ZYGOTE IN MY COFFEE.COM
|***BIO*** Jan Steckel: I'm an Oakland, California writer whose work has appeared previously in Zygote in my Coffee, Cherry Bleeds, Outsider Writers, The Pedestal Magazine, Bellevue Literary Review and elsewhere. My poetry chapbook The Underwater Hospital is available from Zeitgeist Press, and my fiction chapbook Mixing Tracks is coming out soon from Gertrude Press. I've won some awards, and my writing's been nominated twice for a Pushcart Prize. A complete writing resume is available at www.jansteckel.com.|
|by Jan Steckel|
|My husband Ira uses lanolin that his sheep-farming mother sends him from Maine for his crunchy knuckles. Then his hands smell like sheep. I just want to make it clear that Ira never fucked anything on that farm that couldn’t give verbal consent. The question of consent was much on my mind.
Our polyamorous friend Tina had been talking with her fuck-buddy Bill, who mentioned in passing that one of his lovers, a Latino guy who called himself JC, liked to have sex with his dog. Bill had rented a movie called “Zoo”, about people who had sex with animals, to try to understand this thing that JC was into. Tina, who thinks that people who abuse animals ought to be executed, was so appalled that she wouldn’t speak to Bill for a few days. Not the guy who was actually fucking the dog, you understand, but the dog-fucker’s lover’s sometime lover, who was also one of her lovers, but might not be anymore now that she knows about the dog-fucking happening only two degrees of separation away. This is one of those only-in-San-Francisco stories I end up telling people and they think I make this shit up.
I could hear Ira on the phone in his office, talking Tina down from her dog-fucking freak-out. “Of course it’s wrong. But JC probably just made up that business about the dog anyway.” I was in bed after our recent lovemaking session, wondering how many washings it would take before our sheets stopped smelling like sheep. The doorbell rang. I was naked and I smelled like pussy juice, jizz and uncarded wool. I threw on my leopard robe, thinking, that’ll confuse the UPS guy. I was a well-fucked sheep in leopard’s clothing. I opened the door without checking the peephole, but it wasn’t UPS. It was my grandmother Sylvia.
“Hello, dear,” she said. Her nose wrinkled a bit at the bridge. “You smell like a barnyard. May I come in?”
“Grammy,” I said, my voice choking up. “You’re dead.”
“Oh, come on. I don’t look that bad.”
“You’ve been gone since 1991.”
“Well, I’m sorry, I’ve been a little busy, but I’m here now.” She gave me a peck on the cheek and brushed by me into the living room. “Do you have anything cool to drink? Do I hear someone else here?”
“My husband…. Ira.”
“‘Ira?’ Jewish?” she asked hopefully.
“No, Grammy. Anglican.”
“Well,” she said, and left it at that. “I could really use a drink.” I remembered she liked a Bloody Mary made with clamato juice.
“I don’t have any clamato juice, Grammy. I have vodka, though. You want me to run to the Quikstop for a V8?”
“Don’t go to any trouble. You have some diet Pepsi, maybe?”
“I have diet Coke, or real Coke.”
“Diet would be better.”
“Can you still gain weight? I mean, now that you’re--”
“No, I just like the taste better. I’m used to it. Real cola makes my teeth feel sticky.” She settled down on the couch, which I had inherited from her. She looked comfortable.
“Be right back.” I went to the kitchen to fetch her diet Coke and burst into tears. Before I knew it, she was in there with her arms around me.
“There, there,” she said, patting my back. “It’s all right.”
“I’ve missed you so much, Grammy.”
“I know, sweetie.” She didn’t say she had missed me, too. I wondered what she had been up to for the past seventeen years that was more interesting than her favorite grandchild. I didn’t care. I just wanted to lay my cheek against her pillow-like breast and cry with relief that she was back.
That’s when Ira walked into the kitchen in the altogether. He stopped short at the sight of me hunched over, attempting to lay my cheek on the ample bosom of a gray-haired lady five inches shorter than I. His cock swung back and forth, but the rest of him stood stock-still. “Well, my dear,” said my grandmother, breaking the silence like the deft conversationalist she always was. “I can see why you married him.” She disengaged herself from my grasp.
“I’m Sylvia,” she said, “Rachel’s grandmother,” and stuck out her hand. She always did this with a winning smile, aiming her arm slightly downward and angling her hand in such a way that the person to whom it was extended was unsure whether he was supposed to shake it or to kneel and kiss it. In this case, she appeared to be reaching for Ira’s balls.
He covered what he could of his genitalia with his left hand, and slowly reached out his hand to shake hers. “Rachel,” he said softly. “Could I talk to you for a minute?” He sounded the way he did when he didn’t understand a plot twist in a DVD, and I had to pause it to explain it to him. I wasn’t about to put my grandmother on pause, though. What if she weren’t here when I came back?
