Most guys say they have a monster in their pants. I’m
the only who’s telling the truth. So when Karen Gahagan walked right up
and handed me her card, it was a lucky break. “I work for Motivation,”
she yelled over the music. ‘Motivation Modeling,’ her card read,
and beneath that, ‘Karen Gahagan, Executive Vice President in charge of new talent.’ “You should come by on Monday.” I nodded, feigning
interest, but my face on billboards and magazines? No thanks.
I bought her a drink and
we tried to talk, yelling at each other over the techno beat. She suggested someplace
quieter. I followed her back to her place, my headlights catching the vanity
plate on her Jag: “Lookt Me.”
Once I kissed her and we
started taking off each other’s clothes, I felt it building. I put my hands on her face, stopping.
“What is it, honey?”
beautiful. I can’t believe I’m going to be with someone so beautiful.”
“Oh, honey . . .”
She took off her shirt. “You really underestimate yourself.” When
I saw her abdominals, I thought I was going to cry.
“What is it?” she asked, alarmed.
“You must live at
“You should get out
more.” I took off her bra, hoping to God they were real. They looked real,
and they felt real, but in L.A, who could tell? I hated implants. Implants didn’t digest.
She gasped once I was inside, an intake of breath so sharp I could feel the air rush past my face. I imagined her confusion, even her panic as the hinged jaw opened, but she didn’t
scream. They never screamed. There
must be some anesthesia in the digestive fluid.
They hadn’t been
Her beautiful face shriveled
up, her entire body collapsing beneath me. I rolled over, not wanting to look
at what remained.
My God, I heard her think, what did you do? And I really knew her.
I knew bank account pin numbers, too.
I shoved what was left
into a trash bag, got every dollar out of the ATM, and drove her almost-brand new Jag to a chop shop.
As I returned my rental
car and found a dumpster for the remains, I wished this could be the last time. That
I stave off the hunger, live like a normal human being.
I knew it was a fantasy the minute the stewardess leaned in, asking would I like a mid-flight snack? She was so petite, barely a mid-flight snack herself.
“No, thank you,” I said, “I just ate.”
I looked back at her as she walked down the aisle. She had wonderful hips and good, strong legs. When she noticed me looking, she gave me a shy little grin and I turned back, embarrassed.
It would be at least a month before I’d need food
again. With a little discipline, maybe I could stretch it out longer, let the
next woman live a few more days.
But I always thought that. In a month it would be the same aching need.
You can’t run from nature.
They found me in a shoebox
on the front porch of an orphanage with a note that read “Damnation awaits.”
I still carry that note, laminated in plastic.
Until I was thirteen, I
could eat normally but couldn’t always keep it down.
One night a couple of the older boys took me to a house outside town. A woman
there would do most anything for the right amount of cash. I walked in and she
smiled at me, lying on the bed in her pink negligee with her too-red rouge. “Well,
hello, good-lookin,’” she said, “C’mon and give Mama some sugar.”
I hadn’t been able
to eat in weeks. But looking at her, I could feel it stir.
I knew hunger’s absence for the first time in my life, lying atop the bag of skin that remained. I also knew, without knowing how, about the coffee can full of cash under a loose
floorboard beneath her bed.
Gathering her up in the
bedspread, I climbed through the window. As soon as I was in the woods, I grabbed
the bedspread in two hands and flicked her out, swept some dirt over her, and ran.
It was prostitutes until
I was eighteen. Then I ran into Samantha.
It was after I had eaten; we were the only two people at a showing of Liar,
Liar. She was the first woman I actually went out with, got to know. I still remember how easy it was to make Sam laugh; she was friendly and kind of busty,
so she got this reputation in her high school, from appearances alone. I was
her first, it turned out, and wasn’t that a piece of luck?
I felt really bad for a
long time after. I really liked Sam, especially after I’d taken her and
knew her better. If I wasn’t the way I was, I could have been a real boyfriend
But I was the way I was, and it was time to do the world
I filled the bathtub with
warm water, got in there with a razor blade and opened both wrists. I sat there,
having trouble staying awake, thinking, ‘Jeez, I’m going to drown if I don’t watch it.’ Isn’t that crazy?
