by David Mitchell
“Who were you just talking to?” my mother asked. She’d seen that I was talking to someone on the phone, and had been for some time, so much so that I’d stepped outside and went on a walk to get away from everyone. It was dark outside, but I didn’t mind a good stroll around Franklin.
“An online friend of mine,” I said.
“Is she your age?”
I laughed incredulously.
“How old is she?”
“What? Why does it matter?”
“I was just curious.” She shrugged innocently, and I went back into my room and shut the door.
It was typical of my mother to be unreasonably nosy without appearing to be aware of it. If I lived away from her, of course, this conversation wouldn’t need to happen. My parents didn’t mind the fact that they had yet to be empty nesters, given how few options I had, but I didn’t want to stay with them any longer than I needed to. Worse still, I had even briefly mentioned to my mother that I’d chatted with a self-professed “cougar” sometime in March, but that was when I didn’t think I would seriously consider meeting her. As my parents were going on a brief trip to Belgium in the near future, that opportunity might happen now. Lolly was old enough to be my mother, but as my actual mother was old enough to be her mother (the age difference between them was about the same as the age difference between her and me). It mattered little to me. The voice I’d just heard—on the phone for the first time—sounded sweeter and slightly less sure of itself than the one I imagined I heard over the net.
“Well, what do the two of you think of her now?” the Brain asked. He was busy paging through Lolly’s file while the Penis looked on attentively.
“Can’t wait to meet her!” said the Penis.
“What about you, then?”
The Heart was a bit more stable than before, but he sat far away from the table, having apathetically moved his automatic wheelchair back some distance. He was still holding one file in his hands, and gazing lovingly at a certain photograph. His vision still hadn’t faded completely yet, and he wanted to make the most of it.
“I think this picture doesn’t really do justice to Losang,” the Heart said, his teeth chattering slightly, “Maybe it’s the Hello Kitty thing in the foreground. When I close my eyes, she looks so much more vivid to me there. I miss her . . .”
“I miss her, too,” said the Penis.
“We aren’t discussing Losang,” said the Brain, “We’re discussing Lolly.”
“You don’t need me to talk about her,” the Heart shrugged. “You guys don’t really need me for anything.”
The Brain walked up to the wheelchair while the Heart put his eyes back on the picture. He began to trace the contours of the figure in it when the Brain snatched both the photograph and the manila folder out from his hands.
“This file is closed,” he said.
“So? Why can’t I look at it?”
Without answering, the Brain returned to the table and placed the file back into the blue crate, centered his tie, and paged through Lolly’s file once more.
“We need some consensus from you eventually,” said the Brain.
“You guys do what you want. I don’t want to have a part in this,” said the Heart.
“We need your approval before we can go ahead,” said the Brain.
“Didn’t he already give it to us?” said the Penis.
“No, he didn’t. He dejectedly resigned himself to your—“
“Lolly’s alright, OK?” said the Heart. “Is that what you wanted to hear?”
“So you’ve changed your mind about her now?” asked the Brain.
“Well . . . I guess I was wrong about her before. She’s nice enough that I wouldn’t mind meeting her. And maybe this sort of arrangement might actually help me, you know? What’s at stake here, anyway?”
“Right,” said the Penis. “Enjoy a pit stop. A little May-December action on the side.”
The Heart did not wheel himself any closer, and still his shoulders sagged, but when he met the gaze of the watchful Brain, even with his own damaged eyes, he smiled quickly. He would be taking a backseat for once. He wiped his runny nose and eyes, then raised his arms and folded them behind his huge head.
