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Sunscreen: The Best of The Open Bar

Contrary to public sentiment, working in the publishing industry is pretty hard work. For starters, you have to know how to read. Big time. And then after you read, there is a lot of talk about reading, which can be fairly taxing if you don’t know how to talk and read at the same time. It gets pretty complicated after that, with a lot of technical terms and arguments about new meaning.

The stakes are always high in publishing, which is why so many of us in the industry end up taking July and August off. You can only read and argue about new meaning for so long before your body demands a timeout.

With this in mind, we here at The Open Bar are headed somewhere tropical, leaving you with a weeklong look at some of our favorite posts from the past year. Enjoy.

Millennium House

(Originally published in Plotto Challenge, March 2012)

A Clause: a person influenced by an obligation. B Clause: becoming involved in any sort of complication. C Clause: Discovers the folly of trying to appear otherwise than as one is in reality.

I received the commission from a friend of a friend who said he wanted a house for the next millennium. I asked what he had in mind and he showed me a copy of Calvino’s Six Memos for the Next Millennium. Like this, he said, but in the form of a house. Walls and a roof and a comfortable chair. Windows, of course, and curtains, in case the outside was in a mood. No trees or gardens or statuary of mythical beasts. An open field if possible, with room to expand in any direction. Fifty acres enough? Maybe not. Reserve fifty more, but enclose the first fifty with a solid fence. Let the wildlife do what they do on the other side. Let them pause and sniff and blame and wonder.

I would give him none of these.

The design was organic and transparent. The sequester of language by that which could not speak. Horizontal bands of humility and vertical slabs of mortality. Rooms designed for triumph of the force that just entered them. The infinite reversal of perspective onto canvas loafers and sour milk-breath. Passed-through spaces disintegrated as the came-upon materialized along the eye’s horizon. Quick. Turn around. Beware the collapsed, the sleight of hand that swiped the yellow game piece from the board, the Master Intellect and the incessant tick-tick of foul play. Around again. And again. Two steps to the right and three to the left, a dense coat of fragmented images, bits upon bits of carbon dust to erase the footprints of transient cornerstones.

Conceived from the outside in, from the melted circuits of unsolved equations, from bells in sunken towers and plastic wheels on faded asphalt. The empty bottle still turning counter-clockwise, roman numerals on a white-faced disc beneath the hedge of lilac where the scent of betrayal was absorbed by the flower. My way or the highway. Rock, paper, scissors. Queen to king’s rook. Thirty floors of glass and steel condensed in one ceramic tile. Sardonic and sadistic, the exploits of lovers and warriors in neon ropes wrapped the stacks of frayed and faded encyclopedias.

He asked why I didn’t install a bridge or a ramp across the trench at the entrance. I said he must leap to enter this place but once inside he could exit with ease. I told him it was part fire code and part free will. He stepped back one hundred paces to the moment in time when the web of contingencies brought his mother and his father together, to the unpredictable deviations that kept them together, to the vortex of entropy that resulted in his birth, to the stand of flowered clover and stepped-off kinetic energy that defined his arrival. He ran toward the entrance, his momentum like the untwisting of a perpetual knot, and at the moment the house disappeared from sight, he leaped into the air.

Richard Osgood lives in a city on a river where the north meets the south. He works in a place called the Flash Factory where talented writers compress the essence of fiction from bloated prose.

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