No. What’s crazy is, I woke up a couple of hours later. There
was some blood in the tub but not much. On my wrists were thin white scars, and
even they were gone after a day or two.
After that, I thought,
okay, this is the way it is, what are you going to do?
Make the best of it. See the world. I wanted to go to Paris,
but had to speak the language. So, I got friendly with a T.A. at a Carnegie-Mellon
who spoke French.
Paris didn’t disappoint, not the art, the culture, the way people spoke, the clothes they wore,
And French women . . .
But I’ve got places all over. Columbus, Ohio, for
instance. A university town was good for me. Say you always wanted to visit China?
Enter Soon, a young woman from Beijing, at OSU for the computer science program. Not much meat on her, but she could speak Mandarin
I had been chatting her up for a couple of weeks, but Chinese
women are pretty conservative. I wasn’t sure how long it would take to
get her into bed, but Karen, the modeling agent I took when I was in L.A., had been pretty well-digested, and I could feel
the hunger coming on.
At Soon’s doorstep, I felt this energy in the air, like maybe we’d kiss, but we didn’t. Instead, she waved and said, “See you!”
I waved back, turning around. Keep it together, I told myself, just a
little longer . . .
At Conspiracy, a local strip bar, the first dancer had a nice body, but the implants were obvious. The one after her looked more promising. At
least ten to fifteen pounds too heavy, she didn’t get the attention, or the tips of the one before, but she looked just
right to me.
A waitress leaned in, blocking the stripper. “Well,
hi!” she said, “We don’t get guys as good-lookin’ as you here, what’s up, honey? You could get yourself a real date, see a naked woman in the privacy of your own home.”
She was tall, almost as
tall as I was. Even in the dim light, I could see she had dark skin and long,
dark hair. She wore a short red teddy.
I hoped to God they weren’t implants.
“You’re beautiful,” I said, before I knew the words had left my mouth.
“Aw,” she said,
“you’re not just good-lookin,’ but sweet too? ‘Cause
I get off in an hour, sweet thing.”
Her place was dimly lit,
furnished with older things, like she did all her shopping at garage sales. A
woman who looked like her, working at a strip bar, you’d think she’d have made more money.
She brought a couple of beers out and set them on the TV table.
Her smile felt predatory. She shoved me back and leaned
down, unbuckling my belt, unsnapping my pants, unzipping me.
She wriggled out of her clothes and sat on me.
There were teeth in there, sharp ones. She looked as confused
as I did when the teeth bit down but were unable to bite through.
I placed my hands on her hips and whispered, “Who are you?”
I sat upward, kissing her on the mouth. She pushed me away, unable to
believe I wasn’t dying.
I flipped over, pinning her beneath me. I needed to know
what was going to happen next.
It didn’t take long. I screamed, trying to keep
looking at her beautiful face, lit by the dim glow of her old lamps. The face
didn’t shrivel up.
I kissed her neck and put my mouth to her ear. “Who
“My name is Malia,” she said, “And if I had a gun, I would shoot you.”
“Don’t,” I said, “Please don’t say that.
Please just stay with me. I’ll do anything you want if you stay
Her name, “Malia,” came from the Zuni word for “bitter.” She had never known her father, a white man who had raped her mother, a Zuni Medicine woman, at knifepoint. Her mother said it was why she was the way she was.
The vagina dentata was whispered of in the legends of her tribe. Such
women were the bane of men.
“How many?” I whispered in her dark bedroom as I tried to take her hand.
“I don’t know,” she said, “Hundreds, thousands.” She was quiet before asking, “How many for you?”
“Two hundred forty-three. You would have been two
Her hand left mine. “I want you to go.”
“No, please, let me stay.”
“Stay and what?” she asked as she got up and put on a robe.
“Stay and let me see if I can last longer this time.”
She sat slowly back down on the bed. I took a stray strand of hair away
from her face. “I want you to feel good,” I said, “I would
love it if you felt good.”
“I don’t even know you.”
“Sure you do.” I grabbed her shoulders, pulling
her robe down, getting out of the bed while I untied it. She spread her legs
reluctantly and I pushed inside.
Feeling her bite down again, harder this time, I said, “I’m not going to stop.” I
took a breath, closing my eyes, “Not until I hear you scream.”
I thought of a blackboard, with the number 100 written on it.
