The Writing Disorder



New Fiction


by Katie Lattari

       It was what amounted to an outdoor room walled off from the open lands by one continuous hedge, shaped into a hollow square in the center of the Queendom, one wall facing flatly toward each of the cardinal points, north, south, east, and west. From above in the low whisping clouds, it looked like the top of a box with the lid off. Each side of the myrtle-green hedge was two feet thick, seven feet high, forty feet long. The Queen was perched in the center of this perfect-square room known as the Imperial Block (IB). Inside the Imperial Block (IB) were the Queen and her throne, both positioned exactly in the middle, equidistant from each myrtle wall, which was lush. Each myrtle leaf was plump, fortified with moisture, vitality. The vital myrtle wall constituted the border of the Imperial Block (IB) within the Queendom, the Imperial Block (IB) being the exact center of the Queen’s Queendom. The Queen was the fulcrum of the Queendom.
      At the center of each inside wall of the Imperial Block (IB) stood a sentry. At each inside corner of the Imperial Block (IB) stood a sentry. It was crowded in the Imperial Block (IB). The Queen’s throne rested on a swiveling platform in the middle of the Imperial Block (IB) so that she could direct her gaze into the seamless myrtle hedge in the direction of each of her eight sovereign Blocks for equal spans of time throughout the day and night, her Blocks split between the Cardinal and Semi-Cardinal Dominions (CD and SCD). There were the Northerly people of the Northern Block (NB), the Southerly people of the Southern Block (SB), the Easterly people of the Eastern Block (EB), the Westerly people of the Western Block (WB). Each of the Blocks in the Cardinal Dominion (CD) extended directly from the outside face of the associated Cardinal Wall (CW) of the Imperial Block (IB), and went on for miles in a forty-foot wide strip. Because each of the Cardinal Dominions (CDs) originated from their appropriate Imperial Wall (IW), the land that began exactly at each of the outside corners of the Imperial Block (IB) marked the beginning of the Blocks of the Semi-Cardinal Dominion (SCD). There was the North-Eastern Block (NEB), the North-Western Block (NWB), the South-Eastern Block (SEB), and the South-Western Block (SWB), each with their corresponding peoples. The people of the Semi-Cardinal Dominion (SCD) would ripen the blood of the people in the Cardinal Dominion (CD) by claiming that square-shaped land was better than rectangular-shaped land because it more closely resembled the Imperial Block (IB). The people of the Cardinal Dominion (CD) would ripen the blood of the people in the Semi-Cardinal Dominion (SCD) by saying that lands along the cardinal points were superior to those that lay between them, for those lands were ambivalent.
      Each of the eight Blocks had an associated People’s Color (PC); no one could remember if the People’s Color (PC) of each Block had been chosen by the Queen or by the people, but the people were faithful to their People’s Color (PC) regardless. The Northerlies dressed, decorated, painted, fashioned, decked, and otherwise ornamented themselves, their belongings and their dwellings in mauve. The Southerlies did the same with gamboges yellow, the Westerlies with majorelle blue, the Easterlies with bole brown. Each of the Semi-Cardinal Blocks (SCBs) took on a shade of black unique to one another; the North-Westerlies took on a sooty black; the North-Easterlies took on an inky black; the South-Westerlies took on a gray-black; the South-Easterlies took on a metallic black. The Imperial Block (IB) hovered in and around myrtle green, and served as the focal point to all colors, Blocks, Dominions, and peoples.
