The Perfect Circle

charcoal circles

The Perfect Circle

It was evening and overcast when she caught the cab. It remained evening and overcast as she climbed the stone steps to the semi-impressive gallery. She was on time, that is late, and was ill-received by several of the milling mob. She took in, quick, the photography on the walls.

“Since when is photography art?” She wondered aloud at the garish digital snapshots framed large and shiny. And, “Isn’t it odd how selling it somehow makes it worthless?” She was in an amused state of ornery grace when a hand clapped, heavy like a fish, onto her shoulder. “Glad you could make it, old friend.” She faced her old friend. Patterns sang in recognition, if not joy, as they exchanged gazes rather than embraces and then closed in on a nearby conversation.

Garbling swallowed minutes until she caught it, clear — “It’s impossible for a human being to draw the perfect circle…” It struck and stuck to her. The perfect circle. She’d been absently listening, hovering somewhere just above the lamplight; rapt with the shadows. Perhaps visually circling the impression of the shade on the wall. She’d been busying her hands, perhaps intently circling her thumb around the bottom of her plastic glass of sparkling wine. Certainly, the circles had been there all along. Hadn’t it always been this way?

Of course. Bubbles rose in effortless perfection from her very fingertips. They’re everywhere; in faces, rings, embraces, fruit. Circles. Spins. Planets and the wheels, buttons and pins. She tips, dizzy, and once again; the hand – heavy like a dead fish. “Are you OK?” She nods with her whole body, “Yes”. But, no. Science thinks it has beaten art.

But, yes. She will draw the perfect circle. At last, the ultimate futile quest. When there’s no chance of success, the process supersedes the product. A loophole. A perfectly circular loophole. An enigma. The question answers itself, but poses anyway.

Somehow the weak half-sentence had, at once, lassoed her full and eternal attention. “..impossible to draw a perfect circle.” The phrase levitated — the supreme artistic existential statement. The meaning of art! Circles. Cycles. The tides. The boulders and eyes. Circles. Suddenly and dramatically this apotheosis caused in her a visible physical shift. She elevated, from crumpled to beaming. Her cheeks even appled and her teeth made a rare and crooked appearance as her mouth stretched into a wide smile.

And yet, no one took notice. She pressed to see her revelation reflected around her; in her old friend, in these nameless others. But if her ecstatic panic registered with them, it did not show. She got nothing from the stuffed skin-sacks before her. Mouths flapped, dumbly. She faced each one in turn and they nodded and smiled and said nothing, or something. But with no inkling of acknowledgement. And the envelope of evening sealed to night.


It’s noon on a Tuesday when he makes his greasy morning way over to the far, shadowy basement corner. Unshaven and flatulent, self-educated and alcoholic; the Author clunks his chair in at an olive card table and gets to work.

Musky lives pick-up in pencil. The characters here are all mutants, malformed, dismantling. One-armed acquaintances meet in elevators, crease at the waist; clench hands considerably, but have little to say. They’re all short, holey, hatched too soon.  They’re always forgetting their keys and watches and purses and whether they print or write in cursive. These are children of a sloppy god. And they’re starting to stink a little bit.

There’s a bank-teller in her wheelchair floating past, there’s no back to her flappy face, there’s no time to catch her name tag. There’s a man who’s all testicles and no head, scratching. And a woman with no son, laughing. And a habit with no nun inside.

There’s a man in a blue coat with a lady in a green dress stepping out of the dry-cleaners. They carry nothing, have no hands, no feet; they’re billowing.  The buildings wear old brick and squint papery shades at a fat peach glow of sinking sun.

A group of midriff swings by in gossip, “He did not!” they smell like hot new stuff; prattle, rattle plastic bags. Boys hang out in front of gas stations and convenience stores in shady spots, smile broken teeth at jiggling, hitching fabric; dare to hope for “hello.” Almost never get it. Babies roll the streets, cute like tumbleweeds.

The landscape’s dingy and warped, muted and distant; an attempt at a tree, a fake hydrant. Airplanes skip over trunk-less treetops and wait to crash or to deliver a marketable destination; maybe India, Japan, New Orleans, Afghanistan, Pakistan. Birds drop periodically, bald. Cars idle regal fuel before senseless street signs.

“There’s the map,” green dress sticks her chin out at it. And then, “I can’t make heads or tails of it.” They’re static in front of the dry cleaners, curious at empty hangers, indecisive about which way is home. Blue coat grabs the crumpled thing and holds it up close.

“The streets have no names,” he says. And then disregards it. They hook rings and go after an overripe peach of a late-afternoon sun. They swing hands past the grocery store and church and follow as the rotting sun dribbles sticky end-of-day onto a fine white row of fence posts. It’s supposed to be pretty, but it’s all pulpy and lame — only wake and wane. It stinks. And the bugs have got at it already.

The Author taps and chews his primitive instrument, crimps the sweet metal of the eraser cup between hot fillings. He’s divining what is sure to be a painfully explosive bowel movement.  He gets up and gets a can of beer from the kitchenette to get it over with. He squats into an old arm chair, puts his feet up, puts on the television. His mother hasn’t been home for days. He scratches himself inside his underwear and decides that this story is really going somewhere, that this story is developing from a classic boy-meets-girl scenario and preparing for a twist at the end. Maybe the twist is death. Surely, it will involve thwarted happiness. His chuckle turns into a gummy cough. He lets his fat tongue loose into gooey mouth corners, cracks open the can of beer. Then, throwing it onto the coffee table, makes haste for the bathroom.

