Gabino Iglesias was born somewhere, but then moved to a different place. He's worked as dog whisperer,
witty communications professor, and...read more ballerina assassin. Now he hides near a dumpster in Austin, Texas,
where he works as a freelance journalist, writes weird stuff, reviews books, and impersonates a PhD
MICHAEL WAS DONE with the latest edition of the New York Review of Books. As usual, they had blatantly ignored every new book out there worth mentioning. This time around, they had even failed at making mainstream shit slightly interesting after applying a thick coat of cheap intellectualism. If he stopped reading, the next thing on the agenda would be cleaning the plate he'd used for breakfast. He shifted the biweekly publication to the right and looked down at the plate. Small yellow fragments of scrambled egg were scattered over the white ceramic. They were too small to stab with a fork and too big to be considered insignificant or be easily ignored. They bothered him. They bothered him immensely, for reasons he couldn't comprehend. If they had eyes, he knew they would be looking at him triumphantly, mockingly. Hatred filled his heart. He went back to the NYRB and flipped the page.
The noise of the stiff paper reminded Michael of an explosion. There are explosions every day in other parts of the world, he thought, but never here, never where it matters. The page settled. The house was suddenly too quiet. Impossibly quiet. Someone always had to flush a toilet somewhere in the building, except when it was really necessary. He wished he had a pet so it could fart at moments like this. He coughed, cleared his throat even though he didn't really need to, and tried to fart himself, but to no avail. The lack of sounds fed his solitude, turning it into a bloated carcass that floated inside his chest. He had to do something.
Swallow a pill.
Eat a bullet.
Write a novel.
None of the articles were worth a second reading, so he did something he'd never done before and read the classifieds.
The third entry caught his eye with a sharp hook of words. He read it once and immediately read it again.
EROTIC EXPLOSION. Let me blow your mind, your ul-
timate erogenous zone. Provocative talk with educated
beauty. I love books. No limits.
There was a phone number at the bottom of the ad. Michael couldn't remember the last time he'd used his phone, but he kept it charged at all times. He closed his eyes and imagined the woman behind the words.
She would have a sweet, clear voice and perfect enunciation, like honey over a few razors in high definition. She would be tall. Incredibly tall. And leggy. She would have eyes so green they would put an emerald to shame. And have big tits. She had to have big tits. Big, round, perky tits she would lovingly refer to as June and July. She would have a PhD in contemporary indie lit and the kind of brain that intimidates men.
He needed to talk to her.
The conversation was nothing to be nervous about. He would introduce himself. She would be happy he called. They would crack a few jokes to melt the ice and then talk about books. They would love the same stuff. She would say Doris Lessing is a cunt and Nabokov is inexcusably overrated. He would laugh. She would mention all his favorite indie presses. He would fall in love.
As Michael thought about more phone calls and deeper conversations, something inside him tensed like a guitar string. He was already in love, craving the company of a woman he knew would have a razor-sharp mind, a great sense of humor, and astonishing knowledge about all things literary. He pictured her reading by the side of a pool, a small yellow bikini barely covering her carnival of curves and a great book in her hands. He imagined having dinner in a quaint joint downtown, words about books flying at breakneck speed over the dancing flame of a candle. Then he closed his eyes again and opened the small door inside his brain behind which he hid his real dreams. The images came pouring out like water from a broken vase.
The woman tilting her head back and slowly parting her luscious lips. Instead of a tongue, there's a miniature naked ballerina living in her mouth. She smiles at him and spins around screaming beautiful words that take to the air like small, wingless blue birds.
Another thought. The woman standing in a white room. She's wearing a green sundress. Azaleas and butterflies move within the confines of the garment. From her fingers drip tiny words that form puddles of poetry at her feet.
A flash. More comes to him, invading his soul with joy.
The two of them having a threesome with Michiko Kakutani. They cover her in caramel syrup and then lick it off. After a few hours of fun, post-coital tristesse snakes up his leg. To fight it, they drag Kakutani out of the house, tie her to the back of a rusty pickup and drag her through a desert at 60 miles an hour while listening to a tape of screaming dwarves dancing on broken glass.
Michael opened his eyes. The numbers were still there, staring at him, pregnant with promise. They were a secret code to a brighter, happier future. The woman at the other end of those digits was all he had ever wanted and more. Much, much more.
Getting the phone took a few seconds. He sat at the table with the apparatus in hand and stared at the numbers again. He was going to call. This was it. They would talk about the trangressive, the unique, the revolutionary, the misunderstood. They would talk about Tao Lin, Sam Pink, and Cameron Pierce. They would discuss Julia de Burgos and James Robert Baker.
The voice was disgustingly normal.
"Yeah...I'm calling about the ad in the New York Review of Books?"
"Sure thing, honey. What can I do for you?"
This wasn't the woman in his head. This wasn't the magical book fairy that could finally allow him to have the conversations he craved.
"I want to talk about books."
The woman at the other end of the line laughed. She sounded like a pigeon gargling sandpaper.
"Listen, sweetie, we can talk about whatever you want, but my business is giving handjobs."
Michael pulled the phone from his ear and ended the call.
The things his brain did to him were intolerable. All those books had crawled into his skull and now there was no way of letting them out through his mouth. He had to get them out somehow. He slammed the phone against the table. The silence, along with the phone's screen, was shattered. The unused knife he had set down next to his fork rattled a bit. Why the hell had he put it there if he was having scrambled eggs? Suddenly he knew why. It was there so he could scratch the itch of undiscussed tomes buried deep in his brain. He grabbed the shiny knife and plunged it into his right eye.
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