I Write Stuff: Joke’s Mercy

I just posted my Master’s Thesis here for you to download, read and enjoy. It is called Joke’s Mercy Why?  Well, I felt like it.  What is it about?  A man. A woman. A marriage. The risk of being wrong. Do I have to explain everything?  Here is a simple for your reading pleasure.

When Nathaniel gets to the office, there is Mr. Steven Rosch, behind Nathaniel’s desk, reading a book with the title, Your Life Began Already:  Making the Best of Your Destroyed Social Strata.  Rosch is wearing a sweat suit, with tennis shoes and a baseball cap.  And there are more sports clothes on top of Nathaniel’s desk, with four pairs of expensive running shoes, bottles of water.  A young woman in a business suit is beside Rosch, standing, typing on a PDA, simultaneously talking on a cellphone.

“That’s my seat,” Nathaniel says.  Rosch looks up at him.

“You look, what’s the word?” He taps his assistant on the leg, says something in a language Nathaniel can’t pinpoint and the assistant says shit.

“Yes,” Rosch says.  “You look like that.  You look like shit.  Did you read the memos I sent? What did happen last night?”

“I don’t want to talk about it,” Nathaniel says.

“You know what I miss about the military life?” Rosch asks, tossing the book in the nearby trashcan, standing, stretching.  “I miss that you could absolutely dictate people’s lives.  The military gives you the idea, this set goal that, yes, if you work hard enough and take enough of the beatings and the other horrible things that, yes, you too can dish out the beatings and the pain and the other horrible things to other people.  And the other people?  They can do nothing but take the abuse.”

“What country did you say you were from?”

“I did not say.  What country do you think I am from?”

“I would say Germany.”

“The Germans are evil people,” Rosch says.  His assistant looks hurt for a second, with her mouth gapped and her eyes wide. Rosch shouts at her quickly and violently in a foreign tongue and the girl sits on top of Nathaniel’s desk, tosses her equipment to the floor and cries.  Rosch begins to run in place.

“Put these clothes on,” he says to Nathaniel.

“What for?”

“It’s interesting that you say ‘What for’ as opposed to ‘Why’.”

“Why do I need to put on workout clothes?”

“To work out,” Rosch says.

Nathaniel is horribly out of shape.  He sprints up the stairs of the building.  Rosch is in front of him, a full staircase ahead of him, taking the stairs in bits of two, springing up one after the other like he’s a teenager.  Nathaniel tries to keep up.  He coughs up bits of something.  Bile maybe.  His lungs feel like they are going to burst, pop out of him, escape and turn into a puddle of pink, tar-poked ooze.

“The military also taught me about pain reception,” Mr. Rosch says, turning to the left and jetting up another flight.  “All manner of man wants to kill himself, Nathaniel Hamilton.  Do you believe this?”

Nathaniel trips and braces his fall with his hands.  The steps are concrete with tabs of metal and they sting his palms.  He pushes himself back up and doubles his movements, pushes his legs, takes in more air.

“We want to put ourselves to the brink of ending so we can validate our every movement,” Rosch says.  “We no longer kill cattle for food.  We no longer risk starvation when we refuse action.”  Rosch takes three steps at a time, then a whole flight of stairs with leaps.  Nathaniel keeps up.  He grabs the handrail and pulls himself.  Tears flush out his eyes.  Spit is riddled in his exhales.  Snot runs out of his nose and Nathaniel doesn’t realize that it’s not snot but blood when he wipes his nose with his right hand.  Rosch pushes open the roof top door and the alarms blare.  The open air hits Nathaniel when he catches up to Rosch, in the middle of the roof, doing jumping-jacks, his female assistant magically feet away.  Dressed in the same dress, on the same cellphone.  Nathaniel falls.  The gravel of the roof leaves imprints when his bare hands hit them. He can’t get enough air into his lungs.  Nathaniel’s eyes water.

“You need practice being a man,” Mr. Rosch says.

Nathaniel stares at him.

“I’m just making a point,” Mr. Rosch says.

Download the PDF of Joke’s Mercy and I hope you enjoy it.


