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Winners of the 2018 FLASH SUITE Contest

Monday, January 15th, 2018

Drum roll, please…

 

and the Runner-Up for the 2018 FLASH SUITE Contest is

Bang Bang by Brook Reynolds

 

and the Grand Prize Winner for the 2018 FLASH SUITE Contest is

the Minotaur by Salvatore Difalco.

 

What a splendid contest.  Since we announced the finalists in November, we have received almost 1,500 hits from over 250 unique IP addresses.  The two weeks of fan voting alone garnered 452 visits.

Fan Voting was very close, with the Minotaur barely edging-out Bang Bang at the end.  Snow Globe Romance hung tough till the end, but, it was not meant to be.

Finalists’ bio and photo in favorite chair are now added to The Defenestrationists Are… page

 

 

 

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Fan Voting Update, 2018 FLASH SUITE Contest

Monday, January 8th, 2018

Greetings from defenestrationism.net;

 

With only a week until we announce the winners,

FAN VOTING

is extremely close–

only 3% between the two leaders, and only 11% between all three finalists.

 

So, rally, comrades,

rally friends, family, fans and ex-lovers

to VOTE NOW

for your favorite finalists in

the 2018 FLASH SUITE Contest,

only on defenestrationism.net .

 

 

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Fan Voting Now Open

Monday, January 1st, 2018

Vote Now

 

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Snow Globe Romance: Double Dating

Sunday, December 31st, 2017

by Anna Chan

[ read the complete suite in correct order ]

 

Double Dating

Gilley’s Pub is in its usual frenzy, and we get to practice the fine art of shouting to be heard without spraying the other with spit.  Tommy orders beers and shots for himself and I.  Carli chooses a vodka martini.  She alternately stirs and sips in mechanical fashion, and I’m sure she’s replaying the past hour.  I am definitely rehashing the almost 20 second wrestling match between Tommy, my date, and Darrin, a recent ex-fiancée. 

I never envisioned that I would sit and have friendly drinks with the woman my ex dumped me for.  She doesn’t feel like a rival, because I understand that Darrin is a womanizer and manipulator period.  With big sisterly affection, I ask Carli if she needs to crash at my place tonight. 

Darrin, I know, will be in a fury when he sees her.  It will be Carli’s fault that she caught him cheating on her.  Carli threw his phone and broke it.  The phone smashed an expensive, stained glass window that will likely cost him at least a couple hundred to replace.  I know that what will rankle Darrin most, are the facts that he was busted in front of people, and that he is the one getting dumped.  I wonder if I should warn Carli that Darrin will try to resuscitate their relationship so that he can ultimately be the one to break it off with her. 

Tommy rubs his left shoulder.  “I haven’t wrestled like that since college.” 

The memory of him and Darrin rolling around in a sweaty heap thirty minutes ago makes me smile.  Darrin is 6’3” and sculptured solid.  His intimidating size seems to quell most potential opposition.  He failed to emerge victorious from his grapple with Tommy, and I know this has jarred Darrin’s universe.

“Carli!”

Three bundled figures join our table.  As warm layers peel away from faces, Carli introduces her sorority sisters.  “This is Mina,” she points to a friendly golden haloed girl.  “That’s Laylee.”  Lilac eyes and lips framed by plum tresses smile at us.  Before Carli gets to the third girl, Yessina throws her arms around Carli and envelops her in a bear hug.  Yessina grins and introduces herself.  We finish our first round of cheer.

“Tommy!”

Six feet of long legged, red headed femininity squeeze between Tommy and Mina. 

Tommy gives the name to the striking figure.  “Everyone, this is Regina.”  We go around the table again for introductions.  In a few moments, Tommy turns to me.  “She’s my ex, but we’re just really good friends now.”

I don’t know what to make of this.  “Oh.”

Conversations swirl.  I can hear what people are saying, but I can’t focus enough to join in.  Tommy orders a round for the table.  Carli is pouring out her soul, while Yessina comforts her.  The way she tucks Carli’s hair back behind her right ear has me thinking that Carli has found her balm of Gilead for the night.

Regina, Laylee, and Mina are comparing notes on the opening of a new deli in town.  They work in the same bank building.  Tommy adds his opinion.  He jokes about the location.  He and Regina both engage in banter only found between two people who have shared close intimacy.  I’m guessing that he will end up spending the rest of the evening with her, long after I’ve gone home.  Long after I’ve gone period.

Suddenly, I register that Darrin is staring at us.  He is standing across the street. 

The night, while not exactly unpleasant, has turned disappointing.  It’s Darrin’s fault.  If he would have followed the standards that he demanded from everyone else, I would not be a stranger tonight, squeezed at a table with ex’s and rivals.  My life, my emotions, and my stomach would not be like flakes in a snow globe – all shaken up.  We would be at our loft, cozy and satisfied.  Our three years together would have stretched into a lifetime of comfortable and familiar.  But Darrin’s appetites need plenty of side dishes to accompany the main course, and I am not a buffet item.  This is all his fault.

A hand on my right shoulder and a voice in my ear recall me from lapsing into absurd regression.  “Are you okay?” 

Studying Tommy’s face, I realize he is not asking from superficial formality.  I nod.

He leans closer to ask me, “Got dinner plans tomorrow?  I’d like to try this again.  Hopefully we can have dinner and drinks without the drama.”

The prospect of a quiet dinner tomorrow with Tommy recalls the euphoria I felt earlier tonight, when I first sat across from him at Martinelli’s Restaurant.  I realize that I get to have a first date all over again. 

Carli and Yessina make eye contact with Darrin.  Yessina whispers almost lovingly into Carli’s ear, as her arms lock around Carli’s shoulders again in a tight embrace.  The looks on their faces make it clear that Darrin’s grip has been broken. 

