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You are excited that he has called. Your father rarely calls since you moved. Sometimes a holiday, your birthday, some special event but this time he doesn’t know it is you he’s called. He sounds happy; openness you are not used to. “You’ll never guess.” He says. “What’s that?” You ask. “Who is this?” He asks. You try to save the conversation but his exhilaration is gone, his voice turns to a drone of boredom. You bore your father. As you realize this you own it. It is too late to interest him. He says goodbye and you are glad.
I had some great thought. But now it is gone. I hate it when that happens. It seems to happen more often. I have difficulty respecting myself when I forget little things like taking a cube of butter out of the freezer when the soft cube is done. It probably seems ridiculous to you, you who have no problems remembering, you and your natural abilities, you with your support group. Yeah, I tried the support group. What a load of bullocks. I’m not too good to ask for help but I want to remember on my own. Where was I?
Carmichael kicked the gravel as he walked. The road curved up ahead. Mercedes, Audis and Porches sped by with a honk or blast of pop music. Carmichael zipped up his jacket and considered the hole in his shoe. His parents would be angry. Last time his mother strapped duct tape around his shoe so tight his foot pinched as he walked. Another automobile roared past him, veering far into the other lane. The road began to bend. Carmichael knew he became invisible to oncoming cars. Usually he climbed into the underbrush when he heard a motor but today was different.
He thought of that movie he’d seen on TV. American-something, those kids in the 60s trying to figure out if they should go to college or stay home and get married. The idea of having a community of friends like that, where even the nerdy-kid, “toad”, has friends didn’t make sense to Carmichael. Life wasn’t like that. The popular kids didn’t play Chicken. All they had to do was drive into the lot for everyone to know who won – the Aston Martins and Maybachs stole the show as they rolled in; didn’t matter that the cars belonged to their parents.
The motors of the classic cars were different from the motors of the new limited editions. Carmichael’s father tested him while they were out in the old Ford truck. “You see here, boy. We’re driving a rare 1940 Ford panel truck. If this baby were a Carson top, well, those cock suckers would be begging to buy it off me. But I tell you, nobody knows what this puppy is worth until I paint it.” Carmichael was happy his father talked to him, though he didn’t care for cars. “Yep, boy, Larry better come through or I’ll rape his dog.”
His father thought he was funny. Jokes about raping and pillaging were part of his lexicon. Carmichael’s granddad talked the same way. His granddad once took Carmichael to a Hallmark Cards. “Look et there, boy. Isn’t she a classy thing? Ass like a cow, hair like a pony, tits you wish were Alcatraz. Boy, I’d like to get locked up inside that.” Carmichael was seven at the time. He tried to stay away from his granddad, perusing the stuffed animals hopeful that his granddad would notice and live up to Carmichael’s dreams. “I like this tiger,” Carmichael said in response.
Carmichael wondered how he turned out so different from his family. In the summer they’d all meet at the Fairway RV Park. All the old folks parked their webbed lawn chairs around the grill, coolers of beer left open to melt and cigarette butts circling their feet. Skin hung loosely on the women and the men were mostly sinew, except for Uncle Parker who weighed 336 pounds and stayed in the RV. Carmichael was embarrassed for them. Other kids would come over but his cousins scared them away with their Hustler and whiskey. “Come on, Charmin, don’t be a pussy.”
Carmichael hated his nickname. His cousins thought they were clever. They used to call him cummerbund until one of the realized no one knew what a cummerbund was. They said it like this: Cumbertbund. They all sat around a four inch black and white travel TV to watch cartoons while the adults turned their lawn chairs facing Uncle Parker’s RV and the 24 inch plasma inside framed by the crooked entry. Wally Gator was Carmichael’s favorite cartoon. His cousins liked Tiger Sharks and would sing the intro, “Who’s got a tiger by the tail?” Then the Charmin commercial came on.
Carmichael liked to get away. His cousins wouldn’t see reason. They screamed and grabbed whatever was near for weaponry. It was always medieval times with them. Boobs, battles, and bronze. Jeremiah was usually the top. He was second to oldest, the oldest being Ralphie. Ralphie had Downs so he usually sat with the adults. “Let’s kill RV 57!” Jeremiah shouted. All the cousins rallied, switching off the TV, sneaking beer cans out of the coolers and into their pockets and gathering up chains, crowbars and strips of lawn chair for the attack. Carmichael took a tree branch and followed slow.
As the bend in the road continued, Carmichael fought to think of something else. School was still out. He’d already worried about who would return to pick on him. Sometimes new kids would be friends with him for a while. Until they found out he was unpopular. Carmichael heard a car approach behind him and stepped away from the pavement, off the gravel walkway and into the forest. Ferns angled over him as he crouched in the damp moss. He hid, imagining the car slowing in search of him. He was a wanted boy. Daddy Warbucks was looking for him.
