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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 fourth chapter of Part II, The Projection Booth: “Magic Trademark Margin(alia).” Look for a new installment every week. 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.

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Magic Trademark Margin(alia)

Royal Typewriter

My silent Royal ....


I wake up feeling like a crepe-paper garland, fragile and crinkled, silenced, sticky in the corners of a one-quarter-remembered dream poured like burnt coffee from a greasy, battered pot into which stale grounds—heaping spoonfuls of the bitterest bean—have been sifted by a drowsy hand near the banks of a river like Swanee. My head, a casaba melon atop the crepe-paper stalk, feels swollen to the point of bursting, encephalitic. Were I trained in the sciences I would design a Goldbergian contraption of pulleys, cams, levers, switches, and gears by which I could manipulate this engorged noggin of mine through the weak, spastic moments of waking. Idly enchanting, the clock tower of Independence turns down the bed and, with Pavlovian efficacy, triggers another attempt. Each day an attempt, only and ever an attempt. I rise to a seated position on my sunken bed, touch my fingers to the clammy wool blanket, to the trousers and cotton shirt and 100 percent virgin acrylic cardigan, each moist with perspiration for my having slept in them—again. My god, it’s a terrarium life here in the Vendig sometimes, when the Vendig’s boiler’s been stoked. Creeping down the hallway to the communal toilet, I feel like some emetic plant, distilling life from the orange glow radiating through the terrarium’s glass walls. I hold my arms out to the mist, cuddle l’eau de vie, pray magnificently, ostentatiously, and receive absolution as I light a candle before a porcelain icon. Then I flush myself away in a watery faint streak of blood down a coal shaft outside of Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. It could be I auto-defenestrate from a flophouse window on the third story of New York City. Shaking loose these vestiges of dream and memory, along with the last stubborn drops, not knowing how I’ve managed it, I’m amazed at the offering I’ve left: life summed up in the passing and the otherwise decorating of the porcelain bowl, the thousands of rehearsals for death described by palsied fingers as they depress a toilet handle mottled with rust despite the chrome armor meant to ward off fungi and deterioration. This is where another noon (I’ve come to call it dawn) brings me. Ruineux, you bastard of a sun, has your light become that pastel? Pasty couldn’t begin to describe the sluggishness of my mind-mouth as I shuffle back down the hallway, this time feeling the dried, crumbling linoleum through my worn slippers and speculating about the lives carried on behind the numbered doors I pass: Jasmine takes Ruineux’s hand, as she does every morning. There’s a pretty lie. And it’s beginning to keep pace over my shoulder: the gonna-walk-around: the daredevil spot-beam ricochet off the Liberty Bell: a vision, this, of babbling senile dementia.

Read all of Installment V. (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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