The Art of Tetman Callis First Bundle of Documents (from The Olive Drab Footlocker)

First Bundle of Documents (from The Olive Drab Footlocker)

First published in Litro, Story Sunday, May 29 2022. Copyright 2022 by Tetman Callis.

            Is it turtles all the way down?


             The supreme principle is the monad. The monad is also a second principle, along with the dyad. The monad and the dyad are the male and female principles. They mate in the usual fashion, with the forms in the mind of monad limiting the limitless dyad. Out of this union comes the logos, which is also the expression of the monad’s ideas in action. From the logos come the active principles of the monad, his creative and ruling principles, which happen also to be the dyad.


            Kindergarten class picture, at the American School in Vicenza, Italy. You had your first girlfriend then. She’s the dark-haired girl sitting in the front row, wearing a blue and white sailor dress with a double row of gold-colored buttons and a little red bow like a knotted neckerchief. Her hands are in her lap and she’s looking down at them. It’s hard to see her face, but you can see that she is frowning. You remember she was crying and you don’t remember knowing why.

            But you’re not crying. You and the three boys standing closest to you are smiling and laughing, you don’t remember what about. You’ve unbuttoned the top button of your shirt and have one hand jammed into your front pocket. You were feeling sassy and bold.

            You liked your teacher. Her hair is upswept in a gravity-defying bouffant. You had a crush on her daughter, who was also in the class. You don’t remember which one she was. She wasn’t the dark-haired girl.


            The sage is self-sufficient, and needs neither friends nor countrymen.


            Third-grade class picture, at the elementary school in the El Paso neighborhood where you grew up. In the top row there’s Freddy White, who was sometimes your friend. You and he book-end that row, Freddy at the left and you at the right, both of you with big smiles and buzz cuts and ears sticking out.

            There’s Kenny Gato, in the middle row, who was also your friend for a while. You went to his house to play. He knew about Lon Cheney and Boris Karloff and you didn’t. He and two other boys harassed you at school after you’d become a Jehovah’s Witness.

            There are the girls, all of whom are wearing skirts or dresses. They weren’t allowed to wear pants to school. One is wearing her Brownie uniform. One was a girl who had a crush on you but she was chubby and you didn’t like her because of that. One was a girl who cried nearly every day. This earned her caring attention from the teacher and classmates. You wanted some, too, so you tried crying. But you didn’t have anything to cry about, not yet, and they could tell you were faking.

            There’s June Butler, next to Kenny. She was pretty and you liked her. Freddy White liked her, too. A few years later there was a rumor of incest. June was quiet and in high school she was gorgeous.

            There’s Lorry Ash, in the top row. She had an overbite and a lisp, and an older brother and sister. You and Lorry had an odd affair your first year in high school. By then, girls were allowed to wear pants. You don’t remember if Lorry did. The two of you sat next to each other in History class, passed notes and sat with your legs touching. You talked on the phone in the evening and she told you she was horny and would probably become a whore. You were still a virgin. Her sister was wild and all the boys knew. Her brother was serious and never smiled. Their parents were divorced. The summer after your freshman year, you saw her at a park and she told you she was pregnant. That autumn, she took an overdose of sleeping pills.


            We are only human and we must all die before our work is done.


            Fifth-grade class picture, same school. There’s Freddy White again, ears still sticking out but no more buzz cut. The times were changing and none of the boys wore buzz cuts anymore. The girls still had to wear skirts or dresses.

            There’s Aimee Chambers. You fell as in love with her as is possible for any boy to do with any girl. So in love you were always tongue-tied around her. Your second wife saw this photograph and you pointed out who Aimee was and your wife said, She looks so sweet. In high school photography class she wrote her name on the back of a photograph you had taken and passed it off as her own. You never asked her why. You still have the photograph.

            There’s Cheryl Waterman, standing next to Aimee. You slapped her in sixth grade. She slapped you first for being in her way and you slapped her back and got in trouble for it, though not much. You sat on her porch swing on an autumn night in high school and kissed her.

            Next to Cheryl is a girl whose name you don’t remember but you do remember she had a crush on you and was loud about it and you were embarrassed. She’s a pretty girl in a Girl Scout uniform with plenty of merit badges. Why didn’t you go for her? She was probably smart and ambitious and going places in life. You could be well-to-do now and live in a house.

            There’s Wendy Cippio, a petite blonde with a minor speech defect that was cleared up. You thought she was very cute and slipped a love note into her lunch box. In high school she had a cool boyfriend who played electric guitar in a band and had long hair and you were intimidated.

            There’s Andrea Jacobs. You fell in love with her, too, for a season, in high school.

            There’s Sharon Newcastle, a pretty and vivacious girl who killed herself after high school, you don’t know why.

            There’s Kenny Gato and the two other boys who harassed you. You punched one of them in the nose. Onward, Christian soldier.

            There’s Daniel Davis, who was your connection after you started smoking marijuana. He went to prison, found God, got out, and died of heart failure.

            There’s Billy King. His father died in Vietnam.


            As a literary device, the insertion of this disclaimer at this point is curious and somewhat disruptive, as it seems more appropriate to the introduction or summary of the whole piece.


            Sixth-grade class picture. No Freddy White. His father was a missile worker and the family moved to Saudi Arabia. They had lived on Kwajalein Atoll before they came to El Paso.

            There’s John Kuhl, your best buddy that year. He taught you how to draw cunts. After high school he murdered a boy you didn’t know but whose name you knew and face you recognized, and he raped the boy’s girlfriend. He’s in prison and will be there the rest of his life.

            The other boys don’t count.

            There’s Sharon Newcastle again, and Andrea Jacobs, too. And there’s Sharon Murphy, who was Grant Collier’s girlfriend in middle school, which was called junior high school until experts determined junior was a disparaging judgmental identifier in this context and banished it. Grant was a year ahead of you until he flunked eighth grade and he and you became friends. He lived in the house across the street from the house you grew up in. Sharon died of cervical cancer before she was thirty. Grant died of AIDS at age thirty-four.


            Metarelativity is beset by various problems in both formulation and interpretation. After repeated attempts to detect tachyons failed to produce conclusive results, the theory came to be regarded as an interesting metaphysical curiosity.


            What do you think about the attendance of the students at pep rallies?