Read Good People Online

Authors: Robert Lopez

Good People


“[Lopez's fiction] bears genetic traces of Beckett and Stein, but [his] powerful cadences and bleak, joyful wit are all his own.” —
Sam Lipsyte
, author of
The Fun Parts
Home Land

“A contemporary writer to look up to . . . [Lopez] is a word-storm, a force of literary nature come unhinged, blowing shutters against readers' houses.” —

“Lopez's prose is more like a great jazz performance: pointedly provisional, even damaged, and solicitous of audience participation . . . intoxicating as the best Coltrane.” —
Review of Contemporary Fiction

“Lopez's ability to create an authentic, consistent voice . . . is remarkable. . . . Reads completely new and true.” —
Quarterly Conversation

“Lopez examines the almost inherent dysfunction present in modern relationships. [They're] like Rated-R version[s] of a Raymond Carver story.” —
Ampersand Review

“Lopez's layering of words is astounding. His diction may appear ordinary, but the space between what is said and what the reader hears is profound.” —

“[Lopez writes] stories with openings that suggest mirth, luring in the reader only to subject them to something much more unsettling: relationships upended, perceptions failing, boundaries literal and metaphorical entirely shifted.” —
Vol. 1 Brooklyn

“Literary pleasures like [reading Lopez] are all too uncommon.” —
Laird Hunt
, author of
Kind One

“Lopez and his writing are original and pure, fearless and hypnotic. He is one of the brave protagonists of American literature.” —
Michael Kimball
, author of
Big Ray

“Gets under you skin and latches on.” —
Brian Evenson
, author of

“[Lopez's world] is an affectless poetics planet caught in the black-hole gravity of a Stephen Dixon-esque free-falling narrative sink.” —
Michael Martone
, author of
Four for a Quarter
The Blue Guide to Indiana



Kamby Bolongo Mean River

Part of the World

First published in the United States in 2016 by Bellevue Literary Press, New York

For information, contact:

Bellevue Literary Press

NYU School of Medicine

550 First Avenue

OBV A612

New York, NY 10016

© 2016 by Robert Lopez

This is a work of fiction. Characters, organizations, events, and places (even those that are actual) are either products of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously.

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
is available from the publisher upon request

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopy, recording, or any information storage and retrieval system now known or to be invented, without permission in writing from the publisher, except by a reviewer who wishes to quote brief passages in connection with a print, online, or broadcast review.

Bellevue Literary Press would like to thank all its generous donors—individuals and foundations—for their support.

The New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Legislature

This project is supported in part by an award from the National Endowment for the Arts.

Book design and composition by Mulberry Tree Press, Inc.

