Lito Zoken

Lito Zoken

A Story by roarke
"

if you like mimes, old fairy tales and monster gods... then this is your kinda story....

"

Lito Zoken ran like a man chased by demons. A person of his social class and position didn’t run, let alone fly down public streets devoid of decorum in ludicrous haste, but fly in haste he did. Tagging along beside him was a pack of spotted, mixed terrier mutts. They ran amok through manicured tulip gardens, chasing butterflies until their tongues flapped behind their scruffy ears. They yapped obsessively at Lito’s pant cuffs.


Heedless, Lito ran on, his pork-chop legs stretched in flying splits that disheveled his tuxedo and popped his over-starched shirt bib. His plump but dainty hands waved both his top hat and ivory handled cane as he galloped. Due to sweat-stung eyes, Lito missed an impromptu tryst between a young switchboard operator and an awkward mailroom boy, who abandoned their Chinese take-out cartons to enjoin in a lip-lock tango while firmly seated on a shadowy park bench.


At first glance to bystanders, Lito seemed dressed for a night at the theater, but that would have been an error in assumption. The truth was, he was late for his coveted mime lessons. The mime school he was a member of held their sessions in the basement of an old Italian restaurant on the outskirts of town. Lito usually dressed in formal wear to impress Sophia, the owner of the restaurant. Lito set a Mercurial pace, for if he was too late, he'd miss Sophia, who usually left the eatery shortly after the mime class started.


The mimes met at night for fear of being publicly discovered and denounced. Mimes were not considered politically correct in Lito’s small town. Sophia inherited the eatery from her late uncle Tony who actually liked mimes. She resisted the short-sighted inhibitions of her community by allowing the mimes to continue to use her restaurant’s basement for their studio. 


The subterranean schoolroom’s furnishings were scavenged by the students from curbside trash and cherry-picked from junkyards. A long table from an old saloon, with cigarette burns and knife gouges, a tattered checkered tablecloth, and two mirrors. The larger square mirror they hung on the wall above the table and a smaller, rectangular mirror was propped up against the larger mirror.  They practiced their silent craft in the naked light of a singular unshaded light bulb planted atop a curved copper tube lamp. There were three mimes, Lito, Jouga and of course the instructor. The Maestro was a Ukrainian gypsy who chose a life’s path of mentoring mimes in secret. 


Lito’s normally creamy complexion was now a tortured beet color and his silver framed monocle attached to a braided silver tether flapped wildly over his shoulder. In the course of his frantic flight, he mused about last week’s lesson in the solemn depth of the secret school.  

Lito and Jouga  had learned the mime disciplines of ‘Being silent’, ‘Walking against the wind’ and ‘Exploring the insides of an invisible box’. This particular night their master was going to demonstrate how to apply the traditional white grease paint, hallmark of their honored trade. Lito puckered and scrunched his mouth on an angle to his jaw, he didn’t want to miss this important lesson, but a strange thing had occurred earlier that had captured his curiosity, making him lose track of time.


Lito’s Grandmother -a well-to-do dowager from the old country- had often told him about a rarity when someone happened upon a porcelain citrus imp in the middle of eating a tangerine. More rare even, than winning the lottery in New Deli. She instructed him there was one stipulation for finding such an imp, and that was, you had to peel your tangerine with a wood-handled paring knife, in a spiral fashion, without breaking or cutting through the peel. One piece. It's at this moment, if there is to be such a moment, that the porcelain imp would appear in the middle of the spiral cut peel offering a tiny bottle of rare distilled spirits. When Lito’s young eyes widened, she would continue. This particular tangerine imp would be dressed in a deep crimson, full-body leotard that sported perfect pearl sequins dotted over it's surface. As if she herself had once run across such a phenomenon, she described that he’d also wear a jaunty, two-cornered paper hat from under which translucent, inkwell-blue hair curled. There would be a glassy twinkle in his small, close-set eyes and an insincere smile pinched on his face. Citrus imps don’t really like to share their distilled spirits, in fact it was rumored that their bottles hadn’t been opened in countless centuries. If the tangerine peeling conditions were met, the little fellow was bound by an ancient sorcerer’s curse to appear, willingly or not. 