      In each of the Blocks was a Block Council (BC), a group of six elected officials who set about governing, punishing, appeasing, and helping the people of their Block. Of that six, one was appointed Attaché to the Imperial Block. The AIB, as he or she was commonly called, journeyed to the outside wall or corner of the Imperial Block (IB) that corresponded to the Block which they represented, where he or she logged formal complaints, compliments, suggestions, and requests to the sentry (who also acted as imperial scribe and imperial advisor), and who stood guard at a particular wall or corner inside the Imperial Block (IB) for that particular day. The eight Sentry-Scribe-Advisors (SSAs) rotated their positions once a week so that they became familiar with all of the affairs of all of the Blocks. (This mandatory rotation became necessary when a particular SSA within the IB was accused of becoming all too familiar with the affairs of a particular AIB outside the Imperial Hedge (IH). It was discovered that she, the SSA, was pregnant, and that a particular bachelor AIB was beginning to plan a baby shower). All of the formal complaints, compliments, suggestions, and requests were then passed on to the Queen, who swiveled her chair in the direction of the Sentry-Scribe-Advisor (SSA) whom she allowed to address her at that moment.
      For the most part, all of the business the AIBs ever had to take care of when they visited the Imperial Block (IB) had to do with complaints against the Blocks that most closely bordered their own. Each individual Attaché knew about the other seven that made up their Queen’s Sovereign Council (or QSC), as they often saw each other on the official monthly Day of Report (DR) at the Imperial Block (IB), at which time their reports passed from the Sentry-Scribe-Advisors (SSAs) to the Queen. For the Cardinal Dominions (CDs), Jin was the Attaché to the Imperial Block for the Northerlies, Quint for the Southerlies, Asbin for the Easterlies, Corsa for the Westerlies. For the Semi-Cardinal Dominions, Shellkin was the AIB for the North-Westerlies, Wassle for the North-Easterlies, Grania for the South-Easterlies, and Rommie for the South-Westerlies. Each AIB took their responsibilities very seriously, especially on Days of Report (DR), at which time all eight of them came clad heavily in their People’s Color (PC), and the periphery of the Imperial Block (IB) looked like a child’s pin wheel.
      Each Attaché to the Imperial Block (AIB) would take his or her place at the same time at his or her normal, designated wall or corner of the Imperial Block (IB) on Days of Report (DR). The AIBs from the Cardinal Blocks (CBs) would stand facing their Cardinal Wall (CW), exactly in the middle—twenty feet from the right corner, twenty feet from the left. The AIBs from the Semi-Cardinal Blocks (SCBs) would stand facing his or her normal, designated crisp myrtle corner, nose perfectly aligned with it. All faces were inches from the Imperial Hedge (IH). All hands were clasped comfortably behind their backs. There would be a three-minute period of silence while the AIBs accustomed themselves to her majesty’s Imperial Aura (IA). As the Queen sat inside, on her swivel-platform-throne, each of the eight Sentry-Scribe-Advisors (SSAs) would stand in their designated corner or at the center of their designated wall, facing the Imperial Hedge (IH), the nose of an SSA now separated from the nose of an AIB by only two feet of Imperial Myrtle (IM). The Queen would then direct her gaze at the back of one of the SSAs, pull up her scepter, and nudge him in the middle of the spine with it, letting him know the Day of Report (DR) for his Attaché to the Imperial Block (AIB) could begin; the SSA would prompt his or her corresponding AIB, and their Reporting would begin. The Queen would then swivel her throne an eighth of a complete revolution to the right, and prod the next SSA to begin Reporting with his or her corresponding AIB. The Queen would do this six more times, in succession, until all of the pairs were chatting noisily through the hedge, and the SSAs were jotting down notes and asking follow-up questions. As the Reports went on, the Queen would swivel an eighth, swivel an eighth, swivel an eighth, all the way around numerous times to catch snippets of news from across her Queendom as they came in.
