Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Sweet Smell of Death

by Michael Bryson

The chalk remained the next day, faded, smudged. Poorly edited, Cindy couldn’t help remarking to Suzanne, who’d coerced her into attending "the scene of the crime."

"What crime?" Cindy had asked. "He jumped."

Suzanne didn’t agree. No one as confident in his own opinions would need the solace of freshly laid asphalt.

"You think he was pushed?"

Suzanne shrugged. She’d had a crush on the critic, Cindy knew. Suzanne’s slim debut volume of poems was due out the following month, and she’d sent him a copy of the proofs, a pair of soiled undies, and a perfumed card.

"Do you want to get laid or reviewed?" Cindy had asked.

Suzanne replied, "What’s the difference?"

Now they stood over the spot where he’d died. A large death, not a little one. Cindy didn’t understand book people. Especially poets. Why did they hate each other so? Did it all go back to their mothers? Why couldn’t they punctuate or use capital letters?

Cindy imagined the critic on his balcony, wine glass in one hand, Suzanne’s manuscript in the other. The blogosphere had already confirmed the details. Her underwear stuffed under his belt. Her manuscript dispersed across the area. The perfumed card hadn’t turned up.

It wasn’t until days later, when the police came knocking, that Suzanne confessed. Her emails were all over his computer. So, too, was his sharp dismissal of her talent.

"He was allergic, how did you know that?" the solemn police sergeant wanted to know, but Suzanne just smiled.

"Environmental sensitivities," she told Cindy when her friend visited her the following month in custody. "He wouldn’t have been a good critic without them."

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