In this ongoing piece, the self-appointed writer's narc, Stephen Blaine, studies the effectiveness of workshopping. Starting a poetry workshop in the fall of his low spirits, as a way to boomerang and prove his creative worth, Stephen will attempt to describe the intricacies of process, peer review, and imagination. It is his personal hope to unearth the assumptions of a good writing critique, and stage a revolution based on a new hypothesis. This revolution will begin, however, in his notebook.

In this ongoing piece, the self-appointed writer's narc, Stephen Blaine, studies the effectiveness of workshopping. Starting a poetry workshop in the fall of his low spirits, as a way to boomerang and prove his creative worth, Stephen will attempt to describe the intricacies of process, peer review, and imagination. It is his personal hope to unearth the assumptions of a good writing critique, and stage a revolution based on a new hypothesis. This revolution will begin, however, in his notebook.

Things That Hunch

By Zachary Lutz

"What was the trouble with Stephen Blaine?' If it were the reconciliation of two vastly opposite poles or the shifting of two hemispheres within his brain, he wondered aloud as his toothbrush swiveled between the paralytic thread of reflection in the bathroom mirror. He was speaking, of course, in a close third person narrative, such was the nature of his daily activities and the fleshing of some deep set sickness that produced itself into a thick, self-satisfying brogue.

"If you would come with me, if you could give me a moment of your time," Stephen Blaine tried the words so close to the mirror that a blush of condensation furrowed across the midsection of the mirror, and the blunt point of the toothbrush's end clacked in acknowledgement: "A general distaste for the static environment of a creative writing classroom. This is the trouble with Stephen Blaine." He spat with a harrowing 'phoot!' into the ceramic hips of the sink, watching a swivel of blue and frothing white toothpaste congeal, if toothpaste did ever congeal. He reconsidered using his name in this introductory speech, and that possibly, if he were to ever convey the message of his disinterest in writing workshops, he should remain reserved and quiet, and rely on his slick sense of rightness to communicate all. He wanted to be less condescending and more enticing, encouraging, maybe, as each minute passed. It was the late afternoon. Stephen Blaine quit the bathroom and wandered into the dim cave that was his closet.

The question then became one of impression, of first impression, which is undoubtedly the admission of a detached person into a kind of attachment, vulnerable to both strange mercy and weird acceptance. He stood like a landmark in the exact center of the closet, where two deeply tread footprints had been the ground beneath him many a morning. It was the first day of his workshop, and if he had nothing else to prepare for ever, it was to be a day of entrance: entrance to the wind-chewed station wagon with the wooden side paneling that ferried him to the community center, entrance into the dawn of nighttime that was the community center parking lot, and entrance finally into a community of likewise apprehensive writers, each who had seen their own version of 'Web's Poetry Workshop' flyer on a mast telephone pole or a public cork-board.

Yes, it was poetry, the abstraction, that was to be the focus of this outlandish and wild town tonight, or at least those who had summoned the internal strength to subject themselves to it. Stephen Blaine was soft and calculating; in a better part of his life he had trained for air conditioner repair services and been given a lace-bordered stationary of commencement from night school in the county adjacent to his own. It was not well-received by general employment, and only became a decoration on Stephen Blaine's living room wall, and then a file within a file of the brown metal cabinet in his study.

Such then was his state that he began to write ecstatically, and with a great appetite for recording every little thing that happened around him (bloom-ed magnolia shedding its white locks on the patio, the dryer chug chugging with a hot breath and a venerable mouth whence all that had been dried exhausted the door and came out waving, smelling of mountain and forayed the smell of my own heart weeping.) It was a tough start, but he had found a rhythm in regiment that contented him like no other, and so Stephen Blaine was the pacific writer in seclusion. It took a visit from his friend Benny to confirm the necessity of his success in this field.

Benny said, "This a painting of your mother's?"

And Stephen, "Why, yes it is. What would you say?"

Stephen was fishing for a long assumed suspicion that his mother was spiraling into her own artistic core like a bunch of metal shavings to a devouring magnet. It was his hopes to exhume some kind of diagnosis of his mother before her eightieth birthday that she was the old bat he always thought she'd turn out to be, and to begin fortifying his own head in such a way that he would not do the same. However, Benny was less interested in things of this matter.

Benny - "Well, I have no frame of reference here, but it's nice."

