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About storyplease

I have always loved writing in many different mediums and styles. I hope to make this blog a place where I can stretch my intellectual and creative muscles.

5 Good Reasons to Feed Your Baby the Way You Want To

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From time to time, people ask me if I’m a “lactivist” (you know, those people who go around swinging their milk-filled boobs in everyone’s face and crusading for a world where every infant is sated with a human nipple), but I do not consider myself a breastfeeding warrior.  True, I undertook the arduous, rewarding and quite surprising journey of a breastfeeding relationship with my first baby, which ended when she decided to self-wean at around 2 years of age (ostensibly, she was mostly nursing occasionally and only for comfort, but I was comfortable with waiting for what she wanted).  With my second baby, so far, our breastfeeding relationship has gone quite well- she nursed like a champ when she was merely minutes old and the hospital where I gave birth was kind enough to give us an hour to breastfeed and bond before they did all the newborn tests and weighing and such.  So I can relate with those who adamantly decide that “breast is best” and who steadfastly refuse to nurse their babies in the bathroom lest onlookers in public worry that their heads might explode at the mere HINT of a nipple being drawn into a baby’s mouth.  After all, my mom breastfed me and she breastfed my younger siblings.  To me, this is normal.  But at the same time, I know that my version of normal and the version of normal that other people hold up as their own guide to how reality ought to operate is different.  I know people who sit on their knees instead of in chairs during dinner.  I know people who ride bicycles with baby seats attached to the back instead of driving a minivan.  I know people who eat things that I consider condiments to be used sparingly with a main course.  And I respect that.  These choices are not life or death choices.  And most children who grow up in environments where these choices are “normal” are not disadvantaged in the least.  So I wanted to make one of those lists, you know, the kind that tend to get all controversial and make people get angry and start pointing fingers and talking in a really privileged-splainy voice.

But you know what?  That’s ok too- that’s YOUR choice.

But let’s talk boobies and bottles:

5 Good Reasons to Formula Feed (or Supplement)

1) Your supply dries up no matter what you do.

This is not a trivial situation- my best friend has a baby boy who is 100th percentile in both weight and height (her husband is super tall), and she was talking to me about how she wasn’t making “that much” milk and was devastated that she was having to supplement formula.  After giving her some of my own tips that worked for me for increasing my supply, I happened to ask her how much milk she was pumping at work. According to her? TEN OUNCES PER PUMPING SESSION, and it still wasn’t enough.  My jaw hit the floor.  Me?  I’m lucky to get 4-5 ounces per pumping session with my second baby, and with my first?  I got maybe 2-3 ounces after two pumping sessions when I was double pumping.  My milk is very creamy and thick- very different than the milk my friend makes.  And my baby is only in the 75th percentile for weight and 100th percentile for height.  My friend obviously needed to give her baby formula because even the HUGE amounts of milk she was pumping was not enough.  I also know people who tried and tried to breastfeed and employed a lactation specialist and they STILL lost their milk supply.  Babies must eat, and formula is a viable alternative.

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2) It is painful- baby’s latch is bad no matter what you do or the lactation consultant suggests, and even when latch is correct, it hurts like crazy.

I know women whose nipples actually RIPPED and were hanging on by a small amount of tissue (the thought makes me cringe, but it’s true).  She ended up having to get stitches in her nipples and obviously, baby couldn’t feed from there while her wounds were healing.  I know women who have inverted nipples who had a horribly painful and distressing time attempting to breastfeed and it just didn’t work out.  Perhaps you might be the exception to the rule, but there are plenty of pitfalls and never ending pain is one of them.  It’s hard to feel good about breastfeeding if it is torture, and this can actually negatively affect your relationship with your baby.

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3) You have no support network and your baby has to be in childcare/away from you for most of the day while you work so you can pay rent and cover food expenses, etc.

You would not believe how many women are working because they HAVE to and not because they WANT to. If your workplace is like mine, you will have to pay your ENTIRE healthcare premium while you are on leave instead of merely your employee contribution, and then submit a reimbursement claim.  Of course, by the time your claim check comes in, you’re probably going to be overdue for the next month’s premium, so you are off work and must have at least two month’s worth of premiums to float around in limbo land while also covering your monthly expenses.  Needless to say, this is not a fun prospect.  And many people have to work, either because they are single parents, or because their household requires two incomes to survive (not to mention insurance and health benefits).  There are many people who are just trying to survive, and just trying to survive is not compatible with breastfeeding if you must commute an hour from where your child is being cared for.

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4) You have an illness or must take medications that are incompatible with breastfeeding.

If you have a contagious disease like HIV, formula is a godsend.  Many babies born to moms with HIV will not have the disease itself, and even though HIV is more treatable now than it ever has been in the past, it is still deadly and dangerous. Breastmilk carries diseases like HIV, and so formula is the obvious alternative. So too is breastmilk not an option if you need to take anti-psychotic drugs to function normally or have a seizure disorder and need to take your meds.  There is no shame in doing what is best for your baby, and sometimes what is best is making sure baby is getting a source of nutrition that is not laced with medication or infectious disease.

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5) Because you DO NOT WANT TO.

Your body, your choice.  It’s as simple as that.

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Now, you might think that I’m anti-breastfeeding from my list above, but you’d be wrong.  Heres my second list, all about the boob:

5 Good Reasons to Breastfeed

1) You make lots of milk and baby latches easily so everything works out well!

Believe it or not, my breastfeeding relationship with my first baby was really hard!  I had horribly painful nipples that cracked and bled!  And not only that, but the baby wanted to FEED ON MY BLEEDY CRACKED NIPPLES and it felt like her mouth was made with razorblades when she latched on.  But I did go see a lactation specialist and even though I did get the correct latch with her help, I still didn’t “get it” until a few weeks later when it all finally just clicked.  Even though I watched my mom breastfeed two babies and saw plenty of moms breastfeeding their babies, it was a skill I had to learn for myself.  My second baby?  I had a bit of pain here and there, but none of the cracked or bleeding nipples.  Lanolin pretty much was all I needed and I was good to go.  Breastfeeding is REALLY easy to choose when you know how to do it and it feels fine and baby is gaining weight and looking healthy.