      Jin of the Northern Block, Cardinal Dominion, was often complaining about how sheep from the North-Western Block, Semi-Cardinal Dominion, were wandering onto Northerly land, munching northerly grass and well-made Northerly shoes. The sheep stunk, Jin would gripe, their wool matted, caked in mud and fecal matter, reminiscent of their owners, he hated to say, for he knew many North-Westerlies had issues with hygiene, and now the sheep had picked up their bad habits too.These stinking North-Westerly sheep wandered around and barged into people’s homes, chewing at the sacred mauve window coverings in the schoolhouse, Jin would say. And they eat our well-made shoes. Shellkin of the North-Western Block, Semi-Cardinal Dominion, would glance over from his corner at Jin and tell his SSA that the Mauve Marys of the Northern Block (NB) didn’t make good shoes, never had, so the whole accusation was highly suspect, and thus no Taxes of Penalization (TPs) should be imposed on the North-Westerlies.
      Asbin of the Eastern Block, Cardinal Dominion, often accused Grania of the South-Eastern Block, Semi-Cardinal Dominion, his fellow AIB, of harlotry. Asbin claimed (at volumes Grania could easily hear over at her south-eastern corner) that harlotry was a well-known characteristic and vice of the South-Easterlies, and that he should not have to serve on the Queen’s Sovereign Council (QSC) with the likes of such a woman, for he was dutiful, and good, and she was whorish and bad. It is unjust, he would moan to his SSA, for a dutiful and good Block to have to neighbor a whorish and bad Block. Of all the Semi-Cardinal Blocks in all the Queendom! The QSC, the AIB continued to his SSA, was supposed to be made up of members who were fair representatives of their Blocks in general. What sort of example was Grania setting, then, for the already predisposed female youth of the South-Eastern Block? And if indeed Grania, the AIB to the Imperial Block (IB), was just one harlot among the whorish multitude of the South-Eastern Block, should not the Queen take action to either curb or eradicate such sinful agitators? What with their come-hither glances and perfumed skin? Supple bosoms and open arms? Should not the rest of us be able to live downwind of the fortifying aromas of boiling wool, baking bread, drying twine and not the heavy wafts of the Devil’s breath: skin, sex, and sin? It’s almost more than a man can take, Asbin would declare. Grania would place her hands on her hips and announce loudly to her SSA that she’d heard that Fasma, an old classmate of hers, had a running tab with a gigolo named Dirkgaard from the Eastern Block. Asbin would cry for Grania to stop, for she knew very well that was his son’s name, and Grania would laugh and nod and say exactly.
      Though the Queen had arranged for her Queendom to be divvied up as such, with eight Blocks split between two Dominions (the Cardinal and the Semi-Cardinal), which often caused these minor disputes, there was much intermarrying among the Blocks, especially the Semi-Cardinal and Cardinal Dominions, since each Block was neighbored by a Block that was unlike their own in either its full- or semi-Cardinality. This intermarrying led to difficult choices and complicated paperwork for the people; in which Block would they settle their family? Would relatives ever come to visit them in the North-Western Block if they left the Northern Block, though it was adjacent? And worse, what if a Northerly woman wanted to marry a Southerly man, or a Westerly man an Easterly woman, their meeting chancing on a rare Business and Commerce Trip (BCT) during which several representatives of one Block were allowed to travel around the entire Queendom, circling the Imperial Block, and forging through all the eight Blocks, both Dominions, to peddle their unique goods, wares, and skills? Since the lovers did not live in adjacent Blocks, they would need to obtain a Non-Adjacent-Block Nuptial Permit (or NABNP), which sometimes took months to be processed, and even if it was, would parents ever come to visit then? All the way across the Queendom? Requiring a Non-Adjacent-Block Visiting Permit (NABVP)? These things cost money. But despite the plenteous permits, and the general unwillingness of the people to cross borders (which were marked by nothing more than one People’s Color (PC) coming to an abrupt end at the abrupt beginning of a different People’s Color (PC), the line of demarcation stark and perfectly straight for all of the miles it had to travel) from their own Block to a different, unfamiliar Block, Inter-Blockian Marriages (IBMs) occurred, and Inter-Blockian Babies (IBBs) were born, the merging of families and cultures celebrated however weakly or strongly one’s family chose to. There was an Inter-Blockian Affairs Bureau (the IBAB), of course, and everyone in the Bureau always hoped (for the Queen’s nerves) that IBM paperwork came in to be processed before IBB paperwork, and not the other way around. The permits and fees were tiresome, but all of the Queen’s people filed for the proper permits, paid the proper fees, and married and visited whoever they wanted—as long as they were willing to wait through the sometimes eternal-feeling Period of Processing (PP).
