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.