Every night, before I can get any sleep myself, I slip into the rooms of my children and slit their throats one at a time. I have it on good authority that we are living in one of the most dangerous times in history, and I can’t stand the thought of anyone else hurting them. Besides, I’m good at it. I never get caught.
I take the knife to a man every Friday to have it sharpened. It needs to cut them easily. I don’t think I could keep doing it if I had to put real muscle into sawing through their throats.
My wife says nothing. I asked for her tongue many years ago as an anniversary present. We’d been fighting so much since the kids came along. She said yes, okay. Now she says nothing. She wrapped her tongue in cellophane and put it in a small jewelry box. Later I put it in a jar with some chemicals, but they were the wrong chemicals. Her tongue dissolved. She doesn’t seem to miss it. I would have liked to look at it every once in awhile.
Something is wrong with my penis. I look at it in the morning when yellow water squirts out and it’s a pale shade of blue, like it hasn’t been breathing during the night. My wife sleeps through the night every night, or at least that’s what she used to tell me. Sometimes I wake up during the night because I think I hear my penis snoring.
The doctor says my penis is normal, but he never sees it first thing in the morning. It was blue, I tell him. He smiles and asks does it still work. I don’t know, I say. Yellow water still squirts out. It’s like a yellow water machine. But nobody needs my yellow water.
The knife sharpener asks if I’m happy with his service. I’m startled, so I blurt out, Thank you for your service. He tells me that’s not what he means. Oh, I say. I tell him that every night I slit my children’s throats with this knife, and they barely wake up. It goes in so smooth they think it’s a dream. Works like a charm, I say. Now I’m rambling. He asks for the People magazine rolled up under my armpit and holds it with two fingers. He cuts it clean in half, right through the people on the cover.
Wait, I think. I’m driving home and I do some good thinking when I’m driving home. Wait, I think, if I get my knife sharpened too much, won’t it disappear? Isn’t the knife sharpener taking particles away every time? You can’t sharpen something without part of it going away. Maybe I need to look into getting a back-up knife.
I climb into bed. It’s dark but I can feel the warm blood on my neck. I lean over my children and the blood from their necks sprays up onto my neck. I try to lie on my back until the blood dries. In the morning I shower first, before my wife wakes up.
Lately my boss has been combing my hair over my lunch break. I have nice hair, long hair. It was a gift from my mother. My father was bald, and now he’s a person who wears a hat everywhere. One day my boss came into my office on the 39th floor with a black plastic comb. He held the comb under his nose like a moustache and smiled. I swiveled around in my ergonomic chair and looked out the window at the men standing on I-beams being lifted into the air by a crane. My boss locked the door and walked up behind my chair. He rested his pelvis against the chair and combed my hair straight back, gently and evenly.
Today the crane fell over and smashed an empty school bus that was parked next to our building. My boss and I watched it fall as he combed my hair. It smashed some other stuff too. People.
I’ve always believed in the sanctity of a well organized garage. My garage is exceptionally organized. All of the sports balls are on their own shelf, but sometimes they do roll off. Whichever ball rolls off I kick as hard as I can at the neighbor’s house across the street. I’ve broken all of their windows at least once this year. They collect the balls and leave them in a laundry basket on our porch while we’re on vacation. They’re under the impression that they are killing me with kindness.
The garage light burned out. The garage door lowers and I can feel myself breathing as I stand in front of the still hot hood of my car. No balls have fallen today. What if I never buy another light bulb? What if I start measuring time in the number of dark rooms in my house?
After my wife and I eat tongue for dinner I ask her where the kids are. She walks to the front window and points across the street. They’re at a sleepover. We play Scrabble for six hours. My wife always wins because she’s been saving up her words. When she goes to sleep I take off my shirt and put on my sleep pants, but I know I won’t be able to sleep.
The neighbor’s back door is unlocked, so I sneak in and find the door to the basement. I slit my children’s throats and tiptoe back upstairs. The neighbors keep unpasteurized whole milk in their fridge. I put my lips all the way around the top of the glass bottle, but I don’t drink.
The boss and I chit chat as he combs my hair. There’s no crane to look at, just a half-finished skyscraper, so we have to talk. He asks about my penis. I tell him it’s fine. He says his brother in law had a second penis installed. I ask him where, and he tells me in the backyard near the rose bushes.
It’s my fortieth birthday so I stay up late and slit my own throat. The knife is so small now and the blood makes the handle slippery. It drops down my throat into my intestines. I wonder if it’ll come out of my penis in a few days, like a kidney stone. In the morning red water comes out of my blue penis. The kids survived the night and now they’re acting like a bunch of assholes. Happy birthday to me.
On the way home there’s no traffic. It’s a miracle. I go 100 miles per hour. There’s an old woman doing tai-chi in the middle of the northbound lane. I know about tai-chi because work sent me to China last year to supervise the opening of a new factory. I ate many special dishes. I walked up and down the assembly floor, nodding and making the workers feel seen. I saw people in the park moving like slow statues.
I swerve to avoid the old lady doing tai-chi and flip my car. The windshield detaches and slides into the car. It takes my scalp clean off.
An hour later I step out of the cab and slam the door loud enough to be heard from inside the house. I gave the cab driver a 20 dollar tip before we went anywhere to keep him from saying anything about my missing scalp. It feels like the wind is blowing on top of my brain, but how would I know what that feels like?
My wife tells me she’s cooking tongue for dinner again. She’s bought herself a new tongue, or at least that’s what she tells me. Maybe there’s someone else, and gifts. Maybe I should have asked for her whole head that anniversary.
The kids are at another sleepover. What’s with sleepovers? You can’t just decide you’re enjoying yourself because you’re sleeping across the street from where you normally sleep. That’s not how it works. You take your dreams with you. You can’t escape your dreams sleeping in a musty basement in a sleeping bag next to the neighbor’s mouth-breathing children.
The tiny knife is still inside me. It’s hurting me somewhere near my belly button. I dig through the coat closet to find a winter hat. I don’t want the wind to blow on my brain anymore. I don’t want wind to blow. I don’t want to feel myself breathing. I didn’t eat any of the tongue on my plate for dinner.
My wife is talking in her sleep. Full sentences. I stand at the edge of the bed in the dark and try not to touch my belly button. I wish I could make yellow water but I haven’t had anything to drink all day. I walk down the hallway to the rooms of my children. If I had my knife I would stab it into their mattresses, into their pillows.
I go outside and gather the hose under my arm. I take it to the garage and insert it into the gas tank of my car. I suck on the other end and swallow some gas. Yellow water. Yellow gas. The gas is coming out fast and I stick the end of the hose in an empty kitty litter bucket. The kitty is dead. Every morning I run over it when I back out of the driveway. The bucket fills all the way up and I toss the still gushing hose into the front lawn.
I stare at the kitty litter bucket on the floor of the well organized garage. I tap it with my shoe and watch the ripples swim toward the edge. Ripples swim? I decide ripples swim. I poke around in my belly button hole and think hard. If I can remember which drawer we keep the matches in, maybe I can still get a good night’s sleep.
David Henson's work has previously appeared in Fluland, Big Bridge, and recently won the 2017 So Say We All Literary Prize in Fiction and the 2016 Problem House Press short story contest. He writes and records music under the name Shadows on a River, which can be heard at shadowsonariver.bandcamp.com and tweets @davidbhenson