— From EF —

We’re rumbling down the last stretch of the racetrack toward putting our beloved first novel Realists into print. We’ve done the ritual of searching for agents and publishers, and it’s totally clear that if this is going to get into the hands of readers, well then, dammit, we’ll do it ourselves. We tried a preliminary stutter of putting it out as an eBook, but it stood up tall and irate, and said, dammit, I’m a BOOK! I need paper, I need a cover, I need to nestle into people’s hands and feel how they feel when they read.

By coincidence, our print-on-demand company (three books now, starting with our memoir) declared a special deal that requires getting the completed files into their hands by the end of July. Hot damn. Our first two big-splash plays happened that way. The O’Neill National Playwrights’ Conference gave us a deadline for the first play we ever wrote freelance (not for our own company), and using the deadline as a goad, it got finished.

And accepted. In 1980, we went to Connecticut and mingled with the fast-track folk. Wanna was the last play we did that was written by Conrad Bishop. The experience of ritual separation of Playwright and Family was something that was so foreign to us that Conrad finally hammered it through to me that we were collaborators and should be credited as such. The next deadline came up fast, and in the spring of 1982 we found ourselves at the Actors Theatre of Louisville, and Full Hookup (by Bishop and Fuller) was the co-winner of that year’s prize.

Now we’re working in a different medium, but there is still the absolute determination to find a way to connect. Self-publication requires an amazing tolerance and patience for reading the same thing over and over and over: editing for improvements, scanning for comma usage, catching typographical errors, checking layout and typography — a new pass for every one of these examinations.

So I’ve just finished my final read-through, which is maybe number five for this year. And it still grabs me and makes me grin and then makes me cry. As the grotesque spew of news puddles around my ankles and smears my knees, I find my native black despair is getting pretty ripe. Realists is a dystopian political fantasy of the near future, but it’s also magical realism as conjured by our own bent brains, and I find it a strangely effective tonic. Imagine a Broadway musical: Sisyphus!

Sunday is our day off, our Sabbath, and we will meet up with old Philly friends at the Caffe Trieste. CB suggested that I check out possible movies for late afternoon, and lo and behold, in San Rafael is a revival of the movie trilogy that hooked into our souls from the time we were first together. We will see Pather Panchali again. This luminous, gorgeous evocation of rural Indian life and death is also something my soul needs right now. Serendipity, I thank you.

— From CB —


Not one bright thought since Tuesday
just an old dog creeping from under the porch
lapping rain water, gumming cat food
turning his rheumy eyes toward distant birds
to woof.

Once I could rouse a covey of rainbows
scare them across Mr. Struble’s yard and
over the river dunes, swishing my butterfly net
ready with thin black mounting pins to
mount’em in my box.

And thoughts come now like beetles
nudging balls of dung, so it feels.

Once my brain in the crotch of night was
a closet teeming with jellyfish and
sea nettles, mantas, guppies
from the ocean trench, from the womb, from
my startled eyes

as wide as the eyes of the black Angus bull
when Grandpa held me up to its snout
and said “Eat’im up!” and Mom “Put him down!”
but the bull running mad in my head
only stared.

And thoughts come now like beetles
nudging balls of dung, so it feels.

Long dead, that bull, and Grandpa and Mom
and I, no bright thought since Tuesday
when the fly-by of dwarf planet Pluto saw
ridges of ice so hard they must smell like steel
and all possibilities.

And that was Tuesday, when for a breath
I danced one pale butterfly across the dunes
the dogs woofed promise, bulls bellowed
but since then no jellyfish
no rain.

— From the Fool —

 My friend Joe, with the ugly dog, was really happy today. Turns out there’s a billionaire that’s offered to be President if we want him to, or even if we don’t. “He’s a humble guy,” says Joe, “cause President would be a big step down for him.”

Joe says he’s got the right ideas. First off, run the country like a business. Make money. Citizens are employees, so if they don’t shape up you fire’em.

He’s got a secret plan to stop ISIS and the fanatics. He can’t say what it is cause it’s secret. Maybe the same as Nixon’s secret plan to stop the Vietnam war: bomb Cambodia. That did stop the war. We lost.

But no harm trying. Cambodia’s used to it by now.

He made a big flap about Mexicans being murderers and rapists, taking all the jobs away from our own murderers and rapists. He’d solve it by building a big wall for 2,000 miles, maybe building hotels in the wall. Also telling Mexico to stop it or else.

But there’s truth in what he said, Joe says. They did a survey of Mexicans and came up with lots of pretty bad stuff:

+ Jose, when he was a kid, put an armadillo in the mailbox, and the postman freaked.

+ Margarita washed her sister’s hair and it turned green.

+ Ernesto got drunk and fell into his own birthday cake.

+ Esmeralda couldn’t think of any sins to confess at confession, so she made some up, then next week had to confess that she’d done that, and the priest got very confused.

+ Alejandro said he’d kill Luis, so Luis didn’t make his car payment because he figured he’d be dead, but then Alejandro left town instead, so the car got repossessed.

+ Rosa smoked marijuana once.

+ Jorge got a job in Fresno.

Best thing, Joe says, is that the guy looks really mad. “All these politicians, they all look happy,” he says. “Time we had a President that’s mad as hell.” Most everybody thinks it’s gonna get a lot worse before it gets better, so maybe the billionaire can help us get there faster.

And he looks a lot like Joe’s dog.


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© Bishop & Fuller 2015

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