The Harrow: Original Works of Fantasy and Horror, Vol 12, No 6 (2009)

One Flesh: A Cautionary Tale

One Flesh: A Cautionary Tale

© 1991 Robert Devereaux
All rights reserved.
Previously published in Iniquities Magazine, 1991.

We admit it. There's a right way and a wrong way to bring one's loving lady into conformity with the image of womanly perfection that burns bright in every man's heart. Dad and me, we went about it the wrong way. That's clear to us now, after all the grief that came pelting down into our lives when half the Sacramento police force jackbooted their way through our front door and kept us from further satisfying our desires, modest as they were, on the naked limbs of our composite wife.

But it's our feeling that before the state—that vast motherless bastion of rectitude and righteousness—unlocks our cell to dead-march us along its sexless corridor, then to mumble piety into us from the mercy-thin pages of its Holy Bible, cinch us down snug and secure, and hiss open its gas jets to pack us off to the next life, we owe it to the rest of you idolatrous cockwielders out there to pass on the lesson we learned. Does that sound agreeable to you, Dad? Dad, I'm talking to you! He says it does.

It began with a birth, nearly nineteen years ago, on the night of February 15th, 1970. My dear wife Rhonda was all of twenty-one then, amber of eye and huge of breast, vivacious, fun-loving, ever faithful to me in spite of my shortcomings and the handful of cunt-hungry mongrels that always seemed to be sniffing about her skirts. Lovely as life itself was Rhonda, and carrying our son.

My folks came down from Chico in mid-January to help with last-minute preparations; they were radiant with love for us both and just itching to be grandparents. Rhonda's mother, Wilma Flannery, flew in from Iowa to be with "her precious baby" in her finest hour. She was one eccentric biddy, my mother-in-law, old and wizened at fifty. Her husband had left her soon after Rhonda was born, never to be heard from again. That didn't surprise me, and I don't think it surprised Rhonda, either. Although I wished Wilma had stayed in Oskaloosa, I did my level best to ignore her high-pitched demands and irritating ways and focus all my attention on Rhonda.

My wife's projected delivery date was Washington's Birthday, and around a quiet dinner one night at Mario's, my mom and especially my dad—Oh come off it, Dad, you know you did!—teased us about it, threatening to call their grandchild George or Georgina in honor of the man on the dollar. Rhonda's mother sat hunched over her plate, wolfing down tortellini. Good food always seemed to shut dear old Wilma up for a while.

As it happened, the baby arrived ahead of schedule. On the afternoon of the 15th, Rhonda and the two older women, wanting some girl-time alone, talked me and Dad into a night on the town. Before they booted us out into the light drizzle that had begun to come down, I pinned a hastily scrawled itinerary on the kitchen corkboard, just in case: dinner and drinks at California Fats, then a late-night showing of Psycho at the Tower. Dad and I were fond of Hitchcock movies back then. And after the accident that brought us together, we loved them even more.

The call came halfway through dinner. We'd done more drinking than eating, a lot more. Three swallows of wine to every forkful of food, I'd guess. Ordinarily we'd have thought twice about taking to the highway with that much alcohol in our veins. But I was determined to be right there by Rhonda's side when my baby was born, and judging from Mom's babbling over the phone from the hospital, we had no time to waste thinking about what was safe and what wasn't. So we threw some bills on the table, staggered together to my VW van, ramped up onto Highway 50, and five minutes later—in a passing maneuver that would have meant certain death at high noon on a bone-dry road with a teetotaling priest behind the wheel—we rammed into the back end of a screeching Raley's truck and felt for one mercifully brief instant the twin agonies of metal-mangled flesh and bone from the front and the whomp and sizzle of a fireball engulfing us from the rear.

If the notations of the hospital staff present at my son's delivery were correct, our precise time of death was 7:41 p.m. There was tightness everywhere and a painful sliding and then suddenly the chill of freedom. We were somehow nakedly intertwined, my dad and I. When the shock of the cold was blanketed away and sweet warm milk filled our mouth and soothed our belly, we bleared open our eyes and were astounded to see a gigantic Rhonda-face beaming down at us. We tried to call out to her, but our mouth was full of nipple and our body throbbed and the blankets felt so warm and cozy around us that we soon drifted off. When we awoke, nothing but baby sounds came out of us, no matter how carefully we tried to speak. When Dad saw his wife Arlene (my mom) smiling down at us, I couldn't help but feel his sadness and his frustration, and we wailed with our whole being and fisted our tiny fists and did our best to squeeze every cubic inch of air out of our little lungs with each scream. But just when we thought merciful death might reclaim us, the air came rushing back in and the cruel joke continued.

