Susannah Breslin



GOD HATES PORN, the sign read. A late Nineties Toyota Corolla sped past, honking its horn, and Mortimer Wisconsin spun his sign around, hoping the driver would see the other side. PORN HATES GOD, the other side of the sign read. Mortimer pumped his sign up and down in the air. He’d made it himself, a year ago, in the garage. Alice hadn’t liked it. Not one bit. Did not support his project. Would not attend Sunday services with him. Could not see the righteousness in standing on Lankershim Boulevard, which cut through North Hollywood on a diagonal, and at the three-way intersection where it met Victory and Colfax formed what Mortimer believed to be an arrow directing him to his spiritual enlightenment. At the point of it, he held his sign from six to eight every weekday morning and from six to eight every weekday evening. The Valley was Hell, Mortimer had concluded, and these were the Last Days. Two days after he had retired, he had experienced a religious awakening. It was a Wednesday, and he was flipping through the television channels, long after Alice had gone to bed, and a vision appeared before him. In the beginning, he was unable to comprehend what he was seeing. Two human beings engaged in an act of sexual congress so deranged and foreign from anything Mortimer ever performed or even entertained in his mind that it reduced all of humanity to the moral equivalent of hogs rutting in the mud. As if he was possessed, he pushed himself up from his La-Z-Boy recliner and fell to his knees before the television set, his hand clasped at his chest, calling upon the Lord to save his soul. Basked in the blue glow of pornography, he felt the presence of the Holy Spirit enter him. He’d spent thirty-two years as a baggage handler at the airport in Burbank, but nothing had prepared him for this moment. In a flash, his life played like a slideshow, revealing why Alice had turned from him and for the last fifteen years slept in the shape of a comma that paused the sentence of their marriage. The lies he had told. The adulterers with whom he had fornicated. The innocent air travelers from whose suitcases he had extracted random items for no purpose he could discern: a porcelain figurine of a puppy tilting its head as if listening to a whistle beyond human hearing, a pale pink girl’s T-shirt with an iron-on decal of a glitter-speckled shooting star soaring across the front of it, a deep blue woman’s velvet slipper with a sole imprinted by the ghost footprint of its owner. He was a failure. Stumbling to his feet, he pawed his way through the kitchen and into the garage, pulled the sheet of discarded particleboard from the recycling bin, and pried open the can of black paint with which he had attempted to cover up the peeling tar paper on their leaking roof. The next day, his public testimonial had begun. Now, on the corner of Lankershim, a light rain started to fall. Mortimer shielded his eyes and peered up at his sign. He wondered if the paint and the particleboard would last another year. He wondered how long Alice would hate him. He wondered what God, nestled somewhere in the atmosphere beyond the cloud cover, thought of him. He checked his watch. Nearly six thirty. Soon, the morning commute would peak. He lifted the sign. The world streamed by him. 



It was a ghost, luminous and resplendent, hovering on the screen. In the background, she could hear the doctor’s voice: multi-fociinvasivestage four. The vision was a glimpse of the constellation of lights shining within her. Malignancies, the doctor said. 

Star shook her head. Yes, you could call this a death spiral. Absolutely, this was The End. Surely, if the doctor was correct, she had three, maybe four months. But she’d been waiting for this moment forever. It felt more like a homecoming—today, her destiny had manifested itself in the flesh. She’s spent every day until this one rocketing towards this exam room. Now she was here. Rejoice! she thought. 

Two weeks ago, her nephew had typed her name into a blank space on a computer screen, and she’d watched, dazzled, as thousands of pages mentioning her had appeared. She’d thought she’d been lost to time. Instead, a younger version of herself had sprung to life with the click of a button. Millions of strangers had watched her, supine and glorious, getting plowed by a mustached man whose name, she’d recalled, was Chet. She’d believed she’d been forgotten. She’d been mistaken. Rather, she’d left pieces of herself along the path of her journey, parts reanimated by a tiny tornado of twirling pixels. Inside a billion boxes, she’d been resurrected. 

Eventually, the malignancies would take her. The doctor nodded sympathetically, waiting for the tears, a few why me’s, a clutching of soggy Kleenex. 

Perched on the edge of the exam table, Star sat up straight and tried not to squeal with glee. She could see how it would go down for her. They’d seek to rob her of herself as they sought to prolong her life. Chop off her breasts. Yank out her uterus. Dismantle her fallopian tubes. Pluck her ovaries from their nest. In an operating room, a man in a facemask would raise his scalpel and bend to cut a perfect, arcing line across the top of her head. He’d peel her mind open from ear to ear, pull back the skin to crank open her skull, and root around in the muck for the metastasis marching through her brain. 

Once surgically removed, those bits of her would be placed in a stainless steel dish and tossed into a red garbage bin with a yellow biohazard sticker affixed to its top. In the dark of the night, a shadowy figure holding a basket would move through the hospital, foraging for the scraps of people that had been left behind. As the dawn broke, the shade would walk a field, planting it with lumps of her, sowing the seeds of her life. One day, great crops of herself would arise from the earth: terrifically erect apple trees, aggressive heads of spinach, sunflowers with faces turning to follow the sun’s trajectory across the sky. 


Susannah Breslin is a writer based in Los Angeles. Her work has appeared in Harper's Bazaar, The Atlantic, Salon, Slate, The Daily Beast, Newsweek, The LA Weekly, and many other publications. She was a regular on "Politically Incorrect" and has appeared on CNN, Fox News, and NPR. In 2008, TIME named her one of the year's best bloggers. She has been described as a "modern-age Studs Terkel" and a "rare commodity online."



                                          Jeanne Bessette

                                         Jeanne Bessette