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tour diary    
 
 
  shelley jackson  
 
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We've just passed the highest point east of the Mississippi, and someone fell off it. There was a hole torn in the guard rails the size of a car. Other reminders of death: four dead deer, one in pieces, a tawny doggish thing, some hunched and desolate furries of indeterminate make, and a lot of rust-colored splash marks. And then there is the windshield, upon which what once were bugs have become pure pigment: white, cherry red and goldenrod.

Facts: we are driving my old beige and brown 1986 GMC van, which has been tagged by "Dr. God". We are listening to Mayumi Kojima. Kelly is steering, under the not entirely benign gaze of our patron saint Little My of Moomin fame, and of an open-and-shut eyeball from a baby doll (it has a beige lid, black lashes, and a grey accusatory stare set in a disturbingly antiseptic chrome-and-white-plastic housing) a gift from Kelly, who got it from a friend with a whole box of them, each snug in its own styrofoam socket. [Since I wrote this I have seen this box of eyes. They open and close in symphonic synchrony.]

Kelly drives with a knowing, masterful air, her knees apart.

Oh, there's another dead deer, looking as if asleep. (We sigh over the whole corpses, groan at the puddles and pink piles; pity seems to require a nominal resemblance to the living thing.)

Kelly turns to me: "My toenail fell off. Actually I pulled it off, yesterday."

"Was it the one you'd been waiting for?"

"Yeah, it had been starting to flop in the sock."

 
 

This is our first day on the road, but the tour really started a few days ago in New York with our first two joint readings. At Housing Works Kelly read from Louise's Ghost; I read a truncated version of Phlegm and played the Specialist song. I made no mistakes, but the sound drowned in the capacious room and only the first few rows could hear me. But everyone smiled very pleasantly all the same.

The next day at the McSweeney's store a small boy in a red t-shirt pressed himself against the closed glass door behind Kelly as she read from the Girl Detective, pulled his ears and rolled up his eyes. Kelly turned around with an appreciative chuckle and then went on reading with the applomb of that saint who carries her eyes around on a plate. Afterwards, a young man rose and asked, "How many people know what a theremin is?" Most of us raised our hands. He showed us what it was all the same, then played Somewhere Over the Rainbow with stiff-legged concentration and a refreshing vagary of pitch. I observed that McSweeney's sells a product called Bloat Drench.

The little boy had been herded inside by his father and was now sitting on the floor. I was watching him, trying to calculate the odds of his knowing what a dildo is, and wondering whether introducing the story with, "Nobody knows what a dildo is, exactly," would make it all right with his parents, or not. Or not, I was fearing, but they left when I got up to read, to my relief. Then Kelly and I collected words and promised to write a custom-made story employing them. Two of them were "finch" and "protuberance." Which is almost a story already.

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We left Brooklyn at around seven this morning, bearing with us hair dye (High-Octane Orange), a digital camera, a laptop, a bag of books (including both The Melancholy of Anatomy, by Shelley Jackson, and The Anatomy of Melancholy, by Robert Burton) and an electric guitar (a creamsicle-colored Danelectro). Also a box containing ink, a spreader and a silk screen; somewhere, somehow, we will find the time to print tour t-shirts. The screen is gratifying all on its own: silky, greenish, clean, and taut, all thanks to Kelly (a different Kelly) at Pearl Paint, where you can also buy bags of animal patterned pom-pon balls, something like a cleaned up cartoon version of road kill. While I was on Canal Street, cornucopia of wonders, I had another great merchandise idea: we buy one of a kind objects from thrift stores and personalize them for you, our loyal fans, and then we sell them to you with a Certificate Of Authenticity. (Or inauthenticity, if you prefer.) What do you think?

Today, walking into a service area, I looked down at my clothes and thought, this is exactly how I dressed when I was nine. Striped brown, orange and blue flares from Salvation Army with a brown fake suede cowboy shirt that matches a little too well: I look like I'm wearing Garanimals!

Junk food of the day: Pretzel Rod. Condiment of the day: onion goo.
Corpse of the day: porcupine.
Toy of the day: Viking cyborg dude from a Kinder Egg.

Another dead deer. I am afraid it is suffering from Bloat Drench.
[In Which Time Passes.]

 
 

It turns out I have the same name as a dog that lives in the house where we are spending the night. She is a small and hectic brown dachshund who matches my Garanimals perfectly. When Kelly introduced us she said excitedly, "Shelley loves really, really big balls!"

In other anatomical news, tonight I heard that in the disposable diaper business, pee is called "the insult." (For example, "This product will absorb up to 12 fluid ounces of the insult.") From now on, when I write "the insult," you will know what I mean, yes?

Now it is late and my teeth are vibrating with exhaustion. But the gig in Cleveland was great and the sweet small audience in Mac's Backs in Cleveland not only applauded The Bile Song but requested an encore. Fortunately I had one (and only one). I read the one about the metamorphic foetus; Kelly read the one about the vaginaless aliens.

   
 
DAYS TWO and THREE  »
 
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