Here are the full versions of the awesome stories that were shared with me for my Birthday Story for a Print event for 2020. Much thanks to the awesome storytellers who made this happen!
The Postpartum Idiot
by g.emil perrine
“Life is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Seven or eight years after exiting my first womb I was hit in the mouth with a baseball. Other humans consoled me and I sucked the blood from the split in my lower lip, through my bleeding teeth. My two front incisors hurt like hell (if you’ll excuse the expression). I would, from then on, learn new ideas of potential and probable hells. Did I step into that hardball on purpose? Some say that there are no accidents. That’s possible. For me, that’s one of those maxims that negates itself. There are no accidents so everything is intentional. The only difference is accepting that very fact. Now we seem to be moving. A nice vibration is massaging my shoulder and legs. It’s early enough for there to be no traffic, maybe one or two cars. I could be propped up in the front seat and no one would be the wiser. Still, I blame him not and maybe am little grateful for him being careful – last moments alone and all that rot. Well, you’re here but forgive me if I say that that doesn’t count. And I do.
This is no time for philosophy; well actually it’s the ultimate time for philosophy. It’s just that its presence carries a sad defeat with it. I close my eyes even though it’s completely dark in here. My main sensations are tactile and aural. Not much to smell, very little anyway, I suppose from years of abuse. In my mouth is a taste that I can’t quite figure out. I expect it to be blood. It should be blood. A small distant faint comfort lurks in the woods far off, far away from this large cloud of doom. I pretend to know, then actually know that it is the innate memory of the womb. I chuckle to myself that I’ve finally eliminated doubt from my daily curriculum. Better late than never, eh? I know this isn’t what it’s like to be in the womb because I remember. I know. I remember.
I hear the boom up front that was inevitable and I’m mildly jostled, gently rocked. The womb is the perfect source of all that is true. This is a different kind of truth, though. The synthetic carpet lining and the metal lid are my last protective sac with a stifling air as my amniotic fluid. You see why I’m waxing philosophic with all these obvious analogies. Alpha is Omega rendering worthless all of the in-between. I wasn’t exposed to a memory-erasing ray from a mystical alien, just a conk on the head. I had had some fun, wispy and vaporous though it was. Even though it wasn’t a forfeit by any stretch, my meditative confines allow me to see, in the darkness, the complete futility of it all. There’s nothing I can do about it anyway. There’s nothing important happening here either. My return to the womb, rather than revisiting my past, is apparently the result of someone’s ability to predict the future. Somebody thought that they knew what I was going to do and consequently changed the course of events, a preemptive strike, as they say. Also, distracting from my womb analogy is my lack of mobility. Having my hands tied behind me with duct tape ain’t exactly natural. It would be nice if I was in the fetal position, but resignation is the order of the day. I struggled with different ideas before you came along. This comfortable finality came only recently. I’m glad you’re here though. Still I want for the taste of blood.
“Life is a jest and all things show it.
I thought so once and now I know it.”
The Friday after my baseball fat lip my dad let us camp out in the back yard. ‘Us’ being my brother and Jimmy. Brian was supposed to come over, but he seemed uneasy about the whole thing. Did he know? He lied. He blamed his parents and went home. We set up the tent after dinner. The earth rolled us over toward darkness. I parted the flaps and crawled in. The others were getting supplies (snacks) and a torch (flashlight). The canvas was musty. It wasn’t quite a womb because I could see. I could see and the floor was hard and cold. I rolled out the sleeping bags wall to wall and laid down taking up the whole tent, arms out, legs spread. Relaxed and breathing easy I mashed my lips together reopening the cut, tasting the red fluid. A can of pop split the flaps and smacked me in the balls. “Ow!” “Sorry.” I gave Jimmy a hard time for a while until my brother explained that it was just an accident. Accident, my eye.
Before the sun went down we could see through the walls. Us in our dark comfy confines, shifting, watching the hazy silhouette of Mrs. Venter next door watering the lawn and singing to herself. When it was dark a big ol’ 9-volt flashlight lit up our dwelling like a pointy green paper lantern. We told scary stories ineptly and forgot punchlines. Our conspiracy to sneak out after mom and dad went to bed fell through when we fell asleep. I was the first to close my eyes. I’d never slept in a sleeping bag before. It was soft and warm and cozy. I ignorantly happily scooched all the way in. I loved the dark in my drowsy dreamy mood. After muffled ‘goodnights’ I slept. Curled into the fetal position I locked my arms between my legs. My chin was practically on my knees. I twirled like a centrifuge, balled up in the bottom of the sleeping bag. Panic awoke me, horror from not knowing what was happening. I knew I was awake. Odd cackles evolved into familiarity. Laughter, mocking laughter. “Hey!” More laughter then my body slammed into the ground outside of the tent. I was stunned a bit, not hurt. I crawled out onto the dewy grass squinting at the bright overcast morning sky, at Jimmy and my brother. Okay it was a good joke. Assholes. I laughed with them.
