Aversion Therapy

$5. To order: djr@olemiss.edu


Opening paragraphs:


1. Aversion Therapy

You're the lucky sweepstakes winner given a chance to enroll in the revolutionary new aversion therapy program that's been so much the rage this past year or two that only the very rich and the very famous have been able to book treatment times at the fabulously exclusive clinic in Switzerland that is the only place in the world offering the treatment and even then the waiting list to get in is longer than a pleasant Sunday afternoon at home with your wife and kids.

He walked down the street jingling his coins in his pocket and feeling flat and fairly free, not wanting anything, not afraid of anything, not disappointed in anything. One of the good moods. He had been to the cinema and seen a film that he didn't like much and was now heading downtown to do some early Christmas shopping. A short dark-skinned young man came out of a shop doorway and fell into step beside him, asking him in heavily accented English whether he had the time. He held his watch up wordlessly. The man held his wrist lightly, holding it steady while he looked, then thanked him with an unctuous manner that he found almost revolting but not quite, not quite enough to ruin his mood. The man reminded him of a toddler who can't talk yet and so knows that he can't express himself and so does not even try, just lives, just butts into life with his forehead.

"Where are you from?" the little man asked.


2. Travel

Of course she's complaining to the flight attendant about him. Trust a fucking foreign feminazi to go whine to mommy. He can't understand her, must be English, must be an American, but he can guess: "This man touched my leg, this man leaned in close and said something sweet and soft to me, please open the door and push him out, let him fall five kilometers to fucking earth, the bastard." Or however the fuck far it was. He sees himself plummeting head over heels, cursing women with every fucking breath he takes, every bitter moment that brings him closer to the end of his short 22-year-old life.

He had to fucking visit New York. His aunt arranged it, bought him the ticket, sent him the invitation. Now look at him. Freefall.

At least the flight attendants are all Russians, pretty girls who understand a man's needs, welcome a man's attentions.

"Young person," the girl says, his age, maybe a little older, 23, 24, but that's how you address a man politely in Russian, "maybe we can find you a better place to sit." A blonde cutie. Nice smile.

"Gladly," he says, getting up. "There wasn't enough room to sleep in that seat anyway."


3. Macaroni

Why don't you move it over to the, the gillis, the dobie — wait, that's not what it's called is it — they had one in the bathroom this morning — a gray one I think — no, not gray, grot — is that a color, grot? — you know, sort of gray and purple, but the purple of the outside of a, what do you call it, grot — gramp? gherkin? — no, it's not a gherkin, that's what they put in the groves — not the groves — yes the groves, isn't it the groves where they put them? — I'm sorry, now I'm hopelessly confused!

The sun woke her. It was right in her eyes every sunny morning. That was okay: she had to get going in the morning. She lay there for an extra moment, indulging herself. Then swung her legs to the floor, stood up, padded into the kitchen to put water on for tea. She slept in a big old t-shirt that her husband had left behind. It came down to the middle of her thighs, like a nightgown.
It was going to be another warm day. She could already feel the warmth on her bare legs. A day to worry about the cakes sagging, wilting in the sun.


4. Poem

Janko crouches catlike behind a bush outside her house. His house, where she lives with him. Temporary residence.

The hunter. The master criminal. Catlike. Pounce? Or flounce?

Cat burglar with nothing to burgle, nodding to bugle, tat-ta-raa! Nothing to steal but joy joy joy.

Small pink prey crawls by small pink finger, Janko the hunter: pounce! Lift to nose, give judicious sniff. Go in peace, tiny friend.

Go with my blessing. Watch worm wiggle west.

Will she show herself? Will the bugles sing?

Sun glints sharp through the trees. Warm day, dorm way, Doris Day, curds 'n whey. Janko's shirt sticky on his back, his armpits little rain forests, teeming with dark moist life. Motionless in the jungle. Like a cat.

Flash in the window. Flash in the pan.

Sunlight reflected off passing car.



5. Inertia

Endogamy is incest. Exogamy is treason. The faithful translator, as the Italians say, is a traducer: traduttore traditore. All fidelity is relative. Relativity is regulated by the family.

