PATRICK STEPHENSON

Earthbound concerns of an ascendant adult

“My Apologies, Garrison Keillor”

by Patrick Stephenson,
always the apologist

G.K. // Dear Garrison Keillor — I’m writing to explain why this assignment—the stand-up routine—is late. I’m sure you’ve been puzzled: “Aloud in class, I read this Patrick’s first line,” you thought, remembering the class did not laugh as you read my line, and your sadness at this. “Again aloud,” you continued, “I questioned GKwhether Patrick was parodying Raymond Carver, as I failed to recognize his allusions. (Perhaps I should read more Carver.) Like a mouse before an owl, Patrick cowered. (Sometimes I feel I resemble an owl.) I admired his fear. Is Patrick alive—still kicking—and if so, why late? Should I fail him? Suspend him? Ban him from my New Yorker and PHC inner circles? That’s what I, Garrison Keillor, am wondering.”

Has your breath indeed been bated? Are you the master of your breath’s bating? No matter your ‘bating; my assignment is late. A few days, at that, and I assure you, I feel horrible. For a short while, I considered ending it all. A bullet to the head, a slit of the wrist. This is dark stuff: disturbing. But I persevered, Garrison Keillor. I proceeded, despite disappointment in myself as a student/person. Please—dear Garrison—allow me to plead my case. “Like the gentle giant I am,” you’re thinking now, “I’ll let this boy speak.” As you tuck into the lutefisk and parsnips from grandma, I will begin.

Throughout my ordeal, I wandered around my neighborhood, dreading the revision my routine required. Like the sucker I am, I’d turned the first draft in late, and so I didn’t receive a draft back, or any comments. I felt lost without comments. I felt abandoned, left behind. The Rapture had arrived, it seemed, and I was among the impure. Whereas everyone else had moved on, I was alone, left to self-fend. As, during my neighborhood walks, that thought occurred to me, streets that had once seemed teeming now seemed lonely and life-deprived. I walked along them a stranger to the world. These feelings all for you, Garrison Keillor. All for this class. How could anyone doubt my devotion?

It wasn’t The Aeneid that had me absorbed this time (although I spent that first night studying The Aeneid instead of finishing my routine, I received only a C on that test; what a bummer). It was life. I was busy living, too distracted by work/other school and too worried about whether I was talentless and stupid to return to my writing. In addition, I chipped a tooth. At dinner, one night last week, I speared a piece of chicken on my fork. As I bit down, I bit down too hard, and my teeth went through the chicken and hit my fork’s metal. A chunk of a bottom-front tooth fell off with the bite. The chunk seemed symbolic. I’d lost my ability to write, to create, to even attempt to be funny.

It’s taken me a while to regain what I’ve lost. Tonight, I sat down to watch the Oscars, during which Robert Altman received an Honorary award. “This Altman,” I thought, “has worked with this Keillor, my prof. They know each other, they’re pals. My prof. Keillor was directed by this Altman. My prof. has met Lindsay Lohan, his co-star, not to mention Meryl Streep.” I sat for a few minutes. “I owe this G.K. character more,” I thought, “because what I’ve given him lately is nothing.” I returned to my routine. What I’d lost, figuratively, with the tooth-chunk’s departure returned. My sister bought me a chocolate bar from the video store and I was rejuvenated.

Another barrier was erected. My computer died. Its screen went dark, its hard drive collapsed, its power shorted. I turned my computer over, laid it on its back, and applied my hands to its chest. I pounded my computer as one would a man. The EKG to which I’d hooked it changed from flatline to jagged hill, slowly, surely. I pounded more. I pounded harder, faster. The hills were greater in size, more frequent, their jaggies more jagged. Beep-beep-beep, the EKG sounded. An image from Beowulf, which has no author, appeared in mentia. The Bone-House. My computer is a bone-house, and I had re-built it. I stood it up. I turned it on. It worked. There were no viruses, no spyware. Everything ran smoothly. This is all symbolic, of course; there was no pounding.

That I’ve survived this dark time means I can submit my comedy routine, Garrison Keillor. I wonder if you’re out there. I wonder if you’re at all pleased.

Yours,
Patrick Stephenson

Written by patiomensch

March 9, 2007 at 10:32 pm

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