Word Choice features original works of fiction and poetry. Read “Yachts” by Mark Baumer.
At breakfast, before he ate his single slice of dry toast, my father would sometimes try to pray, but more often he turned to talking to his reflection in the chrome toaster. One morning I heard him ask his own reflection if I would grow into anything more than an ugly prince, a cripple, and a balled-up photograph in a stained t-shirt.
When he talked about me, my childhood, and my lack of genitalia he struggled to say the words. I was seven weeks old and my dick had left for South America. At the time, my young brain could not understand this. My dick did not say or wave goodbye. The morning after he left I found a scrap of yellow legal pad taped to my groin. It read, “I want to be a fascist dictator. I want it all.” I envisioned a figure shouting, ordering the unarmed shot dead, and it felt like my dick was responsible for every atrocity in the modern world.
Some specialized pediatricians told me to hold my breath. I felt poked in an area that no longer was. The bib I wore revealed only a small percentage of the parts I lacked. Somewhere close my father tried and failed to watch the examinations. The remaining pieces of my body told me I was still a child, that I couldn’t quite yet think or speak or bother to.
A sexual consciousness manifested in all my male doctors. Their shriveled expertise smirked. A noise grew loud inside their heads as they remembered their own young lives, experiencing the late-adolescent developmental stage known as “My body feels like it has one thousand dicks” all over again.
At that point, I could not know what an erection was, but I did feel the specialized pediatricians arousal as they returned to the blaze of their white American male skin in its mid-twenties roaming careless through a non-westernized space in an attempt to become cultured.
My dick left me for a valid reason. It clearly understood the worth of a measurement, like a kilometer as a unit of distance, and it seemed necessary for my dick to eat as many kilometers as possible while still young. I did not understand a kilometer. It would take me years to understand this concept. At seven weeks, my dick tired of his vague attachment to someone who did not get it.
The summation of my flesh was deficient in even the most basic way. My sweat had no carnality and would not sing a preamble of growing heat. I was a nauseous age. I absorbed emotional weight.
The medical world told me I should not have feelings, but I still managed to learn how to feel alone. An almost unconscious boast moaned from the lips of one of the specialized pediatricians. His stale memory said:
I remember my first footsteps into the loins of a ripe and uncivilized passion that used to exist in the non-corporate space of the Third World. I fed on oranges that sprouted from the faded cherry leaves I picked from the groves of dirty mouths like wild dogs. A pamphlet advertising foul oils and graveled meats told me to visit a zoo without regulations that had been constructed inside a living elephant. There were days when I didn’t leave the hotel, instead watching the beautiful reverse swirl of my ashen skin inside the smeared porcelain. I would give anything to return my dick to those waters. I bought my first red mango from a prostitute I found wading in a mountain stream downriver from a ninety-foot waterfall. I’ve never felt as strong and passionate anywhere else.
My penis had stolen my father’s shoes. In the days just after the disappearance my dad spent his time rummaging through the entryway closet. He found a pair of small, seal-skin boots and forced them on. My mother snatched them away and went for a long walk.
Eventually, my father found a pair of slippers with holes in the heels. He looked at me disparagingly. I made stains and waited to be cleaned. I heard him say, “A man deserves a decent pair of shoes.”
Later I spent days sitting alone inside a cardboard box next to a lagoon waiting for a mail courier to pick me up from an uninhabited and uncharted atoll in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.
Somewhere in those earliest days I gave my sexuality permission to do with its fortitude whatever it pleased. As a result, in my seventh week on a planet Earth, my dick departed from myself. To be honest, I have suffered more or less an average life, one of enormous vagueness. Despite this feeling of inconsequence, like most humans, I worry about the approaching end of Earth’s habitability. Each day’s sunset is painful. When the stillness of evening settles around me I am always crushed by the lack accomplishment, and it isn’t until the refreshment of bed and waking up that the creaking planetary rotation makes me enjoy my life.
At first, my parents insisted I bandage the area. They said my wound would get infected even though no wound showed at all. They coddled me and celebrated my birthday every week. I ate nothing except cake. Someone strong was paid to rub expensive oils into my body.
