A Dobbin's Woe

By Zak Block

He began to think about the names:  “Delcine Spetter; president elect.” No president. Not elected. “Take” Delcine Spetter: “Kate; teak; President Spetter...” Someone reading over his shoulder until, “What does it look like,” said the old man. He fumbled for the tea things.

“It looks like a memo.” “Memo?” “It's like a bit of a piece of paper with writing on it, done by a person, intended to convey information to another person.” “What was it written with?” “A writing utensil.”

The old man grabbed hold of the next chair, pulled it into the aisle and straddled it noncommittal that he wouldn't stay more than a moment. “When did I meet the old man?” Zak thought. “The first or second week. But I never saw Mr. Brown again. And I was always curious about that. If he wasn't who or what said he was, then who or what was he? Or, was he who but not what; what but not who..?”

The old man said: “Just be sure to file it properly when you're done,” and he disappeared.

“Zak Block is my name,” the owner of the name thought. Fortunately no anagrams. Mr. Brown was gone, never to be heard from again. No, that isn't right, it was he: Zak Block was gone, never to be heard from again.

Shopping carts. Zak saw that you couldn't get through with one, they'd narrowed the entranceway so. Nor a fat person, he said to himself. She wasn't fat. She walked ahead and he looked at her large bottom.

Because it would seem like the cashier checking her out when they came in together would see it his look that was hence would seem so they avoid an uncomfortable altercation that now definitely might have never happened.

Her name was “Abbie Dowson.” “Babe in woods; babied swoon; baboon-wised; a wino sobbed.”

“What sorts of things do you like, foodwise,” she asked him, having only just met him. “She could pretty much cook anything.” He said, “The thing about him was, that he didn't dislike anything, so it might have been easier to tell her what he simply wouldn't abide.” But a negative statement—when he would first get her naked, it would be in the bathroom in his suite back of the flat, they would be in there so the smoke wouldn't disturb his roommates, all throughout the flat sleeping or not there: he'd want her to strip for him, he'd tell her to turn around and admire her bottom as he sat on the chair without his pants, he'd tell her it's a great ass she has and she'd say that's what she's told, and then shake it in his face in a silly way and laugh for a moment at his stumbling and infantile sexuality, or just that sort of thing in general but that would come later after dinner after they left her apartment the night they met.

Mr. Brown saw him in the library once and asked him what he was reading. But it wasn't Mr. Brown yet, it having yet to be named “Mr. Brown.” “Brown; brown; brown; brown,” no anagrams for Brown. And nothing rhymes with Orange. Purple nor Yellow.

“Not reading anything in particular, I suppose. Just reading around. I like to be well-read and well-rounded.” “What's that in your hands?” “Oh, this? A book.” “Which book?” “This one right here.” “Do you want to work for me?” “I'm not sure. What is it that you do?” “Well, I can't tell you that.”

He closed the book, “Why not?” “I can't tell you that either.” “Why not?”

But Green, G-R-E-E-N, of course, has “genre,” and more and others... and that's what this was, Zak knew—was Genre—and this was how he was to navigate his way through it, the terms in which he was to understand it: a genre, mode of: conversation; negotiation—of or about what, it didn't particularly matter because it was the mode that mattered, and the mode was what they were talking about. But Mr. Brown would have to draw this logic out of him. Because even if it were innate it wasn't inborn. It wasn't yet born.

But this felt good, to be walking around a supermarket with a nice girl with a lovely big bottom who was a “babe in woods,” because she'd ever be none the wiser that so many months later he'd remember every shape and color of that experience, even using them in some way, in their original form or rearranged to some end.

They walked through the quad. Brown was an old man, he knew: then, how did he manage to walk through the quad so inconspicuously. And when it became apparent that he walked through the campus invisibly, Zak wondered about that as well.

Brown bought him coffee and explained that on another campus there was another Brown having the same conversation with another Block. And it was the parallel nature of these exchanges that concerned Brown, as he felt, at that moment, what Zak would soon after feel: that, both conversations must have started at or around the same time, with Brown and Zak as culpable in the initiation of that parallel exchange of a parallel Brown and Zak, as were the latter in the former.