      When the Queen had her baby, there were no permits or fees for her. The news had first broken on an official Day of Report (DR), three-quarters of the way through the year, as the eight AIBs had assembled at their appropriate Reporting Stations (RSs) outside the Imperial Hedge (IH). In one full-throated chorus, just at the close of the three minutes of silence required for the AIBs to adjust to the Imperial Aura (IA), the Sentry-Scribe-Advisors (SSAs) had announced: Your Queen is with Imperial Child. The news came through the hedge, and each of the Attachés had stared blankly into the myrtle foliage for a moment before Grania had asked: What? The SSAs then announced once more that the Queen was with Imperial Child. Each of the Attaches had leaned toward one another with question marks in their faces. An Imperial Child, an IC-- this had never happened before. The Queen had never been with IC. The whole of the Queendom, for as long as the Queendom had existed, had never seen an IC. No one in the Queendom knew how to react in response to this news, and things grew ever more complicated for all of the people in the Queendom, people of both the Cardinal and Semi-Cardinal Dominions, for their individual Attaches to the Imperial Block (AIBs), and even for the Queen's Sovereign Council (QSC) as a whole as time went on and more thought was given to this irregular happening.
      The news itself was one matter. The SSAs had notified the AIBs about the IC on an official DR. DRs were normally reserved for official business of the AIBs. Normally, when the Queen had Special Announcements (SAs) (and it could not be denied that this, perhaps, was the most special of announcements), she declared a Non Day of Report Special Announcement Convocation (NDRSAC) to take place at the next available moment. NDRSACs were declared for the dissemination of Very Important News (VIN), and even less often Very Important Imperial News (VIIN). The news of her state of being with IC had not been announced as VIIN, and not even as VIN. It had been announced during a regular DR with no special heading for what type of news it was. It was not regular.
      The matter itself was another matter. The Queen, it had been announced during a regular DR, was with Imperial Child (IC). The Queen, it was known, never left the Imperial Block (IB). The Sentry-Scribe-Advisors (SSAs) never left the Imperial Block (IB). There were eight SSAs in the IB along with the one Queen. Four of the SSAs were male. One of the male SSAs, then, had to be the father. The peoples of the Cardinal Blocks (CBs) and the peoples of the Semi-Cardinal Blocks (SCBs) had differing opinions about who the Imperial Father (IF) might be. Each of the AIBs for the different CBs and SCBs had come to know the voices of all eight SSAs over the years, had been able to differentiate easily between the male and female voices. All of the SSAs were nameless to the AIBs, but the AIBs had come up with nicknames for each of the SSAs over the years for easier referencing when they spoke of the SSAs to one another, and that now came in handy as they tried to figure out which male SSA could possibly be the IF. SSA IF candidate #1 was nicknamed Froggie. SSA IF candidate #2 was nicknamed Velvet. SSA IF candidate #3 was nicknamed Anvil. SSA IF candidate #4 was nicknamed Fog. As the months of the Queen's pregnancy went forward, clear lines had been drawn in the sand by each of the Cardinal and Semi-Cardinal Blocks as to who they believed the Imperial Father might be. The people of the Northern Block and the people of the North-Eastern Block believed that Froggie had to be the IF. Jin, AIB to the Northern Block (NB), and Wassle, AIB to the North-Eastern Block (NEB) often spoke and shared notes about the timbre and quality of Froggie's voice, the manner of his speech, the degree to which he was royal. To them and to their people, he sounded like a commanding man, tall. He sounded regal. He sounded like the Imperial father (IF). The people of the Eastern Block (EB) and the people of the South-Eastern Block (SEB) believed