The Deed

Gordon Lish

Before I die, which, you know, could happen—who can say when?—which could, for that matter, happen, for instance, right in the midst of my sitting here writing this, I would like (before that happens, before I die, that is) to get credit for, to receive credit for, to be in receipt of illimitable credit for, the achievement of an accomplishment thought unique, which is why I am bringing to your attention a man named Ariel, or so I am told his name is, this by the woman to be spoken of below, told, am told, that this is what the doorman’s name is, for I certainly would be loath to risk my asking him himself, as they say when they say, or is the “himself” of it too much of an irksome excrescence? An extimacy thing? No, it’s “loath” which is the obstructive word. Loath is not the word we should want here. I suppose replacing loath with “uneasy with” or with “disinclined to” or perhaps with “afraid” or “scared” or, this to be found to be wrenching matters around and, ah, switching field, or fields, as another of our sayings has been storied to go, adopting, as I do it, or am doing this, the vocabulary of an opposing quadrant of sentiment. So how about my instead of saying what I’ve said, I say “too sensitive to” or “so much in awe of” or “thoroughly awed by”? (Question mark inside or outside the closing quotation mark?—back there, back there!—I don’t know, I don’t know, who knows how to do it, before we made it, anyway or at any rate or at all events, to here.)

You know what I mean.

Look, if you want to know what I am trying to mean, you’ll know so and then, or therefore, will there exist ground for debate?

Check that.

Cheque that.

There is always ground for debate.

Well, to get right down to it (or, if it’s cases you have in mind, then them) and therefore to appear to be abandoning, forsaking, quitting all this shilly-shallying around (unless that last bit is instead corrigibly said, or correctly instead said, thus: shilly-shallowing), this Ariel fellow (the name is known to me, or is, anyhow, proposed to me as known to her, as has already been amended, via the medium of the woman I visit in the building where the man (the doorman) Ariel works, and where—mark this, mark this, you had better be marking all you are able to mark if you are nursing any expectation of your getting to get a grip on any of this, to grasp it even ever so wispily (looks all wrong, wispily, wispily), have license to it, access to it, make your, you know, your way with it, or headway with it—his colleagues in doormanship, Ariel’s, Ariel’s, though like him as regards occupational titling, or titlement, are colleagues in that regard only, for, though officially doormen, none, of the number, mans a door as the man Ariel does, which is utterly, totally, deed-wise, in the extreme, they (Ariel’s collegians in doormanship) don’t. Man a door, that is, although receive, whatever number of them there is, or are, remuneration, or are in receipt of it, compensation, one quite not irregularly assumes, take pay for it, manning a door in the manner that they man it, whereas not so as with the man Ariel, remunerated no more greatly but great in the extreme in his manning the door he mans six days a week, the shift for which, the hours of which, happen to coincide with my comings and goings, or rather, in fine, with my going there, to the woman’s building, and coming back here to mine (my building), so that one might more corrigibly say, inverting, or reversing, or transposing the terms of the conjunct, goings and comings, rather than succumbing to, rather than giving way in an act of succumbent to, the storied phrase, or, if corrigibly sayable, say conjunct—namely, comings and goings, which phrase or conjunct or conjunction of nouns, to wit, the conjoining of the denotations of the actions denoted, ought better be either rearranged as proposed or set off from ambient prose with the disquietude querying rectitude recommended by imposition of quotation marks, as per the practice still in fashion (vogue) in the place where these observations did enjoy, or have enjoyed, their origination. What one is saying is this—the man Ariel, though denoted as a doorman, connotes himself as to inhabit an ideal of the occupation so utterly realized, or reified, or (here it comes again!) entified, as to differentiate himself from all other doormen employed in the referent classification by the owner, or owners, of the building (the woman’s) in question, or to hand, or under relatable consideration, or made subject to same. Oh, God, how the man Ariel fulfills the duties incumbent upon him, despite (in spite of, preferable, preferable, this in ineluctable anticipation of the phrase’s resonating with the thinner vowelic concatenation, provoking, as it does, a not valueless, nor irrelevant, Eliotic concitation) the indifference to these expectations exhibited by the man Ariel’s, well, to concede to the times, coworkers, ugly as the compound is. Yet, one must attend, must one not, the temper of the times and cede the present to one’s coevals, or, rather, the vernacular of same, if not to, any the less, the collo—no, sorry, gone too far, taken it well more than a mite farther than my pseudo-mastery may be any further held to merit the holding if merit—oh, but I have seen them, all right, the lot of them out of uniform—rarely in uniform, chiefly in shirtsleeves, if sweatered, then swathed in cheap sweaters, or besweatered, in the utmost ragged and tattered and holely variety of the kind, doormen to be evaluated as veritable unravelments in whatever costumes they man their given doors at, hair askew, hair awry, if that, then of course hatless, for providence’s sake, hatless—or is it “their having dared to turn up for pay hatlessly”?—whereas Ariel, the man Ariel, the doorman Ariel, our demi-object, disquisitively speaking, this Ariel, contrastively speaking, is he not the very word of couth, the very word of kempt, doorman to a T, ever seen (by me, by me!), or ever to be seen by me, ever not gleaming with, not agleam with, impeccability in the veriest extreme of it? I’m not, I swear it to you, shitting you for an instant—I swear it, I swear it!

In any event, in this event, I could, of course, go on (and on), you do indeed do realize this, or will give me, toward said end, the benefit of the doubt suing against substantive belief in this, or of this—in the interest of one’s dissolving the tensions between language, calculated from the standpoint of one domain, and actuality, calculated from the standpoint of another, not to mention the mismention of the contingency of an additional realm wherein the stesses and the reciprocal mutuality of reactive subsidings aroused by the aggressivity of the narrativized object (demi-objects not excluded) are taken (doubly appreciatively, and not individuatingly, into appreciable account.

But we stray from the man.

From the doorman.

From Ariel.

We veer from him and therefore from our (unspoken, or not spoken) agreement with one another—to, in fine, or, as your German might put it, in fein—to produce a one-of-a-kind deed, a one-of-a-kind thing, a made thing, a, namely, an artifactual thing, or, fein, fein, a thing not all that counterfactually in contention with an artifactual one.

Or one such.

Or such a one.

No, sticking to the man Ariel (and to the woman, don’t you dare sit there and submit yourself to the suspicion there exists, or obtains, or is, is, no reason for you not to forget her, or about her), he’s, let’s face it, our (the) safest course.

The man stands sovereign!

Visored hat!




The very thingness of the exception!

No slouch, no readiness to be routed from his station, become derelict, grab a snack break, sneak a smoke, gather wool, doze, slump, fall, give for an instant in.

This man is like no man.

An eidolon.

Is an eidolon.

I can tell.

I know all this.

I can see all this.

I am kindred, do indeed sense the unswervable disposition of the man Ariel—a doorman on duty whenever on-duty, unless it’s vice versa.

That’s it.

There! I’ve done it!

Said “eidolon.”

Rescued the word from the fate of the unsaid.

Really done something—for once.

Did a deed.

With no help from her—and none from him.

And you? All right—what of you?

The nerve!

Yeah, sure, some accomplices people’ll ever be.

Oh, the aerialismo of it, the ensorcellment of self—an end to a book, or, for crying out loud—almost—of it.

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