Category Archives: WEB FEATURES

Several Indisputable Claims and Why I Fear Chainsaws Simulated; by Justin Kanzler

Simulated Reality Theory argues that the universe is actually a simulation created by a computer with powers far beyond our comprehension. That means everything–including the interdimensional loose change that lives in every couch simultaneously–is actually a few imperceptible lines of code for us to blithely accept and complain about. A foundational argument for the possible existence of this omniscient computer is that nobody can prove it doesn’t exist. Also Elon Musk believes in it and that guy made, like, a bunch of cool shit so obviously this is something worth considering. I worry about the logic behind believing something is possible just because it’s impossible to disprove. And my fear of accepting the logic of simulated reality theory is, quite naturally, rooted in my deep fear of chainsaws.

I saw a therapist. He was on a tv show, but that’s the kind of therapy I can afford, and this tele-therapist said it is important to define what your fear is to you, so instead of listening to advice from someone talking directly to me or someone that actually exists, I’m listening to Dr. Television. My fear is chainsaws. To me chainsaws are the unwholesome union of engineering and a profession defined by hitting trees while wearing flannel. They are the product of cleverness and violence just like all of our greatest inventions: unmanned aircrafts, mustard gas, the microwave. What other than a mechanized razor stick could have come from this incongruous matrimony of brilliance and muscles. Other than their obvious utility as tree-murderators, chainsaws have 2 things going for them that frighten me to my nougat core: they are silent until activated, and they can be purchased as most large home improvement stores. Silence and Home Depot create the frightening possibility that everyone around me is quietly hiding a chainsaw behind their backs or in their comically large trench coats or even a teeny tiny chainsaw tucked away in a purse next to 3 mismatched sticks of gum and someone else’s sock. There could be a chainsaw in every hand if that hand is out of my field of view, and nibbles at my piece of mind like a rabbit nibbling at a lost and sorely missed lumberjack thumb.

With the information available to me and with the rationale posed by Simulated Reality, I can make the following indisputable claims:

Claim 1
There is a man with a chainsaw outside my room. The door to my room is closed. The curtains are drawn. It’s that time of night where anybody outside is either a murderer or an astronomer. Outside my door there is a hulking man with a greasy burlap sack over his head, and he is holding a jagged collection of unsympathetic metal teeth powered by internal combustion. There is a silent chainsaw-toting beast-man outside my bedroom door, which I have only now realized is totally inadequate defense against chainsaws because it’s wood and wood is what they eat, and based on the information I have available to me, I cannot possibly prove he’s not there. I can see every corner of my room; I can understand everything I can perceive with however many senses I have. Based on the information my senses give me–limited as they are by damage from loud concerts, reading at night, and sneezing like I fucking mean it–I can’t prove that someone isn’t about to shred my door with an unsympathetic wood-ravager before doing the same thing to me.

Claim 2
I was seconds away from a buzzing evisceration yesterday at my bus stop because the woman by the trash can had the new Echo CS-370 Chainsaw strapped to her back and hidden beneath her coat. That warm smile wasn’t one of greeting when I walked by. It was a smile hiding a graphic secret, a smile that knew she was planning on loudly making my entrails into extrails using a tool that can turn a healthy vertical tree into a horizontal dead one in under a minute. My squishy body wouldn’t provide a third the resistance a tree could, and that smile showed me that maniac knew it. I can never prove that my bus stop companion was mere moments away from hauling 40.2 CCs of slaughter from the trash can before doing to me what she’s probably done to countless blocks of ice: carving me into something wet and misshapen. I can’t prove it, but I am certain she wanted to see what I looked like as a puree.

