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Flash Reprint: Mark Budman’s “Equilateral Triangle”

Equi­lat­eral Tri­an­gle

Mark Bud­man


When the world’s sec­ond-best-look­ing woman wanted to kiss him, he stepped back, pro­ject­ing indig­na­tion with the mas­tery of a B-movie actor. As the hus­band of the world’s best-look­ing woman, Josh could afford to be choosy.

“I’m not look­ing for romance out­side of mar­riage,” he said.

The world’s sec­ond-best-look­ing woman pouted. She was younger than Josh’s wife by nine months and only a tad plainer. Her eyes were less sparkly and the waist-to-hip ratio a bit higher.

She had been fol­low­ing him around for the last two weeks, relent­lessly, like a female mos­quito. He guessed he either smelled good or had a rare blood type.

“Women like me,” he thought. “It’s used to be a bless­ing, but now it’s a curse.”

He didn’t remem­ber if he came up with this line by him­self, or if he found it in Bartlett’s Famil­iar Quo­ta­tions.

He blew her a kiss. She flipped him the bird. That was when he decided to visit Israel because he also felt under siege, and because his father was born again, and his mother was half Jew­ish, and Josh thought that Israel got unfair treat­ment and needed his sup­port, moral and finan­cial, and that his life sucked, and his boss stunk and he had to get away from it all.

Josh took off from work, told his wife that he had a busi­ness trip, told the sec­ond-best-look­ing woman that he would be unavail­able, not now, not ever, and bought a ticket on Delta because he always bought Amer­i­can and because Delta was the cheap­est direct con­nec­tion.
“What hol­i­day will you be cel­e­brat­ing soon, Mr. St. John?” the secu­rity girl asked him before the board­ing. He guessed that was pro­fil­ing.

“My divorce.”

He was kid­ding. He didn’t plan any divorce because his wife was beyond reproach, but the sec­ond-best woman wasn’t. Why bother?

On the plane, Josh sat between a man who knew every­thing about planes and was bent on shar­ing his knowl­edge with him and another man who was about 50% wider than Josh and kept invad­ing his space with his shoul­ders and sour breath.

The wide man awoke just before the land­ing and said, “in Jerusalem, three reli­gions observe a cold peace.”

He actu­ally said Jew-rusalem. What hol­i­day would he be cel­e­brat­ing? The Inter­na­tional Ice Cream for Break­fast day?

Josh took a shut­tle from Ben Gurion air­port. The shut­tle was sherut in Hebrew. The plu­ral form of sherut in trans­la­tion meant bath­room. Was it a hid­den mes­sage?

In Jerusalem, every­thing was brown stone and gold except the blue-and-white dec­o­ra­tions of the Israeli flag. Kids and men in black released bal­loons and danced. Sol­diers, Pales­tini­ans and tourists looked on. At least they looked Pales­tinian to Josh. They could have been Sicil­ians from Brook­lyn.

Many women were sur­pris­ingly blonde. Many bat­ted their eye­lashes at Josh. He guessed he looked exotic.

The news said that the Arabs wanted to break through the bor­der with Syria. No one in the crowd seemed to care. Josh’s under­stand­ing of siege men­tal­ity was itself under siege.
He prayed at the Wail­ing Wall. Since it was divided in two sec­tions, his was women-free.
The sun melted his brain and it poured through the pores of his skin, one IQ point a sec­ond. He slipped on Via Dolorosa and scraped his hand. Stig­mata, he thought, wash­ing off the blood with Jew­ish spring water. Can one get infected from stig­mata?

He checked his e-mail at the hotel. The sec­ond-best-look­ing woman sent him a mis­sive.
“Screw you,” she wrote. “You can’t get away from life until you’re dead.”

His wife also wrote, advis­ing him to stick to famil­iar dishes and spring water.

He replied to both. “In your dreams” to the first and “yes, dear,” to the sec­ond. Then he slept tucked in by an Ethiopian maid who may or may not have looked like Queen of Sheba, and dreamed that he was one of three bal­loons, white-and-blue, ris­ing in an equi­lat­eral for­ma­tion toward the over­heated sun, away from it all.

