Fiction: Selections from Salvatore Difalco
What is this? Red velvet divans and cushions lend comfort to the audience, freshly arrived to watch the freak show scheduled for midnight. Teleported from a world where Miami Vice predominates the fashion aesthetic, the host in pastel pink with thumb-smudged eyebrows and a pencilled-in moustache brays discordant warm up jokes over a reverberating microphone, at the same time demonstrating how important socks become—or should become—in troubled or apocalyptic times. We move with great inevitability toward a terminus, the nature of which is obscure. In a world where savages reclaim old terrains and flaunt their brutish attitudes and manners, the simple courtesy of keeping unexposed a manly, hirsute ankle represents a saving grace, a starting step back toward enlightenment, if not sanity. He suppresses a yawn, the host, between bits, and the contagion spreads to the audience, squinting and gaping as they throw out their arms, open their mouths, and rear their heads. Imagine if they all dozed off at once. I muffle my own yawn and feel my muscles slacken and an overwhelming enervation settle upon me like a warm blanket as I try to finish this current nonsense. I don’t know why I bother, but I do. If I fell asleep right now I’d be mortified, yes, but also afraid of what might happen to me, both in my harrowing dreams and in the waking world where people fond of freak shows sit around me close enough to touch and smell. Frankly, too many people place importance on sleeping through the night; I would argue night is when my finest, lithest thoughts come out of hiding, slip out of their crannies and shadows intent to change my way of looking at the world or at myself. Nothing lasts forever? Who said that? Let’s get on with this, then. I think that everyone around me pretends to be someone they wish they were; in other words, they’re actors playing idealized versions of themselves. The problem is, how many good actors actually exist in the world at any given time? Everyone thinks they can act, and some people certainly fall into the category of naturals, but acting looks easier than it is. And good actors make it look easy. So most individuals fall into the category of bad or terrible actors and thus they fail to persuade an audience and evoke sympathy. For instance, the man to my left, in his black tight-fitting clothes, sipping an infernal beverage, looks like a professor of Satanism, that is to say, he resembles such a creature. And yet, upon closer examination, the pouches under his eyes and a delicate despair twisting his lips, and the shabby quality of his toupée indicate a a severe degree of enervation and degeneracy. Ask him why he has come to watch the two-headed man debate himself about identity and individuality and he shrugs, careful to flash his Rolex watch for he prizes it above all other objects in his little world, and for this he should not be hated.
Two red pills swallowed with tepid orange juice combat the right temple torment while water boils for java. Mentally, all went south upon opening the eyes and opening the writing pad. Who hammered this spike into my head? A question unanswered. Slide on Bruce Lee red slippers to shield the feet from floor wax and to shield the floor from foot rot. A pile of black masks in the corner begs to be burned. Soon, guys, soon. Our footing remains uncertain. Maybe one morning we shall awake and the fungal toe, for instance, will be a green thing of the past. This morning an English muffin eases the diaphragm burn and helps focus the thoughts. Today I’ll accept my rejections with a smile and accept my acceptances with a broader smile. Ice pack from the icebox slammed into the temple before a dark speck on the brain screen blooms into a black, engulfing storm. Java soothes the pain, albeit psychologically. The actual analgesic fails to honour the guarantee. When a product fails to honour its guarantee, bets fly off the table. The croupier raises a flattened hand and stares at it as if all answers will be found there. Indeed, all one perceives is a lifeline, foreshortened to accommodate its representation. Nothing ever satisfies the need for accuracy, and yet we fail to see the bigger picture. People always use that expression, the bigger picture, but do they know what they mean by it? All of this is nothing new, I’m aware of that. Introduce another player and one must imagine the dialect and the smell of the garments. Often, human beings, even clean ones, smell sour, or foul. Sometimes they smell charitable. If I cried out, My head will burst if this pain persists! would the eavesdropping security folks show a quantum of compassion? Quantum is a word I’ve never used before and likely never will again.
In Swedish, loose flesh comes to mind, call me names for that, banish me to the latrines or the gallery where the eunuch choir prepares to pierce our ears with song. A fat man wearing a pigeon-colored jacket bows and takes a seat at the table. Who is this guy? New Year is nearly here and I’m afraid to lose my tin foil party hat for fear my hair system has failed. My date, Guinevere, or White Wing as she likes to be called, sips pink champagne from a glass slipper given to her by a bantam Lothario in red crimson who keeps winking at me till I flash my metaphoric dirk and he departs. The fat man wheezes and asks for the bread basket. Guinevere tells him bread will make him sleepy. “It’s the gluten,” she says. “I would avoid it.” The fat man murmurs under his breath, displeased with the outcome of his request and yet he is not possessed enough or able perhaps to reach for the basket with his own porcine fingers. A faux waterfall echoes behind bulging damask panels and mauve silk banquettes, as it should. With an enormous, heart-rending sigh, the fat man lets his forehead thump to the table. Studying him keenly, Guinevere’s gold-flecked green eyes supersede the insidious glitter of the jewels and precious metals clattering around us, the flash and click of busy knives and forks, the tinkle and ping of glass. Saxophones and clarinets whine and burble. The drummer hits a high hat so violently sparks spray. “We’re all lost,” blathers an ancient woman in a black fox stole with the little head and beady eyes intact. Guinevere takes facial offense but must remain silent about it as she sports a feather boa likely harvested from a fully conscious ostrich as well as green crocodile pumps to complement her eyes. Humans are horrible, we get it. “Turning tomorrow to bitter cold,” the crone says, eyeballing everyone at the table in turn. A couple entwined in tweed also sit there but have said nothing since they arrived and appear not to speak the language. “Then the big storm will veer down from the north and bury us to our friggin foreheads,” the old woman adds. The fat man scratches ferociously under his jacket, his brow pimpled with sweat, triggering my trypophobia. I turn my head. Light fires up a parkerized central pillar. From both ends of the hall discordant blue men merge. Guinevere asks if everything is okay. “Everything is not okay,” I tell her. “I think I may faint.” Indeed the banquet hall begins to spin and all the amused guests whirl around me like the figures of a dire merry-go-round. Bloody squab and death caps sautéed in rancid butter, a salad tossed with rubbing alcohol, and for dessert caramelized grasshoppers in mint aspic. Lights and shadows quiver; and White Wing’s eyes dance to the music though her face remains perfectly still. I’m tired, I’m tired, I’m tired ...
Salvatore Difalco is the author of an illustrated collection of microfiction, The Mountie At Niagara Falls (Anvil Press). He lives in Toronto, Canada.