Yes, yes, and then a few shakings of the head. Stephen Blaine was confused, and began to scratch at the back of his neck like it was full of innumerable, sudden red itches. There was a moment where Benny lifted his right leg and set it on the hearth of the fireplace and rested his hands ever so cooly in two gaping pockets of his fat jeans. Benny was a dynamic bank of uselessness, Stephen thought, trying hard to focus the warring parts of his psyche and wrestling to settle the unwarranted attack of his morning's bloody mary and lemon-custard donut (wonderfully horrible amalgam!)

Stephen ripped the sharp rind of a fingernail off his right thumb between his teeth and then spat it into the fireplace, to lie among the ash. Then he said,

"Benny, it's art. Give me something, really."

"What's wrong with you, man? You're getting all fidgety," Benny had frowned then, and continued looking at the painting like something else were going to form in its place. Stephen Blaine stepped away and lopped on the couch, huffing out a long sigh and requesting that Benny leave and call him the week following, and they would discuss a long-neglected trip to Boston to see Benny's sister, Nadine Kitchen, with whom Stephen was in love.

Then, the flyer exposed itself to Stephen on the otherwise virgin wall of a cafe shop in downtown, where he was nearly through the second college-ruled notebook he had bought that summer, this summer. It began in October, and was being held at the community center, and Stephen felt no better way to affirm or supplement his justification of the filed away air conditioner repair service certificate and his spellbound engagement in self-searching. His mother would need to be assured of his financial, let alone career safety before she would ever allow Stephen Blaine to transcend her depressing postulate of his character. He had written for a while, and in vain, before realizing that all he was doing was sublimating and dispatching into another split consciousness, all of which were the same color and strain. So it was then that he decided to begin, on the Tuesday of October's birth, the group sharing of writing projects that he had despised in high school for the prospect of an unrealized future. Stephen Blaine was heady, and a bit overwhelmed by himself, needless to say.

Stephen began his promenade of entrances by exiting, and dressed in full regalia, the front of his apartment complex with a grin and two notebooks of writing, ambitious and otherwise all a jumble of emotion. He would continue formulating his introductory speech to the class in marvelous, intimidating language, and bring all the jaws in that imagined room of writers to his own feet. "It was to be a splendiferous, horror October," he said, pausing on the gravel of the walk to record this notion on a blue-lined page in his notebook, and then pausing to record the noise of his un-earthing shuffle of gravel in four lines of prose.


PART 2


He could not have prepared for this in solace. If it was everything he could do to predict the reaction of his entrance to the room, which was not marked save the same flyer he had seen in the cafe shop, Stephen Blaine was floundering like a flounder ever could flounder. He happened into the room, really, was wholly burst into the room like a short explosion, such that every face turned to his and every stomach turned, he thought, to retch. Hollow sounds, like a lot of shy owls in the way they hooted silently and didn't follow through. Stephen could not focus on one face in particular, but he was supposed to be here, he knew, and though no voice assured him of his rightness, he assured himself well enough. 

The room, when Stephen subdued himself, was an ugly yellow wash of nothing, and lined against the walls with cold bunches of metal folding chairs. There was the flat tongue of the table in the center, that was grey and large and empty, except for a few notebooks here and there. Stephen put his notebooks down quietly. Seventeen, and Stephen had counted, other representatives of their own prophetic thought joined him in hushed awkwardness. In a few moments of looking around and general optical speculation as to who was this "Web" character, a burly man with a green tattoo of a ship on his forearm grounded his upper body on the table's top and began to speak:

"That we are not so just writers, but that we are shadows of each other's own thoughts."

(A demeanor of the group that was a heartbreaking gasp. Stephen felt sick, and his eyes began un-focusing. He immediately, even if it was before he had entered the room, regretted his arrival.)

The big man continued:

"We, in our meetings, must incise our chests and find the rudest, most grotesque entrails of ourselves to display unto the room. That we do not speak about idea or pattern or conception, that we talk as human beings to each other on the elevated plain of poetic thought." Web paused and Stephen would swear he had seen Web blink; "My greatest fear in life is incoherence. And I hope that some of you will share in this fear and prod for understanding. Don't be coy with me, writers. That is all."

Stephen almost gasped. He felt as if he was drowning. The problem of his interior was now of no concern to him, only the agape audience of strangers who breathed deep and nodded in unison. They were all in agreement that it was a wonderfully smart thing that Web had said, if it was Web at all. A sprite young girl with a green knit-cap leaned forward and glared at her notebook's face, as if she meant for it to burst into flames. Although, this did not happen, and so the whole group seemed to flock to this movement in a way such that everyone in the room was suddenly looking at her notebook and she was ashamed. Web let the quiet simmer well, and then spoke:

"Let's go around and get names, right?"

