Fiction: Opera is Sick, Detroit and Dead Bees

October 5, 2017 Fiction , Literature , POETRY / FICTION

Photo by Glen .


Three short stories from Mitchell Krockmalnik Grabois




Opera is Sick





The young opera singer has come to Denver from Ypsilanti, Michigan to audition for the Metropolitan Opera. But the producers have misspelled the name of his hometown. On the program it is: Ysilanti. I see him in the bathroom before his performance. We have both walked far down the hall to avoid having to comingle with other people. It appears that this young man thinks he knows me. Perhaps it is because we both have the look of Michigan, the look of logged-off forests, and guts that protrude, and bad haircuts from discount hair cutters, even though he is an opera singer and should be patronizing an expensive salon.

He should be enjoying manicures and pedicures, but I imagine him, as clearly as imagining deer in a field, hunched over his belly, struggling to wield toenail clippers.

They did that on purpose, he says, the misspelling. They did it to get to me. I’m not one of their favored ones. His eyes bug out. He waits for me to confirm his paranoia.

Good luck, I tell him. Break a leg.

Back at my seat, I decide not to share this encounter with my wife. Every time I share one of these encounters, she accuses me of attracting marginal people. All your friends are marginal characters, she tells me.

All I say is: Did you notice they misspelled Ypsilanti on the program?

My wife looks at this carefully. She takes off her glasses and holds the program close to her face, as if she distrusts her prescription.

Perhaps it’s not an error, she says. Perhaps he comes from a town called Ysilanti.

I look at her cynically. I’ve lived in Michigan almost all my life, except for the time I was in Iraq and, of course, now, and I’ve never come across a town called Ysilanti.

It could be like Zilwaukee, she says. If you saw Zilwaukee on an opera program and had never heard of it, you’d probably think it was a misspelling of Milwaukee.

Zilwaukee is a little town in Saginaw County, Saginaw being one of Michigan’s homely places, though not as homely or crime-ridden as Flint.

My wife believes in the theory of communication which holds that in conversation, a statement is almost always followed by a rebuttal statement.

I decide not to push the conversation further. In any case, the troubled young opera singer from Ypsilanti takes the stage, and the accompanist clears his throat.

The young opera singer from Ypsilanti Michigan also clears his throat. The tension is palpable. Besides the normal competitive tension is his upset that the program organizers have misspelled Ypsilanti on the program. The opera singer believes that this is a hex, and that he will consequently do poorly.

I observe that he has a large head and a jaw, like a pit bull. I wonder if he has had anger management problems since childhood. Long-term anger management problems could create a jaw like that. I imagine him biting down on the arm of someone who has offended him, perhaps the creator of the program or another singer there for the audition, perhaps the tall slim man with imperial airs, or perhaps the judge who seems to be sneering at him as he sings.

A pit bull can bite down with jaw pressure of 1600 pounds per square inch, and will not easily relinquish something he thinks is rightfully his, like first prize in this opera audition.





The second singer in the opera audition, a soprano, sings a patriotic Italian song and, as she sings, she repeatedly salutes. The audience finds this cute, in fact, adorable. I imagine a strange twist of fate, something along the lines of a Twilight Zone episode. Without warning, the singer is whisked from the opulent opera stage to a trench in Fallujah, Iraq. It took plenty of blood and treasure to chase enemies from Fallujah, and now it has fallen from the weak hands of the Iraqi military. All Americans are gone from this battlefield except, now, for the soprano, who has been supernaturally transported here, for unknown reasons by unknown forces.

In any case, the soprano’s graceful piping notes turn to shrill screams as she begins to get a sense of this bizarre thing that has happened. All her years of sophisticated training fly away.

There is no aesthetic pleasure for singer or listener in her screams. The nearby birds, scared out of their wits, jump into the sky. ISIS warriors open fire and, that night, there is a bird bar-b-que unsurpassed in Iraqi history.

The ISIS warriors pull the traumatized opera singer from her trench. She is terrified that she will be gang-raped and then thrown back into the earth to die. But that is not the ISIS fighters’ intention. The singer has pissed herself and shit herself and vomited on herself. Her beautiful gown is ruined. She is dripping with sick sweat and smells as bad as a human being can smell, worse than anything these fighters have ever smelled, even in all the extremes of war they have experienced.

The fighters kiss the tears from her face. She reminds them of their mothers, sisters, wives, daughters, those helpless, victimized women they are fighting for. The opera singer symbolizes them all.

They tenderly remove her clothes. By this time she knows they will not harm her. They bathe her and dress her in one of their clean uniforms. An American spy drone observes the process.

She asks: You are terrorists? Her voice quavers.