Darrin dangles keys in a clear gesture that he is still a force to be reckoned with.

Carli answers back with her middle fingers before sauntering off with Yessina.

Mina and Laylee leave us to join Regina’s office party at the pub next door.

Tommy leans back in his stool and exhales. “Such a beautiful night!  The sky is so pretty!”  This is a lie.  Cold wind and gray overcast are feeding a gloom, dark and damp.  My heart is pounding.  Tommy orders beers and shots for himself and I. 

I have purged Darrin and Bitterness from my system. 

 

 

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Snow Globe Romance: Second Thoughts

Saturday, December 30th, 2017

by Anna Chan

[ read the suite in correct order ]

 

Second Thoughts

The two men grappling are my ex-boyfriend Darrin, and a man who seems to share something of a history with him.  That man Tommy is also my dinner date.  It occurs to me that I should feel embarrassed, or upset, or even distressed.  Where my faint detachment spawns from, I have no idea. 

I turn to Darrin’s new girlfriend, Carli.  Her face delineates a picture of dismay and shock that I should be sharing.  I extend my hand, wondering if she’ll shake it.  “Hi, I’m Marlissa, Darrin’s ex.”  I refrained from adding, “I’m the one he dumped for you.”

Carli turns to me and mechanically shakes my hand.  “Oh.”  The writhing wrestlers are overloading her capacity to process reality.  Her eyes remain on me but without focus, and she forgets to close her mouth.

The pity I feel for her confirms to me that I have purged Darrin and Bitterness from my system, and I am whole again.  Now, with perverse timing, I almost feel cheerful. 

Darrin and Tommy have sweat beads forming on their faces.  I don’t know much about wrestling, but apparently neither of them is gaining any significant ground over the other. 

After being knocked down twice, Signor Martinelli and another man have both disengaged from attempting to intervene.  Signor Marintelli, swearing heartily in Sicilian and Yiddish, shouts into his cell phone.  I know he’s not on the phone with the cops – things aren’t handled that way in this part of town.  However, when his friend runs to the kitchen, I do feel some urgency.

The guys go for another roll, and Darrin’s cell phone hops free from his pocket.  I watch Carli regain enough wherewithal to retrieve it. 

“Give me that!”  Darrin’s face betrays his panic.  Reclaiming his property clearly takes priority over debating his machismo with Tommy.  His struggles shift to breaking away from the fight.  “Carli, give me my phone!”

I walk up beside her.  She and I read the text that just came through.  Carli’s evening is dissolving into a tragedy, and by now, I really feel bad for her.  Her relationship with Darrin is following a runaway train off the tracks.  When she turns her attention from phone to Darrin, I recognize signs of an imminent derailment.  Carli doesn’t speak to him.  Emotional paralysis accounts for her delayed reaction, but the stormy rage of betrayal is brewing.  It occurs to me that Mt. Carli will display a most awesome eruption. 

Darrin breaks away from Tommy and rushes at Carli.

Carli hauls back and hurls the phone forward.

It streaks over Darrin’s head.

The thin stained glass window barring its flight shatters.

The sounds at impact assure us that Darrin will have to get a replacement. 

Signor Martinelli is livid, and fixates on Darrin as the sole vandal.

Darrin is embroiled in a fresh altercation with kitchen staff-turned-crime fighters.

Tommy grabs me.  “Let’s go have that drink!”

I tug at Carli’s coat.  “Let’s go have a drink.”

 

 

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Snow Globe Romance: Dinner and a Fight for Two

Friday, December 29th, 2017

by Anna Chan

[ read the suite in correct order ]

 

Dinner and a Fight for Two

I met Tommy yesterday, during an unflattering outburst of emotional upheaval.  He apparently has the power to calm my storm.  I feel at peace now.  Tonight, we are meeting for dinner, and I am hoping that it’s the first date of many.  I don’t know him, but I like him already. 

Seated across from each other at Martinelli’s, I know we’re dissecting each other in psychological fashion.  However, fragrances of rich pastries, simmering soups, and bubbling pasta dishes float from the kitchen, to join dancing candle lights.  They alternately waltz and tango to the tunes from the Old Country.  I stop analyzing Tommy, concentrating instead on the cozy comfort of good food and the thrill of meeting someone new and alluring. 

“I didn’t tell you this yesterday,” says Tommy, “but I actually know your ex.  We had a couple of classes together, and we’ve been at some parties together.  I don’t know Darrin well, but I do know him.”

“Oh.”  What else is there to say?

Tommy folds his napkin, and lays his hand over it.  “We also dated some of the same girls at Penn State.  Two.  Nothing serious for anyone.  More like messing around, really.  But I felt that I should let you know this.”

“Oh.”  Feelings are enveloping me.  They churn in a kaleidoscope of jealousy, horror, shock, dismay, and indifference.  “Were you friends?  Enemies?  Rivals?”

“We weren’t anything.  We just had some mutual classes and friends.”

And flings, I mentally annotate.  Then I decide that my prevailing emotion is indifference.  “Well, thanks for telling me.  It doesn’t bother me, if that’s what you wanted to know.”  I fervently hope that he’s not building up to backing away.

“Good.  I like your company, and I’d like to keep seeing you.”  Tommy settles everything with the waiter.

Please, ask me to go somewhere else, I’m not ready to end this night with you, yet.  Aloud, I say, “Such a beautiful night!  The sky is so pretty!”  This is a lie.  Cold wind and gray overcast are feeding a gloom, dark and damp.

“You up for a drink?” he asks. 

Approaching the doors, we see Darrin and his new girlfriend walking in.  I learned yesterday that her name is Carli.  She recognizes us, but she still doesn’t know who I am, I bet.  I would expect her to react differently.