We shook our heads to signify a general 'yes.'

So the room came to be named: Mira, Nathan, Bevin, Courtney, Edward, Johnathan, Sandor, Christopher, also Christopher (how did they come to be seated next to one another?), Edna, Amory, Stephen, Dog (which seemed suspiciously like a nick-name), Henry, Martha, James, and with Web was seventeen. Stephen thought it would have been the natural process to have asked of the group to give an introduction, which he was still working out in his head, but Web had asked for none of this. It was simply the name Web wished to be given. Another triumphant lust for silence overcame them. 

After a few moments: "What do you all want out of this?" (Web)

Stephen looked each person in the face for a minimum of three seconds before proceeding onto the next, all the while rationalizing with himself that out of seventeen people, he shouldn't have to be the first one to speak. After all, the fraction of one/seventeenth was a point of non-sensical proportions, he thought. While he watched each face do the same mental evaluating, he wished he could make one move to speak, as if ventriloquizing for the group's homeostasis. At once, Stephen was aware that he was committed more than he expected he would commit for the first meeting. He realized again that they were strangers to each other as much as they were to him. He could read this in their expressions. 

Finally, the brave named Jonathan cleared his throat like all throats should be uniformly cleared and readjusted his position in chair. Then it was that he began to talk:

"Romance."

Web was quick to respond:

"Romance?" 

"Yes, romance," said Jonathan. 

Web: "Explain that, man."

Stephen made eye-contact with the one called Dog and was frightened by a red-strained ring around the man's neck. Dog had on a puce cardigan and a flannel that seemed to combine every imaginable color into vertical and horizontal patterns, in the respectable effort of flannel as a species. Stephen looked away. 

Jonathan re-cleared his throat.

"I have been writing poetry since I could eat bread." After the initial statement, there was some brain-gathering for poor Jonathan, as it seemed as though he hadn't planned to continue after that. Web's zen insisted that there be more. So Jonathan continued: "I, uh, well, recently, I just have been sleeping terrible and writing helps me to sleep." A pause. "When I can write stuff down I think I sleep better. You know, like the thoughts that have been in me all day? I just bottle it up and uh, until I am home and then I can find my pen and my notepad and scratch like a maniac. It's just better for me this way."

Stephen was listening keenly for the demeanor which he wanted not to display, and for the words he wanted not to say. It was his hope to transcend the mundaneness of necessary process and convey to the room that they were a little inferior. Stephen Blaine had a big head. 

"That's good," said Web, assuredly, "Brace yourself. There are no stilts here. What have you brought for me to see?"

Stephen grabbed his notebooks from the table and put them under across his knees, as if he were safeguarding a mine. He looked around at the limp bodies who began to leaf through their own college-ruled abyss in search for that one poignant stroke. Stephen Blaine was confused.


PART 3


No one said anything for quite some time. It was as if a spirit had entered the room and simultaneously paralyzed every individual from control over their own selves. Such was the nature of presentation, Stephen thought. He plodded through the murk of the silence and tried to focus on something tangible, looking at Dog again in his puce cardigan and whimpering a little, audibly. Nathan's stomach growled. Everyone in the room seemed to respond to the growl, and there was even a unanimous feeling that someone had started to speak; the group became conscious then, in effect attempting to subdue the anxiety of sound by turning their ears backwards to listen to the passing cars, which gave out that common flat drag of tire. A bus was realized in the bellowing of an engine, and the pregnancy of the pause became unbearable.

"I have something to share," said Martha.

Martha had a bonnet of yellow hair and looked like someone's grandmother, maybe Nathan's. Stephen thought how strange it would be if Martha was Nathan's grandmother, and that the two had enrolled in the poetry workshop together. Perhaps not even together, that Nathan and Martha had enrolled separately and now Martha was invigorated by the solidarity of kinship to begin speaking. It was the only fathomable reason Stephen could figure for the sudden speech. And there was something about the way Martha had smiled at Nathan's growling stomach, as though she knew his dietary habits and was tickled at the chance to see her constant chiding of his teenage-starving phase in reinforced example. Or, Stephen thought, maybe Martha and Nathan were not associates from the same family.

Web: "We'd like to hear it," a glint of reassurance.

Martha straightened and grabbed at the collar of her navy-blue windbreaker that she had still not decided to take off; nearly half of the classroom was still in their coats. Martha began to muse.

