The Professional

By Michael Bazzett

She arrived in a dark suit and a mask-like smile, explaining
her services in a manner so polished it almost put us off.
This is my specialty, she soothed. Both mind and house
will be empty as a mountain wind once I’m done. I sensed
she’d said those words before. We sat at the kitchen table,
you and I, looking at one another, hoping the other felt more
certain, more assured. Once we signed, it would take years
before we acknowledged our mistake. She’d left the whole day
open, and could begin immediately. Was there perhaps a guest
room where she could change? Her assistant arrived with
a black duffel, fresh white towels, and a stainless-steel basin.

I didn’t know the basin would be so big, I murmured. We looked
at one another uncomfortably. It is not always a clean process,
she reassured. You do understand, once I’m sequestered, it is
very important that I not be disturbed. We nodded. She closed
the door with an audible click. For the first few hours, it seemed
okay. Her assistant sat out in the van, with the windows down,
reading. We sat in the living room and tried to do the same,
ignoring the sounds coming from the guest room, sighs that
sharpened into cries. When a few faces started disappearing
in the photographs above the piano, you leapt to your feet.
This isn’t right, you said. These things shouldn’t be removed.

But what about the pain? I asked. Don’t you want it gone?
No, you said, pointing to the image of a child, suddenly frantic.
The eyes had faded to nothing. From forehead to cheekbone
was just smooth skin. I ran to the window. The van was gone,
as was the tire-swing that had been there an hour earlier. I looked
and saw the elm losing its limbs, one by one. Maybe we can still
get some of our money back, I said. And then you said: I want her
gone. The assistant had sealed the door shut with tape. It came
off with a spattering sound, and the shrieks from inside paused.
Then the voice came, a strangled croak as I opened the door
and saw her, smaller than I remembered, perched on the dresser,
her suit pooled on the floor beneath her. Her face had become
a sort of beak, hinged open and hissing. But it was the children
that were upsetting, sitting in a circle at her feet, quietly singing.

Michael Bazzett is the author of four books of poetry: You Must Remember This, (Winner of the 2014 Lindquist & Vennum Prize for Poetry); Our Lands Are Not So Different (Horsethief Books, 2017); The Interrogation (Milkweed Editions, 2017); and The Temple (Bull City Press, 2020). His translation of the creation epic of the Maya, The Popol Vuh, (Milkweed) was named one of 2018’s best books of poetry by the New York Times. Find out more at

Originally published in NOR 15

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s