Critical Thought: Burt

This is a chapter from a short novel (in progress) called The Burts. Whenever I revisit this work I'm reminded of how influenced I am by the DNA of syllables, words, sentences. At times, even the anatomy of typeset matter manipulates my sentence making. In his essay “Finding a Form,” William Gass says that sentences are containers of consciousness. I love this notion (and very human, very biological curiosity). I suppose I'm so fascinated by this evolution from grunts to grammar that I also believe (or want to believe) it is possible for the accumulation of fine-edged containers of consciousness to, perhaps, tap into (tingle?) the subconscious sections of our heads. Imagine the euphoria of pointing to it and finally saying stick, a word sharper than sharp and probably preceding it. I admire stories that are populated with sentences that are forced to say Ahh, sentences that seek out the tingle. And if a sentence tingles permanently —now that's special (and unforgivably rare).

Jason Larson's work has appeared in Lilies and Cannonballs Review and Quarter After Eight. He lives in the Pacific Northwest.

Burt

Burt trimmed back the bamboo. He rattled the kitchen window. Burt said sunshine. Burt said, sunshine, you in there? If Burt was in the shower, dripping wet without a towel, Burt, no doubt, would say: sunshine, you out there? Burt tried again. Sunshine? Sunshine appeared behind beads of water, windowpane, a crystalline vase sitting on the sill. What, Burt? Sunshine wasn't mad or happy. It was raining so hard Burt had to read sunshine's lips. What? What. Could you fetch me a towel, sunnyhoney? I'm caught in a cloudburst. Burt yelled. I'm trimming back the bamboo. I'm caught in a cloudburst. Burt yelled. Where's the cabana-striped beach towel we bought at the beach? Burt laughed, slapped his hand on the window, shook his head like a dog's head. Burt pointed at his nipples, rung the trunk of his shirt. Burt heard thunder. Burt heard “Mom” then “me.” Those are sharp shears but they sure as hell won't cut lightning, stud muffin, sunshine said. Burt caught the p in sharp but missed the rest. Burt put down the shears and held his hands out for a towel. Burt sat down on a wet deck. Within seconds Burt's dry towel was a wet towel. Burt sat down on a wet deck and dried off his face and arms with a wet towel. Burt heard a buzzing and wondered how the hell Johnny R could weedeat in this sort of weather. Burt checked the time on his waterproof watch when two flies flied on the face of it. Burt was befuddled, two flies flying, a gazillionbillion beads of water falling, like bullet after bullet, thought Burt. The flies were connected, and everything on them froze on his watch, their black hairy bodies, wings, heads. Burt looked at the flies. Beads of rain clinkered and splattered. The whole scene was dank. The wet patio table. The shed's slick aluminum roof. The beeless tree. Burt was exhausted. He'd been trimming bamboo. It grows between blinks. You pick up one sock and end up doing the whole laundry. He put his wet head in his wet hands. The water was warm. A summer thunderstorm. Burt's sunshine rapped on the window. Rap rap. Burt looked up. Her lips read Would you like some water? And the flies flew off, mating for a minute on his nose.

by Jason Larson