Fortunato Salazar


You, my friend, are the world's foremost expert on shrunken heads. Soon you'll be called upon to solve a case. But first you almost set off an alarm. That's right, you get deep into your work. It's provisioning time. So deep into provisioning that you almost walk right through the door, head buried in the sand.

The victim is a textile artist who constructs linen replicas of the most infamous of human shadows. That's how she made her mark, the origin of her éclat. But before she made her mark, she toiled in obscurity, constructing hemp replicas of shrunken heads.

The victim's fiancé: When he underlines, he underlines with a ruler. The black sheep of the family. Mother's vanity plate reads "Chu-Teh." All the daughters marry Canadian fishermen (the family spends each summer in a hand-hewn cabin on Cape Breton Island). A prosperous eccentric clan, pious in their nonconformity, dominated by a powerful mother, a dynamo, the founder of a school for children who are nicknamed Flash. Every student who matriculates goes by the name of Flash. Few who graduate do.

The only witness is a Japanese proctologist, one of a group of Japanese proctologists who make a pilgrimage to see the world's largest impacted bowel. Of the group, the witness has the weakest bladder. He apologizes as the group reverently admires the renowned impacted bowel. He must make a visit to the men's room. He makes a visit to the men's room and discovers the body of the textile artist.

The textile artist had cold feet. The textile artist invited her first-year roommate from Smith, not expecting her to attend. She attended. Feelings long dormant revived in the museum. The textile artist nonetheless ascended to the hall to tie the knot. Excuse me, you're doing that again. She descended and considered her cold feet. Everyone has cold feet at the last minute. Excuse me, you're doing that again.

How badly I feel the need to go to the Amazon where hands with gout aren't capering at night, liberated from their case by other hands with gout, capering by sketching portraits in the venerable 17th century tradition of deforming famous healthy specimens like quarterbacks or linebackers, or any other non-deformed celebrity.

Once you weren't the world's foremost expert on shrunken heads. But then a suspect stood you up. You wandered in out of the heat and took in stride—you were a detective in a violent precinct, after all—monstrosities of every kind, including the world's largest impacted bowel, though to be fair to those who make the pilgrimage, "monstrosity" should be reserved for exhibits that pilgrims merely nod at. But wait. As a detective you learned to listen carefully for truths. A truth spoke. You gazed at shrunken heads and did not nod. You weren't a pilgrim but you had the sense of arriving at the place toward which you'd been traveling for a long time. You gazed there for a long time. Then you stood a suspect up and began a very quick journey.

The victim made a point of flouting the convention of separate rest rooms for men and women.

So now you face a decision, my friend, because the world is never fair, and worlds that shouldn't overlap become close pals, and if you stay the course and press on with your task you will provision, yes, you'll go deep into the territory of the shrunken head, your comfort zone, your world of choice, oh yes, but then again the other world was once your fortress, it had appeal, no one is stood up in a world in which appeal is absent. Soon you'll be called upon to remember that you wore a badge.

The roommate hailed from Barrow, where one may walk across the street into the dollar store and purchase a firearm.

The matriarch we may check off because she saw her offspring underlining with a ruler. Just imagine.

What kind of student chooses to become a specialist in proctos? The very fact that the question occurs to me betrays my status as a layperson. The pilgrims spoke the language of the bride who had cold feet. That is not a language that I speak. Who knows whose finger probed whose distant kin? Candidly, and anthropologically, the proctos question is the one I'd like to follow up, but take note, dear friend, I can't be sure that I'm even saying proctos the way it would be spoken by the grotesque incarnation of Demosthenes who wears a tumor on his neck.

In another and better world you would be so deep inside your own head that you would walk through the door and set off the alarm. Marriage would follow (a flautist had ducked out for a smoke) and then tragedy, a son would drown or a daughter would electrocute herself while reaching blindly behind a cabinet for a spear.

No, no, no. Your wife will drown. You'll make a pilgrimage into the woods to the very special retreat where she fluted on the afternoons you drove her crazy with your restless frustrated need to provision. Your intention, to commemorate the dead. The matriarch knows the same oak. To her it's just an oak she knows, but well enough to visit. You meet by chance and what do people do who meet by chance? They nod, sometimes they say hello and converse. Sometimes it turns out that they speak the same language. Listen for the truth, my friend. As if you need me to give you guidance. I not only walked through the door, I walked through the window. I brushed off the glass and nothing has been the same since, except that I take care, take care.

Fortunato Salazar was born in 1990 and lives in Los Angeles. His work has appeared in Mississippi Review, Nerve, McSweeney's, FRiGG, Sleepingfish, Wigleaf and other journals.

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