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Table of Contents

My Father's Penis

  • Fiction by D.V. Glenn

Unsettling exclamations spill from lips of neighbors, their mouths welling with rancor and affection as they reminisce over my father and his penis: What an angel of rapacity, what a demon of purity that man was!

•.

Their faces always hold laughter like hands holding the keys to doorways of morbid speculation. Bonfires of primal gossip hotter than pain fan out in acute flames that scatter like blue and yellow mice. Until I arrive with bottles containing lances of water, the water of my animus, impaling them with shushing commands that dismantle their huddled clusters on my brittle lawn. Then I rail at their scandal mongering like surf assaulting sentinels of crumbling dunes. Leaning into haughtiness as into canes, they cross away into the apricot light of this fading Monday, avoiding the overturned urns of my contempt that litter with black ashes the directions they’ll take. And they depart in canoes of shadow, paddling away slowly.

•.

Valeriana, one of my father’s former lovers, walks up the path, approaching with slow and heavy prominence as I sit on the porch of my father’s condemned and penis-haunted house. Not time for you to enter there, she’ll say when she decides to speak. She meanders me down long avenues of foreshortened sighs, she maketh me lie down in pastures of languor. She explains, pitying me as though I were a ragamuffin child instead of a man of thirty-eight, that all sighs are a frustrated fate … a cruel exodus of temptations remembered … as when April crawls through March’s slushy fabric of thaw, a portal of sorts, dragging her chiffon skirts through the dampness of the antecedent season, to the accompaniment of tambourines of rain that struggle to make music in the mauve dust. I don’t understand but I’m content to drink the wistful wine of her words. I choke and sputter as I gulp, lips gaping like those of fish choking on the silent thunder of oxygen. And for her, too, a heavy toll has been exacted – the diabolical interpretations of neighbors have added to her gravity-clawed face an overlay of memories as of weary widowlike lace: the after-effects of quidnuncs and the pronouncements they issued like war-roughened generals bearing upon their breasts the silver medals of their scars.

•.

Valeriana tells me about my father’s penis because I want to know. Every man should know whatever it is possible to fathom regarding the regal penis of the father, and in particular every black man. Little lambs of that legacy await slaughter by revelation, decapitation delivered with the guillotine of steely apercus. I cajole with my eyes, they swell with rivers of solicitation. I enjoin, insist, she recoils from the fangs of a craving anticipation that slices my smile carnivorous. I think to threaten her with violence and she simply absorbs and releases it, boomerang of my vehemence bouncing back in my face. Remembering she is a woman, I soften my approach, release the golden pollen of my wishes, dust her yellow with a passivity of whispers, and she unpremeditatively succumbs, a sudden soft and girlish incarnation of her 77-year-old self, relenting, mellowing into silky coquetries of memory that parade like strippers on my star-struck stage.

•.

“Your father’s penis,” she says, “was a memorable contraption. It was as the mist, as the wave crested with spume, as the drum, pounding with rhythmic officiousness. An officer’s baton, enforcing injunctions of passion, a monolith of expanding membranes, a wire ripping through my melting insulation, a thing slender as a greyhound’s ribcage, and more. It was a newborn kitten mewing for milk of feline teat, it was a pendulum swinging in all directions, a compass with 18 cardinal points, it was a telephone that rang and when answered delivered a voice apologizing through static for having called the wrong number. But whatever it was, it was never a key, the latches to my deepest chambers were bolted fast. If yours is an odyssey of emulation, you’d do well to remember that. It was also an instrument, a dither that laid songs of malaise in strips like black masking tape across my cinnamon wounds. It was, primarily, his cage, his incarceration, his dead man walking, but this he never realized or cared to know – blissful ignorance!” Valeriana’s words taper to cessation. She then asks to see my own penis and as my fingers flutter the zipper down, the sensation of shrinking that skates through the ice rink in my stomach communicates itself in blades of embarrassment lacerating my loins. She extracts it, a pitiful thing, a mere son’s penis, and from a purse the size of a small bush she removes a magnifying glass and tweezers, Playtex rubber gloves like mockeries of condoms. Latex snaps with snug finality against her wrists after flexing over fingers. A brief distasteful examination commences. I know already that the comparison will be comical, inauspicious. “I see traces of similarities,” she announces with diagnostic crispness, “in the scroll of flesh surrounding the hood like a little girl’s rolled up sock, but there it ends, all else is overshadowed by insufficiency and woe.” Though I know better, I ask her what recourse I have to supplemental bulk, girth and beefiness. “Take 2 aspirin,” she answers, “and call me in the morning – or measure your manhood in other ways.”

