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Flash Reprint: Erik Wennermark’s GILBERT GLAVEL

Gilbert Glavel

by Erik Wen­ner­mark

Gilbert Glavel was a deviant homo­sex­ual pornog­ra­pher. He was a play­boy poet fop. Like Jesus Christ, he com­mit­ted sui­cide at the age of 33. In time, it came to be con­sid­ered a “meta­phys­i­cal work.” The por­trait of Gilbert Glavel, painted by a Futur­ist mas­ter, hangs in the Kün­stler­haus Wien, dis­played in its gilded frame next to a lesser De Chirico. In the pic­ture, Gilbert Glavel holds a small scythe close to his breast; behind him are the twi­light sug­ges­tions of a deep cave lit dull ochre by the light of a wan­ing moon. The care­ful viewer notes Gilbert Glavel in the act of fixed prepa­ra­tion: he will enter the cave to har­vest the nests of the spar­rows that nest within. Climb­ing ropes flung around knobby out­crop­pings with the scythe clasped firm in his teeth, sweep­ing the nests from the east then west walls with lazy pre­ci­sion and plac­ing them into a silk case attached to his calf­skin belt with a ruby-encrusted gold clip. Then, dust­ing the dust from his vel­vet breeches, rear­rang­ing his cra­vat and straight­en­ing his top­coat, he pilots his han­som to Zürich’s small Chi­na­town and sells the nests, a rare and much desired del­i­cacy, for large sums of money or passes them in trade for equally large amounts of opium, a sub­stance to which Gilbert Glavel is hope­lessly addicted. Enter­ing the opium den, falling into the uter­ine cush­ions, the long pipe sway­ing from his mouth to the lilt­ing bob of his head, black-toothed boys dressed only in tall felt hats mas­sage his hands and feet as the smoke plumes from his open mouth into the webbed cor­ners of the bro­ken hos­pice. Some hours later tak­ing crude daguerreo­types of the same boys cavort­ing in all man­ners of antic horse­play to sell to cramped civil ser­vants or be used in ser­vice of elab­o­rate schemes. Given the proper black-toothed boy and the req­ui­site blank com­pany, Gilbert Glavel for­goes the pruri­ent rep­re­sen­ta­tion and instead, with uncom­mon swift­ness, sinks the scythe deep into the boy’s neck and watches the blood cas­cade from the boy’s angled veins into a wooden bucket Gilbert Glavel places to catch the blood and, as the flow tem­pers, washes his hands in the blood of the still sput­ter­ing black-toothed boy; the rem­nant liters then alchem­i­cally turned into a highly-prized facial cream that Gilbert Glavel pro­vides to matrons of Swiss and Aus­trian soci­ety. His hands are remark­ably smooth. The well-placed matrons pro­vid­ing Gilbert Glavel with a sim­i­larly valu­able com­mod­ity: the drunken rants of equally well-placed hus­bands or the pil­low talk of worse-placed lovers. A repos­i­tory of poten­tial intrigue that Gilbert Glavel finds unmatched, and one that allows his own tacks a tidal secu­rity. He takes advan­tage of this good for­tune to numer­ous effect, most enjoy­ably earn­ing the rank of Viceroy of Hin­dus­tan where Gilbert Glavel per­forms sim­i­lar devo­tional acts with sim­i­lar down­trod­den boys, mak­ing pro­vi­sions for the maharajah’s wife gratis. Upon his return to the con­ti­nent at the age of 31, hav­ing recov­ered from a bout of cholera that leaves him infirm for some many months in an unend­ing hal­lu­ci­na­tion not dis­sim­i­lar to the more sin­is­ter branch in the oeu­vre of Hierony­mus Bosch–a delight­ful tidbit–Gilbert Glavel removes him­self from the increas­ingly tire­some world of Euro­pean aris­toc­racy and enters instead into pur­suit of his new life’s mission–during his con­va­les­cence he had been called in a vision; it was the angel Gabriel–by begin­ning the com­po­si­tion of a book of mys­ti­cal insights in the Sufi tra­di­tion. These he has directly expe­ri­enced with var­ied imbibe­ments and ill­nesses and var­ied designs of men and boys, devot­ing him­self exclu­sively to this act aside from the occa­sional visit to his tai­lor or the caves for nests to trade for opium which, while trav­el­ing in the Kash­mir among the prince’s ret­inue, he learns to refine into heroin that he injects intra­venously into his feet, unwill­ing to leave an impure trace or dis­col­oration upon his china arms or swan soft neck. Upon con­clu­sion of his mes­sianic tome, he promptly eats it, page by page, with the accom­pa­ni­ment of a delight­ful brandy given to him by a pasha in Con­stan­tino­ple in exchange for his discretion–the pasha a fruit of noto­ri­ous appetite–a pact that he kept–and then slowly undresses and begins a course of vig­or­ous exer­cise, vom­it­ing the undi­gested pages onto the walls and floor, where they are later dis­cov­ered and reassem­bled by the famed con­ser­va­tor Adolf Baer, a fas­tid­i­ous man well up to the task. Not but an hour on, Gilbert Glavel leaps from the roof of his high­est bal­conies, still naked, a hemp cord fixed around his pre­vi­ously unblem­ished neck in his ulti­mate act of auto-erotic asphyx­i­a­tion. On the anniver­sary of his death–a hol­i­day for some–the school­child­ren of Zürich stand guard his tomb and recite his verse in unison. Often, at the sound of their cho­rus, old matrons weep fit­fully.



Note: First pub­lished by Kitty Snacks No. 4.


Author’s Note

I wrote “Gilbert Glavel” after going through an old note­book I kept when I interned at the Peggy Guggen­heim Col­lec­tion, an art museum in Venice, Italy. In the note­book, I had sketched a rough approx­i­ma­tion of a rather abstract por­trait I saw in a gallery of a man named Gilbert Glavel. The story fol­lowed quickly there­after.


wennermark.jpgErik Wen­ner­mark lives and writes in Hong Kong, a cacoph­ony of thread­bare vel­vet, com­bat umbrel­las, Miche­lin stars, and domes­tic cages; Gilbert Glavel would fit right in. Fol­low Erik on Twit­ter @erikwmark.


FF.Net Edi­tor Com­men­tary (Ran­dall Brown) 

Gilbert Glavel. That name appears thir­teen (13) times in this short piece. A pro­noun replaces the name, yes, but the name returns, again and again. I often use a name at the begin­ning and never return to it, but I like the effect of the rep­e­ti­tion. I like the con­so­nance, too, those repeated “G” and “L” sounds. 

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