To prove that I still like you, even though I sometimes let these double up, here's an exclusive something or other, a piece of writing that is, an experiment in letting Emma narrate. You remember Emma, maybe? She's Maisie's mother who lives in the attic.
He thinks I don't know he isn't a doctor. I know. Years ago I didn't, but he didn't correct me then. By the time he started, I was used to it. Now he says, "I'm not a doctor, Emma," and I say, "I know." It's his own fault if he doesn't like being called that. He shouldn't act like a doctor. And he shouldn't have named the baby without asking me first. Margaret. That is an old lady's name. Maggie. That is a dog's name. Daisy? Peggy? Awful. I told him I wanted the baby to be named something totally different but it was too late. There was the birth certificate. I would have named her Bella.
I like the Doctor. I wish he hadn't named the baby Margaret, but whatever. He brings me breakfast every morning. She brings me dinner. When she says, "He's not a doctor," I laugh, because she sounds just like him, telling me things I already know like they are big news. "He's not your father either, but you call him Dad," I say.
"He's kind of my father," she says.
"Then he's kind of a doctor. He acts like a doctor." She rolls her eyes.
Sometimes she asks if I want to go downstairs. "Why, what's downstairs?" I ask. "Everything that isn't in this room," she says. That's true, but everything that isn't where you are is always somewhere else. It will be equally true if I go downstairs. Everything I like is here. I see her and the Doctor every day.
"Do you love me?" she sometimes asks. "Of course I do," I say. Then she asks, "Do you love him?" "Of course I do," I say. I think she doesn't like that answer. But why wouldn't I love him? I'm used to him, and he's nice to me. He's nicer to me than she is, because he doesn't pester me, which she does all the time. He also used to pester me all the time, coming in with a notebook and asking me how I felt and what I was thinking about and writing it down, but anything I said was OK with him, he was just curious. Maisie wants a specific thing. She wants me to be angry, but I don't know why.
"I used to be angry all the time," I tell her. "I would get so angry I couldn't sleep. Why would I want to feel that way again?"
Before I lived here I was married, and my husband was fucking my friend Stephanie, though I didn't know it for a long time. He got us both pregnant, but my baby died and hers lived, so he divorced me to marry her. He said that was the right thing to do. I smashed all the windows in his car with an aluminum baseball bat. I cried all the time then too. Now I never cry, and I'm never angry, except maybe for a very little while. Why does Maisie think the other way is better?
"Look," she says. "Do you know what he did to you?"
I know that when I was sick I held one of his hands in both of mine and he put his other hand on my forehead. I asked, "Doctor, am I going to die?" and he patted my hands and said of course I wasn't. "You have a fever. I've given you something for it. You'll feel better in a few minutes." He didn't tell me he wasn't a doctor. The next time he put his hand on my forehead I kissed the inside of his wrist.
"Look," says Maisie. "The front of your brain is the part that thinks. The middle of your brain is the part that has feelings." She pokes her own head while she says these things, as if I don't know front from middle. I am not as stupid as she thinks. "He cut your brain in half so you can't have feelings the way you used to. He mutilated you with an ice pick."
I laugh, because how can she expect me to get mad about losing the part of my brain that gets mad?
When I kissed his wrist the Doctor said, "Not me, Emma." I asked him why not, because he was right there and I liked it when he touched me. Having a fever always makes me horny. "I have a man for you," he said. That was Edward and he kept me busy, all right. I liked him because he just fucked me and didn't talk. My husband had talked a lot and not fucked me much, because of Stephanie. So I liked Edward. After we did it sometimes he would cry into my neck or my breasts. Then he would fall asleep still on top of me. One of those times was Maisie.