The third opera singer to audition is a woman from New York City. She still has a subway token in her purse, though tokens are not used anymore. It was something her mother gave her. She has the girth we expect from a diva but sadly, she has chosen to wear a shiny red dress and resembles an enormous tomato. The color is perfectly tomato bisque. I am certain of this because tomato bisque has been my favorite since I was four years old. I’ve consumed gallons of it, prepared by my Cia Concetta, a woman over 300 pounds on a 5’2” frame. She sang along with opera on the radio, and would never have had the temerity to wear a dress like this.

Cia Concetta must have cooked other dishes, but all I remember is the tomato bisque flowing like wine and the wine flowing like tomato bisque.





At the opera audition, the accompanist bears a striking resemblance to the actor who plays the tax preparer in a series of H&R Block commercials. The tax preparer tells us that, collectively, Americans have lost a billion dollars by not having H&R Block do their taxes. He exhorts us to employ H&R Block, and take our billion back!

The accompanist looks so much like this actor that during the break, I find him and ask him if this year, it would be better for my wife and I to file jointly or separately.

He studies me for a long moment before replying, as if the accounting computer which is his brain is running through a series of complex calculations. When he speaks he puts on a German accent, and says: Jointly! Jointly!

I am gratified, but also a little disappointed.









Down 8-Mile Rd, Eminem has Shingles

If you worship jade, the Spanish will kill ya. On 8-Mile Road.

He’s had the virus in his body since he was a kid,

The Spanish in their tall ships can no longer see the rabbit in the moon. They only see a soldier, wearing a helmet.

Even while he was rapping, even while he was letting everyone know how much he hates his mother.

The Spanish cannot see the little bunny. That is why they are impotent and, in 400 years, will invent Viagra.

The virus was just waiting for Eminem to get stressed enough for it to emerge.

Life hacks into him, just as he’s found his identity, just as he’s crafted the small details of his Self, refined them, sanded then down like smoothing a guitar.

Eminem is in terrible pain. He’s on a TV commercial, telling everyone about his pain.

Life is a bad child with a gouging tool, thinks E.

His groupies were 72% Panamanians, rat-haired, raccoon-eyed, dark as black jade. Each expected to live 400 million years. Eminem had already lived 399 (before he contracted Shingles) so he was vulnerable to them.

The city has filed bankruptcy. It takes three hours for anyone in a uniform to respond to a 911 call.

The groupies no longer need lungs, no longer need opposable thumbs, no longer need frog legs, green and white-bellied.

It’s faster and easier just to die.

Eminen’s in Purgatory, Smak Purg, Crak Purg, Meth Purg. He thinks he’s in Purity of Spirit Purg.

Dante is a whore who lives on a lower floor. Eminem watches him turning tricks through his high-powered binoculars.

That’s what Eminem wants, just to die.

I am the proof of heaven, writes Mrs. Eminem, who’s not really his wife, just some skanky whore who’s been stalking him. I am all the proof I need. I am all the proof anyone needs.

He came such a long way just to get Shingles, just to be a cracker from Detroit with Shingles.






Dead Bees



Juan Pio Periz finished the eight volume Encyclopedia Yucatanense, completing the work Father Pedro Beltran had labored over for decades. Father Beltran had willed himself to stay alive until he finished his labors, but did not succeed in this.

Anthony of Padua, the patron saint of marriages, carries baby Jesus with him like a football, tucked firmly in the crook of his arm. He constantly feels a failure. There’s so much marital maladjustment. So much divorce.

Father Beltran was half man/half dog but, because his face and head were mostly human, and also his hands, he was able to keep the dog part of him hidden under his robe until after his death, when his secret was discovered.

The Mayan God of Bees constantly criticizes Anthony of Padua, but Anthony has a come-back line. He angrily asks why the bees are dying off.

Father Beltran’s secret wife was half reptile/half bird, and spent most of her life lounging among rocks, but did not have responsibilities, other than to Father Beltran, so hiding who she was never became an issue.

The Mayan God of Bees denies the bees’ imminent demise, and Anthony argues that marriage is still viable. Do you see how gays are fighting for the right?

Fighting for the right to be miserable, says the God of Bees.






Mitchell Krockmalnik Grabois

Mitchell Krockmalnik Grabois has had twelve hundred of his poems and fictions appear in literary magazines in the U.S. and abroad, including TUCK MAGAZINE. He has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize and The Best of the Net for work published in 2011 through 2015. His novel, Two-Headed Dog, based on his work as a clinical psychologist in a state hospital, is available for Kindle and Nook, or as a print edition. To see more of his work, google Mitchell Krockmalnik Grabois. He lives in Denver.

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