•.

Well spoken and resonant like an orchestra populated with French horns of wisdom, piccolos of prudence, cellos of logic, but more difficult done than said, for every boy-man knows in the deepest catacombs of his descending heart that other ways of measuring his manhood are travesties of quantification that would not be necessary in the first place had the son been gifted with the regal endowments of the father. All manner of gambits and strategies have been pitifully adopted by the son as substitution for monumental flesh: decadent exercises in overcompensation, such as the acquisition of advanced degrees, the cultivation of aesthetic sensibility, various ruses of compassion (e.g., head cocked slightly and ear tilted mouthward in a mimicry of empathy and listening as women divided well-glossed lips with wounding words). All these trappings would prove themselves to be the outwardly convincing mannerisms of an elaborate puppetry, excellent facilitators of relationships with the daughters of other regal fathers, but ultimately useless. For these could hardly compare with the legitimate exigencies contributing to the yardstick against which manhood was rightfully measured in the heyday of my particular father. Those were the days when my father served the troops of offspring and wife the hardy soup of his mentorship as they stood in a regimental line holding shallow bowls, humbly awaiting the more substantial second course, the bloody scraps of his tutelage, the gristle and sinews of the world’s flank he sank his teeth deep into, bit off, chewed, then regurgitated into our plates. We saw little bits and pieces of white people floating there, the hands of interviewers he twisted off at the wrist because he read in their eyes refusal, rejection, janitorial assignments. And the eyes in which he read silent smug superiority, those were far from tasty morsels, rubbery as calamari, difficult to swallow as splintered squares. The father examined my stool to ascertain that the meal had indeed been swallowed, digested, not squirreled away into the pouch of the cheek to be disposed of later, for no chicanery of ingestion would be tolerated in his domain. He was the warrior king at battle in the arena of the wide wrong world, the black Ulysses returning to the encampment of family with tales of brutality endured, of traps and snares narrowly avoided, of the swarthy nightsticks of porcine policemen dexterously dodged, of Wild Turkey-fueled flames of KKK crosses he extinguished with the fire hose of the penis when sources of water officially sanctioned were mysteriously withdrawn and made unavailable by the off-gazing officials of Pentecostal hamlets. Striding with gigantic steps to match those of Martin Luther King Jr., the father marched next to the exemplary Father of the Civil Rights Movement through the sweltering streets of Selma, Alabama, and once, skulking among a copse of dogwood trees that composed a tableaux of static dread and banked the slumping waters of the Mississippi River, the father slid snakelike through the imperiled night to act in accordance with common decency and cut the rope from which a mob-bludgeoned black man dangled at the end of a noose. By these stories – apocryphal, so say some neighbors who claim to have known him – an appropriate awe, respect, and fear of the father were induced. The boy-man yearned to be tested by similar Homeric trials but by the time adulthood enveloped him like a monk’s hood and cast its shadow across his face the world had changed, paradigms had shifted, the vulva of American consciousness was in the process of expanding to accommodate a new, a spasmodic, a laborious birth. Once it came about that the boy-man took his place at the checkout line in Target and was told by an older white gentleman you people are so pushy – this incident could hardly compare with the epic exploits of the father. It must be noted that he, me, the son of the regal father, was with a group of six other raucous male youths, youths sprinkled in a spice of various races over the disapproval that rotated on the slow rotisserie of elders dripping the simmering juices of their disapproval, youths who, each in his own way, perhaps hoped to plumb the mysteries of his own father’s penis.

•.

