She had two mouths.
That annoyed me at first; you never knew where to look when she was talking because you didn’t want to stare or be rude- to make a glitch in etiquette- like puzzling over someone with cock eyes, or one of glass and lazy.
At least she used the same lipstick on both sets of lips.
She could sing two different notes simultaneously too, because she had two vocal columns, like a bird. So she was popular for what many thought a talented birth defect.
She had good teeth as well. Two mouthfuls of good teeth and dual vocal range on one set of lungs will take you places.
She mostly stayed home. Of all her features, I liked her posture the most. You’d never know she’d broken her wings in the fall. She had that regal carriage of a ballroom dancer, or a nurse with a tray of syringes.
She sometimes spoke out one mouth while putting food into the other- that was always a joy to watch- putting whole cherries in one mouth and spitting the pips out the other. Yawning was practically a party trick. I loved watching her smoke though! She made an art form out of smoking two cigarettes at the same time, blowing smoke rings, fluttering and pouting. If she’d had four arms I might have even married her.
She had a youthful body when I met her, the kind you wanted to wrap around yourself in bed all day.
She got plenty of looks when she first came down, but the two mouths freaked most guys out.
I like the exotic ones though, and there was something vulnerable in her that attracted me, like she’d trust me to protect her, making me feel more manly. I quickly lusted for her, and watched every performance she gave in the dingy bar I frequented and that she’d gotten a gig at with a few skid-row jazz musicians. I showered her with plastic flowers and gum ball trinkets. Bought her mackerel and scallops. Rolled her cigarettes. Applauded longest. Whistled the loudest.
The greatest man made structure is a pretty woman’s ego. I built her a pyramid of sand to go with it.
I miss her eyes already…
You could go skin diving in them. They were like the souls of giant squid, and her lashes were like little tentacles that pulled you in to her inky wells. I swear her hair floated, like she was always underwater, but I’m probably just imagining things now. You know how you remember things differently about someone after a time? Say a few years, or a half bottle neat of Cuban rum.
She talked a lot of course. Even when we were kissing or making love, she’d be talking. Sometimes to herself. In whispers. In two languages. I wasn’t good at listening. I only have one set of ears. Even if I had two sets of ears it wouldn’t have mattered. There was no content on either channel. I just can’t stand gossip- and she was a gossip. Gossipy women already talk too much, but it was like she never drew breath, or could talk under the water her hair floated in. She would have been a great swimmer, but she said her kind weren’t that fond of water.
When we first went out we actually talked because we were new to each other, but familiarity slowly bred discontent.
I just got tired is all. It’s pretty hard to get around it. People change- like places- and maintenance is such a chore.
The joy slowly faded from us. The love that had engulfed us like a king tide now receded, leaving seaweed and lumps of whale bile on the tables between us.
I started drinking more, she put on weight. We fell out of love and into a bland routine of convenience. A routine with three mouths. When I was drunk she was beautiful again, but she’d scream like a banshee at me. Both of her. When I was sober she looked like a blue raven with hair rollers, and always two cigarettes on the go that went into building little ziggurats of ash and crushed butts in the bakelite ashtrays.
Then I lost my job at the mill. They said I wasn’t performing well enough; “..under the agreement of my contract and the terms laid out from the last review..”. I wasn’t listening. I didn’t care again.
Then she fell pregnant. I think it was to me. I told her to get rid of it. Maybe she thought it would rekindle something in us. In me. In her anyway. Women want children; men just want the world. We want to conquer it. Women just want to conquer men. I just wanted to drink. I wanted my old life back. The one where I only had one mouth to feed.
She insisted on having the child. I should’ve cut her loose sooner. I’d allowed a cage to grow around me, and a song bird to nest on me, and slowly nag me to the grave.
I looked for another job. Tried cleaning up and doing ‘the right thing’ by her.
