First, the invention, an unnecessarily complicated and altogether embarrassing piece of junk, the various parts of which (and how they relate to the circumstances) being as follows: two feet of corroded copper wiring (dramatic noise, preceding the downfall of handsomeness); a short wooden tube, six inches in diameter (two discrete instances of perpendicular thunking); one fourteen inch, sour tasting, fake hot dog-looking apparatus, questionably coated with expensive platinum (soft tissue relocation and the portrayal of an actual hot dog); two interconnected wishbones harvested from one strange chicken and one just dead chicken (temptation of the upper mandibles); a scrubby thing (corrective confusion of the eye sockets); various rods and gears (the connecting of things to produce absurdity); a small motor harvested from a more useful invention (the turning of stupidity into dangerousness). Since the only thing it did between the time of its activation and the time of its self-destruction was attack the face of a man, no proof exists beyond the claims of its inventor that it was anything more than an electric-powered mechanical face-attacker. 

Second, the maiming, witnessed by no one, aside from the one tremendous scream that woke even the deepest sleepers from their peaceful siestas. 

Third, the aftermath: only one onlooker had the common sense to seek medical assistance; the others left the victim on the ground beneath them as they stared without expression into the weirdness of his face. 

It was Tea Angelica, related to the victim by way of several complicated marriages, who went to look for a doctor. She knew of several remarkable physicians, but only one of them could be found nearby at that time of day. She came upon him, a man named Capoblanco, while he was sitting on the porch of his operatory, sealing an aperture in the skin of a wounded plum with fine stitches. 

“You must come at once!” she said. “Alberto! His face!”

The doctor, new to the area, knew little of Alberto, and so did not fully understand the urgency in Tea Angelica’s voice, but before him stood a damsel in distress, and that was enough. He rose from his chair and grabbed his satchel. 

“Take me,” he said. 

The crowd was still mesmerized around Alberto when they arrived. Tea Angelica shoved aside many dumbfounded bodies to make way for herself and Capoblanco. Soon enough, they broke through to the epicenter of the spectacle, and the doctor first saw with his own eyes the cause of his hasty summoning. For a moment, he froze, perhaps he even began to panic, but his pride warned him: it would be inconsolable were anyone to perceive in him a weakness unbefitting an accomplished physician such as he was. 

Capoblanco began his examination, approaching the victim with his hands from angle after angle, always retreating prior to contact. In his tentative probing, he might have been looking for a beginning or an ending, for the coordinates of a smile, for the source of a wink or a portal at the heart of a breath, anything at all that could be a clue to locating the familiar facial structures he was comfortable with. To the crowd, his strange motions seemed like a dance or game, and many amongst them believed he was toying cruelly with Alberto. 

In his tentative probing, he might have been looking for a beginning or an ending, for the coordinates of a smile, for the source of a wink or a portal at the heart of a breath, anything at all that could be a clue to locating the familiar facial structures he was comfortable with.

They were on the verge of lunacy when, at last, Capoblanco stood.

“I cannot understand this man’s face,” he said. 

The crowd gasped.

“What can you do about it?” said someone.

“Nothing. I cannot understand his face. There is nothing I can do.” 



Someone else stepped forward.

“Would it help to know that prior to the accident, his face was a handsome face?”

“Such knowledge would only make me sad.”

“Perhaps that sadness could motivate you to perform a miracle?”

“It cannot.”

These two words devastated the onlookers: happily married men with robust sexual appetites and large families felt their postures collapse beneath feelings of helplessness; the traditional women’s desire to cook faded into the dust their children would now have to eat to stave off the pains of hunger; the old felt the blow in their lucidity and wandered towards death slightly; the super-literate found the space between their ears haunted by the synonyms of ugliness; the ignorant wished for deeper ignorance; the butcher felt his knives dull; the drunks feared their buzz was gone forever; and the liar saw his identity vanish, for who would bother to tell the truth now that the handsomeness was gone. 

It was time for suicide. 

Then, once again, came the fortitude of Tea Angelica. 