Where are we now? That’s an instinctive inquiry. It’s in the blood to wonder where the heck you are. I know, and thusly you know, it matters not. The tires are crunching on gravel, sort of. Sensory change activates curiosity. My driver’s power-steering belt is squealing too. I open my eyes. Black. I close my eyes. Different black. But you know all about that.
We cracked open the store donuts and devoured them greedily, lustily while we laughed and guzzled orange juice. We were out on our own freewheelin’ – until after breakfast anyway. Jimmy and my brother went back in the tent and dozed some more. Pussies. They’d been up and down all night while I was safe in my second womb. My plastic chocolate and reconstituted orange concentrate energized me, however superficially, however temporarily. I tried to get into our house, but the doors were locked. The phony flowery odor of fabric softener and the drone of the dryer drew me back into the back yard behind our house. I peered in through a basement window at my mother loading the washer. The dryer exhaust took the chill of the morning off of my moist bare legs. She pushed those lucky clothes in, sprinkled them with powder and closed the lid. She went directly to folding the fresh batch out of the drier. The whole life cycle of our laundry was condensed in my private window show. When she was bent over her breasts bounced dispassionately in her nightgown. She had laundered all the sensuality out of them.
I didn’t stay at the window long. I didn’t want to bother her. I can play that scene in my mind as if I squatted there for an hour, if I have the time. So I spy awhile longer. I couldn’t really decipher the subversive information that I knew was in that movie, that show, that play. Years couldn’t. What were a few more minutes going to do? Did she know I was watching? Yes, it was a funny question. Thank you.
“Whoa”, I might say. That was quite a pothole. The rag that is robbing me of my taste for blood and the duct tape stealing a bit of my circulation is ensuring my silence. I’m the quiet type anyways. Still you have to be safe. I can’t blame him for that.
I, slowly, so as to be discreet, moved away. The perfumed air warmed my thighs, my young penis hiding in my briefs and my elastic waistband shorts. I moved on following the train of basement windows around to the other side of the house. My dad’s workroom light was on. He was cleaning his deer rifle; 30-30. I knew it before I even looked in. He either wanted to shoot that gun or was shooting that gun. That was the philosophical extent of the father, – envious in a way. Well, I used to be. Now…
I already told you that, I know, I know. I also already told you that it doesn’t matter. To shoot the gun or want to shoot the gun, that was the question. I guess for that to be all encompassing we’ll have to think of it metaphorically. I knew he’d have it broken down to its barest elements. He was just this side of being in a trance with his oily rag gliding up and down the barrel, caressing, massaging. He had a full box of rounds. He pushed seven slender shells into the magazine, sent one into the chamber (with authority) and slipped in one more to take its place. He would, ordinarily, slam the lever open to eject the live round out of the chamber into his chest about where his heart was. The bullet would plop harmlessly on to the carpeted workbench in front of him. Sometimes it hurt, but he liked that. Normally he’d swing the lever forth and back until the rifle was empty, responsibly. We just turned right on to a quieter road like a packed earth driveway – much more pleasant of a ride thank you. Recall the chuckle earlier. I now know that I always knew. The real arc of life is to achieve the knowledge that you already know and always knew. “What?” you say? You know.
That simple precept implies that before I knew, I didn’t know. I still think it was a funny idea to sharply rap on that pane of glass on that morning, but still… By the time a kid in the late 20th century gets to 7 or 8 years-old the confusion has already begun, the cloud has started to form. When you come out you know and, if you’re lucky, when you go out you’ll know. Okay, I’ll take that back. You always know. You just may not know it. I can partially thank my chauffeur. What he lacks in manners he makes up for in enlightenment. No hard feelings here.
When my dad blew a hole in the ceiling of his workroom that was also the floor of his bedroom he didn’t know that he knew. He mistakenly thought hurting his hand with me over his knee would gain him a higher consciousness. And now as the car (it looked like an Audi) rolls to a stop I realize that I knew he’d pull the trigger when I scared him. The boom put me on my butt. He found me back in my first sleeping bag. My guru/jailer is getting out of the car, but leaving the door open. That’s just like him. He’s sauntering over to pee on a tree. The smoke from his cigarette is snaking into his eyes, first the left then the right. He squints them closed. Drops of urine fall from his penis. His eyes water apathetic tears down the sides of his face. He straddles the roots. A stream flows under the bridge of his boot. I perceive a cooling, appropriately. I hear his zipper as if he’s standing just outside the trunk. He’s not. I start to detect some light struggling in. I roll over and close my eyes. I don’t want any more light. What I’ve seen has only caused confusion in my life. It took me a long time get over the last time I saw her. She lit up and was gone.