Never have enough money. Never be ready for children. Selfish little fucks. ‘You can’t win. You can’t break even. You can’t leave the game.’*
I grew a beard to mourn the death of my freedom, and landed work in some factory across town. The menial, monotonous kind of shit; stacking, lifting, moving, sorting, stock taking, scanning, cataloguing, filling orders, sweeping, loading trucks, unloading trucks. Dying like a bug that swims in circles in a toilet bowl, vainly trying to escape its spiritually castrated struggle, until someone pours bleach on it and flushes it out of existence.
Never matters what the “product” is, the catharsis is the same. The mill wasn’t so great, but at least it was good manual labour, not this knuckle dragging, cog-head tedium that should be reserved for cellulite ridden celebrities and impeached politicians.
All my co-workers were TV eating zombies with nice cars and tuberculosis looking skin. They’d spend decades giving their health and time to some industrial line up so they could afford to have prostate cancer, life insurance, and a diabetic retirement punctuated by a heart attack, or aneurism- a week out from Christmas no doubt. They made their nests out of chewed newspapers and gyprock, squabbled over trivia, and littered small tribes of idiots. They ruled the world. They fed the furnace with their lives. They were the seasoned filling in the barbecue chicken gene pool.
I felt a strong mixture of superiority and defeat around them.
She started making baby clothes. We painted the nursery sky blue. I found a cot and cleaned it up. I lost money at dog fights and won money at boxing matches. Broke even for a while, then just lost.
Winter came around and she ballooned. She dragged me along to a birthing class. I fell asleep. At least I was sober. She was pissed off for days. I thought about having a warm bath with razor blade braclets.
Her water broke on the bus to the supermarket. The driver took us to the hospital, everyone was pissed at us, but the driver told them all to go fuck themselves.
She littered six children. The first five had two mouths each, the runt had one mouth. Great- they can feed and cry at the same time.
It was like bankruptcy, a jail sentence, rape, AIDs, cancer and death, all delivered in a 24 hour window. In fact that’s what I named these Valkyrie spawn in my head: Bankruptcy, Jail, Rape, AIDs, Cancer and Death.
She named them: Huey, Duey, Luey, Mickey, Donald and Goofy; or something like that, I wasn’t listening.
I went to a bar. Bars. I drank. I drank for four days, in which time she and her clutch had been discharged. I hadn’t been to work in a week, and somehow I went to the factory and dramatically got the sack, plus my pay for the previous week to be gotten rid of.
I stumbled home at dawn with a half bottle of Cuban rum in my hand. I crept into the apartment, and I ate the first two children. I smothered two more, as I couldn’t eat them all, and that’s when she woke up and set upon me. She damn near scratched the flesh from my body and perforated my ear drums, but I managed to kill another one of the litter by dashing its brains against the wall. Through my one good eye I could see the runt of the litter, which she snatched up and drove to her breast. I remembered the gun. I kept a loaded pistol in the bedside. She made for the front door, which I’d chained and bolted, and I made for the drawer with the 10mm Silver Saviour. My aim was a little inebriated and I mostly shot holes in the plaster-board and door frames as she scrambled around the apartment, but one bullet finally flew straight, and struck her between the shoulder blades.
She arched back, her elbows tucked, twisting as she fell against the wall to face me, and slid down it to the floor, leaving a red flight pattern against the sky-blue wall of the nursery we had returned to. Baby Death lay silently in her arms, a chubby pink hand reaching out for her exposed, bulbous nipple. Both her mouths fell open – and inky eyes wide, she rasped from one mouthful of good teeth, and gargled from the other – then fell totally silent, and beautifully still.
Baby Death suckled, quietly.
The gun dropped from my hand to the floor. Blood coursed down my stinging face, neck and chest. My shirt was shredded to tatters. My ears were ringing from the screaming and the gunshots. I picked up the half bottle of neat Cuban rum, and headed slowly into the bathroom, where I carefully shaved off my beard.
It was time for that warm bath now.
Benjamin W Wild © 2012.
First published in L’Allure des Mots, Issue 9.
Artwork by Ling Jian