Vacuum: A novel in serial installments

This novel is being released in serial micro-chapters.  Scroll down for the beginning.  Updated every Tuesday morning.

Chapter 1: Knowledge (Kat), 1992


July 26, 1992

The Early Morning

13 Severespending Dr, North Something, Something: Kat sits, staring at the wall, on her bed, knees bent, reading 19th century poetry and wondering about the invention of Love.


Kat discovers, commits to, and records the following truths about love:

  1. Love is Hope in disguise
  2. Love is a word conceived of to trick women into cleaning houses
  3. Love can arrive when one is happy but it’s most interesting when she is sad
  4. Our parents don’t love us, only our lovers really do
  5. Love invites passionate imaginings
  6. Love is, in itself, a delusion
  7. Love is, in itself, the result of mixed emotions
  8. Love is an excuse for recreational mating
  9. Love is an excuse for recreational abuse
  10. Love is an excuse for wasting time
  11. Love is a waste of time
  12. Love is ordinarily a way for someone to waste my time
  13. Love is ordinarily just Time with someone else
  14. Love smells like a shower
  15. Love lives in the closet
  16. Love creates need
  17. Love shits out turds of self-confidence
  18. Love sweats in wooden African beads
  19. Love is that guy at every party with a guitar
  20. Love is a White man battle rapping
  21. Love is a little girl taking the train by herself
  22. Love is a deer who sits on the highway in the middle of the day
  23. Love is my father’s entire life
  24. Love is a novelty salt shaker
  25. Love is a Bristol board held up by a ten year old at a baseball game
  26. Love is a baseball game
  27. Love is a dad who brings home a trampoline
  28. Love is a married couple who vacations in Arizona annually
  29. Love is a cardboard box meant for keeping food fresh
  30. Love is a dating hotline
  31. Love is a church
  32. Love is a supermarket’s “Ethnic Aisle”
  33. Love is instant pudding
  34. Love is a celebrity rape case
  35. Love is an American election
  36. Love is a Canadian election
  37. Love is what we cry over when we don’t go to war
  38. Love is a white tattoo
  39. Love is most tattoos
  40. Love is a navel piercing
  41. Love is an aquarium
  42. Love is a decorative birdcage
  43. Love is taxidermy
  44. Love is a peace treaty
  45. Love is any television show made in the twentieth century
  46. Love is a cocaine addict
  47. Love is a Shirley Temple being drunk by a fifty-five year old man
  48. Love is an African safari
  49. Love is a pretty great reason to stay home
  50. Love is a video game about fake wars
  51. Love is a father with twenty kids he’s never met
  52. Love is a flower garden
  53. Love is a golf course
  54. Love is an Olympic sport
  55. Love is a spiritual workshop
  56. Love is a champion driver
  57. Love is a horse farmer
  58. Love is an environmentalist
  59. Love is satellite television
  60. Love is a wedding ring
  61. Love is the result of a desperate need to be loved


July 25, 1992


1120 BucketOfFilth St., East Something, Ontario: The Mailer’s Non-Residential Residency. Brain The Real Mail Man files Big Deb’s toe nails under an umbrella on a Persian rug and Tommy hides behind a lone-standing wall, in his non-room sleep space, writing definitions to things he can’t be ok with yet.


Tommy’s New Dictionary For The Age Of Men Who Don’t Look To Dictionaries (working title) has changed focus since Wayne The Dog’s death.

The project began as an exploration of his own body. During puberty, Tommy began asking himself about himself:

1) What is a Body?   A container for life.

2) What is Life? The object of living.

3) What is Living? Breathing.

4) What is Breathing? The process of oxygen cycling through the body, controlled by the lungs, mouth, nose and brain.

97) What is a Mouth? An opening on the face meant for speech and consumption.

98) What is Speech? The act of communicating via breath and language

99) What is Breath? The product of breathing, ordinarily mostly oxygen

100) What is Breathing? A mechanistic intake of breath via facial openings

101) What is a Face? Proof of personality.


