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The Big Stupid Review


American Dream Serialization (Early Chapters)
Introduction to Jim Chaffee's Studies in Mathematical Pornography by Maurice Stoker
Introduction to Jim Chaffee's Studies in Mathematical Pornography by Tom Bradley
Studies in Mathematical Pornography: American Dream Title Page by Jim Chaffee
Studies in Mathematical Pornography: Chapter 1 by Jim Chaffee
Studies in Mathematical Pornography: Chapter 2 by Jim Chaffee
Studies in Mathematical Pornography: Chapter 3 by Jim Chaffee
Studies in Mathematical Pornography: Chapter 4 by Jim Chaffee
Studies in Mathematical Pornography: Chapter 5 by Jim Chaffee
Studies in Mathematical Pornography: Chapter 6 by Jim Chaffee
Studies in Mathematical Pornography: Chapter 7 by Jim Chaffee
Studies in Mathematical Pornography: Chapter 8 by Jim Chaffee
Studies in Mathematical Pornography: Chapter 9 by Jim Chaffee
Modern Tragedy, or Parodies of Ourselves by Robert Castle
Totally Enchanté, Dahling by Thor Garcia
Hastini by Rudy Ravindra
The Satyricon of Petronius Arbiter Volume 5 Translation by W. C. Firebaugh
Unexpected Pastures by Kim Farleigh
Nonviolence by Jim Courter
The Satyricon of Petronius Arbiter Volume 4 Translation by W. C. Firebaugh
The Poet Laureate of Greenville by Al Po
The Apocalypse of St. Cleo, Part VI by Thor Garcia
The Satyricon of Petronius Arbiter Volume 3 Translation by W. C. Firebaugh
The Apocalypse of St. Cleo, Part V by Thor Garcia
The Apocalypse of St. Cleo, Part IV by Thor Garcia
The Satyricon of Petronius Arbiter Volume 2 Translation by W. C. Firebaugh
The Apocalypse of St. Cleo, Part I by Thor Garcia
The Apocalypse of St. Cleo, Part II by Thor Garcia
The Apocalypse of St. Cleo, Part III by Thor Garcia
The Satyricon of Petronius Arbiter Volume 1 Translation by W. C. Firebaugh
DADDY KNOWS WORST: Clown Cowers as Father Flounders! by Thor Garcia
RESURRECTON: Excerpt from Breakfast at Midnight by Louis Armand
Review of The Volcker Virus (Donald Strauss) by Kane X Faucher: Excerpt from the forthcoming Infinite Grey by Kane X Faucher
Little Red Light by Suvi Mahonen and Luke Waldrip
TEXECUTION: Klown Konfab as Killer Kroaked! by Thor Garcia
Miranda's Poop by Jimmy Grist
Paul Fabulan by Kane X Faucher: Excerpt from the forthcoming Infinite Grey by Kane X Faucher
Operation Scumbag by Thor Garcia
Take-Out Dick by Holly Day
Patience by Ward Webb
The Moon Hides Behind a Cloud by Barrie Darke
The Golden Limo of Slipback City by Ken Valenti
Chapter from The Infinite Atrocity by Kane X. Faucher
Support the Troops By Giving Them Posthumous Boners by Tom Bradley
When Good Pistols Do Bad Things by Kurt Mueller
Corporate Strategies by Bruce Douglas Reeves
The Dead Sea by Kim Farleigh
The Perfect Knot by Ernest Alanki
Girlish by Bob Bartholomew
The Little Ganges by Joshua Willey
The Invisible World: René Magritte by Nick Bertelson
Honk for Jesus by Mitchell Waldman
Red's Dead by Eli Richardson
The Memphis Showdown by Gabriel Ricard
Someday Man by John Grochalski
I Was a Teenage Rent-a-Frankenstein by Tom Bradley
Only Love Can Break Your Heart by Fred Bubbers
Believe in These Men by Adam Greenfield
The Magnus Effect by Robert Edward Sullivan
Performance Piece by Jim Chaffee
Injustice for All by D. E. Fredd
The Polysyllogistic Curse by Gary J. Shipley
How It's Done by Anjoli Roy
Ghost Dance by Connor Caddigan
Two in a Van by Pavlo Kravchenko
Uncreated Creatures by Connor Caddigan
Invisible by Anjoli Roy
One of Us by Sonia Ramos Rossi
Storyteller by Alan McCormick
Idolatry by Robert Smith
P H I L E M A T O P H I L I A by Traci Chee
They Do! by Al Po
Full TEX Archive
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Studies in Mathematical Pornography: American Dream - 1

By Jim Chaffee

Chapter 1

Jehovah's most devoted and single-minded witness lay like a wizened lump of clay, shriveled memory of once boundless energy, muted cheerleader of the coming vengeance. She opened her brown eyes to see me standing alone beside the bed; offered no smile, not with her eyes, certainly not in the set of her mouth. The weak voice emitted just above my signal-to-noise ratio and I bent nearer to capture the words.