Our name was Jason. I'd picked it out myself, not because it was popular—the J-names were only starting to catch on back then—but from a love of Greek mythology. It hadn't been high on Rhonda's list, but she relented in exchange for my agreeing to the name Amy Lou if it was a daughter. Yes, Dad, I know, you've told me many times how glad you are we weren't born female.

The newspapers call us Jason Cooper, of course. But Dad and I kept up the use of our old names with each other while we endured the long frustration of babyhood, waiting for my son's body to develop the motor skills to support intelligible speech. For the record, my name is Richard and his is Clarence. The state can believe it's gassing somebody named Jason if it wants to, but I'm telling you there never was any such person, leastways not one with an identity separate and distinct from me and my father. We suspect most reincarnates, being singletons, forget who they were and simply fall for the new identity their mom and dad foist upon them. But we, as doubles, were able to keep Richard and Clarence alive inside the putative Jason we might otherwise have become.

After word of the accident reached them, Arlene stayed on longer than she'd planned with Rhonda. The two women comforted each other in mourning our deaths, but their joy in Jason's upbringing brought his mother and grandmother even closer. Arlene eventually sold her home in Chico and moved in with Rachel. Wilma, on the other hand, was spooked by death. She gave her daughter a motherly thump on the brow, glared down at baby Jason, shuddered, crossed herself, and boarded the first plane back to the Midwest.

We're telling you all this because there's no way you can understand why we did what we did unless you know who we are and what it was like growing up this way. But for our own peace of mind, we'll spare you those details. Suffice it to say that we did not like being dictated to by the women we loved. By the time we were able to talk, we realized that no one was going to believe our story and that even if they did, some agency would take us away from Arlene and Rhonda for a lifetime of cold scrutiny. So we kept mum —and thereby kept Mom and Grandmom, too, if you'll pardon our humor. Our greatest challenge was chasing away erectile manfriends, but a bit of strategic mayhem beyond our years and one or two well-calculated glances from hell kept the motherfucking to a minimum.

Our infancy and toddlerdom and childhood weren't the worst of it by any means. When puberty struck, we nearly went crazy. We'd both forgotten—given the sleep of the hairless genital in childhood—what it feels like when the hormones surge up for the first time, raging and roaring like typhoons through an adolescent body. And it was even worse for us because we understood from the outset what it all meant. As for girls our own age, our grown-up manner fascinated adults but kept our peers ever-adversarial; besides which we neither of us felt much propensity toward pedophilia. So their chests filled out and their thighs went soft and curvy and they got that self-conscious wary look about their tender faces, but Dad and I paid them no mind. Understand our dilemma: The women we loved we'd already married. They lived right down the hall from us, growing no younger as the clock stole away moment after moment. And our enthusiastic young cock—sprouting thick curls of brown hair all around and popping up far fatter and longer, we were pleased to note, than either of us had been in our truck-crushed, fire-whomped bodies—took to them like a compass needle takes to magnetic north.

It was touch and go for a while, learning to feel okay about jacking Jason off. I'd hidden that sort of thing from Dad, and he never talked to me about the ins and outs of lovemaking and the rest of it except when I reached ten and he muttered something about "sex rearing its ugly head" and tossed some bland, vaguely Presbyterian book of cautions and platitudes in my lap. And we were father and son after all, engaging in what felt, the first couple of times, uncomfortably like homosexuality. But we made the necessary adjustments in our thinking—one always does to get what one's body craves—and relaxed into it like the old hands we were.

But ever and always, Arlene and Rhonda moved through the house, and we had to be on our guard not to be caught leering at them and not to demonstrate anything more than filial and grandfilial affection. We buried ourselves in bookishness, skipping over the stuff we recalled from our previous schooling and delving into new areas of knowledge with a depth that astounded our teachers and made us the loathed bespectacled pariah of the class of '88. With our stratospheric SAT scores and the enthusiastic support of the Hiram Johnson faculty, we wowed our way into Berkeley and began work toward a degree in 20th century history—we had, after all, lived through most of it, and current affairs had always been our strong suit.

