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Lee Bob Black reading fiction at NYC's KGB Bar

Pick On Somebody Your Own Size.

Lee Bob Black reading fiction at KGB Bar, East Village, NYC, January 27, 2012, as part of the Paragraph member’s reading series. Watch on YouTube or Vimeo.

“Pick On Somebody Your Own Size.”

I’ve always enjoyed messing with straight people’s heads.

Twenty years ago, upon seeing a delicate thin man, you would think: He’s probably gay. Nowadays, if you see a buff guy with big tits, you would think: He’s probably gay. And to think that, you don’t have to be in a neighborhood that’s got gyms open twenty-four hours a day.

We switched that shit around. We, the gay community.

And remember that charismatic sociopath in that movie Basic Instinct? She was played by Sharon Stone. Remember her, the bisexual bitch who manipulated everyone and enjoyed killing people? Well, when that movie came out, some gay and lesbian activists complained that the killer psycho was bisexual. Not me. I was thrilled. I knew that straight people would start to look at me and my big strong gay pecs and think: In his bag, he’s probably got an ice-pick.

By Lee Bob Black.

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Poo Yoo Boohoo.

Lee Bob Black reading fiction at KGB Bar, East Village, NYC, January 27, 2012, as part of the Paragraph member’s reading series. Watch on YouTube or Vimeo.

“Poo Yoo Boohoo.”

It smells like poo in here! I hate when that happens! I just want to poo in peace, but this toilet stall already stinks to high poo heaven! That’s not cool! That’s just not right! All I want is to go into a public restroom that doesn’t smell like poo! Is that too much to ask?

I only take about five poos a year in public toilets, and my guess is that between two and four of the public toilets actually smell like poo! That’s unbelievably annoying to people like me who don’t want to smell the poo of people like you!

No wonder that I try never to poo in public toilets. But sometimes I simply can’t help it.

Public toilets should smell like roasting pumpkins and hairspray—but not poo. That’s tacky!

But I’m a hypocrite. I love the smell of my own.

By Lee Bob Black.

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Brown Triangular Pills.

Lee Bob Black and Sophie Jaff reading fiction at KGB Bar, East Village, NYC, January 27, 2012, as part of the Paragraph member’s reading series. Watch on YouTube or Vimeo.

“Brown Triangular Pills.”

He found the first pill in the back pocket of his blue jeans, and he instantly threw it down his gob.

What did the pill represent? Was it supposed to enhance something, or weaken something?

In a pocket of his jacket, he found another pill. This one was just like the first one: triangular and brown. What does that mean? And who the hell manufactures brown triangle pills?

He swallowed it.

He figured that these pills could be for his heart or for his blood, though their shape and color made this seem unlikely.

Maybe they would augment his concentration, maybe they were vitamin supplements, or maybe they prevented something that would kill him if he didn’t take them.

He had no idea!!

He also didn’t know how these pills came to be in his pockets. He phoned Wanda.

“Daniel,” she said, “those pills are for . . . for . . . they’re for . . . erectile function . . . I mean, erectile dysfunction. This is always hard for me to talk about, Daniel. It makes your erectile—I mean, it makes your erections function.”

“I don’t have erectile dysfunction.”

“Not since you’ve been taking those brown triangles,” Wanda said.

“How do you know all this, and why do I not remember this?”

“How did you know to phone me to find out?”

They were silent for several moments. Eventually his sister said, “I’m the one who gets your prescriptions filled.”

“When did you last fill this one?”

“A month or two ago.”


“Because your penis doesn’t work.”

“But it works.”

“Because you take those pills, Daniel.”

Take these pills? I found two of them randomly in my pockets—” He stooped. Then he said, “Is this about denial?”

“Of course,” she says. “But that’s only the beginning.” 

By Lee Bob Black.

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Lights, Idiots, Intimacies.

Lee Bob Black reading fiction at KGB Bar, East Village, NYC, January 27, 2012, as part of the Paragraph member’s reading series. Watch on YouTube or Vimeo.

“Lights, Idiots, Intimacies.”

Some old and cheap cars only have one “communal” warning light. When this tiny red light in your dashboard shines and blinks, it means:


Your brake fluid is perilously low and your brakes might not work and you might die!

Or it means:


Your engine’s overheating and your car might explode!

But how can you determine the light’s actual message? You can’t.The car’s “brain” monitors dozens of things, but the light only warns you that something is wrong, not what.

These are called idiot lights--because you don’t have to be a mechanic to know that something’s wrong; even an idiot can understand that.

When the idiot light flickers, you have options. You can pull over and tinker under the hood. Or: You can drive on, and turn the radio on, and stick masking tape over the problem--the light itself.

I’m a lazy son of bitch. But I enjoy inversing this by claiming that I’m really just a risk-taker. I’d rather risk running the car to within an inch of its life, than take it to a repair shop.

“Preventative care” for my wheels? Not bloody likely. I don’t floss. I walk across streets with my headphones blaring, and I’ve never had health insurance. And what if the idiot light is winking red because the car’s “brain” is a hypochondriac and it merely believes there’s a problem?

Maybe the red light’s telling me that the gas cap isn’t screwed on tight enough. I mean, who fuking cares? Some problems don’t need fixing.

In my relationship with my girlfriend, the idiot light occasionally comes on--


--and I know, goddamn it, that I should shut the fuk up, that I should disengage from the argument, that I should breathe deeply. In those girlfriend-boyfriend moments when I know that something is amiss, even though I can’t put my finger on it, I know that I’m at a crossroads. I can go left or go right. Or: I can choose to continue, or choose to stop.

And I’m not just talking about that particular argument. I’m talking about the whole relationship enchilada. 

When the relationship idiot light blinks red in the corner of my vision, I know that I need to be compassionate to myself and to her, that if I escalate the fight or push how I’m right and “demonstrate” how she’s not only intellectually irrational but she’s also emotionally irrational, then I’ll just get angrier and become more of an inconsiderate asshole and something untoward will happen, like I’ll throw something, maybe a fist or two into a door or into an otherwise gorgeous girlfriend’s face.

Sometimes the relationship idiot light tells me that I should stop dissecting her explanations, that I should leave the room, down a glass of cold water, go for a quick dash-walk ’round the ’hood, and listen to the Eagles of Death Metal with my headphones on full blare and walk across streets without checking for traffic and I should Fantasize about headlining in classy women-positive porn, and I should reassure myself by telling myself sweet nothings like, “It must be hard to be a woman. I’m so glad I was born with a dick.” 

But maybe I’m completely misreading the relationship idiot light. What if I believe that it’s blinking because something’s wrong with her, but it’s really blinking because something’s wrong with me?

Maybe it’s urging me to admit that I’m sorry.

What if it’s got nothing to do with right and wrong, but that there’s something new to learn here?

What if it’s actually a relationship intimacy light? Might it be trying to tell us that we are rubbing up against our vulnerabilities?

What if the light’s reminding us that we can be sensitive here, now?

What if the light actually means that if I stay here with her, then our relationship might be fuller?

What if it’s on to reject the idea that this particular argument should be interpreted as an emotional problem, that instead it’s shining to tip us off that this is an emotional opportunity? 

By Lee Bob Black.