The Moth From Room 123

8:45 PM




Rudolfo Carrilloeminent master of nothingness, pollinator of datura blossoms, pretender to the vast and empty throne known by those in the business as the stiff seat of a firebrand, a conjurer of illusory flames of all sortsdrove around town in a decent old silvery sports car he had supposed for some time to be a spaceship of sorts.


He dismantled that illusion at the long-lasting red light on the corner of Central Avenue and Tingley Drive. Carrillo was then free to consider ideas he had been busy stuffing into crevices in the backseat of the automobile, or worse, using inappropriately as poetic derivatives that closely resembled the ionic anti-matter fuel tablets which powered his excursions into the real world.

That real world consisted of a planet and all its soulshis base of operations, a dilapidated shack perched invisibly amongst the comfortable environs favored by the leisure class. There were yards of wet grass and green trees with fallen raindrops still perched on every edge of every leaf in that place, and the surrounding desert seemed impossible when one was immersed in that watery land.

Here was the first thing Carrillo's mind lit upon as the old Saab rolled toward the rain, and though it was an odd thing his head fixed upon, it was not unlike him. He might as well have had visions of pizza-bearing angels, but instead he considered the current state of postmodernism in Western art-making practices and decided he had no goddamn idea whatsoever about what was new and amazing; hell, he drove a twenty-two-year-old car for fun.

In an effort to understand the refreshing complexity of processes available in the second decade of the twenty-first century, he parked the steel and glass and plastic transport mechanism, went out into the rain, walked across the city in a pair of creaking army boots and somehow ended up by the art school he had spirited himself away from approximately twenty years ago.

When he got there, it was already Friday afternoon. Clouds were climbing and churning east of the campus, but the rain had mostly stopped. The whole joint was practically deserted, but somewhere in one of the undergraduate studios, a patriotic Fourth of July song drifted through the air and made him jumpy. Someone on the radio was going on and on about how they were not a fortunate son; there was a lot of static in the signal and it echoed through the concrete hallways.

The art building was pretty much the same as on the day in Mayhooraywhen he first flew away. There was a display case in front of the photography department covered in oily stains, falling apart. Some of the classroom doors had been tagged with an atramentous, indelible and ultimately, ironic ink. University officials had replaced the old clocks with digital upgrades. The main floor of the art building reminded him of photos he had seen of deserted shopping malls. It was dark and shabby now.

He walked past the sculpture lab. A few students were milling about. He figured he must either be invisible or appear insect-like and spectral, because nobody looked up as he entered. He decided to say hello to the machinery in the shop, instead. Carrillo had been friends with many of the power tools years ago and wondered how many of them had survived the intervening years to become venerable versions of finger choppers, wood-splitters, metal joining or blade-kickback devices. Here was the so-called Rolls Royce of lathes, there, a band saw big enough to cut a crocodile in half.

And he was surprised to find most if them still there, humming mindlessly and formidably, as they had been before his birth. Rumor had it some of the machinery came from the atomic laboratories down the road. A story got passed around about how the tools had been brought from that glowing and omnipotent place by an engineer who became the shop manager when the building was new. Everybody called him Fitz, but he was dead now, of skin cancer for probably twenty years, Carrillo gravely mused as he glanced over his glasses at a sheet metal bender in the next room.

There were only two sculptures in the whole dang place. One of them was made from hunks of concrete with bits of color thrown in here and there and crudely fashioned wooden parts lurching up through the air; the other was a spinning kaleidoscope of photographs mounted on jagged mirrors. The photos were of random human body parts, legs and feet and butts and bellies, but no faces and nothing private, either. The whole piece moved around on account of the wind from the ventilation system and that was kind of spooky.

On his way out, Carrillo saw his name still stenciled but rightly faded, on an old metal locker on the far end of the lab. A young woman was standing in front of the lockers, opening the metal storage box two rows over. He asked that stranger, as he fluttered by, why she was there. For a moment she thought herself mid-dream as the talking moth floated in front of her. When she finally answered, she tossed her hair to one side; wood chips, sawdust, and small shards of steel cascaded to the ground.

She said to make art, smiled a wan smile and reached for her medication as Carrillo floated out the door, landed on the summery lawn outside, laced up his rough boots and began scribbling meaningful responses to his initial inquiry in a small red notebook as he walked back to his spaceship. Folks who had been there talked about the mysterious visitation for a few days and then went on with their business. At least a few agreed it was mighty unusual to see flying arthropods of that particular configuration so late in the year.

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