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An Encounter.

Fortnightly Fiction
by Robert Coover.

ere’s what happened it was pretty good
all the rooms were empty
he walked from room to room they were all empty
aha I’m having an encounter with emptiness he told himself
he felt pleased it was odd he couldn’t describe it
he hurried around meeting all the emptiness he could
room after room this is very educational he said
all the rooms had doors all the doors led to other empty rooms
that’s right he had forgotten about the doors no the rooms
+++are not empty they have doors he said I stand corrected
he walked through different doors into different rooms all
+++empty he was quite impressed in spite of the doors
this is very interesting
thus he talked to himself as he walked
there are many doors many rooms emptiness is plural
thus he told himself that emptiness was plural but he didn’t
+++believe it
all the rooms had stairsleading up to other empty rooms
he said something to himself about levels of emptiness but
+++he didn’t believe that either he didn’t even know what
+++he was talking about
all the rooms had stairs leading down to other empty rooms
this is to prevent misunderstandings about starting points
+++he explained to himself
thus he was in need of explanations
doors stairs it was all very unlikely
he was less pleased it was becoming less interesting he
+++hurried along
he went upstairs through doors trying to meet the
+++emptiness again he missed it
in all the rooms there were more doors more stairways what
+++kind of mess have I got myself into he wondered
every room the same
well then aha
I’m having an encounter with sameness he told himself he
+++felt better
This is quite an experience he cheered himself up that way
so he hurried about enjoying all the sameness he could
he found he didn’t enjoy it very much
it wasn’t as good as emptiness
in fact he was getting tired of it
what now
um well
I’m having an encounter with the structure of emptiness he
+++was looking for a way out
or vice versa that’s a good one he couldn’t find it
emptiness is repetitive what hopelessness
the plural of emptiness is sameness he was nearly crying
he ran up and down stairs through doors he talked to himself
+++if I could only run fast enough
thus he thought the trouble was he couldn’t run fast enough
faster he said and he ran faster
the emptiness streaked by he couldn’t hang on to it
if he slowed down it wasn’t there anymore
all right one day he stopped sat down stopped talking and
+++there were no doors no stairs yes he was alone with it
+++at last
no no happy endings forget stop forget at last he kept running
+++what else faster he
no wait
he did stop yes he stopped but it was the same the same doors
+++the stairs up and down it didn’t help to stop it was worse
+++so he kept running he kept talking puff puff through doors
+++through rooms faster he said faster it streaked by up
+++stairs down oh where will it all end he cried
well a door closed and he hit it

An Encounter © 1972 Robert Coover and republished with permission. This work is one of a series of excerpts from literary and art journals not otherwise available online. This story, and another short fiction, The Old Man, appeared for the first time in The Little Magazine (London) in 1972.

The Little Magazine, edited by Denis Boyles, published work by Ann Lauterbach, Anthony Howell, William Stafford, Robert Coover, Marilyn Hacker, Myra Sklarew, Stephen Wiest, Michelene (Victor) Wandor, Bernard Saint, Wayne Markert, and many others. Selected works are being republished at irregular intervals in The Fortnightly Review’s New Series.

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9 years ago

Thank you!

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