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A Guide to Tonight’s Concert: Catharsis, by Olem


Michael Smith


lem was a grim but witty man who infused his life’s final work with all the clever darkness of life just before committing suicide by means of a watermelon tossed into the air directly above his head. And indeed, to witness Catharsis is no less disturbing than to witness a clown shutting the lid to your father’s casket. The human journey portrayed by symphonic means, as Olem termed it, opens with the cellos playing a lethargic variation of Knick Knack Paddywack as they lead the audience members deliberately through the birth canal, while a few light notes by the flutes are interspersed to signify the frivolity of being spanked in the nude by an older nurse. Soon, the baritones drone in to direct the child onward to elementary school, where he first develops a liking for naptime, an activity that will later lead to his expulsion from employment at a turkey cannery. The pace fluctuates from agitato to nerveux and then to très nerveux as the child enters adolescence with its gangly awkwardness of growth spurts and hair in unexpected parts; the blaring trumpet punctuates the already unbearable atmosphere as the child’s gym shorts are removed by the class bully in front of a group of cheerleaders. The musicians next evoke the scene of a strangulating metaphysical wilderness as the young man enters college and becomes disillusioned with God, but, on the other hand, recognizes to his horror that a strict observance of atheism would prohibit him from asserting the type of moral superiority that is so integral to his self-esteem. There is little variation here and the dread that perhaps the music will never end begins to crop up in the minds of the patrons, as it does in the mind of our hero, whose mental illness, previously dormant, begins to manifest itself following a disappointing sexual encounter with a bowl of oatmeal. The remaining scenes of life, from marrying a beautiful woman whose face is destroyed in a humidor explosion to rearing a child who thinks he’s Tarzan, and finally to the closing curtain complete with death-rattle (how sublime the snare drum can be when played by a master!) are played out in their comedic awfulness as the symphony rages louder and louder until suddenly they stop, but not a moment too soon.        

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Issue 18


September 22, 2017

Michael Smith’s fiction has been featured or is forthcoming in The Hopper, The Delmarva Review, Drunk Monkeys, and McSweeney’s Internet Tendency.

Michael Smith is a writer, photographer, and Francophile residing in Salt Lake City, Utah.

i dont feel like fininishing this website right now and i am sorry

Most other asians

can't even tell what I am.

Could not agree more.

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Issue 18

This writing was originally published in Opium Magazine, and is not listed in the archives.
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