Queer Short Fiction
August 17, 2012
I. When she woke up, they had removed her balls again. This was illegal in Italy. It was 3 miles to the railway and her crotch was itchy and sore under the plaster. She pushed slowly through the crowd. An adoring fan handed her a dirty chai latte; she didn’t even see a face. The roadside was an interesting display case this morning, of torn skirts draped halfway over street signs, upended Parisian-style café chairs that had been slashed through and tossed into mud; pigeons greedily devoured the remains of a spilt bag of jelly doughnuts, across the bridge in the parking lot. Prisma had fought for this real estate; now she just felt tired and lame. She tested a newly cemented, low brick wall and jumped over it towards a reedy walkway that she knew led to the station, the chai latte losing a few splashes as she landed. There were only four hours left till the auction began, and the Grünewald was something she coveted. A pig-like grin spread across her face and she trudged on, determined to be on time. She fingered the coins in her pocket and knew they would cover the rail ticket. All in all, though she might herself be a wipeout in her own mind, it wasn’t a bad early morning in this town. Even the dented, olive drab Honda that screeched to a halt just grazing her boot---before the driver mindfully turned down its mocking, acid jazz loop radio in order to hear Prisma’s abstract shouts----wasn’t too ugly to be in her midst. But not everyone could be as fortunate as Prisma Deane. Some still loved their jobs.
II. The dirty spoon ornamented the laundromat window, encrusted with mummified nasi goreng. Purple stones in a rivulet of soapy water glistened under rays of incandescent light: the aquarium in the window was not well-tended. A customer picked at a scab on his elbow, lost in a chapter of The Rings Of Saturn while his tiny stepson ate detergent. Geese honked through the back door of the place, part of another urban farm project. These weren’t allowed where the machines ran. Prisma’s sixty pairs of unmatched socks spun round in the washer, independent elements of a sculpture yet to be constructed. She trained a toy gun on the window of an out-of-service dryer and squirted “NO SNITCHING” on it. Someday all this laundry would be theirs. Her group simply couldn’t wear it all fast enough yet, it took effort to get things that dirty, some thought. Of course the cause and effect of this logic was lost on others, but there was room for many points of view in this community. Or, so things seemed for the present. As for Prisma, though, she felt intolerant of the music in the laundromat, a lazy, Bahamian mix tape that someone had swiped from a supermarket. Clearly, animals had been tortured in the studio of its origin. Prisma just wanted everyone to know her favorite song lyrics, though. She wasn’t angry at anyone, at least not today, just, the lyrics were not these. She could talk about animal cruelty another time (in fact, she was well-informed and good at this).
Hang paragraph #1 in a parking lot near a station; hang paragraph # 2 in a laundromat.
Some more locations:
• A bathroom wall
• Inside a program at the symphony
• Front and center in a newsstand
• At a travel agency amongst the brochures
• Inside a fabric store
• On top of some sheet music at a bandstand
Instructions to be included with each excerpt:
“THESE ARE YOUR INSTRUCTIONS”
“THIS IS YOUR ASSIGNMENT”
III. Prisma constructed an entire alphabet out of of variations on the letter “O”. There was no shame in font design, but further, just think of the assortment of international phonemes! Younger scientists would appreciate her taxonomic diligence, she knew. The more established professionals had all grown too lazy for such rigors, fat as they were on black currant scones, hams with fine herbs, and the whole erotic festival of dairy products cluttering the aisles of their well-stocked supply stores. Indeed, the local indulgences, merged with a kind of religious admiration for ideological emptiness, had led to a flabbier era in research where the patently idiotic was too often maintained on the roster of things to be considered, not to mention repeated, and repeated, and repeated. As with the skepticism required for listening to supermarket tapes, though, Prisma didn’t always make time in her day to harbor the severe stances necessary for change. She could only do this intermittently, while forging ahead with her own experiments. Did others have the energy for moral rectitude she lacked? Would time tell all? Who cared? Prisma printed one “O” after the other and so her morning proceeded. They were both functional and decorative, her letters, and strung together in various combinations, the permutations of meaning carried over even to those less initiated. Prisma liked the idea that she could spell out “hussy” or “plutocrat” in her own language and only an individual in possession of a guide could, at this point, interpret the markings she’d left with, say, a set of stencils, under a photo of some politician, in back of the main staircase at the courthouse.
