Tuesday, June 23, 2009

by Lulu Benjamin
Everyone knows literary critics lack true creative juice, which they mask with unmitigated nastiness about the creativity of others. Lionel Zimmerman was no exception. He called my self-published memoir the “… sentimental, self-aggrandizing, whinging of a dilettante biddy who’d do us all a favor if she confined her mutterings to her overfed cat.” I suspected he’d used those bloated descriptors before and told him so when we crossed paths at a gallery opening. With his effete eyeglasses and waxed moustache, I recognized him immediately. “Oh really?” he said, “I presume you’re the spinster author’s noble defender?” Apparently, my jacket photo doesn’t do me justice.

“Assuming female cat owners lack carnal knowledge is pitifully cliché,” I said.

“You’re either a natural coquette or you’re toying with me.”

When I didn’t answer – how could I? – he murmured, “Ah so,” and began to ply me with champagne. By evening’s end I was granting him limited favors in the back of my Corolla parked in the F Street ramp. We fully consummated our dalliance a week later in a remote county park. I brought champagne and teacakes to mark the occasion.

After six weeks, he ended it with a phrase lifted from my own memoir: “What we had was complex and fragile – like a snowflake.” Galling, but a literary critic’s memory must get muddled.

A month later, he was found dead, sprawled under our tree in the remote county park. At first they suspected foul play. His trousers were undone; a champagne bottle, two glasses, and soggy teacakes littered the stormy scene. No witnesses came forth, but the coroner declared Lionel the victim of a lightning strike. Although it was undeniably original, few mourned his passing.

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