Short Fiction: ‘Roger Ebert’ By Oliver Zarandi

After first publishing his short story 'Kooning' last month, new writing this week once again comes via darkly-humorous short fiction from Oliver Zarandi

Teddy is not one man. He is plural. He is a medusa wig of identities.

Teddy grew up with his mother and his father went missing circa 1994. Teddy thinks his father’s just invisible and has been hiding in the house whispering messages of love in his ears when things are dark.

Teddy also goes by the names of: Beefaxemurderer16543 / ¡Doooomed! / TheVanityPlug / CarbinemXoXo / Buttchimp&tango / AlexinWonderland1974.

Three days ago, Teddy writes 2 reviews on some chemicals he has ingested. Teddy reviews his drugs like Ebert. Two thumbs up for good, thumbs down for bad. After substantial research, it is clear Teddy is obsessed with Roger Ebert and jaw cancer. Several photographs recovered from hard drive of Ebert’s face without a jaw, his face pink and bulbous. His mouth is knotted tight in both corners, his eyes anchored downwards after tragic surgery.

Teddy’s desktop background is a devastating triptych of Ebert’s cancerous muzzle:

Synthacaine receives two thumbs down from Teddy. He states that there is a “lack of euphoria” and that it only makes your face numb “for, like, 2 hours!” Methylenedioxypyrovalerone is an antipsychotic and received two thumbs up from Teddy. Teddy stated that he could see wasps “for hours” and he thought they were “crawling up his butt”. Vasoconstriction is a problem, too.

Teddy’s physical appearance is unknown.

Recent search history suggests Teddy is angry. Six weeks ago, a picture of two bullet wounds from a conical bullet from the American Civil War saved to an invisible folder on his desktop.

Teddy is interested in conspiracies. He has been researching rampage killings online. Charles Starkweather (19) and Caril Ann Fugate (14) were the youngest on the list.

Teddy compiled a list of America’s top rampage killers and noted their ages:

Campo Elias Delgado Morales (52), George Pierre Hennard (35), James Oliver Huberty (41), Jiverly Antares Wong (41) – the same age, is their a connection? – Genildo Ferreira de França (27), Howard Barton Unruh (28), James Edward Pough (42), Juan de Jesús Lozano Velásquez (26), Gregorio Caceres (50).

Teddy is 18 years old. He added up the ages of the killers (52+35+19+41+41+27+28+42+26+50) and it came to 361. Then he decided to find the average (361/10) and it came to 36.1.

Teddy is simple and prone to making general comments on society from his anorexic online research. He believes that 36.1 is the average age that the American male breaks down and murders purges the world of human beings.

Also consider the block of time Teddy devotes to his own personal fetishes, such as tennis players’ armpits, cilia hairs in celebrity nostrils, texting-while-driving automobile disasters, civil war re-enactments, digital zooming into pornography until they are Tetris blocks of flesh colour.

Teddy has been online for over 36 hours. I want to know more about him, about what he looks like and why he messaged me asking me if I was his father.


The act of camfecting has allowed me to view Teddy. The image of his face is pixelated. I see now that Teddy is thin and that his face is a classical one, reminiscent of Van Eyck’s Arnolfini Portrait. He is hairless.

Is Teddy aware that people can see him? In a moment of madness, Teddy picks up his webcam and performs a steadicam tour of his bedroom, focusing on objects in his room, posters on the wall and, then, his own body. He talks about his room and his body in such detail – such precise, medical detail – that one can only assume Teddy is a genius.

Teddy is a beautiful boy.


Teddy decides to review his mother today. He writes on a forum that there is no such thing as privacy anymore and that everybody should be subject to the ‘spotlight’ he casts. His body is not sacred, his home is not sacred, and his mother is not sacred. Nothing is sacred.

He is almost inviting people like me to follow his actions.

Teddy secretly films his mother from behind and decides that her shoulders are strong and masculine. He manages to get an upskirt shot, too, and sees a yellow stain hiding inside that ‘cave’ and comments that her hygiene is atrocious and that she smells so bad that he often has to leave the house and hyperventilate the clean, pine air of his little town in order to restore order to his system. He gives her two thumbs down.

Later that evening, I receive an email and Teddy types: dad?

I type back saying I have missed him.

He sends me a picture of what he wants for Christmas:


I go to a local clothing shop that shall remain anonymous and ask them to make me into a dad. The funny young woman behind the counter chuckles and turns to her boyfriend and smiles at him and makes eyes at me like I am stupid and I think I hear her insult me in a wry, humorous manner that makes me want to divorce her features from her face with a brick but I stay calm and keep saying in my head that this is all for Teddy.

I walk out of the store with a caramel suit, some horn-rimmed glasses and a ginger wig.


Teddy has not been online for over 24 hours. I am certain he will enjoy the present I am going to give him this evening. I log on to try and see if Teddy is on webcam but all I can see is darkness.

Work by Oliver Zarandi has recently been published in Hobart, Keep This Bag Away From Children, Electric Cereal and Human Parts. You can find him on Twitter here: @zarandi. (Photograph by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

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