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Tin Can Mental Contagion
Opening the Can: Publishing in 125,000 Easy Steps
by Gene Dillon

Doing the Darks

Sunday night is a time for finishing the laundry and watching the afternoon's Cubs game on tape. I have this down to a science now. My wife is about 98% happier if I do just a handful of simple things. After the kids go to bed, throw the dishes into the dishwasher and run it. On weekends, blow through the laundry like it's nothin'. Monday morning, you start the week fresh, and everybody's got clean clothes, then I can go back to neglecting all the other chores until Saturday.

But what, honestly, is worse than folding socks? Matching them up, I mean. I reach into the basket to pull out the other things first—washcloths, t-shirts, bras, underwear and hand towels. So many socks... Why don't they have a machine for this, like a Coinstar machine for socks. I would pay a thousand dollars for a machine like that.

With the Cubs ahead 4-0, I finish up with the whites, and proceed to the darks. Marquis gives up a home run. Here we go again. Why do they torture me like this? How many Sundays have they ruined? Michelle has too many black socks. She cannot seem to find them in packages of six, as I do, or even in threes or twos. Every single pair is unique. The skin on my fingers is dry. And now there are men on first and third with only one out.

JB refuses to use our washer and dryer. He does his laundry in the bathroom sink next to his room. I suspect that he uses hand soap. This morning, he was out there in my back yard, shirtless with his big 'ol shorts on, and his flip-flops, and he was hanging his clothes on the line with clothespins. He installed the clothesline himself, right after he moved in. He found a T-shaped piece of pipe about six feet tall, painted pale green, and stuck it in the middle of my lawn. The other end of the line is attached to a hook that he twisted into the mortar between the bricks of my house. All day on Sunday, my family has to look at his underwear and socks drying stiffly in the sun. Hey... He pairs the socks up as he goes down the line. That's handy...

He's gonna be here for a while. I sent out my first story in late May to 28 publications. I received 3 little form-letter rejections after a week, but I haven't heard anything since. I feel like I can handle rejection. I've come to expect it. It sort of makes life easy. That's why there are so many Cubs fans out there. Low expectations, no chance at disappointment. But I can't stand waiting. It's like watching this pitcher load the bases. I want to enjoy this game, but it makes my stomach hurt. I'll endure two and a half hours of frustration and stress, just to find relief in a single moment. Win or lose, there is relief at the end, just to be done with it. Of course, winning makes you feel better. It gives you more hope. Makes you want to keep watching.

So why is this taking them so long? I know the answer to that. They've got work to do. I've done it myself. Putting a quality magazine together once a month is a lot of work. Reading people's submissions takes a lot of time. It's the middle of summer. People should be golfing, and canoeing, and eating ice cream. What the fuck would they be doing reading the ramblings of crazy people, when they could be riding the ferris wheel? Or going to a Cubs game... Oh, no. They could be as bad as me. That explains everything. I'd better get used to all of this waiting. Just think how many socks will be matched together between now and the time I have finally received my last rejection. Maybe by then, people won't wear socks anymore. They will have invented something else that sprays on and washes off at night.

I finished up that plumbing story, and I sent it out too—round two. That was a bitch to get done. Never again will I revisit something I wrote seven years ago. I rewrote all but 14 words out of 4000. Not much sense in that. Who writes about plumbing? Who wants to read that, anyway? Housewives? Young adults? What's the market for this? Do I have a market? Am I marketable? Or am I novelty, like Daniel Johnston or Wesley Willis? Actually, DJ's brilliant. I met Wesley several times, in and around Milwaukee Avenue in Chicago. He likes to shake your hand and look you right in the eye, real close. Our eyeballs almost touched. He drew pictures of el trains all day long.

I'm ready for a vacation.

My shirts are all wrinkled. I've expended a lot of energy trying to amass a wardrobe that is hassle-free, that never needs ironing. But I have failed. They won't stay flat. I have to iron the little kinks out of a shirt almost every day, just so I don't look like a slob, and every week I have to match up these goddamn socks, and the time passes sooooooooooooooooooooooo slowly, and it's hot, and my head hurts, and JB is playing Bad Company on his boombox again. Who the fuck listens to Bad Company on purpose? Bad company 'til the day I die.

I finish the darks. Marquis induces a grounder to short, and Theriot flips to Fontenot, who throws on to Lee for the double play. Out of the inning.

Top of the order is due up. Now, let's get some runs!

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