Richard Kostelanetz
More Openings & Closings


He hated his job, hated his boss, hated his associates, hated his office furnishings, hated his secretary, and felt enslaved to his father-in-law, the company's owner.

She graduated number 78 in a class of 79.

In attic papers she discovered the truth that her relatives had kept from her-that her grandfather had raped and indeed impregnated her mother.

As he pulled the trigger, the gun disintegrated in his fist.

Of all the instruments available to her for understanding the world--newspapers, books, television, friends--she preferred the radio.

Each of these stories has a common theme of the possibilities of fictional weight within a severe constraint.

The rites of marriage he refused on the grounds, not illegitimate, that no institution had sufficient authority to license sexual relations of even the most conventional kind.

Intimidated by all that was happening around her, she didn't know that her panties had fallen to her ankles.

Were the woman standing before me two inches shorter or ten pounds heavier, I wouldn't find her so attractive.

Once we finished making love for the first time, her orgasms as plentiful as mine, she telephoned two girl friends to boast about her latest conquest.

Only once did he accept money for sex.

As she was the most beautiful women he had ever seen, he stopped to stare at her as she walked past him.

In my mother's dressing room I saw three men wearing nothing but jockstraps.

Her husband's executioners agreed that she'd make a most attractive widow.

Only now was my crazy father developing the speculative ideas he left inchoate fifteen years ago.

As a departing present, we gave the commander we all hated an exhaust from the enemy's plane.

He felt he needed strong openings, prefaced by striking initial sentences, to hold his reader's attention.

On his deathbed he prayed principally for the survival of his declining reputation.

The man peering down at her was possibly bald; more likely, his hair was dyed the color of a cloudless sky.

Like all false stories, this one has a happy end.

So poor is her self-image that she takes every compliment as an insult.

You the reader must believe me when I profess innocence; no one else does.

Though she thought of herself as sexually sophisticated, from time to time she experienced in love a genuine surprise.

His task remained unfinished as long as the earth dug for his grave slowly sliped back into the hole.

My job here consists mostly of moving one hundred big boxes from the attic to the basement and then moving them back up to the attic.

The most flattering thing we could say about our eldest son was that, on his better days, he was at best a jerk.

Our entire lives we live immersed in fictions we scarcely understand.

She cut her hair short, sold all her dresses, ceased using perfume and adopted a masculine form, of her first name.

While digging for water in the basement under her cabin, she found miscellaneous ruins from what must have been an ancient civilization.

He knew enough to know that he could not pretend to know what he knew he did not know.

By purchasing the country home his children desired, he insured that his children could, would, always be where he wasn't.

Now you as reader can understand why my story had to be told in such an unusual way.

Arise from your slumber, my children, and meet me, your maker.

The most profound fictions are those left incomplete.

Yesterday, at one-fifteen in the afternoon, our Messiah arrived in our city, preceded by an entourage of security thugs in a fleet of stretch limousines.

To investments he turned to generate the kicks he once obtained from psychotropic drugs.

Before me was a palace, previously unknown, where white men, and only white men, could dance closely with each other.

We full-timers could never forgive him for succeeding with Art that was produced in his spare moments.

Never will I write fiction even slightly resembling stories that anyone else has published before.

She took him to a private park where comfortable caves could be hired for only a single hour.

Every time we walk into the department store, we can see plainclothes detectives nod at each other.

He never adjusted completely to a new arm that had strength but no finesse.

Good morning, world.

Nothing would please me more than having set before me, on an ornate platter, the head of my last ex-wife.

When she awoke to find her body covered with insect bites, she had no recollection of being bitten, not even in her dreams.

In the wake of a puff of smoke suddenly appeared, above her head, a platinum halo.

Most of these stories began as translations from barely decipherable hieroglyphics.

In disgust, I tossed my television set into the air; it could fall wherever it will.

Whether she was cheating with her ex-husband on her new husband was not an issue; the real question was: who else?

She calculated that with every pound lost represented a 2% gain in sexual attractiveness.

A true esthete, he could appreciate a baseball game without ever knowing the score.

What mundane people lack is access to transcendence.

Whenever she passed by a full-length mirror, she immediately assumed a pugilistic stance.

Paid for my stories at a flat rate that is not negotiable, I feel impelled to write a lot of them.

One of the subsidiary advantages available to a family owning a whorehouse was an abundance of available baby sitters.

He stopped counting his homosexual contacts once they numbered three thousand.

Her painting classes were filled with bright women who were dumb artists.

Though we have been together for over a year now, she still hasn't told me her real name.

Whenever I sign anything from a book to a check, I always write my brother's name.

From 120,000 feet, the world looks very much at peace.

Once you are drafted into our king's cavalry, establish equestrian incompetence.

She regarded herself as faithful to one man far away and unfaithful to all the boys with whom she spent only a night.

There was more pleasure to be had, she concluded on her fiftieth birthday, in turning down sexual proposals than in accepting them.

Especially in a strange metropolis, don't ever let yourself get caught without a handgun.

Alone in the city, she found her first job as a married couple's salaried sexual servant.

Looking back, you could see that character is the element of standard fiction that interests me least of all.

A professional thief, she knew how to flitch your things well before you knew you lost them.

He fell into a deep, necessary sleep.

A tiny woman, she feared befriending men whose penises might be too thick for her.

Times change, and so have my purposes as a teller of stories.

The experience of a 25th class reunion is worth whatever it will cost to get you there.

The clouds exploded, suddenly dropping a sea of rain.

Accustomed to exercising power, she preferred the company of men who were unemployed and thus economically dependent upon her.