that Velvet had to be the IF. Asbin, AIB to the Eastern Block (EB), and Grania, AIB to the South-Eastern Block (SEB) often spoke and shared notes about the timbre and quality of Velvet's voice, the manner of his speech, the degree to which he was romantic. To them and their people, he sounded like a smooth man, lean. He sounded like a lover. He sounded like the Imperial Father (IF). The people of the Southern Block (SB) and the people of the South-Western Block (SWB) believed that Anvil had to be the IF. Quint, AIB to the Southern Block (SB), and Rommie, AIB to the South-Western Block (SWB) often spoke and shared notes about the timbre and quality of Anvil's voice, the manner of his speech, the degree to which he was strong. To them and their people, he sounded like a tough man, bulky. He sounded like a protector. He sounded like the Imperial Father (IF). The people of the Western Block (WB) and the people of the North-Western Block (NWB) believed that Fog had to be the IF. Corsa, AIB to the Western Block (WB), and Shellkin, AIB to the North-Western Block (NWB) often spoke and shared notes about the timbre and quality of Fog's voice, the manner of his speech, the degree to which he was soothing. To them and their people, he sounded like a level-headed man, comfortable. He sounded like a guide. He sounded like the Imperial Father (IF). For all of this analysis, though, no AIB could draw a straight answer out of any one of the SSAs on regular DRs, and all the while the AIBs could imagine the stomach of their Queen growing larger and larger, inside a baby, boy or girl, looking and probably cooing in sounds resembling either Froggie, Velvet, Anvil, or Fog.
      Froggie, Velvet, Anvil, or Fog. IF to the Queen's IC. The AIBs fished for information about the identity of the IF from all of the SSAs, but no hints or confessions were passing through the Imperial Hedge (IH) on DRs during those days. The IH had seemed to tighten up over the months, as the speculations grew wilder and wilder about who the IF to the Queen's IC could be. DRs grew more infrequent, and matters the AIBs needed to pass on to the Queen through the SSAs were left for later, always later. All any one of the AIBs on the Queen's Sovereign Council (QSC) could glean from the infrequent DRs was that the Queen was doing fine with her pregnancy, and the IC was fine as well. The Queen was the fulcrum of the Queendom. The Queen was growing more insular. The peoples of the Cardinal Dominion (CD) and the peoples of the Semi-Cardinal Dominion (SCD) were growing slightly worried, and more than that, they were growing impatient. Their AIBs, their members of the QSC, those representatives that were sent to their RSs at the IH on DRs were growing ineffectual. The Queen's words, decrees, updates, questions, always sent through her SSAs were growing more infrequent. DRs were growing more infrequent. Requests for permission to carry out Business and Commerce Trips (BCTs) were being ignored, as were the associated permit requests for such vital things as Non-Adjacent Block Visiting Permits (NABVPs), which were piling up at the Inter-Blockian Affairs Bureau (IBAB). The employees at the IBAB often made complaints to their respective AIBs, calling upon them to visit the IH, wait through the three-minute pause to adjust to the Imperial Aura (IA), nose to the Imperial Myrtle (IM), and tell their SSA that without the Queen facilitating things as she used to, signing off on all of the permits, licenses, and requests that came into the bureau and required her permission, her Queendom would fall apart. Inter-Blockian Babies (IBBs) were being born before the Queen ever stamped her Royal Seal (RS) on the appropriate paperwork, making the IBBs illegitimate and illegal. Inter-Blockian Marriages (IBMs) were occurring without the Royal Stamp of Approval (RSA) of the Queen, for the brides and grooms were tired of waiting for their back-logged NABNPs to go through. They were in love and they wanted to marry on a normal schedule like everyone else had before any talk of a coming IC had changed all of that.
