So this bartender starts telling me about a story he’s writing. You know how back in the old days when salt was worth its weight in gold. When you could buy anything you wanted with a little pinch of salt. This newlywed couple decides to go back to those days on their honeymoon. There’s a Time Machine that will take them—on the installment plan, of course. They can pay when they get back. But they can afford the trip because they know all about the salt and will bring along a couple of boxes of Morton Salt. The dark blue round boxes with the little girl on it with the umbrella. So they go back. They are having the time of their lives at the Coliseum watching the Christians getting mauled and eaten by the lions. They dine in the finest restaurants in Rome and rent a villa by the sea. On Capri maybe. They have the time of their lives and pay for everything in salt. Or maybe they forgot the salt. The newlywed husband left it on the kitchen table. Or maybe the newlywed bride did. Oh god, they say. They can’t pay their debts and end up getting thrown to the lions themselves. I haven’t figured that part out yet, the bartender says. The ending. The twist. What do you think. I get up from my stool to pay my tab and slide a tiny glassine packet of white crystals across the bar. Half a gram ought to cover it, don’t you think. The bartender looks around the room with panic in his eyes. I can’t take this, he says. Don’t worry, man, I tell him. It’s good. Kickass shit. And legal. Hell, you people back here in the twenty-first century haven’t even figured out how to synthesize it yet.
Robert Perchan’s poetry chapbooks are Mythic Instinct Afternoon (2005 Poetry West Prize) and Overdressed to Kill (Backwaters Press, 2005 Weldon Kees Award). His poetry collection Fluid in Darkness, Frozen in Light won the 1999 Pearl Poetry Prize and was published by Pearl Editions in 2000. His avant-la-lettre flash novel Perchan’s Chorea: Eros and Exile (Watermark Press, Wichita, 1991) was translated into French and published by Quidam Editeurs (Meudon) in 2002. In 2007 his short short story “The Neoplastic Surgeon” won the on-line Entelechy: Mind and Culture Bio-fiction Prize. He currently resides in Pusan, South Korea. You can see some of his stuff on robertperchan.com.