"Encore", Encore: Attributions, Adverbs and Attitude from James Purdy's 1957 Short Story Merta told her brother Spence said, wearily attentive she said her brother said she continued, anxiously stepping in front of him to detain his going Spence said, a kind of cold expressionless tone in his voice she repeated, almost without emotion Spence said she cried as though seeing something from far back of dread and ugliness Spence said she accused him she returned to the only subject which interested her she said urgently again Spence said she said Spence said, the irritation growing in his manner she said vaguely, as though it was Spence who himself had mentioned him and thus brought him to mind he paused on the word she said he said irritably she said coldly angry he told her he said and he put on his hat now, which she looked at, he thought, rather critically and also with a certain envy she forced herself to say at last he said, and then winced at his own words he hurried on with another speech Merta said, pretending to find humour in his words Gibbs said, putting down some books she said in a booming and encouraging voice whose suddenness and loudness perhaps surprised even her he told her Merta said, trying hard to keep the disapproval out of her voice Gibbs said, sitting down at the far end of the room and taking our his harmonica. she said she smiled, closing her eyes. he wondered she replied laughing Gibbs said, and while she was saying Tommyrot! Gibbs went on Merta said he said with sudden fire she began, white, and her mouth gaping a little, but Gibbs started to play on the harmonica again, cutting her off Merta said above the sound of harmonica playing he cried she repeated, a little embarrassment now in her voice he asked, putting down the harmonica with impatience she said, a touch of sophistication in her voice, as if the coffee here were unusual and exotic also he said she said, her bitterness returning now against her will as she stood in the kitchen he said belligerently she feigned sweet casualness Spence said loudly and indifferently he told her she cried. Then, catching herself, she said he suddenly turned on her, and taking the dish of jello from her hand he put it down with a bang on the oilcloth covering the tiny kitchen table he said in his stentorian voice she said weakly she said eating Gibbs snapped at her she wondered taking her spoon out of her mouth she countered he said, a bit weakly, and he took out the harmonica from his pocket, looked at it, and put it down noiselessly on the oilcloth she said gaily he said she told him suddenly again with passion, forgetting everything but her one feeling now, and she put out her hand to him she said he said she said she said, and she brought out her handkerchief and wiped her eyes, making them, he saw, even older and more worn with the rubbing he said, picking up the harmonica again she said laughing a little. Then understanding his remark more clearly as her weeping calmed herself, she said, commanding again she said hurriedly she said she said he said, bored she said she said, suddenly very white and facing him she said she hurried on as if testifying before a deaf judge she said now as though powerless to stop, words coming out of her mouth that she usually kept and nursed for her long nights of sleeplessness and hate she said she cried she told him, quieting herself with a last supreme effort he said she said suddenly wiping away the tears, and tensing her breast to keep more of the torrent from gathering inside herself she said he said, and he got up and as he did so the harmonica fell to the linoleum floor she said tightening her mouth he began he began again she said, struggling to keep the storm within her quiet, the storm that now if it broke might sweep everything within her away, might rage and rage until only dying itself could stop it she said she said desperately he said, deathly pale she suggested she said beating her hands with the heavy veins and the fingers without rings or embellishments she said he said she commanded Author's note: Recently, while on a wine tour of the Okanagan, I found myself passing a wet afternoon in my motel room waiting for the skies to clear. In the lobby of the motel, a 1967 anthology of contemporary American short stories. "Updike, Roth, Cheever, McCarthy, Baldwin, Batheleme, and others."
I had read most of the stories at university. But rather than feel too old or too wise I re-read James Purdy's "Encore" and decided to make from it a poem based not on what was said, or what was said of where it was said, but most everything else.
michael turner by brian jungenMichael Turner is a Vancouver-based writer of fiction, criticism and song. He blogs at this address: http://mtwebsit.blogspot.ca