Returning home from years away in prison, he let his mind consider domestic pleasures he had disciplined himself to forget.

This fall, like every autumn before, the farm boys came into our city, looking not only for work but also for ways to spend their harvestime money.

Placate my soul; please placate my tortured soul.

She frequently imagined herself growing up in the country her father had left.

One rule he developed from years of freelance writing is that nothing should be considered "published" until it actually appears in print.

They knew that the hotel where they would stay tomorrow night was in a city that officially regarded their favorite ways of loving as illegal.

I learned my last lesson about hitchhiking.

He felt most comfortable in bars patronized by foreigners.

The final words we heard from him, over our radio, was, "Pooh pee, eenie meanie mynie me."

Not unlike other acquaintances who appear in my novels, my former wet nurse was reluctant to tell anyone that her life served as a model for a character of mine.

Never would he leave home again.

As a child, he felt guilty about living off the gifts of a man he had never seen--a man who had fallen in love with his mother before she died from giving birth to him.

They wondered if each was ever in love with the other

As it was her fate to need to rent most of the things she had patiently accumulated, she felt that her life was out on loan.

The nose of his plane was headed directly down to earth, our of control.

To escape from her unhappiness with herself, she dons the elegant party dresses of a woman now dead.

The concrete pavement exploded in the heat.

A true genius, he reinvented the zipper.

That house in which I was born now has a plaque.

Wherever a pile of money can be perceived, recognized, or discovered, mice will invariably gather to nibble.

The ceiling above my head is buckling, the cracks extending in several directions.

She transformed her appearance, as well as everyone's perception of her, by becoming outrageously skinny.

There was no way properly to say goodbye to my captors.

The direct descendant of twelve generations of rabbis, he felt the need to free himself of contracts that were made long before he was born.

Their sky-diver's parachutes unfurled above them, the new lovers held hands all the way down.

The most prominent funnel in our skyline exploded, spewing forth radioactive debris.

When she moved to another country, her aura was left behind.

Challenge me and you'll see whether I can, in fact, shoot three guns at once.

He rapidly made the discovery that her other lovers had made before him--that she was not half as erotic as she looked.

My stories will be no less true than the last fiction you've read, and no less false either.

New sheriffs didn't last long in this town.

Readers of mine old enough to recall the beginnings of my publishing career will probably remember the most embarrassing typographical error of all.

Next year he might be more predisposed to accept the responsibility of marriage; he would be fifty-five.

They had to decide whether this new novel should be published under his name or hers.

After every night spent with him, she debated once again whether she should regard him as a lover or just her "boy friend."

Whatever time he was allowed with the children who lived with his ex-wife became his opportunity to inculcate extravagance.

She responded to his interest by kicking off her shoes, swinging her bare knees forward, and tucking her legs under her ass.

The only politics true for an artist, the only politics true to both his profession and his art, is individualist anarchism.

One person's perversion can be another person's pain and a third person's pleasure.

Telling everyone he was first among equals, he invariably insulted his peers by putting his own name at the top of what was otherwise an alphabetical list.

As a teenager she established for herself a quota for lover that was now filled; she was henceforth free to get married.

Nobody had the courage to tell our guru that he was pissing into a swimming pool.

He was incapable of telling the truth about his past relations with women.

Even before we walked in, the bartender took down the sign forbidding him to sell alcohol to minors.

Unable to take the necessary leap, he remained a big fish in a small pond.

He responded to the pleas of people most of us would generally ignore.

My partner is so tall and broad-shouldered that, you see, criminals sometimes mistake her for a policewoman.

Only when we kids pretend to be asleep will our parents try to make love.

She never missed a chance to remind us that this husband, her third in as many decades, was for sure her best.

Becoming a prominent man's fourth wife was riskier than being his first or his second.

Thus closer were our bodies in more ways than one.

Strapped securely into his pilot seat, he suddenly remembered that every part in his military jet, from the fuselage to the bolts, was supplied by the lowest bidder.

If I could do better than my team of seventeen assistants, I would have written these stories all by myself.

She was the sort of fiction editor who judged the quality of manuscripts submitted to her solely by the quality of the initial sentence, which she invariably recited twice to herself before making her definitive judgment.

His girl friend chastised him not only for making an evening date without her permission but then for failing to keep his promise to break it in deference to his relationship with her.

He was thrilled by her offer to take him out to dinner and even more thrilled, utterly thrilled, when she spurned his offer to pay for it.

It may well be that I myself will be the last to know how I spent my life.

In this new hospital he insisted upon having every single one of the professional prerogatives he had extravagantly exploited before.

No less from women than men did she accept for long a lover who treated her shabbily.

I liked her looks, but only by telling lies could I keep her interest.

Since her husband insisted upon cremation, her principal device for preserving his memory was keeping their telephone directory listing in his name.

In this city are two prisons--one for those defendants acknowledging their guilt, the other for those who still think themselves innocent--because we jailers don't want one bad element contaminating the other.

She came onto the battlefield, amidst gunfire, to retrieve her only son.

What should my sister and I expect of a gynecologist whose reception room is decorated with swords and moose heads?

Either I failed to remember how stupid she was or was slow to recognize how stupid she had become.

It was solely by chance that I went to one cocktail party, rather than another, and there met the woman who would be my closest companion in God for the remainder of my life.

He cultivated an appearance that accounted for his success.

Of the dozens of teachers I had at college and in graduate school, she was the only one who, ten years later, appeared to have a sex life.

Had he not felt happy and perfectly content, he would have instinctively wondered why he wasn't discontented and unhappy.

What do you do when you discover that the well-dressed man taking you to dinner has, right under his jacket, a pistol?

