First published in Mad Hatters’ Review, #12, 2011. Copyright 2011 by Tetman Callis.

            He was looking up the meaning of vitrine when he was distracted by vagina. It’s the story of his life, his being in a nutshell, his be-all and end-all, Alpha to his twin sister Omega, in two words or less, the condensed version, chapter, verse and volume in a very small

            And this was several years ago. He does not now all these several years later know yet what vitrine means. Never got to it. Never will. Never stood a chance. Never will that, either. Constantly distracted by

            Well. More’s the pity, terrible shame, great loss in a very small

            Think of all the words he could know the meanings of by now if he hadn’t got


            so stuck

            so distracted. He has. Thought of all the words, that is, in his less distracted, less enmired, more unstuck moments, all the words he could know the meanings of, vizz and ee jee et all:

            Vainglorious. Viremia. Vorticose. Vermiform. Venation. Vichyssoise. Vivarium. Velocipede. But instead, all the time it’s

            that word he’s stuck on

            Say it often enough and it doesn’t mean anything at all. Even when it meant something, to him,

            and to him it really meant something, sincerely, boy and howdy it was the cat’s meow, it

            Oh hell this is useless. In one word or less. Now and forevermore. Why did such a thing happen? The big picture now. The whole shebang. Pardon the pun—he these kinds of accidents are almost bound to happen when all the time it’s

            It’s just what it is. Too distracting. All the time

            and the goddamn phone too, just now, ringing and then answered, held out—the receiver, held out to him by the telephone answerer, the very child who came from out of the very

            that at one time had meant so much

            It’s useless. It can’t be escaped. On the phone, the voice from the woman whose

            you know the word, it’s not vitrine—the most recent

            For him the most recent

            It may as well be all the time. No escape. No escaping the thoughts

            What a thought! There must be a god, if there’s a universe that has in it so many

            Or even a planet, a teeny tiny obscure little planet that has on it

            Well they’re not vitrines. What is a vitrine, anyway? Look it up for him, write it down in the margin, there is now, for him, here and now, no way to go back to the dictionary and look it up for himself and find out for himself what it is in itself without it always and forevermore being tied up tightly in his mind with

            He must be joking. And this is all too

            not at all what he wanted to talk about. Not at all what we wanted to hear when we paid our admission, took our tickets and slipped inside, into the darkness of

            No escape. Who wants to escape? Who could possibly ever prefer to know the definition of vitrine when one could be—is—

            cannot help but be—

            rendered positively, indubitably, irredeemably, inescapably, forevermore dizzied and distracted and delighted by that which was stumbled upon while on the way to the vitrine?

            In no words or less.

            Or fewer, actually. No words or fewer.


            The word.

            There is no better place to be. There is no worse. There is no choice. There is a woman, she is lovely, she is young, she is on the phone, she is saying

            Pardon me, but do you know the meaning of ‘vitrine’?