The Bernol

by Katharine Showalter

WHAT YOU HAVE SELECTIVELY READ is true. I was in his house. His wife carried in a tray of espresso and Fernet. His grandchildren played with their nanny, who was college educated, African American, and transgender. There were actual newspapers on the couch, a flip phone on the cushion beside him, and no dog. Beyonce was playing very low, almost inaudibly on a stereo. On the television was a news show. It was in Spanish and no one in the room could understand what was being said, but we all joked that it didn't matter, since the news was always full of lies. Finches sat on the windowsills outside every window, calm, expectant. In the corner was the largest bong I had ever seen. We had dinner, vegan lamb, roasted locally grown vegetables, gluten-free biscuits, organic wine. There was a shaker of hand harvested flake salt on the table. The maid, an exchange student from Guam, brought maple candy, hash brownies, pints of Ben and Jerry's. I was asked if I enjoyed politics. I said I had never cared until now. There was a long commercial in Spanish, or it might have still been the news. The maid packed up the leftovers and drove them to the local homeless shelter next door. There was some talk then of how difficult it would be to wage a moral and political war against corporate greed. The Bernol said that difficult times brought out the best in people. Some Ivy Leaguer asked how it would happen with zero congressional support. My friend rolled his eyes as if to say: 'evs. The Bernol left the room and returned with a reusable, eco-friendly shopping bag. He spilled dozens of human thumbs on the table. They were like cold and shriveled tater tots. There is no other way to say this. He took one of them in his fingers, sniffed it, dropped it into his glass of organic, nonsulfide wine. It sank to the bottom. I am tired of fudging around, he said. As for those Trump lovers and these Hillary lovers, they can go fudge themselves. He wiped the thumbs off the table and onto the floor and then held his glass of organic wine in the air. Fudging fudge, I don't think I can drink this now, he said. Some of the thumbs on the floor heard what they wanted to hear in what he was saying. All of the thumbs on the floor began tapping on their devices.

After Forché, but you knew that already.

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