“What if…” she said to Capoblanco, and the crowd leaned in. “What if there were someone who could help you?” 

When the courier found him, Picasso was moonlighting on the piazza, sipping wine he didn’t have to pay for, distorting some pigeons with his fantastic mind’s eye. The courier entered gracefully (he was really a dancer unwanted at the moment by a society hungry for pornography, forced to deliver bawdy messages that circulated amongst the sexual elite). He handed Picasso a slip of paper. 

“I offer you the butters of my churning slit,” Picasso read, licking his lips. “How can I respond to this? Shall I speak of the claw of the bear in the heat of the honey’s freshness? Shall I plunge or strike to the glorious spasm?” 

With great force, he spit on the ground, a red, wine-dyed spit. The sight of it reminded him of his youth, in particular the time Hemingway bet him he couldn’t paint the seduction of a bull using only the blood of a wounded matador to capture the reds of the sunset. The Americans had never had a true appreciation for the superior traditions of his homeland, referring to his country only when seeking cheap wine and dark, lispy women. To be challenged in so mundane a way by an American buffoon had almost brought his ancestors from their tombs. Fortunately, Picasso had slept with Hemingway’s sister, resolving the matter before the Spanish winds tasted blood as the soil now tasted the spitwine of Spain’s greatest painter. 

Returning from the past, he began to prance in fuzzy, circle-like shapes around the moistened soil. His head was tilted toward the sky where the uncreative, functional forms of the pigeons annoyed his aesthetic sensibilities. It was his greatest hope to one day be God so he could undo the damage done by the original God who was clearly no genius. Whether or not that would happen, he could not say. For now, he turned from the pigeons towards the farthest star in the sky, where he found the inspiration he desired in a constellation that reminded him of tulips. 


Hearing the summons of The Master, the courier, who had hidden himself on a bench in the shadows, hopped to his feet and then leapt through the air. 

“Ha ha!” said Picasso. “I should replace you. I fear constantly that your elegant movements will destroy the virile façade I have cultivated with the women of high society. Alas, it is too late in the evening to be interviewing replacements with an erection such as this. Here!” Picasso thrust the message at the courier. “Do not misrepresent my prestige!”

The courier looked down at the sheet of paper. 

I cut your wet flower with my salty blade.

Picasso watched the courier cringe, delighted to be sending the man into the den of a woman bloated by horniness to a point near evil with a message that could push her lust to dangerous places. But after the cringe, the dancer remained, and the joy Picasso felt faded to impatience. 

“What are you waiting for?” he barked. 

The courier jumped and, without another look, fled the piazza. Picasso, amused once more, withdrew into the arms of the wine-filled evening to nurture his inflamed libido. 

It usually took the French madam an hour or so to respond to The Master’s messages from her summer villa on the Great Verandas of Spain. When a courier appeared on the piazza looking for him after only twenty minutes had passed, Picasso was surprised and/or drunk enough to knock over a free bottle of wine, spilling it on the cobblestones where the detested pigeons quickly developed drinking problems. 

His dissatisfaction with the wasted wine and the happiness it brought to the horrible birds was tempered by the discovery that this was a different courier. 

“Are you the man called Picasso? The one known to some as El Maestre?” 

“Could it be that the dear madam has done what I could not and rid us of that horrible dancer?” 

“I do not know what you are speaking of, sir. I ask again, are you Master Picasso?” 

“I am he.” 

“I have a message for you, Master Picasso.” 

The new courier offered Picasso a crisp slip of paper. The Master plucked the message out of the courier’s fingers and shoved him away. He brought the slip to his nose and smelled it to excite himself. Fantasies spiraled through his head and lifted him to the tips of his toes. Then he opened the note and read: 

“Terrible things have happened. Your expertise is required to set right the unhinging of our world. Please come at once.” 

Picasso sank to the flat bottoms of his feet. He turned to the courier. 

“What is this message? I do not stir at all when reading it. Tell me, who sent this?” 

“It comes from a small village to the north where the people are in great need.” 

“In need of what?” 

“Your assistance in a matter of handsomeness.” 

