by Alicia Gifford Read author interview June 15, 2008
Maybelline sat on the sofa Saturday night smoking her parents’ bong and watching a Golden Girls marathon, thinking how she’d shoot herself in the head when she turned forty. It was prom night but who wanted to go to some lame-ass prom with the jerks at her school anyway? She was working on a jar of chunky peanut butter into which she’d mixed half a bag of chocolate chips, digging her claw straight into it and letting globs drip onto her yellow Hello Kitty t-shirt.
A knock at the door made her jump. She was home alone this weekend as her parents were away at Burning Man, and she got totally paranoid. She tiptoed to the kitchen where she could see the front door and it was a tiny man, no bigger than a toddler.
She smacked her head a few times, looked again, and there he was, hopping from one foot to the other like he had to go to the bathroom. He knocked again, and she heard a little voice say, Please help me.
She figured something that small probably couldn’t hurt her and she wasn’t anything if she wasn’t curious, so she opened the door and sure enough it was a little man wearing a white, frilly shirt, tight black pants, and stack-heeled boots, like a little flamenco dancer. He had a round, bald head like the fetuses she saw in pro-life material at church, and red eyes, glowing and depthless.
“Hola,” he said. “Please, I’m in some awful trouble. I’m almost out of blork.”
Maybelline considered slamming the door but there was something sadly appealing about the little guy. “What are you a midget?”
“I am Cando from another culture out of this solar system and my transport vehicle has failed. I am due in Spain and I need blork.”
She looked around outside to see if he’d come by car or tricycle or what but there was nothing, only the amber streetlights and the rustling trees blown by a damp wind that whistled around the dark houses on Mulberry Lane. She wondered if Sassy Johnson and her crew were behind this. They tortured Maybelline because of her deformity, called her Lobster Girl, but Sassy didn’t have this much imagination. Besides, Sassy was at the prom right now, dancing with Chip Turnblow to some corny ballad with the smell of gardenias up her surgically upturned nose.
“I’m very familiar with your culture,” the little creature said. “I’m a Human Being specialist where I come from.”
“You’re from outer space?”
Maybelline hallucinated once after sampling some of her parents’ mushrooms and she wondered if she could be having some kind of a flashback. She reached out to touch the little guy and he began to glow with an opalescent sheen. He had like, teeth, but they were fused solid like a cuttlebone and emitted a phosphorescent glow. When he talked, his mouth moved out of synch, like a badly dubbed movie.
“Shit,” she said, rubbing her eyes.
“What’s wrong with your hands?” he asked then, staring at her claws.
“It’s a birth defect, Barty.”
“Cando is my appellation.” He kept staring, moving his bulbous head as he looked at one, then the other. “I’ve been studying the human race for some time and I’ve never seen anything like this.” He kept staring like everyone does, first time they see her. She was used to it from people but not from a spook-ugly freak from outer space.
“I can make the blork I need with a few household items. Some bleach, chemical fertilizer and any kind of alcoholic beverage. I can extract the necessary atomic assemblies and be on my way. Did your mother have relations with Homarus americanus?”
“Maine lobster. I’m just curious.”
“That’s it, Chucky.” She grabbed the little creature with her pinchers and wrung his neck until it was spiraled like bread dough, her own face screwed up with rage. He was weak and evidently boneless as she was able to tie him in knots, her actions fueled with thoughts of Sassy Johnson and the constant teasing and harassment all her life.
At first he made weak protestations like, Stop that, and, You’re under arrest, but the tighter she twisted his rubbery body the less noise he made and then the light went out of his eyes leaving two black holes. He looked like the braided Armenian cheese her mother liked to snack on. She slumped against the wall, queasy, wondering what to do with his terrible carcass.
She bagged it in a Hefty sack and carried it out to the backyard to bury it, hating herself more than ever. She might be a freak of nature but she’d never killed anything in her life—maybe the occasional fly—not that many. She shooed them outside rather than kill them because she abhorred violence and cruelty (even though she sometimes fantasized about slitting Sassy’s throat with a butcher knife, a long, slow slice, with maybe her head rolling off). What has she done? She sat on his corpse within the bag and stared at her horrible claws. They’d taught her to be tough, but now, she broke, weeping passionately, not just for the slain little man she sat on, but also for manicures, piano lessons, turquoise rings and the simple act of holding hands.
Then she felt her seat wiggling underneath her. She jumped up and ripped the bag open and sure enough, the glow was back in his eyes and he was mumbling something about adolescent hominids.
“Welcome back!” she said, her tear-streaked face beaming. “I mean it! I felt terrible when I thought you were dead.”
“You don’t have the means to kill me,” he said, unknotting himself. “Now. About that blork.”
She helped him gather the things he needed and watched as he synthesized clear, pink goo that he packed into metallic capsules. When he was done, he did a quick flamenco, clacking his heels while she clapped her claws and yelled,”Olé!” They walked outside and there, by the porch, was an object that looked like a giant can of tomatoes with the label peeled off.
“This is my vehicle.” He inserted one of the metal capsules into a slot in the can and it began to hum and spark. He gave a little bow. “Next stop: Andalusia. Is there anything I can do for you before I leave?”
She held out her pincers.
“No can do,” Cando said. “Lo siento.”
Maybelline smiled sadly and kissed the malleable creature, leaving an impression of her lips on his soft forehead. He compressed himself into his can and, as he sped away into the night, she lifted her claws and clicked them after him, like castanets.
–“Lobster Girl,” in a slightly different form, was originally published in Opium. It appears here by permission of the author.
About the Author:
Alicia Gifford writes fiction as hard and as fast as she can. Her work is published or forthcoming in a number of places including Narrative Magazine, Confrontation, McSweeney's Internet Tendency, The Barcelona Review, Mississippi Review Web, NFG Magazine and other journals. She hopes to have a collection of her short stories ready very, very soon. Contact her here.
About the Artist:
Robinson Accola creates artwork for SmokeLong Quarterly as needed.