The sky above the Isle was the color of a chameleon.
The air felt unusually thick and palpable for an easy spring day. It was the eleventh day of May and the time was rolling down as heavy as a cast of molten gravity tearing through the sticky canvas of humid air enveloping the city. In Central Park on the Isle of Manhattan, the air felt so soaked and humorous that the need of gills to process it was becoming urgent. A quick serpent of roller-blade skaters, fashioned in slick tights, went sliding out of the viscid haze. Breeching the luxuriating bloom of the park, it was dispersed upon colliding with the rushing city grid. The magnetic stream of skaters thickened with the coming sunset. Beheld from above, the park resembled a stupendous mock lung whose anatomy demonstrated effervescent streams of oxygen rushing through a colorized system of airways and sacs. A sprawling multitude of tender vessels and quivering capillaries vibrated and madly processed the flood of over-carbonated blood.
After celebrating its magnum apex, the sun declined reluctantly, leaving the angle of its highest intensity. Its blistering glaze had heated up bulky loads of horseshit that were deposited along Fifty-Ninth Street. A train of spicy smell coasted over the ponds and blended with the sweltering haze. At some point, the smell became so resiliently imposing, albeit never foul, that it overpowered the characteristic odor of the city of New York - the usual blend of industrial fumes and asphyxiating gasses that the urban machines breathed out at every moment. Berserk pigeons in tight clusters vigorously feasted on parched mounds of dung.
The most wonderful and stimulating spot in the Isle of Manhattan can be found here on the border between the natural mass of Central Park and the ponderous ferroconcrete urban cast. Fifty-Ninth Street marks a stupefying divide where the mind could hover utterly acute and restless for days without finding any conclusive answers to its paramount puzzles. Facing west there stretches out a long line of obese horses harnessed in decrepit carriages, while on the other side of the street, facing east, line up slick black Lincolns, discrete mirrors of those clumsy, somehow neurotic nags, showered by the meek shine of the setting sun. This is the most spellbinding and overwhelmingly colossal interface where two incompatible systems interconnect, where two contrasting domains of the universe meet. Lax nature faces rigid urban grid; ponderous rock formations bump into slabs of concrete, supporting airy glass-aluminum constructions; a rugged mountainous terrain consolidates against the inrush of angular structures; groggy horses goggle against automobiles; rhizomatous vegetation retreats, trampled by the bustling mob.
Central Park provides the chest and lungs to the Isle of Manhattan and Fifty-Ninth Street acts as the diaphragm that contracts air from the surrounding greenery in the iron-glass cement torso of the city with the impetus and maddening frequency of a shallow breather. According to its original, well-contrived purpose, Central Park is meant to provide for the citizens a sense of enlarged freedom and tranquility that should never be vanquished, and here, on the city front, marked by Fifty-Ninth Street, the sense of freedom grows ecstatic.
Regardless of how luxuriant and vivid the vegetation might appear it would never prevail over the geological perseverance of the imperturbable fossils and cement stamina of the city. There, where the concrete city edges into the park, the green soma recoils as her vegetal endings touch upon rugged rock formations. There outcrop the bruised foreheads of porous rocks clad in a resilient web of rhizomes, high crawling plants, and moody trees. Those rocks emerge as formidable banged up bumpers, as bashed buffers mounted on the trunk of nature with the purpose to baffle the influx of the urban structure and shatter its rectangular cast. They bulge out on the face of the park huge and rough as fabulous herpes, fossilized moles, incredible geological mutants battered by the geometrical ubiquity and abscessed by the asphyxiating exhaust released by the city mechanism. Some rocks bulge tough as pumped up biceps. The enhanced muscular build of the park defies the jagged urban build of the isle that stabs the sky.
The Overlook Rock
A ray, as sharp as a thorn, splintered from the setting sun and scrambled the vision of a tubby flabbergasted toddler watching the skaters streaming out of the bottleneck streets. Central Park was turning its natural body and vessels into a gigantic hourglass that eternally flushes down time through its smoky chambers, while never running out of sand. The fluorescent serpent of rushing skaters crumpled hitting upon Overlook Rock, an imposing outcrop located very close to the corner of Fifty-Ninth Street and Fifth Avenue, right off East Drive facing northwest. Light and fragile, a fiberglass fairy in indigo harem pants separated from the dissipating tail of skaters and climbed the outcrop, balancing on her blades.
The outcrop revealed to her its impressive patterns of molten rock injections and igneous intrusions. On its highest point, the slope hosted a magnificent display of solid black mica adorned by a fine cluster of oxblood red garnets. There among marvelous patterns, a petrous dike formed the figure of a darting dragon. Notwithstanding the obvious lack of human involvement in the creation of the dragon, it appeared so finely incrusted and ornate, so artfully cut in the stone that it could serve as the crafted insignia for some bizarre cult, shaping out the fearsome image of an abrasive instrument used for ritual tailoring of glass and flesh. This afternoon Overlook Rock appeared particularly cerebral, prominent in its bulging folds, like a mythical giant's fossilized brain, in spite of its not particularly pronounced intelligence.
From the top of Overlook Rock, the fairy took an instant glance at the arch of Gapstow Bridge and Wallman Rink bleachers packed with fussy spectators. Her mysterious figure seemed to burst forth from the rock. With a skilled move, she dismounted the roller-blades from her shiny shoes and put them in her fluorescent backpack. Only then, she lifted her eyes to see the Wallman Rink madly spinning as never before. Packed with skaters, it formed a fabulous flying wheel that was making staggering turns. The entire rink resembled a gigantic replica of those tiny spiraling wheels that hypnotists use. The view sharpened her senses instantly. The spinning reel produced a vehemently mesmeric effect on her fatigued eyes. The sweet vertigo she experienced anesthetized her sight, and she felt light and airy as if grooving in the ether.