Would my wife ever think me worthy of her charms?

Wake up, my children, and swing your butts into street work.

He remained his ex-wife's best friend.

Confronted with news of an assassination, do you identify with the victim or with the killer?

She was single when I first met her, is single now, and would for sure be single forever after.

The most difficult problem I faced in publishing this latest selection of my stories is which one to put first and which to put last.

I like my husband for being such a straightforward, affectionate, uncomplicated person--just like me.

In the apartment above me is a man who bombards me with continuous radio noise as he jumps in place on the floor, moves his heavy furniture around in the middle of the night, puts his hi-fi speakers face-down on his floor thereby making my own ceiling into a resounding drum and, most menacingly, sometimes floods his place with water until my ceiling cracks.

They were slow to agree to the truth that each had to conclude for himself--that the twenty-four years they had spent together did not equal the promise of the first twenty-four hours.

Recently divorced, she sent an announcement to all of her former boy friends.

Most of this story was written in moviehouses, directly under the influence of fantasies about moviestars.

He died as he lived--within a mile of where he was born.

The young woman never had sufficient courage to ask her mother about who or where her father is or why she, as the daughter, scarcely resembles her mother.

At every lunch he consumes eggplants just in case the evening's activities bring a demand upon his virility.

I checked the sky again; there are still no visible stars.

You could not tell from his face alone whether the stranger before me was nasty or simply trying to look mean.

May I try with these stories to demonstrate that the measure of high literary intelligence must be an limitless capacity for unlimited artifice.

The relatives who wouldn't go home, who wouldn't forgo her hospitality, were driving her crazy.

Now that he discovered the depths of his wife's inheritance he knew that he would need to keep it a secret from everyone they knew, much as she had kept it secret from him.

The man sitting beside me constantly tells everyone that he has not been on an airplane before; we do not know whether to be impressed or apprehensive.

She inherited not only her father's depleted bank accounts but his failing businesses.

What I need most for my holiday is "relaxation," which is to say, let's be frank, sex.

Oh Christ, no, never, no.

Her bitchiness was, so to speak, contagious--every man who made a play for her came away with heart trouble, shall we call it.

Congratulations.

Premonitions of a stroke have changed the terms and tones of his relation to his children.

He put the barrel of his gun into his mouth and swallowed; it choked him before he could fire it.

When mother took me into her noisy laundry room to tell me of the "tricks" she used to get dad to marry her, I could scarcely understand how she succeeded.

As no normal three-year-old knows such words, where did she acquire such foul language?

Presuming himself by birth luckier than most people, he invariably bets with the numerals of his life--the day and month and year he was born, the number of the house in which he lives, his draft card number, his social security number and then such transient numbers as cigarettes he has so far smoked that day or items that morning in his mail box.

No wonder the police arrested him, confiscating his assets.

Why did his home have so many large, perfectly round holes on its ground floor?

She too is probably dead now, just like my other ex-wives.

She could not mention the name of any man known to us both without hinting, with varying degrees of explicitness, that he too had made a pass at her.

Recovering her breath, she smiled a reassuring smile and said, "I knew you knew how."

The sign above the store offered "second-hand lovers."

Here was a city where she could live for a thousand years without exhausting its possibilities.

Each night the architect pitched the floor of his house to be perfectly level, only to discover on the following day, when he laid down his leveling measure, that there was a noticeable tilt.

If these stories represent efforts at revealing truth, only the reader can decide if they do.

No matter what we talked about, she changed the subject to her marriage recently failed.

Sex with me, he must have decided, was no more interesting the second time.

In disciplining unruly students, nothing is as effective, and yet ultimately harmless, as a water pistol.

Whenever her dreams happened to be agreeable, so rare it was, she tried to go back to sleep.

Had my parents not moved me to the suburbs when I was ten, I might have become a different, more likable person.

What I cannot understand, even now, is how my youngest daughter, no more intelligent than the others, was alone able to tap into the computer of the secret police?

The intellectual posture most comfortable to him was vehement rejection of prior enthusiasms.

Cockroaches crawled out of his mouth.

How could I resist the promise of a blind date with someone who insisted she was too famous to reveal in advance her real name?

I am content and I am happy, merely because I think I am.

He returned home, after a long day's work, to find padlocks on his apartment door.

We misjudged her; none of us thought her to be either a drunk or a celebrity-fucker.

I must be a maniac, choosing to live where I do.

Surrounded, unable to escape, she gave up what was wanted.

The first time anyone penetrated her she felt both unfamiliar, extravagant pleasures and excruciating pains.

Every time he counted his own pulse while at rest the result was a different number.

Nothing excited her more, sexually, than setting up a man to be arrested for rape.

Though lines infiltrated her face, while her breasts rested on her ribs and her buttocks developed dimples, he never ceased to regard her as the most beautiful woman he knew.

Movies he enjoyed primarily not for the film itself but for the fantasies they could evoke of traveling to faraway places with the principal stars.

For all their similarities in dealing with the world, it must be said that his arrogance compensated for a lack of intelligence while hers simply covered the absence of cultural class.

Even at sixty-six, she looked at most forty-two.

It would be five years before he learned the proper names of what he had been doing to women.

Returning home for the first time in five decades, she was continually surprised to discover that most of the people she heard on the streets were speaking the language of her dreams.

Nothing she could do now would protect her children from the litigious designs of their father's relatives.

Whenever she has devious business to do, she introduces herself by her married name.

She hoped that one day soon their affair would need not be so furtive.

Her first lovers were her swimming teacher, her father's business partner, and her psychiatrist.