Valeriana leaves, retreating into the fog left by her words, and a neighbor named Crystal Mary, unlike the other neighbors in deportment and lacking in cruelty, glides swift up the walkway, moving like a reverie of gazelles surging to the center of a bed of reverent flowers. Her quickness displaces the final profundities I hope and pray I’ll find in my earnest fables, and my heart like a woman brushing languid hair before bed prepares itself to be satisfied with something less weighty, the tresses of pillowy anecdotes that will spill before me so that I might recline a moment, relinquish of my posture of bitter expectations. For I’ve grappled so long with immensities while reclining with only superficial comfort on the sofa of my quests and disasters. In her approach she nimbly avoids the holes I have dug in the ground with the red toy shovel I unearthed from the mausoleum of my cobwebbed childhood, that trunk of memorabilia my mother had long ago relegated to the attic of this house. Yes, she dances around the holes I have dug in the futile search for my father’s penis. The autopsy report I had received some time ago documenting his death stated that the penis was mysteriously missing from the body at his time of demise. These holes now mumble dark reproaches, emanate icy beacons like a heresy of glaciers from which my eyes swim away in cravenly retreat, for I have not found the buried treasure I foolishly thought I might exhume from the unforgiving earth. “The neighbors are watching,” Crystal Mary tells me now in a racing whisper, “watching now as always, watching you, just as they watched when he was alive and would stumble up this ruined flagstone path in the middle of the night, holding the hand of some woman of ill repute. The two would finally reach this porch, clutching each other to stay upright as they waited for their carousal of drunkenness to slow to a manageable whirl. Then they dove into one another off the high diving board of lust, swam in mingled spittle and sweat, the gong of their moans alerting those who weren’t already watching with faces sticking to ardent panes of glass like press-on stickers. With his thick fingers and shrill teeth he would knead her flesh into a sculpture of lewd contort, his lips consuming in oblivious haste the gourmet feast of her happy nipples, then with his penis, so like a skyscraper ripping the belly from the bottom of the moon, he would begin his high-storied plunge, while her legs yawned in earthquakes of accommodation. Neighbors with entrepreneurial aspirations would rope off an area around the porch, set up booths as though selling homemade lemonade, break out folding chairs, attempt to sell tickets to passersby from other sunless neighborhoods. To this very day he has his defenders and detractors, your father. There are those who contend that as a black man he was a disgrace, nourishing stereotypes of the insatiable Mandingo buck, the savage primate from the jungle who had, through his indiscriminate appetites, almost single-handedly ushered the world into the epoch of AIDS. Then there are others who claimed he was a visionary, foreshadowing in three dimensions the national obsession with one-dimensional cathodic sex that the makers of HBO movies would ray into voyeuristic living rooms and from which they would build the vast empires of inexhaustible commercial success. Still others insist he bore an uncanny resemblance to Marcus Garvey, Frederick Douglass, even as some maintain with equal intensity that he was the spitting image of O.J. Simpson, Stephen Fetchit.” I ask Crystal Mary, “All that speculation, spawned by my father’s penis?” And she answers, “Oh yes,” eyes gliding from mine like words in a sentence with no period to wall the rush, “as a black man, his penis was very much the subject of widespread speculation.” As if to illustrate this, she produces a popular tabloid publication, with cartoon representations of barbaric penises above tawdry meteors of captions: government studies black cons, findings suggest length linked to hard time, recidivism and so forth, so on, so forth.

•.

