Tom is a ten-year veteran of New York who took a three-year detour for an M.F.A. in Alaska. In that time, he’s been a student, an English teacher, a volunteer firefighter, a wilderness guide, a book designer, an unapologetic tourist, an EMT, and a distant son. Not necessarily in that order.
He now lives in Greenpoint, but all the same just can’t shake this recurring dream about driving down Atigun Pass onto the Arctic Coastal Plain.
But those are the breaks.
If he still lived in Alaska, he’d probably be dreaming about riding his bike down Driggs to the bridge.
Excerpt from Still Life with Razor, a novel in progress:
Yes, she was a beautiful girl. She had legs and an ass, high hard breasts and all the usual things that beautiful girls have. She had them and I saw them. But, though details like those had gotten me tangled up with the Bricoleur’s Daughter, I wasn’t following Claire for the rock-step sway of her hips. If there was any one thing that I was following, it might have been the tips of her fingers, their delicacy and chipped nail polish and the way that they had moved over the Katz. Her breasts, the small oval belly rising from the sinewy frame of her pelvis and ribs, the movement of muscles in her legs–these details came later.
I followed this girl around the floor not for her ass but her eye. I paused when she paused at Saint-Gaudens’s Lincoln and I studied Luks’s Hester Street over her shoulder. I followed her into “Nonobjective Art” and I watched as she strolled right up to Mark Rothko’s Vessels of Magic and punched a nail file in so far it sank into the plaster behind.
But it wasn’t that sudden. She stood for a moment first, looking at the watercolor and waiting for the circling guard to round the corner. Then there was this Kem Weber vanity table displayed in front of the Vessels, so she had to step over the ankle-high warning rope and carefully slide the table off to one side. And just like that, I was watching this dark-haired girl redecorate the Brooklyn Museum.
For a moment I thought she was staff, a curator or collections assistant. But then she reached casually into her purse and came up with a plastic-handled file. There was no searching, no rummaging. Her hand went in and brought the file out neat as a revolver from a holster. Thirty witnesses, two guards, families, kids, God, Lincoln, and everybody and she drove it right into the watercolor. There was no cry. Just the tok of the blade against the wall and the tearing sound that began when she pulled the handle towards the floor. The blade scraped drywall as it moved, parting paper and a thin wash of paint behind it.
The Rothko bled on out through the widening wound. Each vessel deflated like a ruptured wineskin and, let me tell you, they did not bleed magic. They did not even let go, like so many punctured lungs, the Bronx cheer of escaping air. The mistake here would be to suspect that a painting would die anything like a person. It does not. Aside from the brief flurry of activity surrounding the cutting edge of the nail file, it was a quiet, peaceful expiration. Like milk.
After the file had clattered to the floor and the scraps settled, in that one undisturbed moment before security fell upon her, it was as though nothing had changed. It was almost like the Rothko had been made cleft, a lovely ragged diptych that she was now seeing for the first time.
All of this happened, but during the act my eyes were on her hands. Her right had fallen so surely into her purse that the movement caught my eye. When she brought it up again, what could I do but stare at her fist, wrapped delicate around the file, her fingers folded casual as legs crossed and tucked under thighs on a couch? Or at the way, when she pulled the file down, the blood moved out of her knuckles, casting them slightly paler than the rest of her hand?
I thought of those pale knuckles and of the girl, gazing surprised at the new painting she had made long after the guards had taken her away, to the precinct or to the basement and then to the precinct.
I was in love immediately, but it was close to six hours before I could post her bail.