Chapter One, Ancient Knowledges
Mom? Hello Mom? Mom was on a tour bus in a faraway land with other like-minded women who believed that they could access ancient wisdom by just asking for it. Mom was meeting a man with a camel. I see her in a photo the camel playfully nudging at her nipple through the very light natural fabric shirt she wore. Mom stayed with the man with the camel for a while in a hotel in Istanbul. Meanwhile I am in High School. My heart was stabbed with knives as I walked the halls, I can still re-see the floors, vomit-basin green, with pillars of sunshine-gleam which moved as I moved, me trailing psychic blood but somehow staying physically intact, somehow not legible to others as needing, desperately, help.
Mom is a cat, lying naked and more slender than ever in silk sheets, overseas, smoking, overseas. Behind her, a man, smirking, whips on his belt. Mom is not only smoking but holding a phone to her ear. My voice is coming through the phone. Mom I need help. Mom can I see a shrink and put it on the credit card.
Of course babe, she says, snakes dripping out of her eyes, slithering down her tits, coiling around her belly button. She spreads her legs for the man, the man smiles and makes a gesture, something.
Mom, is there money on the credit card because last time you told me to use it to pay for the SAT it was rejected, do you remember, mom? And it was the last day to register and all the other kids had already paid and…mom?
My mom got started getting younger just at her 40th birthday, when I started getting older. I didn’t know she could do it, but she began growing out of me. It’s like instead of seeing me she saw through me. One thing I remember distinctly which is a marker of when everything changed was when I came downstairs in the middle of the night because I’d gotten up to pee and smelled smoke. I smelled smoke because–there was my mother, her back, she was reading a magazine at the table and holding a lit cigarette. She turned around to face me before I’d formed any words.
Trouble sleeping? she asked, looking at me with a bored love, like a cat.
Are you smoking? I asked, ineptly.
Yes, and yes, she sucked the cigarette and looked at me now like a vamp. My mother, a black shiny sheet of hair. My mother, smoking and wearing eyeliner. And soon after that was the first trip, to Egypt with her friend who went by the name of Love.
Harley McAnus was tied for the most famous girl at our school, which was Dick School in Hollywood, since you are probably going to want to know, I will just tell you instead of trying to be mysterious about it or giving it a pseudonym. It doesn’t matter because it isn’t the point but I know I don’t get to say what matters or what is the point. Harley had orgasms all day at school so that was a big thing, and there were people following her all the time taking pictures, they had special permissions of course. There was Harley, by herself in the corner of the Cafeteria, eating a Weetza–you know what a Weetza is, right? It looks like a pizza and smells like a pizza and when you put it in your mouth it tastes for a moment like a pizza and then it fizzles and deflates in your mouth and dissipates like tissue, it then turns into chewing gum which is one part pizza flavor, one part laxative (sennoside, nature-based), and one part appetite suppressant, from Colombia. There she sits, poor Harley, all alone with her almost-pizza and her plastic guitar-shaped purse and all around her, like a sacred circle, all around her are men, twelve men let’s say, thick heads of curly hair dark hair, paunches of varying degrees, and matte-black cameras in front of their faces or hanging around their necks. They had some system where they would let the other guys go sometimes. Click click click go their shutters, and sometimes she cries and sometimes she giggles, so they can get different shots. Into her guitar-shaped shiny plastic purse she digs and out comes her white bullet of a tampon, she invites one guy into the bathroom to take pictures of her inserting it, and washing her hands and applying lipgloss.
Lemme see, she says, and grabs the camera out of the pappo’s hands. Snapping her weetza gum, her face falls flat at the pictures of herself.
No, says Harley. No, no no. Keep 617. The others delete. OK? My pussy looks too fat.
Yes miss, says the Pappo.
The Pappo all know by now that Harley gets horny when she’s on the rag, so this one holds her gaze for a bit and they look at each other like bulls ready to charge…but joking? Or not joking?
Harley is actually not very attractive, by Hollywood standards. I think this is what made her a wild child. Her options were kind of limited. I mean “starlette” was not really open to her–she was a product of a very basic looking Slovakian nanny with allergy eyes and of course Johnny Joy was her dad. Jonny Joy was hot obviously but in a kind of beat-up looking way, and Harley got the beat-up part of his genes but not so much the hot, she was the color of glue although her mouth was nice and doughy. I really wonder if she absorbed some of the shame of the affair when was she was in Zlata’s belly. She was conceived on a washing machine, but she was in fact a product of true love. Jonny Joy you see was at the peak of his fame and appeal when he began admiring the shoulders of his nanny, Zlata, as she picked up his son, Jonny Joy Junior. Jonny and his wife at the time, who I won’t name because, OK her name was Arsela, since everyone knows, Jonny and Arsela were really into the non-diaper movement which meant in practice that Zlata had to chase Jonny Joy Junior around with a stainless-steel bowl in case he made the piss or the shit signals, and then try to catch his waste in the bowl. Zlata had always called Arsela “miss” and had always said to her, “yes miss,” but after a while she started saying that to Jonny Joy too, and it was a little joke. Like, oh Zlata, would you make me a cup of that nice throat-coat tea?, Jonny would ask, and Zlata would say, Yes Miss, and kind of smirk at him, and him back to her, and the act of handing a hot mug of licorice root and something tea to him takes on a new sort of playfulness. Nannies know a lot of course. Nannies know it all. Nannies know too much. For example Zlata knew that Arsela had not really birthed Jonny Joy but had paid another woman to do it. But there was much more to know about that, actually.
The Woman who did it (Chapter 3)
Was called by god and was getting rich but you wouldn’t know it by her house which was humble and sand-colored, and she was always outside watering her lawn in shorts and barefoot when prospective clients rolled up to visit as if to say, look, I water my own lawn. The two things she had to be were: Healthy and Happy. Like carrying your baby was her calling and there was nothing pathalogic about this.
Actually, she, Priscilla Preslee, didn’t carry the baby in her body but had a whole set-up under her bathroom sink where one could grow, and while she was doing sit-ups she envisioned the growing baby in its biosac under the bathroom sink being fully nourished and sucking diligently and peacefully through its flexible plastic tube, and so she felt she was worth the money. Really, can we put a price tag on positive energy flowing from one being to another? If the “receiving” mom wanted placenta powder pills, which had happened 3 of the 7 times Priscilla’d done this, she agreed and handed over 60 tablets filled with bits of dehydrated beet. All three mothers reported feeling “a little high almost”, those exact words, after ingesting the placenta pills.
I know, it’ll do that, the “womb mom” would say.
Womb mom indeed would puke when gifted–gifted is what she termed being pregnant. She would puke and as she puked she’d imagine hundred dollar bills coming out of her throat in hot pulses. Hundred dollar bills out of her nose, her eyes. Hundred dollar bills coming out of the faucet when she took a bath, nosey-nosing her, they nuzzled her as she bathed in elderflower salts, beside the bathtub was her “pack”, meaning the strap-on belly that she wore when “expecting”. You’d think she’d need all different sizes but she had two–one for around seven months, and one for around ready-to-pop.
What she hadn’t realized when she started this whole racket, which seemed so clever at the time, was how lonely the life of a liar is. At the end of the day, money doesn’t kiss you back. Money doesn’t laugh at your jokes, like when you call your strap-on belly your “strap-on”.
The cannibalism part was also hard.
Dia Felix is a writer and filmmaker whose areas of intrigue and expertise include romantic pratfalls, spiritual totality, and celebrity obsession. Her first novel, Nochita, is forthcoming from City Lights/Sister Spit.