Johnny America


The Cure for Nudity


“The Steven­sons sent over a love­ly meat bas­ket,” my hus­band said. I was sip­ping tea on the liv­ing room couch. Harold placed the bas­ket care­ful­ly on the cof­fee ta­ble. It was stuffed with freck­led cir­cles of sala­mi, a shank of lamb, chunks of steak, and green grapes. I sneezed.

“Have you for­got­ten it’s spring?” I said.

Harold looked away. “There are grapes,” he said, stand­ing use­less­ly about.

Then he said, “The Steven­sons said that new su­per­mar­ket con­fis­cates your gro­cery list and sends it to the feds if it looks sus­pi­cious. You know what ter­ror­ists eat? Brus­sel sprouts. Brus­sel sprouts and no fat yo­gurt with fruit on the bot­tom. There’s one se­cret ter­ror­ist cell that does ze­ro carbs. What’s that, cel­ery sticks?”

I con­cen­trat­ed on the way sun­light warmed the room, then on the salty meat smell from the bas­ket, and then on my Harold’s face, which bloomed in­to a bou­quet of fruit and veg­eta­bles. His gen­tle grey eyes turned to fresh bunch­es of broc­coli, and from his aquiline nose burst forth a juicy bunch of pur­ple grapes and a cher­ry toma­to. His wide fore­head and neck grew vi­brant radish­es, straw­ber­ries, or­ange slices, and let­tuce. I sighed. Long ago, his heart em­bod­ied the lus­cious vi­tal­i­ty of fruits and veg­eta­bles. How juicy his kiss­es! How ripe his touch!

“Harold, your face is do­ing the thing again,” I said, sneez­ing. “’Let’s go out to­geth­er. We can put shiny peas on our tongues and crack­ers on our eyes and read po­et­ry.” A plead­ing cracked my voice.

“Can’t take the con­ges­tion?” he laughed, squeez­ing his face back to nor­mal. “Why don’t you just take some al­ler­gy med­ica­tion? I bought it yes­ter­day — it can al­so be used as a toi­let dis­in­fec­tant.” The mem­o­ry of a toi­let: New Years Eve, nine­teen eighty-eight, Harold and I locked in the Stevenson’s bath­room, grop­ing each oth­er on the toi­let seat. There were meat bas­kets every­where and Harold smoth­ered my neck with sala­mi slices and nib­bled them off. I whis­pered, “I nev­er eat meat in Spring my dar­ling.” Harold rav­ished me on that toi­let, with all the rage and pow­er of war and pres­i­dents. Now, re­mem­ber­ing made me dizzy.

“Harold,” I grunt­ed, loos­en­ing the belt of my green ter­ry robe. “I’m wear­ing the leather girdle…”

“Hon­ey, for Chris­sakes,” Harold said nervously.

“Harold, don’t drink the wa­ter, don’t drink the wa­ter,” I moaned. It was our code for se­duc­tion. I threw my­self on the floor, rubbed my slip­pered feet to­geth­er. “Take off my slip­pers Harold, I’m your gold­en girl, I’m your gold­en girl, don’t drink the water.”

Harold stood there, not strong like squash but scared like a raisin. At that mo­ment, our board­er, a fe­male dwarf named Sophia, jumped in­to the liv­ing room. She was go­ing through this phase where she jumped in­stead of walking.

“Hey, Mrs. G, what are you do­ing on the floor?” Her young voice was tuneful.

I cleared my throat and breathed. “Just chan­nel­ing an­cient se­crets, Sophia, don’t worry.”

“My dear, you look es­pe­cial­ly pret­ty to­day,” Harold said in a friend­ly way. “Hero­ical­ly life-sized!”

“Don’t let me get in the way here,” Sophia said. “I just came for cir­cles of sala­mi and then I’m off to read my book in the sun.”

“What book?” I asked, stretch­ing out on the Per­sian rug.

“Drac­u­la,” Sophia said. She ad­just­ed her tight pink shirt and tossed her curls. “Re­al­ly, sor­ry to both­er, I’m leav­ing now.”

“Okay leave me,” Harold joked, “but just re­mem­ber if you do I’m com­ing with you.”

“Well, sure, you’re more than wel­come.” Sophia smiled and light popped off her lit­tle freckles.

That’s when I saw every­thing. Harold loved Sophia. Harold loved Sophia.

I rose with great ef­fort. “I’m not enough for you, am I?” I whis­pered. “It isn’t enough that I wear rub­ber bras and rub­ber masks and put up with your veg­etable faces?” Harold and Sophia stood frozen, em­bold­en­ing my whis­per to a shout. “You, Harold?” I yelled. “You, the alien­at­ed dis­si­dent who looked at me in a pol­ka-dot­ted par­ty hat and said “I see you Karen. I see you for who you are.”

“I do see you,” Harold said, “It’s just that —”

“You’re a man af­ter all, Harold,” I laughed bit­ter­ly. “A man who for­gets about meat bas­kets and falls in love with pret­ty dwarves just when I am feel­ing frag­ile and alone, like a fish in a bowl, that’s when you do it, when I am hag­gard and afraid like five dead stomped-on flow­ers in a field.”

“Hon­ey, please calm down,” Harold walked to­wards me, his hands say­ing easydoesit.

“Harold, you smell like lemons!” I sneezed in an­guish. “That’s why I’m hav­ing al­ler­gies. You’ve been drink­ing lemon­ade with Sophia!”

“Re­al­ly,” Sophia said. She jumped to­wards me. “You’re get­ting hysterical.”

I marched to the meat bas­ket and scooped a hand­ful of steak chunks. I threw them at Sophia’s head.

“Stop it!” she cried. I clocked her with the lamb shank. She screamed and jumped to­wards the front door. Harold jumped with her.

“You jump out of here, Mis­ter, and you’re not com­ing back,” I warned.

In his con­fu­sion, Harold’s face bloomed in­to a gi­ant steak chunk. I ripped it off his neck and threw it at Sophia, who was al­ready jump­ing in­to the shady street, to­wards the Steven­sons’ house. I shut the door.

“A young dwarf,” I said roy­al­ly, “should not jump in­to the arms of a mar­ried man.” Harold shrugged and slunk back to our bedroom.

I took care of him for a while, bathed him, read to him, and coaxed his head to grow back lit­tle by lit­tle. Spring gave way to sum­mer, and then fall, and things went back to nor­mal, al­though my heart grew an­oth­er black and blue mark, and when Harold touched it, I remembered.

Filed under Fiction on August 31st, 2005

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gilgamesh wrote:

dear mi­mouny:
you are amaz­ing. i love your writing.

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