"I tried to wait… see Armageddon… the resurrection."

Shit. The Old Testament monster Jehovah, this vision of mounds of dead scattered around the globe in a sea of blood, carrion for vultures, still possessed her. Same shit as Phoenix. I remembered why I'd avoided her for over a decade, why I'd almost not returned for this final visit.

Dad's sister Mary had picked me up at the airport. Dad, my brother and my sister camped out at a nearby motel, unable to return home across seventy miles of desert for fear she'd die on them; living in God-forsaken Coolidge, suburb of God-forsaken Florence, stuck on a hideous wasteland between Phoenix and Tucson near Casa Grande, another desert hole even the Indians had the good sense to abandon centuries earlier. My mother's choice of places to settle, where the need was great, whatever the fuck that meant.

Impending oral exams rattled around inside my brain, thoughts like loose change. I'd even brought goddamned books to study. I tossed my bag into the open trunk and clambered inside the humongous Detroit iron.

"Dad sounded pretty beat when he called; like he begged me to come out. How'd she get here to Tucson?"

Aunt Mary, behind a face so corrugated from the merciless sun it seemed no space remained for one more furrow, answered tersely in crisp Kansas speech untarnished by all her years in the empty Arizona desert.

"He's had a rough time of it." The high whistle in the background of her words matched the blowing sand outside the air conditioned car.

"What happened?"

"You mean he didn't tell you?" It was less question than accusation. She knew him.

"Nothing; just calls and tells me she's dying. I tried to beg off but he sounded like he needed me here."

"Well, the rest of 'em are pretty no-damned-good. Your sister is a basket case anyway, and your brother is a big crybaby."

"He's the macho one. I'm the prissy academic."

"You're the only one who's done a damned thing with his life."

"Not everyone would agree."

"You were the one in the war."

My brother Ernest, the tough one. In the photos they'd sent me he stood on ledges and hills looking off in the distance, an explorer, usually with a rifle in hand. And his wife, a small woman with mean eyes, also his sister-in-law as my own sister Julie married his wife's brother and best friend. At sixteen. They already had kids. Here I was, pushing thirty and still whoring and in school.

"Not like I had a choice. I'd've been drafted anyway." I wasn't sure if she knew I'd had the choice of Marines or jail. "They didn't have the lottery for my age group."

I needed a joint. I hadn't brought anything but hash-laced cigarettes, uncomfortable with carrying a baggie on the plane.

"Maybe we can stop on the way and get some booze," I said, lighting one up.

She remarked on the smell and I said it was a Perique blend from St. James Parish, a true statement. I showed her the bag I rolled from. The Perique covered the heavy odor of the flecks of Nepalese and Pakistani and Moroccan hashish rolled in with the tobacco. She appraised me from the side: her nephew from someplace outside the known universe, eccentric graduate student in mathematics.

At a strip mall liquor store, red neon sign blinking LIQ R, I got a pint of cheap bourbon. It wasn't as if I could afford much, but my leg ached from the cramped seats and I wasn't ready to face mother without a shot or two.

I tipped the bottle and took a belt. A nauseating warmth spread through my guts.

"When I was in Phoenix the doctor explained how they intended to kill her right there. I thought she was s'posed to die quickly. What happened?"

Aunt Mary gave me a sharp sidelong glance; said I needed to ask my dad.

I didn't go into the fresh and lingering conversation from that prior visit, gangly doctor explicating, my dad, brother, sister and I listening. He'd spoken to me, sensing from the questions I asked that I was the one to be reckoned with. Besides I'd let it be known I was no Jehovah's Witness but was ready to defend her right to refuse blood. Her choice, I said, without adopting her superstition, the family's superstition. Idiots.

So the doctor'd looked at me; they couldn't de-bulk the tumor without her losing too much blood.

I'd heard it was a massive growth; I remembered the photo of her from several years before with a little belly like a nascent pregnancy. Anyway, now it had grown in and through her colon and they would have to remove a bunch of it, re-channel and such, and it wasn't possible without transfusing blood.

