The California Crab
— fiction by Alessandro Cusimano

Wendy's obsession with Hollywood was born in a motley bungalow, where all the plans begin to jell. In the still of the night, Wendy get up with a jerk, dreaming of a trip to Temptation, odds and ends, jeopardies, jests, strait jackets and phony excuses! Wendy took off a little time this summer, but her vacays didn’t exactly resemble the exotic escapes of Hollywood films: because she never managed to get perfectly tousled beach hair.  

Obsessive thoughts make Wendy feel nervous and afraid. She tries to get rid of these feelings by performing certain behaviors. Due to these thoughts, Wendy may, for example, wash her hair repeatedly. Performing these behaviors usually only makes her nervous feelings go away for a short time. When the fear and nervousness return, she repeats the routine all over again. Her recurrent and persistent obsessions cause marked anxiety and distress. Wendy attempts to ignore or suppress such impulses, or images, or to neutralize them with some other thought or action. Watching her favorite Hollywood stars in films and on television also gives her the mistaken impression that she knows what a person is like. Wendy feels a sort of camaraderie to certain actors. However, in reality, movie stars have private lives as well as she really doesn't know what they could be like on a personal level, no matter how many interviews of them she has seen.  

We all have habits and routines in our daily lives, such as brushing our teeth before bed. However, for Wendy, patterns of behavior get in the way of her daily life. She knows that her obsessions make no sense, but she can't ignore or stop them. Ideas, images and impulses run, uninterrupted, through the Wendy's mind. While they are disturbing, she  can't control them. Sometimes these thoughts come just once in a while and are only mildly annoying. Other times, Wendy has her obsessions all the time! 

She lives in Queer Street, dressed in a persuasive crocodile kimono. Wendy is photogenic! Wendy is pyromaniac! Wendy has the nerve of a squeezed orange! 

Hitting big time in Hollywood is based on good luck and pure timing. As a Hollywood actress to get herself meaty roles she has to know the right people and be in the right place at the right time. Dazzling good looks will also go far in getting her noticed!  

Next to the rose gardens, Wendy is the lover of the betrayals! With the intent to entertain radio stars, movie makers, fumy outlines, Rams and Raiders! Speaking into a wonky microphone, chasing a nine days' wonder, the crucial romance. Confusional states of America! 

As a possible Hollywood star, Wendy loves the attention she get from her fans and from the press. However, there is a downside to all this publicity. Star stalking is rather common and can be very dangerous.  Drunk, Wendy is the perfect woman of straw, along with a braggart in a jammy loft, or the rakehell of the day!

Because of her mental disabilities, Wendy often fixates on Hollywood stars and creates fantasy lives where she thinks she knows the star personally. Much of this has to do with looks and public relations skills. Wendy is prepped and preened before any public appearances. She looks flawless. Everything, from her hair styles to the makeup she wears. It all makes many people feel inferior and in awe of the rich and famous. Wendy has things that they could never dream of owning! 

And yet, she is unable to recognize that the obsessional images are not only a product of her own mind, but also imposed from without, as in thought insertion. Repetitive behaviors such as hair washing, ordering, checking or mental acts like praying, repeating words silently, are aimed at preventing or reducing distress or preventing some dreaded event or situation; however, these behaviors or mental acts either are not connected in a realistic way with what they are designed to neutralize or prevent or are clearly excessive. Moreover the obsessions significantly interfere with the Wendy's normal routine, occupational, functioning, or usual social activities or relationships. Wendy buys all the popular fashion magazines featuring movie stars on the cover: she sees movie stars and celebrities everywhere. 

Unfortunately, Wendy continues to be bothered by thoughts or images that repeatedly enter her mind, such as concerns with gaining weight, choosing the wrong lipstick or keeping shoes in perfect order or arranged exactly. Images of porno movies or horrible events. She worries a lot about terrible things happening, such as being on the set and forget her lines. Senseless urge or impulse, such as pushing a competitor, for the part in a movie, in front of a bus, steering her car into oncoming traffic or poisoning dinner guests. She feels driven to perform certain acts over and over again, such as excessive or ritualized laughing, jogging, or sleeping. Repeating routine actions: in/out of chair, going through doorway, re-lighting cigarette. Unnecessary re-reading or re-writing. Avoiding colors: red means blood! Numbers: 13 is unlucky. Or names: those that start with F signify flop! That are associated with dreaded events or unpleasant thoughts. Needing to confess or repeatedly asking for reassurance that she said or did something correctly! 

