Matt Runkle

Where you are right now is in a gift shop. In a place like this, the scandalous things must be cooked down, or at least macerated a bit, till the sugars scoot away from the fruit, and any hint of derision can be voiced from between the chops of a genuine smile. So when you tell me you're shopping for your mother, who's not a typical mother, my only reply can be—and watch how sweetly I say this—You may be in the wrong store.

Because what we sell here are things for typical mothers, the people you think of first when you see the word, long before you even begin to imagine your own. It's a well-honed type, and though it's rarely called out as offensive, all you have to do is look around to see: it's something that sells. Textures tend toward synthetic softness; colors wander the palette from brick to smoky green. Needless to say, infants are fetishized, and fetishes infantilized. The fantasies here can fit inside a cylindrical chime. And the imagery, which is commonly mistook for feminine, is as genderless as a dry and falsely weathered piece of rattan.

Imagine me when I first embarked on this endeavor, when my partner (in the strictly business sense of the word) and I set out to capture this niche. This was a sprawling voyage, don't be tricked. As compressed as it now all appears, our curatorial process involved much more roaming than most. Porcelain, I say to my partner. Only the beginning, my partner replies. And thus, we embark down a keeling, seemingly endless corridor, and select from its tightly packed shelves the bric from the brac. Some sections we strip so bare, we see our own distorted faces gazing back from the mirrored walls. A fleeting question of sex is quelled: requisite for such work as this.

And so, if you're looking to find a gift for an atypical mother, you'd best move on down the wharf. If your mother fancies herself progressive, or if, at the opposite end of the spectrum, she's a decadent, implanted, tightly pulled, cutthroat priss, there are much better shops out there. We're not the type of fools who special order, and neither will we flesh out your impotent senses for you. 

If my partner were here—and she has the day off, she's feeling rather worn these days—if my partner were here, perhaps she'd have more patience. I once saw her lead an exquisitely veined young man to the window, and gesture out over the ocean with a grace transcending that of someone trying to close a sale. The young man left with an apple-studded picture frame. And the vigor she gave to the pricing gun thereafter sang of adventure we'd never again confront.

I'm sure she neglected, whatever she said, to mention the sharks.

Matt Runkle has work in or coming from The Collagist, Monkeybicycle, Beecher's and others. Brooklyn Arts Press will publish a collection of his stories in 2013.

Detail of photo on main page courtesy of Tiffany Terry.

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