She could not hear the music. What she could actually hear was a melody of phantom tunes that the speakers were suggesting vaguely. It was an uncannily cool, even frigid melody permeated by a winding arctic spirit rising from the bluish silence. It sounded like the Oceanides by Sibelius, although she remained unaware of it. She could sense the fairy fluctuations of an overtone that plunged directly into her womb and started growing there as a divine seed. A scraping symphony unfolded on the background played by the blades cutting the ice in stunning synchrony. A sudden image jolted her mind out of hypnosis. The entire vision transfigured at once, its complex pattern abruptly changed, and she saw and heard a gargantuan meat grinder at work. The skating blades sounded like huge steel molars pulverizing the crust of ice. The turning ring of skaters appeared to her as a monstrous mill, a formidable crusher, and a ponderous grindstone spinning out of control. The blades were being honed on the ice for the final cut, and her body shivered with acute premonitions. In an instinctive effort to regain her composure, she thrust her chest forward and struck the pose of a preying mantis. This move made the silver breastplates that she wore over her tight indigo shirt voluptuously pronounced. Short brilliantly indigo-dyed bangs nicely curtained her forehead, enhanced by silver bead strings. She touched the leaves of a blooming plant next to her and started rubbing them gently to feel their tough vegetal constitution and force the charming odor out into the air. Her body was motionless and appeared somehow mounted on the plant while she was zestfully inhaling the odor. Her head turned slowly and forced her fine bare neck to demonstrate startling dexterity. Her body gently rocked from shoulders to ankles as if swaying in the evening breeze. She cocked her head in an effort to get better sight of her surroundings and oozed the word "shady" through the charming cleft of her front teeth with a smooth-jazz voice. Showing the apathy of an imperturbable insect, she gazed towards Chess and Checkers looking for something or someone supposedly lurking in the shadows. She could not make out anything and fixed her eyes back on the spinning rink. In fact, it was highly irregular for the rink to operate until this late in the spring. This was the last day of an extended skating season and the thick crowd was getting their final dose of spin on the ice and melting Winter's glamour.
The Cop Cot
In the Cop Cot gazebo, a perky bunch of female doctoral candidates was demurely reciting lines from a yellowish manual entitled "Academic Writing for Idiots." They were affectedly exchanging insights, unmolested by the idle bums and shabby tramps cadging and rolling up and down the hill like gargantuan rugged-face toddlers. Another fussy detachment of would-be professors with flushed and radiant faces invaded the Cop Cot gazebo, all giggling, and joined the rest of their kind. The printed materials they were waving about suggested that they were coming from the afternoon session of the annual 22nd SH (Summa Humanities), which was being held in the Sheraton on 7th Avenue, a street that leads straight into the mouth of the park. Without much ado, the entire crowd of doctoral candidates formed a circle around a tubby man, presumed age fifty, with an elongated bumpy head that resembled a pubescent cashew nut. His tousled hair, oily and curly, weak and split-ended, was crawling all over his astonishingly narrow forehead somehow growing into his thick and bushy eyebrows. This added a distinct streak of innocuous atavism to his overall appearance, that of an aging "enfant terrible." Grizzly and cloudy, like a pair of smoky well-worn marbles, his troubled goggle-eyes seemed to orbit feverishly around the strutted bust of a female doctoral candidate, who was fully engaged in providing him with the best possible view of her milky vault. The man's body was somehow malformed, a grotesque combination of elements: bulging dome-shaped forehead, a hollow-chested torso overburdened by a bloated belly, a pair of squashed buttocks stuck on top of legs as skinny and unsupportive as warped reeds. A mushy bearded face unfolded around his chalky lips, which twitched in an obsequious grimace.
The man spoke in a spastic, crookedly mannered way, attempting a low voice generated in his abdominal depths like some ventriloquist affectedly lisping authoritative dicta. His face contorted when his voice peaked, accenting certain monosyllabic as well as polysyllabic words such as "lack" "lag" "corporeal" "indeed" "politicization" "erroneous" "Hitchcock" "inquisitorial" "interrogational" and "Lacock." There was something fabulously devious about his learned utterances and affected ornate articulations, each one lubricated by sprinkles of thick saliva. He delivered his thoughts by means of some strange oral propeller fitted in his mouth. His speech came out challenged, as if beaten up by the kicks and lisps of a swollen tongue. The most unusual occurrence, however, was the random, yet very distinct whistle that his pompous orations and scholastic incantations produced. He spoke as if blowing sentences through a tiny brass horn, or, rather, as if breathing through a tin snorkel. Evidently, Nature had generously bestowed upon that academic sage a rare whistling molar. Every time he spoke, he played on his magic tooth. The bombastic tubby had just concluded a long convoluted sentence and, gasping for breath, blew his tooth to end it with a zip, which hurled his audience into a frenzy.
The fabulous fool was in fact Professor Pishka, the chief exegetist of the Slavonian Academy of Arts and Sciences, a highly acclaimed academic personage. Pishka was recognized as the originator of Lacockian studies with the publication of his thunderbolt book in the otherwise swampy fields of the humanities, "Lo Lacock." He was also the chief selector and editor of a cutting-edge book series called "Lacockian Pre-meditations and Post-venture Scholastics" in collaboration with Raw Materialism Publishers. Professor Pishka had just been unanimously voted into the highest ranks of the most authoritative organization of global humanists and cultural critics. He was actually coming from the final session of the general assembly of the same organization, where he was elected to serve as the head of the Summa. After the crowning ceremony was adjourned, Pishka tried to trick friends and fans by surreptitiously leaving the auditorium. He was resolved to abandon the streets and find seclusion somewhere deep in the park to gather his straying thoughts. Unfortunately, he found himself inadvertently caught in the middle of a highly agitated group of doctoral candidates, who had also sought to take refuge there in the park. Deeply nomadic by nature, Pishka did not mind fooling around occasionally with the agitated academic Vestals who desired his most acclaimed mentorship. He always felt comforted by the pilgrims of scholastic sacraments, especially those of markedly fine gender extraction, and enjoyed floating around in his lax vanity among the yelping clusters of graduate students. Now for the first time the mangy face of Dr. Pishka, a magnetic luminary and roguish bachelor, exuded institutional gloss and the twitchy stump of his body attempted a dignified posture. His profusely sweaty left palm clamped the damped roll of a large frog-green poster. His exhilarated company was already familiarized with its bold scarlet print, announcing the celebratory oration of the "Slavonic Giant, the Magnetic Pishka" on the most controversial topic "The Lacockian Cathexis."
At this point, the ugly body of a tramp made a momentous appearance, fated to trigger the most fabulous and cataclysmic chain of events for the Lacockian movement and for Summa Humanities in general. At that particular moment, the magnetic Professor was eloquently recounting his most memorable encounter with Lacock, striking intense poses of utmost gratification with his arms upraised, as if shackled in dungeon gear. As he revealed to his awe-stricken audience, he had the rare chance to play "Lack," a highly sophisticated and challenging game with Lacock himself, on the day before he died under freak circumstances that resulted in a massive volvulus. In a fit of senility, the magician of the human psyche had swallowed, in a fatal error, a large used cotton ball, mistaking it for a marshmellow. "How ironic! Erroneous, indeed!"
