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Atonement Century Machinery (Fech Fech) by Fortunato Salazar

03/21/2010

The rule is that for some reason I fold the laundry in a separate room. I'm prepared to learn success, despite the crying, excitement, and threats. "I would like you to die a natural death now, and slowly." The candy sinks again. I trim a yellow outer layer laboriously and discard it despite my ravenous appetite. Still the candy doesn't float. Body To Body Color has no patience, what would you expect, she's celerity itself. Body To Body Color is a Category 1 Champagne distilled overnight from pampas grass. Body To Body Color is dear capped friends sprinting across the lawn in toe shoes, bearing branding irons. I'm very sorry to keep you waiting, I'm just a job you're doing fine, only with one arm tied behind my back, the other weighed down by a shoulder-to-wrist handicap of cake plates.

A flurry of cheers as the new recruits get their vouchers for a week of living out of milk cartons, stealing out at night disguised as the real police. They own their own place where they seek a home of burning to the ground villas nestled into hillsides and being rewarded with a dream cruise to a week of living out of milk cartons. How hard it is to convince them that their motor nerves are more like frightened eyes than fully awake grackles. GLITTER GLITTER AND ORNAMENTAL HAIRPIN TURNS! they chant as they train even in their sparsely rationed off-hours. Hack One Complicated Cough drills them until they wobble. Hack One Complicated Cough scolds them for being children who would kill for ice cream but have no sense of factional solidarity. The instant that Hack One Complicated Cough disappears into the barracks the recruits gently pat each other on the head and slip their pathetically makeshift overtime drills under the radar.

Shadows That Bite My Head Off whispers from his cot, Any chance you have an extra chocolate banana? I suppress my kneejerk retort which is that chocolate bananas are the leading cause of intraepithelial neoplasia. I ignore Shadows That Bite My Head Off and return to the must-read leaflet that details the acceptable limits for watering down. I've spent a whole five minutes in my cot this week—I'm practically bedridden. The night patrols scour the perimeter for listening devices. They duck in from time to time to showcase their mission-critical game faces and nag me to prepare banana parfait for their end-of-shift dessert. I tell them that I'll put it on the menu. I urge them to eat their fill of banana parfait even though it's the leading cause of intraepithelial neoplasia. Everyone's on edge: just yesterday four scouts posing as race relations experts burrowed under the hummocks around the supply yurt and came within a hair's breadth of mixing chromium dioxide into the salt that is the one saving grace of our breakfast-lunch-and-dinner hardtack.

I doze off and awaken to what at first I think is a dream, but no, it's the recruits gathered in the aisle between the cots, plotting strategy by manipulating puppets molded from rancid butter. A whole shipment of butter went rancid when it was mistaken for the dense air of brothels trucked in to remind the new recruits of what they can look forward to once they reach their quota of villas. The puppet skit rivets the attention of the recruits. I kneel on the mat of crushed popcorn next to my cot and strive to make my candy float. Even shaved paper-thin, the yellow fluttering candy sinks to the bottom of the bucket that I took so long to fashion from emu manure. I remain trapped among the demands made upon me by Body To Body Color. I cry a little under the duress of not evolving slowly and try to pass it off as a spasm brought on by kneeling. Even seeming to hover above the bucket like fluffy clouds, the yellow candy once it breaks the surface tops the last batch in the zeal of its opposite-of-upward plunge. Behind the scenes, Body To Body Color increasingly resembles a canceled intermission in a marathon reading of From Here to Eternity. Hanging from her waist is a truncheon. In the whole world there are only two of her and it's my hard-earned privilege to be granted countless edifying audiences with both.

The Western Squadron supply manager offers to swap her snakeskin boots for my stash of parsley. Parsley here is as rare as elegant virginity. How awesome it is to taunt the Western Squadron supply manager. As much fun as polo in the snow, on manic horses. The horses grow so restive from the endless weather delays that we must tranquilize them.

Lightning strikes a huge plane tree which topples onto tomorrow's quicksand banquet: tomorrow is the anniversary of the deus ex machina rescue of the Northern Squadron, led into a pit of fech fech by a disaffected farrier who went AWOL and posed as a partisan guide. The toppled tree destroys our one safely accessible patch of wild chervil. No wild chervil = no indispensable true-to-the-betrayed boeuf aux carottes = no floating yellow candy. I'm allergic to devotion otherwise I would offer up a votive candle. The warehouses are empty and masturbation is just a dull evasion. You, my reprieve, I celebrate the height of your geyser with a faint orgasmic smile before I shake out my mat and grin at the caterwauling of some unfortunate runt truncheoned in the distance. Now I will forget more and more the trimming I do here and feel unfit, in reverse chronological order, toward other close escapes.

Float, float, go on and float, empty threat, reset or don't, it doesn't matter, tomorrow now is merely curing netted sparrows, mixing hardtack batter, same olds roads in same old woods, unquote.

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Other work by Fortunato Salazar recently came and went at No Tell Motel and is forthcoming soon in The Los Angeles Review and elsewhere.

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