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2) It feels good for you and baby!

You enjoy the “high” and feelings of happiness you get when your baby is breastfeeding, the lower levels of gas, fussiness and colic are also a bonus.  Breastfeeding helps your body regain its pre-baby form a lot quicker and breastfeeding boobs are super pert and sexy!

For me, breastfeeding makes me look like I got a boob job.  Seriously, those things defy gravity.  And looking down into the eyes of my baby makes me get all gooey-hearted as I watch her nursing.  Even at night when I’m half asleep, I can feel when she latches on and it gives me a sense of peace and calm, and it is calming for baby as well.

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3) You have a support network and a workplace that has accommodations for breastfeeding/pumping or can stay at home and feed on demand.  Your insurance/health plan allows for partial coverage or full coverage of a breast pump and pumping supplies.

This one is an important one.  I am incredibly lucky that my workplace has a “mom’s room,” which is a special place to pump that has a couch, a couple chairs and a fridge for storing breast milk.  I am also quite lucky to have a husband who brings my baby up to my work every lunch hour so that I can feed her from my breast.  With my first, I hardly could get anything out with the pump, but whenever I fed her directly, I could feel it rushing out of my body- I needed a BABY, not a pump!  The pump that I chose the first time was a gift from my mother in law and it broke not long after my daughter stopped needing regular exclusive breastfeeding.  My second one feeds really well, but I also make a surplus of milk and my insurance (thanks to the so-called “Obama Care”) now covers breast pumps 100%!  I was able to get the Medela Pump and Style, and it’s really helped me get a lot of extra milk out for storage and feeding in the mornings and afternoons when I am not there.

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4) Breastfeeding can help your health!

If you have insulin sensitivity or a family history of Type 2 diabetes, breastfeeding will lower your likelihood of developing the disease (even later in life) and cuts your child’s risk by more than half.  Breastfeeding can also help normalize your hormones and metabolism after giving birth, shrinks your uterus to pre-pregnancy size more quickly, and makes your brain release dopamine and serotonin, which is a helpful deterrent to post-partum depression.  Finally, it can delay or stop your period for quite some time, and once your Aunt Flo does return, it can lead to lighter flows that are less painful.

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5) Because you WANT TO.

Seriously.  It’s that simple.

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I am a huge proponent of Bodily Integrity.  What is that, you ask?  Bodily Integrity is the revolutionary idea that your body is yours and you get to decide what to do with it as long as it does not infringe on other people’s bodily integrity.  So, for example, if you needed my kidney to survive, it is my CHOICE to give my kidney to you because even though you NEED it, my kidney is in my body and therefore mine to make choices about.  Your breasts are part of your body.  It is your choice what to do with them, regardless of what other people say or what other people think or what other people would choose for themselves.  Even if breastfeeding has clear evidence of having a higher level of benefits, there are many situations in which formula is a better choice because we all have a different reality, a different “normal” and when we choose what is best for ourselves and our children, we make better, less stressful environment for each of our individual lives.

Now, that said, I must add one caveat- the right of Bodily Integrity can be a bit tricky because choice is often not truly possible.  When you have the CHOICE to stay home, work, or have a job that is totally flexible to the arrangements you want for childcare and breastfeeding, that is a choice that most people do not have.  Many women stay home with their kids but wish they could work at least part time and cannot because very few flexible part time jobs exist.  Many women who work have little to no support for breastfeeding or childcare arrangements at their workplace.  There are only a fraction of women who truly can choose.

For me, this is at the heart of the “Breastfeed or Formula” debate- the idea that choice is often only truly available to a very few number of people and the rest of us are forced into a mode of behavior and forced to sacrifice something in return.  Sure, breastfeeding can be rewarding, but not if it makes you lose your job because your workplace is inflexible and you are starving on the streets because of it.  And formula can be very convenient, especially if you have no real alternatives or options to increase your time or flexibility.  But I would love to strive for a world where a person could actually choose without having to make huge sacrifices to their sanity, time or body.  This is why I support legislation that makes workplaces give paid parental leave, flexible schedules, a place for pumping, and even on-site daycare options!  The more that we make our society friendly to families, the more we will thrive, and the kinder we are to parents and children, the kinder we are to everyone.  I think that the childfree and the empty nesters, the young adults and the elderly, and many other groups of people also need the opportunity to be treated with dignity and respect by society (including the workplace), and that with more respect for the work-life balance in families, so too will all other groups benefit.  Our world is only as advanced as our most vulnerable members.  I think that the way we feed our babies is not necessarily what we should be focusing on nearly as much as the way we are able to negotiate clear and full choices about our babies and their wellbeing.  Because I want to live in a world where it is possible to build a society where we are respected, cared for, and where all humans are able to access our needs with dignity and respect.

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Posted by on February 14, 2013 in Rants and Critical Writing

 

Tags: , , ,

Demonsong

You are a demon with a halo of fire

Your arms leave me breathless and thirsting for more,

Wings folding up, all in onyx and embers,

Taking me back to where I was once before.

*

In amber days of perpetual autumn,

We loll in the long grass appeasing our needs,

If you were to tell me that nothing’s forever,

With the shadow of time hiding deep in the leaves.

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Will you take me?  Can you make me

Understand why,

What I’m doing, Spread my wings and

Let me take flight,

When I’m near you, adoration,

Pressure within,

Drawing wings, we gather feathers,

Together again.

*

Sailing swiftly in a sea of stars,

You part the water, clear as glass,

The world may not be fair, my love,

Together, though, we have a chance.