Darrin’s having trouble deciding whether to focus on me or on Tommy.  He goes for Tommy.  “Hey, she’s off limits to you!”  His explosive temper is clearly brewing.

“What?!” we three sound in unison.  Carli turns to Darrin, confused and apprehensive.  I stare at him with pure venom.  Tommy regards him with faint amusement.

“She’s off limits to you!”

They shout about something.  A breach into the personal bubble is imminent.  Signor Martinelli and another man reach them, and try vainly to keep them apart.  The guys are finally close enough to lunge for each other.

Bartender, a round please.

 

 

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Snow Globe Romance

Thursday, December 28th, 2017

by Anna Chan

 

Two Minute Emotional Whirlwind

She is wearing a satiny dress colored in the very lightest of blues, and she looks stunning, absolutely stunning.  The dress pulls the blue from her eyes, and its sheen plays beautifully on her lightly tanned skin.  To add insult to my injury, she has the thick, flowing, naturally curly hair I’ve always wanted.  The cut of the dress reveals her bare back halfway down, clings to her backside, and dips low enough in the front to confirm that her body is rather luscious.  She looks stunning, and I don’t know her name.  But it’s obvious why the man holding her by the waist replaced me with her.  Without proper protocol, in my opinion – he could have at least dismissed me cleanly before taking up with her. 

I knew that attending my friends’ tenth wedding anniversary bash would not be easy.  It would not be enjoyable.  These were mutual friends, and since they refused to ostracize one of us over the other, I felt it was only fair to appreciate the friendship and honor their invitation. 

I’m sure he knows that I’m here.  My strategy is to avoid contact with them, to avoid close proximity.  This forces me to have to watch and pay close attention to their whereabouts.  It’s really distracting from the little fun I could be having tonight.  So far, there hasn’t been any eye contact or sign of acknowledgement.  I pray to the Fates that I manage to avoid them all night.

Two hours later …. Love didn’t work for me, and apparently now Luck isn’t either.  I came out of the bathroom, round the hall into the entertainment room, and almost smack into him.  I guess he wasn’t watching out for me, keeping tabs on my locus, the way I was with them.  I open my mouth to apologize, then realize who I ran into.  His smile vanishes, replaced with an expression that I can’t really define. 

Our friends stand frozen, staring at us.  She beholds me without any animosity, scorn, or recognition.  I realize that she doesn’t know who I am.  Apparently he wants to keep it that way.  My ex-fiancée mutters, “Oh, sorry about that,” and turns to lead her to the party outside. 

My heart is pounding.  I feel like I can’t breathe.  I’m ready to die.  My head feels hot, my body feels hot.  I feel dizzy.  My eyes are stinging.  Now they’re blurring, and my tears feel hot.  I fight to not break down in front of anyone until I can compose myself.  Back to the bathroom I go, only I can’t get in, because someone else got there before me.  Where to go now?  The door opens, and a very attractive man steps out.  He looks at me, surprised no doubt at the sight of a woman who’s struggling to keep dignified composure. 

“You look like you could use a shoulder and an ear.  Maybe even an arm.” 

My heart is pounding.

 

Dinner and a Fight for Two

I met Tommy yesterday, during an unflattering outburst of emotional upheaval.  He apparently has the power to calm my storm.  I feel at peace now.  Tonight, we are meeting for dinner, and I am hoping that it’s the first date of many.  I don’t know him, but I like him already. 

Seated across from each other at Martinelli’s, I know we’re dissecting each other in psychological fashion.  However, fragrances of rich pastries, simmering soups, and bubbling pasta dishes float from the kitchen, to join dancing candle lights.  They alternately waltz and tango to the tunes from the Old Country.  I stop analyzing Tommy, concentrating instead on the cozy comfort of good food and the thrill of meeting someone new and alluring. 

“I didn’t tell you this yesterday,” says Tommy, “but I actually know your ex.  We had a couple of classes together, and we’ve been at some parties together.  I don’t know Darrin well, but I do know him.”

“Oh.”  What else is there to say?

Tommy folds his napkin, and lays his hand over it.  “We also dated some of the same girls at Penn State.  Two.  Nothing serious for anyone.  More like messing around, really.  But I felt that I should let you know this.”

“Oh.”  Feelings are enveloping me.  They churn in a kaleidoscope of jealousy, horror, shock, dismay, and indifference.  “Were you friends?  Enemies?  Rivals?”

“We weren’t anything.  We just had some mutual classes and friends.”

And flings, I mentally annotate.  Then I decide that my prevailing emotion is indifference.  “Well, thanks for telling me.  It doesn’t bother me, if that’s what you wanted to know.”  I fervently hope that he’s not building up to backing away.

“Good.  I like your company, and I’d like to keep seeing you.”  Tommy settles everything with the waiter.

Please, ask me to go somewhere else, I’m not ready to end this night with you, yet.  Aloud, I say, “Such a beautiful night!  The sky is so pretty!”  This is a lie.  Cold wind and gray overcast are feeding a gloom, dark and damp.

“You up for a drink?” he asks. 

Approaching the doors, we see Darrin and his new girlfriend walking in.  I learned yesterday that her name is Carli.  She recognizes us, but she still doesn’t know who I am, I bet.  I would expect her to react differently.

Darrin’s having trouble deciding whether to focus on me or on Tommy.  He goes for Tommy.  “Hey, she’s off limits to you!”  His explosive temper is clearly brewing.

“What?!” we three sound in unison.  Carli turns to Darrin, confused and apprehensive.  I stare at him with pure venom.  Tommy regards him with faint amusement.

“She’s off limits to you!”

They shout about something.  A breach into the personal bubble is imminent.  Signor Martinelli and another man reach them, and try vainly to keep them apart.  The guys are finally close enough to lunge for each other.