The one person at school Carmichael can talk to is Ray. Ray doesn’t want to be Carmichael’s friend if anyone else is around. Carmichael accepted this arrangement after Debbie spat soda water in his face. Standing wet in the cafeteria, other kids snickering behind pepperoni pizza and juice boxes, Carmichael resolved to leave well enough alone. Carmichael would describe himself as lonely, but content. “Ray,” Carmichael said after school one day. “Have you been to New York?” Ray said he hadn’t. “There are people there with tattoos on their face. And some people were garbage sacks as dresses.” “Nuh-uh.” “Yeah-huh!”
I think there would be a market for a young woman with all those trappings including a tail. Difference between the typical tail-woman from MY sexy woman with tail is that mine has the tail mounted to her front so that the gentleman of purchase and bank doesn't have the tail always getting in the way when he bends her over. It makes for a nice tranny aesthetic when she's walking or posing as well. Transgender is, of course, a fantasy many men secretly admire, all the best parts of a woman with the single good part of a man.
I would like a pet that once a week vacuums its hair of its own accord (and doesn't get sick by it) either through an adorable tendril, antenna or neck pocket - any of which could be retractable so when it is not sucking up fur one doesn't know the animal did such disgusting things. Imagine it, your pet, the usually furry sweet thing that curls beside you at night is now powered by its own hair, the one draw back to any pet that sheds. Improved, you respect your pet that much more and wish you were as self-contained.
Pets don’t speak your language, nor do they learn human languages like birds. In my world, you chose a language when you make your pet purchase - say you want to learn Latin - and when you get home you simply ask the animal "What's couch." The animal replies appropriately in the language of your choice. It is a cuddly audio language program. These animals require special passports for trips. Bumbling tourists could have the dog talk for them: renting rooms, ordering dinner and even commenting on art in the museum. Just think how much better the world would be.
Laura met Jason at a birthday party in an Armenian discothèque. Business Men with greased-back hair gyrated beside rouge-cheeked Babes in heels. The balding disc jockey said, “Oh yeah, every person. You know you love it. All you people get on the floor and love it!” The birthday members clambered to dance, hooting with alcohol. To Jason the music sounded like a schooner colliding with a whale and he leaned over to Laura. “This music,” he said, raising his voice, “sounds like a schooner hitting a whale.” Laura laughed. “You can tell how much he loves this music,” she said.
They met at a café equal distance between their homes. It was an old café, used to serving chain smoking office workers of an older generation. Hat rack now dusty in a corner, waitress now hunched with her tray like a growth from her hip, the café had an unspeakable appeal to the younger professionals. The tables were waxy with polish and stalagmites of gum brushed against patrons’ knees as they sat in the booths. Laura ordered a Grande Americano and the waitress rolled her eyes. “Two shots coffee and hot water,” the waitress said. Jason asked for coffee, black.
“I mean, I really get creeped out. Think about it. We’re swimming in germs. We have bacteria in our eyes, this table has the residue of other people, the air we’re breathing is particles of dead people, our neighbors, disease. Doesn’t that gross you out?” Jason sipped his coffee and said, “I hadn’t really thought about it.” “It really gets me. I just want to peel my skin off.” “If everything is germs then there’s no way around it. Maybe you should stop caring. There’s nothing you can do.” “It’s not DO, it just IS. It’s the idea,” said Laura.
Puget Sound was fragrant. Long, pulpy tendrils of Bull Kelp crosshatched the beach. The bulbous ends were bigger than Carmichael’s fist and were rotting on the beach. Swollen with salt water, the outer skin cracked in the sun so when Carmichael picked up the whip end, the bulb leaked putrid fluid. Carmichael snapped kelp at a tree trunk and the bulb splatted. He didn’t care that his hands would smell. He wanted to destroy something, anything. He imagined Jeremiah recoiling in terror as Carmichael swung a fat length of kelp over his head like Roy Rogers’s lasso. “Give up yet?”
Her face was wide with high cheeks and a short, close-in nose. Hair bobbed at her chin, Debbie was the first girl Carmichael asked to go steady. He never thought she’d laugh in his face, let alone laugh so hard as to spray the soda water she had been drinking all over his clothes. Carmichael had tried to take it in stride. He apologized and ran. Not so much ran, really, as expeditiously departed the lunch room before every kid in school saw the rejection. By the end of the school day everyone knew about it anyway. It was inevitable.
Jason had heard about there being seven genders in the world. When Gretchen left him he thought the seven genders were scientific fact, proven by the tears Gretchen cried. What he couldn’t figure was what comprised these different genders. He could think of four off hand. He tried to visualize combinations of partners. Maybe one gender was the kind that liked to watch, he thought. He was so captivated by the notion that he asked a research librarian. After two days the librarian called him. “We have some books for you regarding your question.” Seven was a much disputed number.
You washed my underwear with the mop head?
Are you fucking retarded?
I’m throwing them away.
What’s the big deal?
Dude! What’s the big deal? I can’t put them on my crotch! Are you retarded? What the fuck? I can’t wear them now. They’re contaminated!
No they aren’t. It’s all washed.
Washed in dirty floor stew. Washed in the fucking dog shit covered shoe grease from your old stinky feet.
Your feet, too.
