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Fiction by Marc Kipniss




I'm sitting across from Descartes, at a table near the kitchen. The waitress comes over and readies her pad and pencil. I put my menu down, hold my hand out to Descartes. He clears his throat and says, with a faraway look on his face, Cogito, ergo dim sum.

The waitress smiles at him, then at me.

I'll have the same, I say. Only different.

The waitress smiles again, takes our menus, and walks off. Fifteen minutes later, she brings us two specials.

I dig in. Descartes picks up one of his chopsticks, but just pokes at his food.

What is it? I ask.

He shakes his head, picks up his other chopstick, makes like he's a walrus.

Very funny, I say. Now eat.

He shakes his head again, tries to start a sword fight with me.

I parry and say, Knock it off, I'm hungry.

Descartes jabs my chest pocket. I stare at him through my eyebrows. He pulls his arm back, skewers a prawn, flicks it at me. I retaliate with a black mushroom. It misses him and hits a guy at the next table, who tosses a pair of pot stickers in my direction. I duck. The people behind me are upset. The people behind them are, too, and it isn't long before the father of modern rationalism has everybody in the restaurant splattering food all over the walls and windows and light fixtures and plants and fish tanks, in a wild and ecstatic frenzy.





Suppose everyone wore epaulets at night. Not just regular epaulets but special epaulets with fringes. Not just regular fringes but the kind that glow in the dark. So that everyone could see them. So that everyone could touch them. So that everyone could feel how soft they were between their fingers.

In the daytime no one would wear ascots. Dickeys would also be forbidden. Football players wouldn't even be allowed to wear them with their shoulder pads. Football players wouldn't even be allowed to play football.

One could make an exception for chaps. For chaps with fringes. For fringes that lit up.

But only at night.





Have you ever met somebody who straightaway it hits you they look like a certain kind of animal only you can't think of which one because they're droning on and on about something you're supposed to be paying careful attention to and then you suddenly figure it out that what it is is a frog? Well that's what I suddenly thought of while this man in our living room tried to lengthily explain to my wife and me the different features and packages and costs of the satellite dishes his company was selling, but as soon as I realized how closely he resembled a frog in his flat face and small round glasses and neckless hunched-up body I completely lost track of what he was saying and started waiting instead for him to do something a typical frog would do such as spit out his tongue at a passing fly which there were in fact quite a number of because it was summer and the kids were always leaving the back door open or another door open and so the bluebottles flew right in, the kids were always doing something like that and I was forever yelling at them about it or yelling at them to clean up their rooms or to stop fighting over whose turn it is to watch a favorite cartoon or to not talk with a mouthful of bologna sandwich and so on, only the man didn't spit his tongue out at anything and it started to seem as if he would never finish telling us which kind of surge protector he recommended and what the installation fee would be and the various movie stations we could get and how much money we'd save in the long run, though he said we'd have to pay extra if we wanted any of the local stations which I told him seemed stupid, they're broadcasting barely a stone's throw from here, but the man said the problem was the local stations didn't bounce their signals off a satellite up in space since they didn't need to because they were after all only a stone's throw from here and that's why he would have to put in an additional dish or an additional box of some sort for us to be able to watch the local programs which still seemed stupid to me so I told the guy to forget it and threw him out and poured myself a double scotch. My wife said she thought I had been a tad rude but then I said the guy looked like such a frog I couldn't stand him and she said you should never judge people by appearances and besides we probably couldn't have afforded it.

Money, my wife is constantly worrying about money, even though I make plenty, enough anyway, depends on the season, we just have to watch our spending on luxury items like my wife's clothes and school supplies for the kids, the school should supply everything anyway, that's why we pay taxes, or used to, I stopped paying to protest funding of those left-wing arts programs that are ruining the nation and religion and, well, it's the holidays, the holidays kill us, Christmas and birthdays and the rest, but of course you can't ignore them, that would mean you were abnormal, nuts, some kind of radical, especially on the Fourth of July, I like to go all out on the Fourth, go out to the Rez and buy a bunch of fireworks, except we end up sharing them every time with the neighbor kids, who come over and beg to shoot stuff off and then complain that they hurt themselves and their parents call and threaten to sue and I threaten to kick their sorry asses and that's why this year I decided we would keep to ourselves, blow off our fireworks inside the house instead of out, so I bought some safety goggles at the hardware store for the kids and my wife and me, then disabled all the smoke detectors by removing their batteries and letting them hang on their wires from the ceiling like oversize bathtub plugs hanging from their chains upside down, and just in case something caught fire I filled the tub with water and ran a siphon hose from it downstairs and filled the fridge with beer and boom-boom-boom did we have a great time without anyone getting burned and the fireworks sounded louder than ever since we'd exploded them inside instead of out but not with the windows closed, there had to be someplace for the smell of gunpowder to go after all and I had locked the doors in case somebody tried to run away, you can't run away from your problems, I always tell the kids this, you have to try to defuse them somehow, to vent your anger so to speak, though at the same time the locked doors were meant to keep the neighborhood kids out, salesmen, the Internal Revenue Service, the taxi driver my wife called to take her and the kids away to her mother's house, which I told her was ridiculous, everything is fine, I said, we're just celebrating the birth of America is all, greatest country in the world, come on and light one more Roman candle, don't be a spoilsport, this is our patriotic duty, and look how much fun the kids are having, really, they're only crying a little, because they have smoke in their eyes a little, the goggles I bought maybe leak a little, next year I'll spring for gas masks, okay?





About the Author


Marc Kipniss holds a Ph.D. in Comparative Literature from the University of Washington-Seattle. His fiction has appeared in many magazines, including Black Warrior Review, American Letters & Commentary, New Orleans Review, Salt Hill, Wisconsin Review, elimae, 5_Trope, Snow Monkey: An Eclectic Journal, and Cafe Irreal: Issue number five (February 2001). A chapbook of his short-shorts, Reptile Appliance, is available from broken boulder press.