He seduced her with the promise of a world she had always dreamed about but never known.

By spinning around as fast as he could, he opened his mind to a kaleidoscope of memories from decades ago.

Her loyalty could be brought only with sex.

He arose to find himself surrounded by a dozen smiling women in diaphanous white gowns, each claiming to be a virgin.

He awoke the next morning to find a growth in the shape of a diamond emerging from his forehead.

Tell me, mother, where was I born, and who was my father?
A sexual virgin is nobody's pleasure.

By the time he got to settle on a legendarily isolated island he realized that some intrepid explorer had gotten there before him.

A great fiction requires more than a great idea, as a great idea alone does not a great fiction make.

Most of this story was composed as its author was dozing off to sleep.

The heaven he expected did not resemble this.

Though each apartment the lovers took was much larger than its predecessor, there was never enough space for both of them to work comfortably when the other was also at home.

Though the ceiling of the long hallway extending before him looked level, it appeared to come progressively closer to the top of his head.

Each of her marriages was ended by a man who persuaded her, after some resistance, to come away with him.

How can I convince you, dear reader, that these stories I am telling you are, from first word to last, from their middles to both ends, absolutely true?

In her computer-assisted search for the measurably perfect mate, she was reintroduced to her first ex-husband.

For this failure, as well as others, she made youth and inexperience her easiest all-purpose excuses.

The best, most authentic way to tell this story is through flashbacks told by forty-eight different narrators, numbered rather than named, to avoid confusion.

The morning after, he talked of wanting to marry me and take me away in a yacht that would cruise south every winter, but nothing came of it.

All of my in-laws had to die or disappear before my wife and I could lay claim to her family's estate.

Perspiring from ear to ear, he pressed the bright red button apprehensively, but nothing happened.

Needing once again to live in two different cities, this time he picked two girl friends with the same first name.

She mounted her car in a huff, vowing to drive until she ran out of gas, her tires deflated, or the road came to an end.

Be careful with me, please, my love; from living alone for so long, I have become very strange.

In departmental meetings his colleagues resembled a herd of wild dogs yelping at the slightest provocation, fighting essentially over prerogatives to garbage.

The books that have meant the most to me, that have changed my life, were mostly stolen from my colleagues' personal libraries.

When she died, the newspapers in one city had her married to one man, while those in another city identified a different man as her widower.

As she stepped onto the film set, as nude as everyone else, she wondered whether this exposure now would, long in the future, make her feel guilty.

Past menopause, she's like a homosexual in believing that sex can be "perfectly safe."

I find it safer to fall in love only with gentlemen who, because of other obligations, would be forced to keep secrets.

Choice experience, that would have pushed most everyone else to pain, perception, recognition, and maturity was totally lost on her.

At the root of our marriage difficulties was her envy of my extramarital progeny.

For this marriage, she did not lie to herself when she vowed to make it eternal.

Inhabiting the house at the top of the hill were six lions who, when he opened the door, appeared to be perfectly civilized.

She put Styrofoam pads into her stockings to prevent further heterosexual abuse.

Once they nodded appreciatively at each other, the only question worth discussing was where they should go to make love best.

From his apartment he removed all mirrors, along with anything else that would reveal his true age to himself.

She could never overcome the worrisome recollection that her most heightened sexual experience occurred during a rape.

Never again would I take a job that required me to shave my legs.

He calculated that taking a job as a beach lifeguard would be the surest way to meet nubile cuddlies.

It was the seventh, or perhaps the eighth time he signed a marriage license.

In this story I will employ only thirteen verbs, twenty-nine nouns, seven adjectives, eight adverbs, three prepositions and two conjunctions in various combinations.

For Christmas, he sent his friends back home a photograph of himself in profile, his hand holding the front of a pair of trousers, apparently once his own, several inches out from his stomach, the expression of his face conveying pride in his latest diet.

I worry about not having a woman in my life; I don't want to be caught without one.

Once his teeth were gone, he didn't want to tell jokes.

We awoke to find our six-year-old child had disappeared, leaving behind a note, surely hers, in handwriting we found illegible.

Returning to high school ten years later she saw a succession of teachers' faces that had precipitously aged

What caught his eye about the attractive woman seated next to him on the hot subway, what made his heart pound a bit faster, was a fair band of skin around her fourth finger; it could have only been made by a wedding ring recently removed.

When he died, newspaper obituaries remembered the trivial scandals, but none of his genuine achievements.

Wives must think I'm marriageable as they are continually fixing me up with attractive single women who, I sense, would otherwise not look twice at me.

And we fell asleep to the suffocating odor of cigarettes that were smoked long ago and alcohol bottles that must have been emptied even longer ago.

Fifteen when my mother died, I am now twenty-two.

Don't count on me to give a meaning to this story; I understand only the chronology of the incidents.

He came to this country with a hundred other men, all of them unmarried, all of them regarding themselves as making pioneering forays for relatives back home.

He failed as an artist, failed as a teacher, and now failed as a man.

As she is the only friend I've retained from childhood, I've ignored her noxious habits.

Even today, a dozen years after he left, the possibility of our father's return frightens us.

Each of my brother's books is so different from its predecessors that every time a new one comes in the mail I must move all his others to yet another section of my home library.

11, 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1....

She kept two sets of dogs--one pair to enjoy around her apartment, the other pair to take with her when she went out on the street.

You'll need to eat with us only if no one else wants to feed you, and to sleep with us only if no one else will take you to bed.

Perhaps not as intelligent as he, she was surely more perceptive, especially about what can be learned from experience.