Really the Doctor is her father, because all of that was his idea. He put me and Edward together, and he delivered her, and he gave her that stupid name, but whatever. All Edward did was come inside me and cry -- which was still better than my husband, who only wanted to fuck when he was drunk or when I yelled at him that he didn't love me anymore so he'd fuck me like that proved something. Edward wanted it all the time. He liked the fucking but I think he also liked the crying and sleeping afterward. Anyway if that meant love he loved me a lot more than my husband did. When our baby died he said, "Maybe it's better this way, Emma." I smashed all the windows in his car. It felt so good it scared me. I'm never scared now.
Edward never liked Maisie. He would try to pull her off me while she was nursing. I had to kick him sometimes. The Doctor likes her. She used to like him too, when she was little and he started taking her places like the park. She always called him Dad. She never called Edward that, and now she doesn't even remember him. That means she doesn't remember the time he tried to kill her. That was right before he left, when she was two. He held a pillow over her face and I had to choke him to get him to let go. "Oh dear," said the Doctor, when I told him, and shone a flashlight in her eyes one at a time. We moved to the attic after that, and I never saw Edward again.
"Anyway, I've seen the rest of the house," I tell her, because I walked up from the basement that time we moved, Maisie and me. The rest of the house is dark and wallpapered. Photographs hang on the walls. The Doctor showed me which were his mother and father. I don't need to see any of it again, particularly. I'm happy here, but Maisie always gets angry when I tell her so. She says I only think I'm happy. Then she gets angry that I laugh at her.
But it's hard to be her age, I remember that. I fell in love for the first time when I was fifteen, and I used to fight with my mother all the time. Maisie and I aren't fighting now, but she would like to. Probably that's the real reason she wants me to be angry, so we can fight. She doesn't know that it wouldn't make her feel better anyway. "Are you in love?" I ask, and she yells, "What?"
"Are you in love? Is that what's bothering you?" Love used to make me angry too. When I think about smashing the windows in Todd's car, I don't even remember it anymore like it's me doing it. I remember it like I'm watching it on TV. I can imagine Maisie doing something like that too.
"Do you have a boyfriend?" I ask. She says not really. "What is not-really's name?"
"Sean. He's gross. No, it's not even that he's gross, it's that he doesn't realize it and it makes you embarrassed for him. Like if he'd just ask me to give him a handjob, we could all get on with our lives."
I laugh hard. The Doctor makes me laugh like this sometimes too, when he uses his lecturing voice. She is a lot like him, though they talk about different things. "You might as well just give him a handjob."
"Bring him here, I'll give him a handjob." I'm kidding, because that would never happen, but if he were here and asked me I would do it. I like cock. It's the one thing I really miss, living here. I gave Todd a handjob once while he was driving, which is illegal. I felt very daring, but then when Stephanie and the baby and the divorce happened it turned out I was pretty much like everyone else, because I pretty much did what any other person would have done, which was get drunk a lot and cry a lot and find some other men to fuck. I don't miss drinking or crying but I do miss fucking. Maisie knows that. She can't blame me for talking about it, especially if she's the one who brings it up.
* * *
You know, speaking of people who do awful things to other people, and let's please do, I want to talk about Gilles de Rais aka "That fifteenth-century French nobleman who used to sexually assault children and then murder them for lols" and YES I know his name off the top of my head. Rather, let's not talk about him, let's talk about those people who answer the OkCupid question "Do you want your partner to be kinkier than you?" with "Not possible." First of all, once again, thank you, sexual revolution, for allowing me to be born into a world in which the pursuit of sexual novelty is a highly publicized competition and liking the part of sex that consists of actually having sex makes me "vanilla." But more to the point, if it's really not possible for someone to be kinkier than you, I am definitely not dating you and it's not because I'm vanilla but because you should be in prison. This is where Gilles de Rais figures in. He might have had trouble finding a date kinkier than himself. I'm going to take a wild leap here, however, and assume that you, OkCupid guy, just think it would be cool to do two chicks at once.
Now, these aren't chicks, they're hens. It's a hen party!
Don't worry, though, I'm pretty sure that even in my dream nothing bad was actually happening to a chicken. Proper English usage is very important to me, as you know, but I would put it aside in an instant to help out a chicken in distress.