Enter the Erratic
The tramp had no name. They called him the Erratic, after the large loose boulder resting on a pedestal of bedrock at the far side of the Carousel. As a true erratic, it was a piece of alien rock transported from a distance, dragged and bashed up in a moving glacier as part of the ponderous grit it carried. Since immemorial times, this boulder had been brooding, arrested and precariously balancing atop the steep outcrop. The boulder was curbed by iron spikes, which the massive piece of rock would easily drive into the ground should it ever start down the slope.
The tramp - the most recent tenant of the park - found shelter under the erratic boulder. His body loomed under the boulder like a giant amanita, a flashy " destroying angel" of common wonder and consternation. He yoked his wagon full of jugged scrap and diverse rejects up to the security spikes, thus testing the nerve of the strolling passersby. He was fat and flat-footed. He was ugly. He was deaf. His overall appearance revealed some unidentifiable kind of congenital deformity. With the jolted manner of a startled chicken, he spastically turned around his boldly coned head, brandishing a pronounced nose that resembled a beak. With his front teeth missing and his legs all swollen, he appeared to be a true monstrosity per defectum! His face crumpled in a mask of irony, lumpy and porous as lava tuff. He cast a rather sobering look. He was outfitted in an oxblood red cap, lime-white but heavily soiled tunic and ripped indigo tights that made his legs look like bloated leaches. His overall misshapen figure was propped up on a pair of noisy old clogs. He had the appearance of a gross fleshy "stinkhorn," an abject toadstool contained in a sticky, foul-smelling matrix of clogged pores. Wherever he dragged himself, clouds of insects and hordes of rotten-flesh-eaters ceaselessly sought him, eager to engage his body in their frenzied feasting. His graphically tuffaceous physiognomy was worth a Lombrosian reading. The Erratic appeared subterranean in nature and yet profoundly sharp-witted - a dialectical truffle, in effect.
So, enter the Erratic. He was dragging along his rusty wagon loaded with jagged scrap. A ridiculous stuffed bird, a cock by all likelihood but blindfolded like a falcon, perched on his arm. A bronze cup hung from the belt of his tunic. The Erratic announced his appearance in a well-rehearsed, though encumbered falsetto of a deaf man forcing air through his underdeveloped vocal cords: "Merdre and thunder-shit!"
His wailing braggadocio pierced the drawn quiet of the park, tearing through its young leaf-mass. Being somewhat deaf, the Erratic seemed to appreciate the vigorous company of the doctoral candidates and overcompensated by addressing them in a booming voice:
"I see cabal. I see mischief. I see misfits. I see button split in half." After that, he addressed Pishka provokingly: "Mortal, what do you want with me today?"
Pishka tried to conform to the hyperbolic tone in attempting the following incantation: "What are you doing here in the upper world, tell me I beseech you." To which the Erratic answered in the same lofty key: "I came up here, traversing that manifold world and following the foul train of vanity you have left behind."
"Why now? Why you? Why me?" Pishka recited with exaggerated falsetto. The Erratic answered forthwith: "I have come to ask you for a lesson. I want to learn how to stink. I've got no dough, but I will slip you my cock in exchange."
"I never knew how to stink." Pishka apologized, somehow offended.
"Good for you mortal!" the Erratic sighed: "Knowledge is sickness with no cure. To know, that means to ail to death."
"Who are you, you humanoid?" Pishka faked a look of amazement. He took a moment to soak in the adoration of the doctoral candidates, who all stood still as if suspended from a wall.
"I used to be a man, a sick animal, that is. I worked tombstones for dignitaries and luminaries like you, Sir. I was accused of a great many crimes. I did not do time, only because they found no judge to define me in a sentence." - to all - "You ignominies, you termagants in menstrual meltdown," - to Pishka - "you arch-impostor crushed on wheel, you torn nostril, you whiff of death among the quick. Who in error sent you here?"
"I have come to this world to testify to its truth!" Pishka uttered with a derisive inflection in his voice. He finished the revelation with a short emphatic hiss in an attempt to deliver properly the "th" cluster at the end of the word "truth" with his afflicted tongue.
The freak was of a singular frame. He raised the stuffed cock above his head and dashed it to the ground with a wide swing, delivering the following oration:
"I see you flatfoots have come to the world to spot its error, to fix its glitch and blow the whistle of truth! Indulge me. I humbly wash your feet as a token of submission, for doing so I also wash my hands in exculpation."
And he bellowed a single word in Pishka's face, which now appeared wrinkled by the deepening nocturnal cogitation:
The Chess and Checkers
A guttural bawl stabbed the brooding mass of players and occasional loiterers on the hill of the Chess and Checkers. The hill was packed with people of different rank, persuasion and age silently clustered around the chess tables inside and outside the pavilion. They appeared fully engulfed in a deep cerebral incubation of stratagems and moves. The entire chess crowd was standing as still as a massive fossil. Its immovable collective body appeared artificially halted, drawn on canvas, deadlocked in a general stalemate.
Two young men, whose faces appeared to have just arrested a violent surge of agitation, were standing still around a chess table facing Wallman Rink. Tall and slim, they were mounted on their flashy nickel roller blades. Their ascetic bodies were clad in pitch-black slick tights adorned in fine embroidery with a silver omega, the symbol of electric resistance. They were twins, showing identical sundial faces and identical gnomon-like noses. Their eyes were locked on the chessboard that displayed a simple mating position. The whites were left with Queen on C3 and King on B2, while the blacks had their Queen on E4, King on D3 and a Pawn on E2. The twins seemed to be engaged in a retro-puzzle-solving, where the goal of the game was to work out what had or could have happened on the board so far, that is, to guess the game back to its beginning. The blacks moved the Pawn back to E3.
"It's a reverse mad queen situation," someone muttered with an attempted authority.
Despite the considerable attention the board drew from the loitering public, their asphalt eyes appeared somewhat disengaged from the chessboard and emptied of sight. Their lunar faces appeared mute and emaciated, like gothic allegories of cosmic drought. Their bodies were engaged in an almost unrecognizable oscillation, a pair of ultrasonic strings straining to the breaking point. They stood out, two gargantuan stalemating insects, overly alert, anxiously awaiting the signal that would snap their ethereal bodies out of deadlock.