“A matter of handsomeness? What kind of nonsense is this?” 

“It is no nonsense, but I cannot explain it further. You must come to the village and see for yourself.” 

Picasso paused for a moment to consider this. On the one hand, he was losing his erection, which made him burn inside with the fury of a thousand angry churchgoers. On the other hand, the mysteriousness of this message suggested the potential for a great adventure, which filled him with the booziness of a hedonistic mob. 

On the other hand, the mysteriousness of this message suggested the potential for a great adventure, which filled him with the booziness of a hedonistic mob.

“Who is your patron?” he said. 

“Her name is Tea Angelica. She believes you are the only one in all the world who can help us in this time of distress.” 

“Really? In all the world? When do they wish me to come?”


“Immediately? There would be no anticipation. No foreplay. That cannot be.”

“Then you will not come?”

Picasso smiled. The fiery fury of the churchgoers had been extinguished by the indiscriminate urination of the hedonistic mob. 

“Oh,” he said, “I will come. But first, the people of this village must hunger for me. Let them know I have heard their desire. Tell them to send their young men to the grape mines, their young women to the prayer fields, for tonight, and into the foreseeable future, Picasso lounges in preparation!” 

On the day Picasso arrived in the town, the clouds were pretending they were things that did not belong high up in the sky. Beneath those unwed pregnant women with sad faces and a parade of lazy elephants and chickens, children threw gooey balls of mud at the thorn-marked face of a man who was tied to a pole at the center of the village. They were surrounded by a magnificent festival in which the people of the village welcomed Picasso with pies and de-thorned roses and songs about him conquering the 20th century with his bold Spanish vision.

Picasso took it in with the five senses possessed by ordinary men and the sixth sense that is known only to people who are as famous as he. He was impressed by this village’s willingness to love him so enormously, but he still wasn’t sure why he was there. 

The mayor of the village, Don Efram Delsueño, stood next to Picasso, smiling. He did not want to smile—the tragedy that had brought this celebration upon them loomed over him—but neither he nor the villagers could afford to scare Picasso with their gloom. 

“Master Picasso,” he said, “what do you think of our village?” 

“It is small and dusty, but your women wear the dirt well.”

“Yes. Our women are special. They are the ones who baked the pies and de-thorned the roses, and it was one of them who had the insight to ask for your assistance when the rest of us were ready to climb into the mouth of despair and succumb.” 

“Things do not seem that bad. This is a fine celebration. All of the people are in good spirits.” 

“They celebrate the return of hope.” 

“I once tried to paint hope. I found it to be unpaintable. When it is abstract, it is meaningless, and when it is not, it is ugly. I have been forced to live ever since with the shame of trying, which is why I feel compelled to ask you: where is the wine?” 

The mayor waved his hand in the direction of a young man who was leaning against a building. Immediately, that young man rushed towards them with two bottles of wine. Picasso took the wine from him and began to drink directly from one of the bottles. 

“So tell me, Don Efram,” he said, “who is that man being humiliated by the children in the center of town?” 

“He is the destroyer of handsomeness.” 

“The destroyer of handsomeness? What do you mean?” 

“He is the one who built the device that took our handsomeness from us.”

“Why did he do that?”

“We do not care why. Our handsomeness is gone. That is what concerns us.”

“Why is this handsomeness so important?” 

“The handsomeness is how we are sure that we are known to God. Only the presence of such a thing in a town like this can show us that we have God’s attention.” 

“I see.”

“I hear the doubt in your words, El Maestre, but look around you. All of these people have been touched by God through the handsomeness that has been bestowed upon us. Let me show you. Josephina! Come here and tell Master Picasso your tale.”

A woman who was eating pie with her hands leapt from a wooden stool and approached them. 

“Thank you so much, El Maestre, for coming to this village,” she said. “It is a beautiful village. In all of Spain, it has no equal.”

“I do not yet mean any disrespect to this village,” Picasso interrupted, “but have you seen all of Spain?” 