The family listened but didn't seem to hear. The physician went on that they wanted to start chemotherapy, that it would shrink the tumor and when that happened she'd have holes in her colon to leak and induce peritonitis and she'd die.

I'd shrugged and turned to my dad, asking if he'd heard. He said they wanted to do chemotherapy instead of surgery and I said yes, and it will kill her. She'd die of inflammation of the guts.

He didn't say much, just looked down and kind of shuffled his feet. Then he asked what other choice we had. I turned to the physician and waited for an answer. He said that otherwise she'd just die without any treatment. There was nothing to do other than the surgery.

I couldn't see shopping around for other points of view. Certainly the holistic crap they'd tried hadn't done much besides providing an excuse to avoid the initial visit. They eschewed doctors, I knew that, and I guess she had a damned high pain threshold to boot. Still, raw garlic wasn't going to cut it, as they now saw all too plainly.

Dad had asked my opinion and I said I didn't know. My specialty had been inflicting pain and death with the tools of the infantryman, and my experience with medicine came from the wrong end of the stethoscope. I never saw much natural death. He said this wasn't natural and I pretended not to hear, saying it was his decision. I didn't want to go into how loony it was to believe death unnatural, about laws of large numbers and outliers, about expected death age versus expected years to live.

Maybe it would've been better to say get another opinion. Probably should've; but I sure as hell couldn't spare time fucking with such shit. I'd been preparing for oral exams. I had no interest in it.

So now here I stood looking one last time at this dying woman racked with cancer, her peritoneum full of E. coli. She'd be dead soon, maybe by tonight, and I'd come to make the transition easier for my father. About my brother and sister I didn't care, and about her I certainly didn't give a rat's ass. Let the ancient vengeful volcano god of genocidal, homicidal smiting fury she worshiped carry her through.

My leg ached though the whiskey had helped a bit. I needed to sit. The family came in while I dragged over a chair, our aunt, dad's sister, watching at the door, and I stood for a final moment while mother took us all in.

"I have to die to bring this family together," was what she'd said in the hospital in Phoenix, but now she was too weak to try that shit. I plopped into the chair.

Julie looked to be near tears, Ernst like he was trying to buck up. I was hungry, having had only peanuts so far this day nearing its end. I decided to go outside for a smoke.

"Anyone here hungry?" I asked. "I haven't eaten since last night."

No one said anything or seemed eager to leave, so I gathered up Aunt Mary who had remained standing in the doorway, spectating.

"Can we get a bite somewhere?"

"They have a cafeteria downstairs."

"What about a taco stand? Nothing nearby? Can't get tacos in New Orleans."


"No. They're pretty much about their own stuff down there. I miss tacos. Can't even get real tortillas, just canned ones and those damned shells in a box."

I smoked another of my hash-laced cigarettes as we walked to her car and had a decent buzz on by the time we drove off, smoothing it out with more hootch, offering her the bottle which I knew she'd refuse.

We found a bright taco joint blaring some kind of accordion-laced guitar music with a polka beat and singing that seemed to disturb her. I didn't mind it: conjunto; I'd picked it up in Kansas City, of all places, while boffing a Mexican chick for a few months. My aunt drank a coke while I had a half dozen tacos and a beer spiked with the remains of the pint. We drove back to the University Hospital in silence.

The rest of the family milled around the room looking hangdog, so I dragged my sister off to the cafeteria for a cup of coffee to try to figure out what had happened. I asked our aunt to come along, just so I'd be sure to get two sides.

We sat around a linoleum table drinking a ghastly excuse for coffee, burned and weak at the same time, almost an impossibility, and Julie told me the story. It seemed that dad had gone to the administration when they called him in about Mom's bill. He told them he couldn't pay. He didn't have insurance on her.

"No insurance? Why the fuck not?"

Our aunt frowned at my language, but my sister seemed not to notice.

"He didn't have it on her. I don't know why."

"He worked for the damned county, right? Those people have insurance."

"But he had to pay extra," Julie went on.

Our aunt broke in. "Your dad was just too damned stubborn. He refused to pay the same amount for her as a man with a bunch of kids would pay."

I wished I had been unable to believe it, but it was the kind of bullshit the jackass would pull. There might have been a bit more to it, but not much. He could cut off his nose to spite his face, then when covered with blood feel he had been screwed by some external force.

Julie didn't dispute what Aunt Mary said.

"So what'd they do?"

Julie said they threw her out. Our aunt interceded, saying not before he refused to sign a paper taking responsibility for repaying the debt.

