• Burnt Breakfast

Animation | By David Galef

Stephen was an anime artist, the youngest brother of an Instagram star. He lived alone and had become expert at pleasing himself. He turned women into cartoons, then made love to the images. His Santa Monica basement apartment was an entire pre-laundry civilization. But at a Christmas party celebrating the disenfranchised, he wandered into Yumiko’s real-live embrace—proximity, mistletoe—and fell hard. Yumiko, a graphic arts designer who first mistook him for a minor celebrity, decided he had other advantages.

Back at Stephen’s apartment, both in an exploratory mood, Yumiko gave him a thumbs-up. Stephen’s hands emerged from their usual hiding places. They mashed together, and for at least a few minutes experienced a subset of lunacy.

Maybe the overhead light should’ve stayed off.

She’s not quite symmetrical, Stephen didn’t quite think.

Yumiko eyed a pair of yellowing briefs half-buried under a grotesquely articulated T-shirt.

Stephen tried to explain himself and his way of life. Not much to tell.

“You have such tiny dreams.” Yumiko sighed like a tea kettle. “Plant a seed, light a fire, draw something new.”

Stephen’s sigh was more like a faulty valve. “The key to success in life is lessened expectations.”

“What do you expect? No,” she rephrased with a sexy twist of her hand, “what do you want?”

Stephen shrugged, no longer on top of her. “A woman who lives and lets live.”

“Well, I want a man who’s not just a cartoon.”

Love and compromise are only slant-opposites. They’re still in Stephen’s apartment, arguing about which Chinese takeout place to order from. But he’s promised to sort of clean up the bedroom, and she says she’ll look the other way when it comes to whatever’s in the bathtub.


David Galef is a shameless eclectic who writes far too much for his own good, let alone that of others. He’s published extremely short fiction in the collections Laugh Track and My Date with Neanderthal Woman (Dzanc Short Story Collection Prize), extremely long fiction in the novels Flesh, Turning Japanese, and How to Cope with Suburban Stress (Kirkus Best Books of 2006), and a lot in between. His latest is Brevity: A Flash Fiction Handbook, from Columbia University Press. Day job: professor of English and creative writing program director at Montclair State University. He’s also the new editor in chief at Vestal Review. Website www.davidgalef.com. Twitter handle @dgalef.

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