Lito remembered asking his Grandmother what was so special about citrus imps and why don’t they want to share their bottle of spirits? She only replied that it was said if you stare the imp in the face and stick out your tongue, he would uncork his bottle and allow a single drop of magic ambrosia to land on your tongue’s very tip. This lone drop would bear upon the drinker a lifetime of sweet joy unspecified. Actually a more accurate description of the spirit’s effects was closer to 'a spark of the unknown'. Each man as it's said, bearing his own unique definition of treasure or burden. But that is the risk one takes when fooling with tangerine peels and citrus imps. 


Lito could still taste the bee sting sweetness on the tip of his panting tongue. If only he hadn’t stopped to snack on a tangerine, he wouldn’t be late for mime school. As his patent leather shod feet hurtled him around the last street corner, Lito spied Sophia through her restaurant’s kitchen window. 


Sophia, a stoic middle-aged maiden, liked to eat fettucini alone. She always dressed in an elegant, off-the-shoulder crinoline gown, cinched close about her waist. After regular restaurant hours, nestled in the corner of the large kitchen, she'd set a single service by first throwing a triangle pattern linen cloth over a small oak table. Next she'd place a steaming plate of pasta on the cloth, slide silverware on either side and seat herself in a spindly bistro chair. There, alone, Sophia would then lean forward, resting her left elbow on the table while raising that hand in spread-fingered exclamation. With her right hand, she swirled a fork, tying-up a mouthful of fettucini and raise it before her rouged lips. Before removing the pasta from the silver fork, a closed lip smile tugged at the dimpled corners of her mouth. Lito sometimes fantasized about that smile, and what she might be thinking about. Every forkful of pasta elicited a dramatic repose from Sophia relishing every nuance of flavor from each bite until her private dinner was consumed, leaving only scant traces of marinara on the plate. Then she'd rise from the table, bringing the crinkling train of her gown up with her and taking a sweeping turn, leave the table and empty dish for the restaurant’s adolescent busboy to clean up. 


Lito held a secret crush for Sophia. But he had no time to tarry and chat with her as his usual custom. He rushed past her for the basement stairs. Without notice or concern, Sophia made her way out the backdoor, into the night air. A large burp frightened a carriage horse standing at the curb beside the Italian eatery just as Sophia passed on her way home. 


Lito Zoken was relieved to find that the Maestro and Jouga had waited for him to arrive before starting the evening’s lesson. The students quickly huddled behind their master, all in front of the mirrors and watched him apply the goopy white greasepaint to his face. The gypsy teacher had a ruddy complexion and dark, deep set eyes off-set by a generous moustache. He vigorously massaged the white paste around his face, darting his eyes back and forth from his own reflection to that of his two students, uttering goading exclamations of "EH? eh? Eh?" as he went. Then it was the students turn to apply their own greasepaint. They mimicked the teacher's motions of face painting and then they all stopped and looked at their combined reflections in the mirrors. 


The teacher had forgotten to cover the skin around his eyes, so they stood out like burnt holes in a blanket. His heavy mustache was left black and held to his upper lip like a stump of charcoal. His students had followed his example and looked exactly the same. They stared mutely at their reflections spotlighted by the studio’s naked lightbulb. Their portrait resembled that of albino barn rats peeking out from an old wooden bucket.


Later, when Lito climbed the basement steps to return home, he paused outside the restaurant to look up into the colorless night sky. The hairs on the back of his neck began to rise. The tip of his tongue, where the citrus imp’s drop of spirits landed began to burn. Lito walked in the direction of home at a quick pace. The wind picked up and newspapers and candy wrappers blew down the street. A full moon parted an invisible curtain of night clouds and shed an eerie aura across the town rooftops. Having forgotten to remove his mime makeup, and feeling a foreboding touch zipper up his spine, Lito broke into a light jog. Two blocks from his mime school, he broke into a full-blown run after a thunderous roar crashed upon him from overhead. Once and only once did Lito Zoken peek over his shoulder to spy what had uttered such a horrible sound. 

