RUTA_WithWithoutYou_trP R O L O G U E

Glass

My mother grabbed the iron poker from the fireplace and said, “Get in the car.”

I pulled on my sneakers and followed her outside. She had that look on her face, distracted and mean, as though she’d just been dragged out of a deep sleep full of dreams. She was mad, I could tell right away, but not at me, not this time.

Her car was a lime-green hatchback with blotches and stripes of putty smeared over the dents. The Shitbox, she called it. We called it, actually. My mother hated the thing so much she didn’t mind if I swore at it. “What a piece of shit,” I’d grumble whenever it stalled on us, which we could gamble on happening at least once a day, more if it was snowing. Far and away the most unreliable car we ever had in our life together, it was a machine that ran on prayer.

I grew up sailing on the Hudson with my father, in a fourteen-foot sloop he built himself. If you launch on the Rockland County side, just North of the Tappan Zee Bridge, there are two distinctive landmarks on the Westchester shore: Sing Sing Prison and the Indian Point Nuclear Power Plant.

THE RIVER GODS

Brian Kiteley first came to my attention via The 4 A.M. Breakthrough, his wonderful book of writing exercises. A professor in the University of Denver’s creative-writing program, Kiteley advocates improvisation and play, urging storytellers to free themselves from the constraints of literary labels: “There is and should be no real difference between fiction and nonfiction. The distinction between the fictional and the fact-based world is overrated and the distance between the two is shorter than most critics imagine.”

Let me see if I have this straight. A long-trusted Democratic stronghold replaces the face of universal healthcare with a Republican who’s sworn to fight the national healthcare proposal on the basis that it would negatively effect the state’s own 4 year old universal healthcare plan—a plan for which he himself voted? That’s a piece of tragic irony dumb enough to make Jonathan Swift himself jealous. Who needs literature?