I wrote this something like three months ago, trying to imitate the tone of a David Lynch movie cause that’s what I was into at the time. It definitely focuses on the prose more than the story, but I feel like in composition– especially the earlier stages– you have to try a couple different styles. Sometimes it works, sometimes not. Feed me feedback.
Mommy is alone in the kitchen. Her fingers knead purple ground meat. Streaks of translucent grease cross her face. The vent above the stovetop is on high and squeals a bit, so Mommy presses her thumbs into her ears. She gets blood or something inside her ears. She picks up a knife to cut celery but the grease is all over her hand. The knife slips out of her grip and she cuts her palm. She swears and clenches her wrist. A drop of blood is diluted by the dampness of her hand, and falls onto the cutting board mixed with brownish oil.
Mommy dreamed last night that her baby came in the mail packed in cellophane. When she tore off the tape and used her fingernails to pry the staples, she took out her baby but it had the face of a mouse and no arms and no stomach. Its legs were bent like a frog’s, its head stuck atop elephantine thighs. Her baby hopped around her kitchen; then it died, gasping for air like a fish, its tongue slapping at the green and white tiles, which like everything in Mommy’s house were very clean. Another night Mommy dreamed she saw her baby at a department store, a Walmart or a Target with the fluorescent lights screamingly bright. She found her baby thrown in the section with the porch chairs and the patio umbrellas, when it should have been with the pharmaceuticals. She walked to checkout with the box under her arm and the pale fat girl behind the counter swiped it with a wand and then Mommy swiped her credit card, and then, going to her car, Mommy noticed that the tape on the box had been tampered with and the package was damaged, open in a corner; her baby had been picked apart and eaten with a bag of corn puffs. Little toes rolled here and there on the cardboard, smudged in flavored orange dust.
Mommy and Gary have waited for their baby almost a month now; six months ago Mommy retired from her job; a year before that, Gary’s website blew up. Mommy was barren, so the real Mommy, another Mommy, had been paid a sum of money and was lying on a beach in Maine, cracking lobster shells and dunking violet meat into tiny plastic cups filled with butter. (The surrogate Mommy is the daughter of a lobster fisherman in Maine. Mommy has never seen the other Mommy, and she imagines her this way).
Mommy takes a fistful of ground meat and presses it into a hot pan that looks the same as a cold pan. Steam rises. It smells like bugs.
Their land is heavily wooded. A groundskeeper comes once a week. A maid service comes the same day as the groundskeeper.
“What’s the plan for today?” Asks Gary, standing by the kitchen table.
“Sit around. Stare over toward the refrigerator,” says Mommy.
“Read. Then I think I’ll take a walk. I want to see what the neighborhood looks like past Thunder road. Then I come back and practice.”
“So you’re not going out with Fimi?”
“No. Fimi is too much for me to handle right now. I don’t need any more stress.”
“Fimi always talks about the same problems, every day. Her work; her husband and kids. It’s always some problem with her. Something is always wrong.”
“I hate people like that,” says Gary. He walks over and kisses Mommy on the forehead, wiggling a backpack on over his suit. He is strong, Mommy notices. Gary used to be a twig. “You’re going to be quite the cellist by the time the baby comes,” he tells her.
“These are the skills that will matter,” says Mommy, turning away from Gary.
Gary walks through the back door. Mommy watches through the window. Gary’s scalp, a little bobbing semi-circle above the sill, floats to the garage. Mommy looks back at her computer, and then at her plate. The plate is decorated with precise images of woodpeckers and orange leaves, the paint glossy and deep. She hears the car whisper, the engine sounding like an animal that can only exhale, exhale, exhale. When the sound disappears down the driveway, Mommy slinks out of her chair, onto the floor, and sits cross-legged. She leans over and rests her temple on the tiles. Mommy loves to look at things with her head next to the floor. Even dull domesticity is made topographical with her eyes next to the floor.