To make matters worse, Wendy suffers from another strange mental disorder. She has a strong need to count her actions or objects in her surroundings. Wendy may for instance feel compelled to count the steps while ascending or descending a flight of stairs or to count the number of letters in words. She often feels it is necessary to perform an action a certain number of times to prevent alleged calamities. All of this develops into a complex system in which Wendy assigns values or numbers to people, objects and events in order to deduce their coherence. At times she counts aloud, at times silently. She is still unsure if it is a blessing or a curse. She always thought it was just the way her brain works. Surely, nobody else would really be able to comprehend what her brain does on it’s free time.  

She doesn’t actually count the number of objects. She counts the angles, sides, corners of each star. Not the sum. Here’s a highly simplified example of what her brain does: picture a pink painted star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. It is flat, so it has no dimension to it. There are ten sides and five corners. Each side has two terminals, where the line ends at the corner. She tends to count those terminals on each corner. So in this example, each corner would have a value of “2″. So she would go around the painted star, counting 2, 4, 6, 8. Not too difficult. Now, picture doing that to every single painted star on Hollywood Boulevard and Vine Street while driving at 50 mph! Now imagine applying that habit to a three-dimensional star! Now, put yourself into a room that has stars of all different shapes, sizes and thicknesses! Hollywood rules everything around her! 

The other day Wendy thought about one thing: a few years ago, before leaving Illinois, to go to live in Los Angeles, she decided to install an aquarium in her home. She got everything you need, and after creating the ideal habitat put some fishes in the aquarium. Very nice to watch the fishes and plants that grew and multiplied. Wendy noticed that the fishes did not like her too much, so she had to observe them covertly. After an initial period, where Wendy had to intervene frequently to maintain the ideal habitat stable, she let it all live on their own. Everything worked perfectly until she introduced a particular species within the aquarium. The California crab! At first all is well. It grew quiet and seemed to adapt to the environment. Then it started to destroy everything and everyone. Eat the plants and kill other fish. The possibilities were two. Step in and remove the intruder destroyer or let nature take its course. For a split second Wendy felt God! Intervened! She removed the crab from the aquarium and everything slowly returned to normal.


The Writer: Alessandro Cusimano was born in Palermo in 1967. Son of a painter and a teacher, he moved to Rome where he attends classical studies. He also attended an art school and an institute of gemology, becoming, later, jewelry designer. Since the age of 21, his life has been marked by recurrent and painful bouts of depression and by the use of alcohol and drugs. None of this, however, distracted him from the research and the study of his expression ideals, his narrative technique, his poetic style. He nevertheless had to pay for periods of forced inactivity associated with complex rehabilitation programs. Expressivist poet, he freely refers to the peripheral and irregular languages, drawing on the dialects, the slangs, the various sectorial and technical form of expressions, recreated with personal inventions and varying intensity, in every moment of his literary production. Along with a special focus on visual arts, from painting to cinema, from photography to theatre. Today, thanks to a regular lifestyle and the progress made in terms of his overall health status, he leads a normal life, just a few hundred yards from the sea and the beach to which Pier Paolo Pasolini gave, in 1975, an unexpected spiritual dignity while spending the last day of his life.

The Artist: Mark Zlomislic's art resides in the tension between the eternal and the temporal. It explores the human need for security and the inevitability of an impermanence he has difficulty accepting. He paints to capture moments of time that reveal frailty and vitality, joy and sorrow, decline and glory. Born in Rakitno, Hercegovina, he has lived and studied in Vienna, Paris, Munich and Zagreb. His influences include Bacon, Balthus and Tom Thompson. His work is included in numerous private collections throughout North America and Europe. His gallery and studio are located in Cambridge, Canada.