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Like everything that had anything to do with you, it involved aftertaste, its secrets held office in an apiary drained of dimension and drawn with a stick on the ground, it accused and acquiesced, it acquired landscape and road rage and stuttered its way to every floor.

I pluck it from its station on the shelf. I slip it into a bag it immediately punctures. I tell it to keep still. It gives me no other choice. Quiet now, and the marker poised above the white tag, the word about to be spelled: perspicacious, if not peripatetic, if not pernicious.

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By the tenth dream, the phrase astringent sadness begins to acquire color and texture. He stands by the window, squinting at sunlight the way he squints at idiots or road signs, which is to say he is pentatonic by nature, which is neither compliment nor critique. Aphorism #44: You have girded your loins in a most laughable way for this world. Today: You have __________ in a most laughable way for this world.

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Because the message had already been let loose, it was pointless to hold her breath as she watched it put on its trousers and shirt and cap, zip up its boots and skedaddle its way to the market downtown, whistle the national anthem while tucking a carrot and a handful of unidentifiable leaves in its pocket, sniff strangers, cluck at mangy dogs, raise its eyebrows in disapproval of the weather. She sighed as she watched it move further and further away, hopping and skipping from street to street, falling off buses and slipping down holes and sleeping on sidewalks, and always failing her, always getting up, always alive, always unscathed.