Claim 3
When I closed my eyes during Heads Up Seven Up as a kid, the other children actually stalked the room with chainsaws instead of creeping around touching thumbs. I haven’t been afraid of chainsaws for my whole life, but that just verifies what I always knew: I was a stupid child. Looking back, it’s laughably obvious that the only reason eye-closing was a part of Heads Up Seven Up (HUSU?) was so the other children would have a chance to whip out their child-sized chainsaws–which come in Hello Kitty print, Camo, or faux blood stain–and prowl around the room picking who they want to annihilate. The only comfort I have is that the teacher would have intervened if a child had actually tried to saw another child while they were defenseless–probably because the teacher was saving them all for later. I’m onto you Mrs. Piers; your therapist tone and poofy gray hair can’t hide your secret murderous intent. I can never prove that my seemingly placid and apparently loving 5th grade teacher had a chainsaw hidden under her dress the entire year I knew her, but my 10 year-old senses were less acute back then. I was an amateur to paranoia, but now I am seasoned like a good chicken. Even if there’s no way to prove it, I bet she was poised to attack every time I was distracted during mid-morning journal hour.

So what lesson can we draw from the potential of a simulated reality? Fear. We should be afraid. Absolute bowel-voiding terror should dominate every second of our lives because there is no possible way to prove you are safe from potential chainsaw vivisection or any of the other three thousand and six ways the warranty on our soft ham-bodies can be voided. It is impossible to dispute my chainsaw-inspired fears because the evidence against them just doesn’t exist. I live in fear because I cannot disprove the possibility that someone nearby is hiding a chainsaw and amping themselves up to tear through my supple flesh and transform my walls into a lumberjack-son Pollock painting. I cuddle my cat and weep my terror because we can’t commit to thinking something is ludicrous just because it is difficult to cite common sense to a philosopher. So I’m cowering under blankets–which may or may not be digitally generated–because that seems to be the only viable option.

Let Me Explain To You Why You Get No Extra-Credit; (a dispatch from your web-editor)

Let Me Explain To You Why You Get No Extra Credit
by Eric Dovigi

I.
A dead skunk is permitted to decompose on the side of a road until it dissolves like a putrid dandelion, yet I’m not allowed to sit on a public bench for more than a half-hour.

II.
On this Earth, to shoot, stab, blow up, push, stone, set on fire, toss in acid, banish, exile, ostracize, discourage, hate, and ridicule are the most ubiquitous methods of empowerment.

III.
In our culture, people are invited and encouraged to commoditize themselves on human-sharing websites that suggest they assign themselves a status, a profile, neat lists of friends, events, and take photos of themselves with squishy faces, let people know what sorts of boring things they will be doing that night and invite other people to share in the boredom; or by means of a carefully chosen quotation, express the intention to spend a lifetime in pursuit of artistic accomplishment of which they will never, ever, in a million years in a million possible universes, be even partly capable.

IV.
People jump on top of alligators for fun, eat spoonfuls of cinnamon, lick frozen aluminum poles, build paper mache wings and leap from the Eiffel Tower, all with more confidence than I have ever had, doing anything, in my entire life.

V.
This morning I walked to work with plastic bags tied around my shoes. My shoes were made for running in the summertime. The right shoe has a large hole in the side.

VI.
It is winter. Snow is everywhere. By the time I got halfway to work the plastic bags had torn mostly off. My right sock was drenched. I stumbled and fell cutting through the dry gully by the graveyard.

VII.
Every day I wake up tired, and I spend so much time during the day just being tired that by the time I go to bed, I’m not really that tired anymore, so I lie awake until it’s morning.

VIII.
You came into class twenty minutes late yesterday. Twenty minutes. Here is a list of pretty much the only people that are ever twenty minutes late on a regular basis: a) employees who are about to get fired, b) people having sex at near-absolute-zero temperatures, c) Gandalf, d) the New York Phil’ under Leonard Bernstein (I don’t expect you to get that joke), e) Kanye West when his watch is set forty minutes ahead, and f) the rabbit from Alice In Wonderland.

IX.
You have not been writing down the word-of-the-day since at least September. I watch you.

X.
I don’t like your Facebook profile picture. Yeah, I looked up your name on Facebook.

XI.
I make less money now, as an instructor at a university, than I did when I worked retail–by a long-shot. Lagavulin ain’t getting any cheaper.