IV. “I can’t calculate to infinity with these, but I’m wearing a very nice t-shirt, you’ll have to agree, and I’m not the one who’ll shit up your front doorstep,” she presented herself at the thrift store cash register, brandishing more than one abacus. You could translate this as, “Prisma shows up for a day on the job” or “Self-Portrait With Abacus #1-#3, or “Pick an Abacus, Any Abacus”, but you wouldn’t get a dinner date out of Prisma with any of these interpretations. You wouldn’t even win the raffle on the tie-dyed caftan. However, if you knew who threw the cheese-colored dog vomit that had permanently damaged the store’s welcome mat, more to the point if you could claim to be that person, there might be cause for an exchange of particulars. Prisma would’ve already estimated your height to the centimeter, however, based on data you didn’t know you’d left behind. And maybe she’d know the size of your right shoe. If you’re really good and you stick around for a long time in line, she’ll total your car. Just you wait.
V. “I have a 400-CD changer roped to my scooter and an endless supply of battery acid to keep the batteries going. I have a yoga instructor do my accounts and a skilled commercial photographer booking my hotel rooms. None of this should surprise you, I’m known on four continents and seventeen islands as the most happening candlewax molder of the last three issues of this very rare magazine. I can mesmerize any alte kacker with my command of Mandarin and the Guatemalan accent I maintain when speaking French. Allow me to introduce Somnola, my adoring better half, aka the chief of police of my neighborhood. She’s a noise artist and I personally tattooed her boobs. Oh. Yes. You wanna know my favorite expression in Deutsch? It’s “selber schuld”, ‘cuz if you won’t like this album you probably sang back-up on it in order to have a chance to blow the lead guitarist back when. Ha. Ha. Ha. Yeah, I talk English, see me? That’s all for now, direct from the barcalounger at the end of the pier. I’m fishing for crab; I don’t have time. Or, again, do I have to say it, that trawler out there, they’re doing my fishing for me.”
VI. “It’s called DETRITUS and I’d like to mispronounce it and write it off my taxes. And now I shall grow an even bigger asshole out of the one up front that is known as my mouth, and I shall discourse on motorcycles and my collection of Honduran flags and hubcaps! Hooray!”
VII. Prisma had her balls removed, and then she had them sewn right back again. And then she had them removed, and a few months later, sewn right back. Prisma just couldn’t make up her mind to be one thing or the other, that way, ever. She thought of wearing them on the back of her head with a pair of sunglasses balanced on top, but she had to admit she liked the feeling of them nestled between her legs and producing testosterone much better than that. Until she didn’t, and would have them cut away. She was ahead of her time in this regard, and sometimes her pioneering work in the field of snap-on, removable (and retractable) sex characteristics alienated the people who were merely end users of their own. But this is the most banal aspect of Prisma’s splendor, of her talents, so it is not to be dwelt upon for any significant duration.
VIII. The color field painting at the end of the hallway had been ripped from its frame when she returned from her meeting. Now, there were some things in life, in her world, about which Prisma was not all-knowing. You could’ve knocked her over with a toilet brush when she beheld the empty steel rectangle, chomping at the bit to make the pun, ‘steal frame’. But instead, please replace the toilet brush where you found it as it performs a necessary function in this great and historic office lobby, that is, we use it to scrape down the flower vases now and then before replanting them with fresh deliveries. Feel free to help yourself to a chocolate from the tray on the ledge where the phones are. Spectate upon Prisma as she shatters some shitter’s convention or other, rumor has it, anyhow, and you’re waiting in the lobby in the aftermath of this. What on earth did Prisma say to them? The whole building seems to have gone quiet. I’m glad I know Prisma Deane. She makes me smile even when it’s raining and I can’t find my own front door key, when I’ve dropped and splintered my favorite cognac bottle searching in my jacket. You’re not the one who let her change the code on the office building elevator, by the way, are you? Speaking of lock, stock and barrel. Well, I won’t tell anyone.
