FLY BOTTLE – Jonathan van Belle

To whom it may concern, 

I recently purchased your PSC03R-050 2.5 watt USB adapter with interchangeable plugs. Your output specifications indicated that the PSC03R-050 had a maximum load of 0.5A. I tested my unit and I found that your specification was untrue in my case. I do not wish for a refund. I am informing you so that your company may improve its quality control.  

          Hermann Rorty
          155 Elmira Loop
          Apartment #110
          Brooklyn, NY 11239

I finished my letter at 2:51am on the 21st of August 2009. 72° Fahrenheit outside. Precipitation was nearly 11%.

“In October of 1978, Idi Amin invaded Tanzania” whispered through the custom, herringbone-design radio grill cloth of my Sangean retro-style AM/FM radio.

I noted these “coincident details,” as I call them, details about the precipitation and the historical program on my radio, in my yellow, spiral-bound Caliber notebook, on whose face I had, two weeks previous, drawn two symbols: a Fourchée cross and the Assyrian cuneiform character for “field.” The Fourchée cross occupied the center of the yellow cover and the Assyrian cuneiform character occupied the lower left-hand side of the yellow Caliber cover. My reasons for adding these flourishes were as follows: The Fourchée cross signified—for reasons I won’t list—my father, Jacob Turner Rorty, born in Bedford-Stuyvesant on April 2nd, 1949 at 4:22pm. The Assyrian cuneiform character for “field” signified—also for reasons I won’t enumerate—my favorite planetary satellite: the Mimas co-orbital (my second favorite planetary satellite is the Dione co-orbital).

This notebook was the 59th such notebook in my archive of yellow, spiral-bound Caliber notebooks. Each notebook received its own special title, written on the first page and chosen for any number of reasons. This 59th notebook I had titled Satyricon—a choice made nearly inevitable by the fact that 59 B.C.E. is the most probable date for the creation of Petronius’s Satyricon.

Notebook #58 was titled NASA, on account of the founding of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration in 1958. Notebook #57 was titled Glinka, for the Russian composer Mikhail Glinka, who died in 1857. Notebook #56 was titled Barium, on account of the fact that the atomic number for the element barium is 56. Notebook #55 was titled Zero—for five minus five. And so on, all the way back to Notebook #1, Monic Polynomial.

Examining my latest entry, I noticed that I had filled up the front side of the negative twenty-first page of Satyricon. [As a clarification, I do not number a single page with two numbers—one number for the back and one number for the front of a single sheet. Instead, I identify a single sheet of paper with a single number, where each number counts back into the negatives of the whole numbers, and skipping even numbers; e.g. -1, -3, -5, -7, and so on.] I flipped to the backside of page negative twenty-one and made the following entry:

The information on the other side of this same page refers to events occurring on a date (August 21st, 2009) that corresponds to the numerical identification of the page on which that information is written.

Initial Associations:

[August]: Eighth month of the year in Julian and Gregorian calendars; Augustus Caesar; St. Augustine; Augury; AU = symbol for gold; August 1983, Prime Minister Sankara overthrows Ouédrago; August 1998, I met Cynthia Sprent, receptionist at West Heights Dental; etc.

[21]: Blackjack; Gustave Flaubert born 1821; XXI in Roman numeral system; 21 is a Fibonacci number; Age of father, Jacob Turner Rorty, when I was born; current century is the 21st century; 21 grams is the weight of the soul, according to research by Duncan MacDougall; etc.


(A) Book XXI of St. Augustine’s City of God is divided into 27 chapters. The 21st chapter of Book XXI begins “The belief that all who hold the Catholic faith are to be saved, however evil their lives.” Gold is mentioned in chapter 21 of Book XXI: “For if anyone builds on that foundation in gold, silver, precious stones, or in timber, hay, or straw, the work done by each man will be revealed.” St. Augustine is here quoting from 1 Corinthians 3:12-13. Question: What is the probability that the 21st chapter of Book XXI of St. Augustine’s City of God would mention an item, gold, that is independently included in my Initial Associations?

It was 3:41am when I finished this last entry. I closed Satyricon, walked to my bookcase, closed my eyes, reached out my hand, and grabbed at random for a book. I opened my eyes and found The Wordsworth Dictionary of Classical and Literary Allusion (ed. 1994) in my hands. I sat down on my 1952 Diamond model Harry Bertoia chair and I flipped at random and stopped at random on some page of the dictionary. My eyes still closed, I scrolled my index finger up and down and up and down the page. I then stopped my finger.

Page 181, “Priscilla.”

Priscilla. In the narrative poem, The Courtship of Miles Standish (1858), by Henry Wordsworth Longfellow, the Pilgrim captain Miles Standish (see Standish, Miles) enlists the young scholar John Alden to press his suit to marry the orphaned Priscilla. Priscilla refuses Standish and tells Alden to “Speak for yourself, John.” He does and the two are married.

I opened Satyricon and copied the above entry verbatim, right below the entry about August and 21. I made a small, bracketed note about how my random entry selection happened to mention Wordsworth and that the book in which I had made this random selection was titled The Wordsworth Dictionary of Classical and Literary Allusion.

I again closed Satyricon. I then returned the dictionary of allusions to its shelf (Shelf A9). I rotated the radio dial, until I heard: “The exact location of the geomagnetic poles is constantly changing.” I settled onto my mattress with one cup of Kikkoman Pearl organic chocolate soymilk; 8 grams of protein, 180 milligrams of sodium, and 290 milligrams of potassium per 240mL.

I again rotated the radio dial, until I heard: “Stimulating the charge of body’s polar opposites in order to heal.” I was tempted to jot down the coincidence of polar references coming from the radio, but it was seven minutes after 4:00am, and 4:00am signified an end-of-transmission or an end-of-routine time. I stop all my work at 4:00am. 4:00am is my Sabbath hour.

4:00am was the hour that my mother and my father died. At 4:00am Monday morning, October 1st, 2007, Jacob Turner Rorty and Patricia May Rorty were killed by a collision with a yellow 2006 Freightliner CST12064-Century 120 diesel truck, 10-speed transmission, 239-inch wheelbase, engine horsepower 515, front axle weight of 12,000 pounds, rear axle weight of 40,000 pounds. The collision occurred on New Jersey State Highway Route 440, near Woodbridge Township.

I fell asleep sometime after 4:27am, still buzzing inside with correlations, bits of news, names, holidays, unsorted sequences of shapes, visions of dishware, measurements, mysteries, and a memory of a bodega on East 28th Street and Avenue U.

Jonathan van Belle is a Philosophy Content Creator for, an online education platform. He previously worked as a bookseller at Powell’s City of Books. Jonathan is the author of several books, including Zenithism, published by Deep Overstock.

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