George T. Mormann

Tag: flash fiction

God’s Entertainment

All nine screens in the pub aired the fight, and with a speaker wired into the restrooms, no patron, regardless of their level of interest, could escape the blood and sweat dripping from the cyclone confines of The Octagon. Like live music, however, few patrons cared enough to intently watch the entertainment, instead preferring to relegate the brawl to lively background noise as they gorged themselves on buckets upon buckets of domestic lagers on ice, and chicken wings adorned with celery stalks that wound up in the trash after every reorder was obliged.

Mikhail Nezinsky, of Russia, had just tricked Gamaliel Guerra, of Puerto Rico, in a Muay Thai Clinch, and began pummeling Guerra’s tatted chest with his tatted knee. For the Russian, his ink signified his journey from village obscurity to urban legend among the hardest fighters in the Motherland. Every failure and subsequent success from Atamanov to Moscow was represented from his chest to his calves in the form of apex predators and silhouettes of buxom Slavic women. For the Boricuan, ink boasted wealth, a symbol of victory from his boyhood hardships, beginning in a humid boxing gym set up in his Uncle’s garage in Adjuntas, to the Mixed Martial Arts circuit sending him from Atlantic City to Las Vegas. Although he was the American in this fight, Guerra waved a flag that both perplexed and compelled patrons to identify with Nezinsky’s red, white, and blue, as he was in their image.

“You’d think I was lucky to find a woman who didn’t want diamonds,” Kyle said to his friends as they suckled from bottles of light beer and individually pondered what to nickname the next waitress who swilled them another bucket of beer, “but trying to find a meaningful substitute to a diamond is hard, bro.”

“Dude!” Ian said, unwittingly dribbling a shmear of buffalo sauce from the corner of his thin lips like a tear drop from the heat of the night’s flavor, “that’s what fuckin’ cubic zirconia’s fuckin’ for, dumbass.”

The boys briefly held a contemptuous silence. Ian was the shortest among them, the guy who overdid ball-busting to the point of annoyance, swore excessively and for some inexplicable reason, even punctuated his sentences with profanities when trying to woo the lone women he’d approach at these festive establishments. He chucked deuces in all of his social media photos, and there was no avoiding his self-imposed invitations to nights like this as everyone was trapped with him as that guy who reads literally every single post one makes in their personal feeds. He scours every friend’s posts with a degree of socialized piety comparable only to celebrity stalkers, all due to his FOMO-phobia, the fear of missing out.

“Haley doesn’t want cubic zirconia or diamonds. She wants something that is ethically produced, but like, all jewelry that is made without slaves is sorta, like, dumb as fuck.” Kyle said, breaking the silence concurrently with three of Guerra’s left ribs.

“Isn’t cubic zirconia made by, like, scientists or some shit?” Robby asked, shifting his pectoral muscles to untangle his gold crucifix from his chest hair. “I mean, they’re scientists so they make bank, right?”

Kyle explained, “but it looks like diamonds, so she doesn’t want anything to do with them. She recently joined this group on Facebook that, like, is trying to end slavery and there was a documentary about kids in Africa getting their feet chopped—”

“Slavery’s fuckin’ done, dude—” Ian said, forever interrupting.

“Nah, bro. I guess there’s more slaves today than were ever used in the South.” Kyle, the enlightened one, said.

“My great-great-grandfather fought in the Civil War,” Vince said. The rotund, quiet fellow of the group, where Vince floundered in charisma he compensated with disinteresting personal anecdotes that accomplished little more than derailing conversation.

“Dude, you’re Aye-talian. Your grandpa was squishing grapes when the Civil War fuckin’ happened,” said Ian.

“I’m fifty percent Irish, dickhead!” Vince proclaimed.

Guerra tries to overcome Nezinsky’s clinch by hooking his aggressing leg. His head is firmly wedged in the shallow void of the Russian’s armpit, causing Guerra to breathe through his mouth and feel for the right time to seize the Russian’s calf. As his chest begins to tighten from the succession of knee jabs violating his sternum, Guerra attempts to free himself by repeatedly punching Nezinsky’s right cheek with his left fist. Every swing aggravated the shards of bone piercing his chest, but the words of his late Uncle Pepe echoed in the crevasse of the Russian’s armpit, humid like his hometown:

Lucha como un soldado que ya está muerto

“What about, like, buying a ruby in a gold ring?” Robby asked.

Kyle continued: “Bro! The average lifespan of a kid in Ghah-nay-ah—” 

“Ghana, bro—”

“Yeah,” Kyle swished his bangs, “Gay-nah, whatever. They only live to be, like, ten-years-old. Their little fingers are prized for, like, picking gold out of rocks and separating them with lead, then they die from lead poisoning. They don’t even go to school.”

“You can’t help it that these kids are slaves, bro,” Robby said. “Tell Haley to chill about this child slavery shit. It’s not like you’re holding the whip.” The boys unified in laughter.

