Editor’s Note by Wendy Ronitz-Baker
See What You Think About This is not only an invitation to read, but a beckoning. It’s a lure to peek behind the curtain, and dares you to see if you can see what the author intended.
The first time I read it, over the course of a few evenings at a campground under the light of a solo reading lamp and glass of whisky, I became immersed. I marveled at the twists and turns. The sentences that would catch me off guard. The fluidity of the narrative. Not really knowing what to expect when I turned the page. And when I reached the end, I was compelled to go back to the beginning and look again. I wondered if, having been shown the way once, would I see through the shadows and finally arrive at a clear answer to “what I thought about” it? To this day, I still don’t have a solid answer. And I don’t want one. The thrill is in the question.
In the course of editing this piece, I have read each section at least a half a dozen times. I have read the sections sequentially, in the order the author submitted them. I have read them grouped together following the seemingly arbitrary roman numerals that preface each title. I have read them randomly, jumping from back and forth while working through my edit list. Each time I would struck by something that I didn’t remember from the previous read. Something that would make me once again question “what do I think about this?”
The author, John Fellenor, when we first spoke about publishing this work, insisted that the sections could be read in any order, and advised me as the editor to not put too much structure or curation around this piece. He was exactly right. Having now lived with this piece for several months, I can confidently release this to you, our readers, with the simple instruction to choose for yourself which curtain you want to pull back, and then choose again where to go next.
Below you are all the sections of See What You Think About This, along with their titles and opening lines. Once you open a section and read it, there will be a link at the bottom to take you to the next section that appeared sequentially in the submitted the piece. You can choose to follow this path, or come back to this page and choose the next section that intrigues you. You can also download a PDF of this piece in the author’s original format.
I invite you experiment. To leave the piece, and come back. To dive in deep for a while, and surface somewhere later. Live in the Question. And along the way, leave a comment to let us know What Do You Think About This.
See What You Think About This: a brief explanation by John Fellenor
I started writing See What You Think About This as a means of therapy, following a turbulent period in my life. The general pattern of things was: work, go home, drink the cheapest whisky I could buy, and write. It started with an event that didn’t exactly precipitate things, but it seemed like a good place to start; a nominal starting point. Given that the writing was a kind of self-therapy, a means of processing stuff, containing it, most of the time I was sat, running my life and events through my head, and that meant that the actual written output was only a few lines per day. And some days I would look at what I wrote the previous time and would simply delete it and write something else. Over the years, I changed things I had written years before; I take this to reflect the process of reconstruction and meaning making I was engaged with.
I remember one particular day, I woke up early morning laying on the floor, and completely unable to remember what I did the night before. When I checked the writing, I was quite surprised by how coherent it seemed (to me) and how much I liked it. That just spurred me on to drink even more. So that was the way it went for a few years. Because the things that popped into my head didn’t follow any kind of temporal order, SWYTAT is somewhat chaotic. This is how I experience life. I’m a great believer in the notion that most of what we do involves imposing some kind of temporal order on our narratives; reconstructing, mis-remembering, omitting, smoothing out the bumps and so forth. Unconscious life is a whole other matter. There’s no real place to start or end. But that means that the reader can pick it up at any page and still make as much sense of it, as if they had read it straight through from start to finish. Many of the events in SWYAT happened. Some just as they appear on the page, some with licence applied. All I can say as to which events are real and which aren’t is that no-one really got murdered along the way! I’d say around eighty percent of it has a real-world experience behind it.
After a few years, the turbulence slowly settled and the problem was that I was less able to find the motivation to keep writing. From start to finish took me eleven years. Towards the end, with my head generally pointing forward, I had resolved just to finish the piece wherever it felt right to do so. I revised a few passages and dropped in few clues so that it is in fact possible to join up the dots and come to my ‘preferred’ reading.
The title: somebody showed me something in 1995 and said “See what you think about this.” Left an impression on me.
It’s a bit embarrassing. I’m worried about stretch marks on my back.
This acts as some kind of nominal starting point. Because it was.
On the edge of a main highway that runs through a small desert town.
We stop at the next bench, only a few yards away and she sits gently.
And after the bar? What happened after the bar, he asked.
I wait here every day for somebody to come in.
People talking in the hotel bar. A couple maybe mid-sixties.
The dirt falls from the shovel all too slowly. I swear it doesn’t want to cover her body: it keeps slipping off to the edges.
People get killed. Are hollow. They come up to me like clear outlines with no insides, no complexity.
I stab the cherry tomato with my fork; trying hard to not let it shoot off the plate or squirt seeds at me.
I awake with a start, and then slip back to this time.
There’s a spider crawling on the counter.
I spent two weeks in the hospital. I can remember getting there.
March the seventeenth. Thinking about the body guard: got shot.
You must listen intently to the sound in your ears. It’s a carrier signal.
Every now and then the old man would rock back on his heels. Every now and then.
As I mentioned, this isn’t my natural line of work. I just fell into it.
Letters. The writing on the brown envelope said: photocopies as requested.
Now see what you think about this: a man up along a road stood next to a tan colored car.
I get flashbacks of war. But I wasn’t there
I was wrong. It did change. How can you hear the cries of others and not listen?
And off we set with the black bag in the trunk of the car. The drive to the restaurant is some two hundred miles of desert, mountain passes.
This guy works in a store. He has a bulging gut but his heart was in the right place.
The point about the Werewolf is this: a popular conversation about categories of things.
So in this photograph are a boy and a girl. The boys sits on the ground to the left and the girl lies on the ground to the right.
Three black bags lay on the table and the telephone was ringing in the back. That’s where it was.
Fade out. The music fades out. I say you’re a strange girl. She doesn’t reply immediately so I stay: switch channels.
Where did those men go? What men? He says he didn’t notice; had his eyes closed listening to some music the barman had put on.
So this man lived once in a fairly clean house, up along a good road. A good neighbourhood. This was the man I told you about.
There was a boy once upon a time who lived in a small village with his mother, this father, and his sister.
How much further are we going? She isn’t really asking me. Just thinking aloud.
Yes. It was the Werewolf, he said. I ask him what happened.
You must listen intently to the sound in your ears. It’s a carrier signal. The message is layered into it.