CALIXIAN // Long Tails & Boozy Tales

Write drunk, edit sober.

I look at those empty cans in the trash bin. Then I look at the empty screen with its blinking cursor. So far it’s three to zero for the cans. Words are trailing far behind. But I won’t give up. It’s only a matter of time and patience. I open the next can.

“So, it turns out that the average number of blinks made by someone getting their photo taken is ten per minute. The average blink lasts about two hundred and fifty milliseconds and, in good indoor light, the camera shutter stays open for about eight milliseconds. Exciting, huh?!”

Oh, shit, really?

“This way, photographing thirty people in bad light would need about thirty shots. Once there’s around fifty people, even in good light, you can kiss your hopes of an unspoilt photo goodbye. Listen now, this is the most interesting part…”

Gosh, what a load of cack!

“To calculate the number of photos you’d need to take for groups of less than twenty, divide the number of people by three if there’s good light and two if the light’s bad. Hey, Calix, buy me a camera? Please, pretty pretty please! I’ll take a photo of you and Darwin!”

I take my eyes off the screen and point them at the tank sitting on the book shelf. The goldfish goggles at me from there, its own eyes pleading, magnified through the dirty glass.

“You got a smartphone at Christmas, didn’t you? Use that!”

The goldfish pouts and turns its luxuriously long tail towards me. I give a nonchalant shrug and get back to the throes of creation. I don’t have time for silly chitchats. It’s about one in the morning, four to zero for cans, and I’ve still no fucking idea what I’ll write for tomorrow’s advice column. Nasty egoistic sprat! Instead of babbling various nonsense about blinking and winking, it would be better if he helped me with the task at hand.

Absently, I pull a book from the shelf and open it at a random page.

He called out to the golden fish
and the fish swam up and asked him,
“What is it, old man, what do you need?”

Yes, I know what I fucking need now, but where can I find a bloody talking golden fish? This is life, silly Calix, not Pushkin’s fairy tales! I gloomily open the next can. At least the beer is real.

My last thought before my head droops on the table is that I need to wake up early and take out the trash. I don’t want Darwin seeing this mess. After all, every accomplished woman of letters has her own little secrets.

 

by TETIANA ALEKSINA
© All rights reserved 2018

Testing, Part #2 (Fragment #015)

It was like talking to a brick wall. I elevated my voice slightly.

“Hey, four-eyes!”

Yuck. Not only is he blind, he’s deaf too… I was considering poking him with a ruler when I heard a semi-cough right above me. Again.

Any questions, young lady?”

“No, Sir.”

Question 2a: Define a metrical foot used in the following poem.

He had forty-two boxes, all carefully packed,
With his name painted clearly on each:
But, since he omitted to mention the fact,
They were all left behind on the beach.

The loss of his clothes hardly mattered, because
He had seven coats on when he came,
With three pair of boots—but the worst of it was,
He had wholly forgotten his name.

He would answer to “Hi!” or to any loud cry,
Such as “Fry me!” or “Fritter my wig!”
To “What-you-may-call-um!” or “What-was-his-name!”
But especially “Thing-um-a-jig!”

1) Trochee
2) Iamb
3) Anapaest
4) Dactyl

Question 3a: What isn’t a forme fixe?

1) Qasida
2) Glosa
3) Sequence
4) Tanaga

I looked around helplessly. No help was within reach. Well… if plan A doesn’t work out then I have to use plan B. So, I gave a shit about that, and began to select answers at random.

The blank space below question 1a was very much in evidence, and my inner perfectionist demanded satisfaction. I knew it was better not to argue as this thought would be like a pebble in my shoe—it would hinder and annoy. I wrote something like, “Prompt at five o’clock, I busted a snaplock, and walked around town in a candy-striped nightgown.”

Then I hesitated over where an adverb of time should be placed in an English sentence. Damn. At the start? At the end? Without philosophizing, I repeated the first line at the end. If need be, I could say that I was nervous and forgot to cross out the wrong line.

With a feeling of satisfaction at a job well done, I turned in my paper and left the amphitheater. I felt a roaring hunger.

 

by TETIANA ALEKSINA
© All rights reserved 2017

Broken Poem (Fragment #16)

I knocked at the door.

“Come in!”

The professor was sitting on the window sill without his shoes. It looked a bit strange, but I had gotten used to his little quirks. Generally speaking, our entire magistral staff is a strange sort of panopticon—a freak show if you will—and so sitting barefoot on a window sill looks like kid’s stuff in comparison with the other teachers’ habits.

“What are you staring at? Give me your scribbles!”

I had gotten used to his bad manners too. With impassiveness I offered my worn down notebook to him. The professor opened it, read some lines and screwed up his face.

“What the crap?”

“It’s my homework.”

“Are you sure?”

“It seems so…”

“Quite so. It only seems like homework.”

He tossed the notebook against the wall. It bumped into a shelf of softbound texts, opened and came apart. Lines that I had written with diligence and care crumbled. Words and punctuation marks were scattered higgledy-piggledy in every corner like pieces of a shattered cup. I sniffled and bit my bottom lip.

Gather up this trash. And don’t spoil such precious words with your glamorous bullshit.”

I stood and looked at his bare feet, at those claws clutching over the floor. They were long and crooked with an unpleasant yellow hue…

“Look sharp! I’m not going to hang around for another aeon!”

I started to gather my unhappy poem from the dirty floor. Resentment was slowly turning into fury. Plucked peacock! I will sort you! I will show you anti-glamour!

 

by TETIANA ALEKSINA
© All rights reserved 2017

Testing, Part #1 (Fragment #30)

The desk was a scuffed, sordid blue. I love such things, you know. They’re better at telling you the story of an institution than all those dull, fat conduct books, and they’re more entertaining. For example, right here someone had ably depicted the birth process of star-nosed moles. I sniggered. Considering their knowledge of such ‘niceties’, perhaps it was a future Darwin Medalist. Although… yuck! I reached for a pen.

Twenty two, dolt! Twenty two, not nineteen! I hate giving a lick and a promise! It’s better not to do at all than to do something sloppily.

I was nearly finished coloring the corrected snout when I heard a semi-cough right above me. Yipes! I raised my eyes slowly, and saw the sheen of a badge: ‘Mr. Turdman’. I snickered.

“Follow me, young lady.”

I got up from the desk and dragged myself after the badge wearer’s podge.

Some lanky guy stood near the door and droned like a jammed record: “Please put your cellphones, tablets, and other gadgets into the basket. Please don’t use any electronic devices during the test.”

I shrugged my shoulders and fished my old celly in its scratched maroon sheath out of my pocket. I put it into the plastic basket, right on top of the shiny, posh smartphones. It looked pretty funny, as if a behemoth had decided to join the dance of the little swans.

“Hey, are you dozing off, bimbo? Stop holding up the line!”

His derisive tone brought me back to reality. “I may suck, but you swallow,” I thought reflexively. I stepped into the study amphitheater.

Question 1a. Compose a limerick using the following rhymes: town, nightgown, lock, o’clock.

I scratched my nape and looked helplessly about. Some dweeb with huge glasses to my left seemed like a promising prospect. This dork obviously knows what the hell a limerick is. I whispered, “Psst! You! Hey, you!”

 

by TETIANA ALEKSINA
© All rights reserved 2017

Forbidden fruit

I’m grateful to my father
for Maupassant and Poe
who were forgotten on the highest shelf

If a book falls into my hands by itself
and says, “Read me, bro!”
would I really bother?

 

by TETIANA ALEKSINA
© All rights reserved 2015