Fiction from Web Del Sol


Kim Addonizio

      I'm sick in bed with a high fever and I'm reading. First I read in the newspaper about how dead bodies are used as crash test dummies in order to improve safety equipment in cars. Then I go to the bathroom and read the New Yorker, where I find out about Cambodian women who went blind after the Khmer Rouge soldiers came to their villages, tortured their neighbors and swung their kids by the heels to smash their heads open on palm tree trunks. I go back to bed, my head aching, my body burning up, and read a short story about a guy who has an affair with his sister's Barbie. The sister mutilates Barbie--eats her feet off, gives her a partial mastectomy, sets her on fire. The mastectomy reminds me of something in the novel I started last night. A man who unloads bricks of cellophane from boxcars all day undresses a woman who turns out to have a huge, rock-hard lump in her breast. When I fell asleep, she was sitting in the Emergency Room and he was headed for the door, feeling sick. I finish the story about Barbie--it's the last one in the book--and masturbate for a while, then wonder what to read next. A fat black animal with yellow eyes is sitting at the end of the bed, staring at me like I'm insane, like it has to watch me every minute for fear of what I'll do next. I read once that cats hate to be stared at, that they take it as a sign of aggression. What you're supposed to do, meeting a strange cat for the first time, is look at it, blink and then cut your eyes quickly away, at the carpet or something. I try this on my cat but she's suddenly disappeared. I look around the room. Books everywhere: piled on the nightstand, floating on the rumpled covers, lined up on brick-and-board shelves and on the windowsill. There's a stack of magazines in a yellow basket in the bathroom, magazines on the back of the toilet along with a book that has photos of Elvis impersonators and quotes from them about what it's like pretending to be Elvis. The next time I go to the bathroom I take some Tylenol and read in the introduction that Elvis is a bonafide American icon who lives in our collective unconscious, along with Davy Crockett, Johnny Appleseed, Wyatt Earp, and Pecos Bill. One of the impersonators, when he's not being Elvis, works as a hospital technician. I can't finish the New Yorker article yet; when I got to the part about the kids and the palm trees I put it down. I have to read it slowly, the way you can take belladonna in small doses so it won't kill you, just make you high and disoriented and give you hallucinations that make you think you're someplace you aren't. You might feel, for example, like you're at home in your own bed with a fever when you're really dying in a hospital, blind from everything you've tried not to see. You're convinced you're someone else, and when that person dies men in coveralls take the body and strap it into a car and send it slamming into a brick wall, then extract it from the crumpled wreckage and study it, making the world a little bit safer, the product a little bit better, the whole thing that much easier to bear.

First published in, "Chick-Lit: Postfeminist Fiction (FC2)"