“In a way. I was not born here. I come from the western coasts, where I was the daughter of a fisherman who had no need for a child that couldn’t see. My parents sold me to a band of travelling scoundrels who used me as a beggar. I roamed with them across the country, begging for alms, abusing the compassion of Spain’s fine citizenry. 

“One day, after many years of wandering, we came to this village. As usual, I was sent out to beg. Knowing no better, I stumbled through these streets, tugging on everyone’s heartstrings until I came upon Alberto. I was an ignorant, young, blind girl, El Maestre. How could I know that he was not like other men? These scoundrels never spoke of God or miracles. I knew nothing of these things. And yet, that did not matter. When my apathetic eyes looked upon his handsomeness for the first time, they found a reason to see. In a single instant, Alberto’s handsomeness took away my blindness and freed me from bondage!” 

A crowd of people, the entire village actually, had formed a circle around the three of them while Josephina had been speaking. The recollection of handsomeness had pulled upon them, and now, at the end of the story, they exploded with wild, frantic applause and crude, animal-like noises. 

The commotion agitated Picasso, who was unsure if he should be jealous of the attention or run for his life. Before he had to choose, Don Efram held up his hand and quelled the uproar. 

Then, from out of the crowd, another man stepped forward. 

“My name is Valencio. I am honored to be so close to you, El Maestre. I too have a story about the handsomeness. 

“Unlike Josephina, I have always lived in this town, farming the lands. Like my father and his father before him, back to the beginning of this village, I have grown tomatoes. Big, beautiful tomatoes. Every spring, I would plant my tomatoes, and every summer, I would harvest them. I loved the land and it loved me back. 

“But then some strange curse laid itself upon my fields. In the spring, I planted the seeds, but in the summer, there was nothing to harvest. My tomatoes would not ripen. They would grow and grow with such fervor until they were the size of my heart, but before they turned from green to red, they would give up and die like cowards. I did not know what to do. All I could think was that it was an unfortunate season, so I waited till the next season, but again, the same, and then also in the season after that. 

“I was terrified. I tried everything I could think of to give courage to my tomatoes. I sprinkled them with bull’s blood. I made love to my wife in front of them. I read to them from The Quixote. Nothing worked. I was desperate. If the season came and went with no tomatoes, I would lose my land. 

“It was in my darkest hour that Alberto came to visit my fields. He came right at the peak of the season. The tomatoes were big and green. He smiled at me and told me that everything was going to be all right. Then he looked at the tomatoes and gave them a wink, and all at once, they blushed and fell from the vines, ripe and delicious! Ever since, my fields have produced nothing but the finest tomatoes you have ever eaten. Ask anyone.”

Then he looked at the tomatoes and gave them a wink, and all at once, they blushed and fell from the vines, ripe and delicious!

“He does not lie!” screamed someone from the crowd. “You can taste the handsomeness in their juices!”

“Yes. Yes. This is what his handsomeness has done!” screamed another.

“And that’s not all,” shouted a third. “Handsomeness made it rain when I was thirsty!” 

“Yes yes! And it saved my son from the wolves!”

“It also cured my hiccups!”

“It gave me syphilis … and then cured it!” 

“It healed my arm of the bite of a dog!”

“It dispelled the evil spirit inhabiting my dog.”

“It returned the spirit of my mother-in-law to her grave!”

The reminiscence of handsomeness was a force in this village. Every person had a story they were compelled to share, which was a giant hassle for Picasso, who, as they went on and on and on, was compensating for his lack of interest with chugs of wine. He was a fantastic lush, but the wine’s strong argument for unconsciousness was destined to get the best of him.

Fortunately, the mayor interceded once more. With another gesture of his hand, he commanded silence.

“You see,” he said, turning to Picasso. “This is what the handsomeness means to us.” 

“Okay. Okay. The Master understands,” Picasso replied, truly, deeply, amazingly afraid the crowd would start talking again. “Handsomeness is important to you. But I still do not understand why you have brought me here.” 

Tea Angelica stepped forward. 

“Perhaps, then, it is time that we show you. I am Tea Angelica. Please, come with me.” 

