by Tantra Bensko
A dysmorphic Lucky Lavaggio travels ahead in time on the Equinox, using her scrying mirror to foresee her future as an opera singer and jilted lover. Meanwhile, a male Lucky Lavaggio battles the void.
Chapter 14: Lucky’s Mother Chooses
The mother of the fetus Lucky lies in bed, crying and telling her husband, “I can’t go through with the pregnancy, Honey. I’m sorry. What kind of future would we be bringing a child into?”
“Are you sure? I could try to be a good father to it.”
She snorted. “Yeah, right. If I have a baby, she’ll suffer, like I do. The love of her life would leave her for someone else. Look at genetics. Look at the biological set-up, stupid differences between men and women. Her man would treat her like no one special.”
“Why?” He looked away, containing his trembling lip with will power.
“Just imagine how she’d look. You know how men treat plain women. She’d grow plump. She’d have bad hair. Her life runs through my head every day.”
He couldn’t help nodding in agreement.
“And these days, I can just tell it’s a girl, too. I can feel her spirit around me all the time. When the boy potential faded out and the zygote made up its mind... I don’t know; I just couldn’t go get excited about it at all anymore. He would have made an OK Lucky Lavaggio. He would have had at least some meager chance in this world. He’d be the heartbreaker, instead of getting his heart broken.”
“Look, I’m sorry. I’m sorry I’m a guy.”
“And since you’re a guy, you know as well as I do that as soon as I start to show, you’d lose all interest. As soon as I got fat from pregnancy, you’d hate me.”
* * *
The Mirror leans barely upright against a low sand dune. The sun reflects off of it onto her. She can’t look at it, or it would burn her eyeballs. She is exceedingly red and beginning to bubble, according to plan. Her lips don’t close well together. She has trouble licking them. Death by Mirror. Perfect.
She still enjoys the dramatic sound of the stick drums from somewhere in the desert, behind higher dunes in the distance. A fitting denouement sound track. She lifts her head, looks around, but doesn’t see the people playing. She hears birds singing along with them. She lays her head back down. So little energy.
Lucky opens her suitcase and takes out a long thin super-sharp knife and prepares to use it on herself if she doesn’t dehydrate to death soon in the sun plus the reflected sunshine. Her head aches so much, she thinks it might be preferable to die by stabbing herself rather than by a stabbing headache from the dry heat.
She takes the kinife out of its sheath and holds it with pale hands. She doesn’t know consciously that her quantum potential self is being approached at that Planck moment by a long instrument of destruction in a kindly abortionist’s office, about to allow her parents to live much better and reasonable lives than they ever could have if she were allowed to be born.
The desert mirages are silvery; the shapes make sounds impossible to put into words. Her subconscious mouths the words for it all, for everything, for her imminent retroactive non-beingness.
She takes out pen and paper and writes a note:
Whoever finds me: Please Free Dungeonella. She lives in the oubliette at my 44 9th Street boarding house. Feel free to break the lock. The trap door is in the small room at the back of the hallway.
Tell her I love her very much. Tell her if she’d known the tenants were ghosts, she would have left me, insensitive as she is.
P.S. She may be drowned. Don’t open the front door if water is coming from underneath it, for your own sake.
She crosses out the last clause and instead draws in a little heart.
She continues the note: “I bequeath my Mirror to...”
She skewers the note on her knife at the point at which a name would appear and pushes the note up to the hilt, where it will remain if she skewers her body and is found by humans before the desert animals drag her away and eat her. Perhaps she will be found by the drummers playing tom-toms not so far away.
He knows somehow, in her floody subconscious, that she can’t go back home again. She doesn’t know what the Mirror has told her about it, exactly. But she has no place there. No more.
She enjoys the coincidence of hearing drums in the jungle and, later, tom-toms in the desert, each time starting several hours after she arrived at the location. She watches the concentric clouds forming over the drums and puzzles the chances of that happening. She wonders if there is really meaning in the universe after all.
She wonders what’s going on with her driver and housekeeper and if they dug up Dungeonella and brought her into the master bedroom with them for some sexy-time. She imagines what Dungeonella must be thinking now, if that’s the case, how she must hate her for pretending the tenants were ghosts, and the housekeeper spoke only Spanish, for not letting her out for two years. She hopes Dungeonella appreciates her supporting her all that time, with free room and board. Keeping her out of trouble and providing the best dictionaries.
Lucky sweats cold heat, the scant moisture evaporates and her heart convulses. A rising in her chest. She feels as if she were about to be impaled. The world will end at any minute, a sense of darkness outside her, a Void. She has the sense of a man looking at her through some sort of placental lens that glows. Her subconscious feels something sharp and long coming toward her, before she was fully herself, and she raises the knife in unison.
