by Pat King
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EXIT NOTHING is about a young man who bounces from Birmingham to Philadelphia to Baltimore. He tries to make enough money to survive, keep his various relationships afloat, and enjoy life with the creative folks he meets.
It's a novel thinly veiling real life events spanning a couple years. The main character, a young man called Nothing, is remarkably similar to the author. The other characters have real-life counterparts too, but i'll only reveal one of them, West Philadelphia's Frank Walsh aka the "Mad Poet." Here's an excerpt that shows off a bit of the MP:
There had been some construction going on behind his townhouse. They were building a new apartment complex or something. The workers would start their machines at six or seven in the morning, waking both of us up. The Mad Poet hated the construction with a passion, especially considering that the space used to be a sort of unofficial park. One morning, as we were eating omelets, the Mad Poet, in a rage over the construction, shouted, “They killed my favorite fucking tree, man. I used to sit underneath it in the shade and read. We were friends, man. Then one day it was just a fucking stump. They killed my tree, man. I walked up to one of them guys and said, ‘You killed my friend. You motherfuckers killed my friend.’ Now the only place in the city you can see trees is on the murals they’ve painted on the buildings.”
It was only in this context that the outburst outside the restaurant nearly a year before made sense. The Mad Poet saw ghosts and souls everywhere. Cities had souls. Trees had souls. Everything had a soul and everything was alive. He was convinced that he was an old soul. He meditated every day and once had a vision in his intense concentration that he had begun his cycle of lives as a demon.
“I ain’t no fucking aristocrat and never have been. In feudal England, they executed me for stealing a landlord’s sheep.”
The vessel, man. The Mad Poet was an old ghost and he was a vessel for ghosts. He was open to something that I didn’t understand. I didn’t understand because I never believed. Not literally at least. But I was able to accept that he felt things I couldn’t imagine. The wealth of his emotional bank was nearly limitless.