This is the fourth segment of the Jasper chronicles. Jasper Foie-Gras is a peculiar soul with a fascinatingly sad, yet adventurous, life. James Barnes, an editor at Random House, has convinced Jasper to tell his story. 29 days ago, while James was on vacation, Jasper directed some passages of his memoir to a junior editor named April Higgins. Though previously briefed on the project, April was unaware of Jasper’s insecurities about his own writing, so when she gave the reluctant author some “constructive criticism,” she lit a fire that James scurried to extinguish. After numerous emails and phone calls, this is the first he’s heard from Jasper. If you’d like to catch up, I suggest you start here, “The Jasper Chronicles.”
To: firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com
Subject: Re: Your Manuscript
Dear Mr. Barnes, and Ms. Higgins,
First, I would like to apologize for my thorough lack of communicae over the past month. As you feared, James, Ms. Higgins’ critique of my work, and doubts about the validity of my memories, fell upon me like a red hot metal blanket. James, in your email to me, you referred to Ms. Higgins as a “moron” who is “VERY young and just out of college and full of attitude and almost completely devoid of value.”
I was fascinated by this analysis, as, spare the part about college, it’s exactly how I feel about myself – “a moron, who’s full of attitude and completely devoid of meaning.” I honestly couldn’t have written it better myself. Ms. Higgins, I’m sure it comes as a surprise to you, or perhaps it doesn’t, that James thinks so poorly of you. From experience, I can tell you that living as a moron who’s full of attitude and devoid of meaning will ignite many a suicidal thought. Should you ever need to talk to a peer, my number is 1-800-EAT-SHIT.
Let’s put it all behind us. I’ve taken Ms. Higgins’ thoughtful, albeit unimaginatively communicated, criticisms and doubts under advisement as I drafted the beginning of Chapter 1. I hope you might enjoy it in ways of which I was incapable.
The bus smelled like jarred flatulence and creamed corn. To this day, whenever I pass wind or visit a cafeteria, I think of my parents and the rest of The Tribe. I’m especially reminded of Florencio, as he was the most egregiously malodorous. I’m not sure if it was a disease in his genes, or simply a feature of his heritage, but Florencio’s armpit hair grew faster than even the most aggressive bacteria. After only a week of inattentiveness, it would tickle his rib cage and stretch his underarm skin until it looked like his shoulder was dangling a pony-tailed tortilla.
Yes, Florencio could have trimmed daily, but he was addicted to scratching the itch. After the hair reached a certain length, he would begin digging at his pits – his hand like a weivel scurrying to carve-out a home for its progeny. His alto speaking voice would transform into a guttural moan, as he raised his leg and shook it like a briefly satisfied tic-ridden hound. “Armgasm comin’!” everyone would yell. We loved to watch him lose himself in the itch. After coming to, he’d ask if we all enjoyed his special dance. Then he would laugh like a mad man.
I only tell you this grotesque detail because Florencio’s ample pit hair – which he later started growing even longer and braiding – saved my life on my eighth birthday.
The Tribe had decided to visit Tijuana, Mexico, and since none of us had any identification beyond fingerprints, my father thought it best to simply drive the bus across a particularly shallow stretch of the Rio Grande river. As the men sat silently dubious and the women screamed, “Dear God, please don’t do this,” the bus barreled into the river. It immediately began to float like it had eaten mushrooms 45 minutes earlier and was beginning to lose its grip on reality. “Look, guys, I’m totally a boat now,” it said playfully.
The river was nasty that day. I’m told it’s always nasty, but I can’t personally attest to its nastiness beyond the one day I experienced it. “EVERYONE JUMP!” my father screamed as he opened the bus doors. One by one, each member of The Tribe walked off like school children exiting to a certain death. Being the youngest member, I had yet to take Florencio’s swim class. From the bus, I watched my extended family swim to the shore while I floated away; the captain of a brand new vessel. Then I saw Florencio’s soggy braid slap onto the steps of the boat like a stallion’s tail. Though I had no view of his body, I grabbed on with both hands. Before I knew it, I was under water, but moving very quickly toward shore. Twice I saw what I believed to be Florencio’s foot up ahead, but I knew I needed to keep my head down and arms wrapped firmly around his thick brunette rope. When I finally caught my breath, I realized we’d all made it to Mexico. Well, except for the bus.
OK, James, and Ms. Higgins, that’s the beginning of Chapter 1. I hope there’s enough of a story for you.