XII.
I’m starting to go a little deaf in my left ear. What’s that? Extra what?

XIII.
I’m afraid of dying. I want those extra-credit points for myself. I want to horde them up. Maybe my inflammation will reduce. Maybe cell-senescence will slow–or reverse. Maybe my traumatic memories will disappear. Let the serotonin flow. Let wine rain from the sky. Give me those extra-credit points! They’re mine! num num num…

XIV.
No. I don’t want them. I don’t want those extra-credit points because they’ll only dull the pain for a moment, child. The elation won’t last. The sense of safety, of accomplishment, of pride, will pass quickly and leave no residue, and the weight of Earth will descend with swift eagerness and you will be utterly crushed, you tiny tiny human. Old people will fuck you over forever, until they die, and then you’ll be old, and the dead skunks will dot the roads and you won’t be allowed to sit on a bench, and cars will hit you, and people will laugh at you, and you’ll have spent your entire life as a teacher making less money than you did when you worked retail, and then you’ll die.

XV.
There is no such thing as extra-credit.

3 Poems by John Findura

YOU HAVE ALREADY BEEN BURIED AND I DID NOT KNOW YOU WERE DEAD

I don’t remember if we had been playing cards
but once we sat at your parents’ kitchen table
and sometime during that night you told me
about your sister in the Florida hospital

none of us knew you had a sister

We stayed up until dawn playing video games
and spitting tobacco into empty iced tea bottles
and during the winter you walked home in the snow

Now you are dead somewhere

a bullet hole or many bullet holes in you

I don’t know

I want to ask your father was it a bullet hole or many bullet holes?

You scored a touchdown against the state champs
and you went to a Big Ten college in another state
and you had a girlfriend you said you didn’t deserve

You would call me at all hours of the night
and just laugh

You have already been buried and I did not know you were dead

Now I assume your hair is short and an American flag
was draped over your coffin, but I’m probably wrong

You had joined the military years ago to find yourself
and you had left the military years ago only to find this now

I assume your sister was given a pass from the hospital
to attend your funeral, but maybe she was never told either

Even if she was told she still might not know anyway

I think you cried at the kitchen table that night

Maybe it was exsanguination, or traumatic hypovolemic shock,
a pneumothorax, or anything but saying shot to death

Your father won’t say shot to death and your mother still
brings out your dinner plate on weekends and cries at that same
kitchen table where we sat possibly playing cards

When we were young you had a New York accent
and when we grew up you still had a New York accent
and now you are dead somewhere and I don’t know where you are buried

It is often funny how things work out at times
This is not one of those times

I don’t know if it was your mother or father
who answered the phone
and I don’t know if it was day or night
or even what season it was

I don’t know if you were alone or with a girlfriend you didn’t deserve
or even if you were by now married with New York-accented children

I do know stupid things about kinetic energy like KE = mv2/2
where m = mass and v = velocity and this all explains why
projectiles of greater mass and/or velocity create greater tissue disruption
than projectiles of lower mass and/or velocity
and all together what that means is that you are not coming back

because you have already been buried and I did not know you were dead

But, I am sure, you know this for yourself by now

— —

TULPA

Once I read an article about a surrealist
magician, painter, and all around roustabout
who turned into an owl in 1976
and scared schoolchildren in England

Perhaps I misread that

Maybe it was an article about coincidences
and a man playing a joke who suddenly
flew up into the air revealing that it was not a joke

Maybe it was about Mexico City
and psychic marionettes strutting by
or even what the Tibetans call tulpas

Sometimes I worry that I am a tulpa myself
that I am just the manifestation of sheer discipline

Sometimes I think that I have created myself

Once I wrote that “I am my own continent now”
This is what I meant before I knew the word

— —

SAY SOFA

She would never say
sofa for me, and I asked
her often

it was simply the way
her accent turned the so
into a foreign animal

the way fa sounded
brisk and meaningfully
holy

sounded like the foundation
of the Western world
and of myself

it had nothing to do
with a place to sit, to
perhaps lie down

it only had to do
with something I choose
to keep even from myself

— —
John Findura is the author of the poetry collection Submerged (ELJ, 2018). He holds an MFA from The New School as well as a degree in psychotherapy. His poetry and criticism appear in numerous journals including Verse; Fourteen Hills; Copper Nickel; Pleiades; Forklift, Ohio; Sixth Finch; Prelude; and Rain Taxi. A guest blogger for The Best American Poetry, he lives in Northern New Jersey with his wife and daughters.

