The Talkative Corpse: Part Two

Author’s note: Below is the second sample chapter of my third novel, THE TALKATIVE CORPSE: A LOVE LETTER, soon to be available for Kindle. Since the sample chapters are going to appear in reverse order onscreen due to the back-asswards nature of blogs, it would de-confuse you if you read the post immediately below this one first. That chapter is a prelude of sorts, written by a future historian who has discovered the main character’s (speaking below) time capsule/diary. 
Monday, July 25—2011 circles round the sun since the birth of the great
weasel in the sky[1]:
Dearest Posterity, if you still
know how to goddamn read:
Let’s call me
Johnny Jaggo.
is my actual first name. Like my grandfather I am usually called Jack. But I
want this to be written under a pseudonym. Although I don’t intend to have any
children, my cousins and brothers and sisters breed like the Catholic rats they
are, and I don’t want to embarrass any of my future relatives. Even if they’re
breeder rats.
“Jaggo”—which is short for “jagoff,” which is Chicago dialect for “a lump loved
by himself alone”—is what my time makes of me.
this thing you’re reading is a diary.
I’ve never been
much of a diary writer. But I have always liked reading history,[2]
and dear Future, I would like for you to have plenty of it to read as well. And
it has come to my attention that lately everyone has been keeping all of their
notes for you on a large, fragile electric sheet of papyrus called the
This won’t do.
The Internet is
a hybrid between a library, a tower of Babel, and an imaginary anthill. You go
to a special machine and it lets you inside. There is much information and also
a lot of useless crap, since unlike a book, anyone can have their say in it.
For your
purposes, however, historians of the Future, the problem is not its overall
quality, but its insubstantial nature. The Internet might be harder to destroy
than the library at Alexandria, but it might also turn out to be much easier.
There’s nothing to burn, but someone may pull the plug. Someone may not, but
the way things tend to go I don’t think I’m an idiot to prepare for the worst.
You may in fact
be in the process of reinventing electricity. Or even fire. Wouldn’t shock me.
Because the news sources (there are so many of them now!) mostly seem to think
we’re going through a crisis. I know, everybody thinks their own generation
dwells at a real important turning point and all that apocalyptic masturbation.
But sometimes they turn out to be right, and I really love reading history books, so I’m not taking any chances on
your behalf; I hereby accept your imaginary gratitude. Like Juvenal without the
confusion of the persona—and without having much of a stake in the old order or
the status quo—and not writing in Latin—and not writing in verse—well, more
like some nameless Teutonic medieval monk, I guess—I’m going to leave you some
quality evidence on the eve of… well, you’ll know that better than I.
So for the sake
of future historians, assuming you have some Rosetta Stone to help you decipher
ancient American English, I am going to call my diary However Many Months I
Feel Up to Doing This For in the Life of an Ordinary Outcast of My Time.
I will print it
all out on the highest-quality paper I can find, and then cover it with plastic
laminate. I got a great deal on the laminating machine. And plastic? Plastic
might even outlive nuclear waste. So what if none of the current weasels pay me
no nevermind, not even enough to give me a job at a decent wage; in this gob of
hopefully unmelted plastic I hope that part of me will outlive them all. From
here on in I’m all about you, anthropologists of the new dawn!
Welcome back to the year 2011. We count these years AD or CE; I don’t know how,
or if, you’re still keeping track of our mostly ill-fated laps of our little
solar sewage pool, but I hope that helps. I live in the neighborhood of Uptown,
in the city of Chicago, in the country of the United States of America, on
planet Earth. In the doubtful event that you know anything about 2011[3]
or Uptown[4],
then I fear you’re going to expect a far more exciting tale than my life is
going to cough up.
I can guarantee
you that in advance. I don’t belong to any goddamn gangs, I’m not going to get
evicted as long as I keep showing up to my minimum-wage shit job, I’m not a
male prostitute or an orphan, and I’m not a junkie.
Oh, as I admit
that, I can hear you space-traveling Utopians dropping my poor little time
capsule here into your solar-powered trash cross-mogrifier. Comfortable readers
always feed on the ‘gritty,’ right? You really fucking love your suffering,
covered in blood and track marks, and it’s got to be someone’s father’s fault:
it’s all gotta be Jesus. You need it extreme. I have to be the dying guy in the