His big sister Johanna was crossing the lawn from the front door of the cottage, bringing a tray of something out to the table. Her husband Vesa was turning sausages on the grill. Lenkkimakkaroita, in Finnish. Vika called them sardel'ki. Dai mne sardel'ku, she said to him in a low voice, pointing, and he understood, only partly because they'd talked about the words in their respective languages for these fat link sausages in Russia just a week ago: mainly because she was pointing to them now. He turned and said Annas Seppo makkaraa.

Seppo, his youngest brother, the family joker, typically surrounded at these gatherings by little nieces and nephews begging him Seppo tell us a story please, reached over and stabbed one with a fork, handed it over. "What," he said to Janne, "you speak Russian already?"

Janne smiled, pretended the question was as innocent as it seemed on the surface. "Doesn't everybody?"


6. Coochie Snorcher Gothic Nightmare


"What is it, hon? Wake up, Debby, you're having a nightmare!"

"I – I – Greg, thank God!"

"Gosh amighty, what was it? You were shrieking. Was it the same nightmare as before?"

"No, I – I don't know. I don't think so."

"What was it? Tell me about it, bunny rabbit, I'll help you get back to sleep."

"I'd rather not think about it. It was just too horrible!"

When she woke in the morning the bad dream was a dim memory. Greg was there beside her. In fact, he was lying there wide awake, his bright morning eyes intent with purpose. She felt his hand moving between her legs, and the thermometer sliding into her coochie snorcher. As always, he pretended like it was taking forever to take her temperature, rolling his eyes histrionically and looking at his watch and sighing deeply. It only took 15 seconds, though, before it went beep-beep-beep and he pulled it out and brought it up to his face to read it.

"Sleeping Beauty's vaginal temperature this beautiful sleepy morning is 98.6," he said with a television news anchor's orotund intonations, and reached behind him for the maroon leatherette logbook on the nightstand. Flipped through to the right page and entered the figure in the appropriate slot. He had just finished his ob-gyn rotation at the hospital; she knew she could trust him with this. She got up and went into the bathroom to go to the bathroom.


7. Clownpants

"Clown pants!" Hervio cries suddenly with a wave of his stubby arms. "My god, it's a classic, come look!"

Djilly swivels and cranes to look, of course. Clofullia and Gerione never pay the slightest attention to Hervio's antics, but they've been there a lot longer than he has. In his second week on the job, when the boss says "look!" he figures it's best to look.

It is in fact a fairly ludicrous site. Four different fonts, one of them some huge ornate baroque thing with shadows and gold lining. Each block of text in a different web-ready color. Stupid little photos tucked here and there "cleverly" all over the page, with self-important captions under them. Rollover buttons in bright blue down the left margin over a bright red background. Djilly can make out just enough of the text to see that it's an academic site, some English department somewhere in the United States. An English professor's idea of nifty web design.

By now Hervio is already busy sending the webmaster his jeering clown pants jpeg, attaching it to the email message screen that popped up when he clicked on the webmaster mailto link. Djilly has seen it: Hervio in loud baggy red and yellow plaid clown pants and no shirt. Hervio supersaturated the reds and yellows in PhotoShop so that they looked like some kind of nuclear explosion. The saturation brought out all the reds and yellows on his chest and face, too, so that he looks even more freakish in the picture than usual.

Hervio is a dwarf. Huge head, big barrel chest, tiny arms and legs. In his platform shoes he stands just under a meter tall. The clown pants looked particularly appropriate on him. Dwarf equals circus clown: the equation an obvious one that Djilly keeps to himself.


8. Corn Flakes

"Daddy, why are you going to burn the leaves?"

"To get rid of them."

"But Mommy doesn't want you to."

"I know."

"Why don't you ever do what Mommy wants you to do?"

"I do. All the time."

"No you don't. Mommy tells me that you never do."

"And you believe her?"


"Why don't you believe me?"

"Because Mommy's a woman and I'm a feminist."

Jeanne, their fifteen-year-old, has recently had an ideological awakening. Now everything gets tested against her new radical values. Everything has to be rethought, reworked.

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