“The Mall We Call Commas” | Five:2:One | 13 April 2017

First published 13 April 2017 in Five:2:One Magazine’s #thesideshow. My grateful thanks to ed. Nathan Alan Schwartz for accepting this weird, episodic fiction narrated, mostly, by a doomed shopping mall and its architect.  I am also indebted to one of the most marvelously strange books I ever bought and own: S, M. L, XL by Rem Koolhaas and Bruce Mau.

Here is a link to “The Mall We Call Commas.”

Anyone who knows me knows I sing little songs all the time. I sing about anything, little ditties and made-up tunes.  Although the lyrics are custom to occasions, I think a lot of the tunes are based on commercial jingles from my youth.  Exhibit A, the Lemon Pledge song:

If you would like to hear me bravely sing the Lemon Pledge song, that’s at about the 6-minute mark of the audio file with the story.

On craft: this story is the result of my regular workshop.  The prompt? “Defamiliarization lends novelty to our stories and sometimes is even the focal mechanism allowing them to sing. Below are three photographs from the Internet that defamiliarize, ranging from the whimsical to the downright weird. Select the one that speaks to you most and write a flash based on it.”

I chose this photo:

Image (c) Paula Rosa 2009

Surreal, decrepit, tumble-down commercial property. Early readers said, “The architecture of the piece is pretty cool. It’s full of parts that seem ingenious and then fall apart under time and scrutiny,” and “…asides, like, ‘Even mothers come back for the wings at Hooters.’ The lines I adore, like, ‘A good day for me is a lung full of diesel.’ The pink velvet bow that is a refurbished Maersk shipping container. The interspersed marketing lines.”

And because I used to teach at a school that focused on engineering and architecture, I remembered that I bought that S, M, L, XL book on a whim.  That and dvd documentaries on Calatrava and Pei buildings. I took the book down, and flipped through, and holy wow this book is really a playground of eclectic ideas that somehow work together.

So, I dedicate this story to Rem Koolhaas, Bruce Mau, and OMA.  It was a little exercise in craft. I took scraps they left lying around and made this toy of words, and who better to have the last say than Gertrude Stein when things get surreal?

Thank you for visiting my blog.  I hope you enjoy “The Mall We Call Commas.”