A Strain 17 Reader / 8 January 2002

What follows is a series of sentences, one from each chapter in the So New Media minibook Strain 17, which is now woefully out of print.

I. I was conceived out of wedlock, an embarrassment, and this was in the days when abortions were haphazard, when physicians got unmarked packages in the mail from Terre Haute containing a card that detailed the procedure without words, just a series of simple line drawings, photocopied.

II. And her lips were enormous, flat, ridged, stretched against the glass, warming it with a kiss and then tossing me into the ocean.

III. The pressure from without and within became too much and a thin crack appeared noiselessly by my left eye, bulbous and moist.

IV. Cheeks fat and puffy!

V. “[…] And the next morning, Orna was heavy with child!”

VI. It was the muumuu they’d gotten on their honeymoon at HawaiiLike, massive pink flowers and yellow frosting, and then her good red shoes with the stabbing heels and the satin gloves that traveled all the way to the dangling curves of her upper arms, and then the wig, frosted silver blond like the sexiest tsunami that ever hit, and then she’s off!

VII. “Gonna wanna get your hands on some hellgrammites and I steer you not wrong at all.”

VIII. I’d stick my head in the glove compartment and howl until Papa turned the car around, the waves lapping against my soul like curved red razors.

IX. I am shuttled out of the room and dunked into a small pool of lemon-scented disinfectant.

X. I made a shape with tangrams that turned teacher’s hair white.

XI. And I shrug and they say: “Cynicism is the heat-death of the heart.”

XII. It was like I was able to take a piece of candy in my mouth and transfer it, by some unknown force, to each one of their mouths.

XIII. I accepted the already vibrating device that Amy handed me and did all I could to repair their sullied opinion of me.

XIV. Even better, though, was when I took an ambassador home from Model United Nations and we’re eating raw tipiki and definitely feeling its effects, and she’s using a pair of pinking shears to rid me of my rented tuxedo and I’m using a pair of nail scissors to hack through her bra straps.

XV. Does it matter that it was the worst summer ever if it contained the single best moment of my life?

XVI. She said something like, “I negate all!” and when I put a comforting hand on her bare shoulder she spun around and had her Erasermate a millimeter away from my eye in two breaths.


XVIII. “[…] The botanist breathed in the gas, not even knowing it was there, and vanished. […]”

XIX. TRUTH / MIGHT / ORIFEX, it said, and inside was a full-color photograph: people of a wide range of ethnicities sitting on a grassy hill and laughing, some with their arms wrapped around their legs.

XX. I’m writing this on Ballast stationery with a Ballast pen (“A Quiet Slumber Afore Shipping Out”).

XXI. “That is Pantone 5753, am I right or what?”

XXII. Not for any ladder-climbing purposes, I assure you, but because of his mastery at speech-giving.

XXIII. He had a bunk bed put in his office, using the lower bunk for file storage and when he had a girl shipped in from the escort service he wouldn’t move the files.

XXIV. How can you regret something if you’d do it again even if you had a second chance?


XXVI. “If I say this thing is more important than the life of my dear children will you think even for a second that I’m exaggerating in an effort to create some sort of pathos?”


XXVIII. I can’t tell you how devastated I was to walk up to that enormous hole in the ground and see nothing but soft, moist dirt.

XXIX. “For want of an antacid a kingdom was lost.”

XXX. You already know what they say, you knew even before I thought to write them, you even know what’s coming, what word will pop into my head next: Maleficent.

Previously / The Holy Bible
Next / The Jousting Match

Joshua Green Allen

Fireland is a rickety old website by Joshua Allen.

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