Brave Girl is made of bronze.

Standing about five feet tall, she might as well rise fourteen stories. With chin held high, she leans forward defiantly, her hair pulled back in a tight ponytail and skirt gently rustled by a jaded zephyr. Her slender frame the Platonic form of struggle—of resistance in the face of the Charging Bull. It’s in her mighty shadows I’ve chosen to curl; to simultaneously hide and face my shame.

“After all this time, this is where I find you?” Camera two panned away from Sophia.

Hair and makeup snuck in a couple tears from an eye dropper, deftly, making sure they ran from the inner corner of the eye and not the outer.

July means it’s hot outside. There aren’t many extras.

Passerby walk along totally unmoved, staring down LED lit prayer books inlaid over small flowers cracking concrete, cigarette butts and black-tar wads of bubblegum. All this commotion and discord, but I can’t take my eyes off Brave Girl. Keep waiting for a wink, a smirk, something that signals, “It’s okay, you can stop now. You can let go of me.”

I brought a wash rag. A toothbrush, and a red solo cup containing a solution of water mixed with baking soda and lemon juice. Nobody but me thinks to give her a good bath, scrub her down—get the bird shit, car exhaust, and stink of this godforsaken city off her.

Sophia delivers a line I don’t hear, hoists the baby into the Björn.

The exaggerated motion of the act is supposed to leave me feeling personally attacked. Injured. The net effect of the moment is another busted take, though. Undaunted, I carry on; return to my pallet and papyrus with an unwavering sense of duty.

“Are you with the city?” a concerned middle-aged woman asked me the other day. “Are you with the parks department?” Apparently she hadn’t read the script. Must’ve thought my purposes here with Brave Girl were indecent, somehow impure. And I’ll be honest, the urge to brain this box-wine-Becky was there, but I let her go. My frontal lobes are able to dampen the impulses my amygdala and brain stem fire off, so nobody’s going to get hurt. Rest at ease on that front. Besides, this woman would die alone someday. A feline named Franzia would have access to her body, and with a couple of days to dig, the animal would fulfill its purpose in life. Boring through one of her eyeballs and hollowing out the socket wouldn’t be as hard as you think, especially not for a motivated house cat. The parasites have Franzia by the brain stem, too. They will live on.

But we’re not here to talk about them. Not the parasites or their hosts. The script says we’re here to talk about Sophia and the baby, but Brave Girl has other ideas, wants to talk about what she limns, something about a return to that which is ineffable. Something about a great and ongoing struggle against the Bull, a struggle for hearts and minds, for spiritual sway over the few and far between who haven’t been homogenized into the great spiritual void of our day—atomized into the mass schizophrenia we all share—beset by thought-germs bouncing off cellphone towers.

ELF waves. Microwaves.

We’re talking about madness, folks. Mind viruses, of the organic and inorganic variety. If you or a loved one you know has been diagnosed with toxoplasmosis, you may be entitled to spiritual compensation. Toxoplasmosis is an infectious disease linked to American pop culture exposure. Please don’t wait, call…apologies.

These memes rolling and ringing through me are not always soft and sweet.

“What is wrong with you, Marcus? Why are you here doing this?” The script calls for Sophia to stare at my feet in complete horror while delivering this line, and for me to set down my quill pen and yellow legal pad, to engage, bleat a line, but I respond instead with nothing but a dip of my washrag in the cup, the wringing out of the excess, the beads of milky moisture tap-tap-tapping the pavement.

“Look at me, Marcus. My hair looks like shit, my body is straight up National Geographic, and I haven’t slept more than two consecutive hours since God knows when. And not a word from you all this time. Not one fucking peep. Why? I think I’m entitled to know the story here.”

“Story,” she says. Fair enough. We’ve got yarn enough to spin. Cut.


This is an excerpt from Max Lethe’s new novella, Memecoming this Friday from Terror House Press.