*

Your darkness binds the light inside me

Even as we bind our hands,

Fingers weaving, bodies merging,

The rise and fall of timeless sands,

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For you, you are my dancing demon,

And I, well I am only me,

But someday, two of us together

Will show the world what we can be.

*

Walking together, in deepest darkness,

Lead me astray,

Dancing in windmill motion,

Take me away,

What we want and who we are,

Dancing in the sun,

Spread your wings and light your heart

Let us be as one.

*

Will you take me?  Can you make me

Understand why,

What I’m doing, Spread my wings and

Let me take flight,

When I’m near you, adoration,

Pressure within,

Drawing wings, we gather feathers,

Together again.

 
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Posted by on January 6, 2012 in Possible music, Rhyming Poetry

 

Not Why, Nor How, Just As It Is

Someone will always betray you, my love.

Someone will always betray,

And one winter day

It will all fall away

Someone will always betray you, my love.

 

Someone will always forsake you, my love.

Someone will always forsake.

Your heart might be strong

But one day it will be gone,

Someone will always forsake you, my love.

 

Someone will always forget you, my love.

Someone will always forget.

In the sandstorm of time

Your breath is as wine,

Someone will always forget you, my love.

 

Someone will always regret you, my love.

Someone will always regret.

For each firey spark

There’s a year in the dark.

Someone will always regret you, my love.

 

Someone will still always love you, my love.

Someone will still always love,

For while pain is a curse

Feeling nothing is worse

Someone will still always love you.

 
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Posted by on December 30, 2011 in Rhyming Poetry

 

The Battle of Continental Street

The ants are invading. I can feel them now, slipping in through the cracks of this old house. The cold is beating them. The air is sharp and crisp and it drives them to me. They think that I won’t notice them; a ravaged Cheerio here, a feeler poking out from behind the cookbooks there. They seem to say “you can live with us,” but this is MY place, my home, and I am under siege. This is war. I hide the ant trap inside a paper bag marked “candy” to entice them. They rub their feelers in anticipation. Oh! How terrible the sound! I spray their lines with pure poison mist. Comrades falling over, the others struggle on, only to fall into silent death. I am victorious, standing in my kitchen, daring them to reform their ranks. Feelers moving slowly, slower still, their black clicking stops. The silence is cold as death.

 
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Posted by on April 3, 2011 in Flash Fiction

 

Fashionably Incestuous (A Reimagining of “Hansel & Gretel”)

There once was a family that was happy, for the most part. There was the mother, the father, the sister, the brother. And then, as is customary of tales such as this, tragedy. The mother was gone ripping apart the family into sadness.

There was a replacement, but fie! She was not who she seemed. A doppelganger, a sprite, who distorted her true nature, she hounded them, hounded them every day. Her mind was vacant and her heart was frozen, except when heroin, that shining drug, was pumped into her veins. At last she would be silent, glazed eyes glimmering at imaginary friends.

The father cut lawns, cut trees, cut flowers. He cut and cut everything, including his wrists. But he did not die. His scars only made him more frightening to the people who employed him, staring through the windows and shooing away the children. And so to placate his heart, he filled it with garbage, watching the endless buzzing television, trying to forget. The sky turned crimson as the sun dipped low behind the mountains. Han was bent over in contemplation, his slender torso arcing gracefully. He watched the sunset with sadness and a familiar longing for the start of a new day. As it was, he would have to go home, back to the family that he loathed. As a red finger of light slowly drifted out of the picture, the wind began to blow, fierce and cutting with the absence of the sun. He sighed, hooking his fingers into the belt loops of his corduroy pants and began to rise, cold biting through his blond spiky hair and into his skull. His eyes welled up with the sharp pain like an ice-cream headache as it split through his skull, before wincing and pulling the black beanie over his head and tucking it down over his ears.

His sister, Greta, met him at the corner.

“Where were you?” she wanted to know, clutching her arms to her slight frame.

She was younger than he was by about a year and a half. Their mother, when she had been alive, had been quick to turn out children, and quick to die. Their house held stillness like a toothache in the back of his mouth. It throbbed and flared, arching occasional pangs down the circuitry of his nerves and into his chest. Pangs that reminded him of that night, of the clock ringing in the New Year, each stroke wringing the life from her limbs.

Greta looked as her mother did, serious eyes, large in her pale face. They were like laughing stones, lilting and heavy. Her body was tall, and slender, but that was mostly because she swam long laps each day in the community pool. She also refused to eat anything that was red or tasted like “blue raspberry.” Her hands were long and soft, and each night, she would help her brother with chores, folding each napkin and shirt so delicately, that it looked as though her fingers folded in with each crease. She would massage his tired shoulders and tell him stories of her all-girl school, about the frog fiasco in the teacher’s lounge and the delicate lingerie worn by the girls in the locker rooms.

But now, her hands were holding one another like she would fall over if she let go of herself. Han’s eyes were tired, dull blue, sullen. As he looked at his sister halfway, a few loose strands shook over his temples, peeking out of the black knit beanie and shining in the lamplight. Her heart leapt and she knew it was wrong, but still she felt the pull. Her brother, pale and fiery, was the one person to understand her, the one person to look at her as though she was not full of shit and give her a chance to feel. His lean body curved artistically like an ice sculpture; cold and graceful. He could feel her gaze covering him, full of hunger and caution. He felt a chill in that look, as though he could catch the feeling and wasn’t sure if he liked it, or wanted to shield himself.

There was no time to react, however, because the moment was shattered by the voice of their stepmother braying and cursing down the street at them.

“Han! Greta! What the FUCK do you think you’re doing?! Out late at night! Your grades are going to slip and you’re going to be just as useless as your father! Come in and do your nightly chores!”

