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The Incredible Disappearing Interrogator


The Incredible Disappearing Interrogator

Martin Ott

The interrogator loses himself one morning peering into the mirror, searching for answers. He'd been staring at the map of his face, each wrinkle a fissure of time, each scar a cache of tiny broken things.

He is myopic in how he embraces the smallest clues like dinosaur hunters strafing sand off bones. He knows how to shake foxhole dirt off his quarry, to focus on the “yes” on a man's lips when the sky is on fire. The world may very well end while he sifts through an hourglass shattered for his prisoners to display broken time. He floats beyond time and space, outside his body.

He is not a ghost, not yet. He still remembers searching for happiness as a boy in tiny hidden places. His first “?” was the curve of a belt against his spine as his father interrogated him about whether he was the devil's child. He hid his secrets in the sandbox by the garage, playing with toys underground, entombing army men and candy supplies. He pretended to care about his father tinkering with his engines, smoke rising from unfiltered cigarettes.

There is sand that even tears will not wash away through the years. It remains in your body hair like it does in a prisoner who was buried up to his neck to see the sunset over surf swells. On each granule is a tiny message inscribed by fingernails into flesh, a near invisible pain.

The sandbox in his memory becomes a grave as the interrogator buries his father, felled by cancer. The final dirt packing the coffin he shakes from his scalp and presses it beneath his boot. The interrogator looks in the mirror each anniversary and sees his father there. The traffic outside his window reminds him of surf. His only fear is losing himself beneath the tsunami inside of him.

Prairie Schooner, Vol. 83, No. 3, Baby Boomer Issue (Fall 2009), p. 161


Author Photo of Martin Ott

A former U.S Army interrogator, Martin Ott currently lives in Los Angles, where he writes poetry and fiction, often about his misunderstood city. He is the author of three books of poetry: Underdays, Notre Dame University Press (to be published in 2015); Captive, De Novo Prize winner, C&R Press; and Poets’ Guide to America, co-written with John F. Buckley. In 2013, he published his debut novel The Interrogator’s Notebook, Story Merchant Books. His Writeliving blog has thousands of readers in more than 75 countries. Find out more at www.martinottwriter.com.