      During this period in the Queendom, the allocations of NABNPs and NABVPs, requests to carry out BCTs, requests to validate IBMs and IBBs, and the general effectiveness of the IBAB were all slowing down almost to a halt. DRs ceased to take place. The peoples of the CBs and the SCBs grew worried. The AIBs to the peoples of the CBs and the SCBs grew even more worried. When some of the braver AIBs would sneak up to the IH, face the IM, sit through the three-minute waiting period to adjust to the IA, adjust his or her stance in the RS, and finally, in a whisper, address the SSA that always stood on the other side of the IH at this, an Unofficial Time of Address (UTA), the SSA would make no response. The AIB would receive only silence. The AIBs had each tried this at one time or another, and were always greeted with silence. DRs were no longer being held and impromptu addresses at UTAs were getting no response. The AIBs would walk away from the IN, the IH, the IM alone in the night without having received assurance that a desperately needed dissemination of VIIN, or VIN, or the calling of a NDRSAC, or at least the calling of a DR would happen soon or ever again.
      PCs rapidly grew tarnished, musty in the homes, schools, and shops of the peoples of the CBs and the SCBs. Peoples of the CBs journeyed to CW, brushed against the IM, saw IM fading. Peoples of the SCBs journeyed to IH, pressed nose against IM, smelled IM fading. Days passed. Weeks. AIBs sat, promised. Men grew beards. AIBs journeyed to IH. Listened for SSAs. SSAs silent. No VIIM. No VIM. No NDRSAC. No SA. No DR. BCT stopped. IBAB overwhelmed. IBBs. IBMs. NABNPs. NABVPs. No RS. No RSA. PP indefinite.
      IH. Grania stood Quint's shoulders. IB barren. IB barren. No Queen. The Queen was the fulcrum of the Queendom. The Queen was the fulcrum. The Queen was. The Queen.

During my senior year of undergraduate work, I was engaged in the writing of a creative thesis through the Honors College at the University of Maine, Orono. I decided to set the task of writing a collection of short stories for this project, with “Hegemony” being one of the later pieces I wrote for it. I began writing these short stories, which as a whole would later be entitled “The Soup,” in August of 2008. I finished with the entire 70-odd page project, made up of 18 stories, in April of 2009. The collection ranged from flash fiction (one story was one paragraph long made up of one sentence) to “Hegemony” at 12 pages, which for me, a writer who had always done flash fiction, felt like my War and Peace at the time. “Hegemony” came out of a desire to not do another first-person perspective piece of flash fiction, which had always been my comfort zone: let it be short and let me use “I.” But I had done many of those (and still do, with much delight), and felt the need to try and stretch myself somewhat for the purposes of the thesis, and for the purposes of wanting to grow as a writer. Instead of doing a very close first-person voice, I decided to a try a more distant, almost “archival” third-person voice, telling the How It Was of this certain “Queendom.” I left the local, the close, the “I”—the comfortable, in many ways—and traveled in to something that seemed to me to have a little more surface area, geography, and unwieldiness. To satiate my desire for a quirky voice in the midst of a distant third-person perspective, I decided to have the deterioration of the Queendom, with all its beaurocracy and tedium, be reflected in the deterioration of the language and communication system of the story; the cumbersome titles and abbreviations that had once helped facilitate business in the Queendom and in the writing would collapse upon themselves and become hindrances, reflecting the deterioration of the Queen’s role as facilitator and the Queendom itself. It seemed to me an indirect way of getting this distant third-person voice to have a bit more character, in much the same way crumbling mansions have “character.” All in all, “Hegemony” was an attempt to push my own boundaries as a writer—write longer, write in third person, and have the language systems of the story reflect the narrative arc—and see what interesting things might happen if I did.

      Katie Lattari is a Master’s degree student and teaching assistant in the English Department at the University of Maine, Orono, where creative writing in fiction is her concentration. Katie, who is a native of Brooklyn, New York, has been previously published in The Maine Review and Pennsylvania English. She currently resides in Winterport, Maine.

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