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Rachel Levy

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Rachel Levy

Photo courtesy of Rachel Levy

(2018 - Prose)

Excerpt from "Quit Church"

The kitchen table was right.
          There was a vase for flowers, and I arose early to pick flowers for the vase. I discarded the flowers because I suspected the blooms would hide my face from the face of Horst. I retrieved the china from where I’d stowed it—underneath the bed—and arranged the utensils, dishes, cups, and saucers.
          I boiled water for tea.
          I opened a box of crackers. I called for Horst.
          Horst came straight-forthrightly and took a seat. Diki-Diki came also—most darling subordinate!—and assembled his self roly-poly at my feet.
          Horst had a cracker. He spilled tea onto the floor, but Diki-Diki ate it, so I didn’t have to do any cleaning.
          I said, “I believe you should quit church.”
 

I KNEW BY MY WHOPPING HEART

Influential is the kind of woman I was.
             I will always be that kind of woman.
             I know by my whopping heart.
             I will always be that exact same woman.
             And Horst?
             He looked very, very angry.
             “It’s okay,” I said.
             “Everything is okay,” I said.
             Then I said it again.
             “Quit church.”

THAT FOOT

This is the part of the story where I am subsumed under misery.
             Some days passed before Horst acted up because he could not go to church. He took my left foot from me painfully.
             Then, months passing, Horst took my fake left foot from me, but he did it sneakily! I was reposing in the bedroom atop a massive chair, and Horst smeared my fake left foot with assorted meats without my knowledge because I could not feel anything that was happening to that foot. (It was plastic.)
             Minutes passing, I saw Diki-Diki assembled in the corner of the bedroom, eating my fake foot.

TEEMING WITH GOODNESS

Now this is where I reveal my ability to live within misery.
             To this exact day, I do not hate Horst for taking my left foot. I do not hate Horst for taking my fake left foot, or for making Diki-Diki eat my fake foot.
             I love Horst, like one of my own, even though he has blamed me for his boredom and the metaphysical blindness that eclipsed the purpose of his life.
             I am a miserable person, but I am teeming with goodness or hemorrhaging goodness.
             Often I say, “My heart ruptures from the goodness.”
             I told Horst that I am an example because I am loathe to blame the thief who steals my appendage from me.
             “Seriously,” I said.
             Well, I had a mighty head of hair, and Horst always knew it to be extremely serious.
             I said, “All the parents of this nation will assemble their children at my foot.”
             Then I clothed myself in serious garments: large, long skirts.
             Horst eyed my skirts. He suspected precious children.
             It serves him right that he even suspected authentic children clung between the fabrics!

Rachel Levy is the author of A Book So Red (Caketrain). Her short fiction has appeared in Atticus Review, Fence, Tarpaulin Sky, Black Warrior Review, Two Serious Ladies, and other journals. She lives in Salt Lake City where she is a PhD student at the University of Utah. Along with poet Lily Duffy, she edits Dreginald, an online magazine of poetry and prose.

Reading from the canon of comic literature gives me a funny feeling. I grow weary and haughty. I’m bored and insulted. Utterly exhausted, totally puffed-up. If I haven’t learned to enjoy this sensation, then at least I’ve become addicted to it—reading an old-fashioned comic novel, existing on the edge of sleep, feeling salty and snubbed (and hungry for vengeance). It’s probably because I’m the sort of reader who takes things personally. All that joking misogyny and farcical chauvinism—I take it personally. Every. Single. Time.

Still, I’m attracted to humor’s capacity for transforming sociality and organizing solidarity. I like to experiment with compositional forms that break comic convention and encourage alternative laughter practices. In writing A Book So Red, I wanted to create a narrator who forgoes telling her story and decides to wear it instead, like some flamboyant and disturbing costume—a large, long skirt. I wanted to turn the novel inside out, to transform picaresque bawdiness and dead domesticity into expressions of awkward arrogance, queer desire, and crushing pain.

The NEA Fellowship has afforded me precious support and validation for taking my interest in comedy to more violent and transgressive extremes. In my current novel project, I work to tread the line between humor and horror, critique and rage. I want to disrupt the communities of readers and laughers who congregate so tenderly around the canons of comic literature and poststructuralist theory. I want to test the novel as an apt space for transgressing scholarly decorum, for subjecting both the author and the text to aggression, humiliation, disgust. I want to lift up all the bruised butts of every single joke that has ever been told. Like a funny/demonic Moses, I want to forge a new community of readers, laughers, friends!