“I'm going to give you this,” said Brown, and handed it to him: “It's a list of addresses. Also dates and times. I want you to arrive at these addresses at the specified dates and times, find someone named Kate, announce yourself as Delcine Spetter, and seek out a man named Abbie Dowson. In each instance you will find someone named Kate and be met by a man named Brown. And he will address you as Delcine Spetter...”

Then the old man said, “When you're finished with the memo, I need to speak to you in there.” He followed him shortly thereafter. The old man shut the door and turned on a fan.

“Did you walk the dog this morning?” “My girlfriend walked him, I slept in.”

The old man paused as he poured the tea. Then he waited.

“Where did she walk him? Did the route differ from that which you usually take?” “I'm not sure where she walked him. It might have differed, the route, yes.” “Was she instructed..?” “No.”

“Why did you sleep in?” “I'd been up late the night before reading.” “What were you reading.” “A book.” “Which book?” “The same.” “Did you sleep well?” “All things considered.” “Did you dream when you slept?” “Yes.” “Describe the dream.”

Zak poured the tea, but waited for it to cool. He wouldn't drink it anyway.

“I'm in a supermarket. I'm walking down all the aisles, looking at food products in neat rows.” “But you look closer and notice that they aren't...” “Yes, in fact, what they turn out to be, is, what couldn't be further from neatly arrayed food products.” “And so what are they..?” “They're memos.”

As she rounded the end of the aisle, “I always loved to walk through supermarkets,” he said, and when she stopped in front of a frozen display, “When I was in college.” She wanted to know why exactly.”

“Well, you see, I didn't have a car when I was in college. More importantly I couldn't drive. I could only make it to the supermarket if I walked.” “From campus to town?” “That's right, three miles or so. And it was along a highway without lights.” “But what was it about the supermarket?” “Nothing, really, it had more to do with the journey. The end game might have been anything. I liked what led up to it, so then I liked what followed.”

And he would use the memory of walking through the supermarket, as he said, but first this happened:

She cooked him dinner; they left her apartment, they wound up in his, in the bathroom smoking; after that, in bed but nothing beyond he sucking her tits, she jerking him off a little bit, because it was the first date. The second would be tomorrow, the third the day after that.

But first they would eat dinner in her apartment and she would ask him what was entailed by the job title he'd mentioned that he held.

"It's difficult to explain. When they took me on they warned me. That it would be difficult to explain. And they told me I should say this: that in another apartment, or another wherever I am, somewhere else, there's another Zak Block having a dinner prepared for him by another Abbie Dowson. Perhaps even the same dinner, and prepared in the same way. And that other Abbie is asking that other Zak... rather, has already asked, did in fact ask at the moment you asked me: what necessarily was entailed by the job title he'd told her that he held. And he's telling, has told her, will tell her: that, the only way to explain what he does, what his job title signifies, and what his job is about, is to reveal to the individual with whom he is discussing it, through this example of the parallel conversations, the very nature of the conversation, or those two conversations. The conversation's parallel nature. In this way, she, and you, will be able to understand that what I do is, quite literally, what we're talking about. And how we're talking about it. Holding parallel conversations..."

But now Mr. Brown was gone, or Zak was gone, and now Mr. Brown held the same conversation with another Zak, a parallel Zak, or the parallel Brown held a conversation with Zak, in the form of, the old man: the old man.

Later he wanted to know how he made love to her. Not whether it were good, but how it was. And if she could name the word that meant how, he would be satisfied, as he had no idea how it were, and had no expectations, he said.

"It's like, I'm a little girl," she said. "When you hold me down and fuck me I feel small. And it's nice to feel that way sometimes. When you push and pull me around, I feel floppy and fragile. But you do it from inside yourself. Make love from inside yourself. There's something in you and it's you." Yes, it's you.

"How does the dream end?"