Regarding the story "Gathering Chestnuts"

Hi Jesse,

Thanks for the story. Did you actually eat those chestnuts?? There's a difference between the edible chestnuts and the ones from the Paris trees, which are called horse chestnuts and are supposed to be slightly toxic. The two kinds of chestnuts have different-shaped leaves, they are a different species.

So I'm interested in asking if you were OK after eating those horse chestnuts?

Anyway, our editors will read your story with interest.

Barbara B**k, editor


Hello Barbara,

I am in excellent health. Many thanks for your concern. As detailed in the story I am very much aware of the difference between the chestnut fit for human consumption and the inedible horse chestnut. During my years in Paris I became something of an expert on the various chestnut trees in the parks of the 11th and 20th arrondisements. I was keen to restrict my harvest to the chestnuts of the edible species, and refrain from gathering from Paris' more numerous horse chestnut trees.

In spite of what you may have heard, edible chestnuts do grow in Paris. The French woman who appears in the piece, who would later become my wife, consumed edible chestnuts with me on numerous occasions. Though my ex-wife now, she is in excellent health and I could perhaps put you into contact with her should you be so inclined, though the story of our separation and the dissolution of the marriage is one unfit for your magazine.

It must also be noted that the human consumption of horse chestnuts has in some cases resulted in death by toxic shock. There is significant literature on the subject to which I can direct you if you are interested. Indeed, we must take the threat of the horse chestnut seriously. In this regard, should you and your fellow editors accept the piece for publication, I must insist upon a legal disclaimer to proceed or follow it. Any disclaimer must necessarily absolve both author, myself, and publisher, you, from any liability related to the consumption of toxic horse chestnuts. Because the magazine and editorial team is based in France you may require additional liability protection. My unfamiliarity with French law means that I am unable to advise you in this regard.

Though I have not lived in Paris for many years now, it comes from a reliable source that the chestnut tree near the tomb of Raymond Radiguet from which I gathered chestnuts in the piece, has since been removed. Should a reader of your magazine be inspired by my piece, he will most likely only discover toxic horse chestnuts there. Unless he is an owner or caretaker of horses I would advise against any collection. No doubt we can both agree that the poisoning of one's readership is no way to grow a fledgling online literary magazine. In the event of any poisoning of an English-speaking expatriate, either accidental or intentional, please alert me and I shall be careful not to set foot in France again.

Yours in good health,



Doug 2

[a new story from the new edition of Home Depot Profiles In Courage]

I was up in the overhead in the chemical aisle arranging boxes of bleach when Doug came over.

"I'm trying to get this rotten tooth out of my mouth," he says.

I see his cheek moving where he's working the tooth with his tongue. It must be a molar.

"Its all that Mountain Dew you drink. Its rotting your teeth."

"Come down and take a look at it, will ya?"


"Tell me if you think I can get it out."

"I'm not looking at your tooth, Doug. I got to move these boxes of bleach around and I'm not coming down."

He's looking up at me, working the tooth with his tongue. "I've been working it all day. Its loose but its not coming out."

I tell him about that trick of tying a string around the tooth and tying it to a door knob. You get someone to slam the door and the tooth comes out. He nodded his head, still working the tooth with his tongue. Then he goes back to the light bulb aisle.

I got the bleach organized and then I pushed the metal staircase on wheels to the next overhead and I started organizing the boxes of carpet cleaning chemicals and the air fresheners and the stain removers. Then Maria called break over the intercom and I came down.

Doug wasn't in the break room.

"Anyone seen Doug?" Maria asks. "Does he know we're on break?"

"I seen him in Hardware," says Steve, not looking up from his paper. "He knows."

Little Dave is sitting across from me. He says, "You heard this latest one about Doug?"

I didn't hear it and Little Dave starts telling me. A couple weeks ago Doug asked Mauro the hot dog guy to come out with him and his wife Heather for a drink. Heather is touching Mauro at the bar. Mauro gets real drunk with them and goes back to their place and Heather starts kissing him. Doug doesn't care Mauro's kissing his wife. Mauro's never been with a white girl so it doesn't matter how fat she is. Doug doesn't care and they go in the bedroom. Mauro's on top of her and then he feels someone touch him from behind. Its Doug. Doug's naked. He wants to fuck Mauro while Mauro is fucking his wife. Mauro ran out of there. He didn't come to work at the hot dog stand all week. 

After break I was back up in the overhead arranging boxes. I was arranging boxes of detergent when Doug came into the aisle. He's got a blood soaked clump of brown paper towels pressed against his mouth.

"I'm spitting all this blood," he says.

"What'd you do?"

"I went down to Hardware and got a pliers and I pulled that tooth out."

He spits blood into the mess of paper towels. I just look at him.

"You want to meet for a beer on Sunday?" he says.

"I can't."

"How about Saturday?"


"What about the next week?"

"I'm busy."

"When we going out then?"

"No, Doug. I'm not going anywhere with you."


Lansing, MI

Up the hill lived Joey Zale who was a biter. He had gotten me a few times and bitten my brother bad enough that my mom took him for a tetanus. Joey Zale was the grandson of the champion boxer Tony Zale. One of his belts was hung on the wall. The biter must have been a great disappointment to the family. Joey Zale later drowned his sister's rabbit in the swimming pool. It was after that he bit my brother and my mom said I couldn't see him anymore.

