Flash Fiction


[For Jean-Luc Godard]

They were going to lock me up. I said, ‘Fuck it.’ It didn’t make any difference to me. I’d been locked up on the outside this whole time too. They didn’t know it—but I knew it. It was burned in me like a swastika tattoo, like a concentration-camp serial number, same difference. The prisons were moving outward just as the continents had lost their land masses and turned into islands. And still it wasn’t yet Christmas.

This is 2000-plus years later from something but I’m wearing a gray slim-fit suit. I’ve got a Fedora on my head. I smoke cigarettes constantly and let them burn up my throat and lungs. I’m planning an early escape. It’s my modus operandi—to breathe less than your average sub, your average subhuman as I’ve been cast.

Who cast me? It doesn’t matter. It’s not my lot to complain. I’m leaving town today. I’m trying to leave town. I may even go to Rome but don’t let that get out. These fuckers will follow me everywhere. Anyway they already know I’m in Rome. I’ve been there for such a long time. The surveillance cameras in Rome have picked me up since 2005. And I’ve been in New York the whole time. But I’ve been there, in Rome, too. I can’t trick them. I can’t fool them. It’s the scourge of the subhuman. His curse.

Anyway I’ll get out. The prisons are only so big. They encompass the entire civilized world, the grid, and beyond—the mountains, the prairies, the rain forests, the oceans, the kingdoms…I’ll take that woman into the room with me too, have her read me Faulkner. But only the last line of each novel—that’s all I can take. After that we’ll build a fire in our hotel room. I’ll break up the wooden end table and put the phone on the floor. Thank God there’s one slot window with a sliding panel. The blue-black smoke can pour out. We’ll lie on the false bearskin rug, open two, three bottles of wine. But no, we won’t be intoxicated. We’ll be full of some kind of blood.

Then it’ll be morning. It’ll make no difference, sun’s up, sun’s down. I’ll send her to the store for milk, the paper. I’ll play Mozart’s Clarinet Concerto on the turntable like it’s going out of style. It is going out of style but it’ll be there in prison, waiting for me.

When she comes back with the milk and paper, I’ll tell her I love her. She won’t say ‘Shucks’ or anything. She’ll say, ‘Sorry but it’s over. I couldn’t do it. The prisons are too big. I dropped a dime on you. Okay, a quarter.’

Then I’ll start talking to the walls. She’ll do the same but counter-clockwise, the opposite walls. She’ll have her conversation and I’ll have mine. The Mozart will keep playing but I’ll turn the volume down.

After a minute she asks me why I don’t run. I tell her I’m running, can’t she see?

She says, ‘No.’

I say, ‘That’s because I’m too fast for you.’

Too fast.

Then, sirens outside on the street. They’re blaring and rhythmic like its French or English police. Maybe even the Italians. The Carabinieri with polished white-leather holsters and stainless-steel helmets. Tall shiny boots. I’ll talk to them about sports cars, calcio, and the tits of Battipaglia even. I’ll con them with my subhuman speech. Shit, I’m almost gone.

Fiction Writer, Poet, Antipoet, gentle quasi-misanthrope, librarian, Philip Brunetti has been writing since his early 20s, and his innovative work has been published in various literary journals including Identity Theory, Swamp Ape Review, and The Boiler. His 2020 debut novel Newer Testaments has been described in The Independent Book Review as ‘an innovative existential novel told through hallucinatory poetics’ and is available for purchase.