“Haley is full of shit, bro—” Ian said.

“Dude!” The three bros said in unison. They upheld a code: no ball-busting girlfriends or fiancés. Also, if she breaks up with him, give it six months before attempting to sleep with her. If he breaks up with her: six days will suffice.

“Hear me out,” Ian continued, “there isn’t a fuckin’ thing we have that isn’t made possible without slavery. I’ll give your woman this much: she’s right about there being more slaves nowadays. When have we ever been able to enjoy anything without cracking a bunch of backs?”

“A fishing boat in South Korea got caught with slaves yesterday,” Vince said.

“The South?” Robby asked, finding the capitalist behemoth harboring human trafficking incredulous.

“Yeah,” Vince said, “like, you’d think the South Koreans are about that free life, but they were forcing men to catch fish twenty hours a day. If they got too tired, they made em into fish bait.”

“Kyle, bro, Haley bought you that bottle of Jameson Eighteen-Year for your graduation,” Ian had a point to make: “John Jameson’s great-grandson once traveled to Africa and bought a slave girl, ten-years-old, just to watch a bunch of her own tribe butcher her and eat her so he could draw a picture of it.”

“Bullshit!” Robby said.

“He paid six hankies for her,” Vince added.

“Six what?”

“Six handkerchiefs,” Vince continued, “that’s how much he offered the men of her tribe. So they tied her to a tree and cut her up alive. Jameson sketched the steps of slicing and cleaning her cutlets in his notebook. Her whole existence was for the purpose of his knack for drawing shit. He wrote in his journal that she didn’t even cry. It was like she accepted her fate without question.”

“When God is the reward, bro…” Robby said.

“Dude,” Kyle sighed, “that’s a hundred and fifty dollar bottle of whiskey. I can’t tell Haley that.”

“Already keeping secrets from your future wifey,” Ian teased.

Guerra’s left hooks into Nezinsky’s face faded from their initial brute impetus. He was merely pressing shivering knuckles against the Russian’s cheek bone, which reminded Nezinsky of boyhood winters so much that he tightened his hold on Guerra’s neck for mere nostalgia at this point in the fight. With every breath, the Boricuan spat life into the sweating underarm of his opponent, seemingly strengthening him as a vampire would with the blood of his conquest. Uncle Pepe’s words rose from murmuring echoes of ringside encouragement in hot San Juan gyms to the fateful night he sat his nephew down at the kitchen table and said:

Te voy a hacer un luchador bajo esa bandera.

Esa bandera, Gama.

Gamaliel peered through the beaded flesh of Mikhail, and saw the flailing arms of Joe Rogan, who was trying to alert the referee to break them up. A fade to white, and his tatted body fell limp into the Russian’s veiny arms, who had yet to realize he had killed his opponent.

Some of the congregants of the pub looked up as the camera crew had focused on the paramedics scurrying into The Octagon, attempting to resuscitate Gamaliel, but to no avail. His final fight was like any other Saturday night excuse to indulge millions of bargoers who craved premium entertainment as their wallpaper, and his death offered many, Vince among them, a neat anecdote about where he was on the night the Pride of Puerto Rico suffocated in the Armpit of Atamanov’s prodigal son.

The boys, undeterred by the viral video unveiling itself before their eyes, only paused from talking to deglove another bucket of glistening chicken wings. Kyle wiped his mouth clean:

“I get it, slavery is and always has been bad shit, but at least we’re not turning them on each other in coliseums anymore.”

barfly


Being a trucker, you take a small piece of someplace whenever you leave. In Detroit, a stray brick from the wall of a derelict factory where you used to deliver. In Sioux Falls, the plucked feather of a grouse that adorned your mesh cap and gave rise to your CB radio handle, Chief. In Reno, you caught the elusive barfly, whose life cycle had spanned the sweated rings of innumerable beer mugs, whose glazed eyes projected a million glints from the shade of stained glass windows, and who wandered into traffic, buzzed, to play chicken with you, the weary traveler.

The Crow’s Elegy

We hid in the sticks of a dying willow long stripped of her luster, gripping the ice left from an untimely winter carried across a pond we’d never seen. Here, we watched a white man shoot the last white buffalo we’d ever know. She limped towards the plain before the red, setting sun. Blades of tall grass caught her blood and tears, and the man trailed them wielding a long knife. When she fell, we sang for her and promised to carry her forever. From our wings we danced over her like crows. Not as a murder. As a tribe.

Metallurgy

Photo-Prompt-Sept-2017-300x200

An obtuse heart locket, pentacle and curiously enough, a dog’s bone — gifts from boyfriends one, two, four? — in no respective order. They had long wrestled at the hollow of her bosom. Their chains pulled the hairs on the back of her neck.

She googled “reverse smelting,” for it was the ore from which these metals were born she’d wished back. Instead, she wound up with a puddle and poured it into a crumpled water bottle. She watched years of her sweat escape the hollows of the bottle, innumerable voids as minuscule as the hairs on the back of her neck.

