Fiction: Sean Lovelace
James Franco mail ordered a monk. The monk was the son of a flea trainer, who was the son of a flea trainer, who was again the son of a man who professionally trained fleas. “The blood of the flea is within our soul,” the monk told James Franco over Pop-Tarts (this was in North Dakota, on a small flea farm), but James Franco looked away, replied with a word he just made up (hoffenslop!), bought two rabbit hounds, ran them in circles, competed with them nationally (his official record was 1-33), and then lost both dogs in a California mudslide. “What is your deal?” the monk scolded him over Skype. “Don’t be so ponderous. The flea is your destiny.” James Franco wept and rented a Cessna 152. Here was his deal: James Franco admires mounds of trash (sculptures to his thinking) and cobwebs and loud neckties and photos of windows and microdermabrasion facial creams and plum blossoms and will not remove any of them, ever. A local grocer once labeled him an unraveling ball of yarn, but he more resembles a gray squirrel: A.) not daunted by cold weather. B.) so weary after swimming in the ocean, he can be caught by hand. C.) rushes and leaps through life at full speed, no means safe from falling, but usually managing to catch hold somewhere, often by only a single toe … Ah, the suspense! Image: Beige building, fog. Zoom to a room full of people who have disappointed their monks and need to talk it over. Hi, everyone, my name is James Franco and I struggle with silence and the Italian language. Moving on … commence the metaphor! The metaphor is now commencing: writers and flea trainers are very similar. Printed words are a form of mildly intelligent insect, meant to crawl about us with some wonder and knowledge—but no matter how carefully the insect is trained, it is hard to guess what may happen once it is released into, into the … Ah, suspense! Franco Traffic, Cessna Five Three Two Nine Bravo is on the ramp, taxiing to the end of runway one one, Franco. The plane clips two pelicans (or possibly, swans), spins, jolts, bumps, bounces into a heat thermal, fire from fuel, fire from electrical … ahhhhhhhhhhhhhh … sometimes you might spiral within another spiral, and this is never good … blackout: James Franco surfaces and coughs. Swims to shore. Buys a bus ticket. Jabberwocky! Jabberwocky! Jabberwocky! go words blabbering crazy into the frigid, morning air, breath visible I suppose, oversize muck boots, perspiration, wind through clothing, winter moon a glowing balloon etc., etc., as James Franco shovels pile after pile of flea manure with a teaspoon.
James Franco loud in London, slurping wine, doing standup. Let’s skip the first joke (involved hieroglyphics), the second (ditto) and go right to (enormous slurp of wine), “Um, hey! Anybody know what Kierkegaard said to the rabbit? He actually said—” Philip Larkin stands, hurls a bottle at James Franco’s glowing forehead and curses (Thin as mushy peas, you wanker!) and James Franco staggers offstage/outside and pisses into the dark, holding himself up with one hand against the brick wall (cold as a toad’s belly, etc.), his head slurring like grape jelly, the night so nasty, the night so suddenly vile, yet there along the alley wall is ivy, ivy which grows constantly, clings constantly, spreads constantly with no other logic than its own (the ivy is the ivy, the end), ivy which never really sleeps (does it?), and up high is the fat moon, so like a pale turtle playing on the sand floor of the universe (as the Chinese poets might say) and James Franco laughs, no, cackles, no, chortles, no screams (in agony or exuberance, who can tell?), no … guffaws … breath all strutting out Mick Jagger, all pumping elbows, all question marks of fog into cold air—cash or check? Paper or plastic? Again and again (Yeh, I’m a cashier and very proud of it. There’s some they say, “A cashier, ugh!” To me, it’s like somebody being an astronaut or a marching band. I’m not ashamed that I wear a uniform and nurse’s shoes and that I got varicose veins. I’m authentic, okay?) and again, paper … or plastic? Paper?—this time with a British accent, a lilting hop of James Franco’s tongue—or plastic? Paper?—(this time with whatever accent I desire: Brooklynese, Italian, British, Irish, Russian, Southern, and people actually find them persuasive. I was asked to give Italian lessons to a cute young woman who thought I was from Pisa; of course I couldn’t follow up as I did not speak Italian.)—or plastic? On and on, James Franco kneeling now, now on his stomach (Hello, lovely glass and gravel), now on his back—The body intelligent. The body will do or not do. There is no physical way to hold a drink in your hand once unconscious. (I’m pretty good conscious, though: I can hit the keys with one hand, move the food with the other, whack shut the drawer with my hip …) The palms open, the fingers splayed, for the turtles (now three of them, I think), enormous swanning shadows, bulging gaze on the odors of the flickering bulb, the bark dog fading, the woman shoplifting (two T-bones in her purse), somebody filching everything, that’s the situation (and a vexing one at that), Most things may never happen: this one will/popsicles chill/squeal children squeal/chocolate milk with dill pickles and veal? (whatever …)/hey, which foods are real and which foods are not really real? I don’t know; ask the manager … well, where is the manager? What (pauses mid-banana)? Greetings, hello, howdy! Where is the manager? I thought you knew.
Sean Lovelace lives in Indiana, where he directs the creative writing program at Ball State University. His latest collection is about Velveeta and published by Bateau Press. He reviews flash fiction for DIAGRAM. He likes to run, far.
Check out HFR’s book catalog, publicity list, submission manager, and buy merch from our Spring store. Follow us on Instagram and YouTube. Disclosure: HFR is an affiliate of Bookshop.org and we will earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase. Sales from Bookshop.org help support independent bookstores and small presses.
Leave a Reply