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July 2, 2020

Flash Dancers: Ekphrastic Singles - "The Red Telephone (Sometimes My Life is So Eerie, Or Maybe Just So)" by Pat Foran

The Flash Dancers: Ekphrastic Singles series is curated by Meg Pokrass. Authors pair an original work of flash fiction with a song.

The Red Telephone (Sometimes My Life is So Eerie, Or Maybe Just So) by Pat Foran

Inspired by "The Red Telephone" by Love

This life, or my life, or someone's, real or imagined, real or phony: It's like when the phone rings and it's not Moscow (it's not because it's a myth, Moscow is, just like Man is, just like I am). More likely (but who can tell, who can ever tell?), it's the Commissioner ("Commish," to guest villains of ill-repute), telling you "This is The City and it's in Trouble with a capital T" ... and that rhymes with Circumlocution ... and that stands for You Are Not Free And Oh Yeah You Never Were. It doesn't stand on ceremony, this trouble. But we do. Always. And we're standing on it, on it like a poem about prison, in it like a prison putting pen to paper, pouring its heart out in a histogram: "You've got to stand for nothing and fall for everything. You've got to stand on that nothing, stand in it when it's five feet high and risin'."

Holy Standing Water, Commissioner!

The thing is, This is The City is always in trouble — it's not code, it's not a word, even — it's time, it's the fourth dimension, and sometimes it's the end of the beginning. Other times, it's the beginning of the endless. Or an entry in the diary of the inexorably transient, funny-sad-beautiful I see-hear-feel sitting on the hillside, where I am now, at the moment, where I am now, in this moment, not answering the phone.

And it's not that I don't want to answer, it's not that I don't want to talk — that I don't want to talk to you, if you're the one calling — it's just that sometimes, on some days, in times of trouble, it doesn't feel right to listen to myself talk about what's happening, or talk about what's not happening, still. To listen to myself, or to you, talk about all the trouble and all the not-trouble here, there and everywhere. On this side, on that side, on the other side. Or to suggest, even, unintentionally, that there are no sides. Not even when we're talking dimension, the fourth or the fifth, and it's the fifth's to fix. To suggest this is to suggest a vacuum, to suggest it is to pose a naive question about existence. About your so-called self. To suggest it is, well, death. Something I really really can live with. Sometimes.

This, even though (even if) there's magic in this life. I'm a sucker for it, if I have a super power, Commish, it's that — it's being a sucker. Cede control, you know? Cede control, and you cede disingenuousness. I forget about Man, I forget about The Man, I forget about The Myth — of myself, if nothing else — and maybe I'll stop saying, when you and me are introduced to something skittering in and around The Truth, "she's The Man, and I'm The Myth." Maybe I'll stop. And forget. Forget about all of it. And I don't Zen forget — I stone-cold forget. And it's then, and only then, when I see and hear and feel the music, the funny-sad music of the magic.

The thing about magic, though, is ... you cede control. You forget (because of course you do) that forgetting begets forgetting, like forgetting that magic breeds magic. The kind you think you can send away for — "a practical illusion suitable to perform under all conditions," the catalog said, if I'm not misremembering. "The effect is so marvelous you will marvel at it," I think the ad said. It was to be the kind of magic that would help me see the real me, the one with hair down to here and up to where, the me with a shyness that scared them ... scared and attracted them, actually ... and would lead them to say, if they were in the business of saying things out loud, that I had a super power — not the sucker power I knew I had, but the kind that made me stand out in the crowd, the kind that made me feel not seen, but seen — at once, ten-feet tall and two-feet small. The kind of magic that made me feel, at once, real and phony. The kind that made me feel like an alien. The kind that nudged me to write a thank-you note, one I'll probably never send, to you — the only one who didn't make me feel like an alien. Or like a sucker. The kind of magic that keeps me from answering the phone. Or keeps me from talking. Even if it's you who's been calling.

I'd probably tell you all this, if I picked up. I probably would. Or I'd sing it to you, sing you something like this:

Sometimes my life is so eerie ...

For now, I'll sing it to myself, sing it because I think it's funny — I want to say it's funny-sad, but I won't. I want to say it's me, but I won't. But it might be me, cape-less me. crusade-less me. The unreal me. The unfree me. The My Name is Arthur Lee Me. The wreck of me. God bless Robyn Hitchcock, god bless his beautiful soul, for writing "The Wreck of The Arthur Lee" — the wreck that'll never return, 'cause you can't return from a place you've never been. The kind of wreck that sings, to itself, on a hillside, within earshot of the phone, the phone that rings and rings:

Believe in Love!
Believe in Love!
And I'll believe in you

Because I will try. I will try like I'm trying today, here on this hillside. Here where I'm not talking, where I'm no longer watching. I'm trying not to be lulled ... or fooled ... by the lushness of this view, by the trance that can be this trouble in Circumlocution City, by the gorgeousness of this music. By the real or imagined beauty of the little little sound of you on the phone, you, talking to me. Don't be fooled by this beauty, just ... don't be, I say to myself. Holy Belief System, Arthur! Holy Sufferin' Sucker Power, Commissioner! Holy Effin' Moly, Man ... or is it Myth? Or is it just time. Long past time.

Pat Foran’s work has appeared in various journals, including Bad Pony, Little Fiction, WhiskeyPaper and Milk Candy Review. His single “The Song That Mentions Morey Amsterdam In It” b/w “I Like Moonshine” was not released by Elektra Records, the home-away-from-castle for the beautiful Arthur Lee and Love, the band Lee led.

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