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The Femur When my ex Fed-Exed me a small box of her pubic hairs it ranked right up there among the strangest things I’d ever received in the mail. But the oddest was my grandfather’s femur. I was away at college when he passed. Shoved in front of a train by his third wife while visiting Berlin. My mother’s theory. Then Dad decided to send along the package. When I opened it, I wasn’t quite certain if it was a joke. No note, no return address. Just the bone, suspended and fused inside a rectangular plastic frame, like a tarantula my kid sister had. I placed it on my dorm room closet shelf. Through the years, and multiple moves later, I’d grown attached. It was as if we shared bone. Carti- lage. Nerves. Connective tissues. It was what prompt- ed me to pursue forensics, and I’d tote it, not an easy task, to my yoga classes, or to weekly seminars in Ve- gas. Cradle it at night, the smooth surface reassuring, hum ourselves to sleep. After I got married, my wife begged me to get rid of it, wouldn’t listen when I pleaded with her to let it stay. She said it was too creepy. Really? What she doesn’t know is that I snuck it under the mattress, above the box spring on my side of our bed. And I can feel it, every time I lie down, growing.

The Cat’s Pajamas I was drawn to his checkerboard hair: half-leopard/ half-Mohair. Surly, cheeky, sarcasm oozed from his lips. He’d call me Farrah to get a rise. I pretended I didn’t like it, but any attention was better than none. When he called me a pussy, I punched him. So hard it hurt my hand. How I ended up in his bed seemed an entire life in one smooshed week. His two cats, Rat Boy and Martha were clueless, too. His skull was nearly perfect, like a newborn, the way his ears parenthesized his face perfectly. Utter dome-dom. It all started when he bought my leopard nightie. After he’d score the occasional night shift, I’d pace, roll across the rug, clawing air. I’d spit at Rat Boy and Martha. They’d cower, growling under the sofa. I’d lick my entire body, starting with my hands, then head to toe, just as they did. Eventually I became one, slept all day, twitching by night. Between naps, I’d sit at the picture window, track flights of birds. Lure them to our feeders. Fatten them up.              

Bonus Question A late night call-into the all-night radio station the deejay is waiting for the answer to the bonus question When, suddenly, at 3:17 in the desolate morning, the phone rings he picks it up, the woman onthe other end says, huskily, for the whole country to hear: Will you love me? Sorry! Wrong Answer! But somewhere, lyingin the darkness, and staring into pitch black, someone who has never seen her face whispers yes.                                                  

Gauze, A Medical Dressing, A Scrim Gauze When they converted the basement into his room, Billy was too young to know any differently. He just wanted his own space, didn’t want to share it with his five older sib- lings anymore. Then when he was around ten, he stopped eating dinner with the rest of the family. His mother placed his dinner plate on the top stair every night. In exchange he only communicated by notes he’d send or receive by pulley-pails through the laundry drop. A Medical Dressing One time when Ethyl, the family dachshund, accidentally ventured downstairs, she was never seen again. Same for one sister, Darla, who thought she’d left a sweater atop the laundry machine. Disappeared. Eventually Billy was indistinguishable from any basement dweller, resembling the spider realm. Webs. Gossamer silver. Detecting vibrations, lurking toward eventual prey. The family nearly forgot he existed. A Scrim Then one day while folding laundry, his mother noticed a note and she decided to read it aloud to the rest of the children at dinner that night: Here is your stormy day, the one with pressing clouds and chilling breeze. Here is your way you fall in step, synchronize laughs and moderate beliefs, acclimatize moods and medications. Here, then your last vestige of blue sky and fortitude. A mélange of mercurial 99 designations. Bastion of sailboats emptying out horizons. They all craned their necks toward the basement.

Addicts & Basements by Robert Vaughan  

Excerpt from book. ETA: 2/1/2014

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