Tea Angelica lead Picasso away from the commotion at the center of the village, towards the currently deserted portions of the town. The farther they went into these darker places, the more uncomfortable Picasso became; he was certain that loneliness would jump from the shadows at any moment and mug him of his dignity. 

Eventually, Tea Angelica turned down a lightless alleyway so fraught with desperation, Picasso almost threw up on his shoes. 

“It’s this way,” she said. 

Picasso looked to the end of the alley, where he saw a barely visible door. 

“We keep him in there.” Tea Angelica continued towards the door. “Far from any mirrors and constantly drunk to the point of unconsciousness.” 



“The one with the handsomeness?” 

“That was how it once was,” she said, opening the door and then igniting a match. She began to light a series of candles in the room, revealing a bed in its center occupied by a man whose face was covered with a pair of ladies underwear that one of the village’s inconsolable women had donated to the cause. 

When the last candle was lit, Tea Angelica approached the man and then looked compassionately at El Maestre. 

“What you are about to see gives us nightmares. You have been warned.”

Even in his nightmares, Picasso was marvelous, so he wasn’t concerned, though he was a little worried that he’d be disappointed, and he hated disappointment. He once chopped down a tree on his property because the tree had appeared in his dreams like it was going to symbolize something important and then meant nothing. If things here turned out to be trivial or boring, he was going to accidentally burn down part of the village before he left. 

He once chopped down a tree on his property because the tree had appeared in his dreams like it was going to symbolize something important and then meant nothing.

Tea Angelica slid the underwear off Alberto’s face. 

“Do you see?” she said. 

Picasso’s eyes widened.

“Do I see? It’s wonderful. It seems God has finally done something right. Did you bring me here to paint this?”

“We brought you here to fix it.”

“Fix what?” 

“This man used to be handsome.”

“And now he is spectacular! This is an upgrade.”

“The people of this village do not feel this way.”

“The people of this village are fools.”

“How can you say such things? Do you know nothing of the handsomeness? Were you not listening to all the miracle stories? At the heart of every one of those stories is the now vanished handsomeness of this man. It must be restored. You will help us do this.” 

“Why would I want to do that? I like the way his face is now.” 

“We did not bring you here to admire the disease. You are the cure. You must do this for us.”

“Why? Why must I? What do I gain if his handsomeness returns?”

“If you do this, you will be a hero.”

“A hero? Why would I want to be a hero?”

“When you are a hero, all the women will love you.” 

“All the women love me already.” 

“Not all of them. You are a painter. To the blind women, you are less than an ordinary man who makes them breakfast.” 

“And if I’m a hero…” 

“If you are a hero, even blind women will love you. And blind men. And people so poor they cannot afford to talk about art. They will love the hero Picasso. They will tell stories of you to their poor children when those children are sick, and then those children will sleep and see you in their feverish dreams and wake up feeling refreshed. 

“That is how it is when you become a hero. You’re more than a man. You are medicine. You are strength. Dying bullfighters will remember you and return to their feet and ride the bull to the afterlife. Those who are struck by lightning will think they saw you, telling them to duck. When famine strikes, people will survive on salt and the mention of your name. 

“Surely this appeals to you, El Maestre. You do not seem like a man who wishes to be a mere artist forever, living only in the hearts and minds of the people. Become a hero and you will live in their blood, you will run through their veins! They will see you when they look at the clouds. They will look in the mirror and wish they saw you. They will think of you, and in their minds, your muscles will be bigger. They will call out your name during sex. They will love you like a nun loves God, and when you are dead, they will name their dogs after you!” 

Picasso held up his hand to stop Tea Angelica from continuing. It was fantasy time, and in his mind’s eye sick children dreamt of his big muscular self hovering in the clouds during an electrical storm while, beneath him, nuns made love to dying matadors, calling out his name, summoning hundreds of dogs from the barren countryside. 56 57 

“Picasso the hero,” he said, “When that Dali fellow hears of this, he will be driven by envy into the hospitals looking for a melted face over which to reign with his expertise! Tea Angelica, I will do as you request.” 

