3 entr’actes from the misanthropocene

i. Dressing the rabbit: Емилиана, whose husband is posted in the constant hullaballo and pell sodding mell of Kalcuta during the Company’s Opium Wars, devises a manner whereby sachets of opium, intended for delivery to Hong Kong and Shanghai, can be concealed in pocket rows, running up, down, and generally circumnavigating the skirt’s hooplets.

Taking a quarterly trip to arduous if not downright Augean Aden, Емилиана can then deliver the sashets to their cousin, thrice removed, who runs an apothicary.

Емилиана may then deliver any receipts to a personal account.

Емилиана’s about to return to Kalcuta when a despatch arrives informing them that Емилиана’s husband has been most grievously killed in a conflagration occuring during one of the periodic insurgencies.

The despatch is received by Емилиана whilst helping niece Титиана prepare a casoulet.

Niece Титиана, a cripple, wears leg braces.

Титиана dresses the rabbit, presses skin, tears about, presses here, tears about.

Just as well it is that her dress is of a folded black.

What next?

Емилиана thinks of bank accounts, of Venetian and Provençal cousins, thinks of once and twice removed.  ii. from the jocose journal of Титиана: Sat’day.

The Cholera is such a bore.

We shan’t go anywhere!

Well, at least Aunt Емилиана is no where upset as we’re anticipating.

There is that.

Rather than lock themself in the guest room, rather than tear hair out in grief, Aunt Емилиана instead comes to supper and eats half the rabbit and one and one half sausages, and enquires of papa whether it is feasible to mayhaps stay for 2, 3 months, whilst awaiting replies from Venetian and Provençal cousins.

Papa eyebrows fold in surprise that Емилиана has so quickly despatched letters to the cousins.

Almost as if Емилиана’s done so before receipt of the news from Kalkuta.

What about London, papa queries.

What about it, indeed, Емилиана says, and laughs, and then stops, changes the subject to Caravaggio, adding:

An Italian rennaisance painter.

We’re annoyed but smile...

We know of Caravaggio, we’ve read Vasari, the lives of the most excellent painters, sculptors and architects.

Chiaroscuro might be suitable dinner conversation, but not murder.

Still, we smile.

Papa, though, does not notice red rings on the white lace. iii. at the ponte de i starnutire in the late 35th. century: Емилиана waits for niece Титиана near the Ponte de i Sospiri, holds their breath, not at all keen on the ozone scent, halfway between cilantro and cordite.

Not at all sachet of her choosing.

Not at all at all.

A brilliantine glare of the seven suns tend to conceal each the other at this time.

Nose tickled by ozone, Емилиана sneezes.

This alarms and annoys a delegation of galavanting whyborgs whose verdigris-tinged occipital scopes gyrate, zoom, turn in tilted whyborgian appropriations of a disapproval meme.

Емилиана, now parched, would like another libation but does not wish to miss their niece or the attendant mononucleoidal brood.

There is a queue wrapping around the corner of the piazza below.

Tis the season of the Doge’s masques, galas and biennielles, hence the ozone...

Venezia does get under one’s skin to then seep into one’s bones and joints.

Not a boon, this visceral aculteration.

Not bene.

Still, Емилиана has through the reeling in and out of centuries come to love this æternal-domed and doomed dank city, with its helioportation authority working 27/14, its tireless cohort on the seven levels below the canals, pulling levers of chronos-transduction.

The next shift has already queued around another corner across a narrow waterway, some sipping libations whilst others partake of their first meal, all their caps tilted at various rakish angles, depeche mode, as is the fashion, a fashion now in, now out, now in again.

These queued women, these technocrats, are what keeps Venezia Venezia.

Емилиана actually prefers the brood to her niece.

At one point some something’s lost, and at another point, another some something pffft, lost, during endless upgrades, lost in mattermission.

The awful truth must be told:

their niece Титиана is an intragalactic bore.



R.V.  Branham has two fiction collections, Chango Chingamadre & Other Moral Fictions, & A New Order of the Phylum (Seventh Station Books); he’s also the author/compiler of Curse+Berate in 69+ Languages (Soft Skull Press, 2nd printing). A writer & translator, for twenty years R.V.’s  been publishing editor of the completely multlingual en-face Gobshite Quarterly (in double issue flip-book format) and publisher of GobQ/Reprobate Books. His fiction, essays & poems have been in publications & anthologies including Red Lemonade’s Hybrid Beasts e-book, Ellery Queen’s Mystery Mag., Isaac Asimov’s SF Mag., 2 gyrls quarterly, In Other Words, Mérida, Unlikely Stories & The Writing Disorder.


Edited for Unlikely by Jonathan Penton, Editor-in-Chief
Last revised on Tuesday, February 22, 2022 - 22:11