I had a wife whose name now eludes me and who told me that in the beginning, before the sweet locomotive onrush of our courtship, before the subsequent derailment of our marriage, she would watch through the timorous peephole of her apartment door as I entered my own apartment across the hall, my hands dripping with the honey of respectable purchases from hives of mammoth malls: shaggy ferns to exhale green solace into the jagged air of the cube I lived in, bags brimming with sensible vegetables inimical to the typical bachelor, a cage that housed a fuzzy ball of hamster I named Sisyphus, bohemian literary journals from Borders suggesting that the buyer was the rare man able to tame the lion of primal philandering with the rarified whip of eclectic intellectual pursuits. For even then I was compelled to prove to myself that I had found avenues that would lead to a kingdom of glory greater than the one established by the regal father’s penis. What a poor misguided soul I was! For the man who endeavors to transcend the insuperable influence of his father’s penis without confronting it on its own terms, howsoever those terms might be defined, is he not doomed to forever remain the boy-man effete with longing? Ever in search of definitions and in self-fulfillment of prophecy finding them, I failed – and still do where it counts, in the deepest Cyrillic windings of viscera – to understand that defining oneself in relation to what one rejects is to fail to build the myth of an authentic identity. My future wife saw me and her thoughts loosened in a panoramic sweep, drawing her out of the teeming city that was the architecture of nerve-raw loneliness where she had long been quarantined, drawing her toward what she had always imagined in pastel masturbatory fantasies but never encountered: one who wore his man’s flesh with outward command but whose little boy’s bones were soft and vulnerable beneath the surface, visible to eyes gifted with X-ray discernment. In the brushing of her knuckles across my door was released an illness of noise like a dove seeking the solitude of rotting eaves in which to roost and die. Against the chorus of better judgment singing a capella in my brain, I let her in, she had come to borrow double-D batteries for what I later discovered was the not-too-large phallic-shaped instrument of pleasure I would find hidden on the rear shelves of her home entertainment shrine, behind a collection of videos she had received as a gift from her mother, episodes of Julia that had been aired and taped in the insomnia purgatory of 3:00 a.m. TNT – “Syndication,” I said drolly, in reference to the tapes she proudly displayed to me on our first date, “the media’s embodiment and trivialization of Schopenhauer’s theory of eternal return, divested of 19th Century Europe’s lacy dignity.” Such remarks endeared me to her, were a safe harbor for her, instances of sandpaper wit thinning the thick slabs of Neanderthal virility, instinct. Oh there was love-making, how could there not be that, but it was of the tasteful variety, full of restrained etiquette, like one who drinks tea with the little finger protruding from the cup in decorous salute, and our bed was a veritable bunker surrounded with boxes of Kleenex like sandbags, the tissues white flags of surrender to be employed for sop and seizing of smear. The tissues themselves over time became associative visual cues and triggered in the both of us finicky orgasms that allowed us to eschew altogether the annoyances of sticky physical contact. One, two, three – go! Simultaneously, for we were believers in the notion that greater intimacy was to be found when couples were able to achieve their orgasms at precisely the same moment, we each snatched a tissue from the box, shared a platonic shudder. Before that, we had coupled with intent to procreate. For she had announced one night that her womb was hungry for a son as we dined on frog legs at a restaurant called Les Battements Du Coeur, an establishment where gliding mannequins of waiters struck falsely obsequious and vaguely hostile poses before taking orders. I smothered the terror in my eyes with the gags of my half-lowered eyelids, nodded in grim concurrence as she watched me … studiously. I could only continue to chew my mechanical food by imagining the tiny body of the boy as he emerged wet and finless from his aquarium of seaweed membranes and coral-red blood, imagining my hand gripping the crown of his head and screwing it back from whence it had strenuous come. That I should sire a son, who would turn to me for direction and counsel as he hobbled down the shifting cobblestones of manhood; that I should have nothing to tell him about the ways and means and proper utility of the penis, how to befriend it and harness its random power as one without sight lets sighted canine lead him, skirting dangerous serrations of landscape and flesh; that finally in the end, in fury’s frustration, he might loom over me with his eyes flashing dull blade and hand brandishing one duller for carving off the withered turkey wing of an old man’s penis, no, this could not the nightmare be. And as though my very cells had been feast for the insectile mandibles of this bug-eyed anxiety, doctors with stately movements of mouth told us that both motility and sperm count were almost nonexistent in the watery paucity of specimen I thinly labored to collect. I wanted desperately to tell her, as she retracted the anchor of her love from the shallow seas of our domestic charade and, laden with Versace luggage, walked through the door, that she had erred by way of adulteration, that if you straddle the line you cannot cross it, that in the future, as she searched for perfect male and mate, she must embrace the very thing she seemed to fear, for in fears (said the Dane), not dreams (I deduce), reside your deepest desires: hers the scepter of the penis, regal and upright, heedless, antediluvian, never shrinking from embroilment with the strife and destruction wreaked by other regal penises as they battled to slice the world into fiefdoms, man attached to phallus like incidental afterthought.

•.

Suspended so in a marmalade of thought, the objects in my vision glazed orange with that marmalade as though smeared over toast, this township brittle as burnt rye toast, this orange an unnatural tint as though the sun’s sinking effluence were digitally engendered, I’m dimly aware that Crystal Mary, who when I seek her company always seems to unleash a delirium of acceleration in my blood, is gone, and long gone at that, I think. Clouds like eraser smudges on parchment of sky are scribbled darkly. Wanton the rain, falling without discipline, as neighbors unfazed by the downpour stride in aimless to and fro, some carrying signs of protest with slogans that declare POWER TO THE PENIS, others hoisting high above their heads effigies of my father blackly aflame. But none cross the property line, as though all are able to sense that trespassers would be summarily executed by father’s son in a trance of nine-millimeter abandon. To my left, though such spatial coordinates seem to me increasingly a mockery as I scramble to discern points of reference and meaning in the search for my father’s penis, then no, why not, to my right, something in a crumpled embrace of disreputable brown paper prompts my hand to purpose. I have always considered the hand to be a mysterious contraption, for the bio-electrical triggers of thought that determine its course for the most part take place below thresholds of awareness, so that without cognizance of the origin of its motion, it can only appear to its owner to be a thing observed, and when so observed seems autonomous and cannot fail to strike the owner as an alien mechanism, ridiculous, grotesque. And so it is, after all, with the penis, that puppet dancing blind on strings. I have never been able to call it my penis, I have never been able to own it, as my father was apparently able to establish ownership of his regal penis. Might that not be a clue to my estrangement in relation to this, the son’s hapless penis? It extends from its host like a hand, nothing like the intrinsic and enviable vagina (contradicting that theory of genital envy by the august Father of Modern Psychology) which harbors its maiden secrets within, like a musical composition that reveals and justifies in the ineluctable coda motifs transparently submerged in preceding movements: organic. Enough. I look in the bag, rather the bag looks into me, and there, here, is a long plastic cylinder sadistic with clamps and hoses, advertised portentously as Doctor Dick’s Amazing Penis Pump.

