Women who have never been oppressed, who have always been deferred to and have, without exception, always gotten their way, never denied or undervalued, never told “no!” or “wait!” or “you can’t do that!” (not even in jest) are now getting a steady stream of hyperbolic affirmations meant to bolster the self-esteem of marginalized, voiceless, serially-abused women of the Third World. These upper class females are intercepting the “you are a goddess!” and “no one can tell you what to do!” pep talks meant for much needier women and it is driving them insane, it’s turning them into monsters. As in a Sci Fi flick of the 1950s, the Japanese Army will have to be called in to fire rockets at these wannabe-show-stoppers until they are forced into the sea, for civilization itself is at stake.
Thought Pet, idly.
“You stan books,” announced Isla.
“Great,” said Pet.
“No, you’re good with words, I mean. So write a Corona-30 story. We’ll be rich. Write…”
“Oh Saintly Gates,” said Pet.
“But then we won’t have to do it. See? And then you can finally afford me. I told you already… ”
“… who art in Heaven,” said Pet.
“I told you already Ghizlaine thinks I’m crazy.”
“Ghizlaine needs to eat a cheeseburger,” Pet said. Pet said it softly. He had no idea what a cheeseburger was.
The harder Pet stared into the magnifying glass, tweaking the angle of the ring-light with micro-coordinating winces, the more softly Pet spoke. The whorls and ridges of the concerning terrain revealed suggestive discolorations that demanded attention. Pet had been limping for nearly a week. He was facing the serious possibility of becoming the stock character of an amateur killer with a comedy limp. He pictured himself limping laboriously down a fire-escape. He knew it was funny.
“But I’m serious, Pet.”
“Nobody gets rich writing short stories, Isla. Even porn stars are only doing it for the exposure these days. Things are not like they were back when you could put a couple of kids through, uh …”
“Yes but Ghizlaine’s ex, Winnie …?”
Something something inaudibly dismissive.
Pet relaxed his rigorously semi-yogic pose and set the tweezers down in the shallow alcohol bath reflecting the ring-light in the souvenir Soyuz ashtray. Ripples surrounded the tweezers as if they were singing. Pet raised his voice to be heard but he did not face Isla as he spoke. He spoke clearly (pee-dan-ti-cal-ly, as his mother would have said it) into a space that was lower than their barstooled laps and halfway between them.
“Winnie was born rich. He got that 11-figure advance precisely because he didn’t need it. That’s how it works. Winnie’s shit sold forty fucking copies and even the copies that supposedly real people so-called bought…”
Pet constantly caught himself using his mother’s talk-ways these days like his mother was gradually cleverly reproducing her consciousness as a subset of Pet’s own in preparation for the extinction her enormous body was skirting the funneling rim of, surviving on centrifugal force alone. Easily more than double herself at the careen of rubicund ripeness of fifty-five or whatever. The ghost of her lost allure as lingeringly evanescent as the fizzle of the dregs of the morning’s first bottle of Coca Cola over dinner.
So who was that kitten-breasted teen with Slavic bones Pet sometimes watched in the off-brown light of nostalgia’s humiliating boredom? That woman who was so unrecognizable to Pet that Pet could pull the self’s hard taffy to flicks of her getting stuffed without feeling the least little queer about it? She who had sent Pet and Pet’s fraternal twin to private institutions of education with old school cash she’d minted as a Sinfluencer for Disnegram-18+ . A well-read woman whose life-long goal had been to retire at 40 and never touch a cock or skip a meal again.
Isla brushed her gush of hair and stared at Pet’s agonizing efforts to tweeze himself. She cleared her throat and Pet set the tweezers down in the alcohol with fastidious affectation again. A dense micro-blossom of incarnadine diffused in the ripples that surrounded the tweezers as if they were singing. She said,
“Yes but make it a tear-jerker, I mean. People love… ”
“Ah. Like make the protagonist an old washer-woman. Right?”
“Clutching her use-worn Gates-Rosary in the hyperbaric…”
“Yes! Make her Hispanic!”
“We flash-back to her youth… a carefree time…”
“Our tragic heroine is tall but slender, small-breasted, long thick shiny black hair straight down to her glistening thighs…”
“Two cocks in her mouth…”
Pet’s mother received Pet in the solarium.
The room smelled strongly of spit on your chin.
“What’s wrong with your leg?”
Estelle had the lead-lined blindfold wrapped protectively around her eyes as a parabolic array of converted recycled knock-off Chinese gold-phones surrounded her sprawling body in an air-rippling cocoon of radiation to give her a “permanent” (six-month) tan so how could she see Pet’s limp? Estelle’s pathologically padded and convex mons looked exactly like a toddler’s pebble-dashed rump in the shimmer. Pet remembers very vividly thinking that that’s how he might have described it in the kind of obituary Estelle might have gotten a kick out of proof-reading on her expensive deathbed. Luxury deathbeds were very in and people ordered them well in advance and spent most of their accumulated social credit (banked mostly from denunciations) to have them. Everyone wanted a luxury deathbed that resembled Katie Price’s. Was Estelle clairvoyant?
“How did you…?”
“You grunted ‘fucking leg’ as you limped over the threshold.”
“Have you ever even walked on wood, Pet? In your life?”
“One of the men I knew from the good old days is a doctor’s helper now and he told me recently that psychosomatic injuries from this year’s spring vaccy are trending.”
“Um,” said Pet. There was definitely a very real splinter in his foot. All he had to do was find the fucker and dig the fucker out and dress the little calendar of wounds from every day’s effort at digging.
After what felt like a record-breaking silence, Estelle offered:
“And now you’re a so-called assassin, I hear?”
“The poor man’s way out of debt.”
“Isla’s,” confessed Pet unnecessarily.
“Isla’s Christmas debts. Yes?”
“I know you don’t like her. At least she’ll be helping out.”
“Distract him, probably. Or hold him down? We haven’t worked it out yet.”
“Who is he?”
“Some Negro Princeling,” shrugged Pet.
Estelle made an oh, okay, not as serious as I thought sound in the cavernous mid-region of her throat and added,
“When I was fit and young, many years ago, many years before you were born, when I was an irresistible beauty who was still scrubbing floors for a living and men would tip their hats at me, or wave and whistle or sing little snatches of popular songs on the open street, a street without check-points, without fixed cameras or whispering drones,” sniffed Pet’s mother Estelle as she welled up hotly under the lead-lined wrap and a weary Pet sat on the edge of the tanning bed with his back to Estelle and muttered here we go, “way back before all of this, before we all became nothing but defective cattle being herded out of the pen and along the sadistic channel of an ever-narrowing chute toward the inevitable end ,” but then Estelle’s words were lost in the froth of the psychosomatic expression of inconsolable grief.