Two Max Ernst Ekphrastic Shorts
The Elephant Celebes
Becca lost her head when the elephant came to town. Five stories tall and made of metal with a horned eyeless head, the elephant tried not to knock down buildings but knocked down buildings anyway. We had to deal with Becca first. Maybe she left her head in Sandusky. No we checked there. The committee to re-elect Becca tried to keep it out of the press. Something’s up with Becca! the press wrote as a placeholder until they could get the scoop. Meanwhile that elephant was crushing grocery stores and leaving food deserts in its wake. Farmers market enthusiasts were enthused. Now people would come buy their cabbage! Maybe Becca’s head is hiding among the cabbage. No we checked there. But just to keep the press off their back the committee to re-elect Becca put a cabbage in place of her head with a hat and sunglasses to mask the difference. What’s up with Becca wearing a hat and sunglasses now! wrote the press, who could sense they were onto something. I had just stepped out to get the paper and was reading that headline when the elephant crushed my home and killed my husband and my son and my aging parents who had just discovered the joys of AARP magazine sex tips. The elephant gave a thunderous steel groan which I took as an apology. I couldn’t really blame the elephant. After all, we were the ones who had been encroaching on their land, turning the natural habitat of the ancient five-story metallic elephant species into casinos and massage parlors and outdoor shopping malls. Plus, you could tell by the way it stomped that this elephant was trying its best to avoid crushing absolutely everyone. Cabbage-head Becca emerged unscathed from the whole ordeal though the press finally caught on to the real story—Becca wasn’t wearing any clothes. The committee to re-elect Becca disbanded in disgrace. The funeral for my family was poorly attended since many others had lost their lives under the elephant’s enormous metal feet. The elephant was finally driven back to the outskirts of town to one of the few remaining wildlife refuges that wasn’t on fire. That November, Becca won re-election in a landslide. No one ever did find her head far as I know. Eventually I started a second family and settled down in one of the new developments by the outdoor mall. The Sephora is only five minutes from my house. These days I try not to think of the old days. The skies are as dark as they had always been though sometimes you can still see the flying fish passing through the clouds on their way south for the winter.
The Robing of the Bride
Becca, newly headed, was moments away from the throne. All those years she spent negotiating with werewolf unions and fighting the war on terrible -isms (sex, race, cannibal) had led to this moment. Every good story ends with either marriage or death, they tell us, and Becca was planning on both. The whole town came to see the royal wedding and brought gifts of day old bread, rusty hubcaps, dead batteries, and billiard cues. It had been a rough year, economically speaking. Jeremy brought a spear and snuck into the dressing room to see the bride. Be careful, it’s sharp, he said, accidentally killing an attendant and snapping the spear in two. Becca waited for the royal painter to finish painting her so she could see how her beak looked. Everyone said it was terrific, best they’ve ever seen, but Becca suspected the point wasn’t looking as sharp as it used to be. Time softens all edges; it’s true. I was on the floor weeping uncontrollably. I’d lost my second family earlier in the year on account of a gigantic spinning top blowing through town and, as a result, I’d started worshiping Satan. The rituals were very difficult. Outside the door the townspeople began chanting but it was impossible to understand their words. It had been a rough year, enunciationally speaking. If he gives you any trouble, Jeremy said to Becca, just run him through a second time. Jeremy was jabbing the spear about as he spoke, killing several more attendants and the royal dog, Peepers. I drank the blood as instructed by the church of Satan. Are you quite finished yet? Becca asked the royal painter. Not quite, the royal painter said. I need to give it some background. Some background: Becca was eager to be married so she could kill the king and assume the throne. We were in the antechamber of the church in the castle at the center of the city situated just on the boarder of a wine-producing region where the werewolf unions were threatening to strike again. Just then the king walked in. What’s going on here? he said. Jeremy, on instinct, ran him through with the spear. A nearby attendant shrieked and hid her face. I remembered both of my families dying, the sounds of their tiny voices as the houses crashed down upon them, and seriously wondered whether there was any end or meaning to human suffering. Sorry, said Jeremy, I know we were supposed to wait until after the wedding. The king lay dead on the floor. Now I’ll never rule the land, said Becca who had already held every public office except queen. Who will continue the war on the terrible –isms? she said. Outside the townspeople waited with gifts that could easily be turned into weapons. We were all very sad. I’m finished! announced the royal painter. We all turned to look behind us at Becca’s image on the wall. Her beak was sharp as ever.
About the Writer
Matt Weinkam’s work has appeared or is forthcoming in Denver Quarterly, New South, Sonora Review, Quarter After Eight, Covered w/ Fur, and DIAGRAM. He is a founding editor of Threadcount, an online journal of hybrid prose.