When my parents decided that was enough they blindfolded me and mailed my body inside a cardboard box to a medical specialist who lived on an uninhabited and uncharted atoll in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. Like the doctors before him, he ignored my parents’ basic concerns and instead reminisced about his mid-twenties. He had traveled to an exotic location where the local governments were strict. These thoughts pushed the specialist into a frenzy and he ignored me completely.
Deep down my father believed it was possible to find a good job without nice shoes, but he also doubted this. He wore the slippers out then tied me to his two feet.
For about a week I was my father’s shoes. I cried all the time. He looked at the classifieds but worried what people would think. No one in America wanted to hire someone who wore their own child as a pair of shoes. A fever developed. He consumed himself. My father took me off his feet and put on the worn slippers again. He apologized weakly and went to bed to nurse his mind with fantasies.
My mother returned home in her seal-skin boots with a half-empty box of baking soda. There was an envelope folded inside. Inside the envelope were newspaper clippings. My father had his attaché case out because he had decided to make important decisions for the family. My mother didn’t want to scare him out of his fantasy, so she stayed very quiet. My father ignored the unsuccessful halves of her looks of sympathy.
There were three newspaper clippings:
ONE-HUNDRED-THOUSAND-YEAR-OLD BAMBOO HIDDEN IN DEEPEST AMAZON
GRANDFATHER THINKS HE IS SUBMARINE, SWIMS TO BOTTOM OF AMAZON
GRANDFATHER RESURFACES, WORLD AGED ONE-HUNDRED-THOUSAND YEARS SINCE, ALL BAMBOO KILLED OFF
Later we got a postcard from my dick. It read, “The people here call me by a strange name. I don’t know what it means. Either they think I am a one-hundred-thousand-year-old stalk of bamboo or a slave trader. I’ll write more if I ever figure out this place. —D.” A few days passed. We received another postcard. No message this time. The snapshot on the front of the postcard showed many shackled people sailing my dick through the deepest Amazon.
My mother relied on looks of sympathy to communicate. In the entryway closet, my father found a grocery list wrapped in a Band-Aid that had been wedged inside his toiletry case which he kept in a ripped-off-the-wall medicine cabinet inside an old suitcase. My father asked my mother if she had made the grocery list. She looked at him. He read the grocery list all day, over and over. He took his dinner in the living room alone, and I saw him stuff it all under one of the couch cushions.
The grocery list:
Ninety percent of rainforest is gone. It has been stuffed into barrels and shipped to a corporation that extracts a wide variety of food products. Sometimes when I’m hungry I just think of the word “corporation,” then I’m not hungry anymore. This corporation invented pocket yogurt, boxed beef, native rainbow, and giant oat. —D.
My dick returned the day after my father found the grocery list wrapped in a Band-Aid inside his toiletry case which he kept in a ripped-off-the-wall medicine cabinet that he stored inside an old suitcase. My father burst barefoot into the room and said, “Guess who is done with his thesis on the Postcolony?” He asked if I knew what postcolonial theory was.
My dick moped around downstairs waiting for my father to finish lecturing while my mother dug out the power tools and reinstalled the medicine cabinet in the bathroom. My father said, “There are two ways you can look at this situation. On the one hand, every time anyone says, ‘postcolonial’ thousands of people drop stone dead and their cultures are utterly erased, but, on the other hand, the mention of that same word helps some people turn a decent profit.” Then he left me alone with a tape recorder and asked me to paraphrase his ideas.
Transcription of a speech on postcolonialism by a three-month-old child whose dick just returned from South America:
(several hours of dead air and tape hiss)
(sound of power tools)
(a man’s voice) “Stop bubbling.”
(sound of teardrops)
(a man’s voice) “I am reminded of my childhood when I heard a neighbor drown a mouse in kerosene. He glued it to my bike tire. I rode all summer trying to wear it down. I remember the smell well.”
(more dead air)
(a dick’s voice) “It’s time to be done with your father.”
(sound of a toothless baby gumming a bubble)