Flânerie 2


And my further deliberations led me to the following: the single, solitary footprint in the field, the long trail of footprints abruptly ending in the middle of the street and, now, that circle of footprints on the white plain, together, form a triad.  1


He must be doing what the therapist has suggested. Mindfulness. “But you can have the last word,” he promises, doing his best to appear mature.
“My last words are: serial killer. His eyes were bullet holes!”
“There’s nothing wrong with his eyes.”
“Death row eyes!”
“Jesus!” Dan sprints ahead of me and he’s no sprinter. Then, winded, he waits up and turns around. “It used to be the odds that interested me. Favorites, long shots, Exactas. There are rules, but they’re always being broken. There’s order, but there’s chaos, too. You never stop learning: heart-rending races with big-hearted horses.”
“Poetic, dear. We really should walk more.”  2


I cut the corners off a fifty-dollar bill from the middle of my wallet, and settle in to watch whatever HBO plays next. It’s “Batman vs. Superman,” and by the time it’s over, the shower’s running cold, and the mirror looks like it’s crying. 3


The realtor had told her an old woman had lived alone in the house until her death, but she hadn’t told Suhaila the rest: that the old woman had died in her sleep in Suhaila’s master bedroom, that she had passed away in the very corner where Suhaila’s bed was now wedged against the wall. The woman had lain for days before a neighbor noticed six copies of the local paper on the step.  4


He turns back to the street. “Do you think I could jump this?” He points to the gap between the balcony and the building next door. Our townhouse is the last in the row, and the building next door is a three-storey apartment complex with a flat roof. He grips the railing, testing. “I would need to take a running start,” he says, “from the roof or something.”
I say, “No one’s allowed to die on my birthday.”
“You know, lots of people have already died on your birthday.” He hands me the cigar. I give it back and light a cigarette instead.  5


There was the clicking of hooves against the marble floor, and I thought, I will never feel as strange as this.  6


“I’m Dr. Fennel,” he said. “How can we help you today?”
“Well, like I told her, I lost my two front teeth during the night…”
“You’ll have to schedule an appointment with our denturist to discuss replacements.”
“But I have the teeth with me.” Arto opened his hand.
“Uh, yes well. There’s nothing we can do with them now.”
“You can’t, like, try to put them back in?”
“As I said, sir, you’d best talk to the denturist about that, and Ms. Bellows here can schedule a consultation for you.”
“Should I put them in milk or something till I do?”
“Talk to the denturist. And by the way, our rates are posted on the wall there. Study them closely.”
Arto glanced over the tables and figures. They made no sense to him. He suffered from undiagnosed dyslexia. He felt crushed. He walked out of the crowded clinic without booking the consultation. He held his hand to his mouth as he rushed back to the rooming house.  7


References and Links

Jiří Kratochvil, “Footprint III”

2  Barbara Bottner, “The Cartoon Wife”

Jeff Simonds, “Four Days After Carrie Fisher Died”

Jennifer Zeynab Joukhadar, “The Peaceable Night”

Ellie Sawatzky, “So Long, Mary-Ann”

Peter Kispert, “Paid Vacation”

Salvatore Difalco, “The Teeth”

Photo Source


3 thoughts on “Flânerie 2

  1. Interesting approach. I actually googled myself to see what was up with a few recent postings. Lo and behold. Hard to see the trees for the forest in this instance.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thanks for dropping a note. I got a great kick out of your story, which coaxed an actual LOL out of me when our sad hero made his discovery in the fridge. The next night my wife, daughter, and I listened to your audio rendition of the story over 5 o’clock cocktails; they too enjoyed it. Our daughter observed that she is among the many who dream about losing their teeth. In early adolescence she had her bicuspids removed to alleviate dental crowding; she keeps the teeth in a box for possible hex-making purposes. Recently I’d had a tooth extracted so I too was attuned to the horror show you presented us.

    I did assemble a lot of fictional trees here over a short time interval, as a kind of experiment in reaching out to writers of short fiction. Yours was one of the few stories I read that was seriously funny, and also one of the few dealing with down-and-outers. Certainly Arto is right: life in a rooming house doesn’t fit anyone’s dream of having made it. But the characters populating the story have a kind of loser’s charm about them; none of it feels either condescending or mean-spirited. The ex-cop is great: what is it about “ex” that you don’t understand, etc.

    A couple of days after reading your story I came upon another story dealing with tooth removal. I see by googling you that you’ve written columns about playing poker; in that same set of 7 there are also two story excerpts dealing with playing cards. They’re in the Flânerie 4 post.

    Pacing around in the dentist’s waiting room waiting for the extraction I saw a fragment of a tooth, still a bit bloody, lying on the carpet. I told the oral surgeon about my sighting: he said that a lot of people do that, probably entertaining the same hope that animated Arto. When I got home I was thinking about the possibilities of dental fiction. I remembered the scene in the Coen Brothers’ A Serious Man in which a dentist discovers the name of God etched into the back surfaces of his patient’s teeth. I also read about a scifi novel by Piers Anthony in which an alien comes to an earthly dentist for treatment; satisfied with the result, the alien abducts the dentist, setting him up in an intragalactic practice.


  3. And don’t forget Philip K. Dick’s The Man Whose Teeth Were All Exactly alike! Hey thanks for the kind words and observations. Apologies to your family for my terrible reading. I must admit loathing the sound of my recorded voice haha. Anyway, I was enticed by your posting and curiosity as I am also curious. I’ve had a bunch of stories come out recently and I have no idea who or how many people they’re actually reaching. Comments are few and far between and some postings don’t register at all on google. There’s a ton of fiction and poetry being “published” and posted. I really wonder who’s reading it all. I know I don’t read everything in the journals where I’ve appeared or the sites where I’ve been posted. No reflection on the quality– though it can vary wildly–but who has that kind of time? Moreover, I like edgier, funnier writing and a lot of what I’m reading seems too wrapped up in identity politics to be effective. Look at Canadian writing, which is very heavily subsidised by government grants. It’s become a litany of victimhood and “issue-driven” or “socially conscious” writing, earnest, and perhaps well-intentioned but absolutely unreadable and definitely not funny. I see less of that in American and British mags, but MFA writing, which is ubiquitous, suffers also from a certain soullessness and sameness and seems defined these days by crippling caution. Sure there are always exceptions, individual talent being what it is. But I see very little humour and any edge has been rubbed smooth by caution and self-censorship. That said, now and then I get my socks knocked off by something that rises above the herd. And that’s very gratifying. So who is reading all this stuff? Just the editors and a few random readers? And, more importantly, if very few people are actually reading it, why am I bothering to play this game? If the writing is good enough, presumably, it will reach a true audience through books. Haha. I don’t know. It can be dispiriting to say the least. Then again, out of the blue, someone reads your story with appreciation and all is well in the world. Crazy. We have to be crazy to do it. But we do. Sorry to go on. Having an Easter afternoon with the walls and thought I’d respond. Peace and good luck with your explorations.


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