. Authors MUST justify the time they take from their readers, and I felt cheated after the first couple of paragraphs.

    Still, sincere congratualations to the author for becoming a fianlist.

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  4. Wormofdabook

    Wow! Just wow…obviously someone likes it–I mean it did make it to the finals of this competition but it’s just not my cup o’ tea.

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  5. Derridalovah

    A postmodern delight! Hey–Joyce’s Ulysses, McCarthy’s Blood Meridian, and anything by Barth and Faulkner are all “work” to read, too…so, yeah, some minor labor involved, but it was worth my time. And a note to “Author” who “felt cheated”: please tell me you don’t watch television.

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  6. Why do you phony writer types always think your better than people who watch television?

    Are you that insecure?

    Hey Derridalovah, in the scheme of the universe, please tell me how the greatest story ever written is any different than a Britney Spears song?

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  7. Marty, cool your hysteria. Go start a Bitter Thread on a sore looser blog. This is Warren Adler’s contest; people who start ripping posters are intruders. If you don’t like the finalist selections, fine. If you disagree with the posters, fine. But there’s a difference between helpful criticism and meanness, so choose your road or blog out.

    Again, though this isn’t my kind of story, I’m glad for Garrett Clancey. If thru this contest he helps morph this genrery or attracts new readers/writers, great. Good luck and adios.

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  8. Yonnondio30

    It’s a complicated story, and I think complicated is very appropriate for the issues the story addresses: abandonment, addiction, depression, and struggling to figure it all out. Except for the few, we are all “in the scheme of the universe” historically insignificant, and this is the way it is happening for the narrator, his father and his son. Very real and gritty to me (and, that is the beauty of it because the genre is experimental postmodern-it’s risky. Good.) Congrats on being a finalist!

    As for Marty, I have read your comments on all the stories and it clearly seems that you are a sore loser. Story didn’t get picked? Bummer. If you can’t be nice, take off your party hat and go home.

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  9. Okay, thanks to Yonnondio’s convincing input I read more of this story and could totally feel/hear the writer’s voice. If Garret Clancy did a reading on this piece, I’m sure it would be charged! It definitely has a stream of conscious feel, plus maybe some slam poetry/rap vibe? Regardless of how I voted, or how mainstream I tend to be–I’m glad Historical Insignificance will be included in the next anthology. Garret, if you do a reading, maybe you could youtube?

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  10. Yonnondio30

    Great point, author–it does have that slam poetry/rap vibe. I hope Garrett (or is it Garret-spelled two different ways on here) Clancy does “youtube” a reading–it would be really interesting to hear it. It certainly lends itself to performance.

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  11. Thanks for the honest commentary, folks–both positive and less-than. ;-)

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  12. The thought (blog) police have to take a step back. In a contest with a public vote, the public get to vote and give an opinion. My comments were my honest reaction to these stories. Perhaps my expectations were just too high.

    I did my best to like every story that I read but other than Arti, I could not connect with these selections, especially since there was not much plot to any of them.

    On this story, I have now read it five times to see if I missed something. And, I will say that each time I read it, it grows on me more and more so I get where you are coming from. Naturally, the next question is whether asking a reader to read something 5 times is too much?

    This story is now winning the vote so good luck.

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  13. Marty, I agree with some of your insights and admire the energy you’ve put into reading each story. It’s a very respectful gesture to the finalists, and your kind of vote is “true”. Every voter should be so diligent. But I took issue with you wanting to debate the pros-cons of television, or Briney Spears songs (your second post) or the “scheme of the universe”. Maybe it was just an off-the-cuff post, but I felt compelled to respond before things escalated. Serious writer’s welcome thoughtful input. This is Clancy’s time and place. I believe you–like all of us–love the written word, therefore I don’t intend to muzzle people’s opinions. I just think that more will be accomplished if we stay on topic. Winning entrants must have thick skins as we analyze their “child”, and I hope that all finalists will take our pros-cons to heart. They need courage; we need civility and truth.
    Best and peace…

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  14. what is the story about? It seems to be so shallow that I can’t follow. I do believe in abstract/ I belive in sayng what you want. A story is a story, but if it says nothing is it realy a story someone would want to read? There for is it really a story or is it someone who is having a big drunk and wants to spew, and all the words are wrong and all the words are run together and allthe words are moronic?
    Go for it bro
    love it sort of

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  15. I loved the allusion to Blood Meridian. Indeed, Clancy’s story here can be as difficult to read as McCarthy, but they both have depth. I’m a writer too, and I found this story to be inspirational. The fact that Garrett was able to create such a unique — but believable — voice and sustain it was very impressive. And the subject matter is profound — a man honestly confronting his shortcomings, then proceeding to try to change. I wish I were that brave.

