Poems and Texts

from “Jeff” by Jess Arndt

from “Jeff”

The first time I met Lily Tomlin she was so nice. She called me Jeff. “Hi Jeff,” she gushed. I’d been her bartender but she only drank water. “Hi Lily,” I blushed back. What a warm handshake, what a firm and knowing grasp!
        “Wow!” my pal said from her barstool, “Is she progressive or what? She didn’t even bat an eyelid!”
        “I think she just thought my name was Jeff,” I said.
        That was the only time I met Lily Tomlin, our solo tete a tete. But Jeff stuck. Actually Jeff had been trailing me for sometime. My box was stuffed with Jeff A____ bills and junkmail. Jeff was horrible, like an insurance salesman. That’s how I pictured him—thick neck, coarse red fur sprouting from his ears. I knew he wore a Mormon-white short-sleeve button down and that his lips had zero color but were the texture of banana peels stretched tight.
        Jeff gave me the heebie-jeebies.
        How to then explain the small satisfaction at reading my universe-generated new name? I mean it’s very similar, first two letters—same. Next two letters—not same, but double, which leads me to an auxiliary concern: is “f” intrinsically more masculine than “s”?
        It felt like a consolation gift. Like the universe saying, Hey, sorry about that boob thing. Oh and we kind of flubbed it dividing the world in half, and language as enforcer of binary divide? Yeah. Not to mention bathrooms. OOPS. But gosh, well . . . here’s Jeff.

Jess Arndt

Jess Arndt received her MFA from the Milton Avery Graduate School of the Arts at Bard College and was a 2013 Graywolf Fellow and 2010 Fiction Fellow at New York Foundation for the Arts. Her action text “Collective Body Possum” performed with The Knife’s Shaking the Habitual world tour and her writing has recently appeared in Fence, BOMB, Aufgabe, Parkett, and Night Papers. She is a co-founder of New Herring Press and lives and works in Los Angeles. Her debut collection of short stories, Large Animals, comes out this spring from Catapult Press.

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