Matt Vadnais






The Dead: [1] [2] [3]

Epilogues: [4]

The broadcast is going as well as can be expected.
      There is not as much to talk about, with only the single novel.
      Still, there have been almost two hundred people with us the whole time.
      As I had hoped, people seem in awe of the ironic bee sting.
      There is less focus on the book, though several people claim to have read it. The excerpts we have included are short passages, loaded with imagery, impossible to make sense of as a story. Anyone who summarizes the plot of the novel is intentionally vague.
      In terms of race, we are getting a lot of help from strangers. There are a few students and one professor heavily involved in African American Studies who — while they aren't familiar with Newcome — have been great at providing context, and making sense of seemingly contradictory or incongruous biographical elements.
      It is about seven in the morning, while the chat room is discussing contemporary implications of race, when I realize that I am less interested in celebrity than I thought. What I am getting from this house has nothing to do with the fake book, the fake notoriety, the fake accomplishments.
      It occurs to me that, since our dead have never been alive, they are under no obligations to have done anything deserving of fame. History's exacting and discriminating standards for celebrity — the piles and piles of dead white men — can be disregarded completely.
      If you are still watching, we can show you anyone.
      I realize I am less interested in changing history than I am in creating a normal life, the small, human details, getting you to imagine the way that Tony Newcome spent his evenings in this place, sober for several years. He often ate radishes with salt and butter. He always wanted a tattoo but could never decide what it should look like.

At about noon of the second day, Livesmart4ever complains that he has been unable to find any of Sarah Pratt-Tipkins's books.
      Tito laughs.
      Wellbutrin and I turn to each other.
      Eventually, Clvlnd_Grl45 suggests a couple of places he should be able to find all of them.

Though Tito has started using the word hoax, and insulting people in the chat room, Wellbutrin and I are not trying to trick anyone.
      We are more than willing for you to find out the truth.
      But we want it to be afterwards, after our day-and-a-half wake, so you can mourn the loss. During the actual broadcast, doubt is not an option. After the Newcome broadcast, a few weeks ago, Wellbutrin and I developed a form letter explaining our good intentions, asking for discretion and consideration.
      Broadcasting from the house of Tiny Prescott, the poet who died of lung cancer a few years ago, the letter works about half of the time. When it doesn't, Tito has to resort to kicking people out.
      Despite our efforts, we are back down to a hundred people.
      I am still no more trusting of real history than I am of ours, but it is true that — unlike whoever has constructed more accepted versions of the past — we simply don't have the resources to plant an entire fossil record.
      Even with the interlude at the Newcome house, he has continued to change. What started as efficiency has turned into a radical leanness. He is impatient and pragmatic; he remembers everything. At least five times a day, he has good reason to be mad at both Wellbutrin and me.
      He has started smoking, and spends most of his time outside, where Wellbutrin and I are hesitant to follow. Even now, as we are broadcasting the tidy split-level, his gaze is out the window, to the streets of Iowa City, where the people are.

We are still at the Prescott house when I suggest we should start doing ordinary people. Though I have more complicated reasons, my argument to them is relatively simple: all of the fact checking distracts our audience from what is important.
      "I don't care how many people watch," I say.
      "A revolution needs an audience," Tito says.
      "I don't care about size," I say, "as long as the audience is attentive, willing to get to know whoever we send them." Wellbutrin nods as I speak, and I can tell I have already won. It is not much of an argument, none of the theoretical positionings of our past.
      An hour later, Tito starts teaching Wellbutrin and me how to use the box.
      "I'm gonna go," he says. "This isn't what I'm here for. I can get more justice for the dollar somewhere else."
      "Like a soup kitchen?" I ask.
      He ignores my tone.
      "This isn't what any of us signed on for. We're just writers now."
      He is leaving us the van and the equipment.
      He will not go until he is sure we understand the tech.
      When he is finally ready, his good-bye is warmer than anything he has said in some time. I hold him for a while, before leaving him and Wellbutrin to figure out exactly what they are giving up.
      "He got his cab," Wellbutrin says, some time later.
Though there is probably more to say, we begin inventing Tammy Joergenson, a special ed. teacher from Apple Valley, Minnesota who died in a car accident on a Thursday, last February. Wellbutrin suggests that her surviving husband might be willing to join us online, to answer any questions, doing his part to help the memory of his wife live on.

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