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  16. Judi, can you please refer back to your comment? It does not grammatically make sense and you are being completely hypocritical. Notice how you “ran together” two of your words after criticizing Garrett for doing so. Please learn how to write (and namely, spell) before attacking other people’s work. In my opinion, YOUR words are moronic. Therefore (yes, that’s how it’s spelled), you should keep your comments to yourself.

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  17. Rachel U.

    Garrett,
    Your story was absolutely unbelievable! You are an amazing writer and an amazing adult! I wish you tons of success in your writing career!
    fondly,
    Rachel

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  18. Allison

    No, I am not a writer nor a competitor. I have to say I don’t like your story, don’t know how you got this far and how you are able to obtain 100 votes a day. Think about it! You are cheating in every possible way.Does that make you feel good? You must have a pretty good computer system. How many times a day can you vote??

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  19. The descriptiveness and writing style is riveting, sharp, funny and fresh – all at once.
    One word.
    Great.

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  20. Yonnondio30

    Uh, Ok “Allison.” Wow—what vitriol. Just because you don’t like (understand?) the story doesn’t mean that you are right and it doesn’t deserve to be a finalist. Hello? Each of these stories is unique in its different approaches of examining the human condition, and that is what has made me really excited about this contest. I studied all four of the stories in my book group and passed this site on to other book/writing groups/classes/friends interested in studying literature (which I think is Adler’s goal with this contest—to get people interested in discussing short stories). And, I bet other groups are discussing (and voting on) these stories, too; I hope so. In my discussions, we all agreed that HI rose to the top for us. We didn’t disparage or post nasty comments on the other finalists’ stories (or at least I didn’t)—or accuse them of cheating (but, I do wonder: however did Squid Jiggers overtake Madame OVERNIGHT?). But, really, do you honestly think anybody created a robo-click program, “Allison”? Maybe Clancy bought off the judges to get into the final round? Please. To put this in perspective, read some of Adler’s blog posts—there are bigger things in the world, “Allison.” This is, respectfully, a short story contest, not a presidential election. Discuss the stories using sound argument and thoughtful review techniques, like others on this site.

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  21. KC Sloane

    I love the voice in the story–I totally “get” this voice, –find it very readable, as if “approachable” to the reader–very nicely done. I especially identify with the whole “voice” and its tone… very real, very believable, and a good read from the very start… Kind of makes me think of certain cocktails–some familiarity with the taste, a mix of sweet and tart, bitter and biting, some chill, some heat… like that. No cherry, no olive to distract. And yet another sip, then a gulp and then onward to the end.

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  22. allison

    Wow “Yonnondio30″ You need to cool your anger girlfriend. I’m speaking of what I like and what I don’t like. Can’t help it. You need some
    PEACE!

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  23. I had a hard time with it at first (because of my own mental handicaps), but I got the hang of it and had a good time. It drew me in, and I liked it. I’m a horrible critic when it comes to literature and film, so that’s all I can say about it.

    I know what it’s like to put artwork up for criticism, and some people make me get a big lump in my throat. I only get a lump when someone’s being a douche. It doesn’t even bother me when someone doesn’t like my work; I just can’t handle the douches.

    P.S. I can’t take people seriously when they write “peace” in call caps with an exclamation mark after it. It’s funny though. The irony. “Irony” is the only literary term I know, so I can’t take myself seriously either.

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  24. Outstanding on every level — rich in tone and meaning. The risks pays off here! Congrats!

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  25. J. A. Nadal

    This story reminds me of the crank-heads in Monte Rio, CA. There was one guy there who actually talked like that. Hey, taste is like color: pick your own.

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