THE JUMP OFF: The Sam Lipsyte Players

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HOW TO AVOID BEING A WOODPUSHER, john madera

“It’s when they stop trying to destroy you that you should really start to worry.”

As you mull over maneuvers, ignore the news of a subway platform birth. Don’t allow the translucent-slimed, meconium-stained bundle of filth spoil your positional plans. Disregard the radio’s panting in counterpoint with the television. Give up sussing out the song’s name: “For What It’s Worth,” and curb the laughter provoked by its announcement.

Remember how you had lost a “won game” last week, but forget about how your rating had dropped; and recall your intermittent father saying, “It’s when they stop trying to destroy you that you should really start to worry.” Disregard the sneakers’ keen squeaky cheep, and don’t look toward the source: a frayed gray man. Shake off the snapped open newspaper, its tree litter crinkling; and as you look at the linoleum, don’t long for leaves. And don’t gawk at the flaccid cock falling out from the old man’s cut-offs. Don’t allow its sagging skin flaps to conjure a courtship-inflamed turkey’s snood. Look away before his testicular carbuncles swell with blood. Don’t wonder whether it was the matriarchal leg spread or the talking head’s pouty lips that excited him. Think about your next move. Embed the patterns popping out from your laptop. Reposition that awkwardly placed knight.

Don’t gaze toward the old man again. Focus on your game. Manage your time. Probe with your pawn. Consider mating possibilities. And when the gray man clears his throat, disregard the cilia thrusting mucus toward his epiglottis.

And, as you look out from the giant window, don’t imagine that the sun slotting behind rooftops resembles the bruise on your mother’s forehead, that sallow third eye that made you want to attack the boyfriend. Instead, as the screensaver flickers on, reserve your anger for the coming game—a war game, after all—when you try, once again, to flag your opponent.

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Rozalia Jovanovic is a founding editor of Gigantic, a magazine of short prose and art. She is the Deputy Editor of Flavorpill and has received fellowships from The MacDowell Colony and Columbia University. Her writing has appeared or is forthcoming from Unsaid, The Believer, Everyday Genius, Guernica, elimae, and Esquire.com. She blogs at The Astonishing Egg and is The Rumpus New York Editor. More from this author →