"Well, they said she had to leave. It's a Catholic hospital, Manny."

"So? It's still a business."

Our aunt piped up again. "He borrowed an old station wagon from a Witness friend in Coolidge and drove her back from Phoenix across that hot desert in the middle of the day. She was in back on a mattress. The wagon didn't have air conditioning, either. When she got back, he got some of their Witness friends to stay with her since he had to work. They ran shifts, someone with her all the time. One of them was a nurse and showed them how to change her dressings, but she had one of those rubber tubes in there that oozed all the time."

A Penrose drain. They sent her home with a fucking Penrose drain in place. I worked on incensed but couldn't figure out who'd shown the bigger asshole. Knowing my father, he'd not only refused to sign for the debt, but had been ugly and hostile to boot, insulting whoever had least authority.

"Well, she isn't dying tonight. I can see that. Maybe tomorrow. I don't feel like staying here all night waiting."

"We have a motel room if you want to sleep," Julie chirped.

"With the three of you? No thanks. What about you, Mary? You going back tonight?"

"I think I will. I don't want to stay and it's less than an hour. I can bring you back in the morning. There's room at my place."

So we found ourselves flying out across the Arizona night, stars and all that hanging above the blast furnace that never dies. I fell asleep, a habit developed during my formative years heading across the desert at night to avoid the heat in the days before air conditioned cars and houses.

We didn't say much and I slept almost immediately in the extra room in the trailer she kept out behind Dad's house. I never understood that set-up, with the dislike all around, except she probably paid them. I didn't want to know and didn't ask.

Morning smashed in the windows hot and relentless. Aunt Mary was up already, fixing coffee, and I stumbled into the kitchen with a lit cigarette. She wished me a good morning, I returned it and we drank in silence.

When we got to the hospital the crew was already at vigil. Now at least there was only family. I'd almost kicked the shit out of an asshole Witness teenager in the Phoenix hospital who'd asked her if she'd been to the meetings. I told the family any more of those dickheads and there was going to be blood. They knew my capabilities and stopped the visits, at least while I was with her.

My father and I breakfasted in the cafeteria. After we sat down, I started in on him.

"What's this shit I hear about no insurance on Mom?"

"I didn't have it on her. It was extra."

"You couldn't afford it?"

"It wasn't that. I had to pay the same for her as someone paid for a wife and a bunch of kids."

"So? What's that got to do with it?"

"It's not fair."

"Fair? They got a saying in the Crotch; shit in one hand, wish in the other, weigh which is heavier. Fair's no heavier than a wish."

He didn't reply and I resurrected my cold scrambled eggs and greasy hash browns with a liberal douse of hot sauce and finished eating without another word. Then I clandestinely added to our coffee mugs generous slugs from a fresh pint of cheap bourbon I'd procured at the same liquor store and started in on him again.

"So what'd you say to them?"

"The lady from administration took me in her office and said I had to sign a paper. It would have put me in debt for years. I didn't have any ten thousand dollars. I refused and they kicked her out. I'm not going to be in debt for years paying for her death."

"So how'd you find this place? How're you paying for it now?"

"One of the sisters knew about it. She got in touch with a doctor here and he had her admitted as a charity patient."

"They want anything?"

"They'd like her body, but I can't let them have it, knowing people will look at her all the time. I'll let them take the organs for study. I'll have the county dispose of her body. They do a cheap cremation for indigents. It's just a shell anyway. She'll have a new one at the resurrection."

Resurrection. He still didn't understand about shit and wishes, like most of the superstitious Christian nutcases I'd met.

"The doc here said they could have done something for her without surgery. He said the hospital in Phoenix didn't use the latest methods."

I understood his feelings about debt. Debt was the shits. I didn't like it either. I had charged this flight to my credit card, was likely over my limit since I hadn't yet paid off the last flight out a month earlier, and would need to sell some coke or a shitload of pot to make it up when I got back. I didn't like being forced to sell beyond splitting up a pound of dope with margin to cover my own use; too risky, selling to people you didn't know personally. Nor did I like coke enough to use it much, though I kept some for guests. It did provide a higher margin than pot. Maybe acid would be better yet.

We went up to the room and spelled my brother and sister. Aunt Mary had disappeared.

Mom labored breathing and she didn't respond to any sort of chat. I was pretty sure it wouldn't be long and decided to wait. In fact, it took twelve hours for her to wind down and give it up. My brother and sister had long since left the room, too broken up to stay, and it was just Dad and me in the end. He sat staring at her and I got the night nurse who called the doctor to pronounce her dead.

