back to Five Willows Literary Review main site

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Four flash fiction pieces from Thaddeus Rutkowski

Thaddeus Rutkowski
I’m not sure what “ayurvedic” means, but here I am at the center, surrounded by images of gods and goddesses and the scent of hibiscus. It must have some sort of power, this philosophy of ayurveda, to help me get healthy and lose weight. Not that I’m unhealthy, as least as far as I know, but I’m definitely weightier than I used to be.
When I was 16, I weighed 125 pounds—I know because I was weighed by a doctor as part of a physical exam. I was not a rail, but I could wear skinny jeans. I could put on these skin-hugging pants and look punky. I also smoked tobacco, and the toxins probably shrank my muscles. I could get those pants on over my calves and thighs, and I could peel them off easily.
Now, years later, I’m trying to get back to that wiry state, but not by smoking. I’m going by the ayurvedic method, taking the path to well-being, but first I have to find a good dictionary. I know that reading a dictionary is not part of the process, but I have to find out if the tantric approach is part of this shrinkage program.
I have nothing against tantrism—if that is a word. If it is not, I might have a tantrum. Not that a tantrum would help me reach my goal—but it might, if I break all of the dishes within reach and make it impossible to eat anything off a plate. Yes, elimination of all of the crockery and utensils might be the way to arrive at a slimmer self.


            Where are the young suckers that will grow when the old banana tree dies? I know I don’t have much in common with a plant, but it’s a fact that half of my DNA matches that of a banana tree. Maybe it’s the fiber that we have in common, or the coloring. We both have a sort of skin. We have dozens of overlapping chromosomes! But I feel that the youngsters aren’t sprouting well—they aren’t shooting up and putting out their purple pods, with yellow fruit hanging from the gourds. They seem sensitive to the heat; they wilt by midday. They could be uprooted with a kick—not that I would kick any youngsters, including my own. No, my role is to tend and nourish, not to pull the branches off roughly, not to hack with my machete, not to tap for banana-palm wine. I will observe their growth gently, note their height periodically, and take pride in the trees that will replace me.


Only now, when my head was gray, had I fallen properly, really in love, for the first time in my life. The protein in my hair had somehow been altered, and the change increased my sex drive. When I met someone who was doing research on protein, we clicked. “I’d like a sample of your hair,” she said, “so I can examine it under a microscope.”
            “OK,” I said, “you can snip off a lock; just be careful you don’t cut my ear.”
            She approached with scissors, and she gently lifted a few strands away from my scalp. When I heard the snick of the shears, I knew the sample was lovingly taken.
            That inspired me to respond in kind. “I want to analyze your protein, too,” I said, even though I had no knowledge of molecular biology. But I knew there was chemistry; I could feel it.

When our daughter walks in, she tells me to turn off the radio, and I comply. I know she doesn’t like the sound because it distracts her.
There’s silence for a few minutes; then I hear some staccato, high-pitched notes, repeated in a pattern of two at a time. The sounds come from a ceramic toy. “You’ve got to stop that whistling,” I say.
“Because it’s noise,” I say.
“But it’s happy noise,” her mother says from another room.
The whistling goes on. “Is there a bird in here?” her mother asks.
I want to say, ‘It’s no bird,’ ” but I don’t say anything. I can’t say anything, because I bought her a bird whistle as a gift. It emits a piercing shriek, but I have to admit, it sounds a lot like a bird calling into my ear, a bird that’s happy to be alive.


  1. Thaddeus Rutkowski is one of those rare finds -- a cross between a stand-up comic and a Lao Tzu with a touch of Confucius, exactly a Mr. Five Willows reincarnate, deep without being intrusive, light as a feather and weightier than a mountain.

  2. Koon, Thanks for your comment on the mixture of opposites.

  3. Thad's writing inspires. His book ROUGHHOUSE (which I re-read often) continues to reinforce in me the idea that good writing leads to higher consciousness. In those pages, I found both a Buddhic and punk rock response to existence.