“What’s so important about all this?” The story continues without him: A cotton-ball of thought swabs a fresh brain-corner somewhere stuck-up behind green dress’ hope-shaped pie-hole. She stops and looks around, blinks and sees with new eyes. She notices that the roses wave revolutionary red fists and that they’ve got the winds backing them up. She looks at how low the grass has sunk, and thinks to lay down with it. She’s gotten loose from the script. She lets it scratch at the backs of her knees and neck, lays into the sweet evening. Perhaps she sleeps.

Blue coat wafts in at her, grainy. She swipes a hand straight through him, from his jaw straight down to his belt buckle. He’s got no substance, no guts. She stands up. A thin emptying in the form of nausea. Everything’s being sucked out swiftly, shifting around her; the sound is shut off — her voice is pinched, devoid of meaning before it can announce.

The Author is flushing again and mopping sweat from around his nose and mouth with his shirtsleeve. He digs into a particularly painful whitehead and sends the mess from his fingertips to his pantlegs. He ignores the mirror and heads straight for the story without washing his hands or wiping the lid.

It’s all gone from her; quickly. But she feels it, the agony of forgetting, before it’s taken. The final instinct notices just the ticking, how everything ticks only seemingly; with drugged, hot-headed significance. But that great truth lies buried underneath it.

Water turns around and around in the bowl.

Blue coat busts out of a saloon and into a tabacco-colored Mexican morning; reborn, determined, relentless in his pursuit of green dress. He feels an unfamiliar bulge in his pantaloons and ducks back inside to find his manhood grown larger before him in a poorly-lit restaurant bathroom. He smiles at it.

Four stories up, three blocks away, a baby grand piano grows impatient in a windowsill, is waiting to kill him and end it quick.  We’d all be very thankful.  It’s difficult to see, from the sidewalk below; as the mailman trips and looks up, just what is holding the thing in place and just who is about, or not about, to let it drop. “Yeah, man,” the mailman says of the piano and the plot, “let it plunge.”

The clouds gather suddenly and heavy rains twirl everything into a frenzy for shelter. Cats and dogs clutch at each other, birds flutter up around the nest. The mailman and the author scratch their heads.

“He just makes rain for something to do,” green dress says, smacks her hands together and then against her thighs. She’s shaking-off and taking charge, taking advantage of his block. She places her stretched fingers and palms into wet spaces between the leaves where the light comes through. She wants to touch and take it all. The days and nights as black earth under her fingernails.

“He forgot to mention weeds exploding through sidewalk cracks and the perfect, tiny creases in babies’ wrists as they bat at big beautiful boobies. He leaves out crisp homeless men waddling and suckling half-cigars in wintertime and how frost forms crystal veins of the sidewalk cracks.  He grunts, heaves boot over boot and dreams of Australia.” The evening buzzes and then blacks out.

Sun pops up. But not very bright. The author is dreaming he’s writing. He’s passed-out. The dream story re-collects green dress, also passed-out. Dry, and daytime; suddenly she’s growing increasingly more sexy; round, chesty. The sky starts to darken and brighten at irregular intervals as the clouds, confused, rush off of and onto the set. None of the storefronts show reflections, no one speaks of anything important or in foreign languages. She shambles, flesh towards a row of houses and fences and yawning garage doors.

In a window, a shiny baby grand continues to pray with the church bells for a denouement, waits to plunge and deliver certain death. End the story quick. Blue coat is whistling through his teeth, skipping along on his mission, name of Green Dress, and shaking his simple smile up at a concrete sky. No one else is walking by. The mailman has gone along on his way. The street signs are keeping an eye out for the fuzz. The piano drops slowly, on its own, no one was around to push it . It squishes our ill-fated Author gone out to the 24 store for more beer and anti-diarrehal.

The story spins-off without him. Fancied clouds gather their skirts and rush the stage, ready themselves to collapse and cue pinhead stars. They do it, and then hit the bars.  Perpetual night. But a bright one. Green Dress, in possession of herself again and more together than ever, snatches at her chance. She takes a couple shots with her dimming cohorts, vows to keep their interests at heart and then takes to the pages and sees no visitors. She takes over his chair, beer, and the rest; turns out the mother and lets some light in.  She changes the curtains. She will orchestrate her own symphony of story-breath, she’s sure of it. In a broken chair, at a stolen desk.

Her story is tissue, light and intricate. Thin. It’s nothing, a poem. A rainbow shush. Her story is a soap bubble: Look. Pop. A rise to a fall. Not a story at all.

She makes the houses into boats. She makes the streets into an ocean. She tells things in verse to her mirror. She tells them over and over again to her shadow and moves it and moves it around and around the floor. She can’t get enough of herself. She clings to the song in her throat. She clutches, with white knuckles, at her throat. She grows even thinner. She takes only wine and water. She spends longer than ever in the shower. She makes love to the grass and the flowers. She’s taken to a new character. Every couple of days. She’s erasing. She’s cancelling the Author out.