The hundreds of lexia that make up Afternoon, a story
are so many phosphorous shards glinting on the pavement after an accident;
they trace in their uneven distribution a missing body, an absent centre,
a death which may or may not have occurred. The scene of the car wreck
which may have claimed the lives of the narrator's son and wife is also
the scene of writing, the point to which it compulsively returns in order
to go forward. These deaths exceed the bounds of the text and thus, like
a wound that won't heal, continuously rip it open in order that it may
begin again. In one node, entitled "fenceline," the narrator
arrives/returns to the scene of the accident:
Here there is a catch place, a low wire fence along
a ditch which snatches what the wind wafts. Among candy wrappers, newspaper
pages, and oak leaves there [...] is a fresh white paper with my son's
name upon it, and red markings from a teacher. It is a report on Louis
Quattorze, and his looping handwriting makes me weep.
It begins: "I am the Sun King," said Louis the Fourteenth
At the scene of death the reader finds writing, thick words which yield
to further nodes, new points of embarkation and exploration. Rather than
providing, as does the classic realist text, a clearly delimited problem
or enigma, which the narrative than sets out to resolve, the accident
here remains enigmatic. "I want to say I may have seen my son die
this morning." The element of desire here, the "wanting"
to say, bespeaks of the desire for a fixed, determined origin, an etios
for the text, but one which is immediately problematized by the provisionality,
the unrevoked tentativeness of "may." It is precisely this lack
of certainty which produces the mulitiple narrative configurations of
the text, which produces the space in which the narrative lives. The fenceline
on which the child's essay is caught is emblematic of the text's own processes.
The death of the child is but a fenceline, a narrative limit on which
the the text momentarily catches, which arrests the reader's attention
for an epiphanic moment, only to release it again to the winds of chance,
of an aleatory reading that is also a writing.