sexy police outfit who cops shitty tar heroin at Lawrence and Sheridan. Or the
incompetent drug dealer the next block over who’s always hollering about his
business into his cell phone, so loud you can’t hear your own headphones, and
then braying like a victim of inexplicable injustice when the police bend him
over a squad again. I must needs be part of that couple I saw in the middle of
Argyle Street the other day who were fighting with inexplicable urgency over a
medical cane. Or the guys who were drinking from bags and taking bets on who
would get the cane in the end. I gotta have dreadlocks in my butt hair, I need
to have the cops find me duct taped to a chair by a rival gang. You need all
pain to be a festival of the out-there, you can’t let suffering be dissected
too close to normalcy’s door, you simply will refuse to watch. Dissect that out there in the gutter, where
it belongs, where all of it is, please? Please? All of it?
Well, I’m
neither barking mad, nor a reality-TV sacrificial lamb, nor a pregnant teenage
boy consumed with consumption; sorry. 
Though labor laws are indeed broken like acid capsules over my head
every day, I am not embroiled in a landmark legal battle. (I hate fighting, in
fact.) I don’t have any outright mental diseases (aside from being introverted,
which would actually be a virtue in Japan, I hear) or physical handicaps, and I
have no interest in youth culture whatsoever anymore, not even out of envy; I’m
white, I’m male, I’m literate. I even had a halfway decent job at a newspaper
once, which kind of spoiled me for what we’re going through now. I’m not
particularly alcoholic, for Chicago anyway, and let me repeat, I’m definitely
not a junkie[5].
No, there’s no reason,
other than historical, for anyone to give a shit about my particular person.
I’m a self-made loser, 40 years old and still stuck in this studio apartment
with neither cross-ventilation nor a windowsill sturdy enough to put an air
conditioner on. My suffering is plotless, boring, the kind of grinding down
that the world does to common people who would rather have their spleen
dissected than try to “network.”
Hm, I guess I
need to explain that sort of crap to you, Future, since even if you still read
English it won’t make any intrinsic sense. So.
“Networking” is
supposedly the new way that anyone with enough grit can get ahead. But it’s
just a contemporary euphemism for nepotism, glad-handling, and the accepted
righteousness of the monopolistic power-grip of the outgoing and empty
personality type. Generations of celebrity culture have bred us all into
30-second TV-commercial versions of people. If you try not to be like that, if
you try to glimpse something better, more sincere, less glitteringly ugly, you’re
fucked. I suffer for the good things in me, the voice that says sure, be nice to others, but beware the
gang, the gang might have accidentally conspired to self-destruct…
All the
crusaders for social justice just shrug at this kind of suffering. It’s not
dramatic, and they’re social types themselves anyway, and hey buddy, that’s
what happens when most people are born around here these days. There are too
many people on the planet and not enough caviar to go around, much less
limelights. Life is obscure, ill-compensated, and grimly inconsequential. But
central-heated, in most of Chicago, USA, anyway. And at least we have on-demand
TV comedies for free now; those are part of the Internet, too. So as long as
you scrape up and pay your Internet bill you can sit there and laugh till it’s
time to go to work again. Never mind that the Internet took away my “career” in
old-fashioned newspapers[6]
and made me a full-on peon again. When Holy Progress rolls its iron spikes
along your spine, you’re supposed to feel grateful for the chance to be a
martyr. Or at least shut up and enjoy the entertainment.
Well, I do have
my Internet, for better as well as for worse. And it is an excellent source of
news, I must admit, and that news is often processed into comedy form; I
usually hate what’s happening in the world, but I also happen to be droolingly addicted
to comedy, so the medicine goes down pretty well. In case none of our news at
all is left floating in the ether, I am perfectly happy to sit here and process
it into laminated paper for your benefit.
 I certainly have enough free time to do it.
These days the Job Gods have seen fit to grant me only part-time minimum wage
restaurant work. Which means that most of the time I literally cannot do
anything except go for a walk, sit in the park, or sit in my apartment, because
most of the other places you can sit require you to either be spending money or
making it. Hell, just sitting in the park, you pretty much have to pay off the
beggars to get a second’s peace and quiet these days.[7]