Bartender, a round please.

 

Second Thoughts

The two men grappling are my ex-boyfriend Darrin, and a man who seems to share something of a history with him.  That man Tommy is also my dinner date.  It occurs to me that I should feel embarrassed, or upset, or even distressed.  Where my faint detachment spawns from, I have no idea. 

I turn to Darrin’s new girlfriend, Carli.  Her face delineates a picture of dismay and shock that I should be sharing.  I extend my hand, wondering if she’ll shake it.  “Hi, I’m Marlissa, Darrin’s ex.”  I refrained from adding, “I’m the one he dumped for you.”

Carli turns to me and mechanically shakes my hand.  “Oh.”  The writhing wrestlers are overloading her capacity to process reality.  Her eyes remain on me but without focus, and she forgets to close her mouth.

The pity I feel for her confirms to me that I have purged Darrin and Bitterness from my system, and I am whole again.  Now, with perverse timing, I almost feel cheerful. 

Darrin and Tommy have sweat beads forming on their faces.  I don’t know much about wrestling, but apparently neither of them is gaining any significant ground over the other. 

After being knocked down twice, Signor Martinelli and another man have both disengaged from attempting to intervene.  Signor Marintelli, swearing heartily in Sicilian and Yiddish, shouts into his cell phone.  I know he’s not on the phone with the cops – things aren’t handled that way in this part of town.  However, when his friend runs to the kitchen, I do feel some urgency.

The guys go for another roll, and Darrin’s cell phone hops free from his pocket.  I watch Carli regain enough wherewithal to retrieve it. 

“Give me that!”  Darrin’s face betrays his panic.  Reclaiming his property clearly takes priority over debating his machismo with Tommy.  His struggles shift to breaking away from the fight.  “Carli, give me my phone!”

I walk up beside her.  She and I read the text that just came through.  Carli’s evening is dissolving into a tragedy, and by now, I really feel bad for her.  Her relationship with Darrin is following a runaway train off the tracks.  When she turns her attention from phone to Darrin, I recognize signs of an imminent derailment.  Carli doesn’t speak to him.  Emotional paralysis accounts for her delayed reaction, but the stormy rage of betrayal is brewing.  It occurs to me that Mt. Carli will display a most awesome eruption. 

Darrin breaks away from Tommy and rushes at Carli.

Carli hauls back and hurls the phone forward.

It streaks over Darrin’s head.

The thin stained glass window barring its flight shatters.

The sounds at impact assure us that Darrin will have to get a replacement. 

Signor Martinelli is livid, and fixates on Darrin as the sole vandal.

Darrin is embroiled in a fresh altercation with kitchen staff-turned-crime fighters.

Tommy grabs me.  “Let’s go have that drink!”

I tug at Carli’s coat.  “Let’s go have a drink.”

 

 

Double Dating

Gilley’s Pub is in its usual frenzy, and we get to practice the fine art of shouting to be heard without spraying the other with spit.  Tommy orders beers and shots for himself and I.  Carli chooses a vodka martini.  She alternately stirs and sips in mechanical fashion, and I’m sure she’s replaying the past hour.  I am definitely rehashing the almost 20 second wrestling match between Tommy, my date, and Darrin, a recent ex-fiancée. 

I never envisioned that I would sit and have friendly drinks with the woman my ex dumped me for.  She doesn’t feel like a rival, because I understand that Darrin is a womanizer and manipulator period.  With big sisterly affection, I ask Carli if she needs to crash at my place tonight. 

Darrin, I know, will be in a fury when he sees her.  It will be Carli’s fault that she caught him cheating on her.  Carli threw his phone and broke it.  The phone smashed an expensive, stained glass window that will likely cost him at least a couple hundred to replace.  I know that what will rankle Darrin most, are the facts that he was busted in front of people, and that he is the one getting dumped.  I wonder if I should warn Carli that Darrin will try to resuscitate their relationship so that he can ultimately be the one to break it off with her. 

Tommy rubs his left shoulder.  “I haven’t wrestled like that since college.” 

The memory of him and Darrin rolling around in a sweaty heap thirty minutes ago makes me smile.  Darrin is 6’3” and sculptured solid.  His intimidating size seems to quell most potential opposition.  He failed to emerge victorious from his grapple with Tommy, and I know this has jarred Darrin’s universe.

“Carli!”

Three bundled figures join our table.  As warm layers peel away from faces, Carli introduces her sorority sisters.  “This is Mina,” she points to a friendly golden haloed girl.  “That’s Laylee.”  Lilac eyes and lips framed by plum tresses smile at us.  Before Carli gets to the third girl, Yessina throws her arms around Carli and envelops her in a bear hug.  Yessina grins and introduces herself.  We finish our first round of cheer.

“Tommy!”

Six feet of long legged, red headed femininity squeeze between Tommy and Mina. 

Tommy gives the name to the striking figure.  “Everyone, this is Regina.”  We go around the table again for introductions.  In a few moments, Tommy turns to me.  “She’s my ex, but we’re just really good friends now.”

I don’t know what to make of this.  “Oh.”

Conversations swirl.  I can hear what people are saying, but I can’t focus enough to join in.  Tommy orders a round for the table.  Carli is pouring out her soul, while Yessina comforts her.  The way she tucks Carli’s hair back behind her right ear has me thinking that Carli has found her balm of Gilead for the night.

Regina, Laylee, and Mina are comparing notes on the opening of a new deli in town.  They work in the same bank building.  Tommy adds his opinion.  He jokes about the location.  He and Regina both engage in banter only found between two people who have shared close intimacy.  I’m guessing that he will end up spending the rest of the evening with her, long after I’ve gone home.  Long after I’ve gone period.

Suddenly, I register that Darrin is staring at us.  He is standing across the street. 