It was in American History that we met Lorelei Meeks, she of the owl eyes and large glasses, breastless, thin as a rail, blank of face, and devoid of personality. Lorelei was a non-entity, a vacuum of need, a woman who faded into every background. Her body begged to be written upon and we, with our fat fountain-pen full of sperm, scribbled all over her. Whatever it struck our fancy to do with her, she gave in to. Dad and I divvied up her holes. Every pinch of flesh was ours to caress and lubricate and shackle up and slap until it blushed or bruised or bled. And in the morning, after a shower, she'd be wiped clean again like a newly sponged chalkboard, empty as Orphan Annie's eyes and yearning to be used anew. Our grades suffered, for which we made Lorelei pay in welts and cigarette burns, and in enemas of ice-cold Coors.

At Thanksgiving we brought her home.

We thought we could divert our river of rage onto our wispy girlfriend. We thought that having a receptacle we could empty our lust into any time we liked would lessen our desire for our former spouses or at least allow us to keep it under control. But we were wrong, as wrong as a Biblethumper. We found out just how wrong when the front door swung open and our two beloved soulmates, all smiles, welcomed Jason and his dear Lorelei into the home Rhonda and I had built in the spring of '71.

While we sat in the living room, going through the maddening ritual of "introducing the girlfriend to the family," all sorts of bells and whistles were going off inside our head. My dad stole glances at Arlene, her hair gone white now, dignified lines of age making more lovely the face he hadn't caressed as a lover for nearly twenty years. She seemed genuinely spritely in her deep blue dress and her pearls, and her short white hair hugged her head just so. But I was in agony over Rhonda, looking sexier than ever at forty, stylish in her washed-out jeans and bulky, breast-defining sweater. Her hair tumbled long and blond down her back, soft and springy and natural in a way that brought to mind her blond pubic softness and the sweet pink labia so long denied me. Thank God they ignored Jason, choosing instead to pour their endearments into the smiling nullity that sat, legs crossed, nervously beside him on the couch.

But inside us, an idea was gathering bits of itself together. The location of rope and tools in the garage, of clean dust rags in the closet, of scissors and carving knives in the kitchen, suddenly took on grave importance. It was as if the house itself was shoving Dad and me into some inevitable sequence of bloody dance steps.

We heard Jason's thin voice fielding inane questions. From the way they received his answers, it seemed that our facade of calm was somehow being maintained. And when we moved into the dining room, watching the maddening thighs of our proper wives sway this way and that, we heard Jason announce that he had a special surprise for his three most favorite women in the world. You'd think the odds against one man subduing three women would be pretty high. And in most cases you'd be right. But people become surprisingly compliant when they're in a festive mood and someone they trust—a son or grandson for example—sets down the rules of playful bondage they must submit to in order to receive an unexpected gift. In no time they were blindfolded with their hands tied tight behind them, a predicament our dear Lorelei was used to.

Not so Arlene and Rhonda. They complained, playfully at first, then more vociferously, about the chafing of the ropes. But their protests really began in earnest when we tied their ankles to the chair legs—right to right, left to left—and removed their shoes. People tend to be funny that way about their feet.

We let them sit there complaining into unresponsive air while we lowered the blinds and gathered tools. Some of the things our hands lifted off the garage pegboard or dug out of the drawers in the kitchen astonished us at the time, made us worry we'd gone off the deep end, though on hindsight they all made perfect sense. Once we had them laid out on the rug, our first order of business was the unclothing of our women. Because garments are not easily stripped from bound limbs, we used Rhonda's pinking shears for most of it. Arlene freaked when we scissored away her stockings, maybe from the feel of the cold metal moving up along her thighs, I can't be sure. Her shrieks spiked out into these absurd high-pitched bursts that sounded like a jackal in a trap. So hard were they on the ears that we decided to remove her blindfold and gag her with it. We did our best to ignore the look in her eyes; it was too painful to dwell on for any length of time. Dad was a little bit ashamed of her, weren't you, Dad? I mean at that point we hadn't so much as broken skin, we hadn't even hinted that that's where things were headed, yet already Arlene was huffing and going all red in the face like McMurphy being electroshocked in One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest.