Voyager 1 Meets God; by Justin Kanzler

After home I have seen light.
And I have drifted unmoving through an emptiness
That never saw me,
small beneath spheres colossal
casting shadows infinitesimal
in the lit wake of titans.
I am here to watch and to understand,
and here is never the same.
I am out,
alone,
the first to find what
has been forever here.
Before you,
I found
red faded light playing upon me even as it died,
and a massive turbid monster perfect scarlet punctuating marbled brown,
I have seen fractured crystal cold dancing circles as a crown,
and I have seen blue eyes wide against a wall of black,
I have been here in the company of giants
alone,
but what is here,
really,
is nothing,
passive, enveloping everything,
and there, too, is light.
Then,
I found you,
alone,
black eyes bearing heavy hallowed distant light,
your body, nothing coalesced and impossible,
and I saw through you
to far lights
improbable.
In the teeming glow of drifting stars,
I found you
watching, too.
But you looked in all directions
like something lost,
or like something had lost you.
And you were so unhappy,
knowing as you did everything that had come to pass,
and looking as you can to everything that would be,
and who could be happy so paralyzed by inevitability,
waiting,
for what you knew would happen
but unable to intervene
because you knew you wouldn’t.
But the same light that lit me golden
finally illuminated you with my reflection.
And you knew I would come,
and I knew you would follow,
away,
together to find new light and giants.

	

Tricky Wash; by Matthew Johnstone

People called coyotes

will take you across,

                                                                                  highways will have roses

to stray the hell, no

one says animals

veer at name, how

this blurry dust field

home ends,

 

                    the wend fell us moving

                    white light aside, why

                    men wear the names of

                    animals down their

                    fronts, as cooks,

 

                                   or pitch their bodies, down

                                   to what, a method of state,

                                   no walking at to where is

                                   away, season seen onto

                                   the eye, then this true

                                   else is our nor, down

 

rows of shoulders, how border

share us down to none, we, an

act, leak at field, that or as

far as collapsing in directions,

coasts, that include, eyes

 

                                            in the sun blurred bodies,

                                            gave and met, and ripped

                                            apart, us and out into

                                            them slowing, to suggest

                                            we easily become else to,

                                            speak in these, breaths that

                                            hung from mustache

 

                                                                            through chain link

                                                                            fence, snaking inland,

                                                                            near here the field,

                                                                            remains horses, bones

                                                                            curled on their sides

                                                                            atop floating pollen,

 

                                                      blind though edgeless, as west,

                                                      were stupid to further, the

                                                      lice white suns the sky apart so

                                                      sky in this ravine makes little

                                                      sense, they handfuls in sightless,

                                                      search where were there no

                                                      places,

 

                    You are calling this canyon   

                    Tricky Wash

                                  choking thousands, no

                                  animal asks you why the

                                  sun speaks a synonym of

                                  us, anywhere earth not

                                  become ours, cars that

                                  press against one

                                  another, no coyote,

 

the more you look someone

has no eyes

in the eyes

Blessed Feathers, of Flagstaff

“Eric! Here’s a writing prompt: picture a perfect musical duo. Describe the duo.”

Well, a few things immediately come to mind: the members of this duo should spurn the use of the ukulele though be masters of the instrument, should an appropriate context ever arise; they should know Dinah Washington from Billie Holiday; they should have the sort of charming accent that makes anything sound like gospel truth, no matter how bizarre; they should have remarkable taste in visual art, literature, music (duh), pies, clothing; they should be experts at keeping campfires burning correctly; they should work in bakeries or book stores or coffee houses or museums or national parks; they should have laser vision and super strength.

I know what you’re going to say. You’re going to say, “Eric! You stupid dolt! You just went and described Blessed Feathers.”

