Dear Jesse: An Outline
Catherine Lacey

A. Skip James

I. Assessment of your admiration

           a. Mississippians, it seems, understand you.

                     i. Under all our nice linens we are a morose bunch.

II. Theories on your admiration. 

           a. Has your woman done you wrong?

           b. Has the summer left you in this way of looking at the world
                as if it is a dusty delta?

           c. Are you glad, so glad, so glad, etc?

III. Thoughts on Skip James

           a. I, too, am so glad, so glad, so glad, etc.

B. What Is Happening with Me

I. Joining the circus.

           a. Have you ever seen those women in tassels and hot pants
                that have to run in place on the giant white spheres?

                     i. They get almost nowhere,

                     ii. and wear an arrangement of fruit on their heads,

                     iii. and those I-am-not-having-any-fun smiles.

           b. No.

           c. Don't worry.

           d. I'm not doing that.

II. Fire

           a. Dottie tells me
                     i. I am a big plate of fire served with a side of fire
                         covered in fire.

           b. Do I get to choose what kind?

                     i. What do you mean by kind?

                     ii. I mean will I be a fire for marshmallows or widows
                         or witches or Yuletide logs? Cold hands held out
                         like stop in a brick alleyway? Autumn leaves in a
                         father's backyard?

                     iii. None of the above, Dottie says.

           c. It's really best to keep flammable things a safe distance
                from me.

                     i. Which makes me thankful you're still a
                         protected witness.

III.  Autumn

           a. It creates a need to repent

                     i. Wear woolen plaid

                     ii. Read in well-lit rooms

                     iii. Write nice, nice letters to anyone I have recently
                         clobbered in the face.

           b. What's next

                     i. Already dreading February, such a sadness I feel.

                     ii. A tooth trying to split your gums open—this is
                         called February.

IV. Small pains

           a. Tooth

                     i. Tooth loses root, but I grow some, and growing
                         earns another pain.

                     ii. A pain unnamed

           b. Regret: attempts to avoid.

                     i. This is another kind of pain.

                     ii. And failing to avoid regret is yet another.

C. Nostalgia

I. Haircut

           a. I remember something about the light

           b. I have not often seen the top of your head.

                     i. or parts of you scattered around like a tiny crowd.

II. The floor of our bedroom at Jeremy's house

           a. We could never understand who had lived here before us
           b. Or who might come later.

III. Leaving

           a. I left first.

                     i. For that, I apologize.

           b. You walked out of your house while I was still waiting on
                an eventual car

                     i. Woman driver; a baby boy sleeper.

           c. You made a little smile that I could only feel from that

                     i. Seeing with my eyes isn't something I do well.

IV. Small Demands, unmeetable

           a. Jesse, let's find more animals in the ocean

                     i. The stingray we could see from the cliff.

                     ii. The seals that couldn't be bothered.

                     iii. A school of dolphins, screaming.

           b. How do we make time sympathize?

                     i. Hold a knife to its neck.

                     ii. Close eyes tight, erase.
V. Small dangers, remembered

           a. Let's get trapped in the ravine again.

                     i. The rock slide rumbling,

                     ii. We tore at each other to face our fear of being torn.

VI. A woman we loved.

           a. She was made of ether and rosemary.

           b. She could read our smoggy brains just by looking,

           c. cooked us breakfast like a mother.

           d. Does she still live, too?

Catherine Lacey's fiction has appeared recently in 52 Stories, elimae, matchbook and Trnsfr. She and seven others run 3B, a bed and breakfast in Brooklyn.

Detail of photo art on main page courtesy of Astromysticism.

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