Upstairs is her private closet. In it is a collection of old coats. On the bottom is a box filled with intoxicants. Gary doesn’t know that Mommy takes pills; Mommy has always cherished this secret, which is the last of a long lineage of secrets, all except this forcibly revealed by time and marriage. She has Xanax from prescription. Vicodin from prescription. Cannibus in big metal jars that are meant for pickling. The sight of the dense gray clusters, the knowledge that these things exist, makes Mommy content, in almost the same way that sitting on the floor does.
At times Mommy feels guilty for being unproductive, but she questions her guilt. There is a baby coming. She needs to relax. Mommy has always questioned guilt, in general, and although she would never admit this, wonders whether there is ever a reason to regret. Isn’t happiness the point of it all? Mommy is intelligent. She questions her sensibilities. She questions the prejudices of the past. She wonders if the world is not just a black-and-white mixture of pleasure and pain.
One day Mommy searched “hobby list” into an internet browser and encountered a long stack of ideas with which to entertain herself. This is the world to her, at this moment: she can pick any activity and do it, instantaneously. But without any sort of proclivity, all she ends up doing is sitting around the house. The world is her indifferent oyster.
Mommy reaches for a dark purple coat and walks downstairs, out the front door. She sits down on the top step of her porch. Her feet rest on a pile of acorns, raked up by the groundskeeper. She leans her head against the brick floor. The sky is the color of eyelashes seen from inside the eye.
Mommy thinks about college. In her youth, Mommy was a plant. All that guided her—not ambition, not desire—was the imperative of expansion. She worked hard in school because she did not have much else to do. She was smart, never curious. TV was boring, she had little taste for music, partly because there was just way too much of it, she never knew where to begin. Her Mommy, who had raised her alone, had enforced a peculiarly unintense intensity for education into her daughter. Mommy’s Mommy was a nervous Mommy, gave Mommy educational toys for birthday presents, rock collections and chemistry kits and models of World War Two fighter jets. Movie night was a documentary, Christmas was a book and a box of chocolates. Mommy’s Mommy equated learning with civilization itself: to deprive her daughter of education would be akin to turning a Christian to a Pagan.
The walls of Mommy’s dorm room had been blank plaster and a shelf of books. She used to stare at grooves in the paint, between classes, in calm fascination, watching the shapes made at random in the porous, laminated material.
Mommy tries to imagine one of her college classes. Just to see if she can still remember. An image jumps up. She’s sitting in the front of a lecture hall. Behind her sits an Armenian girl with shiny hair, pink sweatpants and a black sweatshirt with sequins down the arms. To her left is a boy named Moe who is always sick with a cold, sniffling obnoxiously during lectures, and who, Mommy heard, was later kicked out for masturbating publically. (“I just can’t stop masturbating,” he told the Dean, according to rumor. “You can’t punish me for something I can’t control”).
The chairs are fake wood. They (whoever made the chairs) actually took pictures of wood, and glued these to the chairs. Mommy’s college had to renovate their classrooms and make the chairs more comfortable, because a student sued over back problems. Three years after college Mommy married her boyfriend. Two years after that their income bloomed.
Mommy’s career had suddenly been downgraded to a hobby. Her college life was downgraded to some useless preparation.
At least college had let her meet Gary. They were a good match
A fertility clinic in stucco white, low and wide. Outside the door are a series of marble birdbaths, the water turned green. Sparrows crap in these fountains, fly off to the hedges. The building’s doors are tinted gray. Through them, the hallway hangs with awards, certificates, degrees, covered in glass, framed. There are five doctors working here, seven nurses and two assistants. They are all close friends.
Below the fertility clinic is bedrock. This bedrock, if one walks into the basement of the clinic, is penetrated by a stairwell, the entrance to which is a dark blue door, kept locked. This penetrating stairwell drops interminably down. Halfway down the stairs, the walls turn from granite to skin. One passes through teeth, onto a tongue, and down the esophagus of a leviathan. This is why they keep the door locked. The air, when the door is open, is steamy and hot. It smells like bugs.