To which I’ll respond: “Don’t call me a dolt, Dad. And I know. That was precisely the point.”

It’s been nearly a year and a half now since Flagstaff saw the arrival of two of the most remarkable local artists we’ve had in years. They have yet to reveal any laser-vision or super strength, but I’m waiting patiently, looking out of the corner of my eye. You never know, with people of a certain echelon of radness, when they will decide to display their full radness. All of the other traits described are accurate.

But in addition to their remarkable talents there are remarkable oddnesses. As there should be. I wonder, when I listen to There Will Be No Sad Tomorrow, if there is anything in Donivan’s wail on the first track, Hitchhiking, that suggests a man who wears shorts three-hundred and forty days out of the year. Likewise, is there anything to the twang of Jacquelyn’s banjo on Wide World (from previous album Order of the Arrow) that indicates an encyclopedic knowledge of pie? Does their music suggest obsession with donuts?

I mention these things, because I’d like to attempt to convey some portion of the wackiness, the vivacity, the value of these wonderful Flagstaffians. Many of us here know D & J personally, many of us are acquainted, many of us have simply noticed them at Bookmans and Macy’s–we who have had the pleasure of hanging out with them don’t need any of my meager depictions, and already know exactly who to turn to if they have a question about pie that needs answering (I believe Donivan’s patronage alone has turned Sugar Mama’s into a Fortune 500 company). Those who have yet to meet these two raddest of folks should go straight to the next Blessed Feathers concert and try to corner them after the show–and in the meantime, read this brief interview to get a sense of the coolness you will be encountering.

  1. You’ve recently performed in Europe! Tell me about it: what were the venues like, the audiences, etc.?

Jacquelyn: The venues were very hospitable. The venue employees as well as the attendees spoke excellent English. At “Global,” the venue we played in Copenhagen, after soundcheck they served us a candlelit dinner under a massive chandelier, with our album cover projected onto the wall behind us. We felt like royalty, sitting there at the end of a long banquet table with the employees and the opening band all laughing together.

Donivan: We played at a jazz club in Odense called “the Dexter,” and during sound check the engineer said: “Wait just a second, I’m going to come change your microphone.” I asked: “Why, is this one broken? I didn’t notice anything wrong.” And he said: “No, I just think this other type of microphone would compliment the sound of your voice better.” In all our years of touring, that was the first time the sound guy had paid such attention to the details.

  1. You’re entering year two in Arizona– what attracted you to Flagstaff, and how has it influenced you as artists?

Jacquelyn: I visited my cousin here years ago, and seeing how close stunning places like the Grand Canyon, Sedona, and the San Francisco Peaks were to Flagstaff, seemingly right in your backyard, was a really exciting feeling. The natural side of this area is so diverse, and art plays an important part in it as well, especially the downtown area.

Donivan: Coming from Wisconsin, it’s a welcome change from the cold, gray Midwest. Having so much sunshine is a relief. And as for art, Jacquelyn showed her paintings at one of the First Friday art walks last summer, and the downtown area being so close and compact makes it easy to enjoy and get involved with. There’s certainly no shortage of painters and musicians here, despite the city being relatively small.

  1. How has your live setup evolved over the years? and what can we expect to see/hear this summer?

Donivan: We’ve toured with four different live drummers, we’ve tried live-drum looping, and we’ve toured as an acoustic duo or trio. We’re constantly trying to rework live versions of our songs so as to find the most efficient, but also most enjoyable presentation. Our newest album came out in the fall, for which we toured for a few weeks in the Southwest, West Coast, and in Europe. We just started recording new songs last month, and we hope to start playing shows again later this year after reworking our live set.

 

  1. Jackie, I’ve seen some of your awesome paintings displayed downtown. Are you painting these days, and will we be able to see them up again?

Jackie: I haven’t been making large-scale paintings, just smaller things on notecards and projects for friends. I’d like to show more of it this year, but have nothing planned just yet. It’s searchable on Instagram with “#JacquelynBeaupreArt.”