Rhonda was a lot cooler about things, asking her son what he was doing, keeping her voice as calm and soothing as she could. When we felt like answering her, which was seldom, we kept our responses brief and noncommittal. We preferred letting our Fiskars do the talking for us. We liked their unrelenting ways, the steady rise and fall of the alligator mouth, the steel bite of perfectly zigzagged teeth, the falling away of fabric, and the slow, hypnotic unveiling of forbidden flesh. From the look of Rhonda's private parts, a bit puffy and vaguely gleaming, we half suspected our perversity was turning her on.

You can imagine the effect all this snipping away of blouses and bras and panties was having on us. But mixed in with the arousal was a sadness, a bitter sorrow at the ravages of time on human flesh. Here, emerging one sharp snip at a time, were the beloved bodies of our dear wives, hidden away for nearly twenty years. Our idle fantasies at childhood's end, our torrid love affair with onanism in adolescence, our imagined substitutions of these two women when we squeezed shut our eyes and eased into Lorelei—all of that had been erected on memories two decades old. We were ill-prepared to witness the accumulated assaults of age on their flesh: the sag, the flab, the withdrawal of vibrancy and resilience and muscle tone.

We dimmed the lights.

When we finished denuding our women, we took Rhonda's suggestion and turned up the thermostat. I was able to convince Dad, despite his initial resistance, that we too ought to disrobe. His preference was to unzip, reach into our shorts, and bring out into the open Jason's erection only; but I argued that we were, after all, going to be doing more than simply fucking the odd vagina and that it would be far easier to shower blood off our skin than to remove it from our best suit, and he, inordinately fond of that suit (his taste, not mine), could only agree. So we removed Rhonda's and Lorelei's blindfolds, not wanting to limit our display to Arlene only, and slow-stripped for our three naked mates. It's fair to say we surprised ourselves—Wouldn't you agree, Dad?—with our prowess as ecdysiasts. I sincerely believe we turned the ladies on, even Arlene gasping behind her gag; I can testify that we surely turned ourselves on.

Not to put too fine a point on it, we pleasured them, our wives and the vapidity they flanked. If they played at resistance, which one or two of them did, we read their coyness as a come on, and came on. At one point, Rhonda, acting the castrating bitch, snapped at our penis, but we had matters well in hand and snatched it free of her cruel jaws, backhanding her for her naughtiness and clamping our own choppers on her left nipple until she screamed out an apology profuse enough to satisfy us. Even so, we steered clear of her mouth thereafter, though memories of my lusty young spouse feasting at my groin during our married life drew me back to her lips again and again, and Dad had to intervene several times for the sake of our manhood.

Finally, when we'd gotten as close to our women as we were going to get without breaking skin, Dad and I began our failed—albeit noble—experiment. Looking back, it astounds us that we never once questioned the fundamental wisdom of what we were doing. But in this short, sorry life, one moment often leads to the next without time to entertain consequences. There seemed an inevitability in operation at the time, a passionate surging forth which no attempt at mere reason stood a chance against. Maybe all of our synapses weren't firing properly that day, or maybe something inside of us snapped. Whatever the reason, we forged ahead.

From the way Arlene and Rhonda were behaving, it was clear they would never consent to the group marriage idea that had occurred to us first. The very gathering of the tools—the saws, the screwdrivers, the staple gun—was surely our subliminal recognition that that scenario was not about to play itself out. To our unsettled minds, that left but one option: the scavenging of our wives' bodies and the bold reconstitution of what we liberated from those hallowed grounds into as near perfection as we could get on the blank canvas of Lorelei's body.

We began with the teeth. To our surprise, Lorelei resisted. But a small clamp at either corner of her jaws rendered her struggles pointless. Although our first extractions were bumbling and amateurish, before long we were uprooting her stubborn molars with all the é lan of any D.D.S. out there. When only gums remained, we found some cotton balls in the medicine cabinet to plug our ears with. Lorelei's gurgled screams were no joy to listen to, and we suspected that Arlene and Rhonda, once we began on them, would be no less merciless in their protests.