He identified with his job so completely, in his own mind as well as ours, that apart from it he had no presence.

He would never let the world forget that he was, or should be, the distinguished son of a distinguished son of a distinguished son of a distinguished son.

He moved to a country not his own, whose language he could not speak, to live with a fidelity to his truest self that would be impossible at home.

She wrote voluminously, suffering from the delusion that publishers would be eager to print every word she wrote.

We spent our first twenty-four hours together in continuous lovemaking.

He was haunted by the desire to see again someone who was known to be dead, whose body vanished when his sailboat sank at sea.

I had to thank her again for putting up with my weirdness and wickedness.

By reputation the conscience of his profession, he felt obliged to expose everyone else's corruption, whether for money, sex or simple professional vanities.

No woman my age should be so stupid about men.

Picking up a magazine in his doctor's waiting room, the writer discovered that the lead story had been plagiarized from him.

She reluctantly realized that her father, now over ninety, had forgotten not only her history but his own.

You can become a mature artist only by passing through and then transcending a lot of work that will later strike you as imitative.

The local courts, after many years of deliberation, definitively ruled that my fortune should be returned to me.

She calculated that in the past two years she had propositioned more men than had propositioned her--and, in her final tally, had also seduced more men than had seduced her.

Again he failed.

Once inside the church, he felt intimidated by the faith of his youth, a faith to which he always expected to return.

The light emanating from the freshly opened grave became more and more blinding.

I can remember the day, the exact date, when I first felt my life was going not up but down.

Her nakedness, understand, posed no embarrassment to me, to herself, or to anyone else.

We entered a house in which nothing was perfectly vertical and nothing remotely horizontal, where odd sounds emitted from various crevices; and it stank.

He remembered enough to know that now, unlike before, he would remain ontologically confused.

Whenever I see on the streets a good-looking man I would like to know better, I look directly at his eyes and then imagine my breasts bare.

Most of the books he has written are available in languages other than his own.

It is not my trick to think my husband someone else when we make love but to imagine that I am someone else.

No man he had ever met before was so wholly responsive to all her audacious proposals.

As we see it, the zippers of men's flies have four different shapes and, behind that, four completely different kinds of symbolic functions that have previously escaped feminist analysis.

These "children," as she called them, were her late husband's principal legacy.

A man of uncertain sex, he was infatuated by women of uncertain sex.

For himself he now desired not more work but some rejuvenating recreation.

Lacking either a brother or a father, I was slow in learning about boys and even more retarded in learning about men, grown men.

As flames surged up around his body, it occurred to him that he had probably--no, surely--made a terrible mistake.

On the side of the photobooth was a sample strip of pictures of a face that appeared to resemble me as a much older woman.

At forty-nine she was finally outgrowing her dependence upon money and men and, especially, combinations thereof.

Though scarcely good-looking, he was always such a perfect lover--from the first touch to the last kiss he was infallibly attuned to what was wanted from him.

We accepted her offer, though it was scarcely satisfactory, because we feared it would otherwise be withdrawn.

Though my husband is the kindest man, I did not love him when we married, and I do not love him now.

She was the first woman he had ever seen naked, other than his wife.

A powerful lover, she left behind not just broken hearts, but destroyed egos.

Not until children were no longer possible did they seal their love in marriage.

How should we deal with the problem of having set before us, in the most elegant service, a plump duck with both its head and feet attached?

Any woman enjoying foreplay so much more than fornication must, he judged, be lesbian.

She went to another country to fall in love with the kinds of men who were not available to her at home.

A fiction based upon sharp reversals in tight forms is, if considered closely, generically related to poetry.

She was watching him do something so forbidden that even observing him from afar could get her arrested.

He sank into the mucketymuck, glubglubglub.

For every day spent away from my home office, I must devote at least half a day to cleaning up all the debris that accumulates in my absence.

Since she lacked either pencil or pen, she repeated in her mind the order and details of the incidents, trying to commit an incontestable version to memory.

How can I discretely test my hypothesis that none of my boy friends, present and past, can turn on my sexuality as well as another woman.

She sealed their relationship with a haircut that resembled his, notwithstanding his baldness.

She loved three men simultaneously, each for a certain quality that the others lacked.

As she tilted her head to welcome his lips, a spark of electricity sprung between them.

My brother and I suffer still from the sense that what was lacking most from our lives, when we were growing up, was a persuasive definition of manhood.

His life was like a crossword puzzle, extending in multiple directions.

Beside me in the waiting room sat a strange young man, olive-skinned and slender, with long eyelashes and blue eyes that glistened as he smiled at me.

Each of us was given a gun for one and only one purpose--to make sure that the other doesn't leave.

A few nights ago, it was said, I ran into the communal living room foaming at my lips and waiving my wife's last will and testament.

With the hair that fell to the floor went her former career and a past that she hoped would no longer be hers.

He had the keys to a home on a street where all the houses looked alike and the locks had identical formats.

Ready for bed, he tried in vain to remember what happened earlier that day.

Estranged from his wife, unwilling to approach her directly, he spent much of each day calculating how he might enage her accidentally.

He became the first victim of the revolution he co-sponsored.

The human capacity to generate fantasies of interpersonal relationships makes masturbation not anti-social but preeminently social.

She searched the junk shops for an old-fashioned surrogate penis that would emancipate her from a deleterious dependence upon men.

A vegetarian, she knew a hundred different ways for preparing aubergines, each inedible.

The world around me was no longer palpable; it had by now receded into oblivion.

In the morning's mail was a silver package, sent by someone I had met only once, containing a heavily wrapped lemon.

Even someone as young as she should have known better, much better.

