Micro Essay

The Dark, Unspoken Mystery of Mr. Belvedere – Micro Essay

by Andrew Fay

Recently, one of the digital over-the-airwaves stations in the Twin Cities has been showing reruns of Mr. Belvedere in the interim between the time my wife goes to bed and the time that I join her.  And for several nights in a row—out of equal parts boredom and nostalgia—I find myself watching a few episodes.

The show, which originally ran from 1985 to 1990, was about a displaced English housekeeper working for an upper-middle class Pittsburgh family.  Two facts become clear: Mr. Belvedere is formerly of the employ of the British Royal Family, and he arrives in Pittsburgh desperate for work.  The family is merely looking for help around the house—maybe a college student to help tidy up, prepare some meals, and tend to their youngest child, Wesley, after school.  But Mr. Belvedere shows up and practically begs for the job.  He complains about being underpaid, but in five years Mr. Belvedere doesn’t leave.  And it’s quite clear that Belvedere is a world-class servant.  If he must come to America, isn’t there an old family in Boston or Philadelphia that would be a better fit?   This all leads to the dark, unspoken mystery of Mr. Belvedere: what led him to dire straits?

I am preoccupied with Mr. Belvedere’s past.  How did Mr. Belvedere get to Pittsburgh without a decent recommendation from the Queen?  What did he do?  Lying awake at night, in the absence of facts, I am forced to speculate.  This leads me to the ultimate conclusion that whatever it was, it was bad.

The still photos shuffled in the opening titles only fuel the fire.  He is seen serving tea to Roosevelt, Churchill and Stalin at Yalta.  He dines with Mahatma Gandhi, and meets with Sir Edmund Hillary.  Then suddenly he is holding a shabby cardboard sign, hitchhiking for Pittsburgh?  Why Pittsburgh?  The American pronunciation alone must be enough to infuriate Mr. Belvedere, who would want it to rhyme with Edinburgh or Yarburgh.

So it’s 3:00 AM, and I know that Pittsburgh is the last place Mr. Belvedere would want to go, and yet it’s the specific place he’d been trying to get to.  Then I wonder how Mr. Belvedere got to Pittsburgh, and how I got to Minneapolis, and how Tom T. Hall got to Memphis while I’m at it.  I look out the window over my still, slumbering city, just a few taxis idling on a downtown street in the time between the evening and the morning.  Because I watch Mr. Belvedere, I can’t sleep.  And because I can’t sleep, I watch Mr. Belvedere.

Andrew Fay lives in Minneapolis, and hold an MFA from Hamline University. His work has been published in Pithead Chapel.

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The Hedgehog – Micro Essay

by MaiLynn Stormon-Trinh

The hedgehog died in the gutter on the metal grating over the sewer.

His remains were first spotted in the early hours of a still, clear morning on one of the last days of a fine summer.

That he was male is only a conjecture. However, his impressive mass (the size of a fat domesticated cat) made this assumption reasonable, if not infallible. So, for the purposes of convenience, the hedgehog will hereafter be mentioned using the masculine pronoun.

The cause of death was unknown. The placement of his body along a suburban roadside suggested that a vehicle could have been the perpetrator. Yet as the hedgehog’s body was still plump in all his parts, his quills still neat and erect like a tremendous sea urchin, it appeared he simply had lived a long enough life and therefore could not, or would not, carry on any longer.

It was a humble, yet public place to die. Pedestrians sometimes stopped to stare down at him; others, startled, walked hurriedly by. Any regular passerby would expect that any day now, he would be disposed of by whomever or whatever is in charge of ridding family neighbourhoods of such an exposed display of mortality.

However, as days turned to weeks, the dead hedgehog remained.

One might find it most curious that despite the persistent presence of the hot summer sun, the spiked creature never gave off any odour associated with autolysis and putrefaction of decaying flesh. In fact, if one could smell anything at all, it would be only the aroma of the far off sea on days when the wind carried it so.

 Still, maggots chewed through him with a voracity only maggots can know.

As his tissues began to break down, he shrank and shrank and shrank. His face dissolved inward from the tip of his delicate, dark snout. The round of his body depressed slowly at first, and then quicker and quicker still until he appeared to be nothing but a piece of litter thrown out of a car window.

Then it happened that in the middle of the night, when no one was there to see it (or so it can be supposed), the last of the hedgehog’s flattened skeleton and leather-dry skin either slipped through the grating into the sewage below, or was carried off with the incoming Autumn wind.

And then nothing remained of him at all.

MaiLynn Stormon-Trinh is a freelance writer born in Nevada and now living in Wellington, New Zealand. She writes at www.tigerbombtales.com.

