Gone Lawn
a journal of literature
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Gone Lawn 8
Summer, 2012
guest edited by Edmond Caldwell

Featured Excerpt

New Works

Stephen Hastings-King

from Calamity in Clamville

A Potential Radio Opera

First Calamity

Like everything else, the town of Clamville is sliding into the marsh. Landscapes buildings and people incline toward it at curious angles; photographs reveal intricate cubist structures & afternoon Caligari shadow plays superimposed on planes of blue green and brown. Ordinariness and slidingness combine in a composition of some complication to cantilever calamity into Clamville. Projected into space, calamity is visible from the Clam Flats, balanced amongst features, glinting in the sun. On land it disappears. On land, calamity is so big and obvious that no-one notices it. But out on the Clam Flats it is clear that calamity is coming.

A snaps out of his daydreaming surprised by its paranoid turn and as that dissipates the voice of B emerges explaining again why he reads the dictionary because its like reading all books at the same time because they all use the same words just arranged different and it seems more efficient to just read all the words in alphabetical order plus you get to see where they come from did you know that the word Apocalypse comes from a verb that means to dig something up? Because it's a prophecy thing. There is no Apocalypse outside prophecy. You ever think about that? Prophets are writers who dig around. They're looking for something. Clams. And once in a while, one of them finds a really big one. That is the Apocalypse.

A says: The Giant Clam of the Apocalypse.


A looks at B. He is thinking about a calamity in Clamville and how many possibilities there are.

First Cop Calamity

To indicate that there is a calamity without indicating what that calamity might be and to do so while wearing a regulation tight black sweater and matching pants accessorized with a stylish new gun belt and a freshly squared off buzz cut smelling of barbershop feeling in control head swivel first direction     second direction     a single car crawls along the street he sees me I dominate head swivel third direction     reflected in the cruiser window aviator glasses swat team yes.

To give the impression that there is a calamity while not myself being involved with its resolution.     That's a difficult assignment, Chief.

Think of it as a novel approach to maintaining public order.

We're thinking outside the box... The Chief had stopped listening.     It was time to go.

To indicate a calamity while wearing a stylish new gun belt smelling of barbershop feeling in command head swivel fourth direction someone walking she sees me I dominate     head swivel fifth direction     aviator glasses swat team yes.

He adjusts his gun belt as he walks across the street in front of him just walks straight across it through the large open door of the Coffee Place and up to the counter & the lovely blonde whom he sees outside sometimes asks him if he wants anything and this time his mind does not go blank this time he does not end up with a muffin he does not want. This time there is a conversation. He looks at her from behind his aviator sunglasses from beneath his freshly squared buzz cut and she asks him his name and he says: "My friends call me The Cop" and he is wearing the nametag he ordered that says "The Cop" and he watches her gaze track down toward the name tag one of many small activities that spread like a rash across the very long silence which she ends by saying "No they don't."

The sun ratchets itself higher in the sky.
The Cop is still standing in a parking lot across the street.

Second Cop Calamity


The Cop stands next to a table of silent locals in the Dunkin Donuts.

They had been talking animatedly as he waited in line. He had not been listening. He had been planning his approach.

Over his week of being The Cop he has seen these people just as before he saw the image of his aviator sunglasses appear just over that of the jolly cow on the door of the cooler and noticed that if he moved his head correctly he could position in each lens an image of a milk bottle. He wonders now if there was some deeper meaning in that.

When I shift position my gun belt creaks.


The silent locals all look at him standing beside them. From behind his sunglasses he is surveying the parking lot to connect cars and trucks to these people. There is a mounting sense that something is to happen.


Sometimes he feels like a fish. His mouth wants to move like it is gasping for words. His hands want to migrate toward his face to check. Each time it comes bundled with the memory of bringing home a red swordtail in a large plastic bag of water to swim about the aquarium pirate ship and palm trees. One afternoon the red swordtail made a leap for freedom into the middle of the fake Persian carpet with its network of knotted flowers and no water. It lay there very red trying to take things back. He squats next to it and watches it gasping, inclined to imitate it, hands migrating toward his face to check.

The Beige Hornet

1. In the first photograph we see the Beige Hornet Inhibitor of Potential Malfeasance.
He looks a bit irritable as he picks lint from the sleeve of an argyle sweater. The sweater makes his upper body resemble a sock and is the same that he wore during the television news segment that cemented the relation between himself and his honorific. His irritation may follow from the realization that he is being photographed in the same sweater and the accompanying suspicion that once again a joke may be unfolding around him the design of which is obscure but which is clearly at his expense. His ability to inhibit potential malfeasance follows not from any investigative acumen or curiosity about the world but from the assumption that reality is making sport of him; he detects in the emergence of order amongst details possible trajectories of ridicule and moves when possible to rearrange these details with a snippy exactitude not unlike the comportment that accompanies his removal of lint from the sleeve of the sweater the design of which makes him resemble a sock.

