Thank you for your interest in applying for the __________ position in Gate
4 of Chamber Complex D. All of our prospective employees are given a
rigorous series of tests, from which we decide a candidate's ability to
perform in a high stress, high sound environment. "the factories" are a
difficult, often hazardous place to work. It is necessary, sometimes, to
maintain a degree of concentration that exceeds the expectations of "the
normal." Below is a list of problems and complaints that people sometimes
have. Read each one carefully, and in the space below describe HOW MUCH
DISCOMFORT THAT PROBLEM HAS CAUSED YOU DURING THE PAST ________ INCLUDING
TODAY. Do not skip any items, and print clearly and legibly. If you
change your mind, erase your first answer completely. Read the example
below before beginning, and if you have any questions please ask the
Example: HOW MUCH WERE YOU DISTRESSED BY
Q: Body Aches?
A: Often, particularly after gardening.
Sometimes I can feel the inside of my head, right along the temples.
Certain objects resonate there—a metal fork, for instance, makes a sound
that is like a squealing tire. I played with marbles as a child, and one
of them was clear and lit from the inside with crimson and yellow. Had I
not lost it in a gutter outside of Philadelphia when I was eleven I would
have for you a perfect visual representation of this phenomena. You might
claim it was better this way. I for one, do not take the loss of
Before I married I had only ever hit one other person and that was in
Junior High. His face is like a cotton swab in my memory now—he lolls
there in slow motion, holding a black bookbag over his groin outside the
locker room. It's the Bicentennial and we're getting out early to see the
tall ships. I remember the scent of a person, the way they change the air
in a room. Louis Burney smelled like hair and lighter fluid—he came from
the developments where kids pissed out their territory and traveled in
herds. I hit him in the gut—the reason isn't so important anymore. The
sound, though, is the thing. Like two sounds at once—and one of them
sounds like the whole world just lifting up and folding over.
When I tell people that my wife and I terminated our relationship what I am
really saying is that one day I came home from work and she was gone. It
was not so much the things she took with her that made me fearful, but what
she left behind: Two sweaters, yellow and brown respectively (that I had
given her—coincidence?), The remote control for a VCR that she took, a set
of fine German knives, subscription bills for McCall's and Newsweek, three
large plants whose lives I am now wholly responsible for, and a journal,
blank but for the upper right margin of each even page, where the phrase
"had fun" is marked in her telltale cursive. When I knew she wasn't coming
back I gathered the items in the living room. Hunked there on the floor
they seemed to twitch and breathe, like real animals. I slept for two and
a half days.
Having ideas or beliefs that others do not share:
Breathing into a plastic bag changes the humidity in a room. A carpet
knife can be useful in the removal of ingrown toenails. Not all bad people
are French, but all French people are bad. Select meats, when buried for
six months or more in fertile soil, can be used as a medicinal poultice.
My brother's arms are kept in a jar at the County Medical Examiner's office
downtown. Two nails in a board will weaken its integrity, but not three or
seven. The earth is bulging over Canada. When the light hit him just
right, my father looked like an outboard motor. Pull the cord and off he'd
go. People's breath is almost always more important than what they say.
Nothing is more desolate than the interiors of American cars. Lifting
weights will get you nowhere. When rain falls, something else is always
going up. Shoes are for the weak.
Blaming yourself for things:
There were holes in the basement walls where the confederate soldiers were
shot. We dug around the foundation of the house but our search for their
remains was fruitless. We had more luck with the arrowheads. Scott earned
a merit badge with his collection. The rest of us couldn't make it further
than Tenderfoot. I learned to masturbate in a tent with two other boys and
when I came the lights went out—I saw visions—what I thought then to be
the devil's palm pressing my face into the sleeping bag. The other two had
done it before, and only nodded when I recounted what had happened. Later
my dick grew to twice its normal size. I panicked but the others reassured
me. "Rest it up awhile," they said, kneeling by the fire.
Hearing voices that other people do not hear:
My mother would break things—I heard it through the wall. Later in life,
the same sound would crop up unexpectedly—at an important business
meeting, say. Once I heard a whole flotilla of saucers hit the floor while
boarding a bus for Livonia. As for voices, I can't say for sure,
especially on condition that they're not mine. Part of me talks in another
language, which is like having an itch you can't scratch, or when you're
holding a screaming child. I'd hit the kid, which is why my tubes are
tied. You won't see any more of me once I've left this earth. That's one
thing I've always had a corner on, so to speak.
