I forgot that I wrote this back in 2002, but Donna McCooke, RGN unearthed it from the vault of Burl Barer short stories kept in the UK, and sent it back to me. Everything written by me, and stored on my other computers, is now history. Gone.
Unrevised short story from 2002, entitled:
NO BODY IS PERFECT
No body is perfect.
What percentage of my life, in hard math, has been sucked away into this mirror? I stand here awaiting the transmutation into shimmering silver translucence.
There is no transmutation.
There is no transubstantiation.
There is only image and disappointment.
The Priest has a mirror. He stands in front of it staring past the silver, penetrating my plaid skirt. He thinks of me ‘that way.’ I’m sure of it.
I will not mention to mother about my breasts. They are asymetric, I’m sure of it. One of them will be little and squishy and the other lopsided and larger and no one will call me mommy.
You needn’t have children to be a woman.
I read that, and I believe it.
Men smell of men, and too much of that isnt good for you.
Standing in front of this mirror isn’t good for me. It needs cleaning, for one thing. I can’t see me as clearly as I did yesterday or the day before, when my breasts didn’t make fun of me, and my skin didn’t crawl when I smelled all those men.
Those men. The smell clings to my clothes, and I scrub my skin and pinch my nipples. One nipple is larger than the other. I won’t tell anyone. The men don’t know, they only imagine.
I can’t imagine who would want them. Those men.
There’s a reason for everything, they say.
I have reasons. The men have excuses.
There are no excuses.
I accept no excuses because there is nothing to accept.
“I take no prisoners,” I say aloud to the mirror and if it were human, it might laugh at my cleverness.
Mirrors don’t laugh.
Mirrors don’t accuse. Mirrors accept.
Happy couples make love in the dark. I’m sure of it.
There are happy couples. I know that for a fact. I see them in magazine adverts.
The happy couples do not smell of men.
One man might, if cleaned regularly, be something tolerable from a distance.
Three men, four men, or more men….
I turn away from the mirror, but I turn back again.
They smell worse today. I sneaked a peak at them, and they stared at me, making rude remarks in silence.
I hate that.
They look at me with their bugged out eyes and thick black tongues.
They smell worse today.
All those men smell worse.
Someday you’ll meet a nice young man, my mum told me.
My mum met a nice young man. He fucked her, she had me, and it’s all my fault.
I’d catch my mother doing what im doing, looking in the mirror, wondering perhaps what life would be like if she hadn’t fucked. Where would she be?
I never noticed if Mom has one breast that’s not quite right. The men notice things like that.
I don’t really do this for me.
I don’t do it for the men.
There are too many of them.
They make remarks all the time. They say they want me, but they don’t know me.
They tell me I’m perfect.
Everyday their bodies look worse.
I laughed at them the first day.
I mocked their surprise the way they mocked my breasts. My breasts are still here. They are here, still.
1And the smell.
One by one I brought them here.
One man at a time may be tolerable, I tried to say aloud.
But nobody is perfect. And men judge and imprison you and once they put that seed in you, you never know what your life would have been.
The men would hold your soul in their eyes if they could.
But I don’t take prisoners. I free the slaves.
“Have a drink,” I say with a smile, and each says “bottoms up” and winks as if he is clever.
I show them my breasts.
They stare at them.
I’m sure they stare because they see the difference.
I watch the look on their faces change as they stare at my breasts.
They are all the same.
They stare, drop the glass, fall to their knees wide eyed and speechless.
They still stare, but they don’t see me.
Damn. They smell.
How many now?
I would move away, but I can’t take them with me, and I can’t leave them here.
I don’t leave the house. I don’t leave the mirror.
They think they are so clever.
They think they still hold me prisoner. They think that their stinking dead bodies hold me here. They think they have me figured out perfectly.
No body is perfect.
I hear the knocking on the door, but I ignore it.
I hear the banging, the demands, the splintering of wood and the breaking of glass.
I wont even turn around.
There is no need.
I have no excuses.
I have reason. I have the mirror.
The mirror doesn’t lie, but it doesn’t make my life stop.
Men do that.
Not to me they don’t.
I turned the mirror on them. They saw themselves.
Too bad they cannot smell themselves.
Dead men smell of blood and feces and I’m dancing now.
Dancing to the high pitched song of the dying, the electric scream flashing race-wheeled down the boulevards. They would lift me away, strap me down.
“Mad,” they say.
I’m not even angry.