So I’m just going to crouch here in my studio
bunker and type. If I squint and pretend to myself that this will make your job
any easier, Historians of the Future, I can comfortably hallucinate that my
life here has some gob of meaning and reason in it. Yes, indeed, you are more
than welcome. Just read, please. It’s
so lonely to think of, being dead without anyone ever listening to this.

[1] I
stole that from Hubert Selby, Jr.
[2] In
fact I managed to finally get a bachelor’s degree in history—with a minor in
archaeology and a certificate in accounting—from a shitty public college, for
all the good it’s done me; a sudden rash of medical bills prevented me from
going to graduate school, for all the good that would have done me either. One
of my sisters was a very good peon indeed, and somehow got a PhD; she’s now a
substitute teacher for a high school in one of the worst neighborhoods in the
city. She gets work when the front line teachers get shot, I imagine. It’s a
violent time, dear Future, in all senses of the expression. Hope you’re doing
better! Send us a postcard.
The nadir of the world economy’s most recent economic depression—at least I hope things don’t get any worse,
although of course things always can.
[4] An
island of festering gang-infested squalor in the sea of relative privilege that
is the north side of this great American city; then again the entire town seems
to be generally going to hell.
How the fuck do you become a junkie, anyway?
Who’s got that much money and that
much free time? Where did you get all
that money!? Who did you rob? How many cars have you broken into? Why didn’t
your mother kick you out of the house sooner?
Even if you’re a trust-fund
baby, your parents probably stole that money from somebody for you, one way or
another. And instead of starting a small business with your unearned fortune
and giving me a job, you are getting high all day, you parasitic piss.
[6] I
wonder if you know what newspapers were, Future. Well, they are news, printed
on paper.
Future, I don’t know how much you’ll know about the country I live in when you
read this, but in case you’re unaware, this year there were a lot more people
than jobs hanging around, and some people are too freakish to really do a job
very well in any case. So unless you’re in a really nice neighborhood there are
pretty much just roaming armies of beggars.


  1. bronstein72

    But I digress. I'm as thick-skinned as the next guy. If my personal views on dystopia clash with a critic's views, I shrug, "Yeah? You disagree? We'll see." Likewise, when my own book gets slammed–right out the gate–I shrug, "Yeah? We'll see." I hope this makes hard copy, Ann. As in, the future gets stranger every day. Glad you noticed. "When you're right, you're right–but ya never say, 'I told ya so.'"–Jon Polito as Johnny Caspar, 'Miller's Crossing,' 1990:

  2. Post
  3. bronstein72

    some verse to veg with…
    "Knock it off, Chewbacca!
    This isn't gonna help me!"
    The dinosaurs of politics can bite it.
    Golden Gophers shoot the hoops;
    George Costanza fought the Moops.
    Russian people ply their trade next to the taiga.

  4. TGGP

    More amusing than I expected. Will there continue to be notes from Prof. Cornpeffer?

    If you really want to get nerdy on the preservation of writing/culture for the far future, I heartily recommend Steve Dutch's Writing in the Sand: The Need for Ultra-Robust Digital Archiving. Dutch is thinking in geological time, so waaay in the future. Back when Ilkka Kokkarinen was still blogging at 16Volts, he linked that along with Alan Bellows "This Place is Not a Place of Honor" on how to warn future people aware from buried nuclear waste.

  5. Post
    Ann Sterzinger

    Hm, that sounds fascinating…

    There are some more notes from the prof, but I tried to keep it from turning into NVSQVAM part II.

    I always have been a future-history nerd. Because I'm always frustrated by missing evidence from the past.

  6. Post
    Ann Sterzinger

    (Of course, the bitter/embittering irony of it is that this book will likely never exist in anything except electronic form. That's kinda my own little horrible joke with or on myself.)

  7. Post
    Ann Sterzinger

    Hm. Am at work, so could only skim the Steve Dutch link for now, but I'm thinking my life's work should be switched over to carving a picture of a baby with an X over it as deep as I can in the biggest rock I can find.

  8. bronstein72

    "Give me hard copy."–Deckard the Blade Runner, 1982. re: 2 comments back? Ya could print the guy out, Ann. 'Samizdat hard copy'? OK, sorry. I'm projecting. I wrote "Beyond the Bush" & printed it. It is all printed out. Sittin' there. Printed out. Perhaps, once I apply the free market principles of Sarah Palin–and others–it'll sell!

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