Her face was strained, like a dog lolling its tongue out the window on the freeway. Her eyes slit backwards, suspicious and bloodshot. Tracks wound up and around her arms like pimples and red worms; the places where she had mainlined, the places where she had cut and bled. She wore an iridescent white top with see through sleeves, but no amount of innocent gauze could truly mask her distaste for her step-children, her lot in life. Her Habit sat on her shoulders like a giant black beast with glowing eyes. Even now, as the flowers of pleasure were budding in her veins, she could still feel that edge in the back of her throat; that cutting metallic taste that demanded that she feed her addiction.

Han shrugged, letting the cap slide over his eyes so he could not see the terrifying face, and Greta waited for him, following him like a shadow with shaking hands. As they walked in, Greta glanced up at the Beast, watched it lick her stepmother’s face with a black rotted tongue. It grinned with amusement at her quivering fingers, her delicate hands, as they fidgeted and sewed, apart, together, apart, together.

“What’re you lookin’ at?!” The stepmother glared.

“Nothin’” Greta mumbled, sinking into step with her brother.

That night, there was a fight. As Han was about to drift off to sleep, Greta sleeping on the top bunk, and shifting her weight around, the door slammed and he went rigid in his bed.

“You good for nothing!” her stepmother screamed, and the house screamed with her. The doors rattled, the hinges groaned, and the floorboards played a cacophonous tune.

They could hear a dark grumbling, a small moan of pain, and then a roaring cacophony as the television switched on.

“You couldn’t even keep ONE job?! How will I feed?!” the stepmother roared over the laugh track from some nameless comedy show, and then lowered her voice, mumbling with a steady rise and fall of tone, like someone debating.

Han had opened the door a crack, to hear what she was mumbling about, for when she spoke below a scream, both siblings knew that she was planning something diabolical. He heard a creak, the house warning him to pretend to sleep, and he could hear the stepmother pacing down the hallway, talking maniacally to herself, to the Beast on her shoulder.

“Yes…yes…” she said stroking the putrid darkness absently, “I will sell the children in the city this weekend, and get a fair price for their indentured servitude in the inner city gangs.”

Her feet shuffled and the house groaned over her immense, gluttonous weight. Han lay there, paralyzed in the visage of sleep, as she stuck in her nose, sniffing around for signs that someone might have heard. She came in, then, patting each of them and smoothing the blankets. But it was less of a caring gesture than the caress of a greedy heart.

That weekend, the stepmother piled Greta and Han into her rusting Cadillac, promising them a day of shopping at the Gigant-O-Mall. Han, black beanie pulled tight over his earphones, looked out the window with sour boredom on his face. Greta read a fantasy novel, stopping only to roll the window down from time to time so that she could breathe in the rushing air of the freeway and cleanse her carsick stomach.

When they arrived, the stepmother ushered them out with a smile plastered onto her face. The Habit Beast grinned in turn, it’s teeth bloody, it’s breath hissing out through the holes of decay in its canines. Greta winced at the sight of it, and the stepmother’s smile flinched a little, like a hologram being disrupted. She shook herself, and the Beast salivated, opening ravenous jaws.

“I…uh, need to go use the bathroom,” the stepmother grinned shakily, and handed them some money. She needed her fix, and the negotiator for the gang was not coming until around 4:30 PM, “Meet me back here at about four o’clock.”

Han clenched the money between his fingers, turning a bit red as the stepmother turned on her heels. He quickly explained to Greta what the diabolical woman meant to do.

“Fuck that,” Greta said, eyes looking at him, searching for approval, “I’m not going home again. She’ll just try it again, that sneaky witch.”

“Yeah, fuck that,” Han said, crumpling the money in his hand.

They walked out of the mall, hand in hand. Greta blushed, feeling her brother’s hand resting warmly in hers. They were like the most beautiful couple, she thought in a secret place in her mind. He was like ice, and she was like stone. Together, they raged down the avenues, absorbing themselves into a faceless crowd, losing themselves.

By the time the sun began to set, the two of them were completely lost. Greta was the first to snap out of her faceless daze, and her pulse began to quicken with fear. Han, feeling the tug of her hand, shook himself and his eyes finally cleared. They knew that the sun was not about to stay up for much longer, and neither had a definite plan of where to go.

Suddenly, Han’s eyes locked on a shining building that stood at the end of the street. The rays of the setting sun reflected off of the glass windows, blinding them. And suddenly, he could see, and the name of the business seemed to sear itself into his mind. “Candi’s Modeling Agency” it said, and Han pulled his sister towards the building.

After crossing the street, the two stood outside the revolving doors, looking up at the shining glass tower.

“Well,” said Han, “We might as well go inside and see if they have any openings for us.”

“What do you mean?” Greta said, “Like us? Models?”

“Why the hell not?” Han retorted, “We might have a bit of cash, but we’re going to need more if we want to make it on our own. You’re beautiful, you should know that this kind of work would be right for you!”

Greta blushed and nodded. They entered the building together, and talked to a woman at the kiosk about getting a preliminary modeling appointment.

She looked suspicious, “How old are you two?”

Han cleared his throat, “Don’t you know that we’re twins? We’re both 21! How rude of you to speak with us in that tone!”

The secretary looked at him over her glasses and began to argue with him, when suddenly, a velvety female voice silenced her.

“Regina, that’s quite enough, thank you.”

Han felt chills run up his arms. He turned to look at the owner of the voice, and his eyes locked on the full figure of a woman with red curling hair, full lips, and a burgundy dress suit. Her eyes were dark green, almost black, and they seemed to hypnotize Han even more than that voice. Greta, however, after getting over that initial thrill, began to grow red with a jealous blush. She saw how her brother looked at this woman, with heat, hunger, and lust. She wanted Han to look at her like that, not some bewitching new older woman.

Greta could see that the newcomer was about thirty years old, her body curved almost impossibly: from her ample cleavage, to the demure waist and the motherly, tender hips. Her legs were long and bronze from the pantyhose she wore, but they were not spindly legs. They were strong and well toned. She walked across the floor in her stiletto heels like she owned it.

