Authors: Jeffrey Thomas
Here I go, lady, I’m casting my line!
The worm I’ve got for you is a good three feet
Swallow it all, baby, cuz I am what you eat!”
Yeah, maybe they could meet a few girls at the fair tonight, too, thought Wes, inspired. Fen didn’t want to hang around long, but purple vortex might prove a quick bait. He hadn’t had much time for fun with Moband, a surgical hermaphrodite; he’d had to close his eyes to climax–and not because Moband was dead, but so overweight and homely. Wes was determined to have a little fun tonight no matter how much Fen tried to hold him down.
“You can spit it out later if you don’t think it’s sweet
But invite me in for dinner cuz I am what you eat
What you eat, what you eat, bitch
Dolly Horowitz lived in a fifty-third floor apartment in Robin Plaza, with an expansive view of lovely Plaza Park across the street, as safe an area as any in Punktown could be, but she wasn’t happy with it. Her husband had moved them there from Miniosis last year to be near his work assignment with Tessler Bioplastics. She spent most of her time consoling herself in the inferior malls and art galleries of Paxton, or painting. She had already dressed for some painting after breakfast, in tight blue jeans and a powder blue work shirt open at the throat and rolled up to the elbows, white sneakers and no socks. Hair pinned up in back. She looked so great this way, as sophisticated casual as she was in an evening gown. Also, she had the girls to occupy her. Her husband’s daughter by his first wife, Chana, was off for the summer in Caba; her eighteenth birthday present from her father. Fawn, Dolly’s daughter, was home. Next week school would start, and though the summer would still be in effect by the calendar’s reckoning, it would be officially over for all the kids. Fawn was going to the fair tonight as she had the past two nights, a last party before school. Tonight was the last night for the fair.
Fawn came scuffing into the kitchen in her furry white slippers and pink satin Kodju-inspired robe, her long dark red hair mussed, sneering at her own grogginess. She was a pretty girl, turned sixteen a month ago, and her somewhat long nose gave her narrow face an intelligent refinement and a touch of ethnic character, Dolly was pleased to note. Dolly had chosen for Fawn her beautiful rusty hair and soulful hazel eyes through scientific artistic design when she had decided to become a mother (not carrying Fawn inside her either, due to her work with the museum in Miniosis at that time, though carrying one’s child the natural way was coming back in the upper class, a “statement” some called it). Fawn was tall and slender–her mother liked to describe her as willowy. Though Dolly was kind and affectionate toward Chana, her resemblance to her own mother–short, dark and large-breasted–was bothersome and partly responsible for Dolly’s design for Fawn.
“I’ll make you some breakfast before I go paint,” said Dolly.
“Ugh–no thanks. I feel like retching up everything I ate last night.” Fawn plopped herself at the breakfast counter. Propped her elbows on the counter and her forehead in her palms. “I have a junk food hangover.”
“And you want to go again tonight. You know, Miss Brain Damage, it isn’t the money you waste going down there night after night or the poisons you put in your body–it’s a dangerous and scary place for a sixteen-year-old girl to be, with just a few friends and no adults. This is Punktown! Even in Miniosis it wouldn’t be smart! Look, Daddy and me went with you the first night and you had fun…why can’t you wait and see if Daddy can come home early enough tonight to take you?”
“I promised Cookie and Heather!”
“Well I can unpromise Cookie and Heather. I don’t like it!”
“I can’t stay locked in a castle all my life!” Fawn whined, morose.
“Oh you poor little neglected thing. You don’t care how I worry, though, do you?”
“There are security guards!”
“Wait until Dad comes home.”
“Daddy said I could.”
“You just want to meet boys, Fawn, and you can do that next week safe and sound in school.”
“So what if we meet boys? Then it won’t be us three girls defenseless, will it?”
“Such a smart, sarcastic mouth.” Dolly marched into the bathroom off the kitchen, could be heard rummaging in a cabinet. Came back with a bottle of something to settle Fawn’s stomach. The teenager raised her head dutifully to accept the offered spoon, which clinked on her teeth. Dolly said, “You’re driving me crazy, you’re killing your mother, but what do you care?”
“Oh–how am I killing you?” Fawn twisted her face.
“By wearing me down and upsetting my nerves. I hope you have children someday…you’ll find out.” Dolly spooned Fawn some more medicine as if in punishment. “Heather’s asshole of a father had better not be late picking you up tonight like he was last night or I won’t have her over in my house again. That understood?”
“Your stomach will be fine in a minute. I’ll make you some toast at least.” Dolly went to pour juice. So much of her previous artistic inspiration had been wrung out of her. Kids; they eroded you. But Fawn was the pride of Dolly’s life.
After breakfast Fawn returned to her room to shower and call her friends, and Dolly got in a little work on the large panel that she had gained permission to hang in the hall outside her apartment, after much persistence and after inviting the owners of Robin Plaza to a dinner party. It was–by most anyone’s standards, but for those of the highest tolerance and arrogance–horrible.
