@$—>— Spy vs. Spy —<—$@
By Mike Meginnis and Gina Abelkop
m: You are seated on a park bench. It is a nice day; the air smells clean; there is a cool breeze. A little girl is climbing a tree to take down her kite, which is stuck in the leaves. An old woman walks her Dachshund puppy through the grass, oblivious to or ignoring the dog droppings that gather on the soles of her shoes. Someone, somewhere, throws a frisbee. You watch it all through the eyeholes in your newspaper. You cut these yourself, through all of the pages, so that they line up very nicely. You are waiting for a man who is a spy, just like you are a spy. You are trying to remember the code words he will say when he comes. When he says the code words, if you have remembered them by then, you will pass him the documents.
g: the documents are written in blood, and because i dropped them by mistake, also smeared in the dachshund's shit. i put them under the bench so i won't have to smell them. the first word that comes to me as i try to remember his code is "filly."
m: If a man sits down beside you and opens his newspaper and there are eyeholes cut in the newspaper, through all its pages, even the want ads and the comics, and if he says filly, then maybe that will mean or at least suggest that possibly that was the code word, at which point you can, if you so choose, give him the documents. But he isn't here yet. It's you and you alone. (And all the people in the park, but none of them are spooks, which means that none of them are your friends or even your enemies.) Your trench coat feels excessive in this weather, but how would you obscure your face if not for the collar?
g: i begin to feel as if i've never seen a man before. i look around and all the people in the park seem female, but i don't remember what differentiates a female from a male. i begin to feel scared. does it mean that i will recognize my spy contact by his difference from the rest of the creatures in the park? i pull my trench coat tighter around me which makes the sweat press against me like slime.
m: A man is a three-legged animal with a head like a dog's head, you have read. Think Anubis. But he may come disguised as a woman. So perhaps you should be looking out for a dog-headed man with a womanly wig who sits down beside you, looks out at the world through the eyeholes in his newspaper, and says "Filly," his breath all sour with the scent of carrion birds who were themselves raised on a diet of carrion birds. You may leave the bench if you want. You may stay and wait to give away the documents. Your phone is off because it is a spy thing to turn your phone off when you go outside the home, to be more quiet and stealthy.
g: i look at my phone and all of a sudden it looks like a toy phone, something a barbie doll would carry. i shake it and some jelly beans fall out; my daughter must have switched phones with me when i wasn't looking. i have no way of contacting anyone. i don't see any dog-headed bewigged anubian creatures, though the little girl i saw when i first walked in looks like she's growing fins. i think i ate something strange. i fold my newspaper and use it to wrap up the shitty documents, and put them in my purse. i look right, then left, so i can choose which direction to go in. i choose left because it is the opposite direction of the finned little girl, who also looks like my daughter.
m: Left is the path deeper into the park, where it is mostly daylight out but not always and raccoons watch everything you do, so that people here always feel watched even if they aren't paranoid by trade, which you are. And sure enough, you feel those eyes. Not to mention the trail of bad smell the shitty documents is leaving. This was supposed to be a simple job. If Agent 000000 had shown up (your contact, the mythical man with the potential dog head) then everything would be simple. Now you are here and it is not simple because technically you are going rogue by refusing to participate in the document drop. (You have gone rogue often. It usually works out for the best.) West is the way you are walking. North or south will lead you off the path, into the thick of it. East is where you came from.
g: i see the eyes and understand intellectually that they belong to raccoons, but emotionally they really feel more like rabbits, which is to say, accusatory. my father kept rabbits in a small, smelly cage when i was a child so they always make me feel guilty. i choose south because i remember that mexico is south, and maybe if i walk for long enough i will get there, and then i will know where i am. i eat a few of the jelly beans that are inside my toy phone. my favorite flavor is dark blue.
m: You say "father" and yet that is a word for a man. Was your father a man? Did he have a dog's head like they say? ... You are walking south, deep into the thick of the park's forest, increasingly painted by shadows. There is a rustling in the trees above you. Hopefully this is still the raccoons. ... You enjoy an invisible-ink-flavored jelly bean.
g: i have to sit down to think about what "father" means. i sit down on a fallen tree which is scratchy and damp, covered in moss which i swear is glittering faintly. i close my eyes and picture my father and i see a body which is tall and has hair peeking out from its collar, but there is only a blank space where there should be a head.
m: You remember the first day your father took you out on a spy mission. It was your job to switch the diamond for the fake (which was made out of transparent coal) while he distracted all the duchesses and their little dogs too. But you kept the fake for yourself and gave your father the real diamond, which your father was supposed to give to the king of the park, in exchange for a favor.
g: i remember my father being sentenced to death by boot, which meant that he was tied to the ground while a giant boot stomped down on him repeatedly until he was smashed as a bug under foot. he was sentenced to this death because of me, because i didn't leave the fake diamond and his treachery was found out. before he died he gave me the real diamond to deliver to the king of the park, who was the one who hired him for that deadly mission. after watching my father die i went home and performed a tiny surgery, sliding the fake diamond under the skin of my armpit and sewing it back up. when i lift my left arm there is a small lump that my doctors always think is cancer. i never gave the king of the park the real diamond- he doesn't deserve it.
