Colin Fleming’s fiction appears in Boulevard, AGNI, the VQR, Post Road, and Cincinnati Review, with nonfiction running with Vanity Fair, Rolling Stone, Sports Illustrated, The Washington Post, and Boston Magazine. He’s a regular contributor to NPR’s Weekend Edition, and is completing three books at present: Same Band You’ve Never Known: An Alternate Musical History of the Beatles, a novel about a reluctant piano prodigy called The Freeze Tag Sessions, and Musings with Franklin, a novel told entirely in conversation between Writer, Bartender, and the guy from the suburbs who dresses up as Ben Franklin.
So: how do you feel about me writing while you’re asleep?
How do you feel about me walking seventy miles every week and bringing you along? And this is how you want to handle the pronoun thing?
Yeah. My ranking decision as Mind.
And who am I then?
You can be Heart. Anyway, the walks don’t really bother me, because I can do what I do easy peasy as you’re huffing and puffing along. Written a lot of good material way. And now that I can retain it in the mind—
Ah, a self-referencing pun.
—you can just type it out later. Plus we can get creative on those pre-dawn walks, right? And given that you’ve loaded us up on no-fat milk, hibiscus tea, and cranberry juice for our blood pressure, so we don’t have another cardiac event like we did a few years back, and then the warm water with lemon juice for the liver, there is much urination to be had.
You make it sound like, I don’t know, fun to be had at the Country Bear Jamboree.
Kind of. Because you can just go in the very same places—the Frog Pond in the Common, for instance, or the very center of Newbury Street—where you’d be arrested on a host of charges a few hours later. But come: does it bother you that I do some of my stories while you’re passed out?
Considering we only sleep two hours a night anyway, I don’t see as it matters. Tell me: do you worry that we’re at the dying age? It’s like when Van Gogh, Fitzgerald, Poe, all went. We sort of live like them but worse.
All sorts of ways to die. And other things one makes can live.
Well aren’t you cheery on this Sunday morning.
Did that latest rerun of Mr. Belvedere I DVR’ed for you not brighten your spirits with the two day old coffee on this morn?
Actually it was pretty good. That Wesley isn’t a bad actor. He was bullied in school, you know. I looked him up. The actual person.
Tell me, Heart, did you really write the first of these stories in a church where Dickens and Thackeray once hung out, and where Melville got the idea for Father Mapple in Moby-Dick? Also, I apologize all of those mornings for screaming at you at the desk and calling you a pussy lazy ass fuckwad and to get it going and produce. But I know what we do, and what we can do, and it’s hard to lay off the lash.
I get it. But yes, true about the church, although it’s really a bethel, very small, one room, eighty-five steps from the building that houses our rat’s nest of a studio. Like living in fucking La Boheme, but worse. And Van Gogh was supposed to be so poor, right? But he lived in houses. He’d rent a house. Anyway, yeah, that church. It’s across the street from Paul Revere’s house. But shouldn’t you know this, being the author of these things?
I believe Soul wrote that one.
He has a hand in most of them, admittedly.
Also, in the name of professionalism, I took the liberty of scrolling through recent emails, to find a question put towards us that I might put towards us here. I have a good one.
Is it the lube question?
No. I’m still working out the viscosity issue on that one, though.
It’s from one of your oldest friends, Norberg.
Ah, Norberg. Keats to my Chapman. No one is going to get that joke.
It’s a Flann O’Brien reference.
Well, of course you’d fucking get it, us being all part of the same fraction. There’s a line about that in Anglerfish.
He asks: “Your stories seem to often be about moments when the trust essential to lasting relationships is violated, broken. Often it seems that the truth and beauty of the relationship is realized only retrospectively, in hindsight. Of course, there are dozens of exceptions: your Irish criminal team of Padraig and Lorcan, for example, have a great deal of tolerance and forgiveness at the core of their relationship. But in other stories, the recognition of the “love” is belated, retrospective. So, if we are not a pair of itinerant thieves or vagabonds (P&L), how can we sustain a reciprocally supportive relationship that does not subordinate one person to the other, especially in terms of intellect. A strange thing to write, I know, but in the cups after midnight.”
We should give a proper answer to that one. I’m doing a story now called “Pikes and Pickerels”—wait. Is that your turf or mine?
We’ll call it a joint venture with Soul kicking in.
Cool. So we’re doing a story now called “Pikes and Pickerels” that explores the idea that no one is really, truly, one constant thing for a person. All we ever are, what value we have to others, is in what role we can fill for a time in a life. That moment is what matters. That’s how life is for almost everyone. Even people married forty years. A lot of those years, they’re just together. They’re not this active force in the others life, this necessity, save as the thing always there. We play a part. We play various parts. That is why everything with a person I need not name—
—affected me so much. Because it was still true that here were two people that could have always been that thing, or a new thing, an evolving version of that role-filling idea. The raw materials ran that deep. That was why it was a tragic loss for me. Sometimes, the very best of us can give someone what they need for a moment, even while understanding that there will be loss, and often pain, in the end. Then that person does it again, with someone else, or in a different way with that earlier person. Again and again and again. That’s life. It’s also why life is so hard.
Well well, Heart. So what do you want to do today? How about a twelve mile walk, we’ll go the museum, cut over to Symphony Hall for the Mozart Requiem, and then on to Durgin Park where we can tell our stories and drink free beer. And then we’ll write another 10,000 words this week.
That we will, sir.
Call me Belvedere just for today.
I’m not calling you Belvedere.
COLIN FLEMING writes for The Atlantic, Rolling Stone, The Boston Globe, The New Criterion, and Sports Illustrated, and publishes fiction with VQR, Black Clock, Boulevard, Post Road, and The Iowa Review. He’s also a regular contributor to Ireland’s Newstalk Tom Dunne Show, and NPR’s Weekend Edition.