Shedding–On the Occasion that You Find Yourself Bored for Something to Read

Dear Lily June,

First and foremost, the story below is not in any way a comment on your parent’s marriage. After focusing too much on the real and actual society, lately, I decided it might be fun to try and write something a little out of my familiar arenas (you know, of complaining about inequality and technology). Of course, I ended up jamming reality INTO a world of fantasy like some kind of literary Turducken, but blame my inspiration, a far, far better story  by Valya Dudycz Lupescu that takes the same tactic. You’ll see what I mean when you read it.

***

Shedding

Tendrils of matching manes kept creeping over their Kindles. Claws, not registering heat like a fingerprint might, made scrolling the pages difficult, but it’s not like they could easily see their screens underneath the hallway’s florescents.

Given the situation, concentration was nearly futile.

The deafening roar from under the door was issuing out of the usually delicate lungs of their mother. Ferociously barking precedent from French law back to the 1740’s, she argued why she should be the one to keep the rose. Their father uttered an uncharacteristic plea, “B, let’s not let this get ugly,” and at the whisper’s drift from the courtroom, the twins—Bette and Bo—met one another’s smirk and spoke in teenage italics.

Beautiful point, Dad, but a little late, dontcha think?” asked Bette.

“Yeah, Mom seems determined to get downright beastly,” said Bo.

They would’ve taken pride in one another’s puns—a family hobby—if they both hadn’t found themselves distracted by a memory of the rose in its current state, set on the mantel at home, above the fireplace. Its glass dome had more cracks than a church’s stained glass window; its dried and desiccated petals were superglued back to the stem in some illusion that the marriage’s magic could renew, take their parents back to the fateful nights of nearly tearing one another’s skin off to make the twins in the first place.

Bo and Bette looked away from each other’s gaze and into their own reflections. In their laps, they each held the separate halves of a mirror their father had broken for them so they could see one another during the separation. Bette’s eyes shone repulsion from the mental image of their mother’s nails trailing up their father’s haunches; Bo’s, despair from imagining their parents’ romantic past was like an old-fashioned book about to snap suddenly shut, ripping tears up the spine’s fabric.

But in the tandem telepathy of twins, when their eyes met, their minds agreed: It hasn’t been easy being their children.

It took the longest time for their peers at school to stop tripping them by their tails, vestigial from their father. It would have helped if their identical eyes (a yellowish-green hybrid of moonlight shining through a through a thicket of overgrown trees) weren’t always buried in books as they walked down hallways built of bullies. “Tales,” their mother’s pun went, “are vestigial from my side.”

Remembering how their father used to howl at that, Bo croaked “What went wrong?” a question aimed more towards his Kindle than at his sister.

“You ask that all the time,” Bette snapped, reflecting the high-heeled courtroom tone of their mother.

Then, they sat quietly while remembering together. The times their mother nagged about the hours wasted sweeping summer coats from the carpet; the times their father begged their mother to put down the book and just sit in front of the winter fire. The times their father dragged mud in from who-knows-where in the forest he wouldn’t stop visiting, even after the whole family had moved to the suburbs. The times their mother’s roving eye kept scanning the professors she worked with, seeming to imply with a look alone that she’d have been better off to marry not a colleague of the heart, but one of the mind.

The time their mother had tried to turn her life from a fairy tale into a poem of Sappho, and their father found out. (The twins still didn’t know how. Figurative lipstick on a metaphorical collar?) How, that day, he had just collapsed on the couch, holding the rose he’d taken down from the mantel, distractedly running his paws through its leaves until they were all but shredded. How their mother, come home from office hours to find him moping, started tearing into him about a lack of passion. How he had dropped the flower to the floor, and the twins could see, from where they watched, a single tear of blood pour from his palm where a thorn had stung him.

How their mother had raised the rose’s glass dome high above her shoulders, then, like she were a hunchback ringing the bell in a tower, before hurling it down toward the carpet the twins would both later bend over. Whole hours would pass while they dug up each sliver and shard they would eventually try to put back together.

***

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