“Cut out your tongue, my darling.”
“Cut out your tongue, you heard.” A smile.
The earth shook a little, with the ease of a weeping willow. She tilted her head to the side and licked her lips. He stared back at her and tilted his head to match. She reached behind her back and brandished a solid, heavy, silver dagger, and lifted it. Her eyebrows rose glamorously as if to prove a point, as she twirled the dagger around her finger and licked her lips once more.
The ground shook a little more and so did he. A framed picture fell from the wall to his left and absolutely obliterated itself on the Pergo. A little shard wedged itself into his shin and dribbled thick warm blood into his sock. He lowered his head, raised his hand, and opened his palm, face up. In palm she placed the dagger, he was surprised to note how her hand was three times limper than his. The moment felt massive.
She stared at him. Kids laughed and tripped outside.
Lightning struck a young boy on a blue bicycle a mile away, due north. He recovered in the hospital but his thoughts were damaged forever and the kids at recess felt a little too conscious to talk to him. The same bolt that charged the boy struck a colony of ants and electrically eliminated two hundred and thirty of their working backs from the living world.
When the flash reached the house it struck her eyes first. They always seemed dark brown, but when the light exploded her irises burst into fits of yellows and reds. For a millisecond she grew horns and her skin glowed sickly red. Her hair was so full and seductive, so wretchedly beautiful, black and blond and some places red, sometimes darker, sometimes short. Today her nose was pierced and studded on the right. Her left calf read “Mark.” Her right knee was always scraped and bleeding. She shaved every day and forgot how to tie shoelaces last Wednesday. Her body always hurt she said. She’s never comfortable she said. Entertainment didn’t even entertain her she said, yet she would always bat her eyes and play it cool and say there’s “nothing wrong.”
Their cat sneezed and it sounded stupid for its half-second of fame. It got frightened its own outburst and disappeared in a hurry, running over a spider it could’ve easily eaten, a daddy long legs with legs so long it had premature joint pain. The spider crumbled to death and had no last thought.
To the left of her pink left ear a bird crashed into the window and fell and died with a thud. He winced and swallowed and lifted the dagger and turned his eyes a few degrees right to stare at her straight in the pupils. His right hand fingers fit naturally in the brass knuckle-like holders on the handle. He opened his mouth and with his left hand stretched out his tongue. It seemed to vibrate with infrared soggy warmth.
His tongue felt strange being stretched so hard, but it wouldn’t work any other way. He debated whether or not to close his eyes for an eighth of a second but decided to keep them open to look at her. Reflecting back it wasn’t much of a choice. Her eyes were now freakishly gold and mesmerizing, reflecting all sorts of crazy lights from the kitchen and pots and pans and mirrors and dusty lamp-bowls.
His tongue was warm and coarse and slimy like hers. He was wild about love. His friends called him a fool in love. Singers called him a player of the silly game called love. Paul McCartney sang that what he had is “All You Need,” but that side of the record had a five-inch scratch so it skipped every four seconds for the entire track. He still listened to it once a month and giggled softly to himself because it made no sense all disjunct and frenetic, but he wasn’t one to judge.
The dagger handle had four holes for his four fingers; it was perfect. Her pupils began to contract in response to the lightning flash. His teeth were like perfect white rectangles. He felt so proud of his hygiene but he did it for her, really. He brushed his teeth three times a day in disgust after the day he crushed a fruit fly between his right molars and his tongue tasted bitter for the rest of the night.
He lifted the dagger by turning his wrist and thought for half a second that he certainly couldn’t do it. He raised his forearm and tensed all his muscles. He inhaled shortly, sharply, and softly. He couldn’t tell what color anything was. Gas dispersed through the HVAC system and took with it a small mayfly that got caught in the furnace and fried without smell or sound.
She nodded slightly, patiently, seductively. Only one percent of her face looked scared. He closed his throat and relaxed his arm for a second and took a sharp breath and let loose a fierce downward angry explosion. The leading corner of the triangular blade sliced through his pink tongue with zero pain. He swiftly hacked it, diagonally down, pulling more so than slitting. Blood instantly flooded his mouth. He leaned forward to let it all pour out. She leaned in, kissing him on the upper lip with foreheads touching. Her eyes turned brighter and seemed to come to life as she looked upward from eye level, smiling. It was the most breathtaking sight he had ever seen. He felt like singing and taking ecstasy, but instead he leaned forward and fell unconsciously to the floor. On the telly was a report about a boy who actually swallowed his own tongue. They had five doctors tweezering it out from way down his pre-pubescent esophagus.
She smiled and thought about how beautiful humans are and sighed. As she rocked on the her rocking chair a tornado ravaged through Oklahoma and killed zero people and fourty eight spiders and a stray cat that got launched against a nearby trash bin. She never even thought of holding for them a respectful funeral in her mind. Instead, she packed up and went to the local high school to teach the philosophy of art for three hours at Margaret High School. When she came back he was waiting for her, eating ice cream and drinking cold red water. He threw the tongue in the trash because they weren’t sickos.
They made out and she finally didn’t have to deal with too much tongue.
While fungi and insects and bacteria devoured his tongue in a nearby landfill, a factory defunct flat screen television was thrown in the pile and a burst of excess electrons sparked, igniting stocks of drenching methane trapped under the waste. The explosion and ensuing fire wiped out three thousand five hundred and sixty-seven square feet of landfill and totally wrecked the environment. The landfill company hadn’t measured the gas levels in two weeks. The construction worker in the truck that dropped the telly suffered first degree burns but turned out as fine as a depressed laborer can be. Roughly one hundred and ninety trillion single-celled bacteria, fifty-eight million detritus-feeding fungi, and nine thousand insects spanning thirty-two species vaporized on contact. Only the cockroaches walked around hard shelled, sending out pheromones pleading for reproduction. The local bureaucrats freaked out about the public response and fired the directors of Waste and Pollution Management.
Rocking back and forth in the same chair his grandmother used to cradle him, the man traces his life like a child searching a map. Eight-eight years ago his grandmother had passed, and for eighty years the chair waited for him. His new wife sits next to him most every afternoon, her head tilted back, open to the sky. She has never heard his tongue form t’s and z’s and r’s, but she listens to the way the old chair creeks, noticing the tempo of the chair, when he almost tips himself over a bit too far, and when the bugs and critters scurry under the rockers, towards their two-dimensional afterlife, prostrated between cedar wood and linoleum tile.
Image: Landfill by Ricardo Laranjo, 2011. Oil on Canvas.