Cost and Effect

“How much for those?” she asked, ogling my breasts.

I leaned back in my chair and stretched, buttons straining to be free, adding to the allure of the package.

“What do you think they’re worth?”

Her hands restless in her lap, baby rats squirming for their mother’s teat, I knew what she wanted.

“They feel great, too.  Certainly not fake, but better than real.  With a pair of these, the industry’s yours for the taking.”

Or faking.

“How much?”

I tapped a fountain pen against my lower lip, as if lost in thought.  Assessing her.

“What would you give for such a tempting rack?”

Her shoulders hunched up and down.

“My eye teeth.”

A hand fumbled for her bag, delivered her wallet onto my desk.

“Done.  You can pay me after.”

***

 She was drowsy after the procedure, the herbs took them that way sometimes.  The right address, a lab coat white as a Hollywood smile, and they didn’t ask too many questions.  Not till after.

“Can I touch them yet?”

I smiled, reassuring her.  It made it … tasty.

“Touch what you like, with our procedures there are no scars, no infections, no healing times.  Just… satisfaction.”

Ours.

Her hands squeezed 32Ds, plump and warm, and she sighed with happiness.

“Can I get you a drink?”

She nodded, tried to look around the room properly.

“My face feels weird.”

I nodded.

“It will for a while, but you’ll soon get used to it.”

Taking the glass of water in her hand, she tried to focus, and I trembled with glee.

“Shall I settle the bill now?  I love what you’ve done, I’m so happy.”

I couldn’t help a giggle leaking out like a spoonful of pee with a fright.

“You’ve already paid.”

She cocked her head to one side, frowned a little.

“But we never agreed a final figure.”

“Oh, we did.”

Her other hand found her face, tried to rub her eyes as she concentrated on what I’d said, then flitted from side to side as if in semaphore of terror.

Priceless.  The tapes were rolling.  My customers, my real customers would be very pleased.

“What’s this?  What’s on – my eye, what’s wrong with my eye?”

“I just did as you said.”

“Huh?”

I leaned in close, so close she could smell the sulphur on my breath.

“When we agreed prices.  You said.”

“What?”

Nearly a whisper, but the sound guys were good.  They’d have caught it.

“To give your eye teeth.”

And as she cried, as she wailed, I watched the tears creep past the thick white lashes of bone round her eye.

Now mascara; that might be a problem.

By Gill Hoffs

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The Haunted Housewife

They called her the Haunted Housewife. She wore June Cleaver dresses from the 50’s. They were moth-eaten and dyed black to match the circles underneath her eyes. Her skin was doll’s porcelain, powdered into transparency. Some say she didn’t exist at all, that she was only a ghost who showed herself in the windows of the sinking Georgian manor on Pine Street. Holding a martini for a husband who would never come home and cooking dinner for children that could not digest anymore.

They called her the Haunted Housewife and her black hair was streaked white. Empty bottles of chemicals were found in the trash bin on the mornings after her sightings. Whole gallon jugs of Windex, tile cleanser, bleach and lye. The women would all whisper, what was she doing in there? Did she still clean that house? Did she polish the silver? Did she buff the floor? When did she emerge? Neighborhood children made a game of knock knock knock on her door. They ran away and hid behind the trash can and flaking picket fence.

She used to have a family the older women would say. She wasn’t always alone. One day no one was there, except the haunted housewife. Left to make empty beds, and iron unworn shirts. the police came. Everyone talked, but there was nothing said. Except that the husband and her two boys were never seen again.

Then, the children started disappearing in the woods off of Pine Street. Little boys with chubby cheeks, and a penchant for marble games, shooting things with BB guns. Winchester model. Hollering after a felled squirrel, compatriots would watch them fade into the forest fog. No one saw them after that. Now and then a boy’s sneaker would show up, smeared with mud with the faint odor of cleaning products.

Peering out she smiled, in the dark when they all slept. She was their joke but she had them all wrapped around her bony white finger, little did they know. Mounting the stairs she descended to the basement family room. It was set up just as they left it: trains, tv, molding floral print couch and reclining lounge chair. Underneath the big red wool rug, she pulled pieces of floor, exposing a locked door. Fitting the key carefully into the heavy lock the Haunted Housewife adjusted her heels, and opened up her real home. Down she twisted into the lighted hole where her family had multiplied like bunnies. Her husband sat at his work bench reading the paper, her boys were on the shag carpet with their Erector set, and the others . . well the others had come to live with them forever. Once her husband had said she should take up a hobby, now she was quite proud of her work. Taxidermy was a very considerate art after all.

By Emily Smith-Miller

A Bloodied Ear of Corn

“When maidens find red ears of corn,

They shall be paired before the dawn”

This golden field slopes like her chest; the fence posts mirror my own.  But it’s not just breasts I lack.  She has the hair, in near pubic curls, dimples like pock marks, boring blue eyes… everything the village boys could want or need.  I can ride a horse so fast you’d swear I was centaur, slice a sickle through wheat as if twirling in dance, and twist a lamb in its mother so the feet slide out first and there’s profit for morning. 

But to my folks, to those boys with their awkward walks and sliding eyes, stiff trousers and fiddling pockets, I’m the runt of the litter.  Except when I try and talk to them about her, about the realities of living with my sister, her sniffs and whining, delicacies and deceit, they call me that but substitute with a ‘c’.

I need a mate, I need escape.  My own farm to run, and a cart for the market.  A bed to lie in, roll on, and share.  No more making do.

So I’m making don’t, won’t and can’t.

We’re out in the field, and I’m cutting the corn.  She bends to sniff a poppy then scarlet blossoms further than petals, wetter than tears, stickier than mud.

Who they going to marry now?

By Gill Hoffs