The night, while not exactly unpleasant, has turned disappointing.  It’s Darrin’s fault.  If he would have followed the standards that he demanded from everyone else, I would not be a stranger tonight, squeezed at a table with ex’s and rivals.  My life, my emotions, and my stomach would not be like flakes in a snow globe – all shaken up.  We would be at our loft, cozy and satisfied.  Our three years together would have stretched into a lifetime of comfortable and familiar.  But Darrin’s appetites need plenty of side dishes to accompany the main course, and I am not a buffet item.  This is all his fault.

A hand on my right shoulder and a voice in my ear recall me from lapsing into absurd regression.  “Are you okay?” 

Studying Tommy’s face, I realize he is not asking from superficial formality.  I nod.

He leans closer to ask me, “Got dinner plans tomorrow?  I’d like to try this again.  Hopefully we can have dinner and drinks without the drama.”

The prospect of a quiet dinner tomorrow with Tommy recalls the euphoria I felt earlier tonight, when I first sat across from him at Martinelli’s Restaurant.  I realize that I get to have a first date all over again. 

Carli and Yessina make eye contact with Darrin.  Yessina whispers almost lovingly into Carli’s ear, as her arms lock around Carli’s shoulders again in a tight embrace.  The looks on their faces make it clear that Darrin’s grip has been broken. 

Darrin dangles keys in a clear gesture that he is still a force to be reckoned with.

Carli answers back with her middle fingers before sauntering off with Yessina.

Mina and Laylee leave us to join Regina’s office party at the pub next door.

Tommy leans back in his stool and exhales. “Such a beautiful night!  The sky is so pretty!”  This is a lie.  Cold wind and gray overcast are feeding a gloom, dark and damp.  My heart is pounding.  Tommy orders beers and shots for himself and I. 

I have purged Darrin and Bitterness from my system. 

 

 

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The Minotaur: Chiaroscuro

Wednesday, December 27th, 2017

by Salvatore Difalco

[ read the suite in correct order ]

 

CHIAROSCURO

The world is divided into distinct halves. The right side bright and full of chattering people living good lives and willing to talk about it. The left side dark, thronged by sullen figures absorbed in dark, unspeakable thoughts. I’m having trouble breathing. I expected as much. And hearing, forget about it. Might as well be buried. But that comes with the turf. The bifurcation of the world, however, comes as an unpleasant surprise. Who knew? Maybe one of the eyes has a darker lens. That’s too easy.

The bus rumbles and wheezes along. No one dares sit beside me, there in the middle of the back seat, no one from the dark side, no one from the bright side. My peripherals are blocked, but I know that no one sits to my left or to my right and that no one will sit there.

I’m perspiring heavily, armpits soaked. Raging thirst. I just want to get home now. My plans for the day have been scotched. I just want to get home and think about the next thing, the next thing I must do. A young man in a tight black suit sits in front of me, to the left. He turns and smiles. An exception in the gloom. I see half his face as I try to adjust my eyeholes. Dark-haired, square-jawed, exuding cocky but friendly energy. I nod in acknowledgment. I understand how this must look.

“What’s your story?” he asks.

“Supposed to be a Minotaur.”

“Speak up, man.”

“I’m supposed to be a Minotaur!”

“Yeah, I gather that, but the question is why? I mean, in the middle of the day?” He taps his wristwatch, holding it up as though he knows I’ll have trouble spotting it without assistance. “Kinda early for a costume ball, eh?”

“That’s later, yes, a party.” A party to which I wasn’t invited, speaking of which. “But I was trying on the mask and—well, I can’t get it off.”

The young man chuckles into his hand.

“It’s not funny,” I say.

“Sorry, I don’t mean to laugh, but you can’t get it off?”

“Believe me, I mashed my nose, ripped my ears and almost broke my jaw trying to get it off, but no go. I’m—it’s fucking stuck.”

The barista and I had spent the better part of an hour trying to pull the thing off, after I let him convince me to try it on “just for the hell of it.” The towel must have got jammed up inside there and we couldn’t get the mask off my head no matter how we tugged and twisted it. The barista said we needed a lubricant and grabbed a stick of butter from the cooler and greased me up, but all that did was stain my shirt. I figured my only option was to cut the bastard off.

“That’s fucked up,” says the young man. “Like, really out there.”

“I know. And I missed an appointment to sign my divorce papers. My ex will be pissed. She thinks I still love her.”

“Do you?”

“It’s—it’s been five years …”

“Anything I can do?”

“Like what?”

“Take you to Emergency or something? Tricky getting that thing off by yourself.”

“No, forget that shit.”

The young man stares at me with serious eyes.

“So you’re just going to go home and do it yourself?”

“Yeah, I’m going to cut it off.”

He leans over and taps the mask. “Gonna need a saw to get that sucker off.”

“Think so?”

The young man rings the bell and looks at me sadly.

“This is me,” he says.

“So it is.”

“Good luck with that.”

“Yeah, thanks,” I say, barely containing my tears.

 

 

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The Minotaur: Espresso

Tuesday, December 26th, 2017

by Salvatore Difalco

[ read suite in correct order ]

 

ESPRESSO

Thought I knew the city. Used to work as a bicycle courier and thought I knew every inch of it. Clearly not. It was upscale, this neighbourhood: high-end fashion, gourmet foods, designer kitchen supplies, extortionate furniture. Chi chi cafes and tony eateries glittered uninvitingly. I entered a zinc-encrusted espresso bar and took an aluminum stool at the gleaming counter. I was the only customer. The barista, back to me, ponytail shaking as he worked, must not have heard me enter. I could see him, bearded, serious, black plaid vest impressive, in the mirrors behind the bar, but his downcast eyes and furrowed brow indicated complete focus on the task at hand.

