Page 11

Leper Larry, Hemicorporectory Steve, even Sarah Face. They let the paper use their nicknames, too, which were supposed to be an inside joke, a mechanism for bonding, not something public. Nobody was prepared for what came next. They made us the lead story in the Style section (“Disfigurement Club Not So ‘Horrible’ To Those Who Find a Home There”) and then suddenly everybody wanted in: infected cuts, botched rhinoplasties, chainsawed legs. The worst were the Broken Hearters with their sob stories and twisted handkerchiefs. The Associated Press picked up the story right away and it must have gone international because for weeks I was getting calls from all sorts of strange places: Guam, Uzbekistan, Dallas. Sarah and I got into our first fight over it all. I said the paper had turned us into a freak show and we were idiots for cooperating. She said I was jealous because my nickname never caught on with anybody and I had to admit she had a point there. I was supposed to be Kangaroo but for some reason, unlike everybody else, I had stayed just Bill. I had some points of my own I wanted to make back but the phone rang just then. It was a fact-checker from Time Magazine, calling to make sure they had the right spelling for everybody’s names. Sarah and I had our second fight when she accused me of making love to her good side. It was true, but I wasn’t about to admit it and so got righteously indignant to cover myself. Things had been great between us for a month or so, despite the Post article—me sneaking over to her place, her sneaking over to mine. Trips out of town—to Great Falls, where she used to skip school and smoke pot with her friends when she was in high school; to the National Cathedral, where I used to sing in the vesper choir when I was a little boy soprano. One night I even told her about little Bill. Sarah didn’t get it, though. She said maybe that wasn’t some other Bill; maybe it was me–not yet ready for this world, not strong enough to survive, not enough of a heart. She said maybe after I was born that first time I had to go back and try again. She said maybe I was the Bill my parents had wanted all along. I told her I couldn’t hear that—it was a settled question in my mind about me and Mom and Dad and little Bill. Sarah got quiet and we never got around to talking about it again. That night of our second fight, it wasn’t so much a fight as it was Sarah complaining about me shying away from the dead side of her face. I listened for about an hour and at first I was apologetic, but finally I couldn’t take it any more. I took both her cheeks between my hands–only flinching a little at the webbed feel of her keloidal scar: the suggestion of a flinch; she couldn’t have detected it with an electron microscope—and I said,. “Goddamn, Sarah. Weren’t you the one who dumped Larry because of his horrible disfigurement?” She jerked back and pulled her sheet up around her leaving me naked and exposed. All my own scars stood out like

raised hieroglyphs, or like Braille, there in the dim light of her bedroom. I knew she felt guilty about what we’d done to Larry. I’d read it in her diary when she was in the shower. I pretended to feel bad, too, but I didn’t seem to have a conscience where Larry was concerned. I couldn’t say why except that I’d been so lonely, and Sarah–half of her anyway—had looked like someone I could love. She gathered the sheets more tightly, as if she might disappear beneath them in the growing dark, and said, finally, “You don’t have a horrible disfigurement, Bill. You’re just horrible.” I didn’t understand for awhile that that meant we were through, even when I saw her whispering with Larry at the end of the next meeting, and even when he gave me the brush-off at work. What I had said to Sarah was such an obvious truth that I didn’t see how it could be a deal-breaker for us. But it was a deal-breaker. I was just too logical to see that right away. I sealed my own doom, in any event, when I proposed the Standards Committee. It happened the following week when a woman named Betty S. came to the meeting and took the podium. She had a cadaverous look about her but no horrible disfigurement in evidence. And just as we expected she turned out to be the third Shattered Hearter since the Post article came out, with her “Blah, blah, blah, Some wounds nobody can see but they’re here and they’re real. And blah, blah, blah Horrible disfigurement of the spirit. And blah, blah, blah I may be crippled on the inside but I refuse to be a victim.” Here she flashed her tan teeth at a couple of the soldiers, who always wore their fatigues, even though they were withering away and barely filled them out anymore. Betty S. waited for applause that didn’t come. Instead, Hemicorporectomy Steve yelled out from the back of the room, “Go hang yourself from a bridge why don’t you?” It wasn’t very nice but it was what everybody was thinking. Betty S. left in a huff, followed by two other Normals and a guy with a limp. Leper Larry volunteered to chair the Standards Committee. Steve and Condensacion agreed to serve as well and they held a brief caucus after the meeting broke up. I was straightening chairs with Sarah Face, working my way close enough to try and talk, so I couldn’t hear what they were saying. All three flashed me the stink eye as they filed out of the room. Sarah followed though there were still chairs and I called out after her—“Sarah, wait”—but she didn’t even turn around. I sat in a folding chair as the weight of what was happening settled into my chest, and for awhile I couldn’t move. I didn’t know what Sarah had told Larry, or what Larry told the guys, but I knew what a stink eye was, and I knew in that moment that what Sarah and I had found in Charm City, we’d already lost. All three members of the Near Death Experience Club introduced themselves when they came in half an hour Fall 2013 Volume 1, Issue 1

6

Profile for FLAR

FLR the Anthology 2013 - 2014  

A compilation of the Fredericksburg Literary and Art Review, Volumes 1 and 2 (2013-2014)

FLR the Anthology 2013 - 2014  

A compilation of the Fredericksburg Literary and Art Review, Volumes 1 and 2 (2013-2014)

Profile for amybayne