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January 25, 2018 | Fiction

Foe in the Kitchen

Gina Zucker

Foe in the Kitchen photo

The foe came into the kitchen. “Watch this,” the foe said.

Right off I spoke up. I don’t know what came over me, a nobody, from nowhere. “I’m lodging a complaint,” I said.

The foe stepped further in. She put her feet in the thick of it, all her feet. Squares of black and white spread out from there. “I keep it sweet on the dance floor,” she said.

“We’re not here for that.” I scanned the kitchen for affirmation.

The foe turned herself around. She stopped on a single foot, holding the rest of herself up, waiting to see what effects she’d had. The swagger on her was something. The others gathered. The foe resumed her dance, leaving legs where space was expected and vice versa. Oh, they swarmed around to watch, clustered on counters, the stove, bent-winged and -limbed, climbing over each other to get a glimpse.

I’d read that mirroring could get results. I stretched and turned, appendages out. Nobody reacted. I protested with my body, such as it was. I felt the need to explain. “I’m staging a protest.” I fluttered hard. The foe smelled of gas.

“Stage away,” said the foe. “Just not too much.” The foe had hair down her neck, arms, legs: fuzzy long hair the color of egg yolk. Deeply unattractive.

“Meanwhile,” she continued, “I’m here to vow my optimism. I’m tapped into what’s needed currently and have the wherewithal to power through— ”

 “—I’ll take it from here,” I interrupted. Someone had to. The whole thing was preposterous, back to front. The others remained silent. The others, I realized, did not really notice me.

Deep pangs began.

“Dance,” said the foe over my head.

The others shifted in their places. It sounded like a forest at night.

“Y—” I began, meaning, the only difference between yours and ours

“It is not ours to ask why,” said the foe.

“No, I mean—” I choked; my explaining had been done for me. My hunger betrayed me. Crackers, sugar, anything…

“By all means necessary,” said the foe. The foe took deep breaths, making her hair shiver. Her hair, so long and fuzzed, so shaggy and yellow. What a creature!

“What kind of hair is that?” A child had spoken. Sex undifferentiated, possibly hermaphroditic, bald, lash-less, landing in the range of eight to twelve days.

I froze. I knew this child. This child was my child.The foe didn’t miss a beat. “Mine own, mine own,” said the foe, lifting her many eyes to the ceiling.

“Downright,” I sputtered. Something essential had gotten away from me.

“Can I touch it?” the child of mine asked.

The room held its silence. The foe lowered her gaze. She held out a rope of yokey shag and my child reached out to feel it. “Can. May, even,” the foe said softly.

“Leave us!” I cried.

A stirring in the room swished the silence to a breeze. The others scuttled in one direction. They moved en masse across the squared black and white for the crack under the door. They left the kitchen without telling me.

“I protest too much!” I screamed.

The foe breathed slowly—keep it sweet—and my child remained, held the foe’s hair atop its own bald head. Can a ghost be ghosted? I bent myself, limped to the opposite side of the room. I put myself as far away from the foe and my child as the floor permitted. Against the wall, staging, lodging, protesting, complaining, still hungry—I crouched.

“Go to him,” breathed the foe. “Feed him.”

My child drifted toward me.

 

image: Ian Amberson


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