 

Two gargantuan, conjoined panda's the size of thanksgiving day parade balloons, shot rainbow laser rays from their frazzled muzzles. The polychrome beams spread from their mouths, streaked across the sky where the translucent and plasma-electric colors began to transform into thick, gooey syrup that glazed everything below. The panda's were angry. They were once worshiped as gods, ancient and terrible deities that commanded the earth and sky to do their bidding. Now they were barely considered side show attractions. The bloated and debauched panda immortals released their horrid anger upon the earth and all it's creatures. The great pandas especially wanted to punish man, the least pious of all earth’s creatures.  


Lito Zoken surmised it had something to do with the citrus imp’s spirits he had tasted earlier. His Grandmother had warned him the outcome was uncertain. Now the little man was in a race for his life. His short, tux-striped pants did flying splits as his legs pumped their way home. Reaching his doorstep as panda goo spilled onto the spine of his rooftop, Lito vowed never again to snack on tangerines before mime class, but instead he’d hold his appetite for pasta and Sophia’s latent charms. 


© 2015 roarke



Author's Note

roarke
Some of you may recognize some hunks of this tale, I've mashed-up some of my sketches into a longer tale... now all it needs is a circus poodle act scene...
Critiques and comments welcome

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-- this is a delightfully quirky tale, Maestro Roarke... -- Lito Zoken is a very interesting name... -- i really liked the different elements you've woven together to create an entire universe... and yet there are worlds within it... -- also, i was moved by the simplicity and profundity of the last line and the last thought in it... -- there's a frenzy in the story and yet there's a sense of immense calm at the end... a feeling of peace that we derive from knowing what's most important for us...

Posted 2 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

roarke

2 Years Ago

universes within universes, huge to comprehend, most think it's a waste of time, too bad, more for u.. read more
.

2 Years Ago

-- you're very welcome, Maestro Roarke... and thank you for your additional comments... they're very.. read more
.

2 Years Ago

* i've never across the name in any other context...



Reviews

This is an excellent blending of your work. I enjoyed it very much.

Posted 2 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

roarke

2 Years Ago

Thanks for slogging through it Cherrie. The pieces seemed to fit. And hopefully if nothing else, it'.. read more
Cherrie Palmer

2 Years Ago

there was no slogging, good flow.
Eerie and compulsive reading, I even got to ponder as to whether the misplaced apostrophe in the penultimate paragraph hid a new world of meaning...

Posted 2 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

roarke

2 Years Ago

heh, any punctuation errors are purely errors...hahahahaaha. Thanks for the read Peter.
[send message][befriend] Subscribe
.
-- this is a delightfully quirky tale, Maestro Roarke... -- Lito Zoken is a very interesting name... -- i really liked the different elements you've woven together to create an entire universe... and yet there are worlds within it... -- also, i was moved by the simplicity and profundity of the last line and the last thought in it... -- there's a frenzy in the story and yet there's a sense of immense calm at the end... a feeling of peace that we derive from knowing what's most important for us...

Posted 2 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

roarke

2 Years Ago

universes within universes, huge to comprehend, most think it's a waste of time, too bad, more for u.. read more
.

2 Years Ago

-- you're very welcome, Maestro Roarke... and thank you for your additional comments... they're very.. read more
.

2 Years Ago

* i've never across the name in any other context...

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Added on October 24, 2015
Last Updated on October 24, 2015
Tags: short story, fiction, dark humor, mimes, pandas, imps, gypsies, halloween, william calkins, roarke

Author

roarke
roarke

About
Bio I've been a professional teacher, artist and musician for over thirty years and I currently pursue an off-the-grid homesteading lifestyle. I'm continuing life's journey, accepting and creating n.. more..

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