Excerpt from “Memoir of a Barbed Wire Fence”
One Halloween Mom sewed Joey’s costume on her black and yellow painted Singer home sewing machine. Joey wanted to be Dorothy and I did too.
Both of you can’t be Dorothy, Mom said.
Why not? I asked, and clicked my heels together.
Because, she said. Joey is going to be Dorothy. And that’s that.
I want to be Dorothy! I screamed. I want to be Dorothy!
I ran naked circles around Joey and Mom while she fitted him for his dress. Pat Benatar wailed “Hit Me With Your Best Shot”out of Mom’s boom box on top of the coffee table. Mom and Joey towered above me. They tried to ignore me away, but I wouldn’t let them.
Bug off, Joey shouted.
Fuck you, I thought, then climbed on top of the coffee table where I kicked Mom’s Vogue Patterns and boom box on the floor. With my fists punching the air, I hollered: I want to be Dorothy. And that’s that!
Mom didn’t have enough time to make me a new dress so she rigged me up in a green sequined number she found in her closet from her cocktail days. She applied blue mascara, long fake eyelashes, and I even wore Mom’s two sizes too big green pumps, her blonde wig, and two coats too many of purple eye shadow.
Mom took a Polaroid picture of us and I pinned it to the wall above my headboard. That Halloween my family dressed out of the Wizard of Oz. Bobo our Mutt was Toto, Mom was the Wicked Witch of the West, Joey was Dorothy, and I was almost Dorothy.
Cassandra “Tula” Do
Arnold presented a large penis cake to Cassandra Do,
the performance artist from Mexico who did amazing
things with night crawlers and crickets.
Famous for her modeling career, the autopsy concluded
s/he laughed to death. In his credenza, Arnold
found photographs of Cassandra’s special appearances
as Lolita and Stalin at club Warsaw. The nightclub’s
manager was fond of her ability to poop and pee
at the same time. As a sex-worker, Cassandra offered
Arnold discounts and make-up lessons. It turned
into a long affair, one that included hopscotch and I-HOP,
platforms and Raggedy Anne wigs. Nevertheless,
Cassandra continued to work for extra cash at stadiums
on Sundays. Sportsmen knew her as Tula,
the pseudonym she presented herself as a reminder
of her Toltec ancestors. Saving up for genital
surgery and nursing school, Cassandra Do found solace
in drawing penguins in petticoats. Her primary benefactor,
a Well-To-Do with a Can-Do spirit, promised Cassandra
a ‘good’ surgeon. In a rage, the last thing she drew
was Arnold as Adam and Eve. S/he had a reputation
founded on her commitment to extraterrestrials.
The Invisible Chromosome
Was the boy related to you?
He wasn’t a boy he was a ghost, an ancestor ghost. He was a knot of thread wound tight, and with each new strand one ancestor was woven together with another.
If he was invisible, then how did you come to know him?
He wasn’t a ghost but a gorgeous boy with black eyes and cretaceous lips. He wasn’t a ghost but an ancestor with boy eyes, the eyes of a gorgon, hollow and dark.
If he was a phantom, then who or what are you?
I was a boy, an ancestor with enough time to thread.
What was his essential role in your household?
He wasn’t a ghost but a boy with ghost eyes who untied the knot of threads of his ancestors.
How severe were the knots?
They were tight.
How were they created?
They were woven together with knuckles and sweat.
Earlier you said the boy was woven together with another. Do you understand the consequences of lying?
I was the ghost. He was a boy! The ancestor with another past still waiting to be told before the ages set on the knot of thread, on the helix of time that is woven into every chromosome.
In time, nucleic acids and genetic information dissipate. The genome is a nearly impossible equation to crack. How did you manage to retain his DNA?
With another thread I gripped the ghost and with my other hand I wove him around the past.
You’re really not the boy, nor the ghost. You’re an orphan at best. Please show me your hands. See these lines, they end. Where are the threads?
Around the ancestor who taught me how to twine.