Cagelikes — Jeremy P. Bushnell

Cagelike No. 5

….I’ve forgotten now how it even began.  It is very hard
………….. to keep count of time. So, learn to reverse the situation.
……………………………. As long as I get there eventually,
……………………………………………… I’m satisfied.

……………………………. How much provocation am I to endure
……………………………. from you?

…………………………………….. I was justified
…………………………………….. in reading your letters. My motives
……………………………. were questioned. You eat peanut butter with your finger
……………………right out of the jar. Drops of burning spirits
…………..are often splashed about. Everyone retreats downstairs. We
……………………………………….do not show the Lodge. It’s a hard path
….to travel in the storm, and after dark.

…………………………………………………Eight miles of walking. Snails,
…………………………….coldest of all creatures, circle interminably around each other.
………………….. Moments and hours and days. The medium dissolves
…………………………………………….. but never becomes translucent.
…………………………………………….. It’s assimilated by the body.

Cagelike No. 6

………………………….I’ve checked over the second floor, and the third. The
………………….fourth, the fifth, the sixth and the seventh. A home now
….mostly for gulls: storms broke the windows up there long ago. They arrive
………………………….in November, you know,
…………………………………………….and don’t migrate North again until March or…
………………..You may have had great plans.

………………………….A two year old once told me trees make wind
…………………………………………….by waving from side to side.

….Passing the time, watering the remaining plants. The leaves of all cuttings
………………………….should be taken off with a
…………………………………….sharp knife. When I sit by the fire to warm myself,
…………………………………….I would sooner have my toes burnt than take
………………..the trouble to draw my legs back. What does this mean?
….My thought about ______ does not mean anything. I am not looking at it.
…………………………………………….Different sides of my accidental room.
….Halves of an object. The wheel. Keeps me sane. What does it mean
………………..when someone says you have a temper? Anybody can do
….what they want. It’s your decision and you’re responsible. Worse
…………………………………….and worse every day.

Cagelike No. 7

…………….Let’s start, and see what happens. Take an active interest in the test itself.
………………………I can see that you are still nervous, not knowing
…………………………………the exact details of the procedure.….It’s easier
……………………………………………than you might think. That was so great
…………….what you just said.

…………….It was just a bunch of blurry figures. I think I need to get glasses.
………………………Putting it off can just cause more damage. Where are you –
……there you go — Remember, I’m going to mark you. Fuck it,
………………………I’m just going to do it. Straight up, end the game, fail.
……Do you believe in warnings and banshees and occult things? Too often we watch
……………………………………………helplessly, as Cassandra did.

…………………………………I’ll tell you what we’ll do, okay? We’ll start again,
……a second time. We’ll make another promise to reject the brimming cup. I’m
………………………………………………….pretty sure we could scratch
……our way out of here, if we tried. Like a flower that has survived
………………………………………………….the storm. A person
……………………………………………who wipes the window clean. All that power
…………………………………has culminated in gentleness. Which usually includes
………………………………………………….restraint. Throb of heart. Sleep
………………………in dust. The man who sits,
………………………………………………….the man who walks. Four people
…………….can defeat an army.


THE PROCESS
The “Cagelikes” are an attempt at generating a chance-determined fiction, inspired by the writings of John Cage, especially his Diary.
Each Cagelike begins with me writing a single sentence. But the genesis of every sentence thereafter is determined by a roll of the black die.

On a roll of 1, I write another sentence OR add white space for a section break OR end the piece.

On a roll of 2, I search Wikipedia for any phrase from the last completed sentence, then pull a sentence or phrase from the search results and add it as a new sentence (I allowed myself to click through to a full article, but not without first considering the material to be found in the excerpts and fragments on the page of Wikipedia search results).

On a roll of 3, I search Wikisource for any phrase from the last completed sentence, and, as above, pull a sentence or phrase from the search results and add it as a new sentence.

On a roll of 4, I add a new sentence as above, only search Google. (Again, I tried as often as possible to choose my sentences from the language appearing on the first page of search results, only clicking through to individual pages if all options on that page were rejected.)

On a roll of 5, I search the Cornell Movie Dialogue corpus for a single word from the last completed sentence, choose a line of dialogue immediately preceding or following a line containing that word, and add it as a new sentence.

And on a roll of 6, I search my own Evernote note corpus (somewhere around 48,000 notes) for a word or a phrase from the last completed sentence, pull a sentence or phrase from the search results, and add it as a new sentence. The right margin and line breaks are left to my discretion and are not determined by chance. But each time I drop to a new line, I roll the white die, and allow the result to determine the number of tab-stops to use to left-indent the new line.

 


Jeremy P. Bushnell is the author of two novels: The Weirdness (2014, Melville House) and The Insides (2016, Melville House). He is currently working on a third novel, and distracting himself by producing unstable generative soundscapes as one half of the electronic music duo Doubtful Forms.

Image: courtesy of Jeremy P. Bushnell