Flash Fiction

Text by Lance Blomgren

1: Missed Connections

Outside the Metro… You were the man in robes who approached me as I waited the 211 bus. I was the guy you said looked adrift. I know I was standoff-ish, but at 7am I'm half-asleep and grumpy. But, what you said about peace of mind and your astute comments about my personality got me thinking. How did you know I'm stricken with murderous thoughts and incapacitating procrastination? I shouldn't have brushed you off but the sharp truth of your words was too much. I do want something larger, you're right, something more permanent. I need answers. I haven't been able to sleep since our brief talk and hope you contact me soon.

In the Alley behind the Market… You were eating BBQ chicken on the steps in the alley and I was the one you startled, there with my own bag of chicken. And a week later I was the one who saw you again at my favorite chicken-eating place, with a friend this time. I didn't like the look you gave me the third time-as if I was interrupting you. It's my spot, I found it first and that tower of bones was my project. Now you are always there, showing it to friends. Find a new place before this gets out of hand.

The Path Behind the Tracks…We've been introduced before but I can't remember your name. We once had a conversation where you said "The steamroller is powerless to prevent the tarmac from being flattened." Your tan was radiant and your stories were incredible. But that was several years ago when I couldn't relax at parties. Now our social groups never overlap and I only see you on the jogging path. When you say "Hi" you always emphasise my name and when I nod, all out of breath, I'm not being an asshole like you told Rebecca. I know the possibility of us becoming friends is seriously compromised but I hope it's not fatal. If you haven't seen me recently on the path it's because I hurt my knees. I'm not avoiding you; I'm exercising at home. You told me you read the personals faithfully. I hope you read this.

2: Public Music

The Symphony of Vermin takes place outside a liquor store. The conductor, a man with an oversized suit and wild hair, struggles to keep the mice, rats, cockroaches, silverfish, earwigs, flies, maggots and dung beetles focused and in tune. He apologises to the audience for the amateurish lack of discipline of his musicians, and assures the onlookers that his orchestra has indeed completed the symphony with finesse during rehearsal. He begins again. A few of the creatures try to wander off, but the conductor pushes them back into place with a stick that has a special scoop attached to the end of it. His frustration begins to mount; his face becomes flushed. The audience begins to thin out, partially out of boredom and disappointment, but also out of indignance and anger as the man scolds the critters, accidentally squishing a few of the insects with his overzealous stick work. A few animal rights activists boo the conductor and finally a scuffle ensues, with the man fighting to keep the concert going as he is jostled by the remaining spectators. The concert ends with the conductor's eventual arrest and the drawn out process of rounding up and capturing the various species. It is agreed by all that the Symphony of Vermin does not suitably reflect the family atmosphere of the festival, and the mayor and his councillors assemble a press conference to assure the citizens that the conductor will not be invited back.

3: The Corner

This is the corner where you lied to me. This is the corner where you lied to your boyfriend. And, later, this is the corner where you finally leaned into my arms and nestled against me amidst the crowd of the street market. Were we fourteen? Fifteen? Shoppers breezed by loaded with bags, families poured past, holding hands and pushing strollers, and the scene looked blurry like the movie we saw with the parade of dwarfs. You rubbed your hip against my erection but wouldn't let me touch you. This is the corner where ignorance is bliss, where one kneels at the shrine of stupidity, where the feeling of impending loss is overshadowed by hopefulness. This is the corner where death takes forever. What happened that day? What would Lou Salomé say? Gravity failed, the child cried when she dropped her orange juice, two women collided with their bags, someone waved the chequered flag, my knees buckled. And when I kissed you, you looked at me with such pity I knew I'd never be alone with you again. The ten thousand sounds of the world suddenly cut out. I sucked my pillow in my sleep, dreaming of this spot for months after.