Repeated unpleasant thoughts that won't leave your mind:
I play the trumpet, and when I am practicing is the time when I do most of
my unpleasant thinking. If the image of someone smashing my face into the
curb, teeth first, rushes into my mind while I'm playing, for instance, my
lips will tend to instantly purse. Other things I think about are the
sound of two hollow metal tubes colliding end on end, catching a nail with
my eyelid, silverware that has not been cleaned, how much a snakebite would
hurt, climbing somewhere and not being able to get down, getting a papercut
on my eyeball, the lottery, having my knees bent the wrong way, swimming
headlong into the propeller blades of a ship, having my teeth sanded down
to sharp points, genital self-examinations, competitive sports, who will be
wearing my organs when I die, and the fear that I am slowly bleeding to
death from the inside.
Having to repeat the same actions such as touching, counting, washing:
When I touch things, I can hear them break. I can hear the sound they will
make in the future. I touch lots of things. When I touch a person I can
know their faults. If I'm touching someone on the top of the head I know
exactly where their weak points are. The same is true for animals. My
neighbor, in the life I used to fool people with, had an Irish setter named
Pippin. 'Here, Pip, come on boy,' he would say to the dog from his porch
door. I held the dog's snout in my hands and it told me about all of my
neighbor's secrets because it hated him. He was a wife swapper, which
explained all the nice cars in the driveway. 'You're a good boy,' I would
say to the dog, slapping its hindquarters, 'you're a good old boy.'
The idea that you should be punished for your sins:
My father owned a horse farm and drove trucks and cars into the quarry on
the side. We could see them sometimes from the rope swing—bruised forms
sulking at the bottom.
I pulled my first pair of pants down near that same quarry. It was late
evening; Dad nearly ran us down on his way to the water's edge. We were
hiding in the tall grass. My dick made a sucking sound, like a fish on
land. Her name was Pam—she started to cry in the darkness.
Later that summer we attended a Patti Smith concert. We sat on the grass,
not having thought to bring a blanket. The piano was like a thousand
knives hitting me in the chest, one after the other. I would not see Pam
again. She is pregnant now, living somewhere in one of those big, box-like
states. I burned all of my pictures of her, something I've come, after all
this time, to regret more than almost anything else.
Feeling afraid you will faint in public:
In grade school once we had an assembly. A man had come to talk to us
about the dangers of smoking. He had a hole in his throat and spoke with
the assistance of a small machine. The room was dark; we were shown slides
of the operation. One shot in particular showed a nurse slipping her
finger into the hole, right down to the knuckle. I started to see colors.
Everything was far off, all of a sudden. I made my way to the back of the
auditorium, where I collapsed, vomiting my lunch by the ticket booth. A
guidance counselor found me there and admonished me for trying to duck out.
'I'm sick,' I told him, wiping my face on a sleeve. 'Nice try,' he said,
dragging me back to my seat. 'Nice try.' I thought this event would
follow me for the rest of my life, but soon enough everyone was already on
to the next thing.
The idea that someone else can control your thoughts:
We kept our linen collection dull and muted. Gray on maroon, navy on
black, brown on black. My wife was concerned that bright colors would hurt
the house. She drew the shades whenever there was a thunderstorm because
the lightning's rays put streaks in the linoleum. She had a thing about
light—she wore tinted glasses in the house which made her look like
someone from another decade, long since past. It made her teeth look like
big planks. She looked like somebody's understudy in those glasses. When
we fought I would make a bonfire in the backyard because I knew she would
not follow me there. I could see her watching me through the attic window,
sucking on an inhaler. I'd throw another log on the fire, sending a volley
of sparks high into the air. This nearly always made her disappear for a
few hours. Sometimes it rained. This, to her, meant imminent victory.
Other people being aware of your private thoughts:
I didn't like the way my life felt on me. Cumbersome as an old jacket. I
visited dark places, bars with an entrance at both ends. I never used that
back door that I can remember, but its presence there was essential.
Somebody was always throwing darts. 'Jesus,' I would think to myself,
'those things are coming right for me.' One night a man in a green parka
came in. He walked on thin, moon-shaped legs and sat in the chair next to
mine. He was looking for clues as to the whereabouts of his son, who had
crashed his motorcycle right outside nearly three years before. I told him
I was a relative stranger, and he held out a photograph. It was of his
son. They both had the same long face, like the wooden handle of a gun.
The police had dismissed the case, he said. His son did not commit
suicide, no way. I excused myself. There was too much life hanging around
him. I could feel his heavy breath. In the lavatory sink my hands
grimaced, slick with liquid soap.
Loss of sexual interest or pleasure:
Not hardly ever.