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The Misuse of Wings – Micro Essay

by J. Eric Thompson

On the pavement at the northeast corner of Grand Army Plaza and Central Park South, jutting from the sidewalk beneath the clip-clops and tourist chatter, there is a thick, tapering line of bird poop. Look up. Attracted, perhaps, by the proximity of horse feed, or the rounded footing of the cantilever cables, dozens of pigeons coo and jostle. Their intermittent splatters have formed a sort of excremental Jackson Pollock below, awkwardly skipped over by pedestrians lucky enough to glance down in time. But why this light pole?

There is no room for even a flutter, and their footing, ideal or not, is also encrusted, as is every inch and contour of the pole itself. Nearby, poop-free stanchions, however, remain mostly unoccupied, except for pigeons patiently awaiting a vacancy. But they have wings, you say to yourself. If not roaming coastal in Bird Paradise with godwits and plovers, it seems they’d prefer a tree limb, at least, to a filthy steel traffic light. Their provinciality, though, is a means of survival; adventure into the unknown requires unnecessary adaptation. The avian equivalent of, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

We, though wingless, are free to live as opposed to survive. We are not ignorant of the breadth of this world, much less of our own fantasies and ambitions, nor are we paralyzed by instinct. Yet we mimic you too closely, pigeons. We tanagers and orioles and warblers and thrushes and shrikes and finches and pardalotes are easily grounded by the stress and hardships of migration. We too often find ourselves content with jockeying for a foothold on a shit-covered light pole. In our own sweet way, of course.

Fledglings: at some point you must jump. Stay moving and ahead of the crap that piles up when you allow yourself mere contentment for too long. No matter how prime or convenient or well-rounded the footing, seek a better place to alight. You may return, if you choose. But migrate first. Explore. Ignore the flashing DON’T WALK and fly.

J. Eric Thompson is a freelance writer transplanted from rural Virginia to New York City. He has a degree in English Literature from James Madison University, and is currently studying journalism at NYU while working on his first novel. You can find more of his work at www.jericthompson.com.

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Raw Material – Micro Essay

by William Pomeroy

I dreamt last night of a colossal farmhouse in decay, much like the abandoned plantations I have seen in Upstate villages.

It was faded white, almost transparent, with hunter green shutters, parallel to a rusted railroad long since discarded. Behind its sagging front porch and two-story apex ran a narrow corridor of one-story rooms almost fully collapsed like a broken wing hanging off a goose carcass.

Near the back corner of this battered strip with holes in the roof like a random succession of bombs had fallen, stood a makeshift, stone-tiled shower stall, white but yellowing as though generations of men had waited there, chain smoking.

Black mold splattered across its three walls. Near the open entrance laid a heap of flaking red chains.

It had been a cell.

I knew the men responsible.

On a bright afternoon, I stood before a table of elderly, dignified women sipping glasses of lemonade and hot tea in fine china adorned with roses.

White haired, their pale faces were speckled with tiny craters like moons.

Behind me, I suddenly glimpsed a young man, tall, thin, dark and well groomed, strikingly handsome.

“I know what you are!”

I laid into him.

Flailing beside him, I pressed his face down on hardwood floor and reached around his head to suffocate him with a rag soaked in bleach.

Everyone clapped and cheered.

Her dented face twisted in mirth, a woman reached over to hand me a machete, gleefully exclaiming: “Finish the job! When the brains are out, the man will die.” [1]

I hacked away at the back of his skull.

His blood was jet-black, flowing in clumps like sludge.

I awoke as a huge man I identified as his father paced furiously in the hallway of that rotten farmhouse where they had detained and violated a prisoner.

He tore up and down this crumbling pathway, thundering hatred for losing his son, and from a distance his taut skin and broad cheekbones resembled an octopus face.

This only happens when I have not written in several days.

Otherwise, I can usually avoid Lovecraftian monsters.

People define inspiration as pure, ethereal and optimistic.

Sometimes, it can be unrelenting.

I empathize with Keats:

And ever watchful with fatigued eye;
The last, whom I love more, the more of blame
Is heap’d upon her, maiden most unmeek,—
I knew to be my demon Poesy. [2]

[1] Shakespeare, William. Macbeth. New York: Signet Classic, 1963. 87. Print.
[2] Keats, John. “Ode on Indolence.” The Complete Poetry and Selected Prose of Keats. Ed. Harold E. Briggs. New York: Random House, 1951. 297. Print.
William Pomeroy lives in Greenwich Village and teaches English in Harlem. He taught ethics and poetry in a medium security prison while completing his philosophy degree. His writing has appeared in Art Times, Foliate Oak, Embodied Effigies, R.P.D. Society and Maryland Hunting Quarterly. Please visit his website: http://www.willpomeroywords.com.

