Anna Mantzaris ~ The Detective

Forget the sleazy store­front agency. I am here. Next to you. Dressed in a fray­ing trench coat with sun­glass­es made from an owl. I am liv­ing in cel­lu­loid. In a piece of black-and-white 16-mil­lime­ter film, cut hard and past­ed fast on a sticky floor of a once movie-plex.

This is where every­thing happens. 

Awareness is just a game of chance. An ele­va­tor to Louis Malle’s gallows—void of the plea­sure of Miles Davis this time, the sad com­muter brass train in his trumpet.

The dis­cov­ery of the first incit­ing evi­dence is always by accident:

  ‑A shrunk­en wine receipt found at the Phoenix All-Night Desert Museum

  ‑A charge on a cred­it card for The Happiness I Deserve

  ‑Type XoX Blood that doesn’t match mine

  ‑A phone bill with mul­ti­ple calls to a woman with wings

  ‑A voice so tin­ny and small

  ‑A hatch­et with a sur­pris­ing­ly sharp edge

I will place these items in an Evidence bag. The kind used for sev­ered fin­gers and stray­ing hairs stuck on shag­ging car­pets with thick and tor­rid bod­i­ly flu­ids. I will hold each up as proof that I am fal­ter­ing. Falling. Failing. You win!

And, of course. The clos­ing argu­ment. Deftly done in his prus­sic acid voice:

 You’re writ­ing fic­tion again.

That one gets me to the bare side of burn­ing insec­ti­cides left as coffee.

 I do write fiction. 

I have lost my con­fi­dence to brush my teeth any way oth­er than side­ways hail and make whis­pered, cot­ton-mouthed calls to no one from the laun­dry rooms piled with tax files and pho­tographs that need to be scrubbed of their dizzy­ing thumbprints. Keep going!

There was once anoth­er famous man who came into my life. Early on. When I dressed in coils. Gold lame. Hair up. Who could blame him? 

The famous man received post­cards and tiny chairs and ostrich feath­ers as fan mail.

 Or were they? 

And then he left me to eat lemon drops with Angelica Houston. Or at least that’s who I thought it was. The sun was too bright to look. And I was scared I would burn my eye­balls again.

So here we are now. My lover hides his phone that has grown so big—it’s so full of sweet nothings—it lies, puffy and swollen like an infect­ed meringue. What fun for him!

 More clues:

  -He smells dif­fer­ent, of course. Like some­one else’s almost-turn­ing zest piled on a scorched cake

I’m going out to get a tire fixed and it can only be done in a hot air bal­loon that takes off at 11pm

  ‑He brings home presents. I feel like a prized pony brush­ing myself like a horse!

I’m get­ting my hair cut at the only all-night bar­ber three states away

  -He looks dif­fer­ent. Did he always have three ears?

I need to cap­ture some stars for work tomor­row and it must be done in the dead of night


So I give you that. The back­sto­ry as quench­ing as a blos­somy gin + ton­ic at mid­night. A flash­back. A clue to how I got here again so we can all do the math togeth­er. Correctly this time:

I can only afford to work part-time, which is 168 hours a week x 62 + sleep­less nights eight days a week in morn­ing overdrive.

An over­drive I do. With a satchel packed to states I don’t rec­og­nize. With for­eign lan­guage require­ments I mas­ter on the way as night con­tin­ues to fall down. Around me. To hide what I’ve brought to throw out into the dark.


Anna Mantzaris is a San Francisco-based writer. Her work has appeared in Ambit, The Cortland Review, McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, Necessary Fiction, New World Writing Quarterly, Sonora Review, and else­where. She is cur­rent­ly a fic­tion chap­book fel­low with Galileo Press. This flash fic­tion is from her upcom­ing chap­book Occupations.