But then a mis­sile hit and he popped, spilling his rare blood all over the skies.


Note: Orig­i­nally pub­lished in Jan­u­ary 2011, Sonora Review.


Author’s Note

I’ve been fas­ci­nated with the fate of the peo­ple who unbe­knownst to them made a dis­cov­ery of some­thing that had already been dis­cov­ered. Call them the sec­ond best inven­tors, the geniuses of the infe­rior rank. Same goes for the looks. Many newly weds con­sider their spouses the best-look­ing peo­ple in the world. But what about the sec­ond best? Who would love them? They can’t stay unloved only because they are a tad plainer. Worse yet, what if they both love you? If you are fas­ci­nated with the ques­tion like that, where do you go for an answer? To a guru on a high moun­tain? To the Wail­ing Wall? Or maybe you just try googling? Some­one who is a bit more proac­tive, might not like the third answer.


MarkBudman.jpgMark Bud­man was born in the for­mer Soviet Union. His fic­tion and non-fic­tion writ­ing has appeared or is about to appear in such mag­a­zi­nes as Amer­i­can Scholar, Huff­in­g­ton Post, World Lit­er­a­ture Today, Daily Sci­ence Fic­tion, Mis­sis­sippi Review, Vir­ginia Quar­terly, The Lon­don Mag­a­zine (UK), McSweeney’s, Sonora Review, Another Chicago, Sou’wester, South­east Review, Mid-Amer­i­can Review, Painted Bride Quar­terly, the W.W. Nor­ton anthol­ogy Flash Fic­tion For­ward, Not Quite What I Was Plan­ning: Six-Word Mem­oirs by Writ­ers Famous and Obscure, Short Fic­tion (UK), and else­where. He is the pub­lisher of the flash fic­tion mag­a­zine Vestal Review. His novel My Life at First Try was pub­lished by Coun­ter­point Press to wide crit­i­cal acclaim. He has co-edited flash fic­tion antholo­gies from Ooli­gan Press and Persea Books/Norton. He is at work on a novel about Lenin run­ning for pres­i­dent of the United States.


FF.Net Edi­tor Com­men­tary (Ran­dall Brown) 

It begins with a kiss that leads to where kisses can some­times lead: a dis­play of fire­works. Actu­ally it begins with equi­lat­eral tri­an­gle, a tri­an­gle with three equal sides: Josh and the two women, the three reli­gions, father-mother-son, the three men on the plane. The story moves quickly from word-to-word, idea-to-idea, place to place, con­tin­u­ally turn­ing, from Josh-as-a-bal­loon to his pop­ping and spilling his rare blood all over the skies. It con­tin­u­ally sur­prises. What to make of it? There’s this:

The mean­ing of the Equi­lat­eral Tri­an­gle is dis­tinct from the Tri­an­gle of Pythago­ras, which is dis­cussed else­where. The Equi­lat­eral Tri­an­gle is often closely asso­ci­ated, with the City of Jerusalem, which holds a promi­nent place in Judaism, Chris­tian­ity and Islam. The Equi­lat­eral Tri­an­gle is espe­cially asso­ci­ated with this loca­tion because the form of the 60° angle can be derived from the speci­fic lat­i­tude of Jerusalem. When the sun­rise is observed on the Sum­mer Sol­stice and Win­ter Sol­stice, the result­ing angle is of exactly 60°. This is a very ancient way of iden­ti­fy­ing a place by the behav­ior of the Sun and can be traced at least back to Pale­olithic Britain, and per­haps fur­ther. This prop­erty gives the Equi­lat­eral Tri­an­gle spe­cial mean­ing to the tra­di­tions to which Jerusalem is impor­tant, includ­ing Islam, Judaism and Chris­tian­ity. In this way, both the Equi­lat­eral Tri­an­gle and the Six Pointed Star are inte­grally related to Jerusalem, and any place with that lat­i­tude, by celes­tial geom­e­try. It might inter­est the reader to know that the name Jerusalem is an ancient name mean­ing lit­er­ally ‘City of Venus’.” (from William Stephen Jackson’s Lec­tures on the Eso­teric Sym­bol­ogy). Now do you under­stand?

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