4: Monument of Towels

In the sculpture park there is a monument constructed of tens of thousands of similarly-sized bath towels. The towels have been ironed flat and have been carefully stacked on top of each other, pressed together and secured into place with steel rods, to create a tall, rectangular pillar the rises from the lawn like a monolith with soft, uncertain geometry. These towels are well worn and are rubbed thin. They have dried skin, cleaned spills, and been used to cover the ground. They have been soaked with water, coffee, juice, soft drinks and beer and have been covered at various times in sweat, vomit, urine, blood, snot, semen, excrement and dirt. They have traveled thousands of miles and have been washed hundreds of times. They have caressed and covered hundreds of bodies, been shared by many different people. The towels are a monument to the functionality of intimate items. The towels have been solicited for this public sculpture and towel cupboards have been cleaned out in support for this monument. The names of the donors are recorded on plaques on a large wooden billboard next to the monument. During the construction of the monument, people were asked to share their experiences with- and their feelings about- their donated items. As the tales make clear, towels are perhaps the most orgiastic of all intimate items.

5: The Ass

The ass is round and looks like it would be soft and peachlike to the touch. In the overcast light you can see the small, almost invisible hairs that rise up gently over the curve of the ass. Upon touching the ass however, you are surprised to discover it is smooth and hard, pliable like rubber. The ass feels cold to the touch; you take a closer look. The balance between your desire for absolute certainties and the sceptical suspicion that all is not well with the world begins to tilt. The ass is a phony ass. The gentle sag of gravity that once gave this ass its allure is the result of carefully executed mould-making; the small hair follicles and gooseflesh so suited to this cold afternoon are nothing more than geometric patterning produced by some sort of digital imaging software. The ass is in fact a high-end model ass, a display ass, a well-crafted idea of an ass. Separating the ass cheeks, you discover the designers of this ass have rendered the asshole obsolete - the anus is missing altogether. Thus the logo: What the ass giveth, the ass taketh away. There is no all-encompassing, universal theory can make sense of this ass; you can no longer accept the idea that there is an interconnected logic to the world, that everything can somehow be explained and understood. If it is true that every small, insignificant action has the power to shift the molecular energies of the world, send ripples of physical reactions throughout the universe, then the manufactured ass is certainly the inverse. This ass is a black hole, growing in space, slowly absorbing everything, including itself. It is an ass of dubious social value. This ass has created a seed of doubt about the authenticity of all asses, and for you, it will take a long time for an ass to once again be an ass.

6: The Children

The children pluck the ants from the cupboard under the sink. The system is established. First into the waiting room of a small yoghurt container of water, then one by one dipped into the cooling wax of a large candle with a pair of tweezers. Back in the water of a second container, the wax solidifies around the bodies of the insects, forming a stiff white cast. Next they are set to dry on a clean rag, lined up for inspection. The examiner is the girl with the magnifying glass. Touching the end of a red-hot paperclip to the wax blobs, she lifts them from the line-up and inspects the convulsing creature with the lens. "Your chances of recovery are quite promising," she whispers to some. "I've got some bad news," to others. What a job this is! The medics lay the wounded in bottlecaps while the bodies of the deceased are piled onto wedges of toilet paper. Over at the funeral home the ants are laid to rest in matchbox coffins, given last rites. Some children weep from the pews. The director of the funeral home gives his brief condolences from a milk crate in the front yard. The musicians play the Funeral March on instruments too tiny to hear.

7: The Neighbour (Sniper)

"It is not downwards to which I set my gaze, but northwards, where the mystery of absolute space and immobility is celebrated. The book told me that as everything moved-earth, solar system, nebulae and black holes-one single point stood still: a pivot, hinge, or axis on which the universe could move. I am that point. I am the fulcrum. I witness the movement of the all, but remain the promise, the hook in the expanse that is the opposite of body, that is blind, mute and deaf, that is not form, size or weight, not gas, liquid or solid, that is not emotion, intelligence, fact, opinion, order or quality. I am neither midnight nor noon, alive nor dead, error nor truth, but all of them."

Lance Blomgren is a writer, curator and artist based in Dawson City, Yukon, Canada. His novella Walkups was published in 2009 by conundrum press (Montreal), and in French by Èditions Maelström (Brussels). Some of the work in this issue of Tank is from Corner Pieces, a monograph of Blomgren's text-based art projects.