Exquisite Corpse

The legendary surrealist game in which a story
is made up by several people working in turn.

Email your adjoiners to Babel and we'll continue the threads.


I’d only been working there three days and already had the keys to the safe, my bosses office and the walk-in freezer. It wasn’t as though I really wanted the position, but I owed Nate a favor after bagging the bail bonds fortnight. Enough. Fine. So, on my third day, after I’d had enough time to pretty much figure out who was taken, who was available, who was about to be taken and who was about to be available, I still found myself coming up with reasons to find the hostess attractive. I mean, I’d almost talked myself into deciding which mouseketeer I preferred, when all of a sudden, just after lunch, who should enter, what creature should emerge from the steaming sidewalks, who finally appeared to me? Think of Audrey Hepburn. Think of Rula Lenska. Think of Iris De Ment. Peach petals fell from her face as she gazed assuredly in my eyes and whispered "Peanut butter and anchovies, is that okay?!"   

The bell tower had stopped ringing as the starlings flew back, the terriers scampering this way and that, the lilacs gently touching the noses of the nuns and the nancy boys and the hour had begun. Sebastopol Adrianapolis gripped his pearl-handled cane as he walked across the plaza menacingly, desperately trying to appear candid, jovial and forthright, but lack of sleep prevented any lightness in his mood. Even the playful autumn winds suddenly turned on him as he edged the corner of the square and a gust caught his derby and flung it kitty-corner to the bank as his scarf unraveled around him to reveal the hickey Louise had left three days earlier. She was rather short and had black and blonde hair, a sister in Portugal, a husband in Malibu, a pair of Great Danes named Dice and Dare, and an affidavit for the check of the one that got away.  

Bicameral Aerobics

Breathe in, breathe out and up and back and over, under, sideways, down and stretch your arms to the pearly gates and reach down to the big fireplace, left to touch your fingertips to the Great Wall of China and right to the Great Wall of Berlin and open the mouth, wash out the headlines, clean off the trivia buildup, synthesize the miraculous with the mundane, conjugate the psyche, punctuate the id, underline the underground, waves below, rubber bands above, planets across, time behind, she left, she left, she had a good home and she left, march to place, April to show, may I call you Junebug or Fruitjuices or craneflyflaw, if I may be so august enough to have a puff of what you put in my pipe and smoke it? 

So, once more: Hyphenate the hydrants, tantalize the tants...   

No one could say she looked even vaguely familiar as the hostess showed her to her table by the entrance to the kitchen. Incensed, she quietly whispered her disapproval to the manager and was quickly taken out to the sun deck scattered with ferns, spidermums, assorted lipstick plants, Christmas lights and an accordion player named Paco who had an eyepatch and a Dalmatian puppy with a black eye. Silence became her greatest weapon as she squeezed the last of the lemon wedge into her jasmine tea, licked the spoon and placed it next to the book of matches in the ashtray that read "Grace. It was worth the wait, wasn’t it?" She looked around at the eyes of the whispering couples surrounding her who averted her gaze, turning toward the coffee-contaminated clocks and stale beer television stains of their disgust.  

-What do you think she meant? 

- About her father? 

- No, about her neck.

- Oh, I just think she had a rough day. 

- But she said it right after we were talking about natural spas. 

- Well, you know what they say... 

- About how many different ways you can let it fade away?

- Maybe if you toss up a pebble at her window or something, just have your harp ready and play some Wolf.

- She’ll call the cops, you can’t do that anymore. 

- She’ll come to the window if you smile.

- I’ve got Rapunzelitis. 

- Okay, look up. What do you see? 

- I learned a long time ago that anytime anyone asks you to look up at the sky, that you know they have their hands in your pockets. 

- No, seriously, look up at the sky. What do you see?

- The mouth of Hercules screaming "Please" 

- What else? 