2. Here we see the mayor, an amorphous fellow with giant shapeless hands one of which is wrapped quite tightly around that of the Beige Hornet. One supposes that there was a speech delivered that explained something of the city's official expression of gratitude but all that remains is this image of the two men shaking hands their facial expressions caught somewhere in a twitching-toward-collapse pinned situationally by the repeated failure of the photographer's flash. It is usually reliable, he says. I don't understand what is happening.

3. The first incident was not one. A neighbor wanted a television crew to film a story that involved people standing near her carefully manicured shrubbery of which she was inordinately proud. She repeatedly called the tip line hosted by the local station to inform them of various events that involved shrubbery. Some weeks into the campaign, she settled on relating the subtle but important actions of the Beige Hornet whom she named because what is real has a name. Soon a crew arrived to shoot a segment in front of the carefully manicured shrubbery about the Beige Hornet and how it seemed to his neighbors that potential malfeasance was inhibited simply by his being as if his presence sucked out the air that malfeasance needed to breathe.

4. After the television segment aired, the neighbor began inviting herself over evenings to visit the Beige Hornet. During these visits wine would be consumed and she would generate increasingly elaborate associations between the person of the Beige Hornet and the absence of events big and small. Soon he began to suspect her motives. He says: I cannot be a hero whose status is confirmed in the fact that hypothetical events fail to happen. She says that he should think no more on the matter that the hard part was the first TV segment that her shrubbery looks fabulous that he would be doing her a service and besides it's not like you have to actually do anything can I freshen your wine?

5. The airing of the television segment unleashed a renaming process; he became the Beige Hornet, his car the Beigemobile. He grew concerned when he learned that people had taken to calling his apartment The Beige Cave but decided that rather than grow annoyed he would participate. So he began to dream about Beige Hornet merchandise and had even started to write a story about the character only to find that stories about hypothetical events that do not happen and the putative relations between these non-occurrences and the growing legend of the Beige Hornet really were not like regular stories but rather seemed to make fun of regular stories and by extension of the Beige Hornet. This converged with suspicions that had been hovering in the back of his mind that he was the center of an elaborate joke of obscure design to prompt him to abandon writing and undertake the rearrangement living room décor elements with snippy exactitude.

Commemorative Calamity

1. The business model of the Cape Clam Community Commemoration Consortium would make of the Consortium a center for the commemoration of almost everything. A recent commemoration expansion project draws attention to local history and resources by referencing unpublished sources available in the Clamville Historical Society and Archive:

The Commemoration Consortium also proposed more covert commemorations, small signs in spaces difficult to access around the marsh for the benefit of kayakers.

2. The Archivist is reluctant to show you the Diary of a Season of Temporal Disturbances.

She says: The diary was in a box that no-one opened for years. That will change with this sign project. I must say that I am surprised that the Commemoration Consortium even knew about the Diary. None of those people have read it.

I've been down here a long time and as you can imagine not much goes on. Once in a while people come in looking for genealogical information or to research the shipyards. I try to help. I also keep the records of who comes to the archives and what they access. A history of the official history you see. But even with all these responsibilities, I have lots of time on my hands.

There's something funny about that book. Over the years I've read it again and again but I can't say that I know it. Each time I look there is a different version from the last time which was different from the time before that and from the time before that. It looks physically the same---but when I open it I don't know how much writing there will be. Sometimes there's just a few pages. Other times it is completely filled. The sentences change and so does the proportion of the diary that is written by each of the three shipwrights as if they even now they can't decide who is to talk about what.

I'm fascinated by the diary but it's not a record. It's a contagion. It's infected by the disturbances it talks about. Sometimes I think it shouldn't be here. Sometimes I think it should be destroyed. I say to myself: I am a guardian of official history and this cannot be part of it. What kind of official history records the instability of time? The legitimacy of an order is performed through the continuities it creates. And the Consortium wants to write this directly into the landscape? It's not right. It's just not right.

And if you insist on seeing it she will tell you to come back later.