“Babe, why don’t you put your clothes on while I get Grammy something to drink? I think she’s been traveling for a while.”
“Uh…huh,” he said, and backed out of the room. I knew on the way to the bedroom he’d peer at the pictures of my grandparents hung in the hallway, and see that this little old lady with the milky irises really did look just like Sylvia Romm’s photo.
I cracked the tab on a Diet Coke and poured it into over some ice cubes. “Grammy,” I said. “Not that I’m not glad to see you, but why are you here?”
“Rosa sent me,” she said.
When I was five, our Mexican maid Rosa taught me to suck lemon wedges with salt. Today, when I order a tequila, I ask for lemon instead of lime. As I lick the back of my left hand between thumb and forefinger and sprinkle grains of sal on the damp place, it is Rosa I am remembering. I hold the lemon wedge in my left hand and the Cuervo Gold in my right. I lick the sal, down the Cuervo, and bite the limon. It’s still salty-sour, better than tears. Agrio, laughs a teenage Rosa in my mind, though the real Rosa may now be somebody’s grandmother. I knew what sour was in Spanish before I knew it in English.
I pulled out a chair for my grandmother at the kitchen table, and sat down across from her. Was Rosa dead now, too? She would be so young –- only middle-aged.
Sylvia sipped her diet Coke and closed her eyes in contentment. “Mmmm,” she purred. “I do miss this.” Diet soda she missed, but not me?
"It’s Rosa’s son,” said Sylvia. “”You’ve got to get a message to him for her.”
“No, the baby, Juan Carlos.”
“Why doesn’t she just go herself?”
“She hasn’t been gone long enough. There are rules.”
“How long has she been…. gone?”
“Only since last week.” Sylvia could see that I was ready to blubber again, so she bustled forward, conversationally. “She’s really very happy now, you know. She understands a lot of things she didn’t before.”
“Like Ruben’s being gay.”
“She never knew while she was alive?”
“Oh honey, everyone could tell that kid was a faygele from the time he could walk. He didn’t toddle like the other toddlers. He minced. It takes talent to mince in diapers. A vocation.” Sylvia sipped meditatively. “Even Rosa wasn’t that innocent. But now she understands that it wasn’t her fault. That it’s not a bad thing. What Juan Carlos is up to, though, is dangerous. Not just for him, but for everybody.”
I heard the shower turn on. Ira was buying time to figure out the plot. My grandmother continued. “He calls himself JC now.”
JC… Bill’s dog-fucker? “Rosa sent you here to tell me to tell her son to stop having sex with dogs?”
Sylvia waved her hand in annoyance. “Dear, people have been having sex with all sorts of animals since before we first got up off our knuckles. Haven’t you heard of Catherine the Great and the horse? Leda and the swan?””
“One’s a calumny. The other’s a myth.”
“As if you’re in a position to know.”
“Well, why doesn’t she want him to stop screwing dogs? It’s wrong.”
“They’re like children. They’re incapable of consenting. We’re responsible for them. It’s abuse.”
“And eating pigs is right? They’re smarter than dogs, you know.”
“Pigs are bred to be eaten.”
“So if we bred certain children to have sex with, that would make pedophilia all right?”
“You came back to turn me into a vegetarian?”
“No. I came to tell you to tell Juan Carlos to use condoms with the dog.”
My grandmother wasn’t here because she loved me, although I had no doubt that she did. She hadn’t come back because she missed me. She came back to tell me to tell my dead nanny’s son to have safe sex, doggie style. I wanted to tell her petulantly to tell her himself, but I already guessed why she couldn’t. There were rules. Probably you could only appear to someone to whom you had a close emotional connection. Like JC had with his hound.
“What, he’s going to get dog-herpes?”
“Listen. How do you think those Southeast Asian farmers got avian flu?”
“Cleaning up chicken shit.”
“Wrong. How do you think swine flu got to people?”
“I kid you not.”
“So that business about the HIV virus starting from Africans having sex with monkeys wasn’t just a racist canard?”
“No, that was a racist canard. AIDS was created by a U.S. government lab to wreak genocide on the black people in America. But if JC doesn’t take precautions, what’s going to start making the rounds’ll make AIDS look like a summer cold.”
I put my face in my hands. Sylvia’s dry hand brushed my hair back. “Dear, we’ll see each other soon. Don’t worry. But if you don’t get JC to use latex, we’re going to be seeing each other sooner than either of us would like.” When I looked up, she was gone.
I found Ira in the bedroom buttoning up his jeans. I grabbed his butt and laid my cheek against his still-damp chest. “Grammy left,” I said. His arms circled around me. I could hear his heart beating, hear the benign murmur I never mentioned to him. “Baby,” I whispered, “We’re gonna have to call Tina back.”
|© 2009 zygoteinmycoffee Ink.|