the rivers of it, abridged

New York City skyline at night


Fall 2013/Spring 2014



Six Stories
Roy Robins


For years I worried that my sentences weren't shapely enough. I envied the prose in magazines like Glamour, Grazia, Cosmopolitan, Vogue. Those sentences were so much shapelier than mine, with outstanding cheekbones and ankles to die for. I was a flabby writer in a town where skinniness was a kind of currency. My sentences were chunky and clunky, and people bored of me quickly. The good agents refused to represent me, and referred me to fringe agents, fetish agents, who looked after larger writers. No amount of cosmetic surgery could conceal the stolid structure of my sentences. I studied shapely sentences and found them to be undernourished, stripped of sensation, indistinguishable from one another. At a party I met the editor of a popular magazine who gave me some advice: 'You have to examine your writing and ask yourself, Are my sentences fuckable?' I spent an evening in the company of my sentences and had to conclude that, no, they were not fuckable. You would not even want to get to first base with them. I tried a series of regimens, rituals, and routines. Nothing worked. My sentences were flabbier than ever. They were dull and dry-mouthed and foul-smelling and uninvolving. Worse, they were fraudulent. I stopped writing, stopped reading books and magazines, and moved out of the city. I took a job at a bank, put down money for a house. This is the first thing I have written in seven years.


I woke early and walked to the library. There was a book I badly wanted to read. I had been waiting for weeks to read it, with increasing excitement. I had not slept well in months. My friends said that I was acting irrationally, that I was not myself. It is surprising to discover that other people have such a sure conception of who you are, or rather who they would like you to be. When I arrived at the library I found it closed. I had forgotten it was a holiday. Because I don't have a job, I never know what day of the week it is, or what month we're in, or how old I am. I don't even watch television anymore. I am detached from everything and I like it that way. But that book I wanted to read. For a while at least I was attached to it.  Read Story


Absent Without Leave
Thaddeus Rutkowski

Without warning, a friend of mine showed up at my door. I knew him from high school. His father had been a drinking buddy of my father's.

"Where did you come from?" I asked.

"South Carolina," he said. "That's where I'm stationed."

I remembered he'd been in college, but he'd dropped out to join the Marines. I was surprised he'd found my house. I didn't remember giving him my address. I was living in town with a couple of roommates for the year. The house was far from campus.

"How did you get here?" I asked.

"I hitchhiked. It took me a couple of days. I walked about twenty miles."

"Are you on leave?"

"No, I'm AWOL."   Read Story