Featured in issue 5 of Marker.


A short story by CBWCaswell

If it wasn’t for the winged penises hanging at eye level, the first thing to notice when entering the room would be the celebrities. There were many apprearances made at the gallery party: people from the evening news, realtors whose faces were sat on everyday while people waited for the bus, and even the recently elected mayor. I stood over by a mannequin, trying to get my bearings and rubbing my eye from a recent molestation by a plastic dong, when the mannequin started shaking me down for money. It turned out she was the door girl.

“Have you paid cover yet, sir?” the hostess asked, rubbing a hand over her pink, plastic wig. She wore a dress made from a number of My Little Pony-pink crayons that had been melted into a skirt. She smelled like kindergarten, and not in a good way.

“Does cover include taking a penis to the eye?” I asked.

She gave me a smile so brief it would be up to science to decide if it had ever happened at all. “Fifty dollars,” she said.  I greased her Crayola-stained palm.

I had been working on the rigs for some time, with the roughnecks who used their phones to watch porn on their breaks, and I thought I might need some culture before I started referring to every woman I saw by her axe-wound. I had the money, but I didn’t know anything about art. I walked around, but couldn’t be sure what was more interesting: the pieces or the people.

Beside a pair of scissors scissoring, I met a bald man with a goatee and scarf, and glasses so large he had a hard time keeping them on his face. When they eventually dropped off his nose to the floor, someone screamed that the skylights were falling.

A woman and her husband found me particularly confused about one piece, and took it upon themselves to explain that it clearly borrowed from MC Escher’s Stairs, but where one might ask if the stairs were coming or going, you would wonder which of the men were giving or receiving. They were impossible to have a conversation with. The wife referred to herself in third-person while the husband only referred to himself in feminine pronouns, so I couldn’t be sure if they were talking about one person or both, or if the husband was talking about the wife, or if the art really was a traditional portrayal of sexual ambivalence through the eyes of Zizek. It turns out they were both Pop Culture Philosophy teachers, and they thankfully cut the conversation short, needing to get home in time to continue their seven-year-long study of the “female gaze of postermodernist black culture” in Two and a Half Men.

I then met a woman with an unbelievable neckline who loved fur but opposed animal cruelty, and so had adapted to wearing a pet mink around her neck. His name was Smarmy. I was as rabid for her as Smarmy seemed to be in general.

“So,” she said, batting Smarmy’s head every time he bit her ear— a sign of his affection, she told me— “do you paint?”

“The only painting I do is on toilet paper.”

“You make me want to vomit,” she laughed. We continued to talk. I nudged closer while keeping a wary distance from her snarling scarf. Eventually she asked what I do.

“Well, I drive truck to site.”

The words mystified her. “But you seem so…educated. Opinionated.”

“Oh, there are plenty of opinions on the rigs, I can tell you.” I had her rapt attention. “You see, it’s always been a dream of mine to drive truck. I can remember—”

“Do you hear that?” she said, “The band is starting.” She grabbed my hand and we joined the crowd in the main room.

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