REAL-TIME VIDEO OF DEAD PEOPLE YOU WANT TO HAVE COFFEE
WITH: A NOVELLA
(SERIALIZED AND BROKEN UP INTO SECTIONS FOR YOUR
READING PLEASURE, AS DENOTED BELOW)
THIS IS PART THREE.
PART ONE APPEARED IN DIAGRAM
4.6; PART TWO APPEARED IN DIAGRAM
The Dead: 
is going as well as can be expected.
There is not as much to talk about, with
only the single novel.
Still, there have been almost two hundred
people with us the whole time.
As I had hoped, people seem in awe of the
ironic bee sting.
There is less focus on the book, though
several people claim to have read it. The excerpts we have included are
short passages, loaded with imagery, impossible to make sense of as a
story. Anyone who summarizes the plot of the novel is intentionally vague.
In terms of race, we are getting a lot
of help from strangers. There are a few students and one professor heavily
involved in African American Studies who — while they aren't familiar
with Newcome — have been great at providing context, and making
sense of seemingly contradictory or incongruous biographical elements.
It is about seven in the morning, while
the chat room is discussing contemporary implications of race, when I
realize that I am less interested in celebrity than I thought. What I
am getting from this house has nothing to do with the fake book, the fake
notoriety, the fake accomplishments.
It occurs to me that, since our dead have
never been alive, they are under no obligations to have done anything
deserving of fame. History's exacting and discriminating standards for
celebrity — the piles and piles of dead white men — can be
If you are still watching, we can show
I realize I am less interested in changing
history than I am in creating a normal life, the small, human details,
getting you to imagine the way that Tony Newcome spent his evenings in
this place, sober for several years. He often ate radishes with salt and
butter. He always wanted a tattoo but could never decide what it should
At about noon of the second day, Livesmart4ever complains
that he has been unable to find any of Sarah Pratt-Tipkins's books.
Wellbutrin and I turn to each other.
Eventually, Clvlnd_Grl45 suggests a couple
of places he should be able to find all of them.
Though Tito has started using the word hoax, and insulting
people in the chat room, Wellbutrin and I are not trying to trick anyone.
We are more than willing for you to find
out the truth.
But we want it to be afterwards, after
our day-and-a-half wake, so you can mourn the loss. During the actual
broadcast, doubt is not an option. After the Newcome broadcast, a few
weeks ago, Wellbutrin and I developed a form letter explaining our good
intentions, asking for discretion and consideration.
Broadcasting from the house of Tiny Prescott,
the poet who died of lung cancer a few years ago, the letter works about
half of the time. When it doesn't, Tito has to resort to kicking people
Despite our efforts, we are back down to
a hundred people.
I am still no more trusting of real history
than I am of ours, but it is true that — unlike whoever has constructed
more accepted versions of the past — we simply don't have the resources
to plant an entire fossil record.
Even with the interlude at the Newcome
house, he has continued to change. What started as efficiency has turned
into a radical leanness. He is impatient and pragmatic; he remembers everything.
At least five times a day, he has good reason to be mad at both Wellbutrin
He has started smoking, and spends most
of his time outside, where Wellbutrin and I are hesitant to follow. Even
now, as we are broadcasting the tidy split-level, his gaze is out the
window, to the streets of Iowa City, where the people are.
We are still at the Prescott house when I suggest
we should start doing ordinary people. Though I have more complicated
reasons, my argument to them is relatively simple: all of the fact checking
distracts our audience from what is important.
"I don't care how many people watch,"
"A revolution needs an audience,"
"I don't care about size," I
say, "as long as the audience is attentive, willing to get to know
whoever we send them." Wellbutrin nods as I speak, and I can tell
I have already won. It is not much of an argument, none of the theoretical
positionings of our past.
An hour later, Tito starts teaching Wellbutrin
and me how to use the box.
"I'm gonna go," he says. "This
isn't what I'm here for. I can get more justice for the dollar somewhere
"Like a soup kitchen?" I ask.
He ignores my tone.
"This isn't what any of us signed
on for. We're just writers now."
He is leaving us the van and the equipment.
He will not go until he is sure we understand
When he is finally ready, his good-bye
is warmer than anything he has said in some time. I hold him for a while,
before leaving him and Wellbutrin to figure out exactly what they are
"He got his cab," Wellbutrin
says, some time later.
Though there is probably more to say, we begin inventing Tammy Joergenson,
a special ed. teacher from Apple Valley, Minnesota who died in a car accident
on a Thursday, last February. Wellbutrin suggests that her surviving husband
might be willing to join us online, to answer any questions, doing his
part to help the memory of his wife live on.
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