For no obvious reason, urged by no obvious sign, in an instantaneous synchronized move the twins slipped free from the thick crowd of chess freaks that besieged them and dashed down the hill. There had been some cue, known only to them. Somehow, they must have spotted the slender carbon figure of that apparition in indigo tights looming atop Outlook Rock. Stalled motionless as a mantis, she was silently praying to the waxing moon that was already dominating the cyanic sky above the isle.
The Cop Cot Revisited
Professor Pishka had to steal the initiative and get on top the situation; it was getting out of hand for him. He needed to exercise a certain intellectual pressure on the Erratic and thus effectively thwart his maleficent attacks. He engaged in devising various jokes and puns that would show up the bum for the obtuse and lame-witted pedagogue that he really was, all in front of the increasingly disoriented doctoral candidates.
"Lastly, shall I introduce myself?" Pishka said complacently, "They call me Philopath and I knew Lacock. You wouldn't know Lakock, would you conjurer of hampered limericks?"
"I wouldn't know Lacock, would I? Woes betide me! Lacock - does the name come from lack? Does it come from cock? Did Lacock lack a cock? Or he cocked the lack. Yes, I knew it. He owed Asclepius a cock, did he not? Lack-a-cock, cock-a-lack, cock-a-lack... it's fun; it's pun; it's cum laude?
"It's a rotten jest!" Pishka shouted, projecting his voice.
"Die Wuste wachst!" the Erratic uttered declamatorily.
"Ecce homo, my dear friends." Pishka solemnly intoned his voice while pointing at the Erratic and stabbing the air with a rosy little finger. As he did so, his ornate ring of massive gold, which culminated in an oxblood polymorphous jewel, began to wobble.
"Merdre!" yelped the Erratic, shooting out in turn his own index finger, while striking the pose of God giving life to Adam, ala Michelangelo.
Trying to slip away from the pun, Pishka pointed at the Erratic's wagon and attempted a shift of attention: "You certainly collect all you see on the trail of doom!"
The Erratic answered forthwith with such zeal, as if he truly despaired all his life of not being asked that particular question: "Wrong. I carry all I hear. I am deaf, Sir. My eyes hear for me. I hear what I see, and the sounds turn visions for me. When I listen with my eyes, I hear objects not voices. In my wagon, you see all I can hear. My hearing is entirely objective and I drag a wagon of sounds that only I perceive. I hear all that you mortals see. What you see as a pile of junk, I hear as a thunderous recitativo. In my wagon, I carry pronouncements that I hear and sentences that I read on the trail of doom. I am a mole, yet am I deaf not blind. So, you listen to me with eyes! Only the grand shredder of time will show what paper shall stay and what shall go."
The Fairy and her Tail
Perched secluded atop Overlook Rock, she was drawing her breath in a distinctly light manner. Her eyes were buried in the gloom of lunar shadows, cast by the elms on the hill of Chess and Checkers. She was trying to read some fuzzy signs and make something out of the small crowd of chess geeks arrested in a principal checkmate, with their foreheads showered in luminescent light. Fine arms as dry fragile reeds buttressed her rapt lunar face. Soft gentle palms cradled her tender chin while her long pointed fingers sucked into her pale cheeks like broody leaches. Her volatile eyes hit upon the two sprightly figures that darted out of the gloom. Her temples pulsed instinctively while she attempted to muffle the light sigh that spontaneously pumped through her airways. The twins dashed down the hill and headed in her direction. In a wink, they climbed the rear of the Rock. Petrified in a fairy posture, she slightly lifted her face off her palms and uttered mechanically without turning:
She: "I eat your livers!"
They: "We tie you in a knot!"
She: "I scramble nouns for you."
They: "We conjugate a verb for you."
There followed a distinct, well-measured pose in this rapid exchange of nonsense, after which they all pronounced the phrase:
"Jeremy Bentham is out of the box."
The cryptic dialogue that the three roller skaters carried out had some uncanny purpose. Evidently, this absurdly convoluted pass-wording took place in strict compliance with some bizarre code, justified by impregnable reasons. Each face of the weightless twin sprites appeared utterly agitated and anxious in a different way even though the one was the exact replica of the other. They sat down on the rock facing her, as pixy demon-guardians in funereal tights, entirely concentrated on what she - the Queen fairy - had to say to them. At last, a word splintered out from her obscured face: "Deliverance!"
The ascetic bodies of the two spirits quivered with an instant spur of atavistic joy, as if some brain controller, some mental inhibitor had just burned out. She raised her reed-like hand in an effort to check the surge of roughish sprightliness that for a moment possessed her ethereal gang.
The fairy posed in her breath for a split second in order to climax in full force imperatively: "The Night is pregnant with a head. Deliver!" Upon finishing, the fairy rushed down the steep rock nimble-footed as a spooked tarantula. She whipped out a pair of shiny ice skates from her backpack and blended into the Rink's spinning womb. Her daemon-companions were no more to be seen atop the rock, as if they had melted down into its crevices and fused in the magmatic heart of the planet.
"All the practitioners of wisdom never appear so profoundly engaged in incubation of insights and masterminding of secret moves, so geared up for massive rumination, so broody and thoughtful, so sincerely intent and transported, as when they are passing a stool."
The Erratic made this provocative pronouncement in a pompously blunt manner and swooned into silence, a deep silence pregnant with thought. After a brief pause, he delivered the following summons before his stupefied audience.
"Hereby I summon the honorable rectors, deans and personnel committees of all universities to sample regularly, examine thoroughly and take a strict view of the fecal production of their respective faculties - standing as well as non-tenured, full time as well as adjunct. From the color, odor, taste, consistency, and crudeness of their stool work, let the academic authorities form an independent judgment of all professors' as well as students' scholastic aptitude and mental faculties. But nevertheless, only the shredder Time will show what paper shall stay and what shall go."
Thus, shouted the Erratic, a trickster by temper and rolling stone by vocation. He appeared huge as a weird mobile installation dragging a carnival multitude of broken objects and gadgets. He wandered wrapped, bandaged in tissue rags, wired in rusty coils and power strips. A massive quadrangular chin clamped into place his pubescent-looking skull. Surreal pieces of equipment, tools, and implements were stuffed in his messy pack. When he spoke, he projected a tin wailing voice of a deaf man showing great eagerness to babble incessantly. He seemed overly alert, mobilized in a constant effort to read people's lips. As has been already noted, his junk-wagon carried an extravagant anarchy of things, fractured objects, bashed-up rejects, leftovers of all kinds and industrial byproducts, pieces of organic and synthetic waste. All sorts of eccentric things and freak objects stuck out as miniature gargoyles from his ponderous and exuberantly ornamented, cathedral-like figure.