•.

But this comes too late, the son has researched to satiety pump devices purporting desperate miracles of enlargement. Slumbering within its sausage-like encasement of skin, the ever-aspiring penis is a bold conjunction of blood vessels, exquisite threadings of nerves, bundles of fibro-elastic tissue, smooth muscle – a mystic mandala of flesh. A triad of cylindrical bodies of tissue fills with blood like a vampire sponge when and if the temperamental erection is exacted. There is largely an absence of bone, discounting meager skeletal muscle at the base of the protrusion. Some books advocate exercises practiced since times ancient to enrich the penis with greater length, but in reality these exercises are little more than onanistic techniques elevated to the realm of the exotic … have not such “techniques” been compulsively employed by boy-men the wide world over with no lasting effect on the dimensions of the penis? For example, lately “Jelq” has been touted as an “Arabian” technique of enlargement: encircling index finger and thumb around the root of the organ, then pulling up or pinching the phallus. So “Jojido” too is advertised as an exotic technique of Oriental provenance. These exercises all are undertaken on the premise that the penis is a muscle similar to the bicep and can be toned and tempered, disciplined into mammoth expansion. Unfortunately, the smooth muscle of the penis cannot be exercised.

It is true that penis pumps may enable those stricken with embarrassing flaccidity to achieve honorable erections, by means of a vacuum which draws blood into the organ as air is pumped out. When a satisfactory erection results, the cylinder may be removed and a rubber tourniquet applied to the base of the penis, retaining the glut of blood without which tumescence and premature ejaculation for boy-men engaging in coitus would not be possible. (The constrictor band should not be kept in place for longer than 20 minutes.) Penis pumps do not permanently increase penis size. To permanently increase the size of the penis to kingly proportions, the quantity of tissue must increase, a phenomenon no amount of vacuuming or manipulation inspired by ancient wisdom can accomplish. Weights to stretch the tunica albuginea, the membrane surrounding the erectile chambers of the penis, have been the subject of much speculation, but results are not encouraging. Surgical enlargement, still in its nascent stages and considered investigational or experimental, involving fat injections and tissue grafts, seems to extend legitimate hope to those with less than regal penis, but these procedures can leave unsightly scars or even result in a lumpy member, since the injected fat is reabsorbed into the body; and snipping ligaments that tether the otherwise unruly penis to the pubic bone often results in an erection that points downward, due to the loss of the organ’s anchor to the pubic plate. Nerves can be cut and damaged during surgery as well. All is inefficacy, dashed hopes, unfulfilled expectations in the matter of augmenting penile length. Yet oddly, the American Board of Urology, the only certifying board of urologists in this country of dissatisfied penises, has taken no official stance or issued unequivocal pronouncements on the surgical enhancement of the disillusioned boy-man’s best friend.

•.

The slow barge of my memory is an empty vessel, buoyed by currents inert as sidewalk saliva, and with only hearsay as river I navigate toward no shore. It is not possible for me to remember my father’s appearance, whether he was tall or short, fat or thin, nor is it possible to recall mannerisms such as a signature way of walking, whether he strode to rhythms of dignity or limped as though lame to metronome of defeat. For my father insisted that when I was in his presence I wear a blindfold, sensing perhaps that I could not be trusted to lower my gaze under humility’s gray veil when he granted me audience. His explanation to me was that his own invisible face would force me to imagine in the faces of black men I would see all my life on certain streets terrible possibilities of kinship. Of an evening, as I lay in my child’s restless bed and floated like a fly in the soup of my existence, of an evening, watching the idle play of shadows on the ceiling honeycomb my eyes in shimmering imitation of an infinity of avenues, I would struggle to secure the slippery eel of my own interpretation – that perhaps he meant me to understand that he was everyone and no one, that by extension I too was related to every man and no man, and going the step further that would no doubt have incurred his wrath had he awareness of that unsteady step, that I might be related to every white man too, for do not all men, straining muscular thighs, struggle forever to heft upright the heavy barbell of the penis which dares aspire to regality, even into vain old age and death? I do remember the textures yielded by touch, the way he gripped my boy’s loose Silly Putty wrist, spreading the fingers wide to grip and measure and test the firmness, the ripe width of the trunk of his loin’s tree. I do remember the liquored breath, I do remem

•.