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I’m So American Sometimes – Micro Essay

by Azia DuPont

I’m so American sometimes.  White, 2.5 kids, Christian, and I feel free—until I think about my IUD and the Suffragists long before me and suddenly I’m in cages, tied down with thick ropes, gagged, unable to breathe or scream, blindfolded.  I’m so blind.  I think maybe the box my little life fits into isn’t made of a white picket fence, but barbed wired worries barricading my brain—small reminders to not get too comfortable, too satisfied because maybe I’m still second-class (maybe still a bit white trash.)  And it seems no one can remember a time when women had to keep their mouths shut.  It seems that there are people out there that want me to keep my mouth shut.  It seems some people choose a life of silence, holding in their words until they dissolve into their throats, into their blood and their bodies are made up of everything they’ve ever swallowed. Their daughters growing up to expect hollow hearts with swollen wombs, ovaries that belong to God & Nation, birthing little soldiers and package-makers who fight for Freedom! and 2.5 children households!  While the corporations wear crowns made of thorns and we worship our paychecks and we drink to our freedom and the bombs explode in the sky while our children light sparklers and we wear American flags on our t-shirts because where do we go from here?

Azia DuPont currently resides in Northern Iowa. Her poetry has recently appeared or is forthcoming in The Screaming Sheep, Scapegoat Review and Haunted Waters Press and her essay, “I don’t love you like I don’t hate tomatoes” was featured in the Canadian magazine, Highbrau. She is the Co. Founder and Fiction Editor for the ePub Dirty Chai. You can find her online via Twitter @aziadupont.

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Tourmaline – Micro Essay

by Karen Eileen Sikola

The day you got married, the forecast predicted rain, a rain that never fell but seemed to remain still in the air. I took my dogs to the park, where the mist clung to their fur but never seeped in. I ate breakfast in a train car diner, where the coffee was weak and the Spartan Special sat uneasily in my stomach. I returned home and watched recorded TV dramas until the meal settled. I had sex in the shower. I finished an opened bottle of blended red that had been on the counter a day too long. I ate Rice-A-Roni, and roasted Brussels sprouts, and an ice cream sandwich. I went to bed.

The day after you got married, I ran six miles in new shoes that gave me shin splints. I showered too soon afterward and sweat through clean clothes as my body tried to recover. I watched my boyfriend and his friends brew a batch of stout so dark the runoff stained the patio, listened silently to their banter as I closed my eyes and soaked in the last few rays of sunlight before the cold turned permanent. I watched the dogs chase flies that flew into our rented townhouse every time the screen door opened. I drank cider in 4 oz. increments. I ate leftovers and watched the Saints overcome an 11-point deficit. I stayed up for the evening game only to go to bed at halftime.

The Monday after you got married, I woke up.

Karen Eileen Sikola received her M.F.A. in Creative Nonfiction from California State University, Fresno. She now lives in Boston, where she works in publishing and conducts the blog TrainWrite. Her nonfiction has appeared in several journals, includingMonkeybicycle, Specter Magazine, and Used Furniture Review. Her digital chapbook, “Riding the Green Line,” is available from Walleyed Press.

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London Fog – Micro Essay

by Diana Smith Bolton

When the rain rolls in, fat and warm like a purring wet cat, I smell the same scent: my mother’s Scotchgarded trench, heavy drops beading up on the sleeves, and the orange and brown plaid lining, blanket-thick, sopping up the moisture. She was brand-loyal; some things were just the best, like London Fog for humid Mississippi rain drenching an October day when you didn’t want to go to the store but had six mouths to feed.

Even now, that warm-breath muddy wetness brings her to me, years after our last word. I see her, pulling grocery sacks out of the car through the rain and into the garage, brown paper sagging to hold cans of condensed soup.

I smell and see my sisters, too, our skinny bodies enveloped in little London Fogs. Our mother picked them up at Goodwill or yard sales, like new, just then outgrown by other little girls. We are warm in these sturdy coats as we wait for the carpool. Some Januaries, southern-cold in the spongy yard, we run and flap our coat-wings, huffing our lung-warm air out into the chill like we are dragons, like Puff, like Figment, all pink and purple and navy, our plaid linings flapping like underbellies. As the sedan pulls up, we turn to the window, and see her frosted hair, one hand lifted to it, one hand lifting to us.

Diana Smith Bolton is the founding editor of District Lit. Her work has recently appeared in Lines + Stars, Jet Fuel Review, and elsewhere. She lives in northern Virginia and is active in the DC poetry scene.

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