- "Surrender Dorothy"  

Lili and Dora tore across the yard as the rain pelted down, matting their hair, as they couldn’t resist taking one final leap into a small puddle by the wooden stoop that led up to Wellesley Grange. Babs had told them to get home before the weather turned and had watched them both as they stumbled across the field holding hands, keeping as close to the poplars in the drive as they could. As they flung open the door, Babs quickly wrapped each one in huge absorbent bath towels and stuck a piece of licorice in their mouths.

"We screamed like we were on a rollercoaster, Babs", Lili smiled, out of breath. 

"Yeah, and we saw the devil behind Mrs. Compton’s house." 

Colin stood behind them in the doorway, taking off his overcoat as he said "Okay, who’s going to see to the drains and who’s going to go and find Zorro?" 

"I’ll find Zorro" Dora said. 

"No, I want to." 

"You got to find him last time." 

"Dad, I can’t clean the drains" 

"Oh? Why not?" Colin smiled, lighting his pipe. 

"Because...because I have a bone in my foot. You have to do it, Dad." 

"Oh, but I can’t. I have to bring the lawn furniture in." 

"Oh, easy-peasy," Lili looked at Babs. "How come he always get the easy ones?" 

"Would you like to bring them in." Colin asked. 

Lili’s face brightened as she ran upstairs to change her clothes.      

Perhaps, she wondered, the memories of that battlefield rushing throughout her soul was but a day dream gone wild. "It's a hard life when you can remember a past life," she chuckled ruefully. Those foggy moors, those bagpipes like wispy tongues that licked at her ears. She could do nothing else but embrace the memories or else she would go mad. Very softly she sat on the damp mossy rock and closed her eyes. She heard screams of men, swords clanging, horses neighing, the smell of blood so thick that her nostrils twitched. And there she was, a man then, in full battle armor, blue eyes so bright they looked like small fires within the large head. Hair so black and thick about the shoulders, with every move the hair floated like black wings. The smell of sweat and fear reached her and she felt the sword rush past her ribs through her heart and the surreal feeling of knowing that one is dying. She saw a bright light, and then she was floated above the body of this glorious warrior she had once been. The bag pipes loudly proclaiming their right to be free. "To be free," the dead warrior she had once been, said before the lights of his eyes shut forever. She shivered and opened her eyes. The past rested at her feet and she saw sparkling a brooch, ancient and finely wrought. She fingered the piece and remembered that she had once owned it, a family heirloom lost for over 600 years. Her hands closed over the brooch and she walked fast out of the valley. It was a comfort to know. Yet she knew no one would ever believe her. And so she smiled a sun exploding within her face, her brown eyes glowing like hot fires. She would have nothing to prove and she basked in the fact that she had been given such a gift. To know that one has died well, is as fine a gift, as to know one has lived well.

I thought at first "it's not the meat, it's the motion." Of course, it's not the motion, so much as intent. But hadn't we all learned long ago that there is no intent? That there is only content? However, recent events have shown that content is meaningless outside of context, by which, of course, we mean frame-of-reference. My frame of reference, of course, is accelerating, so that light curves around me, rendering me invisible to my stationery; my words spring forth from the paper in rich ink, as if bleeding from the secret heart of foolscap.

Ink. Blood. Meat. Okay, I lied--it is the meat, after all.

Lichen? I thought. Why did that unlike one associate that sound with that growth? It's just food. I prodded at it some more with my hoof. Suddenly it did not seem as appetizing as it had been. I had eaten it my whole life. It had taken me a particularly long time to get at this patch, what with moving that branch off the rock with my antlers and teeth and then digging under all that snow with my muzzle and hoof. It was fresh, good food, worth all that trouble. Now, it was "lichen." I looked up at the unlike one. It was on another rock, making more sounds into his hoof. No, into a small stone in his hoof. He kept making that sound, "lichen." At first I had thought he meant me, called me a "lichen." But somehow it became clear to me that he was referring to my food. But wait.. how did I know that? I was so certain that I knew I had to be right. Oh! this whole... thing is so maddening! I thought. It's all the doing of the unlike one! Ruining my meal, making me think bizarre thoughts... Now! While he is turned away! He has no antlers to protect him from mine!