I cleared my throat, more loudly than I’d intended, startling the barista, who whirled around holding in his hands some kind of metallic sculpture or icon.

“It’s you,” he said. “I’ve been waiting.”

Before I could say anything, the barista raised his hand.

“Existence is bizarre,” he said.  “Consciousness contradicts reality, undermines it.”

“When you finish polishing your toy—a double espresso, and tell me where I am.”

“Apotheosis requires encounters,” he said, smiling. He rested the statuette—a horned animal or hybrid creature, in brass—on the counter, and turned to the espresso machine. “We’re in the Seventh Circle of Hell,” he said, glancing over his shoulder.

“Practicing your stand-up? Love good stand-up. This gig just pays the rent. Correct?”

“They said you’d be feisty.”

They? Tell me what’s going on before I—”

“Before you what?” interrupted the barista. He placed a demitasse filled with thick black coffee at my elbow. Steam rose from it. “Sugar?” he asked.

Of course, sugar. He placed a chrome sugar bowl beside my cup. I stirred in two teaspoons and tasted. Not bad.

Resting his elbows on the counter, the barista opened his hands and settled his chin on them. “I know,” he sighed. “We get the coffee from a family-run operation out of Naples who’ve been roasting their own organically grown and specially blended beans for more than a century.”

“Seriously,” I said, “where am I? Got off the bus a few stops early. They must’ve redeveloped this whole neighbourhood, it all looks new to me.”

“He’s my talisman,” the barista said, nodding to the statuette, “traditional symbol of the unconquerable force of ego, haha.”

“I need to be …” I stopped myself and glanced at my wristwatch. Almost eleven.

“You were saying?”

“None of your business,” I said, when in reality I’d forgotten where I was going, drawing a blank. I racked my brain, but nothing came. A sense of panic washed over me, buzzy, cold.

“What’s the matter?” asked the barista.

“Where did you say we were?”

“This is a Minotaur,” he said, holding it under my nose.

Buffed to a rich shine, it exuded a faintly coppery smell. All told an impressive property. It could have easily crushed my skull with a violent blow. The barista tossed the statuette from hand to hand, a manoeuvre that looked reckless to me.

“Do you know what a Minotaur is?” he asked.

“I don’t fucking care.”

The barista smiled. “Picasso did some splendid Minotaurs. Do you know Picasso?”

“What do you mean? I know of him. I know his art. Whatever.”

“I want you to do something for me. If you do, I’ll tell you exactly where we are.”

He abruptly disappeared into the back. I examined the statuette. A bull-headed bipedal creature. I recalled reading about the Minotaur in high school mythology, but if someone had held a gun to my head I wouldn’t have been able to shorthand whatever myth it appears in, or explain any socio-historical or symbolic associations. How did it become part of my day, a day when I was scheduled to sign my divorce papers? Ah-ha! I thought. I was headed to the lawyer’s office to sign my divorce papers! Carolina and I had been separated for five years. So I wasn’t demonstrating signs of early onset dementia. But damn, I’d missed the appointment. Carolina would see this as a deliberate attempt to forestall the inevitable—she believed I still loved her.

Shortly the barista returned holding some kind of mask by one of its two horns. It was quite large and as menacing a mask as I had ever seen.

“What the hell is that?”

“The construction’s well done,” he said. “Real craftsmanship went into this bad boy. No detail glanced over. That’s real bull hide and real bull horns, man. But get this—foam padded interior. I kid you not. We hit our tester in the head multiple times with boffer swords and he barely felt it, and the mask stood up to further beatings—bats, chains, whips—no rips or tears.”

“What the—what?”

“You’re skeptical. Okay. Some cons. Not easy to see out of it. Zero peripheral. Even seeing ahead challenging—keep eyes centred on the eyeholes or you’re blind. And the interior of the head is huge, made for an Andre the Giant, haha. Your head appears normal-sized. But the testers kept it on without too much wobble using a wound towel—like a turban. I strongly suggest you copy.” He placed a rolled white towel by my elbow.

I stared at the mask, the sharp horns, the flaring nostrils.

“Did my ex put you up to this?” I asked, however unlikely she’d go to such lengths.

“Your ex?”

“I’m not putting that on,” I said.

“But you came here for it, didn’t you?” The barista leaned over. “You need it for the party, no? The costume party.”

“But I—”

“Come on, man. Don’t get weird on me. Just put it on.” He patted the towel. “The towel will keep it stable. Come on. I don’t have all day.”

 

 

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The Minotaur

Monday, December 25th, 2017

by Salvatore Difalco

 

THE BUS

I could smell exhaust fumes. I wasn’t fully awake. My estranged wife Carolina had knitted the burgundy mohair sweater I was wearing, before she started hating me, but I had no memory of putting it on. I rubbed my face. A glimpse of my hands made me start. My fingers looked swollen and inflamed, fingernails discoloured. I performed violent jazz hands, hoping to restore circulation. But this was painful.

People on the bus looked like animals bearing reproachful burdens. A commensurate odour prevailed. Life in the city can be hard. Yet I felt little empathy for them, my fellow beasts. We had failed. We had all failed. What was left for us to do but despair, moving from foot to foot, or hoof to hoof, like doomed livestock?

The bus driver leaned to his open side window and blew snot from his nose in a silvery mucous-jet. He turned and caught my eye. Blue-tinged steel-wool sideburns coiled from under his ill-fitting navy driver’s cap. The black holes of his nostrils yawned, small black eyes peeping out above them, like their satellites.

A man beside me, who bore a resemblance to a fine English horse, lifted and lowered his chin, fluttering his lips. I held the stanchion, white-knuckled; an unpleasant disequilibrium threatened to topple me whenever the bus swerved or jerked to a sudden stop.