I’d never been to Fall River before, so crossing the Braga Bridge for the first time, I missed the exit I was supposed to take, and found myself in Somerset instead. When I headed back in the right direction, I found myself in a traffic jam somewhere over Taunton River. When I called Lolly to tell her that there was going to be a slight delay, I only got a hold of her son, Logan, who told me I should have had the number of her cell phone, but I did. Of course, I couldn’t write it down once traffic began to move again. And finally in Fall River once again, I stopped at the first Dunkin’ Donuts I found, hoping it was the one we agreed to meet at (Lolly didn’t have a car, so she picked one within spitting distance of her house), but instead I found this was one of ten in the city. None of this was Lolly’s fault, since I came in the wrong direction, but I really hated to be late for anything. Only by intuitively weaving in and out of streets did I find myself on Plymouth Avenue, which I haphazardly crossed once I saw a Dunkin’ Donuts on the left side. I didn’t care that I was parked across more than one space; I just needed directions. By sheer dumb luck, this happened to be right one.
I knew it was her at first sight. No, I probably wouldn’t have recognized Losang at a glance if she did not wave to me or approach me when I met her in Somerville, but I sure recognized Lolly—not by her broad face, broad shoulders, and wavy hair dyed a mild shade of pink—but simply by the way she carried herself. One frustrated glance at the Dunken’ Donuts some 40 feet in front of me, and there could be no doubt I was looking at the woman I’d been chatting with for the last month. She was leaning patiently against one of those painted metal and concrete cylinders behind the curb. She was dressed in earth tones, a loose flowing skirt with sandals, and she wore sunglasses. I stepped out of my car and approached her intently, waiting until I came within earshot.
She put her shades back into her purse and put on her normal glasses.
Then she put one arm around me and kissed me lightly on the cheek.
“Glad I could make it,” I said. “Sorry if I’m a little late. I took the wrong exit on the way in . . .”
Lolly didn’t mind. We walked to my car, but before we could get in, she had to step around and view the back, since I told her before that the bumper stickers I displayed would give me away. I have a Jesus fish and a Darwin fish side by side to the left of my license plate, and an Iron Maiden logo on the right.
“Oh, that’s right,” I said. “I display both of those without a trace of irony. It’s my way of extending my middle finger towards Richard Dawkins and the idiots who built the Creation Museum at the same time.”
Lolly nodded, though I was quick to add that I wasn’t sure if by having the fish face away from each other, I was implying conflict more than having them face each other.
“I don’t know,” Lolly said, “to me it would look like they were kissing.”
When we got into my car, I suddenly became conscious of the fuzzy 20-sided dice hanging from my mirror, but didn’t bother explaining them. When I started the ignition, there was metal blasting through the car, but I quickly turned it down.
“Uhh . . . that’s Blind Guardian,” I said. “They’re German power metal. Sort of like a cross between Queen and Metallica, but better than both. This is one of their earlier albums.”
“Oh, not bad. I don’t mind.”
After a moment, Lolly turned to me with a smile. It was early evening, but the sun was still out and it was perfectly bright.
“Well, whatever we end up doing, I just want you to be comfortable,” she said. “So . . . what are we going to do?”
“I dunno . . . I just figured we’d find something worth doing. My parents are gone for the week, so I have the house to myself. And if there’s something to do around here . . .”
“Not much,” said Lolly, “I mean, I do love Lizzie’s, but I’m pretty sick of this place. It’s too noisy. The people next door to me are always waging war with each other. It’s driving my son nuts.”
After a beat she said, “Well, there is the mall, but that’s not too great. I just wouldn’t want to bring someone in if the kids are home and I’m meeting him for the first time.”
“I don’t really care about malls, either,” I said. “I just wish we could be in a quieter, more private place.”
“Well, I do know of this one area . . .”
The two of us were relaxing in a grassy meadow, underneath the shade of a large tree. Looking to my right, I could see a beautiful brook and a concrete dam. Some people were fishing on that side of the brook, too. There was a school and a cemetery across the street. My car was parked in a gravelly expanse a good distance away, and I’d left my cell phone, CD wallet, and directions inside. I was sitting in the grass not yet feeling comfortable enough to lie down, while Lolly was reclining on her stomach with the comfortable poise only a cat could have. Perhaps she wasn’t the first person to come to mind when I thought of the word “cougar” in this context. I could see she was slightly bulkier underneath than what I guessed at earlier, but she wasn’t unattractive. We’d been talking for some time, and now she was gazing at me with fascination.
