Graft, pt 2

Randall Buffington[ So I was bored during a meeting, drew this with a pen on my employer's stationary, and then colored it with highlighter. Read Graft, pt 1 if you haven't already. ]

There is already sweat under his arms, sweat on his forehead. Randall Buffington fiddles with his French cufflinks, his hands trembling. He gets the left one done. Time for a drink. The Scotch is in a hotel tumbler, half-melted ice from the dispenser down the hall glides on the surface like broken pieces of glass. He drinks all the Scotch and crunches the ice in his mouth while he attempts the other cufflink.

He looks in the mirror. A few greasy strands of hair clump together like spaghetti noodles parted and plastered to his balding head. Fat is not the word Randall uses to describe his body. He prefers the word monolithic. His imagines his rail-thin mother holding out Hostess Twinkies, each one oozing creamy white filling like a post-orgasmic penis, stuffing one phallic pastry after another down his four-year-old throat. He imagines his stomach growing frantic over the years, reaching around his body for more space, filling out his belly, making room in his pectorals, his sagging cheeks, his ass. Eventually everything converges—cheek and neck, belly and thighs, until he is no longer made of many parts, but one huge part bisected by the waistline of his size 60 pants. He sees his mother clapping at his enormous, infantile body. “My baby! My sweet baby!” But he is four decades older now, and his mother is dead, and no one is clapping.

The hotel is on campus, and even though the walk to the auditorium is short and the weather outside is cool, Randall is sweating underneath the blazer that, because of his girth, is physically impossible to button. Once inside, Randall makes his way slowly down the steps and sits in the front row. The man introducing him is wearing a sweater and a thick beard. His skin is tan and weathered, and while he rattles off Randall’s credentials, he glances above the rim of his reading glasses to smile warmly at the audience. Randall hates this man, and all men like him.

Now Randall is behind the podium. Now is Randall’s time to speak. “I’ve heard it said that postmodernism is over. That whatever now is, it is post postmodernism. Post 9/11. Post.” He wipes the sweat away from his eyes. “Frankly, I don’t know what that means. I think it just means that we’ve gotten tired of talking about it. I think it means that universities have stopped hiring critical theorists, and that we’d much rather go to conferences about post-colonialism, or border theory, or how to play fucking video games.” A few of the graduate students chuckle.

“Now maybe I missed it. But I don’t recall ever being told why signs aren’t still just pointing to more signs. I didn’t get the memo about how it is we construct transcendent meaning. Last time I checked, the past is still a socially constructed narrative, and unless I’ve been hiding under a rock, there is still nothing new under the sun.”

Randall picks up a newspaper. Printed across the front page in block letters is the word HOPE above a picture of president Obama. “Hope!” Randall laughs nervously. “Don’t they see? Don’t you see it? It’s just another Democrat! It’s just a different country to be at war with! It’s just another swing of the same pendulum that’s been driving this country since the 1700’s! Oh but Dr. Buffington, he’s the first African American to ever—So what? So fucking what? You can fill every senate seat, every cabinet post with homosexual African Americans and all it tells us is that this country is becoming more gay. More black.”

All whispers hush. The audience is silent. The awkwardness is palpable.

“But don’t worry. I won’t make you uncomfortable much longer. Because today I bring hope. I bring real hope. Meaty hope. Hope that will fill your stomachs so that you’ll never grow hungry. I’ve been saving it up. Keeping it under wraps until this very hour. It will pass over you like all great things. It will fill you with awe and terror, but you won’t catch its significance until later—much, much later when you’ve finished your PhD’s and you’re sitting at your desks under the weight of all that pressure. You’ll get it. You’ll get it and you’ll want to thank me for what I’ve brought into this world. As Derrida said at the end of ‘Structure, Sign, and Play,’ a birth is in the offing. He called this birth a non-species, a formless, mute infant. A terrifying monstrosity. Today, I give you your monstrosity.”

Randall Buffington pulls a Ruger .45 caliber pistol from the inside pocket of his blazer, presses the barrel to his left temple, and pulls the trigger.


Chrissy said...

What!?!?! Great ending. I love the description of Randall - so physical and revolting. Perfect!

Bryan Tarpley said...

John McDermott is always complaining about how new writers always end their short stories with someone killing themselves, or falling down on their knees to cry, or whatever else it takes to provides CLOSURE, regardless of how extreme or artificial. I tried to be aware of that as I wrote this -- but down the road (in the plotline in my head) Randall's action has significance ;)

Thanks for reading!

Chrissy said...

but this isn't the end of the story! it's part of the serial. therefore, you have not broken any rules that i can see. ;)

Eralda LT said...

I love the way you build characters with words (and pens/markers,apparently ;) ). It's very precise and yet funny, without detracting from the seriousness of the story. Glad it's not over :)

Nick said...


(Strokes beard enigmatically.)

Is this part of a short or is this a new Novel(la)?

P.S. At first I mistyped so I was stroking a bear enigmatically. I probably should have left it that way. First thought, best thought.

Bryan Tarpley said...

the intended medium for this series, however long it ends up being, is this blog. i currently have no plans to make it into a novella or anything like that. i need to explore this medium a little better; make it more multimedia (hence the goofy sketch of dr. buffington).