My sister wears a salami down the front of her pants. She says it makes her feel closer to god.
She comes to my bedroom one night, when I’m still wondering what in the hell she and my ma have done to it in the short time I’ve been gone, and stands in the door frame. The particle board walls have chalk outlines on them, a basket of wool and knitting needles in one corner, a suitcase full of beads and thread in the other. A bipolar art project. Ma hocks her wares and uses Lola. Somehow, she uses her.
Lola has that salami stuffed in tight like she’s really packing it in there. Locked and loaded. The foreign yet familiar bulge pressing stiff against the crotch of her skinny jeans. It’s unnerving and I have to look away.
“Lola, why do you do that? You’re too pretty of a girl.”
Lola moves to sit at the foot of my bed. She crosses her legs Indian-style and bounces light on the stiff cardboard-like mattress. How she can cross her legs that tight with that big of a package is baffling. I could never pull it off.
“What about all those panties you save?” she asks. I say nothing and she smirks. “You know the ones in your dresser drawer? From those girls you bring home. You save them. I seen you.”
I scratch my head and look at her. “That’s different. I just like the way they smell. I don’t want to be one.”
This is all news to me. I went to college six months ago and left her watching cartoons on the couch. Now she’s got a fake dick.
Lola bounces on the bed again.
“What’d you do to her?”
Ma laughs and drinks her vodka. “Ain’t done a thing to that child. Just curious, is all.”
“Curiosity is when you skin cats. Not sport packaged meat.”
She turns to pull the casserole from the oven, balancing the drink in one hand, the potholder and the hot Pyrex dish in the other. She sets it on an unlit burner. Instantly the kitchen smells like tuna and burnt crackers.
“You sure look at things funny, Jake. Maybe that’s why you tried to go to college,” Ma says leaning against the stove, her back so close to the dish of casserole she’s picking up heat waves. Her nylon has a run in it up to the thigh.
Ma takes a serving spoon, hastily slopping the mush of food into chipped mismatched bowls. “I worry about you. At least Lola knows what she wants to do with her life. You and those strange gals.” Ma picks up the two bowls and the vodka. She sets a bowl on the table, pressing it my way.
“They’re just friends, Ma.”
Ma raises her vodka in contemplation, rivulets of icy sweat running over her hand from the glass. “I’ll stop buying her those sausages.”
She ignores me.
“Why’d you come home from school?”
“Because I’m stupid.”
“Because you did drugs?”
“And a lot of other things.”
Lola says, “Ma says you threatened a teacher.” She lowers her voice. “Like you threatened dad.”
“Well, what happened?”
I light a cigarette and Lola’s brown eyes go wide.
Saturdays and Sundays, Ma and Lola go down to the old antique mart on Main Street and try to sell what they’ve concocted during the week. Shoddily painted wood picture frames with bows hot glued on the frames, necklaces made out of yarn, beaded bracelets with peace signs and flowers and skulls.
In a confidential whisper, Ma tells me she wishes she could sell Lola at the market. That Lola has good bones.
I call Ma a name usually reserved for men.
Ma grocery shops twice a month and always comes back with white paper-wrapped salamis. The good kind. Made by a butcher at the local meat shop. They’re not from the store. No preservatives. Unprocessed. The type with peppercorns. White marbled fat rings. Too good to waste on Lola.
“I think you’re overcompensating,” Ma says, when she hands the bundle of meats over to my sister.
Beaming, Lola holds an eight-incher in her palm.
Lola freezes them and every week switches out her salami.
Her classmates don’t know. She’s just a quiet, shy girl with a penchant for art class. Believe me, Lola knows her primary colors. She smears the shit out of easels. She wears loose flowing dresses to disguise the mound. She tucks it away so it stays in somehow. Maybe Duct tape. Maybe my old jock strap. I don’t want to know that much detail. I already see enough as it is.
“What’s gonna happen when you start dating?” I ask one night when she’s sprawled out on the couch chewing her thumb. A multi-colored afghan’s draped over her gangly legs. The TVs on some old black and white comedy show but nobody’s laughing.
“Who wants to date?” Lola says. “I want to live.”
“They’re gonna find it. They’ll smell you out.”
She giggles. “You’re gross, Jake.”
Ma bellows at Lola to finish the dishes. She’s up, off of the couch, sticking her tongue out at me. It’s plump and red and wet.
She stays away from dogs. They zone in on her from a mile away. But she’s a girl and can play it off, nervously shooing the dog away from her private parts, all the while the mortified owner’s apologizing, thinking, She’s on the rag, while I’m thinking, Nope, salami, buddy, salami.
“Is this her? She’s got the dick?”
At one AM, there’s a man’s voice downstairs. Grating and insistent. I stamp my cigarette out in the ashtray on the nightstand and go see who Ma’s brought home this time.
There’s a man swaying back and forth, like some dashboard Jesus ready to fall over. Tall and thin, with an even thinner mustache, he’s standing, an arm propped on the fireplace mantel. Lola’s looking up at him from her place on the couch, her ankles crossed, wrists stuck between bony knees. He’s saying to her, “C’mon, honey. Let me see it.”
“Go on, Lola,” Ma says when Lola shakes her head. “Show the man. He paid good money.”
“Don’t show the man, Lola. Say goodbye to him.” I step into the room. “Ma, get him out of here.”
“Aw, Jake, we were just having some fun.”
“Lola’s not fun.”
“Thanks a lot, Jake.” Lola pouts her lip.
“That’s not what I meant.”
Ma’s mascara is caked on her lashes and her lipstick is a Kool-Aid smile. “You can’t hock my sister. She ain’t for sale. She’s your daughter for chrissakes. You want folks runnin around town talkin shit about what’s in her pants?”