Let me introduce myself. My name is Dr. Faustus. I am a fertility doctor. I have won the following awards: the Excellency in Medicine Award from the AMA, the Michel M. Gabby Leadership and Clinical Success Award, given only once a year and attached to a ten-thousand dollar grant; and, of course, the President’s Award from the Medical School of America, in Philadelphia, where I also received my degree. After medical school I began a private practice in Northern Westchester along with four of my friends. We are a clinic dedicated to hard work, hospitality. We aim to care for our patients in ways that exceed the walls of our clinic.
I am currently kneeling on top of a branch, balanced on the balls of my feet with one hand leaned against the trunk, outside one of my client’s households, watching her smoke what smells like marijuana. She cannot see me because, for one, I am very still, and, second, because her property is large and thick with trees.
I am wearing a lab coat, of spotless white canvas, below which a thin layer of sweat has accumulated over my torso, lubricating me.
On the ground below the tree is a bulging, twisting piece of luggage.
I am an idealistic man and a happy man. I am happy because I have learned that, universally, the greatest pleasure one can derive from life is that which is derived from work. I try to tell this to as many people as I can, so they understand. There is no greater happiness than that derived from success. I mention this to justify the pleasure I take in daytime stalking. Harmless prying is only a habit of mine because I take so much pleasure in seeing a job well done.
Happiness is attainable. The key, aside from what I said above, is tolerance. One must accept. I have certain dirty or inconvenient habits: I am a person. There is no reason for me to regret such habits unless they inconvenience others. Guilt’s only purpose is a social regulator. A person should love himself or herself with acceptance of failings. Stress has a sizeable effect on the body, as I see in my medical practice. So I have learned, rather than needlessly guilt, simply to deal with this flaw, which is really a ritual, and which I have just begun, sitting in this tree outside my client’s house, watching.
My other habit, though, is to present my work to the client. I show them my work in person. I surprise them. These are my two habits: the ritual, and the presentiment. The first gives me pleasure; the second gives me pride.
It has begun to rain, so my present invisibility is fairly assured.
Dozing on her chair, her feet kicked up on an armrest and one side of her robe yawning out, a steak bone from lunch lying moistly beside her, Mommy hears a splatter on the walkway leading to the porch. She wakes up and notices that it has started to rain. The sky is dark gray. There is a sound, though, much like the fall of water, but loud enough to distinguish itself from the noisy raindrops. It is a slapping noise, skin against skin or skin against a skein of water. Mommy stirs. There is a little patter of feet, scurrying up to the steps, where Mommy can see a few branches from the surrounding shrubbery wave about.
A pale form rolls over the first step, sets its feet onto the bricks above its head and rolls over. It is an enormous infant, tall as an adolescent boy, laughing benignly and drooling a bit, with rolls of fat covering its body in such density that, really, its only discernable feature is its face, which is stuck into a valley between the fat of its neck and that of its shoulders. Its little blonde locks fall over a manila forehead, its cheeks so plump that they hang down to its back. The baby squeals. It is immensely clean, as though just out of a bath, skin shining and even a bit soapy, Mommy can see. It oozes forward on the floor of the porch toward Mommy, rolling like a log. Mommy stares. It eventually reaches Mommy’s feet and grips the folds of her robe. It climbs into her lap, covering both her legs and laying its head on an armrest. The huge baby pulls itself upright and then sits on her lap, draped over Mommy, fat swinging off it in long tufts. It looks serenely into Mommy’s eyes.
Then it burps and coughs. It looks displeased all of a sudden, its smile disappearing and its eyes clenching into wrinkly fists, a hoarse wail emerging from its throat. It coughs again. Then it vomits a white liquid, egg-shell off-white, chunks of carrot and asparagus floating in it, a stream dribbling down its fat and onto the skin of Mommy’s arm, then onto the ground.
From way off in the lawn, just over the child’s head, Mommy can see a shape. It is walking toward her, waving.
“Do you enjoy your child?” says Dr. Faustus. “Does it caress and hold you like you pictured?” The man is fully erect, standing still on Mommy’s front porch steps, a long white lab coat littered in the grass behind him.