Calamity on the Causalityway

There is a mobile hole in the Causalityway that connects the centers of Clamville and is the line in relation to which antique shops are arranged and with reference to which Chowderhouses are counted. It is the road that links them. The town's electricity transits overhead while the Chora lines that provide continuities are a system of flows and delicate pipes just below the pavement. Geographical contingencies concentrated the conduits and created an infrastructural bottleneck; Cape Clam's feeds flow through Clamville, all electricity and the conditions that enable emergences. Of the two what flows through the Chora lines is more important. They carry continuity which is like electricity but bigger, both the energy that flows everywhere and the container that it's in. They have to come from someplace.

There is a mobile hole in the Causalityway. It moves very slowly as part of a project to widen the way. At first the hole seemed to make progress. But these days it wanders. And now there's been an ambiguous incident. The television crew outside asked me to write about it. This will be the story they tell.

In preparation for the project the Invisible Agencies began some time ago to deposit the requisite hole-making equipment, barrels and barriers, spindly insectoid digging and squat square hauling machines & piles of pylons and pipes and poles. Then came the clothing, the matching brown Carharts hard hats tool belts and walkie-talkies. All these were soon followed by the crews which occupied them.

For the next two years the crews dug practice holes that allowed issues to be addressed in the intricate choreographies of digging and dimensioning, hollowing and hauling and the moving of phone poles and traffic from one side of the Causalityway to the other. The practice holes happened in the subjunctive. One does not just start digging up a Causalityway and particularly not one beneath which so much continuity flows through such an old and delicate system of pipes as one finds in Clamville.

Once the practice holes were concluded, the Invisible Agencies initiated what they now call the Performance in which the construction along the Causalityway was widened to include itself as an art installation. The crew was reconfigured to include both workers and actors who play workers in the context of the installation. The Invisible Agencies tried to assuage in advance any consternation in Clamville by saying that the two year Performance would resemble the practice period in every way except that Performance holes will be in the present tense. And they added something about this expanded project raising the profiles of both Clamville and the Invisible Agencies.

At its opening the Performance seemed an extension of the previous period. It did not change the disruptions which had become normal, parts of a way of life. But soon some noticed what seemed like lapses in linearity. The mobile hole seemed to drift. Relations between construction project and installation grew confused. Some speculated that Chora lines had been breached so excess continuity was leaking into the environment shrinking attention spans and tangling things. But the intricate choreographies of hollowing and hauling and the movements of things from one side to the other all continued. It was not obvious that anything was out of the ordinary.

Then the mobile hole stalled next to the shell of the Seventh Clamville Chowderhouse. It has remained so for weeks then months. Things look to be running smoothly except on a narrowed basis like the crews are trying to perfect something in their movements by repeating the same sequences day after day. I noticed the change by watching the flag people. Each holds a STOP SLOW sign on a long white pole and regulates the flow of automobiles through the space by turning the sign in unison with the turn performed by the other. Each turn is accompanied by short cycles of hand or arm movements and sometimes by little kicks and spins. Lately the sign routines have at times detached from contact with flows of automobiles entirely. The flag people have developed elaborate choreography that explores new inner and outer dimensions through the positions of bodies and stop signs in space. The sequences have grown almost organically, following the deep inner necessities of a collaboration rooted in a unique process that relies on walkie-talkies to relay ruthless self-criticism and encourage a tireless pursuit of innovation.

Again breaking down the walls that confine dance to traditional theater spaces, the flag people are not paying any attention to the single car that they have not permitted to pass through the construction site for an extended period as they are both self-critically caught up in the moment. They are not paying attention to a beige car with a single occupant who for much of the considerable period he has spent unable to go forward has appeared to be rearranging things on or between the seats. In front of the car, the flag people perform a particularly intricate sequence that involves some aerial work which always requires intense focus. Then something happened. Either the beige car honked its horn or revved its engine and broke the concentration of the flag person at an inopportune moment risking injury and disrespecting the piece with the result that the flag person brought the stop sign down on the hood of the car, again and again down on the hood of the car while shouting something about being a Philistine, or the driver simply decided that he was going to drive as there were no other cars in the vicinity and there had not been for much of the extended period he had been sitting there watching some strange dance routine happen while hearing through the window the sounds of breathing, counting and encouragement crackling across a walkie talkie & getting the sense that, again, an elaborate joke of obscure design is unfolding at his expense.

That is what we know. There was clearly a confrontation. The word philistine was definitely involved. And the crew is here for the story.

Stephen Hastings-King lives by a salt marsh in Essex, Massachusetts where he makes constraints, works with prepared piano and writes entertainments of various kinds. Some of his sound work is available here. He puts new work up to dry at Edge Effects.