She’s Got Seven Mouths and They Don’t Disagree
Brian felt a sting when he shook her hand. It was nothing more than static electricity.
“Welcome aboard,” she said as she closed the latch behind him. “I’ll be your pilot. My name is Taylor Rubard. Let me know if you need anything.”
Taking his seat beside her in the helicopter, Brian felt a tiny fading pain in his hand. Electric shocks did not linger the way this did. It was more of a pinch.
Taylor was born with six auxiliary mouths; one to the left of her stomach, one on her right shoulder, two on her right thigh, one between the thumb and forefinger of her left hand and one on her forehead, its lips straddling her hairline. The mouth on her forehead was the smallest one, measuring half the width of her thumb, and she wore her hair in bangs that hung down thickly — and were dyed a slightly darker shade of brown than her natural hair — to conceal it. Each one of them came equipped with its own miniature jaw, set of tiny yellow teeth and a needle-shaped purple tongue.
Taylor derived no taste sensations from any of them, and had no muscular control over them. They were like individual parasites living their own lives. The only way Taylor knew when one of them salivated or chewed on a tasty nugget was by the feel of it tugging on the flesh of her body around it. It was a ticklish, rhythmic feeling like an ineffectual massage.
Brian closed his eyes and thought of small rodents running on ice. The ascent made his stomach spin. He had only ridden in a helicopter twice before. It helped to refrain from looking, and the mental image of rat hockey was a soothing distraction.
He could not keep his eyes closed for long. Out the domed window he saw freeways that might have been endless earthworms, and swimming pools that looked like thumbnails. He shifted in his seat. Taylor smiled at him. Her left hand — which was her dominant hand, or at least the one she shook with — held the steering device tightly, her thumb pressed into her hand with more effort than looked natural.
She opened a plastic baggy with her right hand, pulled out a handful of what looked like a concoction of minced green leaves and pine needles, stuffed it under the collar of her uniform and then patted her shoulder. She performed this task as though it were as commonplace as applying ChapStick.
Each of her six secondary mouths had distinct dietary preferences. The mouth on her stomach liked to chew on her t-shirts and try and suck the ink out of them. She discovered at the age of fourteen that it had no taste for shirts that had a lot of green dye, so every shirt Taylor now owned was green, including her uniform.
The mouth on her shoulder liked plants; whenever Taylor lay in the grass with her shoulder uncovered, it would nibble on any flowers or weeds it could find.
The mouths on her thigh showed no response to anything except the mouth on her left hand; whenever she brought her hand near her leg, the lips between her thumb and forefinger and the lips on her thigh would both pucker up and try and kiss each other. Taylor found that so disgusting that she never once in her life allowed them to make physical contact. The mouth on her hand also had a tendency to bite Taylor anywhere on her body if given the chance. She wore a custom made aluminum muzzle over it that was fastened by an elastic wristband and decorated so as to look like a simple bracelet. She wore it everywhere except to work.
The mouth on her forehead was the quietest of all her mouths.
Brian looked at her shoulder. The lump of garden debris beneath her starched shirt swirled and slowly smoothed itself. Taylor laughed.
“Don’t be shy. It’s no secret or anything.” She turned a dial and warm air emitted from a vent by Brian’s arm. “Don’t you want to know?” She turned her body and looked directly at Brian, keeping her left hand engaged with the steering device.
Brian looked down. The freeways were beginning to look more like dental floss bordering the shoreline, and the miles of beaches were sand-colored pencil shavings.
Taylor leaned close and whispered in his ear, “I’m a freak.” She elbowed him playfully. “Come on, lighten up.”
“I’m sorry?” Brian looked at his pilot and tried to determine her age. She had to be at least five years younger than him, but her eyes and the skin around her eyes looked like they had digested at least eight years of higher education which meant she was vastly smarter than he was. She had dark auburn hair worn in a bun. He imagined it hanging down, flowing loosely around her smile, hiding her sharp, lean features. He imagined her drinking iced tea in a lawn chair. He tried to imagine her anywhere but in a helicopter.
She turned forward and tended to the controls. “Ever met a genetic freak before?”
Brian tried to remember if he had.
The doctors had kept a close eye on Taylor for the first twelve years of her life, but the mouths never seemed to pose any threat or exhibit any transformations. On her monthly visits, Doctor McGabe would always give her a lollypop and say, “Make sure you share.” Taylor had laughed at that joke every month. As an adult, nobody made jokes about her six extra mouths. Taylor wished they would do more than eat. She convinced herself that some day they would develop the ability to speak and hold conversations.
