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Cymothoa Exigua

Story by Christopher Battle (Read author interview) June 15, 2007

I pray for Cymothoa exigua to come for my tongue.

Here time is not measured in days and weeks. It is measured in the compression waves through the steel girders above my house. The bridge up there, shivering, is the clock.

My house is one story, on a small plot. It is a dark and cluttered story. I can’t think because of the noise from the television. There’s so much inside.

I wrap rubber bands around the base of my tongue. It is swollen and purple, strangling at the top of my throat. My taste buds are rough like a topographical map. I can feel placeAn isopod menagerie. Name, if you can, five dreams weirder than that one.

An isopod coterie, an isopod abagerie, an isopod boulangerie, an isopod gerbiterrie, and dreams about contact paper.

How did you come to know cymothoa exigua?

A story about parasites on This American Life.

What do you miss about Texas?

Mexican food.

What’s going on at the Universitaet van Amsterdam, besides frequent trips to the red light district and to the local Starbucks hash bar?

Mostly string theory.

The titles of the stories in this issue wowed me and got me thinking about the value of the great title. What are some great titles—for novels, stories, movies, albums, CDs, and the like? And what is the worst title you’ve ever encountered?

Cannibal Women in the Avocado Jungle of Death is a pretty bad title. Or maybe it’s a good title. I’m not sure. I think that Gottes Werk & Teufels Beitrag is a very good translation of the title The Cider House Rules.s on them, through them.

Please come for my tongue.

I drink water constantly to keep my mouth moist, so it’ll be a nice home. I dream about an isopod menagerie, made of glass. My proxy tongue is there, quiet and resting, undisturbed by the slithering.

Please come. I’m hungry. I can’t speak. I’ve wasted so many words. Nothing new comes out of my mouth. Give me a new language. If I can articulate I can have. And the particles of want will feed you.

It’s not happiness, it’s transformation. When Cymothoa devours my tongue and settles in its place, there won’t be misspoken words anymore. My new tongue will have eyes and it will be very careful when it moves. Then I can leave what I’ve done behind.

The bridge is my clock. I’m waiting.

Take my tongue so that I can speak for the first time.

About the Author

Christopher Battle is from Texas but is currently working on a Masters at the Universitaet van Amsterdam. He’s had stories published in SmokeLong Quarterly, Storyglossia, edificeWRECKED, Thieves Jargon, and Outsider Ink.

This story appeared in Issue Seventeen of SmokeLong Quarterly.
SmokeLong Quarterly Issue Seventeen
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The SmokeLong Quarterly Comedy Prize 2021!

This competition is no longer accepting entries. The long- and shortlists have been published on the blog. The four winners of the competition will be featured in Issue 74 of SmokeLong Quarterly coming out near the end of December.