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The Right Wing

Story by Mark Hage (Read author interview) March 27, 2012

art by Itziar Barrio

The famous photographer, recent with riches, carried his reverie Leica around his neck. The performance artist faced a man seated across from her chair. Dressed in a white robe that coiled on the ground, she did not move or speak. Silent men and women waited their turn to sit and stare. A woman in the crowd watched and wept.

The photographer walked the periphery of the atrium. I followed a step behind. No Photography signs stood on pedestals. He stopped at gaps that formed. Two guards came in and out of view.

“Are you going to take her picture?” I said.

He gave the camera anemic lifts, released it back to a suspended state.

“She reminds me of porcelain,” I said.

He adjusted the camera strap, torqued the knobs.

We circled with men and women, weary pilgrims around a sacred site. He situated himself between two heads. He hoisted the camera, put it back down.

In her chair, the artist nodded to the seated man: his signal to get up. He jutted his chin out. He was not ready. He was not done staring, connecting, dueling. She nodded again, her eyes a vacuous vapor. The seated man rose; meek, like a banker let go from a job he held for thirty years, his defiance having made it worse. The men and women standing in line moved in unison half a pace: automatons in a chain gang ready to run the man over. A young woman with a pierced brow approached her turn in the chair.

“Take the picture, don’t worry, everyone does it,” I said.

We were kids. We played together on a hockey team. His position was right wing. The coach took me aside one day, and said: “Your brother; it is a waste of time, I can’t keep him. I have been doing it as a favor to you.”

“If he doesn’t stay on, my mother would pull me out of the team,” I had said.

The images of our mother would start his fame. Photographs of infirmity, strained facial expressions that no will could crease into neutrality. He unearthed possessions from her closets, and propped them up behind her. Her father’s letters in the old wooden box flipped up to show the red velvet, her strapless couture ball gown, the gold of her cigarette case incanting her pallor. He breached the spaces we were not allowed as children, the little vanities that made her personals hers. She must have been powerless, with her craving for his rare visits, perhaps reckoning his latent triumph as a small price. Later on, it would be our father, captive to his dementia, the images of his drooling lips, holding a maraca the orderly had said kept him calm. He exhibited the photos. He titled the show: Courage Within.

The young woman stirred in the chair. The performance artist looked through her. The guards watched the interchange: detached, mindful of an aftermath with the same outcome. I watched the seated woman. Her eyes expressed tenderness. The artist’s eyes were unmoved. With time, the woman frowned, furrowed her brows, dilated to tenderness again. The artist’s neutrality became louder, capable of breaking bones. It suffocated me. I wanted to run over, snatch the woman away, topple the chairs, scream that the game is rigged, that there is no spiritual purpose here but bondage, helplessness. But the nod came, and the look of terror. The executioner always chooses the moment.

I turned to my brother, “Just be discreet, aim from low, shoot the fucker,” I said.

“I can’t. If they see me, they’ll take my camera, and kick me out,” he said.

He dropped his hands and walked towards the stairs.

I stood and watched. I wondered how she sat there all day and never pissed. A woman walked over and prepared to sit. I pulled out my pocket camera, aimed, and took the shot.

About the Author

Mark Hage is a writer and visual artist based in New York City. His fiction has been published or is forthcoming in Pear Noir!, Emprise Review, Corium, Contrary Magazine, LITnIMAGE, Prick of the Spindle, InDigest, Metazen and others. His artworks have hung in those big white walled rooms where the receptionists never raise their heads. Two of his stories were nominated for the 2011 StorySouth Award.

About the Artist

Itziar Barrio is a multimedia artist based in NYC. BY ALL MEANS, her survey exhibition was curated by Johanna Burton, Director of Wexner Center for the Arts and former curator at the New Museum in NYC. The exhibition, comprised of past works and new productions, took place at Azkuna Zentroa (Bilbao, 2018).

Currently, Itziar Barrio is concluding her long term project THE PERILS OF OBEDIENCE (2010 – ongoing), and it will premiere at PARTICIPANT INC in NYC in 2022.

This story appeared in Issue Thirty-Five of SmokeLong Quarterly.
SmokeLong Quarterly Issue Thirty-Five

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