Tucker Leighty-Philips
maybe this is what i deserve
Split/Lip Press, 2023

     Ludwig Wittgenstein wrote, in Culture and Value, “Just let nature speak and acknowledge only one thing as higher than nature, but not what others may think.” Regardless of what Wittgenstein may have intended this quote to mean, I read this as a call to constant surprise. In Tucker Leighty-Phillips’ book of micro-fiction maybe this is what i deserve, nature seems to keep popping up to render everything equal to it, except perhaps for our desires.
So many of these short pieces are caught between just being and the desire to be something different. Emblematic of these struggles is “Catfish Wishing Well”, in which a man gets into a line to kiss a catfish and gain a wish to become a Dollar General. The catfish exists to grant wishes through kisses, but a man wants to turn himself into a store with aisles and workers and lunch breaks. Nature often breaks through in these stories, a never-ending battle with lice or a play’s run being ended by a sinkhole, and children are so often the central figures of these small dramas.
     Children exist so often between nature and desire, representing both the wildness of nature and forced into the adult desire for purpose and meaning. When the children play a game of airport in “The Toddlers Are Playing Airport Again”, they all want to be the CEO; and when an adult asks if they just want to fly, the children respond with all the problems inherent to the desire to fly when it is not our nature. Over and over again this collection bounces between what a human being can be versus what they are forced to be.
     The paradox of nature is that it does not exist, or it does exist and we are not separate from it. Yet, as stories like “Midge Woke to Discover She’d Become a Lightning Bug” suggest, there is a fundamental divide between our desire to be included and what we may be included in. A transformation has occurred and the human is caught between a student play version of the sinking of the Titanic and the world of dancing in the darkness with a blinking belly. What would it mean to be a human lightning bug; what does it mean for the Titanic to hit an iceberg? maybe this is what i deserve observes this dance between the known and unknown, between desire and innocence, and it often comes down to children to embody it.
~ Caleb Jordan