:: Article

f stop

By Michael Loughrey.

Cynthia is ushered into the waiting room by babble erupting from the pandemonium mass of the aether pond. The voices say the doctor is sick. Say he can cure all known ills.

Understandably, recently sodomised patients had set fire to the chairs in the waiting room. Furiously orbiting a flickering light bulb, a horsefly. Screaming atop a tangerine-coloured coffee table, dog-eared waiting room pulp. Carnivorous Plants Digest. The Atheist’s Almanac. Pre-teen Pussy. The Good Gun Bulletin. Muscle Car Weekly. Meat Packers Manifesto. Abortionist News.

Cynthia hiked across the cube, grabbed Meat Packers Manifesto and maimed the fly. It landed in a stain on the carpet, twitched a while, the time of waiting to die in a waiting room.

Later, a hydraulic hiss as one side of the cube divided vertically to cast a trapezoid of hazy incandescence over the gloom. The irresistible beckoning of a magnetic portal. Said he could cure all known ills. Said he was sick.

Cynthia weren’t no pervert, but had been perverted right and proper and was content of that proclivity. Thus she found dirty old Doctor Gläser to be a handsome beast. Check his hands. Cynthia always checked men’s hands. In case her red light turned to green and she permitted manhandling. The doctor’s hands had the pulchritude of a Renaissance piéta sculpted from ivory. With dirty fingernails. She wanted to put his long fingers in her mouth, suck the filth from under the nails. Cynthia say doctor one handsome beast. Most folk wouldn’t say so. Seedy, they would spit. Cynthia, she sizzles: hey, handsome seedy beast. Finger me.

‘Singular?’ Handsome beast voice the peal of an timeworn bronze bell. ‘Plural?’

‘Equivocally affirmative.’ Cynthia intoxicated by his smell. Caporal tobacco, vetiver, sea urchin, warm bed fug, leaf mould, absinthe, acid sweat, espresso, carbolic soap, fried jalapeño, cosmic dust, hot internal combustion engine, rotting carrion, pink carnation. Thanks, I’ll eat it here.

‘Undress.’ Perverted odorous bell. ‘I need to examine you.’ Seedy beast fingers.

Sick. Cures all known ills. At his beck and call, Cynthia, seduced, strips. Strips like automaton do. If blessed with the anatomy of a Déesse, eschew the lascivious when derobing to an audience.

Tattered trenchcoat flapping around his body, the doctor advances with a rusty gurney, castor wheels begging for lubrication, silk sheet amnesiacal on the subject of steam irons.

Clothing neatly folded and piled, Cynthia surrenders. Nasal orgasm. Carbolic bed urchin fug, fried pink mould, rotting espresso sweat. Some close their eyes when the hovering doctor probes. Not Cynthia. Fissures in the ceiling an arcane cartography for the rookie explorer of the perverse. Lenses of doctor’s dark glasses a murky kaleidoscope of forensic evidence.

Doctor unbuttons. Some people close their eyes. Cynthia ogles. My what a curious totem you have.

All the better to cure all known ills.

Some people close their eyes. Cynthia closes her fist around his curiosity.

Face brushing hers, his hotsweet breath paints her cheek in hues which whisper of carnation bed dust rotting. In dark lenses her eyes swim in his. See, urchin?

‘Petit mal.’ A diagnosis? Dark lenses so close now all is blurred, he turns his patient on her side, peels clinging fingers away from his arousal. ‘I can cure all known ills. Did they say I was freak? A deviant? Babble babble babble. Lest it slip my mind, did they say I don’t take cheques?’

‘Doctor Gläser? Why are you putting your totem into my eye?’

Handsome deviant beast chuckle.

‘Pupil, meet urethra, an eye by any other name. Pupil learn to see. I spy, with my freak eye, that you look, but don’t see. More than a common ailment, it’s a veritable pandemic. Yonder, in the fertile fields of your saxe blue pupils I see the wrong f stop setting. Pupil diameter setting incorrect. Not fit for purpose. The greater the focal ratio, the fainter the images. A matter of how much light gets in. Capici? Maybe if that indolent extra-terrestrial show-off had got off his holy arse and worked the seventh day…no matter. I can cure all ills. The stop in f stop refers to the opaque part of the optic system which blocks certain rays. There. One down and one to go. Then we shall see eye to eye.’

Dirty fingernail beast rolls her perversion toward him seedy, places curious totem urethra against her other eye. Optical sea carnation soap orgasm simultaneous to dirty fingernail meat packer ejaculation.

Cynthia sings an aria: don’t f stop don’t f stop don’t f stop.

Sing Cynthia sing. See Cynthia sing. See?


Dreaming is neural housework. This pearl, cast from his absinthe pink leaf mould lips skims over incoming waves of somnolence as Cynthia sank into an off-kilter parallel, anaesthetised to the petit mal of chafed skin orifices bruised from meatpacking vetiver handsome beast fug. Neural housework. Do it with your eyes shut. An f stop where the fixity of consciousness becomes the flux of dreams.

The feather duster which Cynthia runs over a pellicle of memory raises hell: tremors off the cerebral Richter scale provoke a maelstrom, ejecting minutiae from its raging vortex which assemble into incongruous collages of bounty and bale. In the aftermath, ruins of memory to be excavated, a neural archeological dig… his hotsweet breath paints her cheek in hues which whisper of internal carbolic jalapeño acid…through the toilet bowl into which all experience is flushed. As a doctor, I can inform you that it is scientific fact that approximately a paltry twelve percent of the human brain is put to use. The gut contains more neurons than the brain. Seventy-some percent of water in the corporeal envelope. All experience is flushed. Only water possesses a memory as clear as its conscience. Only water can laugh without tears…

Cynthia sings an aria: don’t f stop don’t f stop don’t f stop.

Sing Cynthia sing. See Cynthia sing. See?


What will it be filed under in the aether pond? Cynthia blinks. The map on the ceiling no longer looks the way it did. Cynthia laughs. Wipes a tear from a cheek.

‘Same map.’ Dirty beast fingernails prying into neurons floating in her toilet bowl. ‘Just different f stops. Did they say I don’t take cheques?’

When she bends down to pick up her clothes and begins to dress, Cynthia suspects the gurney is leering at her.

She blushes. ‘Doctor, these recurring dreams…’

See, urchin? The doctor’s hotsweet breath paints her thoughts in hues which whisper of internal cosmic carrion combustion. In dark lenses his eyes swim in hers. Coitus interruptus.

‘…about being naked in public places?’ Beast deviant handsome chuckle. ‘It’s filed with other babble in the aether pond, in two places: O/Once upon a time, and L/Later.’

Totem saluting the spectacle of the fastening of the last button of her jumpsuit, Doctor Gläser bows graciously and takes her hand, embracing the back of it with a kiss from which blooms a dormant erogenous zone.

Cynthia sings an aria: don’t f stop don’t f stop don’t f stop.

Sing Cynthia sing. See Cynthia sing. See?


Michael Loughrey’s short fiction has appeared in dogmatika, Word Riot, Hobart, Laura Hird’s Showcase, Sein und Werden, Zygote In My Coffee and others. His story, ‘Reclining nude with machete’, was named a StorySouth Million Writers Notable Short Story 2009.

First published in 3:AM Magazine: Monday, May 24th, 2010.