At this point, some gregarious doctoral candidates positioned themselves to photograph the Erratic while he was maneuvering his wagon out of the gazebo. Professor Pishka threw himself eagerly into the moment and joined in the picture-taking scene. The Erratic generally pleased by the reception that he had received, harnessed himself to the wagon, and invited the professor to mount it and thus set the stage for a memorable photo. The tramp pulled a whip and handed it to the Slavonic legend. Standing yoked to the wagon, the Erratic posed as a deaf nag while Pishka tried to balance himself among the twisted spokes and jagged scraps of things. The Erratic could not help but sharply jump forward, whinnying rudely like a donkey, which then jolted Pishka out of balance, collapsing him among the pile junk. This spooked the group of doctoral candidates, who stepped back after they saw how suddenly the shock jump-started the wagon down the hill. The Erratic cut himself loose from this chaos; infernally animated he watched Pishka atop the avalanching wagon, which was rapidly accelerating down the hill and was about to smash against the high curb of the skating rink.
Never before had Wallman Rink looked so beautiful as it did that night. With jarring loudness, the speakers repeatedly urged the skaters to vacate the rink but to no avail. Suddenly something very unusual happened that completely disorganized the spinning crowd and its collective body fell instantly apart. There was a sudden bang, and a whole bounty of broken objects and rejects, preceded by a jiggling uncoordinated body, rained down on the rink. The entire junk-load of the wagon burst into bits as a cluster bomb and barraged the Rink causing massive confusion. Pishka's contorted face sprawled down onto the ice followed by a loud shower of assorted scrap. The sudden incident turned the Rink into a roaring caldron of activity. The Slavonic luminary was desperately trying to clutch at the proverbial straw. His body was sliding freely, prostrated on the mirror of ice, while his squashed nose was leaving a bloody trail behind. For a split second, he managed to glimpse the misty reflection of the gilded moon, mocking him from the frosty ice below.
What happened next was an instance of rogue calamity. Pishka caught sight of a zipping nickel blade with a shiny black shoe that was dashing right toward his head. He heard the precipitous zing of metal tearing the ice. In zero time, his esophagus was slashed wide open. He learned how pregnant with insight a living head just severed from the trunk could be when gazing upon the world an instant before its sight shut off for good. He saw his body parting numb and disengaged when his pink tie flapped away like a silly flamingo. His torn nostrils had smeared on the ice a bloody hieroglyph. A red curb loomed in his ravaged sight. His severed head crackled as it bounced against the curb. There was a piercing whistle, and a pair of fake teeth ejected out of his twisted mouth and joined the cacophony of objects whirling on the ice. He felt nothing, but heard the sound. The rolling head attempted its last meditation. Some uncanny agency was implicated as the invisible conductor of that hideous circus played out on the ice. In execution of some diabolic command, that agency brutally dribbled with his head trying to score some major points against the earthly order of things. The rink looked messy and disarrayed. Havoc had been unleashed. What Pishka heard last was shrieks of dread and, hovering over the rink, the closing notes of the March to the Scaffold from the "Symphonie Fantastiqe" by Berlioz. The moon flashed for the last time in his eyes and splintered into spinning bits like in a magic kaleidoscope. The world went blank.
The shaggy body of the Erratic delivered itself onto the ice soon after his wagon had barraged the rink with its load. He started crawling into the disrupted flying wheel of skaters. Trying to rescue his free-floating body, the old man was desperately grabbing left and right for support until he clenched the indigo fairy in his spongy embrace. He rolled her over several times, screaming franticly a bizarre line:
"I dealt myself a Queen of Spades."
Amidst the spinning chaos on the ice, she felt captured and disarmed. Utterly dismayed, she swooned for a split second. When she regained her senses, her body was sliding free on the ice, and the filthy frost left behind on her lips melted with her breath. The Erratic was gone.
The last event that the surrounding spectators observed was an elongated bumpy object, a huge cashew nut of sorts shooting out of the general chaos. Like a mock rubber projectile, it landed on the cobbled pavement of the Gapstow Bridge, then jumped in the air and bounced off the stone parapet only to flop face down into the pitch waters of the pond. By some unfathomable force, the pond rejected it back in the air until finally the berserk head jumped atop Overlook rock. Beheld from the bridge, the head perched atop the highest rock appeared infernally animated, covered by some foul drapery, as if wrapped in an abject caul of death. Fidgety silence enveloped the Rink until a guttural ejaculation ruptured it, producing a bizarre verbal hybrid of the English for murder and the French for shit: "Merdre!"
Corpses do not combust, or do they?
The Balkan Air jumbo jet attempted a steep descent. The flight attendant’s stomach climbed up into her throat and almost emptied there the burning mush of cheap airline food. The passengers tightened their seatbelts, urged by the flight attendant's vivacious voice. The lowering of the landing gear could be felt throughout the aircraft belly, and everyone on board prepared for a crash landing. Palms were clutched in a moment of prayer. All eyes looked to the limestone bulk of the archipelago, which was surrounded by the crystal Mediterranean blue. The breathing on board seemed almost hushed. The apprehension over touching down on the solid ground grew stronger. The breathing soon became so minimal that the still congregation of passengers was on the verge of spontaneously bursting into collective breathlessness. At last, the landing gear touched upon the earth's crust and the aircraft vibrated increasingly. Breathing started to pick up its normal life-supporting tempo, while everyone's eyes promptly disengaged from the bright visions that had been holding them bound for the longest of brief moments. Only now, through a growing bewilderment, could they detect that a sweet and sticky, glutinous odor had started percolating through the aircraft's interiors. A slothful train of thick smoke dragged behind that somehow audible smell until it completely filled up the aircraft's belly. The smoke demonstrated the bizarre mannerisms of an ethereal serpent whose convoluted body compounded pulverized slime and spirits of decay. As the smoke asserted itself, everyone on board came to the neck-stiffening realization that it did not smell like burned wiring or anything synthetic for that matter. The emanation of that creepy smell had an organic origin. Clad in utter stupefaction, none even noticed how the aircraft taxied on the runway for several minutes until it came to a full stop. The arresting sirens of the fire squad rent the stinky stillness. The pilots rushed out of the cockpit, dashed through the aisles, cutting through stage-wings of smoke. They popped a hatch open and dove into the lower baggage compartment, where among other things Pishka's remains were being transported back to his native Slavonia.
