The Greenman Stories 

Fiction by Bill Cope with illustrations by Mike Flinn

Introduction by Dr. Humberto B. Flange

Excerpted from the introduction:

Abbe Romaine D' Viché-Eau probably said it best over three centuries ago: "Who among us, if given a choice between reading 10 pages or a thousand, wouldn't chose the former?"

And such is the ages-old charm of the short story—i.e. shortness. Chyroonius the Elder knew it, even if the verbose and pompous Chyroonius the Younger didn't. Yet to our impoverishment, after centuries of listening to European academics and by-the-pound word vendors singing the praises of the longer genres, we have largely forgotten Chyroonius the Elder and his delightful XXV-words-or-less Abbreviati, while Chyroonius the Younger (in particular his absurdly interminable The Massage Maidens of Horus) is standard fare in sophomore literature courses from Orono to Eugene.

Three millennia later—after slogging through Virgil, Beowulf, Dante, Chaucer, Voltaire, Tolstoy, Dickens, Proust, Dostoevsky, Melville, James and Collins—we are finally blessed with writers who understand the value of (as the astonishing talent from Argentina, Larry Borges, put it), "... getting to the point." Poe, O'Henry, Twain, Thoreau, Thurber, Bradbury and now ... W.E. Greenman, writing under the nom de plume, Bill Cope. And what a delicious irony in his choice of "Cope" as a pen name. After all, what is "I cope" if not a much more succinct way of saying, "I have come to terms with circumstances as they currently exist, and I hold a generally hopeful attitude that the situation in question will resolve itself in a somewhat satisfactory manner?"

Ah, if only James Joyce had learned such shortcuts!

Excerpted from the short story "Two Assassins:"

The Governor began to speak and the crowd began to listen. Art's old high school band cradled trombones and piccolos on their laps and gave a passable imitation of adult attention.

"THEY ... HAVE LED US DOWN THE PATH TO A PLACE DECENT MEN CANNOT ABIDE." The sound system echoed as though a host of basketball players were dribbling their words. "THEY ... HAVE LED US DOWN THE PATH TO ENTROPIC WASTE."

So it's up to me thought Art. Up to me and Dad's deer rifle. "So it's up to me," he said to the other assassin.

"THEY ... HAVE LED US DOWN THE PATH FROM WHICH ONLY THE STRONGEST RETURN." If God had the benefit of reverb, He would sound like the Governor.

"Maybe it is up to you, Mister. Maybe it is. I'll give you the first shot, just on the off chance you're right about my mag'um here. You don't know what a mag'um can do, so's I have to give you the first shot. It's jus' plain the polite thing to do, so don't thank me. But you gotta know, if you fuck it up ... like if after you shoot, his head is still sitting there like a duck too dumb to move ... I'm gonna back ya' up. I'd die before I let that sonovawhore tear down what good men put up."

"THEY ... HAVE LED US DOWN THE PATH OF MODERNIST ...

"We could both shoot at once," offered Art.

... RELATIVISTIC ...

"It's a purdy bitty window. Will we both fit?"

... NEO-BOURGEOIS ...

"We'll both fit. All we have to get through there is two bullets."

... POST-RATIONALISM!"

The believers covered the basketball floor like decaying leaves. A mushroom of concurrence swelled from them and burst, spewing forth noise like spermatozoa.

Neither assassin had shoulders too broad to be in the other's way. They separately found a comfortable stance from which to kill the snappy man below. Art took up the rifle and stroked the stock. The other said, "You know, Mister, you look a bit unfamiliar with the sculpted figure a man and his firearm should make."

"Bite my ass," said Art.

"I don't kid around about things like that. You look like you learned to kill someone from a three-page instruction manual."

"I ... CAN LEAD US BACK!" The Governor's voice skimmed the ocean of crowd noise like a champion surfer.

"Who are you to question me? What have you ever shot with that magnum? What are you so proud of?"

"I ... CAN BRING US BACK. BACK FROM THE MURKY DEPTHS TO WHICH HAZY LOGIC AND OVER-EXTENDED CHARITY HAVE PROPELLED US."

"Mister, I spent years practicin'. I spend every night sightin' down on the shadows my neighbors make as they go about their lives. I ain't never been more ready. I got the smooth action lesser men'd die for. I got nerves you wouldn't have, Mister, if'n you were a puma. Look at me now. I got the sonovawhore's head on the top of my sights like a circle on a square. Can you say that?"

Art could say none of those things. The sight on the barrel of his father's deer rifle was jitterbugging. "I WILL TAKE YOU BY THE HAND AND LEAD YOU WHERE YOU'VE ONLY DREAMT OF GOING."

"Let's just get this over with," said Art. "I want to kiss my kids before they fall asleep. And I was going to edge the lawn first thing in the morning."

"Okay, Mister. I need to git home myself. We got company visitin' and I told 'em I was just going out to ice down the worms."

"WITH YOUR HELP ... WITH THE MIGHT OF OUR COMBINED CHORUS ... WE WILL ROLL OVER OUR DETRACTORS LIKE A GREAT WHITE WHEEL."

Both assassins berthed their guns and both took a long breath.

"WE WILL TRAMPLE THEM UNDERFOOT AS IF THEY WERE CHALK FIGURES ... PINK ... SCRAWLED ON SIDEWALKS BY STUNTED GNOMES OUTSIDE THE SEEDIEST OF DWELLINGS."

Art tightened on the trigger so slowly the germs on his index finger had time to move before the crush. The other gunman hunched down like an egg-laying ape.

"WE WILL MARCH, FOUR ... NO, FIVE ABREAST, OUT OF THIS ABYSS AND THOSE WHO NOW GIGGLE TOGETHER IN THE NIGHT SHALL TREMBLE BEFORE OUR PARADE!"

"Do you want to count, or shall I?" asked magnum man.

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