I concentrated on writing the numbers down by erasing as little of the previous number as possible. So I erased the one on the 100, and drew tails on the two zeros to make 99, then erased the tail on the
last 9 to make an 8, and I kept going, trying not to concentrate on the beautiful woman beneath me.
I had gotten to 76 when I felt the teeth let go. Her scream
was so loud, the windows rattled. She drowned out my own scream as I forgot about
the blackboard, seeing only her gorgeous dark eyes, her silken hair, and her mouth opened in an “O” of surprise.
“I wasn’t put together for this,” she said the next morning. She was seated on the bed, her back to me.
“This,” she said, “This.” She motioned around the room, then at me.
“It is different, not having to deal with a dead body.” I looked up at the ceiling. “Mine
fit in a tall kitchen-can bag. Light, too, easy to get rid of. But for you, I guess . . . most of it was still there?”
She was quiet, and I knew I’d asked the wrong question.
“Get out,” she said.
“Malia, I’m sorry—”
“Out!” Pointing to the door.
I started to get dressed. “I’m sorry. I shouldn’t
have gotten so personal—”
“We just got about as personal as we’re going to get!”
“No.” I put on my shoes. “You can’t mean that, please tell me you don’t
mean that, we just don’t know each other well enough, we need to get to know each other better, once we know each other
“I don’t want to know you any better than I already do, I told you, I’m not put together
for this!” She opened the door.
“Let’s talk about this, Give it a couple days . . .”
“You see some future here? We each pick someone
up, see the latest Jennifer Aniston romantic comedy, then mm-mm, good? Dinner
and a movie, would you like that?” She grabbed my arm, pulling me closer.
“We’re living on borrowed time separately, but together? How long
you think it would it be before they traced something back to us and we were dragged off to the Smithsonian for dissection?” She let go of my arm, giving me an extra little shove out the door. “Go home, Romeo.”
I couldn’t eat for days after that. Finally, I re-traced
my route back to her place, but there was a “For Rent” sign stuck to the door.
I cupped my hands over my eyes and leaned in to the window. The place
I kept an eye on the papers and the Internet, looking for stories of male bodies turning up with signs
of genital mutilation, but I never found anything.
I got so depressed I sought out street hookers to see if I could catch something fatal. All I got were the worst memories you could imagine.
The women wore short, white skirts. I watched their legs
tense and release, the muscles of their thighs and calves defining abruptly as they ran for the ball or stood to serve.
The best was blonde, tall, forty or so. She wore no ring,
but I didn’t want to take her if she had kids. I could find that out quickly
As they talked and laughed between sets I saw her looking at me, could see the edges of her mouth turn
up into a grin. She even showed off a little.
I clapped at a particularly good point she scored, and she turned to me and gave a little curtsy while the other women
sent up a collective “Ooooh!” and one of them yelled, “Playing for the fans now?”
Taking her would mean getting out of Columbus. That was
okay. I had been there too long already.
“This seat taken?” someone said to my left. I
looked up, but she was too backlit by the sun to see her face. All I could tell
was she was pregnant.
Momentarily frightened, I said, “No,” and looked around for an escape route. I was afraid it was some undercover policewoman until she sat down.
“Malia!” I said, then looked at her belly. “Is—?”
She took my hand and placed it on her abdomen. The skin
was pulled tight. I felt it move. “Malia—”
I said, hugging her, not wanting to let go.
There was some laughter from the tennis court. The tall
blonde had looked over at us, and the tennis ball had bounced off her head.
Malia said she couldn’t believe it at first, had even tried to end the pregnancy.
“They couldn’t get him out.”
“Yes, a son, are you happy?”
I’d have been happy either way.
“I went home to my mother, and she said ‘when the bane of men has a man-child, this will
be a child of consequence.’”
“Your mother said to find me?”
“No,” Malia said, touching her belly, “He
I did everything I could to be a good father.
There are guys who are really turned on by pregnancy. We
placed an ad in the personals section of a local paper to find them. We averaged
one every two weeks or so.
I was wrong about most of the body being there after Malia was done.
All that was left were the fingers, toes, sometimes the top of the head. As
she got closer to giving birth, even those things were gone.
She was eating for two.
I felt bad for Malia as I helped her out of the car and into the cabin.