To grow grass beneath one's feet,

I thought it silly, or the guise of a

more youthful you. For standing

there in the gummy air, it would

worry my most inner things; Can

it ever be that we have grown or

will grow? I am younger now that

I am older. Or I am younger now

that I am younger. Grow with me,

then? Or grow beneath me? My

feet are yearning for a soft place.

Martha's voice was tired and entrancing, the tone and pacing of which was like toothpaste being squeezed slowly from the tube. Stephen Blaine could not make sense of what he was hearing, and without moving, felt as though someone had inserted a girth-y iron bar through the side of his skull. He could not focus, and needed to hear the piece read again right away. But Stephen could not say this aloud. He looked at Nathan, who was picking at the sunken chest of his t-shirt, indifferent. He looked at Mira, who had lulled into a dreamy kneading of her body, a real rocking back-and-forth, such that it had disrupted the once organized pile of filler paper into a jagged stack of white. Everyone in the room seemed a little different, and Stephen thought maybe he should have closed his eyes. He thought, yes, this may be the problem. That to observe the locus of a room and be obliterated by the image of the poet him or herself is to be stuck through the temple with the image of a skewer, and that if Stephen could close his eyes and focus on the words in their own associations, his head would be less heavy. Yes, the solution seemed, at the least, possible. He would have to work on the details.

"Age as grass," Web pronounced.

Dog snickered. Stephen was exhausted and felt a little intimidated by three-letter names. Courtney shot up her hand – something was burning in her face.

"I think it's like a...I don't know, uh, good image," she said, with a stutter.

"Yes," Web said, encouraging a more educated exploration.

Courtney continued, "You know, growing grass is like, uh, something we can't control? As humans?" She seemed to be asked for someone else to join in, but no one would offer. Stephen watched as she skirted nervously her fingers across her glittered notebook. The pads of Courtney's fingers were sufficiently shiny after having done this, and Stephen wondered what she might touch to leave her inadvertent mark.

"It's just..." the pause of un-nations, "It flows well."

The room shook.


PART 4


"What is your profession?" a thought, then, "uh, you're Stephen?" said Dog, almost characteristically barking. Stephen remembered making eye contact with Dog and also with the puce cardigan, as though the cardigan had eyes, too. They were in the parking lot, the three of them: Dog, Stephen, the puce cardigan.

Slipped or tripped by the momentary obfuscation of his exit towards the sidewalk, Stephen turned and saw Dog standing almost entirely still on a perch that was the speed bump in the middle of the parking lot.

"Do you need a ride?" Dog offered, replacing his original question.

"Air conditioning," a re-affirmed and focused Stephen replied, committed to the sidewalk and to making a series of metal notes regarding the incessant and altogether necessary obliteration of the word 'flow' from any and all vocabularies, unending and forever no dictionary or encyclopedia unturned. Also, he was paring through a curt argument for submission to those makers of historical textbooks and subsequent poetry anthologies to be spared the word from all upcoming and scheduled releases, personal letters to editors and scholars alike with the intention of forming some group in solidarity aimed solely at the banishment of the word 'flow', "And, no thank you. I prefer to stand."

"You'se mean walk?" The red ring around Dog's neck throbbing like a collar or a rash.

Stephen re-straightened the tuck of his shirt in his belt, pushing in at the buckle just so and feeding the shirt's gridlocked wrinkles back from that point with his index fingers. 

"Yes, walk. Sorry." 

"Some do. No mind." 

Stephen turned and looked up at the punch-hole sky, knowing the route home almost inherently and digested and possibly exhausted also of the whole experience and on then to new things. Though he knew this disquisition on 'flow' would have to be revisited at his desk later that evening. The determined glamorous gaunt of his eyes then mapped through the direction east and pictured his own self walking all the way home, the blue dumpster and shave of front lawns, twilight, the cone of streetlight or another, the green and red globed porch three blocks toward the river and then south. To command both feet in a walking unison required deft function and accommodation, the foregoing of all other minuscule triumphs for the left right, left right of one foot and the other, directed. 

"Say," Dog brought him back again, to where Stephen knew he would have to re-center himself: "You'll be around next time?"

Stephen didn't know what to say. Everything had been internalized to such a great extent that this kind of external inquisition hit him and glued sliding-like, such as to immure his consciousness into a solid brick of dumb — and he knew it was Dog seeing all this, and Dog's puce cardigan also, in parallel, seeing too, Stephen caught off guard. Stephen the unlucky air conditioner repairman.

