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How Filthy the Human Mouth


by Steven Gowin


My arm's still bleeding, and it's pretty cold. But I'll wait out here for a car.

Before being ordered out of that house, I could see that they, the invitees, wanted to name me something bad, something repulsive, but what? Child molester? No.

I'd traveled for business and through online friends had been invited to this party. They'd driven me these four or five miles, out here away from town. The village lights are twinkling in the distance, but hell, I don't know where I am. No idea.

The other invitees, much younger than I am, had laughed and teased and discussed music that I don't know and don't understand. They'd swapped stories about their toddlers and kindergartners. But my own boys are all grown, all gone.

My Dad said that when he died he hoped he'd be with his Father, my Grandad, again. I don't know why I'm thinking of that now. Sometimes in dream though, I want my father, and I wake up weeping because he's gone, and I'm the father now.

Here's all that happened, though, nothing more: When I ran out of party conversation, I'd wandered back into the house, down towards the bathroom. I'd stopped at one of the bedrooms whose windows ran along the hallway, curtained on the inside and open, like a hospital nursery.

Inside, a boy, 10 or 12, was jumping on the bed. Jumping. Jumping. When he saw me, he jumped faster and faster, wild like something rabid, leering at me through pointy teeth. His nurse, seeing me and frightened, hurried to close the curtain. I turned back and found a seat in the living room.

In a few minutes a woman, the mother, charged towards me. I don't know where the husband was. But before I could stand, she began threatening me loudly, spitting a little. What had I been doing in the rear of her house? Who knew me? How dare I have entered that space?

Then, chased by the nurse, the jumping child streaked towards me. Red-faced, sweating, reeking of boy, and uncontrollable, he screamed, “Papa, Papa,” and lunging, bit my forearm, bit it deeply until it bled and bled.

She ordered me out. They all did. So here I am now. In the freezing air. In the dark. Alone, because I have committed some horrific act. 

And the ragged wound is already festering. How filthy the human mouth. Dad always said so.

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