*This was originally an entry for a photo prompt story. The selected story is here.

Kev, the Butterfly

     Kev and I grew up together, but weren’t friends. We despised each other, but in that sort of boyish rivalry, he being the bully and I being his fodder, that wanes into harmless shenanigans as you get older. I also say it because he’s dead. Calling him what he was might imply that I’m pleased he no longer exists, which I’m not. Better to cast him as likable than as a prick, at least for his sake.
     Kev never outgrew that phase which envelops all us young men: burgeoning masculinity — it’s what killed him. One night he tried felling a tree, only he did so with a Honda Civic, and he was drunk. Story goes that it was the first night Kev had tried alcohol, but I know this to be untrue. At thirteen he was caught pocketing a fifth of bottom shelf vodka from the Walgreens on West Theodore. Twice.
     Kev’s accident happened two days before the start of our Senior year. I didn’t hear of his death until a week later, in the hallways, where I saw classmates wearing tee-shirts brandishing his last yearbook photo with his name, birthday, and that final Saturday of summer break air-brushed in bright, bubbly lettering, like those shirts you get made at carnivals.
     I walked up to one of the girls wearing this tee-shirt. She looked familiar, but her name escaped me. I asked if there’d be a funeral, or if it already happened. That’s where she may have gotten the tee-shirt, I wondered. “There’s gonna be, like, a memorial(?), or something, soon,” she said, and darted off before I could say anymore. I’m sure she knew who I was. White Urkel, as Kev called me. Perhaps reviling me was her special way to honor the boy to whom she gave his first blow job. Alexa! That’s her name.
     The memorial service was held a month later. His family had him cremated. From the gossip I’d heard about the scene of the crash, an open casket was not an option to consider. It was at St. John’s, a neighborhood church within walking distance for most who lived in town. The service was just short of standing room only, and the doors leading into the church were left open, allowing the stifling heat of crowded mourners mingle with the late August air.
     I attended out of curiosity, because I wanted to hear what would be said about Kev. They would paint an angel out of him to be sure. Kev’s little brother followed each of his stories with, “and then Kev would say, ‘don’t tell mom.’” It drew restrained laughter from the congregation, listening to a young man confess to a multitude of crimes against their neighbors: rosebushes crushed under the tires of bikes and birdhouses shattered with baseball bats. Yet the congregation laughed. His brother’s dead; they let him speak with impunity. Me and Kev’s Freshman Biology teacher, Mr. Lauder, spoke briefly, noting Kev’s fondness for the phrase, “survival of the fittest,” which was inappropriate given the circumstances, but was the most honest thing said. I do recall Kev murmuring that as he lapped me during our annual running of the mile in P.E. Kev thought he was the fittest, but failed to actually grasp the context. Expressions of strength belonged solely to him. Mr. Lauder didn’t mention Kev’s consistent D average. Again, in respect to the dead, we seek to polish a rough stone. I thought of saying something, but there was nothing I could say that was free of his animus towards me. That time he chucked a softball at my groin, how he’d ride up to my house and throw pop-snaps at my dog, or flinging green beans at me during lunch. Shit, he’d even stuff them in his pocket and ambush me in Social Studies. And that Honda Civic he plowed into a tree belonged to his ex-girlfriend’s brother. He beat the kid up and stole his keys; the stitches were still fresh in his cheek while a town grieved the sudden loss of one of their boys. The way they’re handling this is less about reminiscing and more about casting him into sainthood. They’re giving him accolades for traits that he boasted of, but never possessed. Screw it, he was a prick.
     But his mother approached the altar and I realized how necessary it all was. She took to the podium (something no one seemed to have expected) and a remarkable coincidence was witnessed. Before she said a word, a white butterfly had strayed into the church, presumably through the open doors, but let’s just call it fate, and it began to cascade towards the altar, coasting above us all like a flower bud in an eternal breeze. People gasped at the sight, a toddler pointed to the butterfly and said, wah-wah, causing all the women to swoon. Kev’s mother’s knees went limp, buckled. She grabbed hold of the podium to keep herself from fainting outright. The butterfly fluttered near her, danced around her head, teased her and everyone with it’s presence. As soon as Kev’s mother and several other mourners cupped their hands and tried to capture the small butterfly, it escaped from whence it came. A wave of tissue as white as the butterfly rose to dry wet faces in every pew. From the look of it, they were all dabbing their noses and eyes with their own Kev, the butterfly. What a miracle. Even I was duped.
     Having heard enough, I followed the butterfly out of the church, enticed to ask it a question, half-expecting, half-hoping a flutter over my head for an answer. “Prove that you’re Kev,” I said. It’s angelic wings flickered onto a twig above a stream of rainwater in a ditch, where in an instant the hallow butterfly sufficed the appetite of a hungry toad, which blinked as it swallowed him whole. He was just being young and didn’t know any better.