“I don’t think any of the pictures you have on your profile really do you justice,” she said. “Your eyes are so dark and so beautiful . . .”
“I thought most people liked blue eyes or something.”
“I’m not most people,” she said with a warm smile.
“Funny,” I said, “I kind of imagined you’d have the voice of a sorceress or something.”
“Oh. Well I hope I’m not disappointing you.”
“No, you’re not. I’m just wondering: Did you imagine my voice would sound any different?”
“I don’t know . . .” she said. “Maybe a little higher.”
“I just saw myself as the Knight of Cups, wandering the woods of cyberspace. And as for you, I just have to re-adjust that image of good old Puma concolor I had in my head . . .”
“The fourth largest cat, native to the Western hemisphere.”
“Oh. The whole ‘cougar’ thing? Are you comfortable with that? Most guys would have given up on meeting me for fear of running into their friends with me and feeling embarrassed.”
“I don’t care about that,” I shrugged, “At the time I was talking with Losang, it was just a quick calculation that it probably would have been more worth my while spend time with someone who I was more likely to have a viable long-term relationship with. But now, I guess I shouldn’t pass up any opportunities . . . hmmm, I mean, I shouldn’t limit myself like that.”
“Limiting yourself does sound like a better way of putting it,” Lolly chuckled. “Otherwise, it just makes you sound like an opportunist.”
I laughed for a second or two.
“It was just hard for me to comprehend that Losang may have cared about me, but she didn’t want to have a serious relationship.”
“Right,” Lolly said. “I went through something similar years ago. It was my fault as much as it was his. Some people view sex as something they should only share with one person—that person you’re sworn to be with forever—“
I chortled slightly, but it was an expression of despair and not irony.
“—while other people just view sex as fun and games. I guess I’m somewhere in between. I wouldn’t go to bed with someone if I didn’t at least care about him.”
I was leaning back, but before I knew it I found myself lying back on the grass instead. The grass was delightfully dry and bristly. I rolled myself onto my stomach and flanked her.
“I’m just wondering,” I said, “When did you realize you liked guys about my age?”
“Hmmm . . . well, when my husband left five years, Logan had to stay with him for a while to finish school, but I still had to stay close to my son, involving myself with all the things he was involved in, like video games and what not. Then I realized how cool all of these things were just for their own sake, and how much more fun I was having with younger guys who are more likely to have these interests. I’m total rubbish at video games, but I love watching young men play them.”
“My parents were too cheap to ever get me a console system of any sort,” I said with a smile, “though looking back, I guess I should be grateful that I got to use my imagination as much as I did. So aside from the old Atari 2600 that Paul LeBlanc lent me when I was 12 and the Sega Saturn Serissa lent me a while back, I’ve really only played some old classics for the PC from about 10 years ago, but nothing works on my computer any more. I wouldn’t have time to play anything now anyway.”
“Doesn’t matter much,” she smiled. “What about you then? Why did you want to spend time with me?”
“Well . . . I was in a pretty interesting space when I was talking with you and Losang, because I couldn’t have conceived of a universe where you existed at all—well, either of you.”
“You couldn’t have conceived of a universe where I existed?” Lolly said, chewing on my words with fascination, “What do you mean?”
“I guess it goes back to a time in which I first started dating Serissa, and she thought I was perfect or something, and felt this strange fear that she would wake up and find that I was just a figment of her imagination—that is, if she hadn’t seen me interacting with anyone else. I just told her that I was certain she existed, because I never could have dreamt up such an outrageous fictional character, and I was a more realistic writer than that. I meant it affectionately, of course. Real people are so much weirder and more improbable than fictional characters.”
Lolly stared off at the water for a second as she digested my words.
