Wednesday, September 3, 2008

The Stepford MILF's

When I was ten I climbed an old wooden water tower, my body tingling the whole time.  The higher I went the worse it became, the vibration inside me, a resonance in the blood pressing each red cell. As I made it over the crown the sensation sunk.  My hands felt like they had been covered by thousands of tiny sensitive barbs. It was like a new sense, a super texture. I almost questioned whether things I touched would stick like Velcro. Sweat dewed my palms and I lay on the shake roof warmed like a trivet. This feeling of fear wasn't part of reason, I couldn't communicate with it. My body wanted vibrate away, break frequency and slip magically between invisible curtains of space. This I decided was instinct.  I crawled on my belly to the edge of the roof and hung my head and neck over the lip. In the cistern beneath me a hundred dead sparrows sank drowned while in the corners of joists others made nests, passing like smoke from a single hole on the far side of the tower. I think about it now and can say I was right; nothing would have had me that day, despite instinct. I Ignored it and found glory.  Now in Danny's science room I reached out and pressed the flat of my unfolded buzzing hand over the chalk scrawled schematic as if expecting a subtle heat. The drawing was of me, exploded like a machine shop manual. I smeared off the face as instinct came back.
"Hello Mrs. Gerardi."
Mauve Bench the stood in the science room doorway looking at me with a quizzical glare. Her hair always up, was now down, she'd parted it neatly down the middle and it fell over her shoulders in loose thick skeins.
"Hello, Mauve. I was wondering what... " I paused the spit rising in my mouth. It wouldn't
matter what lie I had come up with the thing in front of me was no longer Mauve Bench. She walked over to her desk and sat on the edge. I stepped around the back, leaning against the first in a row of small desks. The name carved on the into the Formica finish was Tucker Spatz.
"Janice you know well enough there's no school on Saturday. You were a kid right?" Mauve said in a sweet transplanted Carolina accent.
"We had an appointment."
"Oh, sure." Mauve said her hand gliding down the side of her desk.
"I wanted to talk about Danny. I'm afraid we're going to be leaving. Today. He's not fitting in and I don't necessarily love the place. We're moving back to the city. Today. Connecticut's nice but it's not working out." I was pleading, I knew I was. Trying to connect with the heart of a machine or the crusted soul of the wizard behind it; however he'd linked himself in. Just let me leave Tucker I wanted to say but couldn't find faith in myself to do it in case I'd been wrong even as the proof was right in front of me. The schematic, I was the next one. A woman which looked like me with my name. The perfect mother. I darted my eye's to the faceless representation.
"We'll give you to a new boy." I heard Mauve say before the flash and then the darkness.

And there was Danny's face above me, a living history of his father, like a composite of photos seen through a singularity. In my son's face was Jon's life. His smile as a teen, his cancer, his hair swirled and spiked at the crown as I stood with him in our wedding. Was this how recognition was done in the afterlife?  Can we see ourselves and our parents in the faces of our children?  Generations superimposed.  Do we recognize outselves?  He moved away and out of focus like a kite lifting from the ground as second person, a ghost of long hair in water took his side.  When I woke up again he was gone.  Dusk was setting; the class room was empty except for a television wheeled in on a two level metal cart.  The acronym S.H.A.V. was stenciled on the  side of each in scratched white spray paint.  On the screen a spliced closed circuit video, a woman in bed shot from the ceiling her face hidden in the broken signal lines scrawling horizontally through the signal.  The room on the television is light, a small boy in black soccer shoes sits in the corner, only his legs are shown.  A dog crosses the screen and lays at the foot of the bed, shot in black and white I can still tell it's the Richardson's spaniel.  There's a three count before the boy gets up, walks over to the bed, the dog raises and lowers its head.  The screen shakes allowing for a few frames a view of what's outside of the normal screen, details of the room never normally noticed like what's hidden behind a painting's frame.  Then it freezes with the nameless boy approaching the bed, the woman, lethargic and warm.  The screen holds the the image and blinks back to the beginning and the seemingly static room.  Then, all over again: woman on bed, dog enters, boy gets up, image shakes, destructs.  I watched it a half a dozen times more before I'm sure that the woman on the screen is me, looks like me, and for certain goes by my name.  The schematic designed by Tucker Spatz: android, gynoid, robot.  There are replicants of all of Stepford's hot mommies.  The cycle repeats the screen shakes and in the corner I see him smiling in the shadow, nearly faceless I can still see it's him.  Danny's smiling a popular boy at last.  

A footstep in the hallway and the classroom door opens.  The room shutters as I spread through the night, fracturing into particles, being pulled into a central flame like the wick of a candle.  I'm deep into the sky the sky before I can see the flame clearly and travel farther still before I can see into its heart where a still crouching figure waits with an open mouth.

Tanya Donnely walked down Stepford's main street.  A new mom in a new town.  Jack Donnely carried in his hand a melting ice cream which slowly but surely would turn the thin sugar cone to sweetened cardboard.  Free cones for new Stepfordians she'd been told.  She'd be happy here if the good nature of the ice cream parlor carried any regularity and everyone was as welcoming as the beautiful woman she'd met there, capable and sweet, who took as much of a liking to Jack as her own son had, insisting that Danny and he would become terrific friends.


DJ Mike G said...

Wow, this is actually pretty scary. A style piece, that somehow manages to convey a feeling of dread using very few words. Creepy and good and creepy. The sequel to this sequel, set 15 years later could be called the Stepford Cougars.

Bertha said...

JOE! It's Adrienne. Mike referred me. This is fantastic. Seriously. Fucking fantastic.