I can’t believe you! Don’t you ever think about it? Don’t you ever imagine the germs breeding in that mop?
No. Why would I?
Is that it?
It’s enough for me. Who cleans the bathroom after you take your skin-sloughing baths? Who never uses the share account unless it is something for both of us? Who is always telling you you’re the best so you can be more than you are today? What the fuck do you do? You mop. And then, for some fluke reason, you decide you want to do my laundry. Laura glared at Jason and he knew it was over.
Laura was gone. Long gone. She had a bag packed and her cell ringing a friend before he could apologize.
“What do you think of the seven genders,” he asked Laura.
She curled her hair around her fingers and puckered her lips. “Do you think I should wear more makeup?” she asked.
“What do you mean?” He surveyed her features, looking for a clue. He discovered it as she tugged at her earlobe nervously. “No. You are beautiful just as you are. I love you, not the makeup.”
“Why do you ask about gender then?”
“I heard about it and it seems weird.”
“Because you can only think of two?”
“No,” Jason lifted his glass of water. “I’m not sure.”
Jeremiah never let Carmichael live it down. “You like Debbie and Debbie hates your guts.” Jeremiah rattled a collection of rocks in his shorts pocket. “Good thing I hate Debbie as much as I hate you,” Jeremiah said. “Or I’d have to beat you up.”
Carmichael’s house was too far away to run. He weighed his options. Jeremiah had speed and strength. He also had an army of minions that would aid him if he yelled.
“I’ve got a secret,” said Carmichael.
“But we have to go back to my place so I can show it to you.”
Jeremiah was blessed with travel. Carmichael’s relatives all traveled in RVs. One summer they would park in Arizona, the next they would lease space in Florida. Carmichael never got to go anywhere except the yearly family gathering. Ray usually stayed for the summer, too. If no one else was around to play with, Ray would walk to Carmichael’s. They set up complicated sequences of dominoes on the beach, standing them so when they fell they would ramped up and over the rocks. One time they started the dominoes and a crab crawled from under a rock and pinched a tile.
He was dejected. He couldn’t keep it up again. She looked at him like an angulated mammal, color-blind and venerable if she wasn’t underneath him. Skinny, her breasts settled to either side of her ribcage. He was distracted by her sternum, the bump on her left clavicle from a bike accident years before they met, and the chopsticks stuck in her hair. He worried about the chopsticks. He worried she thought he was small. He worried she was too old already, even though she was five years younger than him. He licked his palm and rubbed his dick, forcing duty.
Calvin knew his 50th high school reunion was due but hadn’t received any mail or calls. He remembered his graduating class well. 400 kids and he was the skinniest. Even then he knew he loved science. He loved nature and biology. He loved hiking into the wilderness and knowing all the names of everything he encountered. He loved cataloging his journey for posterity. He wasn’t unpopular, but he wasn’t popular. Girls didn’t always understand. Guys, for that matter, weren’t all that understanding, either. So when a school representative called asking if he was dead Calvin was both astonished and unsurprised.
Nick delivers pizzas. He’s in a band, he drinks beer in cans, and he likes rockumentaries. He dated a crazy girl for several years. She was one of those on-again, off-again drama queens that wanted him to intuit her every desire. Unfortunately for Nick, he was not intuitive. Nor did he care much for her tears. Every night after she left him, Nick, instead of attempting to appease her, started visualizing. In his visualizations, Nick was on stage and the women in the audience always took their tops off. There was no vision finer as far as Nick was concerned.
Laura, Laura, Laura. What am I going to do with you? You refuse to take a bath. You say the water instantly becomes human soup with foot dirt and crotch flakes and dander. You clean your nails every hour. Every day you wake up early and vacuum your house, moving all the furniture to dust and spray with disinfectant. If you had a pet, the poor thing would be dipped in sanitizing solution twice a day. I worry about you. You know what happened to Glenn Gould, right? Control made him great, but, dear heart, it also drove him mad.
Her size smothers her heart. She can barely bend her knees. Her hands are treasure trunks heavy in partially hydrogenated soybean oil; each finger dilated with juice. Her stomach bulges with exploded intestine and her lungs collapse and expand like the leafy wheeze of an overburdened truss in Napa Valley. She has heart, enough of it left unclogged to love. Volunteering for Audubon, what she loves are birds. A metabolizing flicker, a migrating goose, a gliding crane; she wishes they would land in her hand, her body collapsed and transformed to both food and home for millions of tiny birds.
Kathy works in Burlesque. She posts for dates on Craig’s List. “You: tall, sandy blond, rugged good looks, ability to Salsa. Me: flexible, honest, sassy and damn foxy.” Rarely do the guys look like her requirements. She figures the attributes are subject to interpretation. How sand-colored is ‘sandy’ anyway? On every date Kathy sooner or later has to face her self-imposed metaphysical challenge. Does she tell the guy her real job or feed him a clever lie? Guys always think of Gypsy Rose Lee or some sleazy nude housewife in sunglasses leaning over the engine of a two-tone 1957 Buick.
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