Tuesday, August 09, 2011

ORIGINAL SKIN




ORIGINAL SKIN

     Nine thirty.

     This is like sperm, the Rabbi thought, looking at rain hitting the window at high speed and rushing down the windshield. Most drops were quickly swept away by the wipers, but every so often, one made it down to the hood,  the translucent drops round at the top, a zig-zag tail wiggling behind.

     And he remembered an image on a T-shirt he’d seen on a guy running past his house. One sperm had broken away, the clear leader of a pack of sperm, approaching a large egg at the top of the shirt, near the neck. Only the strong survive, the caption read.

    Look, Tanya, his wife said, nodding at a sign. 100 miles to Nashville.
    That’s good, he said. I’m tired. A little supper and then let’s get right into bed.

    An hour earlier, Tanya had taken over driving. He hadn’t slept well the night before and had got up early. This was a rare trip without their five hundred children. Another child was growing inside his wife. One of the strong ones. It’d be three more months before the child would swim—or be pushed—toward the light. He’d let Tanya sleep late this morning while he took care of the kids and prepared things for his mother-in-law to stay over for the weekend.
   
    It had been raining for days.

    The Arahat Mountain Boys. His band. He played with an old high school friend, now a biology teacher in a Catholic school. Mandolin and sometimes banjo.  Once – a Jew and a Catholic – they were The Original Skin Band, but that was years ago. They had a gig tomorrow night. The first in a while.

    Ten o’clock. As they drove, his wife began to recount her strange morning dream.

    A man in had been chasing her on a long train. He was disguised as her husband and knew secret words for sex. For everything. The man had been sharing a lemon meringue pie with the Catholic school teacher and began to kiss her, getting meringue all over her face. Then she ran. The other passengers were dolphins with human faces and they all had library cards. Jewish library cards. The train had come from between her legs. Inside the club car, her 500 children threw food at each other and now a sheep was trying to kiss her while she played the banjo. The man disguised as her husband smashed through the little window of the club car door. She was terrified. His face, his voice, his body were identical to her husband’s. He began to sing prayers but he sounded like he was underwater and far away.
   
    So, Rabbi, she asked her husband, what do you think it means?
   
    We should make love tonight? he asked.

    Ten thirty. The road was dark and the rain continued against the windshield. The oncoming  cars and trucks came out of nowhere, shooting up water, and frightening her with their speed as they flashed past. 
   
    I packed some sandwiches, she said.
       
    Corned beef, I hope.
   
    Look, she said. He leaned forward and opened up the bag.
   
    Ah. Corned beef.

    Yeah, and some of the kugel that Franny brought over the other night.
   
    A dream dinner, he said.
   
     Eleven o’clock. They drove in silence. They didn’t see the minvan swerve into their lane until it was right in front of them. Tanya swerved left. The side of their van crumpled as the minivan smashed into the Rabbi. Corned beef , he said as he lost consciousness.

      He woke to find the two wrecked vans joined together. Quiet except for the whimpering of a small child. The rabbi tried to move. His legs didn’t work. He could see the little girl through the fractured glass of the other van. A vague opalescence. Only two years old. She was dying. 
He reached through the window and pulled the girl close to him.

    With the knife meant for the kugel, he cut his chest open and pushed her inside. His broken body would become her second skin and a two year old girl would become the father of 500, soon to be five hundred and one, and the husband of his beautiful wife. He would watch from somewhere, from nowhere, from outside, as she woke in his paralysed body, as the people in the emergency vehicles pulled up on the road beside the trees and began working to save anyone they could. And then, like the rain, he’d be gone.

1 comment:

Geof Huth said...

Some story, Gary. I like, of course, that its title is a pun. And I hope the illustration means you took my advice to go to Loveless Cafe.

Have fun. Nancy is working on some remarkable poems (for you, in a way) right now.

strommu (thurmannu)

Geof