A WRITER'S WIT
Ignorance more frequently begets confidence than does knowledge: it is those who know little, and not those who know much, who so positively assert that this or that problem will never be solved by science.
Born February 12, 1809
Why Lorenzo Must Die
Behind the Book is a weekly series in which I discuss the creative process it takes to write each of the fifteen narratives included in my latest collection, My Long-Playing Records and Other Stories. Scroll to the bottom of the post to locate links to previous Behind the Book posts.
In “Killing Lorenzo” I blend three narratives: one is about a gay man in his late fifties, who is fired from his job and returns to playing the pipe organ, an instrument he gave up when he was thirty. I take this narrative directly from my own life. I began studying the organ in eighth grade, earned a bachelor’s degree in organ, and also played until I was thirty. Part of my withdrawal was an issue of time. I’d become interested in writing and had to give up something in order to find the time to do so, and the thing I would give up couldn’t also be my teaching job. But more important, I’d finally decided I could no longer sit on an organ bench and (as much as I loved sacred and concert organ literature) contribute to an institution that, if it knew, would in some way persecute or at the very least criticize me. I know! Perhaps it was my duty to stay with it and try to change the course of the church. But I didn’t. Then in my fifties, after retiring, I timidly approached a friend who, as director of music of a very progressive church (like the one in “Ghost Riders”), lent me an organ key so that I could practice on a regular basis. Even in this accepting environment I went through the same agony. I no longer believed in the Church. How could I participate in its most sacred acts, when it failed to recognize my being, let alone the marriage of gay men? Once again, for good, I withdrew from its grasp.
A second strand of the story occurs, when this character (like Larry in “Basketball Is Not a Drug”) must undergo a prostate biopsy. Like women enduring the breast-squeezing torture machine to see if they have lumps, men who undergo this biopsy can also suffer a most painful and humiliating period in which they lie on a gurney-like bed to determine whether they have cancer or not. You don’t want to have untreated cancer, so you submit . . . in my case, three times in four years! The good news: all three had a negative result.
A PASSAGE FROM THE BOOK:
“In the days to come,” says my urologist, “you may see blood in your urine, your stools, especially your ejaculate. Here’s a towel. If you want to clean up, the bathroom’s through that door.” He and Nurse Barkley leave me damaged on the table.
There seems to be a ton of gel slathered across my bottom. I wipe and wipe and still, I can’t seem to get it all off. I sit up and stumble to the bathroom and lower my sticky self onto the toilet, trying to ignore what feels like a hot poker stuck up my ass. For ten minutes I wipe, filling one wad of toilet paper after another. I look down and almost gag. The bowl is full of blood. I reach back to flush, bursting into insane laughter that quickly turns to tears. Stanching them with a Kleenex, I fold another one and stick it between my cheeks. I pull my pants up and stagger to the door, out to my car. Again I laugh, because I’m never going through this again. Not as long as I fucking live.
I alternate scenes from each of these strands until the climax explodes across the pages. “Killing Lorenzo” was published in one of the last issues of Harrington Gay Men’s Literary Quarterly, sadly, perhaps one of the best journals of its genre. In fact, the issue never came out as printed matter. If you have the right password, you can view a PDF copy of it online, but I was never able to access it.
Click here to buy a copy of My Long-Playing Records and Other Stories, where it is available at Amazon.
NEXT TIME: NEW YORKER FICTION 2015
CATCH UP WITH EARLIER POSTS OF BEHIND THE BOOK
11/13/14 — Introduction to My Long-Playing Records
11/20/14 — "My Long-Playing Records" — The Story
11/27/14 — "A Certain Kind of Mischief"
12/04/14 — "Ghost Riders"
12/11/14 — "The Best Mud"
12/18/14 — "Handy to Some"
12/25/14 — "Blight"
01/01/15 — "A Gambler's Debt"
01/09/15 — "Tales of the Millerettes"
01/15/15 — "Men at Sea"
01/22/15 — "Basketball Is Not a Drug"
01/29/15 — "Engineer"
02/05/15 — "Snarked"