“You don’t look well,” said a woman wearing red plastic, gripping the same stanchion, in a falsetto rivaling that of Johnny, Señor Wences’s talking hand. Her arm seemed unattached to her small, round body. I tried not to think about it too much.

“I slept poorly,” I said.

A whiff of salami breath made me turn my head and face the window. Clouds darkened the world without. Perhaps a great storm was moving in, a monsoon, to cleanse the city.

“I know who you are,” said the woman in my ear.

My ear tingled. A man seated below the window, missing a third or so of the facial surface area typical for a head of his size, smiled. I could not imagine what accidents or procedures had led to this, so I averted his gaze and stared at an advertisement adjacent to him for a Phantom of the Opera production scheduled to open that autumn.

The intrusive woman had shoved beside me and tucked her small head under my arm, extended to grip the stanchion to my right. The man with the scant face raised his eyebrows. This reaction made me feel a kinship with him that, in retrospect, amounted to nothing, but at that moment bolstered me: no matter what the woman said, I would keep cool.

“I know where you’re going,” she said.

Sometimes with people like this, it’s best to just go along.

“So tell me,” I said.

“I know,” she said, drawing her hands to her breasts. Her hands, covered with fine dark hairs, rubbed each other. “I’m invited to the same party.”

I tried to piece all this together with zero success.

“I’m a friend of Nessus—you know. We met at his summer shindig. I came as Ariadne.” She framed her face with her hands and curtsied. “You were going on about Sleeping Ariadne,” she added, “reclining after a delirious orgy, radiating in the glow of apotheosis.”

I stared at her, waiting for the break in character, the telling laugh, but it never came. This was a case of mistaken identity, or a delusion carried forth from some other scenario, and from other characters, unrelated to me.

“What’s my name?” I asked.

“At the party you said your name was Minos, but I know that’s not your real name.”

The man with the unusual face raised his eyebrows again. What I perceived as an expression of empathy, if not sympathy, turned out to be one of urgency.

“My stop,” he announced as the bus slowed. He hopped to his feet and exited without touching a single person or thing.

“Tonight you’re coming as a Minotaur,” the woman said.

“Say again?”

“You said you were coming to the next party as a Minotaur.”

This had gone far enough. I broke away from her and squeezed to the front doors. Someone or something violently lunged behind me as I shoved through, but I ignored it. Looking behind you pays no dividends, neither in horror films nor in life. The driver swung his face around, his nose with all its blackened pores stopping an inch from mine.

“What’re you think you’re doing, mate?”

“I want out.”

He pointed to a large laminated sign above him that read:

EXIT BACK DOORS ONLY.

He bared his teeth, which could have been wooden dentures judging from their hue and grain, and glanced backwards.

“Get going,” he chortled.

“I’m going,” I said. 

Faced with the atavistic energy of the riders, I thought of a ruse. Rather than shoving through them to the back of the bus, I remained at the front but ducked behind a man with the breadth of a silverback gorilla, obscuring myself to the driver, who intermittently checked his rear-view. The goliath serving as my shield could have played professional football in the United States or wrestled professionally, I’m convinced.

When the bus came to a stop, I waited for the driver to open the doors, front and back, since people stood waiting at the stop, and bolted for the front door before anyone made a move. The driver roared curses behind me, taking the matter too personally perhaps, a mistake if you ask me, but I moved swiftly, as I can when I must.

 

 

ESPRESSO

Thought I knew the city. Used to work as a bicycle courier and thought I knew every inch of it. Clearly not. It was upscale, this neighbourhood: high-end fashion, gourmet foods, designer kitchen supplies, extortionate furniture. Chi chi cafes and tony eateries glittered uninvitingly. I entered a zinc-encrusted espresso bar and took an aluminum stool at the gleaming counter. I was the only customer. The barista, back to me, ponytail shaking as he worked, must not have heard me enter. I could see him, bearded, serious, black plaid vest impressive, in the mirrors behind the bar, but his downcast eyes and furrowed brow indicated complete focus on the task at hand.

I cleared my throat, more loudly than I’d intended, startling the barista, who whirled around holding in his hands some kind of metallic sculpture or icon.

“It’s you,” he said. “I’ve been waiting.”

Before I could say anything, the barista raised his hand.

“Existence is bizarre,” he said.  “Consciousness contradicts reality, undermines it.”

“When you finish polishing your toy—a double espresso, and tell me where I am.”

“Apotheosis requires encounters,” he said, smiling. He rested the statuette—a horned animal or hybrid creature, in brass—on the counter, and turned to the espresso machine. “We’re in the Seventh Circle of Hell,” he said, glancing over his shoulder.

“Practicing your stand-up? Love good stand-up. This gig just pays the rent. Correct?”

“They said you’d be feisty.”

They? Tell me what’s going on before I—”

“Before you what?” interrupted the barista. He placed a demitasse filled with thick black coffee at my elbow. Steam rose from it. “Sugar?” he asked.

Of course, sugar. He placed a chrome sugar bowl beside my cup. I stirred in two teaspoons and tasted. Not bad.

Resting his elbows on the counter, the barista opened his hands and settled his chin on them. “I know,” he sighed. “We get the coffee from a family-run operation out of Naples who’ve been roasting their own organically grown and specially blended beans for more than a century.”

“Seriously,” I said, “where am I? Got off the bus a few stops early. They must’ve redeveloped this whole neighbourhood, it all looks new to me.”

“He’s my talisman,” the barista said, nodding to the statuette, “traditional symbol of the unconquerable force of ego, haha.”

“I need to be …” I stopped myself and glanced at my wristwatch. Almost eleven.

“You were saying?”

