Earlier Work [pt.1]


Baltzly, Dirk (Three vols., Cambridge University Press, 2007, 2009 & 2013; ISBN 978-0521183888)

The masculine squalor of a man’s first share-house often owes as much to his housemates’ incompetence at housework as to their disdain for it. Some may know how to replace fuse wire or unblock a toilet, but few men of eighteen have any tangible notion of how to clean a grill trap or defrost a refrigerator.

When Dirk Baltzly moved out in the eighties, many young men couldn’t even cook.

Dirk shared a house with several other young men. Beginning somewhere in the twentieth century at their arrival, conditions in the house at once began to deteriorate backwards through the aeons of human history. After a month, they’d plummeted to a pre-industrial level. By the end of winter, the housemates feared certain rooms of the house and could no longer make fire.

One of them had inherited a multitude of pots from his grandmother. Leftovers that decayed beyond a certain point they would throw out, in one piece, with the containing pot. The painlessness of this solution impressed the housemates. In their minds it planted the seed that would blossom into the Meat Ark.

The household purchased meat in prodigious quantities and stored it in a deep freezer in the basement. When the freezer’s motor seized and the meat started to rot, they just stopped using the basement. By the height of summer, the stench infused the house. Roused into action at last, one of them liberated a high-temperature sealant sprayer from his work. Wearing a protective suit, he cocooned the freezer inside a glistening prism of silicone.


When archaeologists excavate our civilization’s remains in a thousand years, they will find Dirk’s Meat Ark. What a puzzle it will pose for some grad student. One suspects that even in the thirty-first century, supervisors willing to accept “youthful stupidity” as an archaeological explanation will remain rare.

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  1. Dirk told me this story at a dinner party about ten years ago. My guess is that he’d get a kick out of seeing it written up, but if I’m wrong or if it causes any sort of problem to have it here, please let me know and I’ll take it down at once.

  2. Christopher Johnstone

    I remain astounded that this is a true story – if I put this in a book I’m sure I’d be told by readers that it wasn’t believable…

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