The guy holds up his hands. Moves closer to Lola. “I won’t breathe a word.” He grabs his crotch. Fondles it. “I just wanted to see it. I wanted to touch it. Huh, little girl?” His tongue snakes its way between his lips.
Lola covers her mouth.
That’s when I see red. I grab the guy by his arm, jerk him forward and shove my fist into his teeth. He knocks into the mantel and a picture frame shatters. It’s loud everywhere, a tinny ringing – Lola’s shrieking, and every time I hit the guy Ma screams something about calling the cops. I flip that fucker around, arm twisted behind his back, and drag him into the kitchen. I slam him face first against the Formica table top.
“So you want to touch stuff, huh?”
The guy’s spraying spittle as he babbles, “Hey man, hey man, ain’t got no problem with you. Forget this ever happened. I’ll leave right now. Let go of my arm and I’ll be gone. Poof, just like that.”
Ma’s still hollering in the living room but Lola slinks in slow. Her hands twist together.
“Oh no,” I say. “You came here for something tonight and you’re gonna get it.”
I turn to my sister who’s cautiously approaching. A smile on her face. She moves in close, brushing her hands against the guy’s hips, her salami stuffed crotch sweeping the back of his Wrangler-clad ass. Letting out a surprised yell, the guy jerks, the table bucking under strain, but I hold his arm tight. I hold him down.
“So what do you say, Lola? You wanna show him? You wanna give it to him?” I lean close, breathe hot against his ear. “You ever been fucked by a salami, buddy? Believe me, it’s a big ol’ one.”
The zipper is loud as Lola tugs it down.
“You shouldn’t have done that, Jake,” Ma says the next morning when I enter the kitchen. She’s hung-over but she’s still drinking her vodka. She raises a glass to her lips. Ice clinks. She sucks in a breath.
“You scared the everlovin piss outta that poor man.”
I grin. Lola had barely gotten the zipper open before the thin trickle of urine had spread down the front of his pants and onto the linoleum. I let him go and the guy had bolted, stumbling in the front yard, trying to find his car keys in his drunken haze.
Lola had laughed and laughed. Waved her salami high in the air.
“I ain’t cleanin it up,” Ma gripes. “You two caused that ruckus last night, it’s on you. The bleach is in the cellar. My god, Jake, I don’t even know any more…” I watch her gnarled fingers wring out a dish rag. She probably wishes it were my throat.
I say, “Lola ain’t your own personal freakshow to sell. You got that, Ma? You remember dad, don’t you?”
After a quick glance my way, Ma dumps her vodka down the sink.
She’s crying. Hunkered down on her plush bed, fat tears rolling from her eyes. Choking noises from her throat. Shit. I thought we had settled this last night. She had laughed. I had pulled punches. Our usual MO.
“What’s wrong, Lola? If it’s about that guy, honey, I told you, he—”
“It ain’t about that guy, Jake.”
She plunges hands into that confusing crevice of hers. Huddles over, fetal-position, and says, “It’s not real. It’ll never be real.”
She sobs. I touch her back. “You just now figured that out?”
Lola flings a pale arm. “Get out of here, Jake. You’re a real asshole, you know?”
A cheap bottle of wine on the nightstand is empty. The girl stands, slips on her shirt and jeans. She sits down again and begins pulling on her Keds. “Are we going to keep meeting like this?” she asks.
“Meeting like what?”
“In the dark?”
“How do you want to meet?”
She glances over her shoulder and offers a toothy smile. It’s our third time and I think her name might be Tracy or Tammy or something equally trashy. “Dinner would be nice,” she says. She giggles. “In a lit area, maybe?”
I point my cigarette at her. “Yeah, well, McDonald’s is open. Right down the block. Don’t let me stop you. I hear the McRib is back.”
She flips me off. Grabs her purse and then goes. She slams the door.
I pull her underwear from beneath the covers. They’re blue with red polka dots. Bikini cut. I smell. Flowery and semen-stained. I crumple them in a ball and breathe deeper. Christ, if I ever get panties coated in chloroform I’m done for.
Light slices a thin sliver as my door creaks open. I swear, twisting on my side, thinking Tracy or Tammy is back to claim her filched panties when I see that it’s Lola. She’s chewing her thumb in the door frame. There’s a thick bulge in her nether regions. I raise an eyebrow.
“You got two crammed down there now?”
“I saw her leave,” Lola says, ignoring my question. Feet padding soft across the wood floor, she plops on the mattress next to me. Expectant, waiting.
“What’re you doin, Lola?”
“I want to touch it. I ain’t never touched a real one.”
Shoving the underwear underneath the pillow, I sit up, back pressed against the headboard. “Don’t worry, you got plenty of time.”
I’m already shaking my head when she says, “I want to touch yours, Jake.” She gathers the corner of the sheet draped across my lap in her small hand.
“No way. No, Lola.”
“But you said you’d always help me. You’d do anything for me.”
“Yeah, anything sane. I’m your goddamn brother.”
“But what about dad?”
Fucked. So fucked, I think.
She gets up on her knees so that her waist is eye level. The hearts and stars on her cotton pajama bottoms swirl into one gigantic mess of color so bright I have to look away. Something swells below, tight and hard.
“Please?” She pulls the sheet down, across my lap until I’m bare in my briefs. Lola presses one hand against her crotch. She presses the other against mine.
Jules Archer writes random stories about serial killers and domestic bondage. She enjoys reading Playboy and sipping Blue Moon in her spare time. She also writes to annoy you at: julesjustwrite.com.