“Hi, you two, my name is Candi. I own this company,” she said, winking at them, “And you two are just what I’m looking for! Let me show you to my room.”

They went inside her large office, and the door clicked shut, ringing metallic behind them.

“Sit down! Make yourself comfortable” Candi was grinning like an anticipatory predator, Greta though. She did not like this witch-woman at all.

Han was oblivious. He sat down without once breaking his gaze on the buxom woman who was now seated comfortably behind her desk.

“So, now, tell me all about yourselves,” she said, focusing on Han.

Han explained their plight, never missing a beat, or lying at all. Greta watched him, fuming. He would never be this open or truthful with even her. Greta seethed, and knitted her hands at a furious pace.

When Han was finished with his story, Candi leaned back in her chair and eyed them both. She rolled her curling hair between her fingers, and looked up at Han with a “come hither” kind of look.

“What would you two say to a contract with me?” Her voice was sticky like honey.

“Yes!” Han said, just as Greta said, “NO!”

“Greta, what’s wrong?” Han was angry, “We just got a great opportunity! We’ll show that heroin-crazed bitch who’s worthless!”

“Well, because Greta is younger than 18,” Candi said, “I can’t have her in as one of my models yet. But, I will be willing to have her do behind-the-scenes work, and pay her well for it.”

Greta sulked, knowing that the witch woman wanted to get her Han alone, and that Han wanted that too. She could feel the urgency between the two, like a tightly pulled wire and she yearned to pluck it. But as Han turned his pleading face to her, her heart tightened with sadness and regret. She wanted the best for her older brother. He was trying to help her…and she was being a total bitch. Finally, she nodded.

“Great!” Candi clapped her hands, “This is going to be so great! Now why don’t I go get that paperwork?”

Soon, the papers were signed, and Han was ushered away from Greta to get “fitted” for his new clothing line. Greta was taken to a small, janitorial closet, where she was given duties that included fixing Han’s clothes when they ripped. She also cleaned up after the shows. When she wasn’t working, however, she often would sneak peeks at Han up on stage, practicing his new walk and strutting in finery of all types. He was a natural. Greta would choke on her own lust, but knew that it would never be. Her heart ached with longing, but it was the kind of longing that would never be filled.

At night, Greta would lie awake in her little room, trying to read her latest fantasy novel (she got entire bookcases of them as a holiday bonus), and listen to the moaning coming from the master bedroom of Candi’s house. Because (supposedly) they wanted to save on money, Candi was giving them a place to stay at her large estate, yet another one of Greta’s big grievances. But she couldn’t really complain because they had especially accommodated her by finding her a nice small room that she could feel comfortable in. The only problem was that she could hear a lot of what Candi was doing with Han…her Han. Greta gritted her teeth as she heard the muffled sound of flesh on flesh, and the gasps and moans of her brother as he entered and left Candi’s body over and over again. She tried not to think of the look of orgiastic pleasure on his face or that cat-swallowing-the-canary look that Candi always gave her when she led Han into her bedchamber.

But Greta was happy because she was now making more money than her father ever had. She was saving, month by month, as much as she could, saving for a day when she could have her own place, that cusp of womanhood when she turned 18.

Han, on the other hand, was subject to intense fame and fortune. His icy blue eyes and tender yet tough body got him into clothing magazines, commercials, and runway show after runway show. And each night, there was Candi: Candi of the curling red hair, so fiery that it almost burned his heart to touch it; Candi with her full-lipped smile and voluptuous body. She truly savored each time she fucked him, and she did so with such delight; crying out and squirming around him. He was delirious with how quickly things were moving: his head spun, and a week, month, year had passed. Days were a blur, and there always seemed to be reporters in his face; people flashing cameras in his direction.

He would see Greta from time to time, her nose buried in a book, with a bagel in one hand, but she was so far away; no one paid attention to her. But each time he saw her, she had changed; one year, and she was developing, that boyish figure that she used to have was a memory of the past. By 18, she was finally what one could call a “real” woman. Her hair was straight like a satin curtain, and she wore flawless makeup that accentuated all of her good points and covered up any bad ones (one learns a lot when working with models for years upon years).

She was grown up, there was no question about it, but from time to time, Han ached for those chats, and those days of folding laundry side by side. He would turn over, look at Candi’s sleeping face, and know that she was the one woman for him, but know that he also needed a sister to love as well.

That next morning, Han knocked softly on the little door to Greta’s room.

“Come in,” said the soft, tired voice.

He entered the room and found that Greta was lying in bed, having just woken up. She had a look of confusion and surprise that was so marked on her face that he had to chuckle.

“Long time, no see,” he joked, and gave her a hug, feeling those firm, supple breasts against him.

For a second, he forgot who he was thinking of and felt himself get warm inside, a precursor to the fire of lust. He quickly composed himself, though, and set out to make peace with his sister.

“Greta, I know-” he began.

“Don’t even worry, bro,” she said, nonchalantly, “I have had a good time here, and I was actually going to see if I could talk to you today. You see, I’m pretty sure that this Candi woman is some kind of witch. I mean, I’ve been studying her for the past two years. You know all that coffee she gives you? I see her grind something into it, and it’s not nutmeg, I can tell you that. I think she’s manipulating you.”
Han was confused. He hadn’t expected this. His sister was mad, that had to be it. He excused himself and went to Candi. She patted him on the head, comforted him, and let him know that it was ok, mental illness runs in the family, and it’s not your fault…shhh…

The next morning, they sent Greta away to a nice, expensive insane asylum. And as she screamed, “WITCH! WITCH!” out the back of the van, no one really minded. After all, everyone knows that there are no such things as witches. After all, there were many more things to think about. After all, Candi and Han were going to get married and there were so many preparations to be made.

*

“Han, dear,” Candi said, holding her abdomen as they were putting together the wedding invitations, “I believe we’re going to have a baby too.”