m: Have you considered the possibility that this entire mission was a ruse instigated by the king of the park? You are, after all, now lost (I didn't want to say anything before, but it's true, you are completely lost) in his domain, all alone, watched over by his spying raccoons and diurnal owls and other peeping woodland creatures, which means that at any moment the king of the park could find you, assuming he has any interest in doing so, for instance because of rumors concerning your 'pit diamond.
g: i start to hyperventilate when it occurs to me that the king of the park might be after me. he is vengeful and angry, and he wants blood. i pass out and when i come to i am laying under a tree that flickers and bursts- first it's there, then it's not there, then it's on fire, then it's not. the rest of the forest still looks normal, which is to say, it's still glittering, very softly. my jelly bean phone is gone, and so is my purse, but i am clutching the shitty documents to my chest. i touch my left armpit and the lump is still there. it has begun to glow, so that my skin takes on a warm red sheen.
m: It would be just like the king of the park to do all of the things you just said, as well as other, secret things you haven't noticed yet but surely will in days to come. (For instance, there is always the possibility that he surgically removed the diamond, and then replaced it with something else like a fish head or a snow globe, which your body is currently rejecting, thus the warm red sheen of your skin. But he might not have done that at all, indeed might not even know about the 'pit diamond.) It occurs to you for the first time to read the shitty documents, but they are all in code, which you might be able to crack without much effort if it weren't for the distracting tree. Somewhere in the distance another tree becomes distracting: flickers, burns. There may be no connection to your tree at all. Or it might all be intimately connected, indeed monocausal. The trees might be spies who work for one spymaster. Say, for instance, the king of the park. Or your father. (From beyond the grave, I suppose.)
g: i reach out to touch the flickering tree which i awoke under and as it touches my right hand words begin to crawl along my skin like ants. the words say "touch me" over and over and over again. i touch them with my left hand and my left hand begins to flicker, just like the tree. i have found a way to be invisible, but it will take a twister-trick to turn my entire body invisible. i manage to turn most of my left side invisible, so one half of me walks through the woods cautiously. the raccoons still watch with their accusing rabbit eyes. i find a spot near a river that is illuminated by the moon- it must be nighttime now. i pull out the documents and stare at the scrawled blood until words begin to jump out at me from the jumble. i see the words "razor," "mucus" and "woman."
m: Do you want to know what it means? (I wouldn't.) (I would be very afraid.)
g: i want to know what it means because it is now dark and there is no one else to take care of my daughter; i imagine her alone at home scared and hungry and begin to panic.
m: What it means is there are some women with too much mucus in them. There is a certain procedure for pulling the mucus out through the nose (one nostril at a time) and trimming it with a razor. This certain procedure is a closely guarded state secret because of the military advantages of having women with the right amount of mucus.
g: this sends torrential shivers through me. i know what having the "right" kind of mucus means- it means you can grown children anywhere in your body, not just your womb. you could be pregnant with a child in your arm, in your neck, in your face. you could be pregnant with ten children at once. children grown outside the womb can be harvested in a matter of weeks, and grow to full size in the course of a month. these mucus-bred children are perfect for turning into disposable soldiers for the king of the forest, who sends them on dangerous missions for the sport of it. because of a mysterious childhood trauma, death is the only thing that makes him laugh. once upon a time people used to volunteer to die for his amusement, but that was when he was young and handsome. now he is decrepit and old, covered in angry boils. i begin to wonder if i am one of the women with the right amount of mucus, and become aware that i can't remember if i bore my daughter from my uterus or from some other organ. she is surprisingly mature-looking for an infant.
m: When last you read aloud to your daughter, it was from one of the Madeline books. She quickly lost interest. "I prefer," she said, "Dostoyevsky," and handed you a much-dog-eared copy of The Brothers Karamazov. You did your best to make it fun for both of you. She asked you not to do any silly voices.
g: but silly voices are my favorite. i do silly voices as often as i can. i begin to talk to the raccoons in a donald duck voice. "have you seen the king?" i ask them. "i'd really like to have a word with him." the raccoons laugh at me. i get the feeling they've seen the king but don't want to tell me about it. or maybe they just like my donald duck voice.
m: When you asked your daughter what The Brothers Karamazov was supposed to be about anyway she laughed at you and showed you her ass. This is her one childish vice: whenever she disapproves of you, she shows you her ass. She disapproves of you often. Sometimes you open the cupboard looking for chocolates, only to find her pale white ass staring back at you accusingly. Sometimes when you are on a mission and you forget the code word she sends you a picture on your jelly bean phone -- a picture of her ass. She never tires of the game. The king of the park seems much the same. You should try to produce too much mucus. You should begin right away.
g: i climb into the river, which is full of slimy wish sliding against me. i lay down in the water and tense all my muscles until mucus begins to squeeze out of my pores in thick, tumescent gobs. i think of my daughter with her ridiculous ass and start to laugh. the laughter makes my mucus come faster, and soon i am wrapped in a cocoon of mucus.
g: "wish" should be "fish"
Bio: Gina Abelkop lives in northern California with a pug named Ava. Her first book, Darling Beastlettes, is a wayward affair out now from apostrophe books. Visit her online at themoonstop.blogspot.com