“That . . . is one of the sincerest and most interesting compliments anyone’s ever given me,” she said. “Thank you!”
“Ah, well most women wouldn’t think I’m worth much of anything, anyway.”
Lolly stopped and stared at me for a moment.
“If I didn’t think you were worth anything, I never would have bothered to meet you!”
“God, I’m sorry,” I sighed, “it’s just . . . I don’t know. Too much of Serissa rubbing off on me . . . or the opinions of ‘most people’ I mentioned earlier . . .”
After a moment or two, I said, “funny, the Tarot spread I did a while back just told me to be confident, with the Sun and the Emperor. You didn’t really show up in the spread at all.”
Then I nearly cringed.
“Oh God, I hope I’m not freaking you out with Tarot cards and such.”
“No, not at all,” Lolly said, “I read them too.”
“The symbolism is fascinating, but sometimes it’s really only about as reliable as astrology . . .”
“Well, I wouldn’t go that far. I’m of the firm opinion that you already know the answers, but sometimes the spread presents them to you in a way you might understand better. Sometimes it answers the question you should have asked instead of the one you did. That’s interesting that the spread just told you to be confident and didn’t mention me at all.”
“I’m not even sure which card would signify you,” I said. “There wasn’t even a queen in the spread.”
“Well that’s because I’ve never been a queen. The card that represents me most is actually the Magician.”
“Really?” I said, “That’s interesting. He’s supposed to represent masculine power, though. Funny how queens and pages can sometimes represent men, and knights and kings can sometimes represent women. I guess it says a lot about gender stereotypes and all that crap.”
“Yeah, it does,” Lolly chuckled, “but the Magician is also the most blatantly magical card in the deck. There’s a psychic who works with me at Lizzie Borden’s Bed and Breakfast. She said that in a former life, I was a witch in Ireland and that I was burned at the stake. She said there has never been a time when I haven’t been a witch.”
“Are you, um, still a witch now?”
There was another beat. Wow, I thought, this just keeps getting better.
After a comfortable silence, Lolly said, “I do love tactile sensations,” Lolly said, “I do miss the touch of other people . . .”
“I loved to touch my ex, but if I did something she didn’t like she sometimes equated me with her abusive step father. He liked to touch her too, of course, but not for the same reasons.”
“Well I don’t really relate to that . . .” Lolly said, sounding disturbed.
“I once bought a book on erotic massage techniques that I left in my ex’s apartment. When she broke up with me she gave me my stuff back, but kept that book. What really pisses me off is the thought that she and her boyfriend are probably making use of it now.”
“That’s not very nice.”
“Doesn’t matter,” I said with a grin. “I think I remember most of those techniques anyway.”
Lolly smiled knowingly. I sat up slightly and put my hands on her back, rubbing her slowly. She smiled shyly as I made circles with my thumbs and travelled down the length of her spine. I caressed her sides as well, pulling upward with both hands.
“Hmm . . . well, I can’t do everything that was in that book here,” I said.
“I understand. But I love what you’re doing, regardless.”
Eventually, I checked my watch.
“Damn. It’s past 8:00 already and I wouldn’t have guessed. Summer days are so long.”
“I guess we should be going soon.”
When we stood up, I headed back to my car, but Lolly stopped me.
“Wait,” she said, her arms lightly around me, “May I?”
“Uh . . . sure.”
Lolly leaned in and kissed me where we stood, and to my surprise, she did it rather tastefully. Of the women who had kissed me up until this point in my life, she was the only one who didn’t use her tongue, at least not on the first kiss. There was a metallic taste to her. I said nothing, but quickly glanced across the brook, at the people who were busy fishing, then back to the car. No one seemed to be looking our way.
“So where to now?” she asked.
“To my house?”
She only looked at me intently for a moment.
“So . . . we can do what we couldn’t do under the tree?” I added.
She smiled, rested her head against my shoulder, and whispered, “the notion appeals to me.”
