by L. D. Brodsky
This Thursday morning, words he'd like to resurrect from the dead, that they might articulate images from his dreams, speak the language of demons still screaming at him in this miasmic mist he locates at the epicenter of waking so that at least he'd understand his raison d'être, don't materialize. He remains mute, staring laserlike into his breakfast, trying to discern some original significance in the omeletted concoction, but as he descends a Piranesian chain into its steaming onion-and-mushroom crater, hoping to reach its base before it erupts in his face, a primordial form of a fly wriggles to the edge of the plate.
Something — an instinct — brings him to his senses. He shudders, alternates between trepidation and disgust. Repulsion suddenly disrupts his equanimity. In the middle of the bustling café, where he comes seven days a week, using his chair as a stepladder, he mounts the messy table, begins shouting in tongues, a hysterical, deranged babble — whinnying, barking, braying, bellowing, howling — setting up such a diabolical caterwauling customers withdraw, like shell-shocked turtles, from devouring their Egg Beaters, choke on their omelets, vomit, the place resembling a scene from Dante or Bosch.
He tears off his suit coat, rips tie and shirt from his sweating body, next his shoes, dress pants, boxers, gartered socks, stands as if up to his neck in a stream of red-hot lava, his sounds metamorphosing into horrible moans, the moans into wailing, grunting, until, in a fit of perfectly lucid jubilation, he catches himself up short, gathers every rational thought into a small gall-ball, and spits it at the speechless crowd. It explodes, like a grenade, into word-shrapnel whizzing past or biting them bloody:
"I am Lord of the Flies, Prince of Maggots, burrowing into the anal orifice, up the gut, to the brain, leaving larvae to multiply in disordered frenzy, eat away all reason for existence! I am the insect infesting your nightmares, dreams! Trust me! I am the bug you're to become when you break from your eggs, into words."
With This Here's a Merica, L. D. Brodsky reprises his auto-factory-assembly-line worker from south St. Louis, first introduced in Yellow Bricks and Catchin' the Drift o' the Draft. In one of the six pieces that bind the collection, this lovable redneck, who takes the English language all the way back to its murky origins, hosts a "Stupor Bowl Tailgate Key Party," in which he and his three buddies know the score of the game even before it starts and what trophies they'll win: the house keys and wives they swap for the night. We also join him on his extended "lunch break" from the car plant to a "sportin' bar" on the East Side, where Julie No-Name, between performances, indulges him in an "afternoon delight."
Other characters jump from the pages as well, including a Vietnam vet, now a doorman, who finds himself transported back to the war whenever it rains, shooting wildly at passing cars with his umbrella as he escorts residents to and from their apartment building. In a postmodern examination of the writing process itself, Brodsky chronicles the rise of another intriguing individual — a sous-chef who begins his career at a fowl facility, rendering chicken parts into words, and eventually becomes the toast of Manhattan for transforming gizzards into Petrarchan sonnets, necks into short stories.
These unique protagonists, and the others in this volume's forty-two fast-paced fictions, lead the reader through a house of mirrors in which everyday reality is twisted in ways magically satirical and absurdly surreal. Their distorted reflections, which become strikingly familiar to us as we recognize our own afflictions and foibles in them, hover in the subconscious long after This Here's a Merica is closed.