The sounds of the drums make concentric circles in the smoke rising from the central fire and concentric circles in the clouds. A familiar female voice howls from the drummers, with duende. The tom-toms grow more frenzied. The other drums play more hesitantly.
Lucky sees a shape from the drum circle, dark against the smoke, the fire. It’s a female drummer, reedlike, standing up on the dune. She reaches down and picks up someone’s long drum stick. She holds it in the air, pointing it right at Lucky.
It’s long and dark. She pulls it back and begins to push it inch by inch toward Lucky.
Lucky moves the knife closer to her heart, the note still stuck on the hilt.
The tom-toms stop suddenly. Shushing sounds calm down the other drummers. A flash of teal cotton fabric around the edge of the dune.
Lucky pulls her knife back. She tries not to think about the cells in her body that have loved her and done her bidding for so long. “Sorry, sweet body,” she whispers, through her tears. Her body hears her and convulses. She sobs uncontrollably, shaking, shivering. Her body loves her. It doesn’t want to die... As if it had ever really lived.
The silhouette in the dunes throws down the drum stick. It clangs on many dimensions, reverberating between them all, loudly, more loudly than the drums inside some ears. The silhouette yells “Stop! Lucky, don’t do it!”
Lucky’s ears shake their heads, as Lucky lies there amazed at recognizing Dungeonella as the silhouette, now running weak-kneed in her direction across the desert.
Lucky drops the knife and falls on her knees, shaking. The color wavers in her face.
“It’s you and your rhomboidal head!” laughs Dungeonella. “You and me. Together again.”
“How did you get here?” She lies down on the sand, shielding the blinding light from the Mirror with her hand in front of her face, where her make-up has caked considerably over the course of her long day in the sun reflected über-fold by the Mirror. Underneath the make-up, her skin is already peeling in deep oozing wounds.
“I didn’t stick around long. I rushed to the airport. It was so lucky there was a seat available. I figured you wouldn’t go far once you got here. I know you like I like no one else. ” She pulls Lucky’s itinerary print-out from her pocket. “You left this in your room, Lady Lucky.”
The drummers of the circle walk away, calling out, “Thanks, Dungeonella! Have fun! Was great getting to know you!” in thick accents.
“Come live with me, you Xanthippe,” sings Dungeonella.
“That’s easier sung than done,” sings Lucky. She stares. She sits down. “How would I survive, if I can’t rent out my house now that this... scandal about you... must have gone public? You know, I.... I can’t... perform any more, Dungeonella. I’m too old. Now, being fat is even worse than before. No one will ever love me.” She can’t hold back her sobs any more. She reaches out and touches Dungeonella.
“But don’t you get it, Lucky? You are super svelte. Can’t you see it, even now? You’re fabulously beautiful. You always have been. You can survive. Just rent out the Mirror, you virago,” says Dungeonella. “Or scry for people. That will bring in enough to keep you alive. With me.”
“Oh,” says Lucky... “Oh.” The right corner of her lips trembles. She smiles the brightest smile she has ever smiled. Her teeth are whiter than anyone had realized. Everything has been worthwhile.
Lucky drinks a bottle of water Dungeonella hands her. She will drink again. She will eat. She will let handsome waiters pass her water, smiling at her. Perhaps they’ve heard her opera and swooned. She will yell at drivers on the road.
Lucky will take her birdbath in the tiny dot for several hours every day, where Dungeonella can see her pull up her hair the way they do in the movies and pretend to sleep. Dungeonella can put her beak between Lucky’s lips and wake her up in the mornings, playing with the buttons of her pyjamas.
She and Dungeonella will love each other more than she ever knew possible. It took her so long to see what was right under her feet all that time.
Dungeonella points the drum stick at Lucky and says, “OK, Missy. I know it will hurt when I touch your skin. That’s the worst burn I’ve ever seen. But it’s time we get you out of the sun. Roll over, and I’ll help you get up. Gentle now.”
Dungeonella lifts up Lucky’s dress with the stick near the crotch, as it has become lodged between her legs and prevents her from turning over in her weakened state, so she can roll over and get up.
Lucky screams. Her quantum-potential life withdraws into itself, coinciding with the moment at which her mother’s gentle abortionist frees her to live a better life without a daughter named Lucky whom no one ever wanted.
Just as the sharp instrument pierces Lucky fetus, her adult self turns red and then disappears off the desert sand. Dungeonella evaporates like mist, and the whole scene displays itself to be a wafting mirage of molecules checking out what they could manifest themselves into, but don’t. Just as well, probably all for the best, if all be told.
Being an almost-mother can be a beautiful thing. This is in her honor. The Earthen Mother takes the tiny bodies in and, around them, grows more plants with bigger leaves. Almost-mothers’ almost-children love them from inside. They run toward the Void and imprint it with their opera, and some grow larger than probable-cages, playing them like urgent drums.
Copyright © 2014 by Tantra Bensko