IX. Nine is one before ten, which keeps us from squeezing it together with eleven. Try a little lemon with that fish slice, instead, and while you are enjoying that smooth mouthful of sole, remain mournfully aware of some planetary consequences. Nothing in this room has arrived here accidentally, it’s one grainy photograph away from fully documented before direct shipment and on-site reconstruction. You’re sitting in a restaurant that some designer sweated over, drip drip drip in your soup bowl. Okay. Swapmeet, you traded hard currency for this meal, which is taking place only four intersections from the auction at which Prisma Deane means to be present and bidding on a lesser known work by one of the great masters. This is the chapter where Prisma is hobbled by reminiscences. Maybe Prisma remembers you, maybe she damn well doesn’t. You are not the focus of the torrents besieging her mental map right now; that much is true at any rate. Prisma has to sit down now. She does so at the base of the escalator on the way out of the train station. The train ride was its own cascade of things someone like her always notices, even with one eye closed in half-sleep, with one nose perched in a tangent to a folded newspaper hiding her from the scrutiny of others who were sharing the compartment. How many noses does Prisma have? Oh, well, does it really matter….someone coughing into a kleenex for effect. That would be exemplary of the cascade of things. All of it in the train had seemed for effect, and all of that effect seemed to be in play for the benefit of a saleswoman wearing an anti-contamination face mask on her journey from Helsinki to Liverpool, this saleswoman seated across from Prisma Deane who was taking the most languid and presumably contagious or toxic route she could muster from one European location to another just in order to peddle fermented foodstuffs. The foodstuffs were not stinky, but the saleswoman was. How odd that she seemed to place the blame for that on her fellow passengers, all of whom politely masqueraded concern not to pass on any whiff of anything in her direction. So much for the past tense, which is full to bursting anyhow. Do you know what, trains can now be taken by multiple people simultaneously who are travelling in ostensibly contradictory directions? Yes, the same one train carting folks to different destinations. That is something Prisma learned today and it is a reason to sit down, a really good one.
Enjoy your sole while you have it.
X. Someone had depicted her holding a Bosch saw and farting. Subtlety was not her middle name: Prisma had commissioned this portrait. She paid a whole handful of jujubes for it, in line this time herself at the state university library. The portrait was executed by a twelve year old accompanied by its sibling, clearly a student in the botany department. (Please inform: were there sprigs of mint in this person’s hair, or was he bearing seedpods or gardening implements? What were the attributes of botany study?) Let it be said there were book titles involved. The twelve year-old carried chalk and a big newsprint pad, being well-armed for this waiting in line, and had a fine touch with these tools. Now these many years later, the portrait was a prop in a friend’s webisode, part of a mystery series. People all over had side businesses like this, loaning out their personal effects to internet entertainment companies; producers were aware of the oh-so-many resources in their surroundings. In the mystery series, Prisma’s portrait was used to defame a carpentry instructor. The truth of the matter was that Prisma sometimes did foley work alongside a brigade of female construction workers who had their own radio show, and liked to do spots about their job lives now and then. No, they’d never recorded her farts. But, then, there had only been a very few broadcasts, as the station was just starting up. Maybe there had been half a dozen or ten of these shows, depending on whom you asked. You could say that, between lending out items from her home archive and jubilantly starting up power tools for performance, Prisma was an all-around good sport in her other life. We haven’t talked much of her professional self yet.
