The Spirit of Halloween: Post-Nuclear Family Edition
She wears her martini-patterned Goodwill dress, costume pearls, a wig
with a mutant infant sprouting from the top. He Spirit-gums plastic
wounds up and down his arms, affixes a mask of melted features. They
swath their bodies in caution tape, sip gin and tonics, listen to
Sinatra. They are zombie Cleavers, Barbie and Ken Easy-bake ovened,
newly engaged, ready to party.
"It's a Joy Division kind of night," he says in the car, popping in the
"Why don't you ask me what I'd like, for a change?" she snaps,
She is not becoming her mother, nodding to her father's Zeppelin and
Dylan, her afternoons bent over a vacuum. Soon she will exhume her
guitar from the closet, write new lyrics on her silver laptop, scrawl
back to Bikini Kill roots. And he's not his father lecturing her on
Pynchon, moving them for another academic job, interrupting her stories
to tell them himself or to rant about the climate change deniers, how
you can't argue with people who won't believe the evidence.
She works part-time for a progressive organization. Their rooms are
Archie McPhee, their nights early Death Cab, early del-Toro. Their
house is wood-floored with secret passage ways, would not morph into
something stock and safe, something from childhood while they sit on
their patio eating octopus or pork belly, waving off flies.
At the party their friends admire their costumes, reach up and touch
their snarling, big-toothed child. Later he will dream they have a real
baby, that he abandons it in a shopping mall, is filled with relief.
And she will dream the mutant has gnawed its way back into her body, a
deformed Athena, armed and pounding at her skull when she wakes.
Meagan Cass is the author of RANGE OF MOTION, a collection of stories. She teaches at the
University of Illinois Springfield.
Detail of photo on main page courtesy
of Gioia De Antoniis.
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