THE ADDENDUM is a showcase of my favorite writings. My personal hope is that others will be able to enjoy and appreciate these works, and possibly serve as a hook for other writings by the authors.

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Kissing in Manhattan (an excerpt)
by David Schickler

My name is Patrick Rigg, and I'm thirty-three years old. I'm also a millionaire, because when I was six, my older brother, Francis Rigg, was killed unexpectedly by Guppy The Wonder Fish. My family lived near Chicago at the time, and Francis and I always begged our parents to take us to Guppington Estates, a theme park on the city's outskirts. Guppington Estates was one of these bizarre start-up American theme parks. Guppy, the central character, was a stout orange fish who wore a black tuxedo and a monocle. He spoke impeccable English and munched on pralines, but he also knew jujitsu. Guppy's afternoon cartoon show aired in Chicago and maybe everywhere. Each episode started with Guppy minding his own business, browsing through a bookstore, drinking latte, looking for collectible editions of Joseph Conrad titles. Usually, Guppy had by his side his classy fish Girlfriend, Groupy. Groupy was incredibly well read, with a killer figure. She and Guppy would exchange witticisms and hold fins until the Large mouths showed up. The Largemouths were rough-cut, troublemaking bass, who, for reasons unclear to me as a child, followed and tormented Guppy every episode. They seemed to resent that Guppy was well born, and that he had a sexy girlfriend, while they were just punks as far as fish went. Bear in mind that none of this made any sense whatsoever. In any case, the Largemouths would pester Guppy and shove him around and call him a square, but their big mistake—which they made unfailingly every episode—came when they began insulting Groupy. As soon as that happened, Guppy would remove his monocle, hand it to Groupy, and say quietly: "This I cannot endure." Then, with lethal exactitude, Guppy would kick the living snot out of the Largemouths. He employed elegant, bone-crushing jujitsu moves, and when he was finished, there was a pile of dead fish carcasses on the floor beside him.

Francis and I worshipped Guppy. Francis, who was three years my elder, would sit with me every afternoon to watch Guppy on TV, and after the show we would act out the carnage we'd just witnessed. Francis was always Guppy by virtue of Seniority, and I was a Largemouth. Basically, my brother and I just pounded on each other till one of us bled or cried or it was time for dinner, but I always resented being labeled a Largemouth. The punches I threw were real, indignant and sloppy, and they cost Francis one tooth and two black eyes in the years before out last trip to Guppington Estates.

The Estates was a fancy theme park. It featured the Hard Rock Bass Cafe, and Blowy's Bookstore, and all the other places that some marketing genius convinced me were normal fish hangouts. I might've asked my parents a million questions about why Guppy didn't live underwater and why he adored pralines, but I don't remember such questions. All I remember are the utterly kempt streets of Guppington Estates, and most especially, Guppy's mansion. The mansion was the coolest part of the park. Inside it were dazzling chandeliers and a wet bar where you could purchase pralines and imitation champagne. In the mansion's backyard was a giant Plexiglas fishbowl, Guppy's swimming pool. The bowl was probably thirty feet high and just as wide and it was filled with blue foam to simulate water. The idea was, your parents bought you a ticket and you were issued a Largemouth fish-head helmet. Then you climbed a staircase to the rim of the bowl and waited in line on a platform. Some guy in an eight-foot-tall Guppy suit stood at the head of the line. When you got up to him, you could throw a couple punches at Guppy and he'd fake some whimsical groans and moans, so your parents could get their money's worth. Then Guppy would holler, "This I cannot endure!" and swat you across the butt with a fin, sending you over the rim of the bowl into the pit of the blue foam. You got to clown around in the foam for a while with other kids and then an attendant plucked you out.

If it sounds dangerous, it was. The platform was high, and poorly fenced in. Also, it's amazing that no kid ever asphyxiated in that foam. Bear in mind, though, that this was the early 1970s, and neither parents nor children were very clear about what the hell was going on. You had to be eighty years old to dive into the bowl, and you had to wear a helmet, but that was it. I'm sure theme-park ordinances are far more rigorous now, but back then, standing on the rim of Guppy's sky-high fishbowl seemed like a perfectly sanctionable activity for a child. At least, it was sanctionable until Guppy swatted my brother Francis too hard and Francis glanced off the bowl's outer rim, plummeted thirty feet, and crashed headfirst into the ground in front of my parents and me. I'd been sulking around the base of the bowl, bitter that I was too young to be swatted by Guppy. Francis landed three feet from me. He was wearing his Largemouth helmet when he fell, but I heard his neck crack. It sounded exactly like it sounds in the movies, quick, clean, and sure, like a snapped wishbone. I knew he was dead as soon as I heard that sound and saw the weird twist in Francis's neck. I knew it before my mother screamed, before my father raced to his limp, fish-headed son. I knew my brother was dead, and in that moment I knew something else, something that a lifetime of nightmares and bullshit therapy and millions of sympathy dollars bequeathed to me by the defunct Guppington Estates Corporation has never been able to erase or rectify. My brother's death was absurd. It was an accident, yes, a progression of unforeseen, unfortunate split seconds in time, but when all was said and done, my brother was lying there dead with a fish helmet on, and his head was twisted in a silly way that heads shouldn't twist, and it was absurd.

Later, when I saw Francis in his coffin, I cried, because I understood that he would never punch me again. Today I live in Manhattan and trade millions of dollars in stocks every day, and Francis will never get to know this city—the glory of its money or the smell of its women. If your first temptation is to say, How tragic, my first temptation is to stick a gun down your throat and pull the trigger. You weren't there. You didn't see the twist of Francis' neck or his stupid fish helmet. Your mother didn't die of depression because of that twist and that helmet. Your father probably doesn't live as a recluse in his Adirondack hometown, and you probably don't send him checks every month to keep him in his deer-blind bliss. My brother's death wasn't tragic, it was ridiculous. It was point-blank absurdity, Francis's death was, and it wrapped itself around my life forever, like a straitjacket with clunky buckles.

So that's how I wake up every day, with the straitjacket—the absurdity of Francis's death and the absurdity of just about everything—tight around my skin. I brush my teeth, I eat Special K, I make money, I drink whiskey, and I'm capable of laughing. But none of these things ever loosens the straitjacket. There are only three things that accomplish that feat, three things that I take seriously, three things that let me relax a little. I do these three things without fail. Here is what I do. I carry a gun every day, I listen to a priest every evening, and, almost every night, I tie up beautiful women in my bedroom.