Mommy and Daddy
Mommy and Daddy don’t love each other anymore, but Mommy still shaves Daddy’s back. She saves all his little back hairs and stores them in the bathtub. Mommy names each one of Daddy’s back hairs that she keeps. Some of them curl and some of them point and some of them are grey.
Mommy is sewing them together to make a child. She does this in secret but I can hear baby cries from her room at night.
Mommy showed me the baby today. It is baby-shaped, and cries just like a baby would. The back hair baby doesn’t eat or drink, but it is itchy a lot, so we have to rub ointment on it. It doesn’t talk, just crawls around the house and sometimes licks itself. The baby hacks up hairballs. Mommy says she can make Daddy a new wife from those.
“Don’t forget,” my brother says, “the buffalo never remember what they had for breakfast.”
If this is figurative, it is harmless.
If an allegory, it means something about monotony. Or detachment from worldly pleasure. Or hedonism; more hackneyed: living in the moment.
If an analogy, then I don’t know who is the buffalo and who breakfast. Who is memory?
If this is a lie, my brother is trying to get me to ask the buffalo what they had for breakfast. If it is a lie, he’ll have me gored: it is a play for the throne.
If this is literal, it is complex.
If the truth, this means my brother is convening with buffalo regularly. He’s learned to communicate with them, has been conducting surveys, and can conclude that, statistically speaking, the buffalo never remember what they had for breakfast.
If the truth is true, then, given the linguistic capacity, he could be convening with anyone, surveying them about anything. His telling me this could be a survey on gullibility. He might go to the buffalo and say, “the brother will believe anything he is told.”
If he does this, should the buffalo then spiral as I am doing now? Is it perhaps a study in overthinking? Why buffalo, and why breakfast? Why memory and why now? Have I imagined this? Have the buffalo? Has he?
If he has imagined it—well, then he is brilliant.
On stage, there is a caterpillar and a film reel. The caterpillar begins eating the film reel. This is not a movie, he says while he chews, over and over and over again until the film is gone from the reel. The caterpillar cocoons around the filmless reel. Hours later, a crack forms, and a projector emerges from the cocoon’s innards. It casts a mouth onto the audience. The audience threads film reels made of silk from their throats. This is not a movie this is not a movie this is not a movie.
Evan Williams is a student at The University of Chicago. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in The Little Patuxent Review, The Bennington Review, and DIAGRAM, among others. He’s currently at work on a book-length project, and tweets @evansquilliams