All this, and somehow, I was feeling strangely apathetic. But no need to limit myself, now was there? Besides, I was certain we could make Jesus and Hecate dance.
It took us a little longer to get back to my house than I expected, but when we found ourselves nearing the Bridgewater road service station, I knew how to get back. When I pulled up into the driveway, the sky was already darkened. When Lolly stepped out of the car with me, she was staring in awed silence around the neighborhood.
“This place is so quiet,” she said.
“My dad doesn’t think so,” I chuckled. “It’s the kids next door and across the street that bother him. He’s sometimes even talked about leaving because of the noise.”
“Are they just normal kids?”
“So far as I know.”
“Ah, well that’s nothing. My neighborhood isn’t peaceful like this.”
“Yeah, I thought his complaint was idiotic, too.”
I made my way up the stairs and opened the door to the house, letting Lolly in after me. While in the living room, I gestured around to the baby grand piano, and the huge abstract painting my mother had painted many years ago.
“Ah, that’s right,” I said, “You read my memoir Half-Born. Recognize anything?”
We talked a little more, and I microwaved a snack, then we headed downstairs, to where the futon had already been made into a bed. I’d been sleeping here for the last few weeks, since the summer heat made my room upstairs unbearably hot and humid. It was still too humid to think about heading up into my bedroom. I also kept my pets down here.
“I mentioned the newts before, didn’t I?” I said.
“You did. I remember having a few of those when I was a kid.”
“They like humidity, but they hate high temperatures, so I keep them all down in the basement.”
There was a tiny five gallon tank on an aquarium stand in one corner of the basement, cut in half by a divider. This tank was shared by two newts, a Japanese Fire Belly and a Hong Kong Warty respectively. Were it not for the divider, they would have killed each other long ago. It was filled with a few inches of fresh water, and its inhabitants were watching us from the inside, following our movements and making futile attempts to devour us whole. On a shelf above it was an even smaller glass tank, where there lived a tiny dark-skinned paddle-tail. She was just as aggressive as the two beneath her. Below was a shoebox-sized plastic terrarium.
I smiled and knelt down gingerly to pull this one out from underneath to let Lolly see him up close. Pulling the grilled lid off, I revealed the pseudo-environment within to be a mossy abode with only a single small pool of water and a tiny cave for hiding. The tenant of this one was quick to step outside and greet us. Unlike his dark-skinned, bright-bellied brethren above, he had bright orange raised crests on his head, down his back, and similarly colored warts along each side of his body. All bright orange against a dark canvas. He was the color of Halloween, but he had a sunny disposition.
“This one’s Angillas,” I said. “He’s a Mandarin newt, or Chinese Emperor newt, whatever they’re called now.”
“He’s beautiful,” she said.
I smiled. Not too many people stopped to look at newts. Most pet stores didn’t carry them anymore. When they did, they usually mislabel them and kept them in horrid conditions.
“I’ve had so many generations of rats, gerbils, hamsters, and guinea pigs . . . real sweet, but they die in just a few years. Newts live forever, if you ignore them properly enough. They’re pretty resilient. Their defenses are entirely chemical, and they can regenerate, too. I’ve had Molly and Angillas since middle school.”
I replaced the lid on Angillas’ cage, and gingerly slid him back under the stand. And with one thing or another, we then found ourselves reclining on the futon, where I enthusiastically continued the massage I began back in Fall River. Once Lolly rolled over, I was in the process of helping her undo the large knot that kept her shirt loosely bound, and I noticed her right earring was a tiny silver axe.
“Something from Lizzie’s?”
“I never wear both earrings from any set, in case one gets lost . . .”
