These five microfictions are published in conjunction with an interview with Edmundo Paz Soldán in this issue.
The new, much-discussed attraction at Disneyland, begun three months ago, has become now the highlight, the main fascination of daily, unending crowds. The attraction in question is a gargantuan maze, which claims to lose all who dare enter its meter-wide lanes, its gray three-meter-high walls, offering mirror after mirror of varying size, depth, deceptive illusion. There is no short supply of the brave: on the average there are eleven-hundred-twenty three entrants per day.
Forty-one people have found their way out in the ninety-one days the maze has been open; 102,152 are still lost, many of whom, one must suppose, are now dead. The strawberry freshener expelled in the lanes can’t disguise the smell of flesh decomposing.
The terrified cries of survivors lends to the attraction’s atmosphere. Rescue is not possible, the company’s president reports; company personnel are afraid to enter. Besides, they’ll not be blamed, he insists: the park’s not responsible for any lost objects, a disclaimer reads on the back of each ticket.
Numerous groups are launching campaigns, arguing for a boycott of all things connected to Disney. The governor of California has threatened to revoke its permit to operate as a park. America’s president has mentioned possible federal intervention. In the meantime the crowds are increasing. Endless lines begin forming at dawn, come rain or vicious heat, people dying to find something real, something like life in their lives.
You get home at three in the morning and find yourself at a costume party. You didn’t plan it, and don’t know who did. You live alone. And so, feeling quite strange, you say hello to a clown, a prostitute in thick make up, a pirate with a monkey on his shoulder. Nobody offers explanations. Nobody knows you, or seems to. Best just to sleep, you think, and wake up and start over, but a pair of clowns are making love on your bed. The guest room’s locked from within, moans emerge from the bathroom, half-dressed couples are getting juiced in the living room: you have nowhere to go. You open a bottle of beer; you join the party. You dance, you kiss, and are kissed in return.
They leave at six, roughly. Nobody says goodbye to you. You head to bed but don’t quite get there. Exhausted, you collapse in the hall, and sleep there, tangled in streamers, the glass in your hand empty.
I’m invited to a costume party. I decide to go as myself, so I take off the mask I typically wear when I’m out in the world, working, visiting the girlfriend, conversing with friends or home with my family.
The party’s boring and the masks aren’t original: they all stole my idea.
Somebody fires: the gun’s echo rings in my ears: someone’s been shot: the cries of surprise and pain remain in me still.
I’m not the person who fired. I’m not the one who was shot.
Which is to say nothing has happened.
When the government’s official warning letter arrives, giving him just twenty-four hours to vacate the country, he is delighted, and thinks: It’s because of my poetry. It can’t be anything else but my poetry. There can be no other reason.
So he leaves that night, happy and ignorant. And dies in exile, happy and ignorant.
Kirk Nesset is author of two books of short stories, Paradise Road and Mr. Agreeable, as well as a book of translations, Alphabet of the World, and a nonfiction study, The Stories of Raymond Carver (Ohio University Press). His books of poems, Saint X, is forthcoming. He is recipient of the Drue Heinz Prize in Literature, a Pushcart Prize, and grants from the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts. Edmundo Paz Soldán’s most recent novel is Norte, published in Spain by Mondadori in 2011. A finalist for the Premio Rómulo Gallegos, he has received many scholarships, including one from the Guggenheim Foundation. He has taught at the Cornell University since 1997.
Stories originally published in Las máscaras de la nada (La Paz, Bolivia, Editorial Nuevo Milenio, 1996). Used by permission of the author.
image credit: andy castro
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