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Category Archives: Jake

Jake is fairly transparent.


The whole thing is very bookflap-bio: downtown sub-efficiency with a sink, shared bathroom, thin towels, the view consisting exclusively of another wall. There’s even a jazz band filtering up through the floorboards at night.

Except Jake is no chain-smoking playwright, no starving bassoonist with dreams of bassooning glory. He’s just a wanderlusty working stiff.

He tries to imagine himself as Van Gogh, as Bukowski, as… somebody who played bassoon. It won’t take. They didn’t have clean floors or Xboxes or the ability to leave whenever they wanted; his suffering is insufficient. At least the bathroom smells like pee.


When he comes out of the Chipotle a sudden gust of wind tilts the chip basket out of his hand, then, when he bends down, smacks him with a fluttering newspaper.

“I’m not reading the headline,” Jake growls, peeling it aside.

From a little ways down the street, a busking violinist draws out her first mournful note; two ravens on a telephone line shudder and cry.

“Don’t even try to bring that pathetic fallacy shit today!” Jake yells at the sky. “I swear to God, I will dance with my umbrella!”

A thunderhead pokes above the horizon, looking quite literally sheepish.


“You’re aware of why you’re doing this, right?” Amy waves at the screen. “Working, throwing it all out there, panting over every inbound link? It’s such a transparent cry for affection–”

“Like you?”

“Like me.”

“But free distribution of digitizable content is the only model that even makes sense anymore!” Jake protests.

She smirks. “Coincidence. You only download music to get back at the RIAA too, right?”

“So what, I should put it behind a subscription wall? Print stories on t-shirts?”

“Well,” she says, “you could resell it in hardcopy.”

Jake winces. “Do I have to call it a ‘blook?'”


Jake shouldn’t have worn the attempt at a necklace, converted from one pair in a string of broken headphones, which effectively makes him look like he’s trying to DJ backwards. His pants do nothing to contradict this. He’s lost her in the thick blind dance crowd, which shortly squeezes him out like an oil blob in a novelty egg timer.

Out back on the patio they’re playing a different song, and their instruments are bottles hurled down and out toward the basketball court. “Break shit,” advises a Phi Tau named Ogre sagely, handing him an empty tallboy. Jake concurs, and obeys.


The focus takes Jake by his sixth chakra on a Saturday afternoon and drives him, scrambling and skipping, like a doll dancing on a springy plank. The wind of his passage is binary static: he could concentrate on listening and pick out the message, if he tried, but by then he’d be tumbling and ground to chuck.

After it leaves him, he assembles himself: hunched over, alone, sand-eyed with his back complaining. It’s dark outside and the clock is blinking with exhaustion. He’s surrounded by an impossibly intricate sculpture of taut wire.

He plucks it. The room coughs up arpeggios.


Jake shakes white pseudocheese flakes onto his sausage and onion. On the stereo, Perry Como demands that a snowman marry him, but the only precipitation out the window consists of soggy leaves.

He hasn’t actually been outside in twenty-eight hours, and he wonders what it does to you, running out of vitamin D. The lack of sunbeams to lounge in doesn’t seem to affect the cat. Maybe he should be eating cat food.

Supposedly the best cure for cabin fever is a good book. Jake looks at his shelves for a while, then refreshes the Internet again, just in case.


Already the real London he actually experienced–crowded, expensive, clear-skied and frequently sweltering–is confusing itself with the London of Conan Doyle and Gaiman: Cockneyed, fogbound, bursting with crooked alleys and metaphor. There were gnats in the park, he remembers, that crammed themselves into his mouth and eyes. Jake clings to the gnats.

Had some accident of birth allowed him more than those months as a tourist, he wonders, would he still value them as he does? Running and photography, cake and games. Jake sits in his rainy, quirky, river-hugging city and tries to be grateful for tumble dryers.


Jake’s work-study career begins with a daylong research mission from which, haplessly, he returns with a single book.

His professor indicates her extant copy.

“Ah,” says Jake.

“Pothead,” she scribbles in his assessment file.

As a sophomore he scrambles to avoid envelope-stuffing at the admissions office; juniorhood sees him laundering resigned jockstraps for eight dollars a week. But oh, sweet senior sinecure! Jake finds himself richly compensated for cleansing the occasional froshgirl laptop, and armed with the master key to their dorm.

“How may we too prosper, Master?” ask his disciples.

“Fuck up until somebody promotes you,” Jake intones.


Jake discovers a cache of emails from 1999 and, this is the bad part, opens them. The resulting implosion leaves him a much smaller creature: crab-legged and huddling, trying to keep his eyes on four pairs of scuffed shoes. He has become the new god of chagrin.

The problem with godhood, of course, is that people will inevitably make sacrifices along the lines of your patronage. Jake scuttles for dear life from the ashes of their poetry, from the lunging silences that follow him like a misjudged word.

“Love us, o god!” cry the world’s teenagers.

Horribly, helplessly, Jake does.


Swallows dive-bomb the park, picking insects as they rise out of cooling grass. Jake dodges when they strafe by his knees.

Consider the eye of the predator bird: an instrument hundreds of millions of years in development, perfected while you were still a tree shrew looking out both sides of your head. Forget what it’s like to be a bat. Birdsight, like the Hubble, strains photons bouncing gnatwise from the deep field of dusk.

Jake’s headphones have stopped working. He pulls them off and runs on, puffing, a red-faced struggle to stay out of the ranks of the old and sick.