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The Book I Will Write #64: Shooting the Shit is Not an Option

flemingTHE BOOK I WILL WRITE by John Henry Fleming is a serial novel-in-emails about a would-be writer named John Henry Fleming who is desperate to publish a book. THE BOOK I WILL WRITE is a work in progress; readers are invited to make comments and influence the outcome. Fleming has been exchanging emails with an editorial assistant and a senior editor at Knopf, as well as with an agent. He’s been kicked out of his apartment, and is living at the library following a kidnapping episode with The Zeppelin Society. He’s recently joined a memoir group that meets in the library. Someone seems to be trying to lure Fleming out of the library to kill him.

 

 

#64  ONE OF THE FEW CASES WHERE SHOOTING THE SHIT IS NOT AN OPTION

TO: John Henry Fleming, Suspect

FR: Local Authorities

RE: Our Suspicions

This is to notify you that you are under suspicion for some of the things you may have done. We can’t discuss the specifics of these activities by email. We need you to come talk to us.

“Why don’t they just arrest me where I am?” you might ask out loud, forgetting you’re in a public place until the guy next to you clears his worried throat and abandons his web search that would’ve confirmed his theory the government is withholding research on a secret pill that prevents tooth decay—like permanently and with no side effects. But that’s just it—you’re in a public place, and the charges we may or may not file against you are secret.

The pill also whitens your teeth, no joke.

Okay, we can give you a hint. You’re under suspicion of living vicariously. That’s one thing. The other has to do with living where you don’t belong. We don’t know if these things are related. A judge will decide.

Other things, too. We have a long lists of suspicions about you, assembled from interviews with family, friends, and acquaintances—truly a lifetime of research—and also culled from the output of SEEP, our Suspicious Email Enterceptor Program, which is a standard piece of software the Government provides to enforcement agencies these days, the catchy acronym for which outweighs any confusion brought on by the misspelling of Interceptor. We can’t talk about which government or which agencies. Sorry.

Q: Guess what we’re doing now?

“You’re under arrest!”

“Yer unda rest!”

“Yir un darest!”

“Yow r on der reest!”

A: The police in different voices.

Sometimes, we admit, we get lonely down at the Authority Station, and we bring people in just to have a chat with them and pass the time. We assure you that this isn’t one of those times.

If it were one of those times, we’d have coffee waiting for you. We’d invite you to put your feet up. We’d beat around the bush in regards to the charges, and meanwhile shoot the shit in regards to various shit. We’d become fast friends and shake hands as we parted, and if we took your picture it would only be to have a record of our friendship, not your arrest.

But we’re not going to do any of that this time. Our suspicions are too serious. It’s actually one of the few cases where shooting the shit is not an option.

That’s why it’s so important for you to exit the library and come to us. Like this: hang a right and head down Main Street, where, we’ve heard, there’s a serious redevelopment boom going on (“Spend, People!”). We don’t pay attention to those things, so focused are we on pursuing leads and interrogating suspects, as well as sometimes (in other cases) shooting the shit, etc.

There’s an old, almost shut-down bookshop on the north side of the street. Hang a right past that into the alleyway, where you’ll find a set of stairs leading to a rusted blue door. Pay no attention to the door or the stairs, or, in the vicinity of the dumpster, to those little whimpering noises that sound like furry things aching to be petted. No, we’re past that. We’re actually in the building on the other side of the parking lot. You’ll see a green door propped open. The door leads to a utility room that we like to call our Auxiliary Authority Station. It’s where we do our interrogations.

It’s important that you do this. In the name of the law, we must insist. If you don’t, we’ll surround the library and accuse you of having hostages inside. Things will get rough. The media will insist upon even more drama than we normally like, and we normally like drama. Whatever, they can have it.

Stern regards,

The Local Authorities

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About John Henry Fleming

John Fleming's stories have appeared in McSweeney's Quarterly Concern, The North American Review, Mississippi Review, Fourteen Hills, and Carve, among others. He is the author of The Legend of the Barefoot Mailman, a novel, and Fearsome Creatures of Florida, a literary bestiary. He teaches creative writing at the University of South Florida and is the founder and advisory editor for Saw Palm: florida literature and art. He blogs at johnhenryfleming.com.

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