Even Dolly didn’t seem too thrilled with the growing quagmire of red, blue and yellow this morning, and abandoned the painting, wiped her hands on a towel as she sought out her daughter. She opened the soundproofed door without knocking and wasn’t surprised to see Chauncy Carnal of Sphitt standing before her in his characteristic broad stance wearing his white leotard with the crotch cut out, masturbating in the direction of her daughter while he serenaded her with a twisted pouting sneer, his white mane cascading onto his bare bony tanned shoulders. He was growling the surly/sultry ballad
Fall to Your Knees
, Fawn’s current favorite song.
What distressed Dolly was seeing Fawn’s willowy body naked, rocking and bouncing on what first might have looked like a strange black saddle she was strapped into, minus a horse. It was actually that damn “love bug” Chana had bought Fawn for her birthday and which Fawn had managed to keep secret and hidden for almost a month. It was furry and mindless, a genetically designed beetle play-thing, some of its legs locked around Fawn’s white legs and waist, two of its gentle feelers stroking and coiling around Fawn’s slight breasts. Her head thrown back and mouth open in abandon, eyes closed for the moment and music loud, she didn’t know her mother was there at first, until Dolly made some noise in looking about for the remote control that would banish Chauncy Carnal’s convincingly sweaty hologram. Fawn gasped, embarrassed.
“Don’t you respect my privacy? Why can’t you knock?”
“I’ll respect you when you show a little respect around here, brat. Turn that disgusting hologram off. And get off that thing! I’m going to have your father take that stupid thing away! You have to be so damned preoccupied with sex!”
“I’m normal, okay? Do you want me to do it with real boys instead?”
“I want you to have a little taste!”
“Oh come on, I know you’ve tried Herbie, too–don’t deny it!”
“Oh you little smart-mouth brat. Just wait until Daddy gets home tonight. And if you still think you’re going out today you can forget it.”
“Oh come on–what did I do?” Fawn wailed, but too late–the door had slammed shut. “Bitch!” she hissed to herself, sneering as she fought back tears, motionless astride her obedient pet. It continued caressing her breasts as if to console her. Chauncy Carnal, undaunted, bellowed out the ballad’s tear-wringing crescendo:
“I love you so much
I just want one last touch
Just taste once my tears
They’re the liquid of my fears
But you say I secrete
More than you can eat
Though I beg you please
You won’t fall to your knees
I love you so much
I love you so much
I love you so much!
That I hate you, you spoiled little bitch.”
“Oohh...shut the fuck up.” Del Kahn reached out to the radio alarm like a drowning man to a life preserver of sanity, tendons straining, fingers wiggling, until with a final grunt of effort he touched the dial and gave it an emphatic click which banished the awakening assault of Sphitt’s
In Your Face
. Del rolled away from the radio onto his back to groan. He couldn’t have felt more jarred if he had awakened to the members of Sphitt shaking his bed, kicking it, and pursing their lipstick pouts down at him. Sophi listened to that station; he seldom did. They seldom played any of his own songs these days. Very seldom.
Rolling his head, he surveyed Sophi. The detonation of music hadn’t pierced her thick dark tangle of hair, all that he saw of her. Funny, that was the first thing you focused on with her–the first thing he had, anyway, that body and those eyes aside. Thick dark hair, long, a lion’s mane on a lioness. Del and Sophi had been married five years. She had never cut her hair short, never dyed or frosted it blonde or any other color and certainly hadn’t shaved herself bald a few years ago when that was big. None of that would be Sophi. Other women could get away with that, with all of that. Their mutability was their identity. Sophi’s identity wasn’t dependent on the latest fashion or fad; bald-headedness, green frost. Sophi
her hair. If fashion had led her like a ring through the nose, she might have never married Del Kahn in the first place. Even five years ago he had been largely forgotten.
He stole out of bed stealthily so as not to rouse her, made it to the floor, padded out and through the parlor into the narrow kitchen. The bathroom was the last room, but for some low-ceilinged basement-like storage space below. They’d had the trailer three years, though for some of that time Del had briefly lived elsewhere, on and off, depending on moods. His moods to leave, or her moods which made him leave. They had talked about it and both agreed that it was this semi-regular leaving that kept their marriage intact, like steam vented off to prevent a total explosion.
Del finished urinating, flushed the toilet, ran a hand over his mirrored jaw. Yeah, it was cramped, you couldn’t shave without bumping your elbow on the wall. But how about those tour buses, fifteen, seventeen years ago? Talk about cramped. At first he had loved the trailer for its nostalgic references to those tour days before he and the band became so big that they simply teleported to the gig and back home that same night. He still loved the trailer, it was home, but sometimes its closeness chafed him, and he had to leave. Today he was here.
Shaving could wait; coffee was the priority. In the low-ceilinged kitchen, its walls and ceiling turquoise plastic, the cupboards, counters and floor an imitation swirly pink marble, Del filled a pink mug that was made from a Tikkihotto sea shell. The smell of coffee–one of the little pleasures of life that mean so much but have so much else stacked against them. Del paced the narrow kitchen idly in his bare feet, wearing underpants and v-necked undershirt. Flipped though a magazine on the little table. Moved the pink blinds to gaze out the window at the activity of morning, people starting themselves up for work like machines, passing by with Styrofoam cups of coffee in hand, or cigarettes, which served them the same purpose. He’d have to get Sophi up soon, but he liked these few minutes alone with himself first.