Is it too untoward to say Please Go Back to Normal Life? Janice-Katie’s radio plays untimely. I have tired entirely. Of my spying. At night, she photographs the objects of despair. I think that things are quite complicated. I think that sometimes the world feels like a million sadnesses coming out as a coughed-up fly. I think that, when it comes to Janice-Katie, when it comes to her, that, they, all the mutually exclusive private worlds of habit, that they, are she. They are she in a window. They fight over one black glove, the licking of its top, worn finger while standing in a moldy mansion up on over across from the lake. They are she in window-frames. I believe she eats wrongly. I believe she is consumed by stiff curtains. The smell of nail polish. She is red at the windows. She catches the bus like a fox finding its mausoleum, finally. Have you ever adored a corner of a room? In sleeps? In true and awful ink? Janice-Katie’s radio plays untimely. I have tired, friends. I think they are she. I think that a mirrored wall has been set up to reflect a video-player and on it is Janice-Katie in her underpants, drinking minty concoctions out of deadly jars. And I think that something is wrong when she tries, in the video, to reach across her coffee table to adjust a dripping book. It does not drip right. The video seems corroded. Janice-Katie even looks around, like she’s being seen in the many mirrors. Can you smell that mint going wrong after she leaves the dishes for days?
The first time I saw her she was standing in front of an advertisement for a sandwich that looked really good. She appeared sad or wounded. I was at a market across the street. I knew I wanted an orange but what I couldn’t decide about was if I should get a pear. I picked most of them up and examined them before returning them to the bin. Did I even want a pear? God, I didn’t know. I finally decided to skip the produce all together and walked across the street for the sandwich. By then she was gone. I went into the deli and ordered a pear and Brie sandwich on French bread. I took it to a fountain where a lot of people had gathered to meet friends or eat sandwiches in the sun. Then like right when I sat down a well-known raccoon in the area showed up and began bombarding everyone with religious didacticisms I didn’t understand. I ate about three quarters of the sandwich and gave the rest to the raccoon.
The second time I saw her was at a screening of The Outsiders. I was in the back row sipping an absurdly large Mr. Pibb and she was with a senior. After that, I began to notice her at the movies a lot: Red Dawn, Soul Man, Side Out. This seemed important. Was she also a C. Thomas Howell fanatic? Inspired by The Hitcher, I followed her home one night to a farmhouse on the edge of the woods. While positioning myself in the bramblies outside a window, I ran into a highly regarded raccoon in the area. What I gathered from the raccoon was that her garbage paints a portrait of someone who doesn’t eat well. Perhaps, I thought, that’s why she appeared sad or wounded the time I saw her outside the deli. As the raccoon and I settled in for the night, the spring peepers began calling from the darkness. I’d been gently stalking Janice-Katie for some time now but things were about to get crazy.
The third time I saw her I’d been hiding in her bathroom closet for the past 72 hours waiting for her to come home from a long weekend in the country. Had I known she was leaving for a long weekend and not a pedicure when I’d arrived, I would’ve gone home to my Janice-Katie room and enjoyed myself rather than stayed there. For days I’d been living on crackers and dashes to the bathroom sink, fearful she could walk in any second. My beard was filthy, I was using a Dixie cup as a toilet. I was so grateful when she finally returned that I just groaned and fell out of the closet. I smiled and whispered thank you as I hit the floor. I remember her scream, the twirl of her hair as she turned to run. I remember remembering a highly respected raccoon in the area and the way we used to laugh together right before passing out.
“I am Mrs. Beck,” said the older woman uncertainly, throat moving. She stared at Janice-Katie. “And you are…?”
Janice-Katie laughed, as if carefree. She said, “I am Janice-Depressive, you know, like ‘manic-depressive’?”
Mrs. Beck frowned.
--excerpt from The Girl with Brown Fur by Stacey Levine
Stout women with a hatred of twilight are difficult to trail. But a character as curious as Janice-Katie is worth an ardent shadowing. In her book of short stories The Girl with Brown Fur, Stacey Levine reveals a glimpse of this moonfaced outer space hater: Her face is so wide because of her stomach medicine. As a child she believed that the sun is the size of a person’s hand. Spring is the time she feels most alone, and she carries herself as if in need of coddling. Don’t you love her? Don’t you want to discretely follow her vehicle, keeping at least two cars between you? So do we. That’s why our group of gumshoe writers, artists and musicians have been gently stalking her en masse. And my god, have we got stories to tell. Tune in everyday to Wunderkammer to learn all about the previously undiscovered life of one of fiction’s most beguiling characters: Janice-Katie.
Always stalking, Kathryn
P.S. The Girl With Brown Fur will be officially released by Starcherone/Dzanc in May 2011. Verse Chorus Press also just re-released Stacey's novel Frances Johnson. Highly recommended!