Next door to the Zales was a strange family with a young girl who didn't talk but was always naked. In the summers she liked to run around the neighborhood naked. She ran around naked after dinner one evening. It was dusk. She ran down the hill and her father and mother chased after her. I watched it from the window. She was running around naked so much nobody cared.

Charlie lived next door and he was my best friend. His mom bought him all the Star Wars my mom didn't buy for me. He had a tv and we didn't and I went to his house as much as I could. We knew we were really brothers. My little brother wasn't really my brother. Charlie and I were together every day, all the time.

Then when we were 6 years old Charlie died. I was with my brother and my parents at church when it happened. Charlie was being babysat by his older sister and he didn't want to take a bath. With the tub filling he snuck out of the bathroom and into the garage where he grabbed his BMX bike and hit the button to close the garage door. The door clipped him as he tried to ride out under it. The door came down on top of him on his chest. His father had been working overtime on the GM line and hadn't had time to fix the safety. The door just kept pushing and pushing on Charlie. When his sister found him he was blue. He was on the machines a few days and then they took him off. At the funeral my brother kept asking why Charlie was sleeping and when he was going to wake up to play.

After that my mom cried a lot. Charlie's mom came over and they cried together. Charlie's mom quit being an Avon lady. She had an oil painting done of Charlie and put it up in their den. She got a replacement kid from the orphanage and my mom said I had to play with him. His name was Chad and he wasn't anything like Charlie. My mother was angry with me after I ditched that kid in the woods. He was a weird kid.

Fat Matt lived up the street. I learned how to say "ain't" from him until my mother stopped it. Matt's father was a hunter and gave me deer jerky. One day I sold Matt a lot of fool's gold but his mother made me buy it back from him. His mother was real fat and there was always a glass of pop sitting out on their kitchen table. Anybody could take a sip if they wanted it. I would drink the glass of pop and watch Gilligan's Island and when I came back the glass was full again.

Black Andre was the best bike rider in the neighborhood. We'd go up on the hill and Andre would take your bike and you'd sit behind him on the seat, him standing on the pedals and you'd go down that hill so fast with him you'd think you'd crash but you didn't. His father had to go away to the penitentiary and then Andre moved away.

We moved away too. When we moved out of that house and went to Chicago I heard the family that moved in after us kept snakes. Big snakes. Lots of snakes. I didn't like to think about snakes in my room. I didn't like to think about that.


Minutiae / Epistemology

15. The hunter-gatherer is a generalist in life, but avoids speaking generally about his world. Meaning: his skills are broad and comprehensive he does not require others for his survival yet he sees the world specifically and does not resort to generalities about it. (E.g. the Inuit hunter has separate, unrelated names for the five species of Pacific salmon and even lacks the word "fish". He may speak of a particular polar bear he has observed acting in a particular way, but he will not speak of all polar bears acting in this way. His language and experience are incapable of generalization.)

16. Western man: a specialist with a very narrow skill set and understanding (he requires a city of other men for his survival), but who insists upon making generalizations about the world (a world he, as specialist, knows very little about and of which he has little experience).

19. Perhaps a lack of experience of the world leads to generalizing about it? Perhaps the hubris of the specialist his clear mastery of minutiae leads him to believe he knows more than he does?

24. He who generalizes is hiding something from himself.


On Domestication 2

The next phase of man's domestication is to make himself digital, to make himself fully binary. The grand metaphor of man as computer hardware is being realized, he is becoming his metaphor. Government and corporate interests provide a software called Rational Economic Man for him to run, and they are able to look in on it, police it, make updates to it, and predict what he will do. Data can be taken upon him all the time, a profile constructed, and he can be surveilled for his own protection.

Just as animals were domesticated and then selectively bred to become productive for the farmer, man is being domesticated into what is most productive for the State and the corporations that oversee him.

He is told to think of himself as rational, scientific, self-interested, economic man. His only concern is to amass ever more security and things: a lifetime of pleasure purchases, from drugs and sex, to vacations and second homes and things he will rarely use. He will consider all life in economic terms, from speaking of the sexual market value of women, to referring to himself as a saleable brand, to the cost-benefit analysis of each of his decisions. What matters is only what can be monetized. Every act will have a dollar value, the only value permissible. Indeed, the only value of interest to the State (taxes) and corporation (profits).

Religion must be eliminated as irrational (unpredictable). Altruism, though permitted, must be given its particular channel. Mysticism and self-sacrifice must be wiped out. Love must be declared impossible. What is moral will only be defined as what is legal. Verily, the family unitits privacy from State and corporate oversight, and allegiance to itselfmust be broken apart. Man's only activity should be economic activity. Man must only express himself through the channels of work for his corporate family, respect for the laws of his government, and the continual seeking of purchasable pleasures from his corporate providers.

Big data can protect domesticated man. It can make him safe from terror. It can anticipate what will pleasure him and offer it to him before he imagines it. Science and economics will define the ways in which he will act, the laws of his life, the software which defines his possibility.
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