In the bushes was encamped a family of several children, a father, but no mother.

He took a deep breath, gritted his teeth, and muttered, after an unexpected pause, "shit."

She entered my life wearing an abundant bouquet of peacock feathers and nothing more.

Now, to be frank, is too late a point in the history of film for an ambitious artist, such as myself, to become associated with the medium in a distinguished way.

The corporations he formed to go bankrupt were named after his children, mostly illegitimate, who no longer spoke to him.

Even after forty years of men she had not decided definitively whether she wanted a husband or a lover.

The road before me split into three paths, each going straight ahead at a slightly different angle from the others.

There was no way that either she or anyone else could tell for sure whether she was still a virgin; not even her doctor was willing to testify on her behalf.

As the most desirable fantasies can't ever be realized, they cause neither anxiety nor guilt.

The end of this collective story will remain unknown.

Why did he look so seedy today--where had he spent the previous night?

Wouldn't you know that the woman answering my ad bore no resemblance to the photograph she sent me.

Had I known I would live so long, he declared on his hundredth birthday, I would have taken better care of myself.

He fell to the ground and with a single strong motion scooped out of the mud a hole in which he then buried his face.

One quality shared by memory and money is that each can make fantasies real and realities fantastic.

Death was more amusing to him than to her.

She searches the universe for a man whose sensibility was as refined, rapacious, and capacious as her own.

He awoke in the middle of the night to the realization that he would not fall asleep again.

As his mistress occupied him every evening, other lovers were necessarily assigned to afternoons.

You realize by now, dear reader, that this story is a recreation.

It has been twenty years since I had seen my father, albeit from a passing train, and thirty-three years since he had seen me.

It was the reward of a lifetime of work--to be chosen the commissar of avant-garde culture.

Promiscuous since she separated from her husband, my sister is making love to a man who fears not just venereal disease but the vengeance of her most recent lover.

Under her pillow she put a knife as long as your forearm.

Behind me is a man following my every step, neither coming closer nor falling behind.

What he demonstrated were not illusions but, literally, magic without any tricks.

For a full fourteen and one-half years, he had remained the youngest tenured member of our university faculty.

Her behavior reminded me of the leader of a squad of female motorbikers.

In my loneliest moments, I have visions of someone resembling me making love to myself, knowing better than anyone else how best to satisfy the demands of my fussy body.

Victory was ours--his as well as hers, yours as well as mine.

I walked near the tent where my little sister was entertaining her boyfriend, and in the moonlight saw on the grass her nightgown, his clothes and her underpants.

They parted with warm feelings towards each other, each knowing that the next time they met these affections might come to a climax.

Their new restaurant was designed to attract friends and fans while scaring off strangers, creditors and in-laws.

He felt the bullet penetrate his heart and the circulation of his blood come to a halt.

We first suspected our son's deviance when he reached for his grandmother's mascara.

She would never again consider entrusting her mouth to a dentist without having a switchblade securely in her back pocket.

In his relations with women, he could never overcome the reputation, or the destiny, of being his famous father's first illegitimate son.

The silver pinball that had been bouncing from lever to lever suddenly disappeared from view.

Did you ever notice how confident in themselves young women look when they are driving trailer trucks?

He continued betting on the daily double, making his selections based upon research in the racing magazines, even though it would be weeks before he would score another winner.

All cocks in her dreams are erect, pink and raring to go.

Tonight the street-lamp globes were covered with a mysterious soot that had the color of tar and the consistency of mud.

I am the only foreigner here not a refugee from a country to which I could not return.

He died surrounded by books and newspapers, smothered literally by his curiosity about the world.

Before venturing outside, he wrapped himself in a burlap bag that had a hole only for his head.

At twelve noon, in a cloudless sky, the sun suddenly burned itself out, plunging us into a darkness alleviated only by electric light and a residual glow.

He greeted strange women in a bedroom sixty feet long.

Our disappointment he carried with him to his grave.

You could tell what movies she had seen; she would model her personality, including the tone of her voice, after certain heroines.

God had clearly flunked the new test, just as he flunked the one before.

In every restaurant he patronized regularly he identified a favorite dish and a favorite waiter.

This city, the fifth of his life, would be his last.

If he loved a manuscript liked by no one else, he would test his taste by publishing it in a first edition of ninety-nine books.

Each night he went to sleep imagining himself making love to the most beautiful woman he had seen earlier that day.

As a writer of fiction, he had more talent for inventing characters' names than imagining their personalities or interesting things for them to do.

Need I say more about why their marriage ranks among the most romantic in contemporary letters.

The secret of his success as a commercial writer was esoteric plagiarism.

Twenty years had passed since he had performed in this city and at least twenty more would need to pass, he judged, before he would want to perform here again.

The artist living off his work, the professional athlete, the general in the army--these are people who have survived the toughest competitions.

It is not enough to say you "like everybody"; we still question your evident narcissism.

She renounced civility for an aggressive quest for prosperity that she pursued with a vehemence questioned by others but not by herself.

Fellatio and cunninlingus, I remember, was what we used to do before we got married.

She hoped that a redesigned nose would open doors that had previously been closed.

He was less a man than a little boy in an oversized pin-stripe suit.

Nominally homosexual, he did not wish to sleep with a woman unless she was rich.

It has taken me years to realize that the fault was not mine; my husband is incorrigibly impotent.

He got his wife ordained a minister primarily to avoid their paying any income taxes.

Next week we may get a daughter--a five-year-old, our first child.

When he entered my place, his first remark was, "Where are the girls? Where, the girls?"

How can a serious author test whether his understanding of fiction has become more profound?