 

  1. It’s exciting to hear that you guys are recording new songs! “There Will Be No Sad Tomorrow” has a wonderful, expansive sound. Can you describe how the new tunes are comparing to TWBNST and past work?

Donivan: My taste in music has been growing older and older, as modern American music seems to get more boring every year. So I’ve been seeking out the strangest of the strange in classic tunes, weird guys like Tom Waits and Captain Beefheart. My songs have been getting longer and longer as well. Not quite as long as Fela Kuti’s songs, but experimenting more with the sounds and grooves as opposed to the same old verse/chorus standards.

 

  1. Who are some writers that have influenced you as lyricists? What are you reading at the moment?

Jackie: I have this book of poems from 1909 that I’m always going back to. It’s called “Narrative & Lyric Poems,” with some exceptional sections on “Poems of Joy In Life” and “Poems of Courtship & Love” that are really beautiful. But it’s falling apart by now and I’m getting afraid to turn the pages.

Donivan: As far as song lyrics go, Jacquelyn loves Neil Young’s “Harvest” and “Harvest Moon” albums. We both love Townes Van Zandt, one of the greatest lyricists that there ever was. His songs were so simple, yet he could describe life or drugs or women with such beauty and complexity. It teaches me that beneath all of the guitars and drums and melodies in our music, there needs to be a simple, meaningful, well-written song at its heart.

 

Postscript:

My bumbling attempt at a bio leaves out some important details. Here they are:

There Will Be No Sad Tomorrow, the most recent BF album, was released on October 9th of 2015. It can be researched and purchased at the first link below (along with other pertinent links to places where you can hear Blessed Feathers songs, and find updates).

  1. Official Website & Store
  2. NPR Feature
  3. Vinyl Me, Please Release (Newest Album)
  4. Bandcamp (Free Streaming)
  5. Soundcloud (Free Streaming)
  6. Facebook

The lovely folks hail (more or less) from Wisconsin. They have been ramblers for a while, one or the other of them having been librarians in Big Sur, English teachers in Peru, and cross-country bicyclers, all the while releasing three full-length albums and several singles/LPs on ramshackle labels. The most recent, TWBNST, was featured on Vinyl Me, Please. Look for performance dates, releases, in the coming months.

 

Eric Dovigi, web-editor

The Adventures Of The Moving Lump

By Damyanti Biswas

Omi remembered the summer he turned six for different reasons. He lost his first tooth, Grandpa died in a faraway Indian village, and Grandma came to live with them in their tiny apartment in Florida.

But of that summer, he remembered best the stories Grandma told him, speaking in a firm, clear voice over the sputtering of the air-cooler in her curtained alcove. Tales from myth, fables of wisdom, and the legends of the lump in her stomach.

Some days, it was the peanut she had swallowed as a child, that now wanted to grow into a watermelon. On others, it became a cask in which the frightened rabbit had taken shelter to hide from the cruel fox, or the beating heart of a princess kept safe from demons in her palace as she lay dreaming. Mingled with the adventures of the moving lump, she told him stories about souls that didn’t die, but floated off to rest on the clouds for a while before dressing up in new bodies and returning to earth.

When she died, Omi didn’t grieve. He missed touching the lump, the way it moved beneath his fingers in Grandma’s swollen stomach, but he had known that the lump lived inside her for only a while, and would one day go on its own journey. She had gone to rest on the clouds, and would return soon, wearing a new body.

Over the years, Omi thought often of Grandma, and the lump, of how those stories had taken him away from the humid, cramped rooms, the sweltering heat, and the poverty of his family that could only afford headache medicine to fight his Grandma’s pain.

Today he sat again in a darkened room, with the latest, most silent air-conditioner keeping him cool, near a bed he could crank up five different ways to keep his little daughter comfortable, and clear liquid flowing down a tube and into a cannula to keep her pain-free. He thought of the princess’s heart kept safe, the casket that protected the rabbit, wished for the same refuge for his daughter, and his wife who had fallen asleep, crumpled opposite him at the foot of the bed.

