Zsolt Alapi was born in Budapest, Hungary and grew up in Europe, the U.S. and Canada, where he now lives. He is the former editor of the little magazine, Atropos, (winner of the Pushcart Prize) and has published poetry and fiction in various magazines in Canada, the U.S. and Britain, most recently in Front and Centre. He recently published a chapbook of stories, ‘Three Stories,’ (Mercutio Press, Montreal, Quebec, 2004). Zsolt teaches at Marianopolis College and Concordia University and has completed a Ph.D. at McGill University (Montreal) on Robert Creeley and Postmodern Poetics. He also edited a collection of poetry and short fiction, ‘Vistas’ and has written on the poetry of Pound, Williams, and Olson.
SAMUEL BECKETT - More Pricks Than Kicks
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ROBERT CREELEY - The Golddiggers
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MILAN KUNDERA - Laughable Loves
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PAUL BOWLES - Collected Stories
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“Stephen? Dr. Ackermann. You good for tomorrow?”
“9:15. Don’t be late.”
A click, followed by the dial tone, a dull hum.
He shifted the ashtray from his chest to the floor. There was still half a joint there—more than enough for a buzz.
His bathrobe had fallen open. Stephen shifted his cock and balls onto his right thigh.
Strange how the left ball was always lower than the right. Was that the artistic hemisphere, he wondered?
Stephen lit the remaining half of the joint, dragging deeply. Seeds crackled and popped, the pungent odor of the weed hung in room, the dreamy sound of Sarah Vaughn floated from the speakers:
“Per-di-do…lost my heart in…..”
Holding the Divine Sarah’s ample brown hips….moving….
“Lost my heart in….”
He closed his eyes and gave himself over to the music, to her voice. Sarah, Ella, Bessie Smith, and all the others. All the Divine Ones. And Lady Day. Strange Fruit…..”The Man I Love”…Mel Waldron accompanying her on piano at the Five Spot. Frank O’Hara, the strangest fruit of all, smoking by the entrance, listening, entranced by her voice, just days before they took her to that last hospital room and arrested her for heroin trafficking.
The grass had really taken a hold now.
Phase one: dreaminess.
Phase two: horniness.
Phase three: consummation?
His cock was rigid, an absurd exclamation point. Donne and Marvell’s extended conceits.
He rubbed his palm in anticipation, planting a quick peck on his right hand where the Mound of Venus intersected the Life Line and half spoke, half sang:
“This baby never says no / She’s always there for me / She’ll always care for me / Take a dare for me / She never says no…..”
Then he stopped, remembering. 9:15. Sharp. Sarah’s voice too had stopped. The last minor chords from the piano, the last hiss of the brush on the snare drum, the last bong of the bass.
His cock went limp, contracted, an unfinished declaration, a dangling participle hanging in the silence……
He was running late when he burst through the clinic doors. It was almost 9 a.m.
Behind the counter were the three women, the weird sisters, as he thought of them. Francine Something, hard mouth, tight, bony ass, small crabapple breasts, blonde frizz. Hannelore or Edeltraut or Gretchen, he could never remember. A buxom Kraut, big breasted, an Alpine cow just missing a bell. Finally, his favourite, Maria-Assumpta Veloce, tall, slender, raven hair, Roman nose, eyes deeper than water, a Sicilian beauty.
They looked up for a brief moment, then, dismissing him, went back to their tasks.
Which one to pick this week?
Maria-Assumpta it was, his Atropos to put out the stars.
“I’m Dr. Ackermann’s 9:15,” he announced.
She looked up and gave him the sterile plastic cup.
“In there,” she said, indicating one of three small rooms. “You’re late.” Her voice did not sing nor lilt nor undulate of soft, crushed vowels, but rather the hard, guttural snap of St. Leonard and Ville d’Anjou.
“Me I gonna get shit, so hurry it up.” She glared at him and the cup he was holding in abject disgust. Then, almost reluctantly: “You wanna magazine or sumpin’?”
“No, I’m good,” Stephen answered, stealing a last memory of her tanned cleavage, as he entered the room. Once inside, he slid down his pants and shorts, sealed his eyes shut, and began. Maria-Assumpta slinked through his thoughts, but today the magic was missing. Perhaps it was the “Me I” or the “sumpin,’” but nothing he tried to imagine could make it work.
In the room next to his, he heard a muffled gasp, followed by the intake of breath through clenched teeth, a sharp hiss.
On his end, nothing.
Then, a harsh knock.
“Stephen, you done? I’m waiting…..they’re waiting.”
He flushed. “Need another minute.” He picked up the rhythm, but nothing. Soon, too soon, he heard voices, Dr. Ackermann’s and Maria-Assumpta’s.
“I’ve got one more to go….all ready and wide open…I’ve done two…Now, this last one….”
“You’re due in the OR in twenty minutes.”
“Jesus, these students…”
Then, he voice again: “Cysto’s on line three. The TURP is prepped and waiting. It’s OR number five.”
“Damn it to hell. I’ll have to go do it myself.”
Stephen, feeling desperate now, heard him enter the room next to his, heard the sound of a zipper unzipping, and then, miraculously, a clear whistle, startling in its beauty.
And that tune, his favourite.
Finding his own rhythm, Stephen thought of Divine Sarah, and how she rode it and finally him, to a calm come.
They emerged almost simultaneously, each with his offering in the cup. Dr. Ackermann looked at Stephen once, and threw his own into the garbage can by the counter.
Stephen placed the cup carefully, almost reverently, by Maria-Assumpta’s work station. “Ciao, bella. Arivadella,” he murmured.
He felt somehow pure, cleansed, letting her go back to her suburban dreams, the faux Mediterranean duplex and the pink flamingos in the postage stamp of a front yard, back to her expanded waistline, bawling bambini, lasagna suppers, and late night porchetta sandwiches with Brio.
His was a love supreme, the silent company of all those who had fallen, yet had risen, only to fall again in this bitter, crazy world.
Stephen looked back through the glass doors of the A.I. Clinic. Maria-Assumpta was saying something to Francine and smiling. The morning sun lit her brilliant hair, making it dance in splendour. Her olive skin seemed somehow darker.
On the counter, the sterile cup sat: his children, drying in the sun.
Dr. Ackermann came out in his OR blues, picked up the cup and said something to Maria-Assumpta as they both laughed. Then, he walked into the third examining room and drew the white curtains behind him.
Reproduced with permission