Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Stephen Dixon

Last night at a party in Baltimore Jake and I ran into Stephen Dixon, writer of witty, poignant, sometimes fantastical stories, also a former professor of ours.  The class was so relaxed, so positive, it seemed like all he wanted us to do was get over our fear of writing.  Once he wrote "You're a real pro," on one of my stories, and that was all I needed.

At the party he was seated in a corner eating the food ("Have you tried the food?" he asked us.  "It's very good.") with his daughter and her friend.  He seemed pleased that we made ourselves known to him, and said he didn't quite remember my face but he remembered my name.  "The name I remember."  He listens to you when you speak to him, considers, and waits until the thought is fully formed before he speaks.  When we told him we live in Brooklyn he said "They don't let you in there anymore if you're over a certain age."  Jake said later it felt like he was writing the scene in his head while we were talking.

We were one of his last classes at Hopkins before his retirement, and on our last day he brought in a case of Coronas.  Jake broke one trying to open it on the edge of the table.

Below, a very short story published in Matchbook in January of last year.


His wife dies, mouth slightly parted and one eye open. He knocks on his younger daughter's bedroom door and says "You better come. Mom seems to be expiring." His wife slips into a coma three days after she comes home and stays in it for eleven days. They have a little party second day she's home: Nova Scotia salmon, chocolates, a risotto he made, brie cheese, champagne. An ambulette brings his wife home. She says to him "Wheel me around the garden before I go to bed for the last time." His wife refuses the feeding tube the doctors want to put in her and insists she wants to die at home. She says "I don't want any more life support, fluid or food." He calls 911 for the fourth time in two years and tells the dispatcher "My wife; I'm sure she has pneumonia again." His wife has a trach put in. "When will it come out?" she says, and the doctor says "To be honest? Never." "Your wife has a very bad case of pneumonia," the doctor tells him and his daughters the first time, "and has a one to two percent chance of surviving." His wife now uses a wheelchair. His wife now uses a motor cart. His wife now uses a walker with wheels. His wife now uses a walker. His wife has to use a cane. His wife’s diagnosed with MS. His wife has trouble walking. His wife gives birth to their second daughter. "This time you didn't cry," she says, and he says "I'm just as happy, though." His wife says to him "Something's wrong with my eyes." His wife gives birth to their daughter. The obstetrician says "I've never seen a father cry in the birthing room." The rabbi pronounces them man and wife and he bursts out crying. "Let's get married," he says to her, and she says "It's all right with me," and he starts crying. "What a reaction," she says, and he says "I'm so happy, so happy," and she hugs him and says "So am I." She calls and says "How are you? Do you want to meet and talk?" She drops him off in front of his building and says "It's just not working." He meets a woman at a party. They talk for a long time. She has to leave the party to go to a concert. He gets her phone number and says "I'll call you tomorrow," and she says "I'd like that." He says goodbye to her at the door and shakes her hand. After she leaves he thinks "That woman's going to be my wife."

by Stephen Dixon

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

My baby teeth

In Baltimore for the time being...

[screenprints - 2hawks2fishes]
[music - Civilian by Wye Oak]