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He had not known what to draw when he’d been asked to draw something. “Draw something on the cover of my notebook?” had been asked with a sort of ease that made him think that he should know what to draw. He chose a tired woman’s body, belly pertruding as her back arches, neck extended as her thinning bob slinks back. He drew her nose big, and coloured it in with the blue pen. Margo had been there and suggested that he was really drawing her, that he had drawn the skirt she was wearing that day, that the greasy bob looked like hers, but he had refused. No, no, this was some other woman. Margo’s identification was a terrible blow; he would have to keep drawing, and so he drew a ball attached to a piece of wood which was teetering just behind Margo’s back.  The drawing explained that Margo had missed injury this time. Margo was jealous that Michael had asked him to make a drawing on his dumb notebook and not her, who would have done an abstract thing with a saying.

Michael had praised the drawing but he wasn’t sure, he was convinced that Michael had a way of making everyone feel like geniuses and guarding the disgusting secret knowledge that they in fact weren’t. Only Michael was the genius. This is why everyone was in love with him, except Margo who was in love with someone else.

He had chosen a café for breakfast that would make sense for them; not cool but in the right neighbourhood, and not modern, still cheap and with an identifiably good speciality. “The hash browns are amazing”, “I’ll just order the hash”, “Shit I love those hash browns, what do you think they do with them to make them like that?” The last one had been his and he instantly regretted saying shit. Maybe Michael was not into saying swears?

When they arrived Michael placed a beautiful pen (“from a man in Laos”) and the notebook with Margo’s profile with the ball and the plank of wood sketched on its cover on the table. Michael could not get the waitress’ attention for a cup of coffee but gracefully let Margo do so. They ordered coffee and he and Margo ordered instantly. Michael took more time and hummed and hawed over the menu. The waitress looked annoyed but she was not mad as she was also probably in love with Michael.

Michael, Margo, and he waited a long time for their food and when it finally arrived it did not arrive all in one go. He and Margo started to eat and Michael talked. He told stories about his own work, mostly, what he had made. When Michael told stories of what he had made he made it sound like he was speaking to someone who might want to buy something he had made. He wanted a beautiful story which sounded very simple and very earthy and very unpretentious which actually was very complicated and very manufactured and very pretentious. Margo and he nodded and uh-huh’ed and felt privileged to listen to someone who had really made something, forgetting that they too are artists who make things.

An old man sat down at the other side of the café. “It’s Norman, shit!”, Michael had swiveled and made a glinting smile. Norman was sitting with a cane, his trousers a faded navy blue and his shoes a nubbly brown leather. His white striped shirt had been mostly unbuttoned and there exposed was a series of necklaces with shark’s teeth and dog tags and Virgin Mary’s and beads amongst his ample grey chest hair. He had some huge rings on his fingers, doubled and tripled up. Norman’s appearance had been overshadowed by Michael saying “shit”, dispelling the earlier notion that Michael was anti-swear, it was only later he had been thought of as probably a once very handsome man.

“Have you heard about the constipated mathemetician? He used a pencil to work it out”
“Have you heard about the constipated accountant? He couldn’t budget”
“What’s the name of a lesbian dinosaur? A lickolotapuss”
“What’s the name of a gay dinosaur? A Megasoreass”
“What’s the definition of a good time? A group of old maids playing squat tag in an asparagus patch”
“Why doesn’t Santa Claus have any kids? Because he only cums but once a year and he gets off up the chimney”
“What’s the difference between a peeping tom and a pickpocket? A pickpocket snatches watches”
“What is the definition of confusion? Two blind lesbians on a tunafish boat”

Norman had shouted each joke patiently across the café, mother’s covering their children’s ears and lesbians huffing and puffing. Each joke had been delivered with the right pauses in Norman’s gruff growl. Later as they left the café and said goodbye to Norman, he imagined what it would be like to have been Norman in the war, exchanging dirty jokes with his friends. A group of old maids playing squat tag in an asparagus patch, as told in Normandy, 1944. Norman was a dirty corporal cheering up his friends with that one, he had later gone to South East Asia and learned about Buddhism and he had never been able to work again. When they had said goodbye to Norman and Michael had small-chatted with him, Michael had made even Norman think that Michael had been there with him in the trenches. He had wanted to instill the same impression, “I’m magic too”, but Norman was not interested, he was still seeing Michael’s light.

An hour later, Michael still knew all the jokes, but Margo and he had forgotten them.





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Lesbians in an asparagus patch
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