The January Editor's Pick Writer is Mike Goddard
Please feel free to email Mike at: email@example.com
by Mike Goddard
Not that it should matter and I mention it merely in passing, but due to being caught-up in a freak industrial accident four summers ago, I’ve developed a second mouth directly below my first.
With both mouths now wedged into such close proximity, I’ve been forced to grow a figure-of-eight pencil-moustache which accentuates the second orifice; effectively highlighting it in inky stubble.
Unfortunately, I’d been at the manager’s stag-do the night before the accident and, although being tee-total, I somehow tested positive for laudanum. Of course that meant I couldn't cash in on any large settlement; but I still sued for enough to pay off my mortgage.
Back when I only had one mouth, I’d taken to hanging out at the local garden centre, never realizing it would be where I’d meet a willing wife. But since commenting on Maria’s obscenely chomp-able pumpkin at the centre’s annual vegetable show, we’d become besotted with each other.
Sublime courting, a modest marriage, and a delightful son followed…then the unfortunate accident at the Leighman Brothers Power Plant.
At first we found my mutation fun; I was able to kiss Maria’s lips and her neck both at once if I strained, and at the risk of heaping on the sexual gruesomeness, two tongues and four lips does wonders for foreplay. “It’s divine,” Maria would tell me, “like sitting on a rampant octopus.”
But that affection only came behind closed doors, when the sun had gone down. In public, around other people, Maria was not as delighted with my deformity. She wanted me to stay hidden; sequestered. And she wasn’t the only one who felt that way.
I’ve always campaigned for equality and inclusion—an end to discrimination on arbitrary grounds. In short, I was not about to hide my face…and this was always going to present challenges. One by one, these challenges robbed me of my freedom.
First to go was my much needed outlet at the garden centre. The manager had asked me to stop my browsing. I said that was quite insulting. He’d answered that was unintentional but unavoidable—that I was scaring his customers away. When I got home and explained what had happened to Maria, she didn’t offer consolation—she just nodded in the weary manner she had affected as of late.
Today is our anniversary and I suggest we take a trip to the zoo. Bravely, Maria agrees. Traipsing around the zoo, each supporting a dead arm of the rotting cadaver that had once been our love, I can’t help but feel our time is running out. As if on standby, disaster strikes when we pass the sloth enclosure and one beast clocks me, then stares wide-eyed and transfixed.
This is a sensitive situation and I don’t want to distress the poor creature. I try to maintain soft eye contact and emit petting noises while stealthily edging away. And then I realise this is the wrong tactic. With all the pent up sadness of lonesome captivity mixed with the terror of seeing my face, the sloth falls from its branch and begins wailing.
A small crowd gathers, and a concerned human voice wafts into my ear, “Sir, would you mind stepping away, your extra mouth’s distressing Maria.”
“Maria?” I say, looking at my wife, feeling perplexed. “No, this is Maria.”
“She’s the zoo sloth, sir. That’s her name, Maria. The one you’re currently traumatizing.”
A deluge of voices begin hinting I should leave and I am reminded why I rejected corrective surgery on my mouth—not to petrify animals you understand; but to stir up the crowd of intolerance and to fight for my rights. Unfortunately, I can not make a stand now, owing to the overwrought sloth.
I place a hand over my lower mouth and gently squeeze my way through the crowd, who I hear buzzing their usual guttural amusement mingling with my wife’s sad breaths. I can feel their caustic vanity burning into my warped and twisted, bastard body, as the plaintive boo-hoo-ing of that blubbering sloth adds melancholy to a soundtrack already smoldering with pathos.
I squeeze Maria’s hand and she pulls it away—but follows me out of duty and we head towards the Zooper Zebra Café for an Americano with hazelnut syrup. Inevitably, Maria begins explaining why our couplet doesn’t work again whilst making me the gift of real tears.
I want to take her seriously, honestly I do, but I’m starving and this cookie’s so delicious. I hold her gaze and pout concern while surreptitiously draining the flavor with my other mouth.
“You’re still eating, you jerk!”
“No I’m not; I’m paying a—” and we watch a large biscuit crumb dive from my extra food-hole and land inside her mocha.
“Super—having two mouths just isn’t enough; you need to cultivate poor table manners to guarantee absolute negative attention.”
“You’re dumping me, at least you could allow—” a rigid claw landing on my shoulder interrupts me; it’s attached to a stocky adolescent in an ill-fitting monkey costume.
“Oi,” he says meanly.
The Monkey falters, apparently losing his momentum. But then he puffs back up and says, “Don’t try that amiable mesmerizing hokum in public; you’re scaring people.”
“I beg your pardon, Monkey-Man,” I say, rising out of my chair with outrage: a bit of disability indignation, just the prescription I need to alleviate some strife.
But The Monkey says, “Now why the gallivanting fuck might you be standing, you two-mouthed prick?”
“Listen, you Ape,” I scream in stereo as I raised my fists, “my feelings are at stake!”
My final memory of the exchange is a worn-out looking Maria jumping out of her chair and left-hooking me unexpectedly in the jaw. Even my own wife wants to punch me.
I come to and a policeman has me pinioned against the bricks and is peering earnestly into my face; evidently I’ve become delirious and vomited against the wall…after generating some sort of sorry fracas.
“You’re not a maniac, are you?”
“No sir,” I inform him.
“Why did you attack that youth?”
“I didn’t...maybe my wife did.”
“Where’s the meth?”
“Where’s the angel dust?”
“Are angels dusty?” I ask, flummoxed.
“Sir,” he says gleefully while snapping on two sheer surgical gloves, “I’m going to have to run a finger through your mouth…both of them.”
And so I spend a night in jail before charges are dropped for lack of evidence.
Fifteen bitter years have passed and Maria is long gone, taking our son with her. I am alone in the quiet village. I never intended to rub my family’s face in my political decisions. I’ve just latched on to this opportunity presented by fate to challenge society’s vanity which is good for my pride. And if that discrimination comes from my loved-ones, then I’ll have to accept it.
I’ve created a website in the hope of meeting some friends:
The Mouthpiece for Tragic Merricks and Radium Girls, calling victims of industrial mutations for casual networking and friendly, approachable and non-judgmental banter—message me, Stephan Berm, editor and victim.
Below my name was a portrait photo, in which I wear a crushed-velvet chocolate bowtie on a cream shirt and two approachable smiles, which I ensured reached my eyes.
So far, not one single hit, and I wonder: am I the only freak?
And just as I find myself utterly alone with nothing but stubborn regret, I hear the computer chime with a reassuring message alert.
Mike Goddard enjoys working with elderly people. When he can’t be found reading or writing, Mike is usually experimenting with scrambled egg variations (brie, shiitake mushrooms and chili-oil being a recent success).
For pleasure he cleans his wonderful, 1989 red Ford named ‘Noy Nah,’ which means custard-apple in Thai. Mike’s favorite mysterious creature is the Madagascan Aye Aye—his favorite graphic novel is Sam Keith’s The Maxx.
Mike has only one mouth.