We met up with Aunt Mary back at Dad's place in Coolidge. She invited me to stay with her, a relief to get away from the quasi-shack my dad now inhabited alone, temporarily haunted by my brother and sister.

The next day we met for a powwow around the kitchen table, a last one before Ernest and Julie took off.

"Is there anyone on her side we can notify she's dead?" I asked, broaching the subject no one seemed to want to approach.

"We don't know where they are," my dad said.

"Doesn't she have a sister in France?" Julie asked.

Ernest said, "We don't know if her sister is alive or not. Her mother died back when you were in Vietnam, but they'd stopped writing long before that. They didn't want to hear The Truth."

"Her sister was younger. She's probably alive. Where was she? What about the rest of them? She had a dozen brothers and sisters."

Ernest continued. "We don't know about the others. The sister lived in Marseilles with their mother. We got a death certificate for her mother and a letter asking for Mom's share of the funeral expenses. I guess they were still pretty poor."

"Did we send them anything?" I asked.

"We're poor too," my Dad said, and I knew they'd probably not bothered to answer that last letter.

"We could send something to the old address."

"Don't know where those old letters are now," Ernest said, and it dropped.

I spent the next two days reading the first volume of Kobayashi and Nomizu's Foundations of Differential Geometry and the first two chapters of the second volume, about a hundred pages, stopping at chapter IX which went on to complex manifolds. Not ready for that yet.

This trip had taken the time I'd set aside to visit the expert at Loyola to get a quick rundown, so now I was stuck with books. The exam had been postponed a week with this death; I wasn't going to let it slide more.

The only real topic from differential geometry on my list was Lie groups, my advisor's interest computational in terms of symmetries and conservation laws, local properties, but there was a hard ass on my committee, an expert in Lie groups and Lie algebras who maintained this grimly formalistic approach via categories and functors and a bastardization of the exponential map. I'd taken his course and learned he didn't give a fuck about geometry.

It wasn't as if I didn't go for machinery; I love heavy equipment as much as anyone, for sure more than my advisor whose approach amounted to using the bare minimum of gear to set up a formal computation. No machinery for machinery's sake. But I had great curiosity regarding bundles and connections on manifolds. I'd been sent to look at Spivak, but found it fat and filled with words, the opposite of his little advanced calculus book. Warner's terse approach from a functional analytical viewpoint appealed, but offered little geometry.

Kobayashi and Nomizu got down to brass tacks, moving right away to connections on fiber bundles via Lie-algebra valued one-forms and on into Riemannian connections, curvature tensors and all the rest in only a couple hundred pages or so. Volume two, though longer, got into Jacobi fields in Riemannian manifolds early on and ended in characteristic classes, if I'd go that far. There'd seemed no other choice except Bishop and Crittendon's Geometry of Manifolds which I'd brought along as backup.

There existed ulterior motives in this, of course. I hoped to distract my interrogators with a run through Lie theory embedded within differential geometry, where they would be on less firm ground.

Dazzling them might help, as on the writtens when I'd distracted them from my deficiencies, turning a question regarding complex analysis into an excursion through harmonic functions and maximal properties by contrasting the Weirestress point of view via analyticity and formal power series with the Cauchy vision via holomorphic functions. I pleased everyone, playing up the beauty of what appeared a strange coincidence that didn't work with real differentiation by showing at root the Cauchy-Riemann equations characterized as a system of over-determined partial differential equations (PDEs). Utilizing conjugate differentiation of complex differential forms, I dragged in a superficial bit of cohomology with complex coefficients in proving Cauchy's integral formula to unite the two classical points of view, all to please the several complex variables (SCV) people, then returned to the Cauchy-Riemann equations and harmonic functions to look at the mean value property, ending up showing the maximum modulus property as not so surprising while obtaining it for the heat equation. That took care of the PDE group. By the time I had finished writing on this problem, half the allotted four hours, the hefty spliff I'd done just prior to boarding the St. Charles streetcar had worn down and my vision slowed proportionally. But it worked.

An old trick I'd learned long ago, overwhelming people with what I wanted to present, like picking your own ground to fight on. They overlooked my inability to say anything about the Denjoy integral, not that I was alone on that one. As it turned out, I had been the sole analyst to come out of that group of entering graduate students.

The last I remember of the visit was my father sitting at the kitchen table, alone, drinking a fifth of rotgut. Aunt Mary drove me to the airport.

© Jim Chaffee 2011