Nothing made her resent womanhood more than the daily need for lipstick.

Here, as in his other stories, the plot turns, at a crucial point, upon the narrator's interpretation of a text.

She looked intelligent, but was incorrigibly stupid; and he could never reconcile the discrepancy.

The night just past should have been spent with his girl friend, rather than his boy friend.

Since a trip costing a thousand dollars would be too expensive for him, he had to think of a more modest, or ingenious, way to take a vacation.

He had made a good living--enough to support three ex-wives and to send eight children through college--solely from satisfying the charitable fantasies of very rich people.

He was a distracted lover--whenever he got a woman into his bed, he always felt, or imagined, he would rather be someplace else.

The only solution was his doctor's radical proposal--that he undergo a penal implant.

He found it opportune to become a citizen of the country across the river from where he was born.

The reason why she rejected her lover of many years was to prepare herself to meet a man whose prosperity would be more appropriate to her new, ritzier self-image.

Anxiously confused, he didn't know what to do about his desire for a twelve-year-old girl who was likewise attracted to him.

Puerile she would always be.

Slow to smarts, he knew that women married him in order to qualify for a divorce that would leave them free of economic needs.

Thanks to me, truly free speech had come to my poor country.

In a succession of precocious teenagers he found an epitome of femininity that each of them, alas, quickly outgrew.

The bullet ricocheted off a boulder to his right to hit on boulder on his left before landing, thud, in his heart.

To myself and my court colleagues was assigned the job of discovering which infant born today, and only today, would be our King.

Without a map of his estate, he would always be lost.

When did you first realize that your daughter would become an avant-guard artist?

To some I'm confident, to others arrogant, and to yet others a psychopath; yet I've survived beloved.

Below our kitchen window was the voice of a woman offering everyone live lobster, free.

Once the maternity nurses held her son above her, she wondered which of his possible fathers this infant most closely resembled.

A normal woman typically remembers only three lovers--her first, her last and the best.

What remained mysterious to her was the question of how could such a promiscuous homosexual spurn the advances of an attractive women?

He wanted to discover whether several voices speaking together could communicate several times more whatever and whomever than one.

They died before they could tell us for sure if their unlikely marriage had been consummated.

For us academics the most interesting games are those in which individual performance can be most variable and thus where any one of many players can become the hero of a match.

And these are the truths of my life, that will live in my memory as long as I have a memory, and will be passed onto my children, as part of the spiritual inheritance embedded in their souls.

Once the door opened, he could see within the cavernous space a Japanese house with delicate walls, hanging scrolls, open windows and a world of finesse buried securely inside an industrial shell.

She retreated to a room so tiny she slept at night standing upside down against the softest wall.

He preached the virtues of "plain living and high thinking," but practiced the opposite.

We figured out why he sounded so peculiar--he was mouthing individual words in a language he really did not know.

The most efficient way to get to know other people better is sexual intimacy.

Now that his mother died, there was no longer any need to keep his peculiar sexuality a secret.

Professional obligations required him to attend three or four functions every evening.

Once their father died, the sons could no longer be colleagues.

Most literary autobiographers speak more about having sex than about having children; my memoir will correct that erroneous view of life.

Though he profited enormously from his celebrity, he hated the journalist who made him famous.

Though visibly Caucasian, he descends from families who came to our country as slaves.

The only question we never had sufficient courage to ask was how and why the lines on his face had gotten so plentiful and so deep.

There was only one customer for his new invention--a kind of gun whose rays disintegrated bones and only human bones--and that customer was the military of a country not his own.

The best way to describe what happened is this: he subjected me to a twelfth-century rape.

He went to his ex-wife's funeral mostly to see who else would be there; he wasn't surprised.

The smartest among us had to find a strategy to find positive social uses for the money that our clients normally spent on drugs.

What should we make of the fact that man, compared with other primates, has the largest brain, and the biggest penis?

For an entire week, he intoned prayers for the dead in all the languages he knew.

The light of my life, she illuminates me whenever she throws my switches and, when she departs, leaves me dark.

Her gleaming white wedding dress notwithstanding, she collapsed to the floor, uncontrollably exhausted.

The basis of his literary criticism is a taste for sentences that are patently exquisite.

Going nowhere in the maze, he had to retrace his steps.

The first time he came to spend a week, he had two suitcases, one filled with clothing and travel utensils, the other with sheets of music exclusively by Johann Sebastian Bach.

For more than thirty years now, she has been the most beautiful women any of us had ever known.

The principal problem with his literary criticism was not that he just made up evidence, he invented whole books and sometimes even fictitious authors.

Upon her death her fortune went wholly to her ex-husband and then, upon his death, to his second wife.

The city on this side of the river suffered from a paucity of places where single young people might comfortably make love.

Once her inheritance was gone, she could no longer get us to take her esthetic ambitions seriously.

Most men looking at a big movie star see only a sexual object or a money-making machine; but if you look into her eyes, you will see qualities that are far more complicated, abundant, and involving.

Whatever it was that had been crushed between his hands now dropped into his mouth.

To test the humanity of the world's leaders, I simultaneously sent each of them a personal telegram reading, "Tomorrow the Judgment Day will come," enclosing my telephone number, and then sat at my desk with notepad and pens, awaiting their responses not only to my provocation but to a subsequent questionnaire.

Without forewarning, the horse walking beside me slipped on the rock, yelped and fell over the cliff.

From time to time, with no apparent cause, my wife would get up in the middle of the night and, while I feigned sleep, proceed to tell the bedroom walls about her previous lovers, most of them exiled or dead.

He passed away before his genius could blossom.