Back at JFK while boarding the plane, the passengers had overheard how an airport official notified the crew that on their plane Professor Pishka's beheaded body and false teeth were to be transported back to his motherland. In an attempt to address the general bewilderment that the news caused, the official had further explained that unfortunately the massive search operation, launched by the police, had failed to recover the professor's severed head. In order to serve the facts, we have to mention that the last one to see the head was an ABD doctoral candidate who reported that it - after landing on the Overlook Rock - had suddenly spun like a weathercock on a peaked tower and dove into pitch darkness. The search that was initiated immediately after the skating calamity had gone on through the night and with the dawn had been aborted. The fabulous head had vanished without a trace. For some official reason, it was presumed stolen. Evidently, the investigation was expected to come up with some rational cause, and thus preclude the proliferation of any supernatural explanations that would lash the popular imagination into rampant discombobulation. A buoyant detachment of scouts recovered Pishka’s false teeth from the carnival of objects that cluttered the Rink. They visited the park that enchanted evening and joined the search effort with great enthusiasm while trying to promote the idea that the macabre head had been dematerialized by some covert agency of the dark side and beamed into obscurity to serve its ill-conceived causes.
Now it became clear for everyone on board that the offensive smoke was coming from inside the baggage compartment. Horridly enough, it was issuing forth from inside Pishka's coffin, from inside the late Pishka himself - from inside his corpulent and intemperate corpse. Nightmarish ideas blasted through every mind on board, turning the aircraft into a terror-breathing pandemonium. The preternatural phenomenon that was unleashed before the startled eyes of the firefighters was so hellish that it could rank as the most bizarre event of the century.
Fairy threads of blue flame danced over the coffin. An eerie bunch of forked tongues darted out as if trying to lick the scorched lips of an infernal mouth, flickering across its necromantic depths. Blazing spirits escaped from under the heavy mahogany lid of the coffin, agonizing over it like hissing phosphorescent tapeworms. Indulged in their subdued ecstasy, those flaming tongues were so volatile and mercurial that even a gentle sigh could drive their ghostly appearance up to an eerie crescendo.
Oddly enough, and due to causes beyond human comprehension, Pishka's corpse had self-ignited in the casket and started slowly burning the mounds of its own fat. When the coffin was shaken up during the rough landing of the aircraft, the lid cracked open and dispatched foul compounds of glowing smoke and stench as far as the cockpit, where they collected on its door like massive phlegm. When the firefighters opened the coffin, what they first saw was formless carrion, molten fat, burnt pieces of nylon apparel, and one stumpy toe of a parboiled appearance. A great number of small jets of what appeared to be gas flames moved along, closing an eerie aureole right about the place of the missing head and continued to burn for several moments transforming their glow into a dark blue hue.
The bluish flame that enveloped the combustible corpse faded away shortly after the lid was removed. Now it became clear that the satin sheets were scorched in such a manner so that the outlines of the headless body appeared quite sharp. The corpse had ignited itself in a kind of auto-cremation, due to a sudden surge of hyperthermia of some bizarre origin. Other than the paintwork of the casket being blistered, there was very little damage. In a mysterious way, the self-destructive body caught on fire and was slowly consumed as it burned its own fat like a giant candle. The bones were carbonized. The wool socks that Pishka always wore, lest he should catch a cold, lay undamaged. The surrounding area was covered with a viscous, foul smelling, oily yellowish liquid. In an extreme state of putrefaction, the relics were oozing miasmic fluids that produced flammable gasses. In an effort to subdue the unwieldy, gassy, unctuous, pitchy cinder mass, the firefighters promptly poured sawdust in the coffin, which soaked up effectively the fluids and arrested the odor.
For all the experts who promptly gathered on the wonder site of that preternatural calamity inflicted upon Pishka postmortem, the event was a clear case of SNC (Spontaneous Necromantic Combustion). According to an expert explanation, "for some reason, the corpse self-ignited, bursting into flames in a necro-genial attempt at self-cremation."
The ignition had supposedly taken place within the corpse, while the flames reduced its human fuel to a mound of putridity. The process of auto-incineration manifested an amazing self-containment, which could explain why the clothing, the upholstery, and the wooden walls of the coffin showed only minor heat damage. Proponents of the preternatural combustibility theory concluded that while there were no circumstances under which a corpse could self-ignite, there were certain corpses capable of combusting if exposed to a particularly subtle combination of the right factors. The inner fires were sparked by buildups of massive charges of static electricity, often in a body overly exposed to nylon clothing, combined with explosive compounds formed in the digestive system commonly caused by faltering digestion and substance abuse. In fact, Pishka overate massively and always wore nylon shirts and underwear that did not need ironing - a virtue of the sort of everyday apparel that was very important for the "sworn bachelor."
The so-called "wick-effect theorists" later explained why mostly those parts rich in fat and also clothed burnt while those unclothed remained intact. Human fat was the fuel made available for the corpse to burn independently. In fact, fat-fuelled fire produced intense smoke, which accounted for the large amounts of soot found in the baggage compartment. Moreover, the fats needed a wick for them to burn continuously and the clothing - especially the cotton pieces - played as one. That is why Pishka's toe was recovered intact rolling loose in the coffin. It must have stuck out somehow unclothed. All proponents of SNC explained the phenomenal occurrence with the assumption that dead bodies of all sexes and ages could spontaneously combust, given that those of "single, aging, corpulent female alcoholics and compulsive smokers" constituted the good majority of the known cases. Fat and overindulgent people left behind combustible corpses. In light of the common views on the issue, the spontaneous combustion of Pishka's body was linked to an excess of drink, gluttony, tobacco, and nylon apparel.
In the combined expert report on the case, which was extensively quoted in the media, the experts ruled out a scenario, widely popularized in the tabloids, according to which an ultrasonic scanner beamed at the coffin from some UFO kindled the corpse. Despite a thorough examination, a particularly bizarre circumstance of Pishka's spontaneous combustion was left unaccounted for. The evidence clearly demonstrated that the corpse was engaged in a massive preternatural convulsion, in a weird postmortem agony, because the tips of Pishka's fingers were found clawed deeply into the solid mahogany trunk. A pair of poorly maintained dentures featuring a whistle-blowing molar of a singular make was found teeth-locked into the wooden wall of the coffin and had to be jimmied open by the firefighters and marked as exhibit nine. That necromantic circumstance seemed to defy any rational explanation and thus overwhelmed the public with unscientific forebodings.