The list has obvious rebounding tendencies.

Tommy is currently challenging himself to define skin. The challenge has grown since Wayne The Dog died.

Kat cried. She cried and she apologized for crying. She cried more. Tommy watched her cry. He hugged her. She hugged him very hard. Brian’s vision was distorted by the ORP. He didn’t know he had murdered a dog, further jeopardizing his job and probably a young girl’s emotional capacity for love. Without being asked, Tommy walked Kat home. Without being asked, he hugged her the whole way. Without being asked, he entered her empty Home with her.

The Home resented Tommy for being better company than it could ever be.  Summertime solitude for Kat was fun when her dog was alive.   Alone, she would be alone.

Tommy recognized loneliness.

Vulnerability sparked young love.

The two are alone together.

Now, Tommy relates all matters to Kat, his first love and his current nucleus of need.

He continues to work:

4002) What is Skin? Muscle and bone covering. Like fabric but, alive.

4003) What is fabric? Woven follicles, presented in sheets for coverings.

4004) What is a covering? An object that’s primary purpose is to exist over a subject usually for protection or, at times, strictly for embellishment

4005) What is Skin? Cells, woven, to either protect or embellish muscle and bone

4006) What is Skin? A gigantic embellishment.

4007) What is an Embellishment? Skin. For everything that doesn’t need skin.

4008) What is Skin? Unnecessary.

4009) What is Her Skin? If it’s her. I don’t know.

4010) What is Skin? Paint.

4011) What is Paint? A visual aid, meant to make logical pictorial sense of molecules.

4012) What is Her Skin? A picture of her.

Tommy’s focus devours Kat’s skin.

He must see her. The van is his only vehicle but he is too young to drive. He can only find her to love her on his mail route. Tommy waits, leaning his back against his non-room non-wall. His adolescent erection whispers damaging insults to the unhoused home in the unheated heat of the summer’s night.


July 12, 1992
9 AM
North Something, Something: A suburb. Known to those who live here as “The City”; known to those who live in The City as “Far”; unknown to everyone else.

These houses have devoured the antiquated. Greys of stone and metal youthfully imitate a traditional material conscious. Asymmetries remind residents that there is a way to be urban in suburbia. Contrived architectural eccentricities live here. People are hard to find.

Morning and evening are marked by the absence of trucks. Daytime features the vehicles of entrepreneurial labourers, lined along the curbless street. The trucks weep men, the day swallows the men, the men accomplish a day’s digestion and they waste until the trucks receive them again before sundown. Daytime is, therefore, distracted by the orderliness of work. Morning and Evening are usually bored.

Mail Slave Tommy has learned to arrive before the trucks. This morning, he rides through Presumption Street in North Something with his father, Brian The Real Mailman. Mail Slave Tommy agreed to be the Mail Slave because Brian is too deformed to leave his van.

Brian The Real MailMan suffers from Nostril DelinquentPrimacy. His nostrils never stopped growing, resulting in a massive pit for a nose and an uncontrollable overindulgence in Air. Problematically, people around him drop dead from oxygen deficiency. So far, four residents have fatally suffered from Brian’s physically uncontrollable overindulgence. Tommy has stepped in as Mail Slave to help secure his father’s employment. He loves his father. They ride in the van together.

Since puberty, Brian has worn an Oxygen Regulation Pump (ORP), allowing for nearly normal interactions with regular-breathers. Previous to the pump, Brian killed a lot of people. He was forced to be homeschooled after his entire Kindergarten class dropped dead due to a generalized shortness of breath. His mother dropped dead homeschooling him for similar reasons. And so on.

Brian met his wife Large Deb when they were both inpatients at The Human Exceptionality Clinic (HEC). Deb is 9”11 and insatiably hungry, a common condition known to many as “Tall Girl Symplasiastic Hyper-Growth Disorder”. Brian and Deb created Tommy. Tommy is unfortunately tall but his nose is impeccable. The giant family lives in a home with no walls and no ceilings. They are essentially homeless but only because they built their home that way.