“None of your business,” I said, when in reality I’d forgotten where I was going, drawing a blank. I racked my brain, but nothing came. A sense of panic washed over me, buzzy, cold.

“What’s the matter?” asked the barista.

“Where did you say we were?”

“This is a Minotaur,” he said, holding it under my nose.

Buffed to a rich shine, it exuded a faintly coppery smell. All told an impressive property. It could have easily crushed my skull with a violent blow. The barista tossed the statuette from hand to hand, a manoeuvre that looked reckless to me.

“Do you know what a Minotaur is?” he asked.

“I don’t fucking care.”

The barista smiled. “Picasso did some splendid Minotaurs. Do you know Picasso?”

“What do you mean? I know of him. I know his art. Whatever.”

“I want you to do something for me. If you do, I’ll tell you exactly where we are.”

He abruptly disappeared into the back. I examined the statuette. A bull-headed bipedal creature. I recalled reading about the Minotaur in high school mythology, but if someone had held a gun to my head I wouldn’t have been able to shorthand whatever myth it appears in, or explain any socio-historical or symbolic associations. How did it become part of my day, a day when I was scheduled to sign my divorce papers? Ah-ha! I thought. I was headed to the lawyer’s office to sign my divorce papers! Carolina and I had been separated for five years. So I wasn’t demonstrating signs of early onset dementia. But damn, I’d missed the appointment. Carolina would see this as a deliberate attempt to forestall the inevitable—she believed I still loved her.

Shortly the barista returned holding some kind of mask by one of its two horns. It was quite large and as menacing a mask as I had ever seen.

“What the hell is that?”

“The construction’s well done,” he said. “Real craftsmanship went into this bad boy. No detail glanced over. That’s real bull hide and real bull horns, man. But get this—foam padded interior. I kid you not. We hit our tester in the head multiple times with boffer swords and he barely felt it, and the mask stood up to further beatings—bats, chains, whips—no rips or tears.”

“What the—what?”

“You’re skeptical. Okay. Some cons. Not easy to see out of it. Zero peripheral. Even seeing ahead challenging—keep eyes centred on the eyeholes or you’re blind. And the interior of the head is huge, made for an Andre the Giant, haha. Your head appears normal-sized. But the testers kept it on without too much wobble using a wound towel—like a turban. I strongly suggest you copy.” He placed a rolled white towel by my elbow.

I stared at the mask, the sharp horns, the flaring nostrils.

“Did my ex put you up to this?” I asked, however unlikely she’d go to such lengths.

“Your ex?”

“I’m not putting that on,” I said.

“But you came here for it, didn’t you?” The barista leaned over. “You need it for the party, no? The costume party.”

“But I—”

“Come on, man. Don’t get weird on me. Just put it on.” He patted the towel. “The towel will keep it stable. Come on. I don’t have all day.”

 

 

CHIAROSCURO

The world is divided into distinct halves. The right side bright and full of chattering people living good lives and willing to talk about it. The left side dark, thronged by sullen figures absorbed in dark, unspeakable thoughts. I’m having trouble breathing. I expected as much. And hearing, forget about it. Might as well be buried. But that comes with the turf. The bifurcation of the world, however, comes as an unpleasant surprise. Who knew? Maybe one of the eyes has a darker lens. That’s too easy.

The bus rumbles and wheezes along. No one dares sit beside me, there in the middle of the back seat, no one from the dark side, no one from the bright side. My peripherals are blocked, but I know that no one sits to my left or to my right and that no one will sit there.

I’m perspiring heavily, armpits soaked. Raging thirst. I just want to get home now. My plans for the day have been scotched. I just want to get home and think about the next thing, the next thing I must do. A young man in a tight black suit sits in front of me, to the left. He turns and smiles. An exception in the gloom. I see half his face as I try to adjust my eyeholes. Dark-haired, square-jawed, exuding cocky but friendly energy. I nod in acknowledgment. I understand how this must look.

“What’s your story?” he asks.

“Supposed to be a Minotaur.”

“Speak up, man.”

“I’m supposed to be a Minotaur!”

“Yeah, I gather that, but the question is why? I mean, in the middle of the day?” He taps his wristwatch, holding it up as though he knows I’ll have trouble spotting it without assistance. “Kinda early for a costume ball, eh?”

“That’s later, yes, a party.” A party to which I wasn’t invited, speaking of which. “But I was trying on the mask and—well, I can’t get it off.”

The young man chuckles into his hand.

“It’s not funny,” I say.

“Sorry, I don’t mean to laugh, but you can’t get it off?”

“Believe me, I mashed my nose, ripped my ears and almost broke my jaw trying to get it off, but no go. I’m—it’s fucking stuck.”

The barista and I had spent the better part of an hour trying to pull the thing off, after I let him convince me to try it on “just for the hell of it.” The towel must have got jammed up inside there and we couldn’t get the mask off my head no matter how we tugged and twisted it. The barista said we needed a lubricant and grabbed a stick of butter from the cooler and greased me up, but all that did was stain my shirt. I figured my only option was to cut the bastard off.

“That’s fucked up,” says the young man. “Like, really out there.”

“I know. And I missed an appointment to sign my divorce papers. My ex will be pissed. She thinks I still love her.”

“Do you?”

“It’s—it’s been five years …”

“Anything I can do?”

“Like what?”

“Take you to Emergency or something? Tricky getting that thing off by yourself.”

“No, forget that shit.”

The young man stares at me with serious eyes.

“So you’re just going to go home and do it yourself?”

“Yeah, I’m going to cut it off.”

He leans over and taps the mask. “Gonna need a saw to get that sucker off.”

“Think so?”

The young man rings the bell and looks at me sadly.

“This is me,” he says.

“So it is.”

“Good luck with that.”

“Yeah, thanks,” I say, barely containing my tears.

 

 

 

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