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Bruce A. Jacobs
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The Black Advertising Copywriter Auditions for Political Drama

All he has to do, she says,
is pretend that he's a Vietnam vet
and that she's Japanese.

She's marked his lines with bullets.
His character asks hers,
"Where are you from?"
She pauses, says, "Chicago."
He says, "No. Before that."
She says, "Ohio." He says,
"No. Your parents. The ocean."
She says, "San Francisco,"
then hands him the rice,
his cue to flash back
to the nine-year-old girl
who blew off his right arm
with a grenade in a bowl.

"I've never had dinner with a psychologist
who writes plays," he says.
"Wait a minute," she says in Japanese,
"that's not in the script."
"Sure it is," he says. "After the rice.
I exhibit Post-Uncle Ben Stress Disorder.
You suggest that I write commercials
until I recall my own brand name.
Then the waiter hands me your bill
for eighty-five dollars."

She tells him to stay in character,
close his eyes, come closer,
imagine giving her a piggyback ride
through a muddy creek. Her tiny toes
skirting the cold. His hands
on her body, feeling for grenades.
He follows her orders across her skin.
"Good, good," she murmurs.
"Now call out my name."
"Uncle Ben, Uncle Ben," he says.
"No," she says. "Before that."

His mouth opens, an empty bowl
held by small brown fingers.

 

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