IN THE COMPANY OF MEN
On Monday, he tells a stranger in a buddy booth that he is visiting from Los Angeles, which is a lie. “I work on taxidermy projects at night,” he says to the man, between cracks of pornography, “to process my emotions and cure bouts of dyspepsia.” It is the third Wednesday of the month. His mother calls him on the yellow rotary phone in the kitchen, says he needs to “develop” new ideas, live amongst animals. “Do not be silly, mother. I can make a baby,” he says to her, “mold him out of clay and mud, or construct him out of bleached paper.” His mother rattles with pleasure into the receiver. “You terrible little cretin,” she crows, “send me a portrait by which to remember you.” He imagines a length of waxen thread catching in his throat. “No, thank you. Instead, I will send my representative; he will appear at your door wearing driving goggles and an imported, silk cravat.”
Later that night he writes in a JOURNAL, Speak only when necessary. Do not reveal your sources. This is also a lie. The truth is that he wants to meet a woman, or a lupine figure that squats, and be smothered by the smell of a woman. He wonders if, like a savage in foreign documentaries, he can father a child. He goes on the Internet, finds pictures of women in campers swallowing themselves, fist over fist. He names them after the dolls that his youngest sister threw onto the roof of the clapboard house. He remembers climbing onto that roof, his newly lost incisor in the left-hand pocket of his dungarees. “Don’t pull out their hair,” his sister said from below, “or chew on their heads.” “That would be disgusting and inappropriate,” he yelled back, “and I would never violate your trust in me, your only brother.”
After his sister was sold to poachers, he went inside her room, lifted another cadre of dolls by their skirts, and then gripped their molded smoothness with his nails. He now pulls on the skin of his wrists, feeling for tendons or sinew, a reflex documented in the medical literature by a physician of indeterminate origin. On the night of a waning crescent moon, the Internet orders, “Donate your sperm. No parental obligation required or expected.” How practical and sensible—no unsightly residue, he thinks. (Sons and daughters will be raised, happily, with satellite television and microwaved meals ready to be eaten at a moment’s notice.) He also considers hiring an expensive prostitute, taking her to meet his friends and therapist, but worries that she will wear the wrong shade of lipstick to Sunday’s dinner party. That would be terrible, he acknowledges: I cannot afford any more damage to my reputation.
Danny Rivera received an MFA in Creative Writing from The City College of New York. His work has appeared in American Book Review, Washington Square, Dislocate, and other journals. He lives, with his wife, in New York City.