Tag Archives: David Foster Wallace

“The David Foster Wallace Empathy Contest” – Fiction by Wm. Samuel Bradford

Sea Turtle - Mike Brice, 2014
Sea Turtle – Mike Brice, 2014

“The David Foster Wallace Empathy Contest” (contributed by Wm. Samuel Bradford for our Spring 2015 issue) is not merely a satirical homage to the work & fans of David Foster Wallace, it’s also a touching story of camaraderie and survival in a harsh, chaotic world.

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IN ITS LAST YEAR, WALLACEFEST HAD ONLY THREE ATTENDEES. The event was advertised as “an alcohol-free weekend of mutual appreciation for Wallace’s principles.” For Roland, it was a balls-to-the-wall competition.

Roland, Jon, and Bendiks sat on the pier behind the beach house rented for the occasion. They had just released the live lobsters they had purchased from a restaurant.

Roland, who had long ago realized that his looks and wit impressed no one, had latched onto Wallace fandom as his chance to be noticed. He had spent his inheritance building the no-kill dog shelter Wallace had allegedly dreamed of. He called it the David Wallace Foster House. No one would outdo him.

“So, I mean, I just felt so much gratitude. It wasn’t revealed by D or bolstered by D–it was, like, caused by D,” Roland said.

As Roland spoke, Jon spooned pureed squash into the lipless mouth of Bendiks. He had pointed Bendiks’s wheelchair to face the sunset, even though Bendiks’s eyes were rolled back in his head behind closed, twitching eyelids.

“How did you and Bendiks meet?” Roland asked.

Jon took a swig of non-alcoholic beer and wiped the rubber-capped spoon.

“So this new Latvian woman works with me in the lab. We wanted her to feel a part of the group, so we listened to Latvian folk music on internet radio while we worked. The lab started to get into it–all the zithers and stuff. It’s cool. Anyway, one day we’re listening and this news report begins, and the Latvian woman was like ‘Jesus Christ! Jesus Christ!’ and no one else speaks Latvian, and we’re all like ‘What is it, Dagnija?’ and she starts telling us about the report.

“You know bath salts, the drug? Well, it had just hit Latvia, and this kid had taken a ton of bath salts and went into a pet store and like, went nuts. He started eating puppies. I’m talking, like, eating them alive. Then he bites himself. Chunks of his arms. He bent over and bit his calves off. He bit his own lips off.”

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