by David Aloi
Monsieur Kim had a birthmark the shape of the Eiffel Tower in the center of his neck, or at least that’s what he liked to tell us. I always thought it looked more like a regular triangle, or at my most imaginative, the state of New Hampshire. What I liked about him, and what I told the police, is that he created a totally immersive setting for us each day we walked into class. Played us Edith Piaf and François Hardy, drank café au laits, tore apart baguettes to pass around, held his chalk like a cigarette.
Je m’appelle Monsieur Kim, et vous? and Quelle heure est-il? and Aimez-vous le pamplemousse?. He did the throaty thing with his r’s and encouraged us to take our index and middle fingers and press on our throats as we annunciated r-focused phrases like merci, de rien, je parle français.
“If you feel that vibration, like you have a bee caught in there,” he said. “You’re doing it right.”
Matty Grapuso and D.J. Friedman, who sat in the back of the classroom near the cardboard cutout of Céline Dion telling the world to Étude!, would make chokey blowjob noises, as though they knew firsthand what getting one sounded like. Monsieur Kim, the professional he was, just ignored them or asked them to do the noises en français. When Matty and D.J. asked him how to say “fudgepacker” in French, he told them, which ultimately was a mistake because they ended up carving the word into snow on the windshield of Monsieur Kim’s Jetta.
Here are a few other things I know about Monsieur Kim that might be useful: he has a pastry chef friend named Paul who, on “Crème Brûlée Day,” came in and blowtorched some vanilla pudding for us. I know his parents, both city workers, recently visited for the holiday from Seoul because he mentioned his excitement to finally show them his new life. I know that at lunchtime, even when the Indiana winter is at its most bitter, he burrows out into Parking Lot C to eat liver sausage sandwiches and cornichons in his car. I also know that on the weekends, he drives 40 miles out of Bluffton to Fort Wayne to go dancing. I only know this because my Aunt Brenda works the graveyard shift at one of those roadside diners where the coffee tastes like gasoline and she’s seen him a bunch, all sweaty, wearing tank tops in a blizzard. She told me Monsieur Kim gets everything à la mode, even his beef hash.
On the day we all returned from Christmas break and the last time we ever saw him, Monsieur Kim was dressed like a mime. Black and white stripes, suspenders, a beret. No stinky cheese or grape juice for us to try, no Godard or Truffaut trailers for us to watch, not even Amélie on a muted loop. He sat at his big teak desk in the front of the class with his head down on a pile of old vinyls. When Matty masked some obscenity in a cough, Monsieur Kim looked up and made a desperate frown, his face covered in a thick coat of white paint, two black tears falling from each of his eyes. Half the class laughed uncomfortably. My own breath quickened. I saw Katie Zimmer bite the eraser right off her pencil.
Monsieur Kim moved slowly to the chalkboard and wrote, in large loopy letters, au revoir. First he made me stand. I repeated the phrase a couple times: au revoir, au revoir. He touched my neck, gently, signaling for me to roll my r’s. He went around the room and made everyone do it. Stand. Repeat the phrase. Annunciate. Au revoir. He placed his fingers on our throats until he heard the chokey sounds. He stayed silent and in character, just like a mime is supposed to, and we all just played along.
About the Author:
David Aloi is a writer living in Los Angeles. He received his MFA in fiction from California College of the Arts and has worked at McSweeney’s, ScholarMatch, Medium, and Grindr. His writing has appeared in The Rumpus, Flaunt, INTO, Cuepoint, and Switchback. In 2019, he was awarded a LAMBDA Fellowship for Emerging LGBTQ Voices as well as a MacDowell Fellowship. He is currently finishing a book of stories about modern (gay) life.
About Weekly Flash Prose and Prose Poetry:
CutBank Online features one work of flash prose or prose poetry every Monday. Submissions are free and open year-round. Send us your best work of 750 words or less at https://cutbank.submittable.com/submit.