“The people need ya, Tommy, they need ya, they need ya mail.” Brian speaks through the ORP. The ORP is roughly the size of a miniature nuclear weapon or an elephantine gumball. The ORP’s Suction Enhancement Security Device (which keeps oxygen from leaking) covers Brian’s entire face, enhancing T, S and P sounds with an exorbitant puff of saliva. “The people can’tch getch ya mail witchout ya, they can’tch getch it, they can’tch.” Brian is often dissatisfied with the sound of his words, repeating them in case of miscommunication. Tommy has mastered the face of a young man listening. Together, they prove how dedicated mailmen can be.

Tommy walks up the driveway of a mansion with grief- built garages and white window blinds.  He wants to believe that only very large people live in such large houses. But, he knows, very tall people can’t afford large houses because they grow up constantly breaking ceilings, eventually in debt from all the repairs. Still, as Tommy delivers mail, he imagines his family living in a North Something house allowing room for all three of them to stand up and breathe.

Perhaps this home was built for the height of successes since Mr. Ollington is a very impressive and important member of the medical community and Mrs. Ollington had very nice hair.  Though, despite Mr. Ollington being such an impressive and important member of the medical community, she died (most likely for lack of happiness). Kat Ollington, the daughter, survives for now.

Kat likes to walk her dog before the trucks come out. Kat has seen Tommy. Kat sees Tommy today.

“Why are you the mailman?” She asks.

Tommy is mid-driveway, approaching the in-door mail slot.

“I’m not.”   He says.

“Then why do you have the mail?” She asks

“It’s yours.” He says.

“But why do you have it if you’re not the mailman?”

Tommy would answer properly but he is afraid of dogs.

“This is my dog, Wayne.”

“I’m afraid.”

“Of dogs?”


“He’s very harmless. He also only weighs 20 lbs.”

“But he has teeth.”

“So do you.”

She laughs. He looks at her.

“You’re very beautiful.”

Tommy’s parents are ugly enough for him to confidently identify beauty. Kat’s face transforms into discomfort. He hands her the mail. She takes the mail.

“I don’t want this.” She says.

“It belongs in that slot.”

“I’m not the mailman.”

“Me neither. My dad is. But he can’t come out because you might die.”

Kat likes how sad Tommy is. He is sad enough to be honest.

“Can I go in the van?”

“I have to go—“
Kat enters the van believing it to be another fantasy she is entitled to.  Tommy watches her, amused by her beauty and certain of his own novelty.

Brian can’t see who is getting in the van because the ORP distorts his vision. Assuming his son has returned, he drives. Tommy remains in the driveway. Brian returns.

“I thoughtch your friend wasch’u.”


“Get’ch in.”

Tommy sits with Kat. Wayne the dog places a paw on Tommy’s thigh. Tommy holds his breath. Kat has also stopped breathing. Wayne breathes for the two of them. The van drives. Kat’s knees become a shared focal point for the two young maybe-lovers. The van stops.

Brian hands Tommy the mail. Tommy and Kat leave the van together. Wayne breathes heavily.

“I don’t even know you’re name.”


“Tommy.  I don’t think you should be in the van with us. My dad breathes hard enough to kill people.”

Kat laughs.

“No. I’m serious.”

“I don’t feel sick.”

“Oh.  Just, sometimes people aren’t used to my dad’s breathing and they die.”

“I don’t feel dead.”

“That’s good.”

“I just wanted to see the inside of a mail van.  Also, I, for some reason, I thought you’d be driving but.”

“I can’t drive yet.”

“Yeah.”  She laughs. “I know.”

Humidity bursting, they sweat together briefly.

They deliver the mail. They return to the van. Wayne the dog lies without panting.

Brian has one hand on the dog, one hand on his ORP, “I tshould have, I tshould have…tchanged the thing for the dog…but I didn’t.”

Brian has killed Wayne.