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Speaking Of "For"

Updated: Aug 21, 2021

By Vincent Barry -


Amidst lengthening unfaced shadows I see that I’ve lived—well, I know this will sound strange— without ever realizing that a preposition can make all the difference. Take “for,” for example. I mean one researches it but searches for it? The difference between found and unfound. All the difference it makes, “for.” I learned this—well, I had the experience but missed the meaning—years ago when I wrote a paper on the use of its cousin one letter removed, “of.” And well received it was, though why,—. Scribbled in the margin: “With some polish—“publishable!” Why the product of a phantasmagoric magic mushroom trip would elicit this review, underscored in violent red no less, I didn’t know—not even, really, what “publishable” meant. Reader’s Digest? Harper’s Bazaar? Ladies Home Journal? The last from my old lady, breathing in and holding fast. I was at the time in graduate studies, y’see, researching James to avoid a dog tag in ’Nam. “Heavy, man,” on the exhalation, of the annotation, then after some concentration, “better that than ‘in the untimely loss of your son’ or ‘with great sorrow’ or,’’— here with a prescient guffaw—, “‘he knew what he signed up for.’” I nodded sheepishly, and afterwards punched it up, heightened and highlighted it, the paper, brought it home, so to say, “Henry James’s ‘Of’ in The Ambassadors.” Published, then transmogrified into a doctoral dissertation and a mediocre career, it was about the relationship between the part and the whole. Ostensibly. It was really about its cousin “for,” about the found and unfound— about an unending war. I see that now. I say that now because I succeeded in losing myself in it. “Oh well,” my old lady advises when I allow loudly of my great success, which is a lot lately, “savor the irony.” And she’s right. What else to do but savor the irony, and wipe away our laughing tears, and lie back as we do after all these years, still bogartin’ and wavin’ our freak flag, holdin’ up two fingers, deuces y’know, that tempt the inner star to give peace a chance, and go, of war, “What’s it good for?”


After retiring from a career teaching philosophy, Vincent Barry returned to his first love, fiction. His stories have appeared in numerous publications in the U.S. and abroad, including: The Saint Ann’s Review, The Bitchin’ Kitsch, The Broken City, Abstract: Contemporary Expressions, Kairos, Terror House, Caveat Lector, The Fem, BlogNostics, The Writing Disorder, whimperbang, The Disappointed Housewife, The Collidescope, Anti-Heroin Chic,Beakful, Bombfire, and Bright Flash Literary Review. Barry lives in Santa Barbara, California.

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