Art from Garbage


Divine Play, pp. 128-131

Pausing beside an armadillo-shaped hill, he discerned a quadrupedal creature expectorating an amorphous whitish shape that consolidated into Michelangelo’s Davidon the shard-fraught ground. Actually there were several Davids already there, along with a Thinker, numerous Madonna(s) with Child(ren), pudgy frowning demigods, rearing horses, pharaohs in headdresses, black reclining women, green bodhisattvas flashing gang signs, and joint-smoking gargoyles, as well as buckets, gravestones, automobiles, wooden totems, folding chairs, roulette wheels, tractors, toilets, stupasof chain link, and fat bundles of wire mesh.

Another quadrupedal creature ambled around the “hill”…bit into the hill, chewed ruminatively, and spat out a bicycle frame. Their squat bodies were bright red, with long necks banded in muscle. The rounded tips of their tapered heads were bisected by their mouths, which made him think of horses; but the upraised eyes in hooded sockets were crocodilian. The bicycle expectorater bore mottled discolorations along its flanks, patterned into Russian Мs. It noticed him, and its head receded slightly on the fibrous neck. Its mouth formed a dark cylinder of astonishment and then offered high-pitched mooing and baying semivowels….Vic retrieved from his pouch two tiny foam plugs and two foam disks, and placed plugs and disks, respectively, into his ears and onto his throat.

“M” was saying, “―you a prisoner?”

Vic responded, “I’m in the HorrorShow.”

“The ‘orrorShow! Well, now!” “М” flicked its long pleated ears.

The David-spewing one now wandered over, inspecting Vic. Its sides were marked with Бs. “I “I could do with that, Mrrr.”

“We done that already, Breee,” said Мrrr.

“Who done?”


Breee looked behind him, his neck resembling a wringing towel.

“Don’t see it on the pile.”

“They sold it. The purple muscley thing,” Mrrr explained.

“Naw! Nuffin’ like this.”

“Just like.”

“You’re cracked.”

“I’ve heard you referred to as the ‘Salvage Dogs,’” Vic observed.

“What?” exclaimed Breee. “Dogs? Earth canines?”

“It’s true we do a bit o’ salvage,” Мrrr admitted.

“You agree with ’im, do you, Mrrr? We’re naught but lurchers?  Mongrels?”

“I agreed that we did a bit o’ salvage is all, Breee.”

“You blokes ought t’ take this in,” Breee called out.

“What’s this, then, Mrrr?” asked another one arriving. It bore a pair of Зs.

“He says they call us dogs out front, Zasss. Dogs.”

“I don’t call you that, of course, you understand,” said Vic. “I’m just repeating what I heard.”

“Oh, ’e doesn’t call us that,” Zasss said.

“Just repeatin’ what ’e heard,” said Breee. “Cheeky!”…

“’e’s ’orrorShow,” Mrrr reported.

“My darlings!” Zasss exclaimed. “A challenger!”

“You’re certainly not dogs,” Vic declared.

“Oh, sweet acquittal!” cried Breee. “Now is my ’ead ’eld aloft the other dogs’!”

“You ever done that style, Zasss?” asked Mrrr.

Zasss’s eyes rolled, scrutinizing him. “Something like. That purply thing.”

“I knew it!” said Mrrr. “Didn’t I tell ya, Breee?”

Breee squinted at Vic and pursed his lips. “This’n’s got better shape, I think.”

“What you mean, ‘better’?” Zasss demanded.

“We’re stal-yarz, from a little planet in the neighborhood of Spica,” said a fourth stal-yarzas it came forward regally, bearing three-letter brands:  ЛОИ. “Though we grew up on the Orphan Satellite. Thankfully rescued from confinement, now we do a bit of traveling.”

“Loiii’s a modest sort,” said Zasss. “We’re in great demand all over the solar system because of our talents.”

“It’s very impressive,” Vic declared. “Mass producing artwork from garbage.”

“’e’s better aesthetically, I think, than your purple,” Breee muttered belatedly to Zasss.

“‘Aesthetically’?” Mrrr repeated. “Well, now, Breee’s advanced himself, en’t he, boys? ’e’s a bloody aesthete!”

“‘Mass producing’? I think not,” replied Loiii. “We replicate a planet’s art treasures on occasion, but for a limited clientele.”

“There’re an abundance of originals as well,” said Mrrr, “if you’d trouble yourself to look. Priceless.”

“I’d do ’im without a face,” Breee suggested to Zasss. “More universal.”

“Are you mental?” Zasss accused. “‘Universal’ is an absolute term.  You can’t use comparative adjectives like ‘more’ with an absolute term.”

“That’s quite correct,” Loiii agreed. “‘Universal’ is defined as ‘including or covering all or a whole without limit or exception.’”

“So how do you fancy something as ‘more’ universal?” shouted Zasss at Breee, whipping his long neck to and fro as he strode about on stunted legs. “You’d as well tell the mathematics master your two lines are ‘mostly parallel’ or ‘specially parallel’!”

“Well, I was just ’avin’ a critical think,” Breee said. “Didn’t mean to get you in a state.”

“A state? I’m not in a state! I’d certainly not get in a state over a grotty humanoid!”

“Here, now!” Loiii remonstrated. “No need for acrimony.”

“‘Universal,’ he says,” grumbled Zasss. “A manky human. Oh, very!  A species what can’t account for more’n a hundred-thousandth of one percent of galactic life-forms!”

“I think we’d rate somewhat higher,” suggested Vic, “in a population of known sentient life-forms.”

“’e’s right there, Zasss,” said Mrrr. “To be fair.”

“Oh, sorry! Add a millionth of a percent to that figure, then,” said Zasss.

“I meant ‘universal’ in a relative sense, Zasss” said Breee.

“A relative absolute?” Zasss remarked. “‘Though far away, my dear, you’re so oxymoronically near.’ You’re a wonder, Breee! Getting quite,uh—”

“Semiotic?” Vic hazarded. The others gasped and gaped.

“That’s it!” Zasss exclaimed. “Breee’s become a semantic git!”

“Not me!” shrilled Breee.

“Or a gestaltic dick!” howled Mrrr.

“I never!” Breee shreiked.

“Or a cabalistic chappie,” drawled Loiii.

“What about himthen?” Breee challenged them, nodding at Vic.  “Don’t the humans love their ‘universals’ ? Them with their universal laws and universal elements and Mr. and Mrs. Universe?”

“Well, Breee,” Loiii remonstrated, “you must admit they worked out time and space, gathered galaxies into groups, found and classified all the elements, and know the precise distances of stars and how and when the universe began.”

The group indulged in a belly laugh….

“Maybe you could fix ’im, Zasss,” Breee suggested. The rejoicing ceased.

In the silence, the others studied Vic with shrouded eyes that vibrated like spiders on webs.


About Tom Ukinski

Tom Ukinski is an attorney in state government in the Midwest. He's been writing plays, novels, short stories, comedy sketches and screenplays for many years.
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