It began to snow, in small immaculate shapes from above like sand turned white and sprinkled in humiliation all around. Nadine Kitchen, wintertime; it was an affectation. Dog had stirred something in Stephen which he had some time ago swept beneath himself and festooned, possibly, into his toes or some other outer-proximity limb of feeling, caught with tangled cuts of other ill sounds.

The two figures stood in the parking lot, Dog on his speed bump curl, the space bar of the concrete embossed, Stephen Blaine dejected in a half-run freeze nearer the edge. Threaded out from the door of the community center came the rest of the writers, each in their own pairs, as was unanimously decided by similar catchings of eye during the session, and a few who orbited Web like frogs would a ball of flies. They were heading towards dissipation but already there was a commonness in their right places that re-assured the nature of 'Web's Poetry Workshop', the moniker given on effect from the cork-board, and Stephen suddenly wondered how many of those in the parking lot had seen the flyer in the cafe shop or had seen it elsewhere, and that possibly it was titled something else like 'Web's Lonely Hearts Club' or 'Web's Community Seekers', which would be ironic, to say the least. Was Stephen hoodwinked into group therapy of some sort? Or just un-keen to the idea of people?

"Snow?" Stephen asked, child-like.

"Like hell it is," Dog, in denial.

It wasn't snow. There was nothing. It was October.

"You got some kind'a brain problem there? Or you jus a lil' heady bout the winter?"

Dog was probably a novelist, Stephen thought. A fiction writer, maybe creative non-fiction, anything to afford such a strange and obtuse character. Oblique, the self-awareness of the puce cardigan and the perch on the speed bump and the nickname — nom de plume, Dog, writes war books perhaps, Civil War books, Stephen Crane bleeding the bled badge of courage. Or they were not writers at all, any of them, communicable in demeanor and swimmingly jocular but shallow in a way so as to double-talk and sound professional or creative but not really have any one ounce of creativity maybe; how does one discern any kind of authenticity from a mode of such obvious authenticity? And then when, Stephen asked himself, when does one conjure enough evidence in the negative to venture a suspicion in the opposite? Was his writing any good anyways, or just a jet of nonsense and sick-miniature representations or caricatures of life that held nothing honest or real in any way? Stephen the renaissance air conditioner repairman.

"Heady, yes." Stephen said, not acknowledging Dog's slip into drawl.

"Ready es more like it." 

Stephen re-coiled: "I've got to head home, I think."

"What's there to think 'bout it?" 

"I've just got to head home, that's all."

"Got ye a girly, hey?" Dog asked.

Stephen laughed, and then blended with the darkness, letting Dog and his cardigan fester in the parking lot, luring out for someone else to barb, that he was looking for closeness in someone and ultimately under-achieved this endeavor with Stephen Blaine, the nimble air conditioner repairman. The dejected but not entirely shot down Stephen disappeared quickly, rushed away swiftly by his own sense of detachment and leaving Dog with an unanswered bit of small talk. Dog stood at the speed bump shifting little and scanning for another body. There, after having retrieved a loud aluminum canister from the vending machine at the side of the community center (bump, thump cough) Jonathan came into view in front of Dog. 

"What's your profession, eh, uh Jonny was it?" Barking.


