Happy birthday, Tim Horvath! Celebrate by reading this Horvath fiction (with music by Rafaele Andrade), which we published last year, and which was subsequently selected for inclusion in The Best Small Fictions 2021!
I am trying to keep myself busy while the world is on hold. And so I do what I have always done: I chop. I cannot go to the store, I cannot go to the beach, I must stay inside, but I can chop. Keep the muscles active, keep them steady, keep them taut, keep them firm. They cannot stop me from chopping. I cannot sleep at night. In my dreams, I am chopping. Carrots, beets, onions, tomatoes, squash. I behead shrimp with glee, tugging at their spines with extra brio. In my dreams, I chop vegetables that do not exist in the daytime. Maybe they are somewhere under the earth, undiscovered. Maybe they are vegetables grown in the underworld. She does the shopping, I do the chopping. She comes home with misfits. A misfit can be anything from a cucumber that looks like it has a tumor to a tomato that’s gushing its guts. I chop without judgment. Since we have been getting the misfits, I have stopped remembering what perfect fruits and vegetables look like. Sometimes I’ll go online to remember. It’s like looking at a fake world, though. A turnip cannot possibly look like that. The dreams grow more intense, sprawl out. In them, I am no longer confined to vegetables and fruits, to organic things. I chop buildings, which makes me sound like some kind of monster out of a Japanese disaster film, someone who would do battle with Godzilla one day and team up with him the next, but in fact that is not me. I chop at the seams, where the apartments and hallways meet one another. There is an elderly woman somewhere on the fourth floor, and not only do I chop carefully around her, I delicately remove a mole she has borne for the entirety of her eighty-something years. As she gazes in the mirror, searching for it, at first she thinks her sight is going, then her mind. She might never set foot outside again, not the way things are looking, but every time she steps in front of that mirror, it’s as though she’s dancing again as she did sixty-two years before, before she’d been self-conscious about the mole, when it was a soft little gemstone. Before she’d thought she was a misfit. We’d passed each other a hundred times and nodded hellos. Then once in the lobby, rain shearing, me in chef’s garb and no umbrella, she with dinged gray radio in hand, antenna fully out and bent toward that mole, barely pulling in the station, she spoke about a night in Gdansk. I told her I made a mean pierogi. When the storm eased I made a dash for the train, and our hellos were different from then on. She might never go into a restaurant again, and thus I will not be in the kitchen, but I like to be behind the scenes anyway, chopping fierce, like I can outchop time itself, make the slices so thin you can see through them, so if I put my finger up to one you’d see the whorls of my prints and what might be a scar, who can be sure?
I wash the food before I chop it. I will let you in on a secret: if you spend a full twenty seconds washing an apple by hand, by the end you will know that apple intimately, will feel like you made that apple from scratch. You’ll be a charter member of the Apple Maker’s Guild. With that apple you could tempt Eve, you could tempt Adam, you could tempt God. God chopped first—split the light from the darkness with the very first sweep of the hand. I’m not sure if I believe anymore, not in these times. What I believe in is the next chop. I know that eventually all the knives will go blunt, go dim. I’ll have to go and get them sharpened. There’s a guy who’s started coming around the neighborhood again in his truck. He comes in a mask, and I almost think of him as an executioner, except he’s going to breathe new life into these knives, and, in so doing, into me. I can’t wait to see him. But right now we can’t afford anything extra. We’re buying misfits and saving our coins. I dream I pay him with a coin I’ve chopped so thin it is many coins, some of them dull, at least one of them gleaming.
Un-bow is a collaboration between composer/cellist/sonologist Rafaele Maria Andrade and writer Tim Horvath. Andrade conceived, designed, and constructed Knurl, a sixteen string electro-acoustic cello that is reprogrammable in real-time through its bow. Each track in Un-bow has its origins in a bow technique or a musical/rhythmic tradition and uses this as a point of departure for exploring a particular sonic landscape. Horvath’s eight prose pieces, including “Chop,” correspond to and with these musical excursions, borrowing their forms, playing with associations arising from them, and allowing them to inhabit narrative bodies. On the album, in the spirit of Cortazár’s Hopscotch, a book that both of them love, the listener/reader is invited to participate in the correspondence by matching music to story in any configuration. Learn more about Knurl and Un-bow at www.rafaeleandrade.com.