Kevin Matz ~ Mayonnaise

for Mike Madonick

On the rec­om­men­da­tion of a col­league of mine, who says my work lacks vari­ety, I am going to attempt to describe, of all things, a jar of may­on­naise. In his opin­ion a more var­ied sto­ry will arise from this exer­cise. I have my doubts, but we shall see.

To begin with, the jar is made of clear glass. At least I believe it’s clear; since the jar is full, the glass may only appear to be clear and may, in fact, be white or off-white or, even more accu­rate­ly, the col­or of the may­on­naise it con­tains. But since I have not actu­al­ly opened the jar to inspect the qual­i­ty of its full­ness or to guar­an­tee the white­ness or off-white­ness of its con­tents (they could, in fact, be green), I can­not be cer­tain the jar is not emp­ty or that the may­on­naise is the col­or of may­on­naise or that the col­or of all may­on­naise, even, is actu­al­ly white or off-white; I believe I am bas­ing my assump­tion of its col­or on may­on­naise I have seen in the past, which, I must admit, is not a great amount, my father hav­ing detest­ed it great­ly.

What I can be sure of, though, is that this is a jar of may­on­naise, because a label has been affixed to the jar by the Hellmann’s cor­po­ra­tion con­vey­ing its con­tents as being such. Of course, my wife could have pre­vi­ous­ly fin­ished this par­tic­u­lar jar, washed it out, and filled it with some­thing else, like baby food or left­over soup, with­out my knowl­edge (such switcheroos are a point of great con­tention between us, as I like to know pos­i­tive­ly that what I am open­ing con­tains what it says it con­tains), so the jar’s con­tents may, in fact, be the col­or of pota­to soup.

All I can tell for sure is that this exer­cise is accom­plish­ing noth­ing, and my col­league may be right about my lack of tal­ent. Or maybe he isn’t sure what tal­ent is, because, as far as I can tell, he spends the major­i­ty of his time crit­i­ciz­ing me. But, I admit, I have lit­tle con­tact with his life out­side his office, and it’s pos­si­ble he spends hours each night read­ing about and defin­ing the nature of tal­ent in essays or books, any of which is far more than I have ever done.

What I am sure of is that when the light in his office strikes his head just right, with the way the skin is pulled so tight­ly over his skull, I can see my reflec­tion. It’s a lit­tle blur­ry, but, when I look close enough, I can tell it’s me. At least I think it’s me. It may, in fact, be a pat­tern the shad­ows fall in, in that par­tic­u­lar room, under those par­tic­u­lar lights, that reminds me of me. Or it may be a ran­dom skin dis­col­oration, a birth­mark maybe. It is grotesque for sure. Everything is ugly from close enough. I should let him know.

~

Kevin Matz received mail-order degrees in mur­derol­o­gy and mur­deron­o­my. Subsequently he received an MFA from the University of Illinois, where he worked on the lit­er­ary jour­nal, Ninth Letter, taught poet­ry and com­po­si­tion, and won the Carol Kyle Memorial Award for Poetry. These days he watch­es Frasier reruns on TV and works as an edi­tor. His writ­ing has appeared or is forth­com­ing in The Literary Review, cream city review, and decem­ber.