Deemed a phenomenal breach in the natural cycle, the self-cremated corpse of the Slavonic academic luminary was expected to provide yet another entry to the annals of unsolved mysteries of the world. A popular explanation subsequently formed itself. According to it, at hand was a brazen intervention on the part of a certain wicked agency that had worked the annihilation of Pishka's wretched remains. While trying to disprove the popular view, a vocal body of pioneering thanatologists suggested that Pishka's corpse executed an explosive passage into another realm of existence. Judeo-Christian people for their part stood firmly by the biblical dictum "inflamed soul leaves a flaming corpse." According to yet another mainly academic group of theorists that formed a cutting-edge trend known as the "Consciousness Disembodiment Initiative," the self-induced combustion and auto-cremation occurred because "Pishka's disembodied consciousness, while transcending the corporeal spheres of existence, caught on fire and reflexively attempted an abrupt reunion with its former corpse. This caused a violent rupture in the lower spheres of being and released massive energy within the corpse. As a result, entirely due to internal causes, the corpse self-cremated in order to preempt the sudden attack of consciousness that could provoke its fatal reentry into the material sphere of existence."
These extraordinary discoveries spawned a new science of man, which would be highly celebrated as "psycho-carrion analysis" and subsequently would be incorporated as the World Assembly of the Psycho-Carrion Practitioners.
Finally, a self-appointed committee of physicians examined Pishka’s medical records while looking for pre-existing conditions of the spontaneous combustion of his dead body. They determined that his penis - the most severely abused and certifiably tormented part of his body - played the role of a detonator. In support of this startling discovery, the physicians published selected passages from Pishka's correspondence with friends and written inquiries into the matters of erectile dysfunction and penile anomalies, as well as photographs of his own penile deformity and its subsequent surgical corrections. Among these documents, there is a very peculiar letter written by the late Pishka to a doctor Gus Eban at the Institute of Advanced Andrology Francois de LaPeyronie, entitled "History of my Penile Calamities."
In an effort to serve the facts that could bring this most peculiar story to an end, I have attached below the complete letter - a brain-stiffening document that bears witness to events that could qualify for entry in a postmodern hagiography of genital martyrdom.
History of My Penile Calamities
Dear Dr. Gus Eban,
I greatly appreciate your prompt response to my recent inquiry in the matters of penile deformity, which concern me deeply. Hereby I provide the brief account you have requested of all things and events that I think might have contributed to that calamitous situation in which I find myself helplessly entangled.
As I already stated in my previous letter to you, since puberty I took great pleasure exercising my penis, and it appeared prudent for me to keep it enviably sound and healthy; this involved both methods of penile fitness and enlargement techniques. Naturally, it is fair for every man to seek completeness in a penis of a certain size, and therefore anything that can safely expand man's soul in its completeness is, I suppose, beneficial for everybody.
Needless to say, before adopting any of the available methods I always inquired into their purpose and side effects, weighing the risk of terminal damage against the possible benefits. Man's general mental fixation on developing a well-sculptured genital makes also a strong case for the popularity of these methods. In a cunning way, the basic literature that sells enlargement techniques plays on the male fear that man always comes up short in the penis department vis-à-vis the female receptacle. Many pamphlets demonstrate that a woman never ceases thirsting for sexual satiety until a man has torpedoed into her belly a sizable projectile. Do please note that I adhere to the conviction that, contrary to the speculations of certain treatises on genital enlargement, a six-inch penis is not a dinky one. It is in fact respectably average.
My investigations, which extended over a decade of my mature life, made me believe that the enlargement initiative launched massively in the last century essentially narrated and packaged "virility for profit" with no regard to the actual need of the fair sex. As for the issue of modification that involves tattooing and piercing, I must say forthrightly that it had never created any appeal for me.
There is virtually no enlargement technique found in the plethora of literature and promoted on the web that I have not tested in one form or another. I went through all basic categories, such as massaging and manual stretching regimes; stretching with weights and mechanical devices; pumps and vacuum tubes, fat injection - you name it.
Manual stretching techniques were not entirely new to me, particularly those that drew on "jelqing," an old Arabian craft that has been practiced for untold centuries by many cultures, passed down from father to son for generations. Jelqing was held in the highest regard as the most effective of all ancient methods for enlarging the penis. It was invented and commonly practiced in the Orient, Africa, and India, all places respected for their highly cultured sexual attitudes and coital mannerisms, as well as for their men who typically sport large members.
My grandfather on my mother's side initiated me in the Oriental secrets of penile fitness. It consisted of a regimen of exercises that involved the young man applying a "milking" action along the length of the penis from base to tip for gradually increasing periods of time, every day over the course of several years. As legends have it, this method - if strictly followed with no exception - would result in an enviably ten-inch long penis. This would be more than enough to quench those quivering, pleasure-seeking Oriental females - as the prurient Eye of the West perceives them. The Sudanese Arabs, who happened to brandish some of the largest penises in the world, practice this method from the point of puberty. Fathers send their sons off to a trainer who teaches them penile milking.
Also, I found a Tao technique that could help those men amongst us who want to put a bigger head on their shaft. It is essentially the same art of jelqing, except it is performed in with a slower rhythm by pumping blood in the head until it is fully engorged like a turgid toadstool bursting with its purple pressure. This all contributes to the maintenance of a sound genital that will continue to work well into the future and still be capable of striking a tantalizing erection at any age.
Next, the idea of using instruments for penile enlargement turned out to be vehemently engrossing and ultimately blinded me. I failed to ask myself the simple question. If I install my penis in a metal frame or stretcher, supplied with screw-extenders on the side, can this operation actually lengthen my manliness? Does suspending cast-iron weights tailored to fit on the end of my penis actually render me a bigger man? It would be fair to admit that I certainly practiced some of the most outlandish methods, including stretching with weights and mechanical devices such as pumps and vacuum tubes.
Heavy weights employ the force of gravity, pulling the whole organ down when fastened around the penile shaft as well as the scrotum. The contrasting condition, this of the vacuum, works in all pumping methods where the penis is sucked and stretched out into a vacuum tube. One finds on the market a great diversity of devices and medieval implements for penile torture, such as iron frames, wheels, clamps that clutch it, and stretch it along its length to the breaking point. Certainly, if you decide to go medieval on your penis you positively run the risk of causing it terminal damage.
