Is an editor in Madison, Wisconsin. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in The Iowa Review,
Quarterly West, Rosebud, Stand, Other Voices, Clackamas
Literary Review, Locus Novus, The Paumanok Review, The Wisconsin Review, The Barcelona Review, Cross Connect, Suspect Thoughts, Absinthe and others.

 

Charlie Chaplin


In retrospect, it must have been the moustaches.

Until I was seven, I thought Hitler was the funniest man
ever to appear onscreen. I could never understand why
everyone said such awful things about him. He was impish
and charming in his baggy trousers and derby hat. A
fearless and acrobatic rollerskater. I adored his penguin
walk. His omnipresent cane twirling at the sun. And the
nonchalant way he could eat a boiled shoe--well, it was
delightful. Just as his autobiographical film professed,
he was a Great Dictator, everything a child could want in a
world leader. Yet, whenever I professed my admiration for
him, my mother would kiss me with the back of her hand. Of
course, since she knew almost nothing of politics, I
disregarded her opinion.

One day, in history class, our teacher showed us a short
filmstrip about Hitler. I grimaced at his appearance. He
had really let himself go in his later years. Gone were
his sparkling eyes, his dusty grace. He was speaking
German, too, which was considerably less amusing than his
pantomime. I assumed this was the reason why the public
had turned on him.

Soon after, when I was not quite eight, I discovered W. C.
Fields, the truly funniest of men, and forgot all about
Hitler for awhile. My mother seemed very relieved.

(First published in Failbetter)

Edward G. Robinson

Soylent Green made me a vegetarian, but not for the obvious reasons, not because of those crazy fucking wafers. No, it was the scene when Sol Roth--desiccated, frail, liverspotted--cooks Heston a steak dinner. Sweet little Sol Roth (Edward G. minus his menace, his mad strut) smacking his bloated lips at the sight of meat. That mouth, parched of blood, that enormous aching hole, dry from the heat and the many fleshless years, straining to work up a slaver, a perverted sound of moving lips longing to kiss something dead. Edward G. and Heston share the horrors of the table and laugh and the giant mouth chews
on, like its own Hollywood monster, when suddenly Sol Roth catches himself, his gluttony before him, and he feels… ashamed. His eyes close to catch the tears and he turns to Heston to say, tenderly, "How did we come to this?"

(First published in Mississippi Review)

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Copyright © 2004 Jason DeBoer