The baby reaches out its thick arms and squeezes Mommy’s neck, kissing her cheeks and forehead. It is slippery with spittle.
“The marvelous part of living when we do, at this arbitrary date in the history of an arbitrary world, is that if we totally deny the existence of anything, simply ignore it, then it will soon cease to exist at all,” Dr. Faustus says. “Look at you, a young woman, beautiful and successful, and because of your success and that of the people before you, you will never have to carry child. There will be no labor-pains. What an amazing leap in history! These things that we call fundamental are in fact totally unreasonable, nothing more than the echoes of a past that no longer quite fits us. There are millions of arbitrary realities, all around us, and we can choose whichever one we like. Thrilling!” The baby has begun to squeeze Mommy, its arms clasped around her, its fat warm and liquidey. “Do you know the one thing that has really stayed with me since childhood, Mrs.?”
Mommy shakes her head for no.
“Everything of my old self has dropped away. I have gone through phases and eras. One year is totally indiscernible from the next; nothing stays the same, there is no continuity. But I have never been able to stop biting my lip. I like to chew on overhanging pieces of skin, which of course creates more overhanging pieces of skin, which I play with, using my tongue, until I choose to bite these off too. I know; it’s a useless, idiotic habit. But it is the one thing that connects me to myself a decade ago, or a decade before that. Some day I’ll try to quit, and then there will be no connection between me and my past, the thread will have been broken like one of these pieces of dead skin in my gums. There is no continuity, except in my will to pleasure.
“What I have come to realize, as an adult, is that there is very little reason to do anything in this world other than masturbate. I only work because I have to. If I had the money, I would be stationary, on a couch, pleasuring myself. This is the only logical thing a person can do: eat, sleep, drink liquids, work so that the mind doesn’t overwork itself from boredom, and masturbate.
“There is no argument against this. There is the preservation of society, but society is unpreservable, like everything. And, moreover, in my own home I can choose whatever life I want. Anything can be true with my front door shut and bolted, and my windows locked, and the shades drawn.
“Unless I believe in God—which I don’t, because God does not make the slightest logical sense, and I believe in logic—I can remain in utter, lovely invisibility until the day I die.”
Mommy’s face is drowning in her baby’s stomach, which now covers most of her face and chest, as the infant has crawled on top of her, up her shoulders, and is sitting on her head, laughing and beating its sunken knee-caps with pudgy fists. Its thighs tighten around her throat. The smell of its skin is like. Like what? Mommy thinks to herself of all the smells she has ever smelled. This smell is very particular. She can’t place it.
“What do you say to all this? It is only conjecture on my part. You can believe whatever you want. In fact, I encourage you to pick whatever truth seems best to you.”
Mommy swims out of the infant’s flabbiness, cupping her hands and parting it, and she yells something incoherent; her voice is muffled by the loose flesh that covers her. She tries again. She pulls apart some more skin and yells again, this time audibly, at the doctor, who in his turn nods very forcefully in agreement: “I spit on the past!”
“Well good then! Would you like to come with me back to the office? I think I can help you even more, now that you’ve admitted such an obvious, but indeed incredibly rare truth. You can call a babysitter? Or is your husband going to be back soon? No matter, we can just take your child with us for now.” Dr. Faustus grabs his piece of luggage, now empty, and climbs the steps of the porch. He pulls the baby, which resists somewhat, off of Mommy, and forces it into the luggage. He pushes down on the fat, on the arms and legs, to get them to fit. The luggage is black, sleek, and has wheels. He zips it up. The infant has one finger stuck out of the compartment, wiggling around next to the zipper.
He and Mommy run off, hand in hand, laughing gaily, to meet the Devil.
[Good Angel. Sweet Faustus, leaue that execrable art.
Faustus. Contrition, prayer, repentance: what of them ?
Good Angel. O they are meanes to bring thee vnto heauen.
Evill Angel. Rather illusions, fruites of lunacy,
That makes men foolish that do trust them most.]