PART 5


  Stephen Blaine realized two things when he shut the door to his house, the bang and tinkle of the keys then reacting to cause a deepening effect, the locution of a sound to exercise importance. The door, and Stephen had made first, no impression on the class whatsoever, no introductory phrase or disclaimer, nothing of the sort he had practiced and thought through in the mirror. Second, he had absorbed something on the side of nothing at all during the workshop, and wondered if he'd ever attended in the first place. He pulled a boot up from the carpet in the entryway and saw that they were fresh with a weird bit of snow, a thing that was weird in October and weird for being on the bottom of his boot if he hadn't left the house. The light switch worked when he flipped it off, and then on again, flickering between two versions of the room's illumination settings and re-affirming that he was indeed awake and lucid. The air conditioner kicked on in the living room, and with a sigh he went over to click it silent.
          There was another window-hanging air conditioner gutted and useless atop a TV tray, perched like the defeat of a machine and near the recliner where Stephen had sat earlier, tinkering with it. He was hungry, but he didn't feel much like cooking, and so settled on digging through the refrigerator to find something he could salvage. This turned out to be a portion of a pork-chop and three tines of asparagus that he procured from a floating murky tupperware of asparagus juice and emptied the rest into the garbage disposal. A few moments of focus on the pumping orange light of the microwave and Stephen served himself at the table, listening for his mother, if she were still awake. He heard no discernible sounds from the bedroom, and had executed and produced his meal in such a quiet and routine fashion that it had stirred no one but the air conditioner yet again, which he returned to the living room to reset, and hesitated with the thought of unplugging the thing for the year, if the snow was up.
          "This shall be an exquisite and immense meal," he said, skewering a line of asparagus and bringing it to his mouth. He was exhausted.
          At the table before him and the plate sat his notebook, which he began to flip through while the quiet peeked over his shoulder. (Intellectual stimulus and the feeling of grass, growing of grass beneath ones feet and the essence of long gone limbs; trigger ideas, places that you've been, mindset. No rules but specific details. What do you remember? Fifteen minutes of writing discretion, sells shoes, the language of shoes, Clay Diamond Tuesday, MC Escher's eye plastered over the TV screen—signifies a greater impulse, 'A' likes toast, 'L' sells used cars) He did not remember writing any of these things down, and yet they appeared before him in his own blue scratch of pen, at the fruit of his transcription. He read on, to where he had apparently recorded notes from other people's poems. Stephen tried to remember who had read in that first workshop, but could only remember hearing Martha, and her poem about grass.
          Blue/indigo crayons
          Bleach the hair, before it is then shaved
          Crying sidewalk chalk, rain
          Peripheral vision
          Brown versus blue eyes
          Was this a poem in itself? Stephen wondered if he had written verbatim or had corrupted the lines in through his own voice and then if he could use them again as his own lines, since it seemed significant enough. "What do the notes the note-taker takes mean to the note taker?" He said aloud, ripping through the pork chop, gaining energy and rolling an ecstatic salt feeling through the interior of his mouth and concentrating for barbecue sauce. His mother coughed in the bedroom, and again the air conditioner clicked. If he was to be a respectable air conditioner repairman, Stephen knew he must understand and possess all of the air conditioners he was in contact with—likewise, he posited, if he was to be a respectable writer, the only thing to do is to understand and possess all of the writing he is in contact with. It was after this pristine moment of brain function that Stephen noticed he had not allotted a drink for his meal, and so committed to retrieving from the refrigerator one crisp cider on the way back from dealing with the insubordinate air conditioner.
          Chlorine smells of everything
          Hammock
          I'm from soreness, or Newfoundland
          They go along with me
          Ballet and sweat
          A different feather of a different flock
          I am sorry they stole your shoe
          Frayed perfection or existential quandaries
          Simultaneously, as Stephen reached the end of his plate, Stephen reached the end of his notes. And he was invigorated with a great feeling of regret at not having shared anything from his own notebook; on lamenting, he pleaded with himself that surely he would have responded and given a reading if anyone around that massive table had called on him for input, but he was not comfortable with the idea of offering his own work to a new audience, and this was a fault. He thought about Dog, and that Dog hadn't really shared anything, and yet it seemed, for Dog, that Stephen had made some sort of impression, at least one of likeness. He endeavored to outline a succinct poem to right his wrongs to the group, and loosed the pen from the neck of his sweater, uncapping it with a regal swirl and kissing it to the notebook page.
          Through the window was a cold October, but Stephen was immured in the cave of his own self, and would be so through the night, migrating from furniture to furniture and playing with his equilibrium, motivated by the sole fact that he wasn't able to creatively contribute to the workshop. At one moment, he stood and saw his reflection in the mirror in the bathroom, through down the hallway and obfuscated by a circular fan's drawstring—"Don't get to overconfident, old sport. Slow yourself down every once and a while." Somewhere, Web's gravel-boom was channeling Stephen's own voice. Surely he would have awakened his mother. He retreated to the couch and pretended to be asleep for a moment, clutching his pen and notebook at his chest so that if his mother investigated the clamor and found Stephen at the couch, passed out in a swing of writing, she might be pleased at how creative her son was getting to be.
          But she did not approach, and Stephen could not bottle his excitement for much longer. A few more notes:
          Expanding to full billow
          In hot digital belch, 
          ladle of the head and brimming
          accordion and wheezing too: 
          Amalgamation of spicy, orange.

          He read it aloud, in a brogue, commanding his voice and puffing his upper-body to an indefatigable lump of self-righteousness, picking up his bare heels ever so slightly to rest nearly his whole weight on the fronts of his feet. Orating, in the middle of the living room, watching intermittently at the bathroom mirror detached, complacent, theatrical, informed and gargantuan, Stephen's mother knocked on the frame of the living room's entrance. 
          "The air conditioner's come on again, Stevie."