The next morning, Tea Angelica took Picasso to the operatory of Capoblanco. Seven distinguished-looking gentlemen were waiting for them when they arrived, each dressed for surgery. 

“Good morning, compadres,” said Picasso. “This is going to be fabulous!” Turning to Tea Angelica he said, “Who are these men?”

Before she could answer, Capoblanco stepped forward.

“I am Capoblanco,” he said. “Welcome to my operatory. We are the doctors who hope to restore this man’s handsomeness.” 

All of you are doctors?”

“Yes, El Maestre.”

“If you are all doctors, what do you need me for?” 

“You must explain his face to us.”

“Explain his face?” 

“We are doctors, Master Picasso. We know bones, we know muscles. We do not know why both eyes would try to fit themselves to one tiny side of a face. And what is his nose doing there? Why would he want to smell his own eyeballs? When we look into the face of this man, everything about who we are is questioned. We become frozen, unable to doctor, unable to revive even the slightest piece of the handsomeness that once thrived there.”

“Have you considered that such a thing might be good for you?”

“Good for us? How is it good for anyone that we are unable to restore the world to its handsomest state?” 

“Perhaps there is more to be found in the unraveling of your world than in the restoring of it.” 

One of the other doctors entered the conversation. 

“We are not interested in your perverse artistic philosophies. We are real men, and real men seek truth in action. That something interferes with this principle is the only reason you are here. Either help us to act, or return to your infamy in silence!” 

Picasso slapped the doctor in the face, knocking the man back several feet. The blow reverberated through all the other doctors. The Master watched the phony courage in their eyes turn into the fear of ridicule that had been hidden behind it. 

“If I was not your only hope,” he said, “you would have left me in my piazzas, stroking the delight of my mistresses through a haze of free wine. But I am here, which means you need me. I alone hold the secret to the return of handsomeness, and I will be respected. 

“Now, I ask you, do you want me to explain this face to you or not?” 

The doctors were stunned by the brazenness of a man who talked to them like they couldn’t remove his liver any time they wanted to. Ever since the day they’d discovered firsthand that ordinary men are full of soft, squishy things, these men had thought themselves unassailable, but now they found themselves unable to even squeak. 

The doctors were stunned by the brazenness of a man who talked to them like they couldn’t remove his liver any time they wanted to.

Capoblanco, having developed some humility treating injuries in the fruit fields, finally answered for them. 

“We offer our apologies, Master Picasso. Please, continue as you see fit.” 

“Thank you, Capoblanco. This is a simple matter. What you are seeing in that face is your own madness. Your own addiction to a world that is limited by a narrow definition of what makes sense to you. There is no trouble in understanding that face. It is the face of truth and you do not like it. Let us look more closely. 

“First, the eyes. Why should they baffle you? The world is full of terrifying things. What knows that more than the eyes? Is it so strange that they would want to be close to each other for comfort, for consolation? Look at how you all stand, huddled together in one small portion of a room when there are many other places you could be occupying.”

The doctors examined their proximity to each other and found themselves close enough to perform surgery on one another. This represented an intolerable vulnerability, worse than nudity, worse than loving a woman who was smarter than them. They shuffled about the room, separating to inoperable distances, each of them pretending they were trying to get a better view. 

Picasso continued: 

“And now the nose. All its life, it has been surrounded by the eyes and mouth, trapped there. As the eyes have moved, the nose is finally free to explore the rest of the face. Smelling the eyeballs is nothing more than an exercise of its newfound liberty. That it reminds you of how you once dared to try strange and unusual things unsettles you. In that reminiscence, there are hints of the prison that you have put yourselves in. Do you see? 

“Do you see how simple it is? Do you see that it is not the face but your fear of facing it? Are you following me so far? Shall I continue?” 

The doctors nodded unanimously, so Picasso moved forward with the explanation, addressing in this order: the mouth and its desire to chew from different angles, the unconsidered feelings of the ultimately shy cheekbones, the jealousy of the ears and the wish they’ve had since puberty to be more like the sex organs, the usually-denied undeniable necessity of the eyebrows’ weirdness, and so on. For nearly an hour, he showed the doctors a new version of the world that was older than the oldest of faces. When, at last, he reached the crossroads of sobriety and nothing new to say, he paused for a moment to love and hate the perplexity of his audience. 

