Peter Cherches


                It wasn’t the thing itself, but rather a simulacrum. An analog, a representation, but not the real deal, and it had no business passing itself off as such—that’s what I call false pretenses.
                Authenticity—nobody cares a whit about authenticity anymore. It’s a crying shame.
                Take this text, for instance. It purports to be a simulacrum, a text about a simulacrum, yet just what it’s a simulacrum of, we’re not told. So is this a text or a simulacrum of a text? Is it perhaps a template, a blueprint for a text, or numerous, even infinite texts?
                It wasn’t a plum, but rather a simulacrum of a plum. It wasn’t an orgasm, but rather a simulacrum of an orgasm. It wasn’t a cold day in May, but rather a simulacrum of a cold day in May. It was an analog of whatever you love the most, a representation of peace on earth.
                And that would just have to do.

Homage to Kawabata

                I had it in the palm of my hand, the left one. It was a small book, written in the lines. It wasn’t a fortune, not even a small one, it was for the mass market. I started reading. “Once upon a time there was a place,” it began. The whole story took place in the lines. In the palm of my hand. It was a small book, but a big story. A blockbuster. I tried it out. It worked like a charm. I busted a block of concrete, barehanded, with my left palm. It turned out there was a book embedded in the concrete block, now loose. I picked it up and looked at the cover. It was called Palm-of-the-Hand Stories, the author Yasunari Kawabata.

The Night Sky

                A man was looking through a book at the night sky. The clock struck an innocent bystander. “What hath God wrought?” an old woman shouted, quoting Samuel F.B. Morse. A funeral brass band passed, “St. James Infirmary.” But there was no funeral this time, just a dry run.
                “What do you say Mabel, just one little kiss?”
                Mabel slapped Wallace’s face. “We’ll have none of your malarkey, Wally,” she said, and then she kissed him right where she slapped him.
                “Aw Mabel, I don’t deserve you,” Wallace said.
                “That’s the first sensible thing I’ve heard from your kisser in a dog’s age,” Mabel replied.
                The trumpeter from the funeral band broke into a hora—or was it a freilach? The other musicians joined in. Wallace to Mabel: Shall we dance? But it was the wrong dance they danced, a tarantella. The cop on the beat noticed but decided not to get involved.
                The book was a big disappointment, the man thought, but on a clear night like this the sky is a thing to behold.

How to Read this Story

                Read it with a hat on, just as you’d wear a fedora for The Long Goodbye, a beret for Sartre’s Nausea, or a woman’s hat, what woman’s hat, for what book or story? The Trilby hat does not appear in the novel Trilby. Choose a hat, a hat you’re comfortable in or a hat you’d feel ridiculous wearing. It all boils down to this: What kind of reader are you?
                Read it not as a set of instructions, but rather follow the clues to wherever they may lead you.
                First read the words, then turn away and imagine yourself reading the words.
                Now try to divine the story’s story. If you succeed, you’ve done my job.
                Congratulations! You may take the hat off now.

Prose d’Ameublement: An Experiment

                I decided to try an experiment. I put a table in the center of the empty room. I took a wood block, a cube, with a different color on each side: red, green, blue, orange, yellow, and purple. I placed the cube on the table, left the room, and closed the door. Five minutes later I went back into the room and there was a ball on the table in place of the cube, a rubber ball, about the same volume as the wooden cube, a red rubber ball. I knew there was no hanky-panky going on. Nobody was in the room when I entered, and nobody had access after I had left. I left the room again and closed the door.
                I returned five minutes later to discover that the ball was now green. Interesting, I thought. Repeat.
                Next time I went into the room the ball was blue. The same blue as one of the sides of the cube, just as the previous colors had exactly matched those on the cube. It was a deep blue, the kind Mondrian used in his grid paintings, as was, come to think of it, the red. Something’s definitely happening here, I thought.
                Next iteration. When I returned to the room 20 minutes into the experiment the ball was orange, orange like the fruit, and it was pretty much the same size as a real orange. I could almost taste it. Nobody could deny I was making progress by this point. My heart started beating just a bit faster, but I tried to contain my excitement, because it ain’t over till it’s over. Another five minutes, same drill, and the ball was yellow, yellow like the sun. I hadn’t noticed the “sun-ness” of the yellow when it was a side of the cube, but as a ball the sun came shining through. Yet the show must go on. I left the room again, for another five minutes. When I returned the ball was purple.
                We were so close that I allowed myself a frisson of excitement. I left the room again, for the longest five minutes I’ve ever passed, and now my heart was pounding like Gene Krupa’s drum solo on “Sing, Sing, Sing.” I returned to the room and there it was—a purple cube, purple on all sides.

Called “one of the innovators of the short short story” by Publishers Weekly, Peter Cherches has published three volumes of short prose fiction with Pelekinesis since 2013, most recently Whistler’s Mother’s Son (2020). His writing has also appeared in scores of magazines, anthologies and websites, including Harper’s, Bomb, Semiotext(e), and Fiction International, as well as Billy Collins’ Poetry 180 website and anthology. His latest book is Masks: Stories from a Pandemic (Bamboo Dart Press, 2022). He is a native of Brooklyn, New York.
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