Han looked at her curiously.

“Shh, it’s ok, Han. Why don’t I get you some coffee?” Candi said with a big grin, “I’m sure that once you’re done, you’ll feel all better.”

 
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Posted by on April 3, 2011 in Modern Fairy Tale, Short Story

 

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Like a Hole in the Head

Charlie! You’re bleeding!”

The voice wakes me up from my boredom-induced daze and I look down. The brown paper bag is smeared with blood, and I slowly raise my left hand to my face. The side of my finger has a small red gash across it, scarlet fluid leaks slowly out of my body and onto the customer’s egg carton. I stare at it dumbly, fascinated.

“Charlie!” Martina, the checker at my station, is giving me the “move it!” look, so I mumble that I’m going to go clean up and rush to the bathroom.

I stare at my finger under the harsh white lights. The bleeding has mostly stopped, but I can feel a dull pain moving down my finger and into my arm. I turn on the faucet and run my wound under the frigid metallic water. Of course, there’s no soap. There’s never any soap in the men’s bathroom. I have to run over to the women’s bathroom and pump out a handful of syrupy yellow goo. The soap stings a bit as it fills the cut, but I smile. The pain seems to be the only real thing I’ve felt today. It is almost comforting, as though I am letting some pressure out of my overworked body by opening this hole in my skin.

It’s my third year as Head Bagger at the Quick-O-Market and my life revolves around a little black treadmill at Station 12. I have nothing to look forward to except days filled with paper bags. Bags filled with frozen food, bags filled with produce, bags filled with milk, meat, and coffee. The little whirring treadmill will continue to spit out various food products. The stupid flickering bulb over the register will continue to flicker, flicker, flicker, causing my eyes to constantly readjust and blur.

I rub my eyes and look at my distorted reflection in the metal mirror in front of me. I can barely make out a red scrawled obscenity on the scratched surface, much less my face. Parts of the “c” and “k” are erased, but I still get the meaning. There is an acrid smell of musk and urine mixing with the air and biting my nose. But even the stench is background noise, buzzing in the back of my mind. I finally get the wound respectably clean, and put it under the “sanitary drier” machine. It is supposed to be better than using paper, but I don’t believe it. It just pushes the water into droplets on my hands and I get splashes of moisture all over my shoes. I wipe my hands on my hair before leaving the bathroom, slicking it back and behind my ears.

‘If only I could find a meaning,’ I think, ‘A meaning for my life.’

As my shift ends, the sky has gone charcoal gray. The sun has set just enough so that I cannot see it, but the night hasn’t yet won its space in the sky. The chill wind causes me to shove my hands deeply into my pockets, but it doesn’t do much to fight the goosebumps on my arms; the sweatshirt is thin and worn after years of laundry cycles.

A few newspapers are being tossed in a mockery of a merry-go-round by the wind, the only movement on the street as I walk. Beside myself, only the blowing leaves of print are real: everything else is painted background, inky black shadow paints slung over suburban houses and strip malls. One of the papers catches my shoes, and I pause to look at the heading on the page.

Trepanning? The odd word sounds like gibberish to my brain. I pick up the twitching paper, and it goes still in my hand like a dead thing. Trepanning, hmm, it says that it’s a common practice by many cultures, where one drills a hole in-I pause, shocked and dumbfounded and reread it aloud- “where one drills a hole in one’s head.” I scan the rest of the article, soaking everything in, fascinated. The hole is drilled in order to let there be open communication between the individual and the spiritual world. Many supporters of trepanning report that this hole releases the pressure in their lives.

Pressure…My eyes catch the word and stick there. And suddenly, it doesn’t seem as crazy of a concept. The cut on my finger-I stare at it, and remember the release that came with the pain. I look at the bottom of the article. There is a toll free information number at the bottom.

I fold up the crinkled paper and nestle it in my pocket. My fingers play over the creases and battered edges. Should I call? Should I not? I feel like a pimply teen mustering up the nerve to ask the cheerleader on a date.

“It’s not like I’m going to live forever,” I say aloud to the deserted pavement.

My voice hits the pavement and rebounds, a harsh and throaty echo. The word “forever” continues to rebound in my skull, bouncing off of memories of days where I would be slick with sweat, pulling apart a reluctant bag and shoving sticky food into its yawning maw. The air conditioning is always broken in the summer. By the time someone comes to fix it, it is almost winter. The air conditioning blasts over me every day, even though the leaves are orange and red and falling and the air is sweet with the smell of rot and bitter with the scent of frost.

I reach home and throw my sweatshirt up against the coat rack. Pathetic, that’s me! Still living with the parents. At least I have a job, though; I get home too late for them to give me those looks of disgust.

But instead of heading to my room and collapsing onto my bed like I normally do, I head into the garage. Down the stairs, and ducking under the unused tool belt with the hammer sticking out the side, I finally reach the garage and my father’s “workshop corner.” Even though I’m the only son that my parents have, I’ve never been one for the hard manual labor involved in working on cars and plumbing and circuitry in the house.

Let Dad fix it,” I would always say, and slump back into my computer chair so I could continue shooting at pixilated monsters with my joystick.

But now, as I look at those silvery pliers and drill bits glinting in the half-light from the kitchen, they seem to glow with a new significance. I need supplies to make this thing work. Got to have careful planning, do everything just so. Can’t risk drilling a hole in only enough to scramble the brains and drain my IQ down to vegetable level. Dying isn’t the fear, here, I know. It’s staying alive and shitting in your pants and smiling about it as they wheel you away. I shudder as I clumsily paw through all of the drawers. Drill takes awhile to find; Dad’s got it buried under some papers and fishing reels. He’ll never miss it. It’s the electric type, which is good. I won’t need any electrical plugs to do it. Hell, I could even sell tickets. There’ve got to be some sick fucks out there in suburbia that would be willing to pay to see it.