The family health plan would have paid for the operation to surgically remove the mouths, but Taylor’s mother proclaimed that the mouths were a gift from God, and that one day their purpose would be revealed. Taylor took voice lessons all through high school and sang in the choir. She knew that some day the mouths would sing with her in unison.
When she shifted her grip on the steering device, Brian saw, for an instant, something dark, round and oblong where the flesh of her hand should have been.
“You don’t believe me, do you?”
Brian looked down at the ocean a mile beneath them, and then looked at Taylor and laughed. “Sure, I believe you. This is a helicopter ride to remember.”
“I thought you said it’s your first time in a helicopter.”
“And the other two were forgettable?”
“Then what do you mean this will be a helicopter ride to remember?”
Brian noticed that his body had slowly scooted itself closer to the pilot’s seat.
Taylor sighed. “Say what you mean. We’ve got many more miles to fly. You meant memorable because of me, not because of the helicopter. If we were eating a sandwich and I said something to you that altered the course of your life, would you say it was a sandwich to remember, even though the sandwich itself was unremarkable? Or would you say how you really feel? How do you really feel, now that you know you’re conversing with a freakshow? I was on television when I was just a kid, y’know. One of those like medical wonders shows, they ran an hour long special about me. My mom wouldn’t let me watch it. Maybe you saw it?”
Brian shook his head. He wanted to say something witty and sweet, a mood lightener, but his mood lighteners tended to be off target; they always came out as inappropriate jokes. In this case, all he could think to say was to imply the utility of simultaneous oral and manual stimulation, and he was not about to disrespect a seven-mouthed woman.
Taylor shook her head at him. “I saw that look. You were about to say something naughty. You wouldn’t be so…antisocial as to deprive a lady of your naughty thoughts, would you? Trust me, you won’t offend me unless you say something I haven’t heard before, and I’ve heard everything before.”
Brian slid his arm behind her and explored her back from one side to the other slowly, his pulse quickening at the thought of roving over one of those alleged freak mouths. “Oh, well, I was just going to say, you um, you must be gifted in the area of, um-”
“Never mind.” With her right hand, she peeled Brian’s hand off her back and placed it on her right thigh so that his palm covered both mouths. He felt both tongues twitch at his touch, beneath the stiff fabric of her pants. Taylor sunk back into the pilot’s seat, her professional posture loosening. “I don’t usually let passengers touch me there.”
Brian spoke before he noticed what he was saying. “I want to see all of them.”
“You’ll have to wait till we land, sport.”
Brian cupped his hands around one of the pairs of lips on her thigh and pressed firmly. Blood ran down his wrist before he felt it. Then the pain came rushing to his senses. He yelled and jerked his hand away, slapping the window. Blood splashed across Taylor’s cheek. He looked at his hand.
Taylor adjusted some flight controls. “Oh gosh, I’m so embarrassed. They’ve never bitten anyone before. I’ll get you a band-aid when we land.” She pointed and wagged her finger at her leg as though chiding a puppy dog.
“It’s okay, that was my bad,” said Brian.
“Do you think you can make them sing in harmony?”
Taylor took both hands off the steering device and turned to Brian. The helicopter hitched and dipped to the left, then steadied itself. “It’s a girlish fantasy — my mom always said I was very special and it will take a very special man to love me, and if the mouths ever talk, then that would probably be a sign, a magical sign of some sort, and furthermore if they ever sing, then that would be them telling me who I’m supposed to marry, and I think-”
Brian tore off her uniform. He blinked his eyes hard and saw angry squirrels thrashing and gnawing at a lake of ice. Below the ocean looked like he imagined an alien’s skin would look like under a microscope. Too close up for comfort and too far away for safety. Maybe it was the helicopter. Maybe it was the way she handled the steering wheel. Maybe it was the throbbing pain in his hand. Maybe it had nothing to do with her or the helicopter. Maybe it had nothing to do with anything. Maybe he had seen the television special about her years ago and forgotten it. Maybe love made no goddamned sense. He had to see her body. He wanted to brush her auburn bangs away from her forehead and smother the mouth with his bloody hand. Life outside the helicopter was suddenly very small and growing smaller.
A resonant hum was heard over the propeller. It was multi-textured in tone, and it was in the key of G.
He was delicious.
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Portland Fiction Project
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