Still Life With Chicken

August 1985

Dusk falls in Iowa. I sit around the back-porch table with Tobias Wolff, Geoffrey Wolff, Lazar Wolf, Wolf Blitzer, Richard Brautigan, Leonard Michaels, and Gordon Lish, all my mentors. The pages of my first workshop short story sit in front of them. They all stare at me, mouth agape, near-tears, except for Lish, who smokes impassively.

“I….I can’t believe how good this is,” Blitzer, who I call “Wolfie,” says to me.

“Just beyond reproach,” Michaels says. “Lean and technically perfect.”

“I wrote it for all of you,” I say. “Because you are teaching me how to be a writer, and how to be a real man.”

In the kitchen, all their wives prepare a delicious seven-course feast, silently and without protest. Someday, I hope to find publication, and tenure, and a woman who loves me enough to feed my genius. That would be nice.

Raymond Carver, or the ghost of Raymond Carver, appears

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