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"What the Serial Killer Said" by Arthur Mandal

There’s a brand of packaged dates called ‘Deri Dates’. Tesco does them. Allow me a moment to express the disgust and repulsion this product arouses in me. They cost £2.35, which is a reasonable and unobjectionable price. The colour of the outer cardboard wrapper is mauve, another perfectly acceptable feature. Even the name, with its unwanted connotations of a Belfast suburb, is not without its exotic charm – when read, and not simply heard, the tribes of Tunisia or the oases of the Algerian interior spring to mind. Once the rustling cellophane has been pulled away, however, and the consumer is ready to initiate the consumption of his product, a vile fact is registered: these dates have no stones. No resistance to meet the hard, white incisor as its sinks its enamel edge into the sugary, brown flakes of the date’s crust. Front teeth and lower teeth meet one another through emotional layers of naturally crystallized sugar in a disappointed clinch. Only lovers of dates will recognize this sentiment, which brings tears to my eyes as I record it: the initial running of the upper lip over the surface of the product, the joy of the probing bite, the first tentative contact with the central groove of the date stone – the groove which, more often than not, facilitates the ejection of the pit from the rest of the date. There is the wedging of the stone between incisor and lower teeth, sometimes the slightest of jiggles from side to side as the stone is dislodged from its fleshy coat, and then the joy of retraction as the mouth pulls the stone millimetre by millimetre from its skin. An important thing to record about this joy is that it is groundless and pure: it is not a metaphor for anything but itself. The more you think about this, the more remarkable it gets. 

Arthur Mandal is a writer based in Eugene, Oregon (but grew up in the UK). Alongside writing he works as an independent craftsman and photographer.

His stories have appeared in The Barcelona Review, LITRO, december, 3:AM, La Piccioletta Barca, Nightjar Press, Ink Sweat & Tears, Sky Island Journal, Impspired, The Signal House Edition and Orca.


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