“Is it clear yet?” he said. “Have I explained this face enough?” 

No one answered. In fact, the doctors didn’t move at all. After several moments of this, Picasso began to think about how much it would hurt his hand if he had to slap every one of them in the face. 

Then, without warning, one of the doctors issued a strange battle cry, pulled out a scalpel, and leapt at Alberto’s face. The sound and commotion dispelled the shock of the other doctors, who, one by one, issued their own battle cries before leaping into the surgery, scalpels blazing in the light. 

The sudden transformation of the doctors frightened Tea Angelica out of her corner to seek comfort in the aura of Picasso like a terrified eyeball. He took her hand in his. 

“These men,” he said, “have looked deep into themselves, found nothing, and were destroyed. What has returned from that wreckage is a newness without a name, a force that is wild, free and ill-mannered. From this point forward, they will live without regret as they cure the world of its hideous boredoms. This is wonderful. Don’t you agree?” 

Tea Angelica constructed a response, but the words lost faith in themselves and disbanded before they could reach her mouth. In silence, she clung to El Maestre and her belief that he represented her only hope for survival in a world full of hyper-intellectual lunatics who liked to dissect things. Picasso allowed this, and together they spent the day, she wrecked by terror, and he looking on with pride as the reborn doctors butchered the face back to handsomeness. 

Several months would pass before the bandages were removed and the world was once more aglow with the mystical handsomeness of Alberto. In the interim, the birds of Spain continued to sing their songs, offering hope to the villagers and/or praise to the mighty Picasso, who had returned to his piazzas and scandalous flirtations with a variety of mistresses whose numbers now included the blind. 

He had also acquired the new distraction of pestering the local nuns with questions about how they loved God. The nuns had originally thought Picasso had an interest in discovering his own connection to the Lord, but several inappropriate questions dispelled their illusions, making it increasingly difficult for him to find nuns who would talk to him, even when he faked a terminal illness or sincere desire for repentance. 

That was why he was sitting three bottles deep at a table on the piazza writing a somewhat threatening letter to a nun he thought he could break when a pigeon shit on his head. Instantly, Picasso flared into action, wielding his mind’s eye as a saber with which he cut the offending bird into tiny little abstract fragments of its once boring self. He was so busy exacting his revenge that he did not notice the courier who suddenly appeared next to him.

“Master Picasso?”

“That is me,” he said without taking his eyes off the pigeon. 

“I have a message for you.”

El Maestre pulled his attention away from the bird, allowing it a temporary reprieve from his beautiful vengeance. He did not recognize the courier who stood before him as belonging to any of his sex-crazed madams. The Master’s anger faded into soft curiosity. 

“Who is it from?”

“It is from a village in the south.”

“A village in the south? Let me see it.”

Picasso tore the paper out of the courier’s hands with an impatience that would have taken any other man more than a few seconds to develop, and though the message was now in his possession, he did not sniff it. This was a different kind of message, a new kind of message, and it created a new kind of excitement that sent the blood to other places. 

“Something awful has happened to a piano,” he read. “Our world has shattered. Please come at once.” 

El Maestre’s purpled teeth practically leapt from behind his lips and a smile overtook his face. He was once more being summoned to reveal his greatness to those in need. The nuns and his mistresses would have to accept a certain amount of patience into their lives, adjusting out of necessity to the new Picasso. For him, a thousand adventures were waiting in ambush, hoping to kidnap and exploit his incredible attributes, and so long as the grapes of the world continued to turn to wine beneath the feet of lesser men, he would be ready.

“Picasso to the Rescue” by Philip Jason appeared in Issue 37 of Berkeley Fiction Review.

Philip Jason’s stories can be found in magazines such as Prairie Schooner, The Pinch, Mid-American Review, Ninth Letter, and Sou’wester. He also has poetry out or forthcoming in Spillway, Lake Effect, Canary, and Summerset Review.

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