First Edition

1 3 5 7 9 8 6 4 2

ebook ISBN: 978-1-942658-03-0

For My Mother


Family of Man on Isle of Wight


Guiding Eyes for the Blind Dog Training School

The Problem with Green Bananas

Goodnight Maybe Forever

Anytime, Sweet

Welcome to Someplace Like Piscataway


Good People

The Human Cost

Now I Am Doubled Over

The Sky Was Everywhere Like Water

I Want to Kiss Myself, Good God

A Regular Day for Real People

Someone Great Like Socrates

Why We're Trapped in a Failed System

A Cloud That Looks Like Jesus

Christine and Grace, Naturally

Big People Everywhere

How to Direct a Major Motion Picture


Family of Man on Isle of Wight

something to you, if we can take a moment together, spare a little time reaching out as we catch up over coffee because I know we're all busy, we have things to do, there's laundry, there's what to have for dinner, there's dental hygiene and all the rest, but for now let me say this, please if I may and then I'll let me go, I promise, you can hold it to me, you can trust me, you know you can trust me, look at my face, see, do you see what I mean by the look on my face, good, I know, because I will swear a blood oath if that's what you require, I want you to rest assured, I want you totally at ease, listen, I am at ease and you know this, everyone knows this, I aim to please and am only too happy, so if you insist let's consider it a tontine, yes, good, even if you don't know what that word means, because what's a definition anyway, I myself am not defined by words and neither
are you, but believe me, it's a real word, tontine is, I heard it once on TV, an old man said it while weeping, a comrade had died in his arms, in battle on the battlefield, while the bombs were bursting above him, he was there alone and weeping, the dead comrade in his arms, it was all very moving, the naked emotion, the smoldering, wasted landscape, he on his own, aggrieved, bereft, so you know he didn't make it up, not like that, under those circumstances, but the truth is the truth and it is unavoidable, we can't put it off any longer, we need to face facts together, as a group, as a family, if you will, because we are a family if you think about it, even if you don't think about it we are a family, who says you have to think about it to make it so, to make a family, families aren't ideas and anyone who says so is a liar, like my uncles, they were all of them liars, every last one of them, none of them died on the battlefield like that, not like they said they did, listen, I'm not trying to cast aspersions, be divisive, we are all family here, the family of man, the isle of white, I don't know what that is, the isle of white, although I think it's isle of wight, I think it's spelled wight instead of white, but I can't say for sure, I always thought of the family of man living on the isle of white, in my imagination it looks like heaven, like the Garden of Eden, if there was a Garden of Eden, which there probably wasn't, but that doesn't matter because there's strength
in numbers, and we have them, we have numbers, they can't take away our numbers, so, here it is, the truth, unvarnished and naked and appalling, here it is, are you ready for it, I don't think you're ready, you don't look ready, you look unwell if you ask me, you look peaked, worn-out, frazzled, I'm worried, have you seen a doctor, you should see a doctor, make an appointment for tomorrow morning, take a physical, it couldn't hurt, change your diet maybe, do some deep knee-bends, do some push-ups, do something for God's sake, I mean take a look at yourself, it's not pretty is it, but what do I know, I don't know anything, that much is clear, maybe after all that you'll be ready, maybe then I'll take one look and think, yes, you're ready, because we have to be ready, this is war, after all, and we have to be ready for it, we have to be ready to charge onto the battlefield and lay down our lives, but what does it mean to be ready, how does one get themselves ready, even if we are ready or even if we look ready the truth is we are never ready, we're never ready for what's in store, for what comes next, not out there on the battlefield, alone, weeping, it's awful, so it doesn't matter that you're not ready because neither am I and we have to move on, we have to let go, we can't let this stop us now, nothing can stop us now, not anymore, so here it is, at last, here, moving forward and looking back, I haven't been nowhere in forever, there, I've said it, I'm
not kidding, not even once, not even for a little while, not even as a break in the day, a brief respite from the grind, a fucking breather I tell you, not that I couldn't use a breather, because I can, I need a break, I'm being honest here, all right, I'm not sure I can take it anymore, it's starting to get to me, the bombs bursting, the comrades dying in arms, I'm burning out, I'm winding down, it's all happening so fast and I can't keep up, listen, I'm no different, I need a good night's sleep and three squares a day, a complete balanced diet, a rich interior life, someone to rub up against every so often, someone to bump into, but I don't have these things, I don't think, not that I could remember anyway, not so you'd notice, the memory fades, it's true, like water down a fountain, like God on a battlefield, take me for example, I'm no different, not in height or weight or deportment, not in practice or habits, I spend most of my time seated, only stand when I have to, am registered to vote, all the rest of it, I don't like going to the doctor, either, I want what most people want, dead or alive, I've seen it before, more than once, always an excellent example they said, everyone knows this, as a child they held me up, over their shoulders, the uncles and all them, they said so, but no one cared, not back then they didn't, not those people, selfish and small and petty, living their everyday lives, no respite from the grind, no fucking
breathers, what I'm saying is put your uncle in the ambulance and carriage him away from here, take him far away from here and reevaluate yourself, down to the river on the isle of wight to be baptized, to be cleansed, we all need to be cleansed, all of us, as often as possible, twice a day if necessary, after all we go to bed dirty and wake up that way, we need to come clean, just once, as a change of pace even, do you feel what I'm saying, is my implication translucent, look at the uncles and all them, on the battlefield, laying waste, filthy, stained, years ago like this, every day, dying in each other's arms, but not anymore, not these days, now they are old and they are sick and they are dying all alone by themselves, they have the scars to prove it, the stench, the death rattle, can you hear it, it's indisputable, they haven't been nowhere in forever, either, not them, not anymore, not for a long time now at least, they broke their backs for us, they laid down their lives for us, and what do we care, do we care, we don't care, we don't fucking care at all, you want to know why, want to know why we don't care at all, me too, I want to know why, too, I'm no different, I don't know why, either, want to know why I don't know why, because who fucking cares, that's why, let me understand something to you, I don't fucking care what it is anymore, it can be anything, any blessed fucking thing on the battlefield or elsewhere, because this is what
happens, this is what we want, we want an understanding, any kind of blessed understanding, it happens every day, all over the godforsaken world, but not here it doesn't, it isn't what happens to us, not in these parts, unfortunately, we've never had that good fortune, that sort of blind luck, that sort of unholy understanding, not so you'd notice anyway, but it doesn't matter, not anymore because here we are together, after all we still have each other, this beautiful group, this family, on the isle of wight, together, forever, until death do we partake of each other, at last, for better and worse, for richer and poorer, in sickness and more sickness, that is until we take our leave of each other, as civilized people do the world over, indeed over, it's harder now that it's over, but it is over, make no mistake, anyone can see that, even a doctor can see that, so now we can go, because it's over, clearly, please, let me say this, be kind to each other, be brief and be gone, you should go, I am going, too, I will go first, if that's what you want, if that will make it easier, remember I'm easy, I said so, you know I'm easy, I know you know I'm easy, listen, maybe you don't want me to go, I understand, I do, I know what it's like, I know what it's like to watch me go, but it's for the best, really, trust me, I have to, I have to go, I can't stay here, not like this, not anymore, please, don't make a scene, you're better than this, you're bigger than this, I'm going now,
I am, it's true, where am I going you ask, you know where I'm going, you know damn well where I'm going and I know damn well that you know damn well where I'm going, because I am already gone, in my mind I'm gone already, I am gone though I am here, my body, my mind, still with you still, though gone, still moving to me, still together after all these years, but gone, always gone, and yet together still, a family of man on an isle of wight.

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