issue thirty-two

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(670 words)
David Woodward
Dans la Merde
       Merde. He was down to his last few francs. Le croque monsieur didn't go down too well. He'd only had a few bites. He couldn't even drink his wine. His intestines had been backed up for a full week now. Merde. He felt a belch coming. It was building from deep within. This is it, he thought. Relief. He focused on the relief to come. The toxin was halfway up his windpipe when he suddenly realized that relief never comes when relief itself is the focal point. Instinctively, he swallowed the poison back down. It rumbled angrily in his stomach. Then retreated further into the intestinal tract, small then large portions of his gut. Push it the other way, he reasoned. But no, something made him hang onto it. Some thing needs to remain within. His discomfort was his penance but it was also his duty. Joie de vivre had a price. A breakthrough would only come if he suffered. The letting go of impurities would only come simultaneously with a discovery. A revelation. Near penniless in Paris, he walked out of the cafť and into the busy streets.

He found himself at the park. He chose a bench with much excrement. Guano, he thought, precisely. Pigeon poo. Merde. C'est partout. I might as well be in it. His bowels rumbled. Ah, c'est difficile la vie. Pas facile de vieillir. He threw the birds some of his lunch from inside his trench coat pocket. They pecked at the ham first. He thought they would have gone for the bread only. The ham gone, they fought for the toasted bread next, albeit with less gusto. They had difficulty with the cheese. He almost laughed when one bird had it stuck between its bill as if it were gum. Wish you had teeth? he teased. You look like an old man. Perhaps next time I'll bring my wine.

Sweat poured down his brow in the hot afternoon sun. He removed his cap but kept his coat on. Merde. He got a whiff of himself. Good thing birds don't have a good sense of smell, he mused. Except vultures, I believe. He gazed above, half-expecting to see them circling over him. No vultures today, only a, a, a...? No, he wasn't that out of touch with the times, only with himself. He couldn't find the right word. Flying apparatus, flying saucer, kite, humming bird, not a bird, plane, helicopter... Drone! Merde. He could hear it now. It whined above him, hovering in place. Is it watching me? Of course not. But some thing is. He thought of swatting at it like a fly. But he couldn't muster the energy. He bared his teeth -- perfect, white dentures. Then he removed them, baring his nicotine-stained gums. He couldn't afford to smoke anymore but his gums had never lost their blackish hue. He took his dentures and opened and closed them for the drone. Morse code for laissez-moi tranquille. A pigeon swooped up and tried to grab it from his feeble hands. They fell to the ground. More birds gathered around them and pecked at the edible remains between the perfectly formed teeth. Having caught the strange sight, the drone descended. Instinctively, he kicked at the drone, hitting a pigeon instead. Merde. He felt something drop on his head. It exploded upon contact. It was a warm sensation. Merde. He put his cap back on. The guano oozed down the right side of his face. He remained inert, his gaze un-focused, in search of nothing. A little boy prodded his arm. Monsieur,Monsieur, vous avez de la merde sur la face.

Pigeons landed all around him, some landing on his person. His false teeth stood in front of him, facing him. The birds had done a good job. No food was stuck in-between. They gleamed a brilliant white in the sun. They smiled back at him. Perfect. The guano continued to slide down his face. He smiled. He relaxed completely, into the bench. Perfect.




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This work is copyrighted by the author, David Woodward. All rights reserved.

Artwork by
JoŽl Sueur