I hated what came next. Each of us, as you might imagine, was partial to his own wife's dentition, so we decided, after heated debate, to alternate extractions, taking the odd-numbered teeth from Arlene and the evens from Rhonda. To keep them in their proper sequence, and to counter our worries that teeth, like seedlings, might require immediate transplant to remain viable, we followed each tooth's removal with its immediate insertion into Lorelei's gums, tapping them in as gently as possible so as not to injure their roots. What I hated about all of this were the heartrending screams of my wife and mother. I wasn't prepared for the way their distant cries tore through my innards, making my brain beat with pain.

It grew worse when we began on the fingernails. Dad cursed me for a coward but I hung back and let him perform the slicing, and pliering, and supergluing on his own. I felt bruised and blistered everywhere inside.

Still shaken, I joined Dad in shaving Lorelei's head, removing her ears, and stitching Arlene's on. But when it came time to scalp my dear sweet Rhonda, I couldn't bring myself—in spite of my lust for her lovely blond hair—to help him grasp and guide the X-Acto knife and the scraping tools. Instead, I tried, over the static of my father's anger, to soothe Rhonda's torments. I assured her, though I'd begun to doubt it myself, that once she left her own body and moved into Lorelei's with Arlene, she'd come to appreciate the diligence with which we had harvested her hair and understand that the agonies we were putting her through were worth the final result. She did nothing but scream bloody murder and strain her abraded limbs against her bonds.

I wept openly then, while Dad bent, grim-faced, to his bloody task and pressed the blond skullcap down onto Lorelei's bare, glue-smeared scalp.

Next came the mammaries. There was little point in giving our lovely new bride long, tumbling blond tresses if what they tumbled down onto was a couple of flat nubs rather than the breathtaking swell of two hefty, kissable, lickable, squeezable, suckable breasts. Dad and I were used to that kind of pleasure, given the endowments of our old wives. But we found ourselves once again at loggerheads, and it was worse now because Dad had by this time lost all patience with me. Rhonda and Arlene both sported superb knockers, and we were not about to break up a set by taking one from each woman. Yet Lorelei barely had room on her chest for two decent-sized tits, let alone four. In the end we decided to fasten one pair to her front and another to her back. I lost the coin toss, but I don't think it's sour grapes to say that I got the better of the bargain, because our first mastectomy came off rather badly and in my opinion—You just keep still, Dad!—in my opinion, we botched Arlene's breasts badly. When it came to Rhonda, who was pleading like a little girl at this point, I was ready to refuse the carving knife again, but Dad jammed an awl into my left arm. Then he gave me a powerful talking to, really chewing me out good—"The next time it's your balls, boy!", that sort of thing. I know you meant it, Dad; just shut your yap. Anyway, partly because of what Dad said and partly because I wanted the job done right, I helped with the second operation, which I believe we carried out with a greater sense of professionalism and pride. What did I care about having to go behind our new woman's back to get to Rhonda's breasts, as long as they retained their full loveliness?

We were in the midst of the arduous task of making a vulval triptych across Lorelei's stretched inner thighs, parenthesizing Lorelei's pussy with the harvested quims of our wives, when there came a distant pounding at the door, and a trio of faces filling one windowpane briefly with ugliness, and then a loud, intrusive sound like crunching wood. One pair of arms grabbed us from behind and another handcuffed us, and the rest of the night was nothing but sirens and naked rides and cold baths and damp blankets and question after question after question. You know the rest. Aside from discounting our reincarnation story and sensationalizing out of all proportion what we did, the Bee and the Union did a fair job of reporting the truth.

What did we learn from all this?

We learned that happiness can't be forced. It's not something that yields to a desperate scheme and a crosscut saw. It's not something you can construct. We tried to piece it together bit by bit and we failed. Those of you out there whose minds may be starting to warp the same way ours did, take my advice and forget it. If kind words and gentle persuasion don't get you what you want, then cheese graters and electric drills and large knives with serrated edges aren't going to do it, either. We tried. We failed. And we're going to pay for it. Next time, whoever's body we end up in, we're not even going to think about doing anything like this again.

At least I won't.

Dad tells me he's planning to major in pre-med.


The Harrow: Original Works of Fantasy and Horror. ISSN: 1528-4271
The Harrow is published by THE HARROW PRESSSM

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