Excerpt from The Dream of Perpetual Motion by Dexter Palmer, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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The Dream of Perpetual Motion

A Novel

By Dexter Palmer

The Dream of Perpetual Motion
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  • Hardcover: Mar 2010,
    352 pages.
    Paperback: Feb 2011,
    368 pages.

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Print Excerpt


I need to be taken to the Xeroville Greeting-card Works. I have to get to work.

No—no I still don’t have insurance. I’ll pay cash.

No—no I don’t have a voice of my own.

But if you need a voice I can give one to you. It’s the thing that I do best.

TWO

Some of the dreams I have are worse than others, and though the one I had last night wasn’t one of those especially vivid ones that keep me riveted to the bed and soaked in sweat for a half hour after I’ve woken from it, it was bad enough to warrant placing the call for a shrinkcab. It is there waiting for me by the time I hang up the phone, dress for work, and descend to the lobby of my apartment building—except for the light on its roof, white instead of the usual yellow, it is indistinguishable from the hundreds of other cabs that clog the city’s downtown streets each rush hour. The drivers of shrinkcabs usually make a gesture toward dressing a bit better than the usual cabbie, and as I slide into the backseat, I see that this one is wearing a starched shirt with silver cuff links—unfortunately, the intended effect is spoiled by a sleeve sporting scattered stains of ketchup and scrambled egg, the remnants of a breakfast sandwich whose foil wrapper lies discarded in the passenger seat.

Without a word the shrinkcabbie starts the meter and pulls off . Then, unconscionably, he turns on the radio, as if he intends to listen to me with one ear and the news of the world with the other. This is not the grade of service I expect. Periodic static interrupts a parade of voices as he twiddles the dial.

ff ff fsssssff ff f

“—after fifteen years of marriage you can see her disgust whenever she looks at you. You know her heart’s a block of ice.”

ff ff fsssssff ff f

“—full fadom five thy father lies, of his bones are coral made—”

ff ff fsssssff ff f

“Hello out there! I just want you to know that I’m just like you, and, just like you, sometimes I have a little trouble holding things together.”

ff ff fsssssff ff f

“—but then you give her the greeting card. And she opens it, and she reads it, and the color comes back into her cheeks. And the smile spreads across her face that you haven’t seen since both of you were young. And she bakes the casserole that you like. And she enters your bedroom and kneels before you.

“The Xeroville Greeting-card Works. When you need a reliable immediate intense targeted emotional response—”

ff ff fsssssff ff f

“—those are pearls that were his eyes: nothing of him that doth fade—”

ff ff fsssssff ff f

“—and I’m just like you. And between a seventy-hour workweek and a romance that’s crumbling before my eyes, who can spare an hour to go to a therapist to get the help we all desperately need, every once in a while, to help us hold things together? To stave off the oncoming specter of insanity? Not me, I tell you! Not me. That’s why, every once in a while, only when I need it, I pick up the phone and call a Shrinkcab. Shrinkcab’s fleet of drivers are all rigorously trained in clinical psychiatry and licensed to dispense prescriptions, and will happily help you combine your necessary psychological therapy with your morning or evening commute for the maximum in twentieth-century convenience. Our cabs are handsomely upholstered in soothing colors and completely soundproofed for the ultimate in comfort. You just sit back, open up your head, and—”

ff ff fsssssff ff f

“—our proprietary emotional-provocation technologies. Xeroville Greeting-card Works. The key to the human heart. The best in the business.”

Excerpted from The Dream of Perpetual Motion by Dexter Palmer. Copyright © 2010 by Dexter Palmer. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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