The Two live in a tail many vertebraed and haired only on the outside. Do what we do. Do what we do, they chant. You have to do it. They grow violent. The tail shakes, like a cat’s, peeing. Fathers hate cats, which are often female. You have to do it! The Two begin to look alike, and The One is blonder. A cold kitchen full with cats or cheese and she cannot think of brothers, auxiliaries.
She tried explanation: Before we were morose. The father was sinister and perverse and we were leaving our town on the splintered flatbed of a truck. The daughter’s arms were chapped and she couldn’t talk about her legs and I was the daughter. She wanted a travel-sized bottle of lotion, but it was too early for the store to be open. She asked the father when and he said fifteen minutes. The rest of the family was somewhere she couldn’t see. The father had been a renowned host of dance parties. The father had been a recluse. The father had been a teacher. It was so very early. They waited on a moony street for the father. The One who was the daughter and also me had to pee and the store was open for that and the toilet paper was painted over, pale, the paint still tacky. I used it anyway. Dabbed mawkish blue to my lips.
They did not like it. The Two said, Do what we do! Do what we do! It was custom in those days and in that tail to squeeze and to dance. Mothers were preferred to Fathers, but nostalgia grabbed hold of The One and a book said.
On the day of the father’s birthday a song with words repeated many times. The daughter liked it, and chanted along. The daughter did not do what they did. The father stabbed my breast with his yellow fingers, the father never stopped talking, the father said, the father said, the father said. Fifteen minutes. You are slick. You are a slut. Do what we do, Do what we do, You have to do it. You are a —. The toilet paper is dirty blue. Where are your brothers?
They did not like it. The Two did not like it.
The Father said, Do what I say!
And I, the One, the daughter, heard a rumor over drinks. The many vertebraed tail, they said, did not belong to a cat, but to the father, who hated cats, who were often female. And The Two began to gnaw like dogs. It turned out The Two were not the brothers. Or, as it were, The Two were female brothers.
And before I, The One, the daughter, could register rapture or rupture, a pelting began. The Two did not like me, The Two did not like what I did, The Two were throwing blocks of bleu cheese from the splintered flatbed of a truck into the many vertebraed tail. Happy Birthday, Happy Birthday to You!
Jaclyn Watterson is a PhD candidate at the University of Utah. Pieces of Ventriloquisms, her collection of fictions and horrors, have been published in The Collagist, Birkensnake, Your Impossible Voice, failbetter, and elsewhere. She works as a fiction editor at Quarterly West.