XI. The professional lives of Prisma Deane were arguably as sausage chopper-upper in a downtown alterna-pizzeria where celebrities went to recover from their diets, and as air hostess on the funicular that spanned the zoological gardens. Also she spayed goats during the goat crisis and she wielded a very mean blowdryer at the minimalist barbershop that had only one electrical socket for a whole room full of one whole chair, this shop that she ran herself with one other haircutter who did the day shift. The barbershop was situated on a cruise ship, or, a pretend cruise ship that took tourists around the local scenic canal route. It wasn’t easy to cut hair on a barge but both shop owners were top notch where it counted. So, tourism. Which should surprise few, as Prisma’s was a face, so multiply featured, that any rubbernecking f-ing visitor would pay to gaze upon. Another aspect of Prisma the professional was the dance classes she led at the condemned former police academy, something Somnola should never have gotten wind of (but she had, and one day there would probably be a raid). Oh, printing! Prisma loved printing, you would think, and her laboratory for forging the fonts of her letters “O” was state-of-the art in her district. Well, you would think she would love it. Not clear. She did have to churn out people’s degree certificates and who could love such a job any less, except possibly the person who framed the certificates. But she sold broadsheets out of the laboratory listing the daily gaffes of prominent automated news reports (the kind that raced across LED readouts in overbuilt downtown centers). Some people liked these broadsheets so much that they wrapped sandwiches in them and sold them further. The greasy papers thus told their tales more than one time at least, perhaps even all the way to the recycling center, or the dump, or they lined a park bench and were slept upon by even more greasy local park residents. Thus one day such a person as slept on papered public seating could be heard reading aloud from Prisma’s damning evidentiary print works: “OOOOOOOOO……..ooooooOOOoooooOOoOoOO….” How do the professional activities of Prisma differ from what she did purely for fun, unbeknownst to some and whatnot? It is perhaps all a matter of in which light the facts are examined.
XII. In which Prisma Gets Away With It, Again. It was a going away party for a very sloppy ‘fairground entrepreneur’, i.e. a franchise cotton candy hawker who wasn’t very careful where the sugar spun out to. And Prisma put one foot right in front of the other, lameass as she felt coming off the funicular one evening following dozens of frankly way more lame guests to the zoo’s air system, and promptly fell on her face on some pink sugar stuff that had splattered outside the exit. This was certainly not a time to reminisce but suddenly she flashed on her first love in sports, the figure skating couple Razzmatobogan, who, like herself in this moment, spent a lot of time landing on the wrong parts of their anatomies. “Hold that thought,” she let out, and oomphed herself back to her feet before any of the crowd espied her. Could it be that this adroit maneuver was such a metaphor for so much of Prisma Deane’s life that only the truly dedicated to her mysteries will ever conceive that there were massively more important factors? At any rate, none of the bags beneath her eyes had burst a vein, you could say, and not more than a hair or two skipped out of place on the mole near her ear; that you could say as well. That is if you were being especially scrutinizing of the lack of classicism to her….facial area, which was beauteous at carefully chosen angles and she knew which ones and you should, too. Anyhow, what a zoo it really was that evening around six p.m. when, while she dusted herself off and rearranged some accessories, the departing hordes erupted into tuneless folk singing. Also not Prisma’s favorite lyrics, and she later denounced the instigator of the atonal riot with a seething accuracy that brought smiles to many a face in some off-off venue or other, casually over pretzels. Prisma liked describing how her day at the zoo had gone, though usually she peppered the tales with facts about the animals. It was a reflex; she had her docent monologues so deeply embedded in the part of her brain that controlled her speech that animal facts, or imitations of the creatures, sometimes seeped into even her auction biddings. “Fifty-five million!” someone would’ve shouted out, and Prisma would counter, “Plesiadapis!”
XIII. The battle for the lot near the reedy walkway, that infamous spot where chai lattes got spilled, was the longest running comedy, to some minds, in public lands struggles. Now no one owned anything and that was how things oughta be, they said, too. I don’t even want to look back at all the years of cops shoving novocaine into people’s gums, then socking them in the teeth….The legacy of confiscated pamphlets and front bicycle wheels, the friskings that took place at arbitrarily set barricades, the oily carpets set on fire to cause temporary distractions or the stuffed peppers laced with psychedelic drugs that were offered one time in revenge (that was on a holiday). When no one could risk it to watch the police from close enough at hand, the community had set up life-sized dolls to do the monitoring, complete with video lenses for eyes. These were burned in an arson fire set by police department stooges. Too many lost their hearing due to explosive devices used over that time, or their footing fleeing conflicts across rooftops. Yes, things had gotten very serious in this comedy, such a popular sideshow in the end that scalpers were able to sell bus tickets to the center of the crisis at four times the price, and the busloads kept coming, to watch the empty goddamned lot, around which a number of kinds of fencing had been stretched over the course of events, never with long-term success. Some goddamned flower or weed always sprouted up just when all life seemed to have been extinguished from there. The great thing about the neighborhood was its endless capacity to self-express where this and similar matters were concerned. Thus the rubbish in the area was plentiful and charming and if you could get close enough without triggering alarms everywhere, there were a lot of good finds for your homestead. And shit like that. Obviously. The busloads were particularly numerous each year on the first of May, which was funny because the first of May had never had much to do with the battle for the lot; people in the know could tell you the important anniversaries. I never kept track, although I was on the ground for some of the celebrations. Prisma’s birthday was held at the lot one year.
