ARDOR Literary Magazine

ARDOR Literary Magazine - Issue One, Jan. 2013

Issue One, Published January 2013

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Page 9 of 73

SPECIAL NEEDS Nonfiction by SEAN FINUCANE TONER These days, in the month before the Death Match, Robin comes home, grabs a quick lunch, and takes us on a spin to a nearby park for the remainder of her hour. Once parked, she comes around to my side, the passenger side, to make certain I'm not clipped by a passing car. When I'm safely out she straightens my collar or spies a missed button. She stands back to survey me and says, "You look good." "So do you," I say, though in the seven years we've been together since we met in our MFA program I have never seen her. Blinded by juvenile diabetes in the mid-nineties, and having had perfect vision before, I rummage through the files, call up a composite image I've applied to the face I've felt -- she's a little bit Sally Field, a little like Middle East expert Robin Wright, and a little like a pre-DVD adult starlet who shall remain unnamed. With my left hand on her shoulder, white cane in right hand held walking-stick style, we set out on the main path. The park is sparsely populated. A dog leads its human here, a pair of joggers runs past, Canada geese pull a flyover. Robin makes note of appealing trees: a "fetching" Japanese snowbell, a "darling" Japanese maple. And she directs my hand to the long, straight, hair-like needles of a Himalayan pine. We talk about her workday, office gossip, a piece of writing that is causing me psychic apoplexy. These are light touches, an easing into each other, a readying ourselves for our daily intimacy in the park. Soon, Robin says, "Are you ready? We've reached a bench." "Birds leave any gifts for us?" She bends, there's the sound of brushings and ring-taps against wrought-iron, and she says, "Just leaves." She sits, fishes her cell phone from her purse, does whatever it is she does so she can use it as a timer. "Which piece are you going to start with today?" "'Roads Under Repair'," I answer. It's the first of the three pieces I'll be performing at the upcoming Literary Death Match at the World Cafe in Philadelphia. This LDM is one of a series of competitive literary events that have taken place in book-minded venues around the planet since 2006. It is, according to the Literary Death Match's creator, Opium Magazine editor Todd Zuniga, "American Idol meets the Gong Show." A tag-line from Todd also reads, "The pen is mightier than the sword, and much ink will be spilled." I stand with both hands resting on the butt of my cane, prep myself for the day's rehearsal. "You don't have to do all three pieces," Robin says. "You don't have to take the whole seven minutes." But I do. Contestants are permitted seven minutes to read their work, and if they go over their limit, they face a Nerf-gun firing squad. I've seen it through my ears on YouTube, and it seems there is a lighthearted shaming that would take place if I were to have spongy foam balls bounce off my head while I give voice to my written work.

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