The Writing Disorder



New Fiction


by Stephen Meyer

The following pieces were originally written for the Buckbeeville project.

       In the South Buckbee Tower's Penthouse Suite, on the floor of the master bedroom closet, sits a fireproof box containing the world's funniest joke.

      The joke was placed in the fireproof box by the joke's author, Reginald ("Reggie") Hayes, in 1953. Most experts agree that the joke was written some time in the weeks or months preceding its placement into storage. Some estimates date the joke's composition to 1950 or 1951, while a few authorities (notably Field and Gnadler) trace the joke's authorship to the early 1940s, albeit by using the dating methods of Grillard-Holmes, which have since been dismissed by mainstream scholars.

      The fireproof box is comprised of a steel-nickel alloy shell encasing a three-quarter inch layer of asbestos insulation, with a half-inch key slot and lock cylinder embedded in the front of the lid. Hayes makes a single reference to a key in his journals, describing it as "pathetic and crippled, bent beyond any potential use, forgotten somewhere amid the coins and paper clips and Vaseline jars that litter the bottom of my sock drawer." To date, authorities have been unable to determine the whereabouts of this key.

      From 1946 until his death in 1960 Hayes occupied the basement apartment of the South Buckbee Tower. His journals depict his living conditions as "unpleasant and volatile, damp and frigid in winter, stifling in summer, with streams of water dripping from the joints of the ceiling pipes. Throughout the year, every day, every night, the fire of the water heater burns perpetually blue, ruining all prospects of sleep."

      Reggie Hayes, who once wrote: "I don't write jokes that make people laugh in the moment, when they hear the comedian tell it on the stage. I write jokes that make people laugh five, ten years down the road."

      Reggie Hayes died of heart failure on May 27, 1960. In accordance with his final wishes, his remains were sealed within the upright piano that immediately greets visitors upon entering the lobby of the South Buckbee Tower.

      The current owner of the Penthouse Suite remains anonymous to the residents of Buckbeeville. Rumors suggest he is originally from California.


      From time to time, in the coffee shop, outside the model railroad store, one will overhear older residents of Buckbeeville discussing Dolphin Jetty.

      Modeled after similar jetties in Doha and Ust-Bargusin, Dolphin Jetty was built by architect Alfred P. Wilson in 1979. According to Wilson's original proposal, the Jetty was intended to serve as "a place for dolphins to congregate and perform in a pleasing urban environment."

      Deceptively simple in design, Wilson's Dolphin Jetty was constructed of imported red sandstone, rebar, and Tennessee lichen. A Teflon diving hoop was implanted on the "nose" of the jetty, in order to "provide traveling dolphins with an opportunity to showcase their abilities."

      Tragedy first struck Dolphin Jetty in the early 1980s, when the tattooed street poet Nildo rushed the riverbank and unloaded an entire magazine from a Browning Hi-Power 9mm into a pod of dolphins. Dolphin Jetty remained closed to the public for several months following the incident; cleanup efforts cost the city over two million dollars, and almost a year passed before dolphins were again sighted in the river.

      The most devastating event in Dolphin Jetty's brief history occurred on September 14, 1986, the day a wholphin attempted to leap through the dolphin hoop. The wholphin ripped the hoop from the retaining wall along the outermost edge of the peninsula, permanently destroying the integrity and shape of the jetty. Later, members of the Buckbeeville Aerial Photography Society compared the damaged jetty to a "manatee," a "maimed otter," and a "sea dwarf." They were unable to corroborate these suppositions, however, due to lack of funding.

      Per Buckbeeville law, the wholphin was captured and euthanized by law enforcement officials.

      When asked by reporters whether or not he intended to aid in the rebuilding of Dolphin Jetty, Wilson replied that he didn't think so. He added, "I'm ninety-six years old. Most days I'm lucky to get out of bed."

The wholphin is a peculiar hybrid sea mammal created through the mating of a bottle-nosed dolphin with a "false killer whale" (Pseudorca crassidens). No one knows how the wholphin found its way into the Buckbee River.


Dear Editor,

Per your request, attached please find two prose pieces, "In the Buckbee Tower" and "Dolphin Jetty," by my client, Steve Meyer. With the author's permission, I feel I should disclose to you some additional background concerning the genesis of these works:

The stories were originally commissioned by Buckbee, a Writer, Inc., for inclusion in the video installation "Buckbeeville," which premiered at the AWP conference in New York City in 2008. Although the stories themselves were inspired by cable news, Meyer took pains to tailor the pieces to the unique spirit (and marketing requirements) of the Buckbeeville project. Buckbee personnel responded enthusiastically to the work, and we concluded our negotiations with a verbal agreement that the stories would be part of the installation.

You can understand my confusion, then, when I learned that Buckbee, Inc. had produced the video without including either of my client's submissions. My inquiry into the matter was met with a rather terse email reply, stating that the omission of Meyer's work was the fault of a junior video technician, and that there was, unfortunately, no remedy.

My communication with Buckbee representatives has since broken down. Indeed, my last five phone messages have gone unanswered.

My point in dredging up this unsavory business is simply to extend our gratitude at your willingness to repurpose these pieces, bastard children that they may be, for your publication. Meyer has indicated that he will be happy to change whatever place-names, identities, or facts in any way that might render the stories more appropriate to your project. Personally, I'd prefer to get these off of my desk as quickly as possible. But I will leave that decision to you, content with the knowledge that I, for one, will never do this again.

Incidentally, I spoke to Meyer, and he regrets that no further biographical information on Reginald "Reggie" Hayes or Alfred Wilson has been traced. He did want to relate the news that Mr. Wilson passed away on March 16 of this year, leaving his entire estate to the Dolphin Jetty Restoration Fund. Please let us know if you would like this detail incorporated into the existing text.

Thank you again for your patience.

Yours sincerely,
Seymour Watten
Watten, Grenier & Coolidge

Stephen Meyer lives with his wife and daughter in Missoula, Montana. His short stories have appeared in the Black Warrior Review, the North Atlantic Review, and CutBank. He has co-authored a screenplay, Baseball Country, based on the book Dock Ellis in the Country of Baseball by Donald Hall, and has contributed funny ideas to television shows. Meyer and his wife are preparing to publish their first zine.

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