“Mother Earth is waiting for you,
For that death you’ve got to pay.”
In high school we moved around like amoebas and paramecia in a drop of rainwater scooting about as if we were individuals. Really we were all one in a glop of society. ‘We’ being Jimmy, Georgie, Marie, Chuck and Sherry. The age was of a time when we were shifting from being pedestrian to auto pilot. That is, to pilot an auto. And Sherry. The sport on that night was to sneak into a drive-in movie. Chuck was actually trying to engage some of the others into a discussion regarding which movie to see. It didn’t matter. It doesn’t matter. We stopped at Sal’s Party store and took the boxes and spare tire and jack out of the trunk to make room for myself, Jimmy, Georgie, Chuck, and Sherry, not in that order. It was Jimmy’s dad’s car, but Marie was absolutely not getting into the trunk. And Sherry. The idea of getting into the trunk on purpose was the source of much laughter. When someone closes the lid it locks automatically. Simple enough. Why would someone do that? I was invigorated by the prospect of an adventure so I jumped in first. Unlike now, I faced the opening which bought me the view of the sky, the gang and Sherry planting her lovely foot in front of me, rolling in. We were all giggly. It was all young fun. Sherry scooted back against me. Desire and love flowed from me. Desire for Sherry with her butt purposely warming my crotch. Love for those three wonderful pals that chose to argue about who would get in next. See, even though I knew Sherry liked me, I didn’t know I knew, but you knew that. If Jimmy, Georgie and Chuck hadn’t idiotically argued, then an opportunity for Sherry to make clear what was once a haze might not have arisen. And I may not have reciprocated. Her non-verbal love note was a not very subtle squirming pressure while we snickered. My arms knew what to do. They slipped around her waist and pulled her even closer. She moved her head back putting her hair in my face. What’s to see anyway? Besides, the eyes are more like filters than receivers. Marie, lovely Marie, who didn’t go for this outing too much slammed the door, put it in gear and slowly pulled away. The guys hopped to. Someone closed us into sweet darkness. “What if we can’t get out?” Dear irritated motherly Marie chastised, “I can hear you!” Sherry took my hand and put it on her breast.
So often levers are pulled and buttons are pushed in a variety of manners. A hand is shoved into a cash drawer. A tongue is slipped into a girlfriend. A fist is mashed into a face. A ball is pitched into a face. We’re all trying to put something somewhere.
“Why is there a tire in your back seat?” demanded Ticket Lady when we got to the booth at the drive-in. The known-answer question pervades this abhorrent society. Back to philosophy: The natural order of things is what is happening. Accepting that idea is the crux of the issue. Woe is the person that questions every anomaly that life tosses at them. Why, indeed is there a tire in the back seat?
Being packed in like sardines distracts from wombishness. Quintuplets! He’s rolling down the window of the open door. He’s opening the back door and dragging something out. It clunks to the dry weeds. He’s rolling down that window. And Sherry. She was my next womb. No matter how many times I pushed my penis into her or suckled her breasts, that wasn’t it. You know. She was warm, protective, fluid, nutritive and nurturing. She would lie to people to make me look good. She would steal cigarettes and candy bars and give them to me. She had a job. Still, everything that made her a womb was what made me leave. I was borne away from her. I thought I knew what I needed, but… The thing is, it was all quite delightful and I had to go. It was a mystery, a melancholy mystery. Is that Morse code? He’s tapping out a signal on the trunk smoking another cigarette on his way around to the other windows. It’s his own secret code. He thinks it’s funny. It is. I’m completely relaxed so I can laugh at taunts, or attempts at taunts. I don’t even mind that the rag prevents me from tasting blood. Tasting…I can’t figure out what’s on this rag. I’ve never tasted it before. There’s a first time for everything, eh? Now blood I know. My smart-ass face has been punched so many times, it ain’t funny. I never thanked all those that satisfied my blood lust. You can’t taste blood in the womb. I had to get out of there for that and when I did it was all over me. They hurriedly wiped me off, but it was too late. I think, for me, that’s why I was hatched in to this world. If I couldn’t be in a womb of some sort, then my corpuscles would have to do. I knew that that wasn’t it either, but then I didn’t know.