I confess I took some kinky pleasure in vacuum-pumping, as opposed to the torment of being pulled by the system of weights and gravity. The penis is tucked into an acrylic cylinder with a tightly fitting cuff placed around the base, which allows for the maintenance of an airtight seal. The air in the cylinder is then extracted with a mechanical pump or an electric vacuum, and the penis swells to fill the vacuum created. A vacuumed penis, as aficionados well know, can increase in size, but is in no sense permanent. If one stops pumping regularly, the size wanes.
I must have pumped too hard and for excessively longer periods of time, because one day my penis developed an edema due to the trauma of being exposed to a constant vacuum. I sent the following urgent request via email to my pump-provider. Here I shall include a fragment of it hoping that it will make my anguish vivid. It follows:
"I gave the vacuum pump a try today (I am writing this quite panic-stricken, facing an uncontrollable penile deformation currently in progress, so excuse the lameness of my style) and my cock hurts like hell!!! There is no pressure gauge, so I have assumed that you just use your mouth to suck on the plastic pipette and a pinch clamp to keep the vacuum in. ... Why am I so deformed and in such pain now? ... How much vacuum is too much? How long should one spend in the tube? There is a definite increase in overall (size especially girth), but I look increasingly misshapen! I have a total ballooning around the head and especially just below the glans that is huge and painful and unsightly! It looks like a freakish creep puffing out in all variety of strange places, and hurting almost everywhere. It feels like it has been split in two separate sections - red and tender from the base, and terminating in a deep crease and a freaking huge and bloated head! Is this normal or what? I urgently need a regimen to follow! Any advice will be truly appreciated and strictly implemented, I promise. Terrified and agonizing - my departmental chair for a clue, my fortune for a remedy!"
After my misbegotten experience with the vacuum method, I decided to go ahead and submit to surgery. I paid a stealthy visit to the underground office of a quack, for fear of being exposed and overcharged if I went to a legitimate medical facility. As you probably very well know, in this case the girth increase came by injecting fat into the penile trunk. Unfortunately, the operation created only a temporary illusion of thickening. Now I could only fool my peers in the locker room but not for long. I had to start devising an explanation as to why my intimidating piece of genital would suddenly begin to shrivel. Truth is, it grew quite ridiculous, because the fat necrosis left behind scars and fibrous nodules that added to my penis a lumpy contour. I looked ugly and repulsive like a bruised giant leech.
As it appears to me, I have now arrived at a clear case of Peyronie disease. The erect penis becomes rigid up to the scar and remains flaccid past that point. A narrowing "waist-line" then develops, giving the penile body a very lamentable and disturbing "hour-glass" appearance. I feel a definite lump formation in the shaft, which creates a painful deviation upon erection. Its loss of length and girth complies with the medical symptoms, and its infernal aesthetics matches the true appearance of the disease that you, dear Dr. Eban, have so thoroughly presented in your letter to me. Given the fact that any surgical straightening of the penile curvature would result in further loss of length, I would rather wait, as you so kindly advise me, and hope it corrects itself. I will take as much vitamin E as I possibly can, however I do not believe that any of my sexual partners will ever accommodate, let alone begin to appreciate, that genital monstrosity as an unique aspect of my pleasure-giving anatomy. I am prepared to accept Anxiety and Distress as my constant grim companions for future days to come. I have not ruled out the possibility of an operation and the subsequent surgical sculpting of my wretched genital - the phalloplasty that you outline as a final resort. I am so aesthetically unsightly, and my desire for a longer and sounder penis in both flaccid and erect states is so robust, that I might decide to submit to a phalloplastic operation hoping to regain my rapidly sagging self-esteem. After all, a desirable outcome would successfully enable me to woo those voracious students that are out there hunting for stupendous genital encounters.
I know that the male obsession with size is as wrong and misguided as the female craze for breast augmentation. I truly hope that if I go ahead with my financial donation, as you prudently stipulate in one of your letters to me, you will give me in return a staggering penis that will finally complete me. I also know that politics is not a virtue in your domain of science, but I need you to understand the political implication of my genital deformity. I have become the genital wreck that I am now due to the massive badgering I have received by the dragoons of new-age womanhood - the graduate students that naturally constitute the immediate body of a professor's social and/or sexual encounters. They profess a global erosion of male chauvinism and the emergence of a self-assertive woman. They demand that men should be held liable for their chronic sexual deficiencies and proverbial underperformance. I must say that each of my partners demanded a prompt and sustainable sexual delivery on my part - otherwise, as each bluntly put it, she would not "play anymore a gagged spectator of my sexual inadequacies," nor would there be "any more appreciative grooming of my genital crookedness." She would put on a stubborn face and term me "incorrect." Then, demonstrating the imperturbable equanimity of a career vivisectionist, she would order me: "graft that knotty stalk of yours, go have it pruned, OK!"
Thus, the History of my Penile Calamities ended rudely interrupted with the phrase "go have it pruned, OK!"
Actually, not a single person among the flabbergasted crowd that witnessed Pishka's stunt saw how there, in the deep gloom of the baggage compartment, an obscure apparition loomed taking the shape of an angry severed head. The obnoxious head of the guillotined Professor Pishka sprung out brisk and free with a sharp whistle and hung in the air gravity-defiant, glowing like a jack-o-lantern and surrounded by a humming bunch of winged phalli. The head was violently munching on its torn esophagus like a newborn trying to cut loose by gnawing through the umbilicus. Lashed by the phalli, the esophagus was flapping about foully, all mangled and slimy. No, it was not the papier-mâché prop head of the Baptist that Salome had kissed after dancing showered in the menstrual blush of a cracking dawn long ago. No, it was a gut-impaling vision of a heavily soiled and bruised living head that spun around, squeaking like a rusty weathercock. The rogue head abruptly stalled. Rolling its calcified eyes, it nodded at something that was hiding in the darkness then screwed up a smile flashing its rotten incisors. Suddenly, the necromantic head imploded and, while shriveling to an ignominious noodle, hissed: "Merdre!"
* Alexander Penn is the pseudonym of Vladislav Todorov, who lives in Jersey City, New Jersey. "The Somersault" is an excerpt from his first novel, Vacuum. As Vladislav Todorov he has published various titles, some of them with SUNY Press, & he holds a Ph.D. in Russian studies from the University of Pennsylvania. [back]
© Alexander Penn