… ber the liquored breath, I do remember that, and that I thought at the time his choice of intoxicant was odd, the same Wild Turkey I’d been told had been used to fuel the flames of KKK crosses, if indeed there had been KKK crosses, a proposition that some have seemed so eager to introduce by way of elements of doubt, I do

•.

… what must surely be apocrypha introduced by diabolical neighbors projecting onto the blank screen of the boy-man’s father (as though ever he could be blank screen) all the grainy light of evil imaginings, surely that, the wives of husbands seeking to forge an alliance with my mother based on the collective sorrow of women who believe they are made to bear witness to the havoc men wreak with the mighty penis, for in all probability these women, watching from behind the fluttering crack of secrecy afforded by curtained windows, or spying from behind a copse of dogwood trees, would misinterpret the tableaux of the father’s regal penis in the grip of the child’s hand, an act which was a form of instruction, but the eyes never perceive intent, their eyes suffered in evasion of that noble intent, I do try

•.

… do not remember my hand made to grip my father’s penis as he attempted to, to educate me so that I might experience the transition from flaccidity to unbridled up, so that I might learn to mimic the proper manufacture of sounds with which to inaugurate the end result of that transition, instruction in huffing and puffing as pink balloons of lung contracted and expanded, his ragged wheeze, his scratched 78 of breath skipping back beneath the dull needle of arousal as needle labored to escape its gummed groove, as of an evening,

•.

… or my father blackly aflame, but strangely whatever pleasure of edification the son could have extracted from instruction reversed itself, ran like film backward in the maze of the father’s sudden commandments. For of an evening that seemed not to take place outside the head, but inside where memory like wild game may be slaughtered and gutted, the son beneath his fingertips felt fretwork of penile veins standing out like the color red against a backdrop decorated in blue decay, just as the Spartan interior of our house was decorated by my mother, motifed to reflect the house inside her, but I do not speak of the mother, I do not have affinity for the mother, for this is my and my father’s saga, this is the saga of that most arduous quest to

•.

… my father sliding snakelike through the imperiled night, nor remember the failed-marriage eyes of my former wife, and certainly not the female eyes of neighbors, who probably bore witness to nothing more than Jelq, than Jojido, and could not be expected to morph empathic, or to understand that this was instruction and nothing more, the instruction of augmentation. The penis pump of my little boy’s palm was slick and slow as though webbed indeed with an elaborate dew. Enough.

•.

Or if not father, then uncle, or grandfather, or third cousin who would later die alone of AIDS, the Father of All Diseases, in a library-quiet hospice, or the male babysitter, something of a local hero for his displays of athletic prowess that reduced gravity to groveling slave on sweat-glossed floors of high-school basketball courts. Or the baker, the postman, the priest. Enough.

•.

Lysergia arriving, the youngest of those who were both neighbor and concubine to my father, is so colorful in her calliope of garments. Her delirium of hair tumbles down her shoulders in a cacophony of dreadlocks, each appendage dyed a different color, as though the bands of a rainbow have been peeled from their archway and laid across her head. Never one to waste words, Lysergia moves straight to the point, though my attention span is fraying like a madman’s cape. “Enough,” she says, “I have a gift for you from your mother who, like one who works for the darkest branches of government, is in deep cover for her crime, hiding in a foreign country. In this box is your father’s penis, severed and preserved, it’s what you’ve been looking for all these years.” The shape and size of the box cannot be discerned beneath the checkered cloth draped over it. It is checkered, I surmise, in a display of parsimonious symbolism meant to suggest the high and low exploits of my father. Standing on the uppermost stair of this porch, a shipwreck of sagging wooden planks and posts, she extends the parcel with both hands, but when I reach for it I’m forced to rise, stumble forward, for she takes a step backward, smiling, pulling box to breast. Again she falsely extends the parcel, as though offering me a gourd filled with my own thirst, and again I reach, again she pulls back. Nearby, neighbors stand like infants presiding over sand in a sandbox. Some cheer and others cry out in soundtrack horror as Lysergia opens the door and, stepping backward into the darkness of my father’s penis-haunted house, teasing and tempting my flailing fingertips, draws me deep incrementally in.

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