I couldn’t/wouldn’t self-inflict a wound to satisfy my desire. Okay if you want to get back to philosophy, it all could be traced to self-infliction, but why immerse yourself in minutia? I know you don’t want to. I rested in the bathtub while it filled with warm water. The door was open, another portal to view through. The view was of Linda. She often made me think of Sherry. I watched her pass by in her undies while she got ready to go. I appreciated her both nude and with polyester bra and panties. She was the anti-womb. She couldn’t/wouldn’t smother me with unconditional love. Her arms went up and that sexy dress fell over her. It mussed her hair. She looked at me and smiled, “Your hands dry?” She backed up for me to zip her up. Instead I slipped a hand up between her legs. She stood stoically, icily saying, “I’m late.” I stood dripping in moody resignation. Slowly I zipped her up looking at the back of her head, her hair. What is there to see anyway?
Back in the bath, I covered the overflow drain with a washcloth and filled it to the brim. Floating, eyes closed with my ears full of water I listened to the muffled amplified sounds from either within or without. I released my curiosity and accepted the phoomps and bools for what they were. My arms and fingers, my scrotum and penis bobbed in the hot primordial swamp. For now, it’s dry as a bone in here. All the windows need to be open so he’s moseying over to continue the job. He’s not a slave to the clock, which I can appreciate. He thinks it’s time. It’s not. Laying here I’m quite comfortable. The secluded lake in the woods guarantees my ultimate satisfaction. My dad used to take me hunting in a crowded state-land forest. I didn’t think a deer would be anywhere near all those orange-clad gunners permeating those woods, those woods that they trampled and trespassed for two weeks out of the year. I’d sit in the snow against a tree with my eyes shut while bullets whistled through the branches. Despite all the ruckus the old man bagged himself a buck. The deer’s eyes watched me as I snuck a taste of his crimson fluid. It wasn’t bad…wasn’t as good as mine, but not bad. He’s laying his hands on the trunk near the lock. The sounds that he’s making are the sounds of struggle, the sounds of being squeezed, the sounds of sex. A whispered, “Goddammit.”
“Omnia mors aequat”
(Death levels all things)
After the bath I was delivered from my apartment for a walk in my neighborhood, a business district with low to middle income apartments. It was early afternoon when, generally on business days, the area pulsated arhythmically. Machines created a frenetic agitation. Cars and elevators, traffic lights and telephones fought tough battles for short attentions. I can honestly tell you that I had no particular destination. I was letting my body innately take me to a familiar place, usually to a dark warm bar to get a drink before work. Standing at the corner waiting for the light to change a car pulled up across the street. My eyes fell to the gal in the back seat. Dark recesses always attract me, used to anyway. She glanced up at me and beamed. The car pulled away. It was Sherry. I paused with a half smile, remembering. I stood dripping in her memory when I realized I was looking in a basement office window at a man and a woman together putting something in a box. They both looked up suddenly, simultaneously. I felt like I should get going, so I did. About a half a block away a woman touched my arm. We were conveniently and coincidentally at the back of an Audi, just like this one. She was dark haired, in her forties. She was attractive, had a nice figure and a nice face. She kept her hand at my elbow as if she were balancing me on her fingertips. “What you saw back there wasn’t what you think.”
When I came to I was in the trunk. ‘What you saw back there wasn’t what you think.’ I could’ve told her that! He fired up the machine to inch it forward over a large branch. The dead wood had escaped his notice when he tried to push the car down the slope. He also didn’t really want to make any loud noises out there after such a long silence in the peaceful woods. However, when he started the old Bavarian motor car up again it sent a screeching yelp of a distress signal from the power-steering belt. His foot came up off the brake. I went up and down once, a nice soft motherly rock. Up and down once. You know that. You know everything. Relaxing here with my chi cruising through myself out to you and everything, nothing matters. Do not ask for whom the power-steering belt tolls? Even that doesn’t matter. To learn that now is nice. Some people never know. He killed the engine/heart. He doesn’t like the machine being out here, but one must do what one must do. Deep down he’s really not such a bad guy. He lays his hands one more time. Gently he eases the vehicle down the grade, no longer with the sounds of struggle, but the silence of a breeze, of a smile, of a kiss. I no longer hear or feel or perceive the usual way. All is light, weightless and bright. The small splash draws his attention away from the match at his cigarette. Gradually the car sinks, filling. He pedals away. My ears fill. I disperse to a new cycle, to a new life. What I saw back there wasn’t what I thought.