The drill bits are a bit more confusing. What size should I get? How deep do I need to go into my head? The questions mount as I grab more and more supplies. I pocket some rubber gloves (“always be cleanly to avoid contamination” pops into my head from my 10th grade biology labs) and the big staple gun (stainless steel staples, just like the kind they use in the hospital.) As an afterthought, I shove a roll of duct tape into my back pocket. Hell, it’s supposed to fix everything. I can always use it if I make a mistake. On the way past the bathroom, I stop to get the bottle of rubbing alcohol that Mom uses to disinfect her jewelry. Cotton swabs sit next to the bottle in a little pink box, and I grab a handful of them too, fluffy balls sticking out through my knuckles.

Finally, in the sanctuary of my room, I assemble all the materials on my bed. I only know some preliminary details about this, but it seems safe to assume that a drill will be involved. The drill sits between the duct tape and the alcohol, and I turn it on to test the batteries. Whirr. Whirr. The drill head spins around and around and my eyes try to keep up with it.

Just then, though, I hear the padded footsteps of someone coming down the hall. Quickly, I throw my comforter over everything, and pretend to be asleep. It’s Mom, her pink fluffy slippers lightly brushing against the bottom of my door as she cracks it open to check on me. Her hair is frizzy, like she’s been sleeping, and her eyes are shadowed in the near dark of my room.

Charlie?” She whispers, as though she’s talking to some other Charlie in the room and is trying not to wake me.

I groan like I’m being disturbed in my sleep, and snort, rolling over to my side as though asleep. I’ve had years to perfect this particular fake sleeping and she falls for it, pulling the door closed and getting her slipper stuck under the doorjamb. I laugh quietly as she curses softly in the hallway, and there’s a soft scraping sound as the slipper breaks free. The steps fade, and I listen for her door to close before I resume my inventory.

I pull out the paper and look at it again. The number (“toll free!” it says) is 1 (800) DRI-LLME. Drill me? What a stupid acronym. I snicker at the stupidity of the ad, and think, why call? I’m sure that they’re not going to give me any advice that I don’t already know. Drilling a hole in your head is easy. Don’t need to take a class to know that. All I need is a drill and a head. And I got my head, so all I really need to do is get the right drill bit and I’m in business.

I scan the paper for some information. There’s a website too, hidden on top of the success stories and testimonies. I type in the URL. Not found. 404. I curse. Of course the number isn’t found. It’s never found on the fucking net. But I’m not to be discouraged. I use a search engine, type in the website, and I’m redirected, neurons flashing in my computer as it sends me information from that huge brain: the Net. I get over five thousand hits for “Trepanning” and “Trepanation.” Some of them are repeat sites, but it’s all at my fingertips, and I absorb page after page. One of the most helpful is “Trepan-Nation” which has color photos of an actual trepanation. My eyes soak in each picture, each detail. My mind is more alive than it’s been for months. Those neurons fire in my brain faster and faster, like they’re charging back up after centuries of sluggish sleep.

I find a great recipe for some “X-tra strength pain reliever!!1!!!111!!1!” Someone had put so many exclamation points on the end that they had left some of them as ones. But I write down the recipe. It’s free, and most of the ingredients are household products that I’ll be able to get, no problem. I guess it’s a given that it’ll hurt like hell, but the release is like a balloon flying out of your head, or so they say. There are testimonies after testimonies talking about the blood flow benefits and how it helps you to be so much more enlightened, but all I care about is getting rid of this feeling of yawning stagnation. Drilling a hole straight through my brains would be more productive.

But I need to sleep, to think it over, so I take off my pants and throw the covers over myself. I don’t even have time to jack off; I’m so tired. But my brain is humming in a knowledge afterglow better than any orgasm.

I dream that I’m in a chair that’s attached to this conveyer belt like at the Quick O Mart. Everyone is standing around the sides of the belt, with huge smiles on their faces. The smiles are like balloons, and their teeth inflate, large and white. They are pumped full with good intentions. My head is open, with one of those hinges in the back that keeps the top of my head attached like in the cartoons. My brains stick out the top, and I know they’re all cartoonie and pink, even though real brains are whitish yellow on account of the brain mostly consisting of fat. Everyone is sticking things into my brain. I don’t know how they do it, but they’re in an endless line. My parents are there, with a gigantic college diploma, shoving away. My Aunt Geraldine is there, shoving in petunias and carrot cake. Even the car salesman from those stupid Sunday afternoon commercials is there, with a chartreuse station wagon, trying to fit the back tires and tailpipe in against my yielding flesh.

Every face I can remember and ones that I can vaguely place are sitting there, grinning monstrously, and pushing things into the bubblegum flesh of my mind. I scream as the fit gets tighter, but they smile wider, their teeth engulfing their faces. I can’t even see their pupils. Just white, white all around, boring into my skull and flashing in my eyes so they can’t properly adjust. It’s that halogen light. Stupid fucking thing. I flail my arms up at it wildly. But the light gets bigger and bigger and farther away, focusing on me. And suddenly, there’s this huge whirring sound and the sound of glass shattering. The light dies, but not without a fight. It flickers wildly, buzzing and crackling, and I feel the electricity searing into my brain like a hot poker. The dark is a cool relief.

And then I hear it from far away. A whirring that comes closer and closer. It must be a racecar, I think, but it’s not a racecar. Maybe a blender? No. The electric drill comes rolling up to me, its head shining like it’s been blessed. I hand it a drill bit- how long have I been holding it? -and it clicks into place, whirring with the drill head. The drill comes down, down towards me, and I hold out my hands like a child who tries to grab his birthday candles because they look pretty, not hot. The drill pierces my head, and I can feel this huge thing coming out of me, like the drill is starting my brain hatching. Out of the hole comes this huge bulbous slug, lumbering amorphously over my shoulder and onto the floor. It is the color of mucous and I can see things sloshing around inside of it. They are flashing memories, distorted by the yellow green slime. And just as I touch the slug’s side, it finishes pulling out of my head, and I feel a wet sliding sound as it breaks free.