Fascinated, I gently took it between my fingers and made chopping motions with it against her neck. She laughed with delight. I continued my ministrations to the rest of her body, with my bare hands. I was engrossed in the rush I was experiencing. The opportunity was too infrequent, too precious for me not to be, here with the release of built-up frustration and inspiration. I ran my fingers and my lips across any exposed area of her flesh, starting with her freckled neck and shoulders. Her bra came off soon after the knot was undone, and while gravity flattened her breasts as she lay back, they were still pleasing. My shirt and shorts same off soon after. When we had only our naked selves to gaze at, she stared quietly at me for some time.
“You’re beautiful,” she said softly.
It almost sounded like a gasp. Then she laid down on the futon next to her newfound Adonis. I was looking over her and smiling.
“What do you want me to do . . . ?”
“Anything!” she gasped, “Whatever you want!”
The Brain was watching the monitor carefully, his arms behind his back. The Heart sat far away from the table on his wheelchair, fidgeting in his seat. The Penis could obviously not be present at this time, but he would provide a full report later. Through the static, the top of Lolly’s head could be seen bobbing in and out of view.
“Do we really need to see them have sex?” said the Heart, his teeth still chattering, “Isn’t that . . . I dunno, exploitative?”
“I’m not watching this for the entertainment value,” said the Brain, “I’m collecting data. Why are you here? I thought you didn’t want a part in this.”
“That doesn’t mean I can’t watch.”
The Brain turned back toward the monitor. The Heart smiled slightly, but the corners of his mouth twitched again. He continued to squirm in his seat. He glanced at the plastic crate the Brain had set on the table, and wondered how quickly he could steer his wheelchair across the room, find Losang’s file, and snatch it from the crate without being detected. Certainly not quickly enough.
“What are we doing?” asked the Heart.
“As I said, I’m gathering data. You’ve decided to watch.”
“No, I meant as a whole. We’re having sex with a middle-aged woman who’s probably about as lonely as we are, and for no particular reason except that we can. Are we being opportunists?”
“Do you have a problem with that?”
“I don’t know. Why do I feel nothing?”
“When you invest nothing, you get nothing back. It was your safety policy, remember? You thought it might help you a bit.”
“Oh, that’s right,” the Heart said, “Well I certainly wouldn’t say Lolly means nothing to me. I’m glad to be with her, and I’ve stabilized somewhat, but . . . I still feel empty. Was it just the painkillers I took today?”
“You aren’t taking any, but the withdraw symptoms from Losang’s drug might still be in effect. Do you want to stop?” said the Brain.
“Well, no,” said the Heart, “that would be unfair to everyone involved. Let it ride.”
“Oh David!” Lolly gasped. Her hands were gripping my back like a pair of claws. I was smoothly gliding in and out of her, but because of the condom, I couldn’t feel much. I’d never used a condom before. There was absolutely no reason to with Serissa, as we were both virgins and she had no uterus. And Losang, thank the bodhisattvas, was impulsive enough to reach down and stuff me in while I tried optimize my erection by rubbing against her before rolling the condom on.
“Do you normally last this long?!” Lolly said.
“Uh . . . that’s a long story.”
A movie wasn’t playing anywhere in the background, nor was there a clock nearby, so I wasn’t keeping track of the time. Regardless, it should have been clear to me that the answer to that question was yes, much to Serissa’s detriment and the delight of the two women who followed.
A few minutes later, Lolly said, “Do you want to try another position?”
I drew out of her and sat back on the futon. I felt my vigor rapidly slip away. I was overcome with a dazed indifference. My body was more exhausted than I thought, and despite her efforts, it soon became clear to both of us that there was nothing she could do to revive it. Though she’d climaxed long ago, her face now looked ashen. Lolly turned away from me, sulking in silence.
“Eh . . . it’s alright,” I said.
“No, it’s not alright . . .” she said, in a sadder and more deflated voice than I’d ever heard from her. “I really wanted you to enjoy this.”
“I’m fine. Really.”
Lolly reclined on her stomach, like a big cat, but she was facing away from me. I laid down next to her. Sometime later, she turned, we stared into each other’s eyes.
