UPDATE 9/2023: GBR has returned from a long hiatus and is reopen for submissions of fiction and nonfiction.
By Mark Crimmins
You take a seat at Giovanni’s Pizza and Pasta at 123 Sixth Street in Pittsburgh and eat a slice of pepperoni: thick crust, small circles of pepperoni, cheese on toasted, burned edges, a nice touch. Dough: superior.
You have just returned from a rainy stroll—across the Allegheny River on the yellow Sixth Street Bridge, then along the North Shore. There you wandered through Allegheny Landing, a 1984 public sculpture park. A historical plaque told you this was part of the North Shore Regeneration Project. You walked along the river to the Seventh Street Bridge. Also yellow, also handsome. Looking up the Allegheny, you saw the tip of Point State Park and thought of Fitzgerald seeing the end of Manhattan from the observation deck of the Empire State Building, though without his moment of concomitant epiphanic doom. You panned the cityscape beyond the peninsular apex: the confluence of rivers, the entrance lights of the Fort Pitt Tunnel under Mount Washington, the red ladybugs of the funicular railway cars on the Duquesne Incline.
Giovanni’s is the “Home of the Original Cheesy Bread Twist.” You buy one after you finish your slice. The twist is as big as a necklace bomb, though presumably easier to eat your way through. An observation you’ll be happy never to verify. Four rambunctious students occupy the next booth. They call each other douchebags and have strident arguments about Hip Hop and Electronic Music.
You think about your walk as you munch your twist. Along the riverfront, you found two art installations by Ned Smyth. Mythic Source is a crumbling obelisk around which swirl mosaic figures of plant and marine life: a large squid, some palm trees. The other, Piazza Lavoro, is coincidentally surtitled by a nearby condemned building’s superannuated white on black stencil sign advertising Keller Office Supplies. The labor installation consists of upright sculptured mosaics representing workers in action. Three strong naked men carrying heavy hammers in one hand and holding their heads with the other. A naked man climbing a ladder between floors, a hod of bricks on his shoulder. A topless woman above him reaching down. A topless woman below him looking up. Because many of the installation tiles are crumbling or cracked, the mosaics already seem ancient, though they are barely twenty years old.
The mosaics dance in your mind as you finish your Cheesy Twist. The faces of the pixelated workers come back to you, abstract, idealized, heroic. What was it about the vaguely Byzantine figures that struck you? The workers are perhaps the grandparents of the students calling each other douchebags. The heroes who built this city. One brick at a time. You think about mosaics: small tiles that combine to make a patterned picture. The meaning is not in the parts but in the whole, and this in turn suggests the connection between the art you have seen and what you write, between the words you engrave one by one in this notebook and the page they now fill.
Mark Crimmins’s first book, experimental travel memoir in flashes, Sydneyside Reflections, was published by Australia's Everytime Press in 2020. His flash fictions have been published in Columbia Journal, Apalachee Review, Kyoto Journal, Quarterly Literary Review Singapore, Pure Slush, Flash Frontier, Atticus Review, Tampa Review, and Flash: The International Short-Short Story Magazine.