Things are coming into my head, but it doesn’t hurt. It is like a giant plug has been pulled, and I ride the wave of knowledge in ecstasy. The world knows my name, and I can call out the first name of the Earth. In unwritten languages I call out to gods that have sounds for names. I am falling towards a dark light, a warm light, and it is saying something profound if only I’ll listen and I try to listen but—

Charlie?! What are you still doing here?” It is my mother, pulling aside the curtains.

I groan, and realize I’m late for work. Oh well. I just want to sleep. But I drag myself out of bed, pull on my shirt again, and trudge back to work. I barely look at the faces and bag food mechanically. My mind is in stasis, cryogenically frozen. I’ve encased it in stone, in ice, and I’m chipping away at it again, just slowly enough so that it lasts the whole workday. Churning food, circular food, the treadmill spits it out over and over, into my waiting hands and out the door.

You need a girlfriend,” Martina says on her smoke break.

I don’t smoke, but I use this time to rest, to keep my brain from dissolving into treadmill-induced hysteria.

I need a girlfriend like I need a hole in the head,” I say, laughing.

Martina stares at me like I’m crazy. She doesn’t understand that it’s not sexual tension I need to release. It’s intellectual. 100% gray matter. Ah, but it doesn’t matter to her.

Really,” I say, “I’m crazy. I go crazier every day. Those halogen bulbs are going to give me seizures, just like on those stupid Japanese shows then have on late night TV.”

Charlie, don’t get too down on yourself,” she’s sympathetic, patting my arm with an ashy hand, “I’m sure you’ll find someone who really understands you. Who knows? She might be right under your nose.”

She coughs as she inhales the smoke again, and the cloud puffs out around us both, cloaking us in poison.

It’s ok,” I say, although it really isn’t.

Yeah, back to work then,” she says as she rubs out the smoldering part of the cigarette and drops it unceremoniously in the ashtray.

That night, I get everything together, including a squirt bottle filled with “X-tra strength pain reliever!!1!!!111!!1!” I’ve tried some on my finger, and it’s like I’ve chopped it off. There’s not even a ghost pang or a sandy, gritty finger like it’s asleep.

I take off my shirt again. Wouldn’t do to get blood on it. I have to do this in the mirror, so it’s tricky. I have the drill mounted on my father’s workbench. Luckily for me, I found the mount under the desk. The directions showed me how to hook it up to the vice, so I got myself a pretty good little set up. At least I’m not like that crazy European guy who trepanned himself by holding the drill in his feet.

I find the place where I would like to drill, and put on the gloves, marking the area with a few squirts of the pain stuff. In seconds, my head feels like someone’s cut off a slice but without the pain. It just doesn’t feel like it’s there. I wonder if the blood flow is completely gone. I check the door. It’s closed, and I’ve used the little latch lock to close it from the inside. Dad always used to joke that it was for when he was not to be disturbed, and I didn’t want to be disturbed so it seemed only fitting.

I turn on the drill, and it whines in the quiet air. Do it! Do it! It plaintively calls out to me. I take one last look at myself in the mirror, and I slowly bring my head down so it’s level to the spinning head. The drill bit isn’t too wide, but it’s long, so I have to be careful. The initial impact surprises me; I can feel skin and flesh tearing under the spinning bit, but there is no pain. Under that, the nerves burst, and there is blood, but not as much as most would have thought. The brain is one of the least bloody organs in an adult. It’s mostly fat, you know?

Still onward, I can feel it starting to bore into bare bone, ripping and tearing away at it. The bit gets warm and warmer still, heat traveling down the bit and into the drill, as I hold it with steady hands. I can feel a dull ache around the painless area, and there are small sparks jumping off of the drill and onto my skin. The skull is hard, and difficult to penetrate, but I am patient. I put more pressure into it, and feel the bone yielding under metal. The drill moves through quicker, now that it’s past the initial layer, and digs deeper and deeper towards my brain, my cable of nerves, snaking in a sullen sleep and waiting eagerly to wake.

I’m nearly there. I can feel the vibrations of the drill inside of my skull. It tickles my brain, if such a thing can happen. It tickles me and I giggle, pulling it closer. It doesn’t matter that the blood is flowing freely over my eyes, or that I can feel the drill bit biting and churning into something soft and yielding.

I can feel that slug of everyday life; of car commercials and fast food, crawling out of me. I am the shell of this grotesque creature, this cruel mockery of a butterfly hatched from my head, and I don’t care. I am laughing and laughing, even as everything around me begins to flicker like that damned halogen light. It can’t break up my mood now. It doesn’t know that I’m free of it. Free of the light, the churning monotony of name brands and price checks. The world is opening its dark arms to me, and I fall into them gladly, finally away from the halogen madness of humanity.

 
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Posted by on April 3, 2011 in Short Story

 

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It Rhymes With Lonliness

There is no unseen hand of fate

To guide us on our way,

The secret lies behind your eyes,

Following the day.

Like a twisted poison thorn,

Deeper, deeper in,

Turning round the bending bend

That never seems to end.

To never truly know the truth

I am led only to lies,

I may not yet be close to hate

But am on the doorstep of despise,

And perhaps there is no way to know

Or find a soul unspoiled,

But now I know that I

Can never trust a human mortal.

We see the path laid down ahead,

The maze-like, twisted spires,

So many fools, all running scared,

As they follow dark desires.

Perhaps no one ever can

Live a life devoid of sin

I suppose that I must accept,

There is no one way to win.

In a world of vice

And carnal wrongs,

And losses, deep and dark.

I find that I alone can live,

When betrayal hits its mark.

 
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Posted by on April 2, 2011 in Rhyming Poetry