6 thoughts on “I Write Stuff: Joke’s Mercy

  1. Jarvis,
    I did download it and will read it. You’re an interesting fellow, and I obviously enjoy this venue. However, I would be remiss if I didn’t tell you that I’m now remarkably jealous: My dissertation was entitled “Ruskin and the Pre-Raphaelites.” I’m old and rarely think of my academic career (I was shooting to become a college professor, however, participation in SDS during my college days precluded that), however, it is clear you had a far better time working on yours. This is a compliment.

    I think you’re in NYC, though I’m not certain. If you are, I am there fairly frequently to visit my son and uncle. Perhaps we can get together. I stay in the Village, in the apartment in which I was born, known to my family as “Tara.”


  2. Sadly, I’m in in NYC, but in DC, the suburbs and surrounding area. But I’m making a trip up there soon. When I do, we’ll hang out. Yeah, my thesis was a blast. And when I say, “blast”, I mean day and night writing down my daddy issues in a way that made people laugh. So, yeah, it was a good time. But, I mean, Ruskin? Pre-Raphaelites? I barely know what any of that means. Proof-positive that the educational system was much more instructional in your day.

    • The educational system in “my day,” oh my. I was lucky, my Mother, a psychiatrist was instrumental in the development of NYU’s Little Red School House, one of the first “progressive” elementary schools in the nation. It was rather an odd place, however, I was preceded there by Orson Bean, which may explain his character. High School at DeWitt Clinton in NYC and I attended St. Johns in Annapolis, you know, the “Great Books” education at a small school. The eye opener was grad school: Indiana University. It was overwhelming, however I latched on to a couple of great advisors, both now dead, who were instrumental, aside from my Dad, Mom and Editor, in shaping me: Harold Whitehall, an old drunk to whom one could proffer seven words and he’d use them as the rhyme words in a sonnet. He also was an editor of Webster’s New World Dictionary; and Fred Brewer, who had nothing to do with my course of study, but introduced me to Aquavit and picked up extra dollars by Anglicizing Classics Comic Books for the English market. How I wound up where I am today is just the culmination of serendipity and a general lack of direction.

  3. Oh my, DC. I was 22 years a reporter there for the WSJ, covering the Senate and House. I lived on Barnaby Street in upper Northwest…and following my early years, I lived with my folks in AU park on 45th Street…attending Wilson High, until they asked me to leave. My Dad gave me a choice: Find a school or join the service. Vietnam was flaming at that time…I got early admissions to a small school in FL, with a scholarship. It sounds good, but when you’re a short Jewish fellow attending a Southern Baptist University…well, you get the picture…time passed, I finished everything at Indiana University (this would be far too prolix if I went into the reasons) and wound up with the WSJ in NY…which promptly sent me to cover Vietnam…So much for life strategy. “All skill is in vain if an angel pisses in the flintlock of your musket.”

    All of that said, I’m in DC several times a year. I remember vividly Mose Allison and Charlie Byrd at the old Showboat and my son used to live and work in Adams-Morgan, before it became trendy. I played guitar at the old Java Jungle where I also read poetry.

    Long stories…Oh, I write for a living now…and make a living at it.


  4. Jarvis, this is clearly off topic and perhaps presumptuous, however, I thought I might pass along a couple of reading suggesions to you…”Minutes of the Last Meeting,” by Gene Fowler. It’s a odd duck of a book tracing the history in Hollywood of the adventures of Sadikichi Hartmann, a rather obscure poet and con man, John Barrymore, John Dekker and Gene Fowler. The other is “Gaily, Gaily,” by Ben Hecht, his adventures as a young reporter in Chicago. I re-read them regular and they’re remarkable diversions.


  5. Thanks, I’ll check it out. I was looking for something new to read. I have a short story collection by Kevin Brockheimer that I’m having trouble getting through. I might have just out grown it. This might be presumptuous, too, but I’d like to read some of your journalism work. I understand if you don’t want to send this out to the internet either, but if you want to send my a private message, you can find my email in my contact tab. Hope all is well.


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