20050606

Yes, We Have Those


The woman who kept banging the “help” bell had lacquered pink fingernails with looping spiral designs in silver. I could see her through the frosty meat window, and that meant she could see me.

I ambled into the shop front and stood there with my arms crossed. We stared at each other while she searched for words. I knew exactly what she wanted -- but it’s in my nature to make wealthy people feel uncomfortable. It’s why I do what I do. As an artist.

She was maybe forty-five. She wore a white fur coat and had on some sort of pink pantsuit underneath that matched her claws. She had a pretty trim figure, I guess. Bulges in all the right places. Still attractive to somebody, most likely. I don’t know. Not my thing. Sex is a lot of bad news, if you ask me.

“You want a sandwich?” I asked, finally.

“Hmmm,” she said. She bent over at the waist and looked into the meat case. Most of the meat was visibly rotten. The rolls were all mixed up, and I noticed with perverse pride that a yellow slug was crawling slowly over a tuna puff that had burst with rot and clotted the glass. Were slugs like maggots? Did old food spontaneously generate them? The glass gleamed on the outside, though. It should: I gave it a good waxing every morning.

“No, I’m here for one of your specialty items,” she said sharply.

“You mean like a rib-eye or pickled pigs feet?” I said with a derisive, fake Southern accent.

“Is this the right place?” she asked. “My husband said there wouldn’t be any hassle.”

“I can’t help you if you don’t tell me what you want,” I said reasonably. She frowned at me as if I was supposed to read her mind.

“This isn’t really a deli, correct?” she asked

“Isn’t it?” I said.

“You sell special things here. For people with special needs.”

“What kind of things?” I asked. “If you know so much.”

“Sex things…custom crafted, special sex things…” she said, curling one hand into a fist at her side. I noticed that the clasp on her fur coat was a broach inlaid with a heart pattern. The cockles looked suspiciously like baby teeth. Human baby teeth. They were capped in gold.

“Why would we sell anything like that here?” I asked.

“Because they’re illegal, you awful man!” she screamed.

The door opened up behind her and cut her off. She stood up straight as a cornstalk.

“Hello, Mr. Fabian,” I said to the man in tails and a bowler who came in out of the cold. “Good to see you.” The woman stepped dramatically over to one side and pretended to look at ancient crullers.

“I don’t have time to chat, my boy,” said the mustachioed bounder. “I’m just here to pick up one of your sausages, and then I’ll be on my way.”

I cut him down a hanging link from over the counter. They were fresh. Still slippery with refrigerator condensation. I wrapped his purchase in butcher paper and Mr. Fabian stuffed it in his trench-coat.

“The rest of your food is crap, son,” said Mr. Fabian, sticking his finger out at me, “But these sausages are divine. Wish I knew where you got them.”

“Tails and snouts, knuckles and skins,” I said with a smile. Mr. Fabian shouldered his way out the door with a hearty chuckle, doffing his cap to the woman in the fur coat. She returned the greeting with a tight nod.

“Follow me into the back,” I said, as soon as he was gone. “Perhaps I can help you find what you’re looking for.”

I led, and she followed. I could hear the click-clack of her high heels behind me, and when I stopped, so did she. It wasn’t far to my workroom, and it’s not like I went to any great lengths to hide it or anything. Do you have any idea how easy it is to pay off cops? They will look the other way for a fresh slice of pie if you serve it up right. Government inspectors are a little bit greedier, but here’s a fact: almost every single person who works for the Federal Government is fist deep into the hardcore S&M scene. It makes sense when you think about it. Anyway, I know the right things to say.

I sat down in an old fashioned rocking-chair and let her browse. My creations were proudly displayed on long tables that ran the length of the room -- each with a placard that discussed the piece’s creation, purpose, materials, and philosophy. She was suitably impressed. She murmured something vacant under her breath and started walking the rows.

“Are you looking for anything particular, or are you just going to let fancy strike you?” I asked. She pulled her fur coat tight.

“What does this do?” she asked, lightly caressing something chrome peeking out of a velvet-lined box with an old-fashioned scale painted on the side.

I stood up and walked over to her.

“Ah, yes,” I said, picking the object up and hefting it so she could see it better. “The original design was commissioned by a former circuit judge from Illinois -- God rot his miserable soul. I’ve made some changes for the floor model. You see, this end goes inside…and then this fits around your ankles, like shackles. The hand-crank in the back here makes the whole thing spin. By that point, you’d better be sitting down or you are going to lose your balance. And you’ll need a friend or two to keep the thing turning. It has a tendency to get stuck at first, until you get the hang of it. After it gets going, you are supposed to pour the plaster of Paris into the valve and then let it set. Supposedly, it takes a full plaster cast of the entire interior of the vagina at the moment of orgasm. It certainly gets the job done, but I don’t know why a person would want such a thing. Comparison, perhaps. Judgment.”

She nodded and then set it back.

“Not what I’m looking for,” she said.

“What about this one?” I asked, sizing her up and stepping over to another item. “It’s a twelve-speed -- with variable grip attachments -- and it fits right into your Judas chair at home by the means of these cunning braces. Very popular. And check this out…” I pressed a button on the side. Pomp and Circumstance started to play from speakers mounted in the base. The vibrations caused the whole thing to pulsate in time.