Much bigger than most pregnant women, her sensual stripper’s stride had become an awkward waddle.
I was afraid for her, but I had survived suicide and she was the bane of men, so I figured we could
deliver this baby. More than the birth, I was worried what would happen after
the birth. Would Malia stay? All
of the books I read said a child did better, developmentally, with both parents.
When the contractions finally came, she squeezed my hand, sweating, cursing me with every word out
of her mouth.
Teeth broke off, spitting into the air as the baby crowned. Then
he emerged fast, shooting onto the blanket. I wrapped him up and he began to
cry, the noise like a jet engine. His body was segmented, covered in a soft,
red exoskeleton, like a lobster. The boy’s mouth, a fang-lined slit, was
opened wide enough to swallow a grapefruit. He screamed at the world, the tough
little body vibrating against my neck.
I felt teeth sink in. He was sucking blood. I could feel myself begin to lose consciousness. I made sure
I fell on my back so I wouldn’t crush him.
He could take what he needed. He was my boy.
When I woke up, Malia was calling the baby “Wuliton.”
I blinked, trying to tell if what I was seeing was true. “You’re feeding him . . . something?”
“Can I hold him?”
“When he’s done.”
“Wuliton?” the babysitter, a heavyset girl with braces and a punk haircut, made a face. A pink T-shirt reading, “Yes, I do, but not with you” stretched over her
I held out an ashtray. She looked at me before stubbing
it out. “My wife named him,” I said. “She’s Native American. It means ‘to do well.’”
“Mmm,” the babysitter grunted. I hoped she
didn’t have too much nicotine in her system.
“I just fed him,” Malia said, coming downstairs.
I stood, taking my wife’s hand. “There’s
plenty of food in the fridge, just check on him now and then, we’ll be back in a couple hours.”
“Whatever,” the babysitter said.
I put my arm around Malia. We walked out of the house. In the car, Malia closed her eyes. I
checked my watch.
We found a bloody sneaker and a strip of pink cloth. I
looked down at him proudly before picking him up and walking around the room. The
red color had left his exoskeleton as he’d gotten older; his armor was a kind of a dark flesh tone now, its texture
“Wuliton!” Malia said, trying to get his attention.
“Yes,” she said, when he finally looked at her and smiled, his teeth red and slick. Malia rubbed her nose against his. “Yes,” she
repeated. Wuliton began to laugh. I
grabbed his hand as he reached for the babysitter’s discarded cigarettes. Damn
It’s funny having a baby. Your own life becomes
meaningless, the world so important, even though we didn’t have the same worries as other parents. We knew our child would survive.
The Zunis say all human ills are from being out of balance, not observing nature’s laws, being
ignorant or selfish. Perhaps Malia and I had sprung from that. But Wuliton sprang from us.
They were re-making the planet. Storms were more violent.
Polar bears could only live in zoos. The ozone layer was wearing away. Forests were disappearing. New diseases were already appearing. And who was going to survive all that?
Only someone designed to survive.
So, we take what we need, and I don’t waste time feeling guilty anymore. Humanity had its shot. It would soon be time for Wuliton, and his children.
We’d just have to keep him safe, another ten, fifteen years, stay on the move until all the bills came due.
Until the day our son would not be seen as a monster, but as a king.
another short story Sheldon wrote, was a runner-up in the Mary Shelley Awards and published in Rosebud magazine in 2006. In 2008, "Converts, another of his short stories, will
be published in Rosebud as runner-up
in this year's Shelley awards. In addition,
Bless You and S.C.A.R.E.D., two short
films he wrote and directed, were screened both at the 2006 Dances with Films
film festival in Los Angeles and the Ohio Independent Film Festival in Cleveland,
Ohio. Version 2.0, a short play Sheldon
co-wrote with Robert Flanagan, was produced as part of the Contemporary American
Theater Company’s short play festival in 2002. Survivor’s Guilt, a short film he wrote and directed in 1997,
screened at the Dresden Film Festival in Dresden, Germany. Teller’s Ticket, a
film which he directed and co-wrote with Mr. Flanagan, was based upon
Mr. Flanagan’s short story printed both in his short story collection Naked to Naked Goes and in the Norton Anthology)
won honorable mention at the Houston International Film Festival in 1991.