XIV. My treat: do you want to meet my friend Prisma? Nobody knows where she lives, but sometimes she hangs out at the quarry with the other asses I like to kiss. What a debacle, though, if we go out there today, and Prisma Deane’s not to be found. You can write her by hand in advance, if you like, instead. I’ll pass it on to her, honest. I promise I won’t read what you put in it. Here, you can write her back on some of her own printed paper. I carry a folded up sheet or two of it in my vest pocket for sorry-assed cases like your own, people who don’t know a good time when it is offered to them and have to divulge a whole diary’s worth of drivel just to get introduced to a local pizza waitress. Yeah okay so I kiss her ass to get some of the paper. I admit it. I am a local artisan, I chat her up about wood pulp and the various Japanese papermaking authority figures to whom I owe my living. Actually, we’re really close. I swear she held a meeting of her brass band support group in the same street where I threw a legendary public tantrum, only a building or two down. And once I saw her chatting at the hemp store with a clerk, and she said hi to me. She knew me by sight even before the whole paper connection, see? Okay, so I’m infatuated with Prisma. She has the coolest uppercut in the neighborhood, too, she had to deck me with it once. That really took some balls.
XV. At the back of this one senile department store, someone hired to play for a fashion show politely rehearses a little Schumann on the side. Oysters are served, and champagne. Precious little gossip, but it can be had. Some are moved to cry out by the video of Prisma Deane’s belly button prefiguring the scheduled afternoon runway display. These audience types can be further identified by their various postures of buying and trying things on. Bonnets in the style of automobile bonnets seem to be the thing this time around. The salesgirl’s gonna rob their homes as soon as she gets their addresses written down for the next trunk show’s mailing list. You know it. You heard it here first, and it is true. She can smell their socks worn a day too many and she sees every rip in every nylon. So you can bet that salesgirl smells concealed wealth, too. Prisma wasn’t consulted about her video appearance in this context, not that it would be something worth more than a shrug to her, since it is ‘only’ her bellybutton and she has several of those at home. Where is Prisma right now? She’s at her police academy dance class gig----not. No, Prisma’s at the foot of the escalator that leads to the surface road over the station.
Prisma is lost in thought. Her bandage has caused a rash, if not a rash of shoplifting incidents. She remembers some sausage before it was chopped, and other unpleasant associations. Marinara sauce on the side. She remembers a zone of her old hometown where the crickets sang and raccoons were aplenty. Prisma recalls waking up on a picnic blanket with pieces of pot sticker stuck in her hair, and now she is just plain hungry. It is useless to think of the auction in advance, it is as good as done, the painting will be hers. So she muses, but she is irritated to pieces by light from a frozen yogurt kiosk; it splits her thoughts in almost as many directions as the cartilage of her nose seems to take, on its way towards a wholly normal philtrum. No harelip for Prisma, sorry, detractors. Ah, but Prisma is fatigued, the train ride was epic and so was the long walk leading up to it. And she has lint in the now famous bellybutton.
