DREAM OF A DISAPPEARING ACTOR
I ring the buzzer to Michael Keaton’s apartment in a still un-gentrified part of Brooklyn. We walk, unnoticed, as he tells me he knows a great place to eat lunch. We arrive at a Syrian restaurant and bakery and there is a long line to order. I say I’ll stand in line and he says he’ll find a table. I notice one of the Zagat reviews hanging in the window claiming the restaurant to be “Backyard Chic” and “a place to get fresh baked pita, and sit at a picnic table with throw away tablecloths.” When it is my turn, I order what I had heard the last person in line order, not knowing what to expect. I get my number and then wander down a hall that I think may go towards the restrooms or another seating area. Then, as I get to the end of the narrow hallway, there is a man who moves from my left, out of a walk-in refrigerator, into another room, holding a long machete-like knife. To my right there is a padded cell with old brown bloodstains on the walls. I look further in to see a large, muddy pig hanging upside down from its legs, blindfolded and struggling, but silent. Another man is smiling as he tries to hold its’ body still. The man with the knife dances around feigning jabs at the pig while he laughs, but also is silent. Before they notice me, I turn and walk back to the restaurant and find it completely empty and Michael Keaton has disappeared.
THE FOUNDER’S DAY RACE AND THE PINK CAKES
Each August an Illinois town celebrates its’ incorporation with a week long carnival in the large, grassy central square. There are popcorn and cotton candy makers, amusement park rides, clowns and ponies. And it all culminates in, “The Founder’s Day Race”, where the county mausoleum opens up the crypts of the two founders of the town, dead now for over a century, and positions the bodies into modified mannequin stands that holds their legs, waists and necks in place, as they are shipped to the back of the beloved local bakery in a decorated hearse. Meanwhile, two eight-foot tall cakes, with an inner-mold that keeps the center of the cake hollow, are baked. Each cake is then lifted up with a forklift and carefully placed on top of each founder, encasing them. Finally, the fragile cakes are walked down the street on dollies to the square.
The captain of the football team and the mayor traditionally run the race. It is a 200- yard straight sprint. At 50 yards the cakes are placed side by side and both runners dash up to the cake and hug it until they uncover each founder. With pink frosting and yellow cake all over their bodies, they carry their founder by the belt and neck as arms flail. After another 50 yards, there are 2 canvases on easels. Each runner dips the founder’s finger or hand into a blue inkwell and creates an abstract painting. After each runner is satisfied with their work, which can take up to a half hour, they drop their body and sprint to the finish line. They are met with wild applause as they are hosed off. Behind them a swarm of children run onto the race path, stuffing their mouths with the pieces of cake, off of the dollies, the grass, and off of the founder’s bodies.
BARBER SHOP IN A CHINESE RESTAURANT
I am having dinner with my parents at a Chinese restaurant. It is quiet, with white tablecloths and dim lighting. Only one other couple is eating and whispering to one another in the other corner, as traditional chiming music plays. When we are done with our noodles, waiting for the check, my mother asks me, “Do you want a haircut for desert?” I walk over to a large barber’s chair where a middle-aged Polish woman with long bleach blonde bangs and long pink nails chews gum and says, “Name’s ‘Trixie’, pick a fortune.” I lift the cover of the blue Barbicide and then pull on a thin ticker tape that rises out of the disinfectant. The fortune is in Polish. I give the paper to her and she reads it to herself, throws it on the ground, and begins to cut my hair frantically. Then, I notice outside, across the street, a commuter train rolls off the tracks, down an ivy-covered mound into the street. The ivy starts growing over the train, then grows into the restaurant towards my feet. Trixie continues cutting.
Austin Sanchez-Moran received his MFA in Poetry from George Mason University, where he was a Laanan Fellow and then an Honors Fellow. His poems and short fiction have been published or are forthcoming in Catamaran Literary Journal, Denver Quarterly, Laurel Review, and Salamander, among others.