“Not for me, thanks,” she said.

“You can pick whatever music you like.”

She shook her head.

“This would be much easier if you would just tell me what you want,” I said with a sigh.

She bit her lip and fretted with her purse, twisting a finger into one of its pockets.

“I’ve heard rumors,” she said.

“Rumors about what?”

“Rumors about something new. Something organic. Something at the pinnacle of modern science.”

“Everything in here is at the pinnacle of modern science,” I said with a sneer.

“My husband said you would either know what I was talking about, or that I should go somewhere else. I don’t plan on making a fool out of myself, at any cost.”

I looked her over. Why not? It wasn’t as if it was a state secret, anyway. She wasn’t a regular customer, but she certainly looked the type.

“This way,” I said. I parted a curtain in one corner and gestured for her to walk through it. She flipped by with her nose in the air, but when she saw what I was concealing she gave a happy little squeal of satisfaction.

“I knew it!” she said. “I knew it wasn’t just a legend.”

“Not anymore,” I said, rattling the cage. “I get these from the University, but they are genetically engineering them all over the country. It’s ironic how fast they breed, all things considered. But I guess they don’t know what they are.”

My new pets cavorted and dangled inside a four-foot high steel cage. I currently had about forty of them in stock, all in various shapes, colors, and sizes. There were some with hair, and some as smooth as the palm of your hand. I opened the cage wide and stood to the side. The nearest ones scrambled to the back and then just stood there looking at us, high on their haunches.

“What are they called?” she asked.

“They don’t have an official scientific name or anything,” I said, “I don’t even think they have a genus or species. The biologist who invented them calls them “Toobers.” Go ahead. Pick one up.”

She looked at me and then rolled up her sleeve. She took a red and blue striped one from the back. It didn’t even think about escaping -- and as soon as she touched it, it went completely stiff. Its legs tucked into the trunk of its body and it stretched out to a full eight inches. Its soft little tongue tasted the air, darting out like the flick of a wet towel.

The creature didn’t exist in nature. It couldn’t. It was created with one specific purpose in mind and lovingly tended in captivity like a silkworm.

“How do they work?” she asked, rolling the Toober between her hands like modeling clay. It was as thick as her forearm -- like a ferret or a boa -- but its snout was bulbous like an apple. As long as it was being manhandled, it was stock-stiff and nearly catatonic. As tumescent as a carrot stick. “Is there something you press?”

I took it from her and thumped it against the table to demonstrate its docility. Then, I covered its head with my hand.

“They are all naturally claustrophobic. Tight spaces send them into epileptic seizures that can last upwards of an hour. Sometimes they die. It’s all part of the fun.”

The creature started to shake, buzzing like a wind-up toy. Its whole body shivered like mad, and it was all I could do to keep from dropping it. I knew that if I continued to squeeze it, eventually my hand would go numb. The woman licked her lips and opened her purse.

“How much?” she asked. I told her.

“I’ll take an even dozen,” she said. “Let me write you a check.”

I picked out a dozen adult specimens and put them in a box meant for donuts while she fiddled with her pocketbook. I made sure there was plenty of room for them all to move around before sealing the box with packing tape. I didn’t want them to go off unexpectedly on the ride home.

The Toober I had used as a demonstration wouldn’t stop spazzing, and I knew from experience that he was a goner. I set him down on the ground and then crushed his skull with my cowboy boot. I picked it up off the floor and we walked back into the kitchen area, where I tossed the corpse into a cardboard box.

“I didn’t mean to make you waste one as an example,” said the woman apologetically.

“It happens all the time. They don’t live very long, and they tend to be very territorial. Some mornings, I find half of them dead, as if there’d been a war in the night. There’s still something wrong with the genetic mixture, I guess. It’s really no problem, though. I’ve been turning them into sausage.”

I pointed with my pinky at the grey meat logs that jostled each other over the cash register. “Waste not, want not.”

She flinched and shuddered. That’s what got her, after all that. She stumbled through the shop, out the door, and looked like she was going to capsize right on the sidewalk. She didn’t, though. She merely shifted her package to her other arm and set her jaw. Then she took off like a jet.

Hot damn, I thought. Still got the touch.

6 comments:

Anonymous said...

Naked Lunch Box?
Came across your blog by doing an experiment that is always intriguing I call R.I.G.- Random Irrational Googling.

Take a set of unrelated nouns, in this instance: "ruby rocket ship bug eyed lolling" and see where it leads.

I found your William Burroughs-esque incubus.

Recommend you check out British novelist Colin Wilson, starting with his "The Mind Parasites" and its pre-quel "The Philosopher's Stone", then progress to his non-fiction,-especially "Mysteries" and "The Occult". Some parallel obsessions you might find compelling.

Watch out for settling for 'the too-familiar simile'. They clash with your themes.

(Check out Raymond Chandler's timeless "The Big Sleep" for how to keep your metaphors fresh.)

Best of writ,

EM

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H. O. said...

Wow. You actually had a real commenter besides moi.

This story is nicely subtle. New and original. Funny.

Great, great first para; 40 words and I'm there; absolutely excellent scene establishment.