My father and I tour Middle, where children and stepfathers and wives hurriedly exit from their beds.

My brother Albert lives in Middle, where people do not wish to live in the semi-rural area next to it. They prefer a suburban dog/cat infestation.

While we drive, we see a festival with freaks selling oranges and Captain Jack t-shirts. The freaks—two-faced ladies, hypocritical pornographers, astute stamp collectors, Indonesian spelling bee winners, infrared gamma ray strip teasers who are currently unemployed—say, “you can do your laundry here.”

Into their machine I throw my purse, vitamin C pills, and leftover Prozac, which was cancelled after my therapist said I wasn’t depressed. The credit cards melt. The dollar bills get soaked. The pills dissolve.

***

To thank my hosts, I make pasta with Italian cheeses though the spaghetti mixes with laundry detergent.

Anyone who eats the pasta tastes soap and salt and salt and soap and crystals in the pasta.

***

I see wiry women in a wall-paneled room that resembles my 1970s basement.

These ladies work for a person called “Overseer.”

An XX chromosomal being with green lipstick flirts with me. “You are so darling,” she kisses my cheek, rubbing her nails on my face.

Another person blows bubbles at me. This creature, the bubble lady, lets me sleep with her.

These girls dislike their “Overseer.”

They are, however, mesmerized by my soap suds; they don’t know inattentive types who make lasagna with Tide.

***

Middle people are not distracted. They are owners of depraved ferrets imprisoned in New Zealand Maybelline factories and rescued by PETA activists. Others belong to the National Liberation for the Establishment of People Who Were Evicted from Elementary School Because of Impetigo.

They are appalled and fascinated, but never absentminded.

***

My father is on tour in Middle, where my brother Albert lives. Everyone likes my father who is only angry with his children, not the public, and is a liberal who despises Republican coworkers.
Daddy grins, doesn’t denounce others, except if you are a narcissistic Right to Life President—then he loses his mind; indeed, you will not receive his cherished Franklin D. Roosevelt smirk.

***

One damsel gives me a yellow-lined piece of paper, which delineates why she and her colleagues loathe their supervisor:

1. She discriminates against us when we menstruate

2. She likes boys more than men and is completely indifferent to us

3. Her knowledge of labor laws is nonexistent

4. We hope to dispense with her body in the refrigerator

I put the yellow-lined paper into Gogol’s Dead Souls. I travel with books and papers because I rarely lose the book, though I do lose the paper, but not if it’s in the book.

Their boss sits me down.

“That’s quite revolting,” she laughs, with sauce and suds on her lips.

“It was an accident.”

I look for my dad who is taking me home, though I am 53.

“What are you looking for?”

“My father.”

“He’s an agreeable man.”

“Not if you like Richard Nixon.”

I have been at this carnival too long.

Dad might leave without me. I’m always somewhere while my dad is elsewhere and I forget about his role as car driver and he occasionally forgets me.

“My brother Albert will pick me up,” I conclude.

“What is that yellow-lined paper in your Gogol book?”

“Disparaging remarks about you.”

“Huh?”

“The girls collaborated.” I hand it to her.

***

Minutes later Albert comes.

The girls sneer, but soon it will be despair, not spaghetti and bubbles, that ruins their evening.

Eleanor Levine

Eleanor Levine

Eleanor Levine's writing has appeared in more than 50 publications, including Fiction, Evergreen Review, Fiction Southeast, Dos Passos Review, Hobart, Juked, The Denver Quarterly, Pank, The Toronto Quarterly, Spoon River Poetry Review, Wigleaf, Heavy Feather Review, and The Breakwater Review. Levine’s poetry collection, Waitress at the Red Moon Pizzeria, was released in 2016 by Unsolicited Press (Davis, California). Eleanor received her MFA in Creative Writing from Hollins University in 2007.
Eleanor Levine

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