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Exciting Climb

Christopher Boucher


ne morning that winter, during the copyediting of Exacting Clam 12, the story “The Breakup” found the review “Danonymous Anonymous”’ lunch in the fridge, unwrapped his turkey sandwich, and replaced the sandwich meat with the word “turkey.” When the editors called for lunch at noon and everyone sat down to eat, “Danonymous” unwrapped his sandwich, took a bite from it, and frowned in disappointment. “What the heck?” he said, and he opened the bread to find the word pressed between two pieces of lettuce. “The Breakup” started laughing, and then the other work at the lunch table—the poem “Capitalist Triptych” and the story “The Second Wife’s Tale”—did as well. “Danonymous Anonymous” finally cracked a smile, too. “Really funny, asshole,” the review said.

“You should have seen your face!” hooted “The Breakup.”

“Now get me another sandwich,” “Danonymous” said, and the story did so.

Later that week, though, “Danonymous” got his revenge. The review waited until “The Breakup” was talking about a revision with the editors and then it snuck up behind the story and smashed the word “cream pie” in their face. The editors—When D. Daniels and Cory Question—laughed, but “The Breakup” was not amused. “We’re in the middle of a meeting!” the story shouted at “Danonymous,” who sped back across the page, howling with glee. “The Breakup” spat out the letters “e” and “i” and hollered, “Not cool, man!”

But the story “Avoiding the Mayor,” who was on-page at the time, saw the incident and thought it was hilarious. The following day, they decided to have some fun with the poem “God & the Natural Particles of a Timed Divinity.” As the poem was napping, the story reversed their sequencing; “God” woke up to find “:: Life : tumored mass” changed to “mass tumored : Life ::”, “high decay” now “decay high,” and “of one’s self seen” now “seen self one’s of.” “God” immediately recognized the prank and let out a joyous guffaw. “Oh man that’s great. You really got me!” the poem bellowed. “Or should I say “Me . . . got . . . really you!”

Word of the pranks spread through the issue, and soon everyone was playing tricks on everyone else: “The World Could Swallow You Whole” added a second page 103 to fuck with “Song of a Specific Time;” the poem “Ours Is Not to Idle by” switched the point of view of the story “May Day” from third person to first person plural; “Capitalist Triptych” convinced “Why We Fight” that there was a fake holiday called “Double Day,” where all text appears twice where all text appears twice.

Even the editors got in on the fun when When changed the copyright date from 2024 to 200024. Then Mar Doyle pranked Sigh Becker by switching the cover title from Exacting Clam to Exciting Climb. Becker retaliated by rearranging the page numbers in the Table of Contents—listing “Danonymous Anonymous” as appearing on page 7, for example, and “The Second Wife’s Tale” on 104—which created a great deal of confusion and stress until Doyle could correct them. Clem Vergaria upped the hijinks even more, though, when she switched the ink for “(eerie music continues; receding footsteps)” to disappearing ink; Doyle had set half the story on the page before she noticed that the first paragraphs had vanished. Mar was livid, and she immediately sought out Question to complain. “I don’t know if I can get those sentences back!” she lamented. Vergaria recovered the prose, but Mar still didn’t speak to her for an entire week.

The Issue 12 pranks reached a zenith when Daniels and “God” tried to get one over on the poem “Stalin’s Fingers” by gluing together pages 86 and 87 one night as “Stalin” slept. The pranksters intended to glue the corners only, but they used too much glue and it apparently seeped along all four margins. “Stalin’s” woke up and found himself trapped, unable to separate one page from the other. The poem began overheating and hyperventilating, and he was close to passing out before “The World Could Swallow You Whole”—who happened to be walking by, and noticed the strange lump of pages—pulled the two pages apart. But “Stalin’s” was hospitalized for the next three days.

That was the last straw—everyone agreed that the pranks had gone too far. An issue-wide meeting was held, during which the editors proclaimed a ban on all pranks. “What started out as a few fun jokes has descended into something sinister and dangerous,” Doyle said to the group. “We almost lost ‘Stalin’s Fingers’ last week! The pranks stop here and now.”

As a safety measure, the editors also enlisted me, since I write stories about the issues, to catalogue what happened with the Issue 12 Pranks I did so in a story called Exciting Climb and wait a second hey where did my punctuation go I had a whole PILE of exclamation points commas question marks and periods right over there near the margin

goddammit is this you Vergaria this is NOT FUNNY without a period I cant end the sentence and so how am I supposed to end the STORY it will just go on and on and


Christopher Boucher