Her time she considered money, especially when she made it for sale.

Into the truck parked outside a dozen men were carting away the library I had spent a lifetime accumulating.

What should she do about the hand, not her own, that is inching up a thigh, surely her own?

The silence of the woods at night generated more fear in me than the noisy crowds of the city.

Though the subject of his daydreams has always been the same, their psychic function and quality have changed over the years.

She realized she was capable of anything, even child molestation or suicide.

Money earned in other countries is always worth several times more than money earned at home.

Once his possessions were gone, he had only his wife.

His latest idea was to convey through Art the truths he had learned from years of working in finance.

99 % of his writing was ephemeral; for the remainder he had the possibility of immortality, at least among a few readers.

No one would forget my tap dancing if I could figure out how to pierce my nipples and from them suspend large gold earrings.

I could no longer trust her with my husband; she was my ex-bestfriend.

Returning home early, he intruded upon his wife kissing another woman.

He had no wish to date, to waste time with, women who were less than eager to be with him.

Disliking discomfort, he rarely ventured outside his cinderblock, solar-heated house.

A dozen years later, she had transformed herself into a money-making machine.

The staple of his legal practice was handling the estates of his closest friends.

Once I turned thirty, I no longer cared for women who neglected, or refused, to flatter my genius.

Because her parents moved her to another country, she never learned to make love in her mother tongue.

One reason why she seduced so many straight women was her insistence upon overcoming doubt.

"Religious faith" he defined as the charged atmosphere, the electrical impulses, that emerged whenever he addressed his favorite ikons.

He had to lock his wife up, commit her to an insane asylum, because no one else in her family would.

To like this new blonde in my life you had to get beyond the impression she initially conveyed to everyone--that she was just a golddigger.

From our prejudiced perspective the principal tragedy of their quarrel is not that both sides are right but that both cannot lose.

The most marked change in the monastery to which I returned is all the talk about money.

Their marriage was noticed in all the Sunday newspapers--not in their matrimonial columns with the other newlyweds, but on the front pages; not with a studio mug shot of the bride, but with a fresh photograph of a young couple accustomed to smiling for photographers, emerging from a thatched hut.

The houses he designed for himself typically had lots of light switches and doors to permit him easy and hurried escapes, should the police ever break in.

How can you tell for sure if your art is getting better--whose opinion should you trust?

The prison was designed to be a showpiece; it had amenities unavailable in most suburban homes.

The surest measure of his age was that fewer and fewer women returned his imploring stares.

Soon after the sun rose in the morning, he went to his desk and fiddled with his writing implements, trying once again to discover if his genius, which had once brought him fame, had perhaps returned.

She took the jar of paper paste and drank its entire contents in a series of gulps.

You wouldn't believe how slovenly my mother has become ever since she walked out on my father.

My soul and my body are becoming one; my end must be near.

Abandon all hope you who enter here.

The black rooster crowed and crowed, as it always did.

To each of his new partners he presented a thick loose leaf book whose pages outlined an extravagant agenda.

With each new year she spent a greater portion of her inheritance than any other heiress she knew.

I could either write in uncommon, difficult language that all my colleagues knew or familiar language that would make view me as amateur.

It is not enough to say you are or think yourself "an artist"; you must have work to show.

A half-dozen women told me they were virgins when we first slept together; yet none of them bled.

Had my home been within ten miles of where I am now, I would have willingly walked, even crawled, back.

Only by visiting my parents unannounced every Sunday can I get enough spending money to survive the following week.

Its complicated symbolism notwithstanding, this story was just like his others in both style and its one subject, which was, to be frank, fucking.

For security reasons, he refused to rent any apartment that had windows larger than one foot by two.

He must be dead, he is dead, he was dead.

Every night, after their dinner together, she reads aloud from her manuscript in progress to her husband, who must hear it, because he can neither read nor write.

The surface quality of his writing is best characterized by the epithet "leaping."

Once he stepped inside his grandfather's abandoned apartment, he could talk to any of his relatives, in other houses, anywhere in the world.

In those sparks and embers was the work of a lifetime past.

If some writers found obstacles in writing an opening sentence, his problem was writing beyond that obstacle.

His art was celebrated by all kinds and classes of peoples on every continent of the globe.

It was a full fifty years before he returned to the great port city where he had spent the night before emigrating.

I married her because she was the first girl friend ever to say she found my house comfortable as is and did not want to change anything in it.

She realized as a very young girl that she would win the friendship of the most attractive boys only by becoming either a slut or an accomplished athlete.

No mas-no more.

Nothing about him upset more people more than his easy ability to reveal that people thought smart were actually inastute.

Facts don't lie, though interpretations sometimes do.

Comedy, in truth, can be more profound than tragedy.

To the testimony that she looked seventeen, she replied, under oath, "I'm thirty-four at least.

After three years holed up in his cellar he climbed out proclaiming the discovery of a cure for cancer.

As a prostitute, she had acquired competences unknown to most married women.

Benny Fischel and Artie Fischel were closer than most brothers.

No autobiography is worth reading, or writing, unless the author has had uncommon experience.

Once he retired from being a football star, his biggest ambition was to make babies with as many women as possible.

She eventually discovered that if short skirts demonstrate that knees are less attractive than calves so shorter skirts make thighs yet more attractive than either knees or calves, as indeed hers were.

Whenever any of his writings appeared in print or he was invited to participate in a symposium, his biographical note would be like none other, ever.

When he died his widow could remember the names of only three of his six previous wives.

Since he looked so much younger than he was, immaturities were permitted.

Nothing more need be written-neither by him or you or me.