XVI. Prisma sitting down is priceless. You really have to appreciate the care that’s gone into the way she entwines her limbs. It is like unto a camera bellows, or the painted dialogue of patterns between panels of a standing, folded screen. Add some rumpling and an almost invisible layer of distracted mirth and the picture becomes more acute. She is carrying so many aches and pains at this point in her thirty-nine years. She’s had so many surgeries that when she dines out in public, people at neighboring tables have to make way for the follow-up teams. For possible future xrays, they’ve built a whole new level onto the hospital in her honor. At least, this is what it feels like to be Prisma. The truth is hardly so elaborate. She is just one single body, changing itself and her mind quite frequently. You pick up the pieces. You tell me she’s decided to be him again. I don’t want to know in advance. The surprise element is missing for me in too many areas of my consciousness already. So much of this economy is planned, the one I live, that I have come to prefer some disruption now and then. You see, I’m just an old Communist fight song that forgot its own lyrics and passed them on in code to someone else, maybe Prisma, but I’m not really buying that she’s red. She could be green, or some other phase shift of the spectrum. Turquoise really suits her, except when she wears it as an undergarment, but that’s an old joke we have about her concert-going days. In any case she’s all the shades of misanthrope you need to get through life from day to day and not lose sight of reality.
XVII. I who am a motion capture model for a living, and I do love my work, can share this about Houlihan Studios with you. It is no longer the largest sound factory on the coast. It is no longer the museum of robotic wizardry you’d recall from even two years ago. Houlihan Studios is bordering on going into bankruptcy, and to keep the lights on and the heat running here, we have to appeal to other industrial partners. To this end, and being aware of how tastes have changed in advertising, not to mention major entertainment releases, I run a little business back and forth with the international body parts trade. For a price, I fill out the customs forms, do some chauffeuring, I even have the password to the donors list. Or, to a portion of the donors list. Where do you think I got a basket this size? These splendid foreshortened forearms and perspectivally accurate jaw? Whizz bang and ga-zang.
You bet I embezzle some merchandise. I have to be marketable in the action films. I look about as good in a spandex suit as any living person really can. It’s not because you see me in a final result and recognize my sweet posterior or the inserts I have made to my cheekbones as ‘me’. The post-production’s far too complex for that to be the case. But the crew has to want to work with the product, you see. The underlying structure, too, must have appeal. And that structure is something I continue to bank on, with my clever small-time racket that siphons off the best items out there in circulation. My clavicle is probably the most perfect clavicle ever to be transplanted. And oh, yeah, I have to work my abs like everybody else, but the material I’m working with is superior. Do you know what I used to do for fun? I used to throw paint bombs at urban developers. I had a pretty good arm before I messed it up trying to fix a sewage problem. That was the beginning of my fascination with hospitals, all things medical, the first operation. You know what they say about opinions, that they’re like assholes, everyone has one? I found the assholes in the medical field that did the things I like. They ran some basic tests on me and found me to be mostly a pretty darn good subject. I’m kidding you, though, really, kidding you. This tongue I’m wagging, it’s the original, it’s not imported or replaced or anything. Yeah, I’m a shit, I know.
XIX. The past tense of Prisma is usually, “I was a man before I woke up today, and no, I don’t want to talk about that now”. Not that you’d ever get such a sentence out of her. When Prisma IS a man, actually IS, in the present moment, Prisma is not known as Prisma. I don’t know what the other name is. I don’t think it’s Bobby Kennedy or Julio Iglesias or Ralph Steadman. You can probably rest secure in your ideas about those three and many others. All of them so last century. Well. Let me tell you this. I have long suspected that Prisma, when male, is someone I’ve met elsewhere, elsewhere than the usual places Prisma frequents, only, because of this factor of dislocation, I have never recognized him. Because the context would be so other than, and the character possibly so different from, what Prisma usually puts forth. Because Prisma is…you’re not going to tell me that you think I’m just plain wrong! But….you are going to tell me….you are going to tell me this thing I have already heard: this aspect of Prisma is in fact the least intriguing view a person could be granted. The changeling-shapeshifter-chameleon factor is just the trestle upon which the great design resides. “You’re trying to sell me on alternating current and I’ve already been to Jupiter.” Okay. Okay. I get it. I get to shut up. The end. At least the sun is rising, you could say it’s a very fine morning. You could say it in a Judy Holliday accent. You could get yanked in front of a hate crimes commission for even mentioning----or I could. Jelly doughnut! Look! On the ground!