Issue #75, March 2005





an excerpt from 13 Black Cats Under a Ladder

by P. S. Ehrlich

That night I anticipate what the future might hold.   Contain the urge to hone and strop every chisel in the toolrack.   Even if Judith does decide to model for me, what are the odds it could pan out as well it did with Stormin’, or Josephine, or—

Miranda Parales.   Who merengue’d her way through Selfsame Art Supplies one remarkable summer, almost a decade ago.   Still living at home, just graduated from Bonum High, now attending a Barbizon School—not Rousseau and Millet’s, but a be-a-model-or-just-look-like-one factory.   Confident that wealth, fame, and sophisticated romance would all soon be hers.   Which might have been more credible had she not looked like a cartoon gatita, all frisk and pounce and scamper.

While I trained Miranda on handling merchandise, her attention never wandered, since it was wholly devoted to the half-dozen soap operas she videotaped by day, caught up on by night, and could prattle about by the hour.   If I did manage to get her thinking about art supplies, she would declaim, “We’re all out of foamboard!! ” or “I can’t find any more gesso!! ” as though this meant the family hacienda verged on foreclosure.

When Big Gag stopped by to scope out Miranda from bottom to top (his idea of supervision), he warned her to “Watch out for this one—he’ll try to sculpt ya.”   That was all she needed to hear.   Ohmygaw!   Was it true?   Did I really make statues of people?   How soon would I want her to pose for me?   Why hadn’t we got started yet?   Wasn’t I ever going to ask her?   (Pout, stomp, flounce.)

As with any gatita, your impulse is to dangle the yarn just out of tantalized reach.   For a week I temporized, scratching my chin and going, “Hmmm…” while Miranda steamed and fumed and hissed.   What!   Did I find something wrong with her face or her bod, that I didn’t think them worthy of sculpting?   Or was it that she acted too giddy, too playful, when I knew she would try her very very very best to do just what I wanted.   (Batting moist brown eyes the color of just-oiled butternut.)

On Saturday I borrowed a truck from my landlord, drove down to Selfsame, and told Miranda her hour had come.   She jumped and clapped and grabbed her backpack, not bothering to time out.   No one saw her leave, or scramble into the pickup, or take off with me.   Only when we hit the Interstate did she think to ask where I was taking her.

“To my studio.”

“Where’s that?”

“In Zerfall.”

“Where’s that?”

Cellphones were not yet prevalent, and Miranda didn’t have one.   Her expression turned anxious, then dismayed, then woeful.   By the time I parked (unseen) in the garage, she seemed petrified—except for her Princess Jasmine T-shirt, which was all aflutter.

No resistance to my taking her hand.   Or tugging her out of the truck.   Or in and up the stairs, Miranda moving like a sleepwalker and making not a sound.   All alone with me in my home, her whereabouts unknown.

I don’t think I’m more carnivorous than the next man.

But it did have a powerful effect on my imagination.

Put her in an open doorway, standing aghast at what she sees (the viewer).   Or down upon her knees, bending aghast over some shattered object that had been her heart’s delight.   Or huddling in the shower stall under a stark cold drizzle, transfixed by the ghastly feeling she’s being watched—

—as we maintain the edge—

—but contain the urge.

My lips an inch from her ear as I said, “Drink?”


“Looks like you could use a drink.   Pour you some wine?”

She leaped back against the nearest wall, clutching it with outspread arms and tragic gasp.   To this day I don’t know whether Miranda was genuinely frightened or engaged in bosom-heaving melodrama:   now he’s trying to drug me so he can take me and have me!   O, how can I avoid such a fate?   O, how might I effect my escape?

“Oh no thanks not really thirsty wow forgot to let my mom know where I am mind if I use your phone —”    Frantic dialing.   “¡Yoly!   ¿Dónde está Mamacita?...   AIEEE!! what are you doing??

This last wailed into my face as she caught me quickdrawing hers.

I showed her the sketchpad, on which I had exaggerated her prettiness till it outshone even Jasmine’s cartoon allure.

Over the phone:  Randa?   Randa!

“Call you later,” she told Yoly.

Hanging up to fling herself around in glamour-style stances.   Which she couldn’t or wouldn’t hold long enough for me to do anything with, even when I pushed her into a chair and told her to just sit still.   Fresh pouts and flounces:   why had I practically kidnapped her if I found her so hopeless, so unbearable?   Why wasn’t I taking pictures of her, like these—

—producing from her backpack assorted Barbizonery.   Most of which had already been thrust under my nose over the past week.   But here was one I hadn’t seen before:   a spectacular rear view of Miranda in mosquito-net negligee and rubber-band thong, soulfully regarding her frontal charms in a full-length mirror.


“My sister took that in our bedroom,” said Miranda, pouring herself some wine.   “Nice, hunh?   You can’t see the flash in the mirror or anything.”

This bodacious image I reproduced on a well-oiled butternut panel:   El Espejo de Miranda .   It popped the eyes of everyone who saw it.   I received commissions for a dozen duplicates, making it my most lucrative piece then and still.   The financial side got very complicated and bilingual, with my dealer Geraldine and Miranda’s Mamacita haggling over compensation for Yoly as the source’s photographer; and a bonus for Miranda, who turned it into a ticket to L.A.   Last I heard, she was appearing in a Spanish-language soap opera on Univision.   Good for her.

So that escapade turned out well for the both of us.   My imagination has run wild on similar occasions, not always as fortunately.   Once even involving a shower stall—

—nevermind.   Dream instead of Miranda tonight.   Despite my having gotten jaded on her sweet tetas y nalgas, by carving them over and over again.   Like gorging nonstop on caramel flan.

(Not a thing you should do just before going to bed…)


© P. S. Ehrlich 2005-2010


Copyright 05 © The artist retains all ownership of the work; however, M10K retains the right to post any submissions it receives, and it bears no responsibility for the content posted here, its originality, or how it is used or downloaded by others. At the artist's request, any submissions will be removed from M10K within five days of receipt of the request.

[Sadly, Ten Thousand Monkeys is now gone from the Web.  Above is a replica of their March 2005 publication.]