A journal of narrative writing.
Mr. Monaghan Likes Honest Artists

There was a sound like a flight of birds taking off as eighty book pages were turned.

“…In the famed dialogue between Chom-sky… and… Fuck-alt?” the student pronounced nervously, her face flushing red even as she read aloud. A giggle rippled through the lecture hall, punctuating the student’s reading with an ample pause in which to soak up embarrassment.

Mr. Monaghan blinked, keeping his eyes locked on the page. By doing so, by refusing to acknowledge the obvious error, he’d hoped the girl would simply keep going. It was a tactic he was forced to employ often.

And how often for that Elizabeth Pratt! Elizabeth Pratt was one of those students that made Mr. Monaghan anxiously await the portfolio review at the end of the semester, where he and his fellow colleagues could say Well, you've got talent, you've got promise, but we don’t think this is really your inclination, we feel you need to take a step back and reevaluate your career path because your work this semester really belies your preoccupation with, I don’t know, accounting…

Monaghan sighed audibly, failing to notice that the room had fallen silent after the giggles. With what hubris had Elizabeth even enrolled in this program? What place was there for a stout, unassuming child of devout Mormons in an art school in Seattle, Washington? How could someone who quietly asked to be excused during every showing of work featuring nudity or overt violence or excessive “blaspheming” expect to survive four years here, let alone one semester?

“Fuck-alt?” that student repeated helplessly, looking up from her reading like she’d just driven over an animal in the street and now had to face its owner.

She had never been a good reader in his class and probably never would be, Monaghan reflected, but when the time came to open the books her first instinct would always be to send her hand skyward so that she could illuminate her fellows on Hetero Nativity and the works of Michael Battle, Paul Demon (good God, who could ever mistake “De Man?”), and Immanuel Can’t (Monaghan recalled the bead of sweat that formed on his forehead the first time her narration staccato-hopped towards Kant, the anticipated mistaking of an “a” for a “u”). Though she dressed conservatively, he decided, she had an admirable fashion sense, and when he looked up, at first he simply watched her simple blues and whites.

Mr. Monaghan crossed and uncrossed his legs as he met Elizabeth’s glittering eyes. Cocooned in his thick brown beard, his small lips curved upward.

“Fuck-o, perhaps?” he said with a nod, his eyes next crossing those of some of the more vociferous gigglers. He waved a hand, motioning for her to continue, and then quietly muttered, “Foucault.”

On the table, a glass clinked softly against another glass, and then fell onto its side with a dull thud, ejecting clear liquid that shot outward from its mouth toward the edge of the table. The vodka began dribbling onto the tile floor. The cat that had caused the spill by jumping onto the table nimbly darted away as a stocky man with a corduroy coat hurried into the kitchen, cradling a telephone between his shoulder and the side of his worn face.

“Goddammit,” he said with a resigned sigh, turning around and leaving the room.

“What?” said the woman on the phone.

“Nothing.” He extricated himself from his coat slowly. His heavy breathing crackled into the telephone. “There was a spill.”

“Are you drunk?”


“You’re drunk.”

“I’ve been home for five minutes, I’m not drunk.”

“You just got home? Where have you been? It’s eleven thirty.”

The man dropped his coat over the back of the couch in front of the small television and glanced at a clock as he moved. “Goddammit,” he said again. “Maybe I should be drunk, huh?”

“Right. Look, that’s something we need to talk about.”

He swallowed. “So you really want to do it.”


“Shelly let it out last night during one of her goddamn heart to hearts.”

Though the woman immediately spat a curse, she was inwardly relieved. It was a lot easier that he saw it coming, she thought shrewdly.

“I don’t know if we’re working out,” she said.

“Uh huh.”

After they broke up the man hung up the phone and itched his brown beard, exhaling slowly. He wondered why she had ended up crying when it was her idea to end their relationship, until he saw the pool of vodka stagnating on the table and pulled a glass out of the sink to see how much he could salvage.

“There was a fire in one of the buildings. I don’t remember which one – I think it was my dorm but I can’t say for sure. We were all outside. The pigs were there and we were looking to make trouble. Two of my friends were already in prison. At least two.

“The thing about a situation like the Riots is that, once you get in a big group of people just like yourself like that, there’s not really anything you can do anymore. The crowd takes over and you just kind of do what it does. And that day, the crowd was in the mood for violence. Like every day of those birth pangs.

“I was holding a sign that was going to double as a club as soon as I reached the line. It simply read Liberte! How’s that for perfect, huh? I was an American; I didn't even know where for positive the accent over the “e” at the end would go. So I didn't put one. Precision didn't matter, anyway.