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Flicker in the Porthole Glass cover

My novel Flicker in the Porthole Glass was published by MAMMOTH Books in 2002. The Review of Contemporary Fiction observed that, “…the achievement here is Desautels’s prose, an aural event both jagged and elegant, assaultive and inviting, that moves with the clipped, dangerous, urgent kinesis of hard bop jazz.” Seven years down the road, I’m going to publish Flicker here on Maximum Fiction in serial form. Today, I give you the second chapter of Part II, The Projection Booth: “The Light Fantastic.” Look for a new installment every Friday. Enjoy! And if you like what you see, please see my Flicker in the Porthole Glass page for information on ordering the MAMMOTH Books edition.


The Light Fantastic

Rock and roll gives way to something softer and Jasmine begins to sway to its rhythm.  As if delighted by memory, her green eyes shine as she glides across the room on strings and reeds, through ribbons of blue cigarette smoke, hair cascading over her face as she gently rolls her head until, dizzily, she loses her balance and misses a step.  It’s girlish and disarming and it’s at moments like this when I think:  the Limerick reactor could do no better than this:  she is fusion, clean and self-perpetuating and will power my city for centuries.  There must be a confluence of the rivers of our youth where, at the Golden Triangle of her limpid emotion and the Penn’s Landing of my hypertonic mania, a coffee bud will explode in a drug called love.  Right in the middle of her apartment she executes a pirouette for me.  This dance is for me.  And when her feet strain and arch as she rises to the very tips of her toes, the nails of which are lacquered to match the butcher-shop shade of lipstick she wears, I understand that it’s for me.  On her mattress, I recline and watch.  We’ve just returned from The Kennel Club where we pogoed to a band called Arms Akimbo whose blend of East African rock’n’roll and Western Ohio polka still gallops like a drunken giraffe in my mind, even as I stir my Banker’s Club bourbon with a pinkie growing numb from the ice.  In the cheap drop ceiling there is the scurry and scratch of rodents, but who cares?  They are Bach’s lost grace notes echoing forever contrapuntal in the rafters of our cathedral.

After a few minutes a weather report muscles in on the melody, so Jasmine switches off the radio and curtsies to her partner, a shadow on the closet door.  As she does, a beam of light pierces the room drowning the warm orange glow of the candles we’ve scattered about.  Wild shadows riot in its sweep; the innocent geometry of a few sticks of furniture transmogrified into a cadre of Tasmanian Devils charging violently willy-nilly up the walls and across the ceiling.  In a moment it’s all over and, drawn to the window, I look out in time to see a police cruiser turning slowly up 11th Street, passing a methodical search light over the fire escapes that cage the old brick structures there.  The filthy windows are dead eyes behind which I suspect all manner of vice and indulgence; vacant warehouses or small-time turn-of-the-century manufacturing operations whose gutted interiors still echo with an immigrant jabber that caresses the ventman who forked over his two bucks in quarters and dimes not to shoot up,  but to watch and get warm.  Still, he’s got it better than his buddy down on the corner below us.  Three young hoods have come up to him where he lies at the mouth of the Market-Frankford subway.  Jasmine joins me at the window.  “What is it?”  We look on as the hoods begin to stick it to the old man good.

Read all of Installment III. (PDF)

For more information about Flicker in the Porthole Glass, and to read installments I and II, see the Flicker in the Porthole Glass page.

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