Two flash pieces by Toti O’Brien


So, when you sat there at four in the morning, having quietly slipped out of the bedroom. When you sat there and wrote—thoughts like threads of a cobweb, a minute procession of ants, black hieroglyphs sharp like blades, miniaturized barbed wire, iron against snow.

When you sat and your head was a cube, your head was a pyramid, your head was a building, your face a façade. And your face was leather, was parchment, your face was a library. Your eyes turned inwards, they fell back into your skull—that obscure recess, that cavernous catacomb full of cavities, teaming with archeological remains, broken steles, broken amphorae.

From that cave of silence and resonance your eyes sent a long beam piercing the predawn dusk, to reach a far landscape. Maybe a castle—small like a matchbox—a mountain, a church the size of a saltshaker, a steeple—its bell calling with a faint din of carillon. What did your eyes see? Perhaps nothing, while your thumb and index were wagging your lead like a helm—ink bravely navigating the page, a soft petrol tide.

Father, when you sat there, antelucan, heavy-lidded, night owl blinking at daylight, you hadn’t eaten a thing since your modest dinner of the evening before. You consigned then to the chair, desk, paper and pen your newly born emptiness, consciousness un-bitten, dry tongue, pink-sore gums, teeth small like those of a kitten.

You pulled out of your head—of the vacuity at the root of your nose, hyphenating your brow—a clean string stripped of fleshy tenderness. Lines sharpened by the lucidity of hunger, tensed with the despair of weakness. Lines like arrows piercing your stomach, your guts.

Afterwards you showered and went to mass. On your way back you bought the newspaper. You drank a small cup of coffee then, having stirred in a teaspoon of sugar. Sip by sip—left hand gripping the edge of the kitchen table. Slowly, breaking the fast.


“We eat the first discharge of the baby,” he whispered, and his eyes shone. His eyes were pretty dull, slits of pale blue screened by thick John-Lennon-round glasses. Still they shone, a smile wrinkling his face. He had blond hair tied in a ponytail.

He had just done it, he said. He and his mate (the mother), his pals, a sort of extended family. They had eaten the poop of his first son—the most powerful hallucinogenic brew you can think of. He went on with details about the ritual, duly enacted in the purest tradition.

I forget. The night. The bonfire. The secrecy. I forget. What did they drink before? After? What was the food that went along? Did they slip a mint leaf under their tongue? No, no. Did they wash it with a tisane of turmeric? Did they boost it instead with crushed garlic cloves? I forget.

Oh, la mierda del nene.

Nothing gives you a trip of such intensity. It is the only stool a body churns out when nothing has transited through the esophagus, stomach and guts. What the body expresses before having acquainted the basic, the primordial, the unique business of life. Ingest. Digest. Incorporate. Expel.

Tiny body knows nothing yet. In a second, it will. Purse its lips, attempt sucking motions, stick out an aimless tongue—seeking, tentative. Open a cavernous mouth and whine, desperate for something, but what?

First, though, a bowel movement. What is in there?

The fetus has feasted on blood up to date. Oh, the little vampire. Partied with Mama’s red at its heart’s content—the whole cocktail, globules, plasma, platelets. Hosed in through the navel—direct infusion. Concentrate. Essence. Distillate. Crème de la crème. Well, it’s over, sweetheart. You’ll need to grow teeth. Your munching career begins.

Dad, Mom, Auntie, Grandfather and this bunch of desperados around you are cannibalizing the last remains of your Eden. They have brought you to “this” world (at least Mommy and Daddy). They are entitled to a little bit of yours—the one you have just left.

Lulling sensory tank. Dreamland. Perfect hammock swinging in a tepid tropical night. Rhythmic beating of two concerted drums. Velvet canopy rocked by cool ocean tide. Wait a moment. Is it what they got, truly, out of that squirt of golden mud they religiously shared?

When I asked the pony-tailed father he gave me his vague, his allusive, his mysterious, his best innuendo. A tad condescending, at that. But he explained nothing. So what kind of high do you get from prime baby shit?

I believe it is dark and stellar. Implosive. Piercing. Radioactive. Limbic. Traumatic and thunderous. Flashy. Reminiscent of banishment. Biblical. Split and fractured, then suddenly amnesic. Sleepy. Hypnotic, then hanged-over in the morning.

The dew chilly on half-naked skin. Gravel tickling your spine. Smoldered embers. Lost sandals. Empty bowls. Sour smells and cold sweat. Melancholia. Fatigue. Exquisite nostalgia.

Toti O’Brien is the Italian Accordionist with the Irish Last Name. She was born in Rome then moved to Los Angeles, where she makes a living as a self-employed artist, performing musician and professional dancer. Her work has most recently appeared in Animal, Soul-Lit, Colorado Boulevard, and JMWW.