“Honestly, David,” she said, “it’s really not sex . . . it’s being close to another person again, feeling their skin, and the tactile sensations . . .”
“You set out knowing what you were looking for,” she said. “You wrote very specific criteria on your profile. I’m none of those things.”
“Doesn’t matter,” I chuckled.
“I just don’t want you to look back on this and regret spending time with me when you could have been with someone else . . .”
Yeah, I thought sarcastically, just look at all the women lined up to be with me. I sighed, then placed my hand on her and stroked her lightly.
“I didn’t have any illusions,” I said.
We laid there together for a while, in silence. Eventually, I spoke:
“Do you want to see that computer game I was talking about on the way here?” I said.
Around midnight I’d printed out the directions from MapQuest (I knew how to get to Fall River before, but needed better directions for the trip back), while Lolly went outside for a cigarette. We stopped for gas and snacks, during which Lolly insisted on paying for some of it, even though I didn’t want her to. She’d just left one of her jobs (she said she still had Lizzie’s and Logan to pull her through), and explained when I’d asked her on the way to my home that although she was separated from her husband and hadn’t seen him in five years, filing for divorce was too expensive for her. I almost wondered if I could have helped her out in any way. I needed to pay tuition in a few months, but couldn’t I spare a little every now and then?
I found the Dunkin’ Donuts easier this time, taking the exit I should have taken on the way in, and with the streets barren of traffic, I was able to correct my most egregious mistakes in ways I couldn’t have four hours ago. I made it back home without difficulty, though I was tired. I slept in the basement. It stayed dark all day long, so I often slept well into the afternoon. Emerging from this place each day after an indefinite period of time having no one to talk to. I felt like the narrator of H.P. Lovecraft’s The Outsider. The next morning I not only slept longer than I’d planned, I had the curious feeling that something within me had died. The days and nights were blending into each other, and any time felt like any other. Time was moving too fast for me.
“So what is our verdict?” asked the Brain. Lolly’s file was open in his hands, but he was glancing across the table. The Heart was shaking involuntarily in his wheelchair, looking sicker than usual. Even the Penis looked depressed.
“I feel strange,” said the Heart. “Empty, somehow. Not angry, not sad, not disgusted, not frustrated, not even calm . . . just strange.”
“OK, so she wasn’t Selena Steele,” the Penis grumbled. “I still would have fared much better if it weren’t for that damned Trojan. How can people use those things?”
“Well at least we won’t be conflicted in concluding that we shouldn’t try something like this again,” said the Brain.
“I don’t think it had anything to do with Lolly, though,” said the Heart, “I don’t have any complaints about her. Really. I’m grateful we met her. But it just . . . didn’t feel right. I don’t know why.”
“I already told you why,” said the Penis, “it was the Trojan.”
“I should have known better. I just can’t do anything half-assed. I can’t start something I already know can’t come to fruition. Never again. I’m really sorry, guys.”
“Don’t be,” said the Brain, “At least we’re learning. This was an experiment that failed, but now we know.”
“So what now?” sighed the Penis, gesturing toward the Heart. “Defer to his every command?”
“No,” said the Brain, “Reaffirm his place as the central arbiter of this Council.”
“In other words, defer to his every command.”
“W-we’ve already given you a say here!” whimpered the Heart, “Y-you ungrateful . . .”
The Heart wheezed and coughed before he could enunciate any further, engorging the veins in his forehead and swallowing nausea. He rested his huge head against the right arm of the wheelchair, unwilling to sit up again.
“Dick?” said the Penis.
“Please, let’s not do this again!” sighed the Brain.
The Brain tilted his head back slightly, and adjusted his tie accordingly. Then, glancing at the file in his hands, he placed it back into the blue crate. The Penis folded his arms. The Heart whimpered pathetically and closed his eyes. He wept silently.
“I miss Losang . . .”
David Mitchell welcomes your comments on “Lolly” at barlowe2003[at]yahoo.com.
Photo by Mar Estrama.