He would find that place for his family. He would make it for them, so that he, his daughter, her mother could curl up together, far away from this hospital room with its beeps, hum and swoosh, its smell of disinfectant, dried blood, room freshener.

When they woke up, he would take them there, with winding yarns about fairies changing bodies like people change clothes. He would tell them the truth, through tales of soldiers revolting against their own king, of battles lost and kingdoms won in small spaces. He would take them far away, like his Grandma.

He just had to get past the lump in his throat, get started on the stories.

Damyanti Biswas’s short fiction has been commended at the Bath Flash Fiction award. She’s published at Bluestem magazine, Griffith Review Australia, Lunch Ticket magazine, and other journals and anthologies in the USA, Malaysia and Singapore. Her debut novel in progress is longlisted for the Mslexia Novel Competition, 2015.

 

For All The Men Who Slept With Her

By Damyanti Biswas

From a distance, she took him for a boy. But on looking closer, Laura knew him for a boy-sized man, one of those people nature chooses to sport with.

She felt a gush of rage. She wanted to gather him up in her soft arms and tell him he looked good in his charcoal blue librarian’s uniform, his pale moustache, his curly head of hair, the way he smiled at the girl in front of her in the queue. When the girl walked off, Laura stepped up to the counter, and gave the boy-man her best smile.

Jasper, his nametag said. No surname, just Jasper, looking lonely.

“I have a few problems I’d like your help with.” Laura leaned over the counter, hoping to give Jasper a good view of her cleavage.

He smiled, his gaze not sliding down from her face, and said, “Sure, how may I help you?”

He pronounced the word ‘help’ separately from the other words, with a pause before and after. So he had chastised her, asked her to take her boobs off the table and focus on the work at hand. She showed him the book she had reserved, the receipt, bearing her name, and the title, ‘Georges Seurat, 1859-1891: The Master of Pointillism.’

He looked at his computer and nodded, “Just give me a minute.”

Jasper rose, his eyes still on his screen. He didn’t ask her if she was an art student, or smile.

“No wait, Jasper,” she said, her voice low and hoarse, as if about to confess a secret, “I have another problem.”

“Sure, tell me.” Jasper sat down again, his head still bent towards the screen.

In the distance, Laura heard cars screech to a halt, sirens. A door opened and shut somewhere behind the counter.

“You see,” Laura rustled the pictures in her book, Degas’ ballerinas, all twisted and bump-curvy, “There’s a tear in this, I want to make sure it’s repaired.”

“Sure, I’ll see to it.”

“There won’t be any charges?”

“Did you cause the tear?” Jasper looked at her for the first time, his gaze like that of a pigeon, curious, side-eyed.

“No, of course not. I noticed it, and didn’t want to drop it back with the tear.”

On the torn page, a bare breast looked up at them, like a peach pudding, its nipple red like a maraschino cherry.

“I’ll get your book now.” Jasper swallowed and turned away.

Laura stood there, under the air-conditioning, surrounded by rustles of newspaper, the hushed laughter of children, the whistling of a call tune instantly smothered. She pictured herself a wife at home in a blue apron, baking. But instead of Rashid who warmed her bed these days, she saw Jasper enter the kitchen, the poor little boy-man.

A shrivelling happened to all the men who slept with her. She sucked them up, heart, innards and all, and spat them out. They diminished as her painting grew, their life-blood colored her canvases. A witch, that’s what she was, but she wouldn’t take this one. She marched off, leaving the torn book at the counter, the balled-up receipt of her reserved book in her hand.

As she walked out to the entrance, she heard a stage whisper behind her. “Laura,” the boy-man called back to her, like a hoarse talking bird, “Laura, come back.”

She didn’t stop. She would paint Jasper this morning, and using all of an artist’s witchery, she would give his handsome face a befitting body.

Damyanti Biswas’s short fiction has been commended at the Bath Flash Fiction award. She’s published at Bluestem magazine, Griffith Review Australia, Lunch Ticket magazine, and other journals and anthologies in the USA, Malaysia and Singapore. Her debut novel in progress is longlisted for the Mslexia Novel Competition, 2015.