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 sixth chapter of Part II, The Projection Booth: “Exposures.” Look for a new installment soon. 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.
Jasmine positions her tripod near the corner of 10th and Arch, the night air congested with the aroma of food being prepared for human consumption. Here, at the frontier of Chinatown—all lit up and dazzling on the other side of the street—I lean against a letterbox, my hangover nearly as ornate as the red and blue and gold leaf patterns sanctifying the Gate at which I gaze. Just as compelling is the shop window beside me in which a hundred sucking carp roil the murky water of a large glass tank from which they will be plucked, gutted, and filleted by the smoking Vietnamese who watch us from the kitchen doorway. They cook them, scales on, over coals in a sloppy kitchen into which we can see and from which comes not only the mildly appetizing fragrance of grilled fish, but the sour, muddy odor of gills, fins, and intestines snow-shoveled up off the floor and tossed into a dumpster in the alley separating the fish house from Abe’s Book Bazaar. Though it makes me vaguely nauseous, Jasmine doesn’t appear one bit bothered. She edges her tripod not fifteen feet from the bleeding dumpster and even asks a Vietnamese walking out a shovelful of guts to pose for a quick shot. Flattered, he smiles. Apron bloodied, hands bloodied, cigarette stabbing from the corner of his narrow mouth; hair pulled back in a long black pony tail, brow wrapped in a sweaty red bandanna, the guy mugs for the shot and then suggests we stop in and sample the carp. “Not tonight,” Jasmine demurs. “Tomorrow night, maybe. Tonight is for making photographs.” It strikes me that she’s adopting awkward idioms in the hope that this will somehow make her better understood, but still there is that underlying comfort with strangers I find impossible to emulate.
Read all of Installment VII. (PDF)
For more information about Flicker in the Porthole Glass, and to read installments I – VI, see the Flicker in the Porthole Glass page.