Romans a novel by John Ward

about 57,000 words

Ward / Romans / 1

Part I

Chapter 1

Cindy would never leave their house.

If he could without

harming his young marriage, he would kick her through the ceiling, striking her unawares as she, a squat troll, mischievously padded around. dearest friend. Unfortunately, she was his wife’s

Somewhere upstairs he heard Trisha Markovsky

(née Odter) and Lumpy, as he secretly called Cindy, giggling excessively, undoubtedly at something barely funny or completely unintelligible to the rest of mankind. basement, dialed his mother for advice. Roman, alone in his

Ward / Romans / 2

“Hello?” “Mama!” “My Roman! “No, no, no. How is wife? She pregnant?”

But there’s problems already.”

“What you mean?” “She has this midget turd of a friend who won’t leave the house. there.” “Tell her to leave, you ninny!” “But I can’t. She’s Trisha’s best friend.” She’s driving me crazy. It’s like wherever I turn she’s

“You are husband; you must be husband!” Roman dropped the topic and asked about her affairs...he thumbed the oval “off” button on his portable phone. A naked

lightbulb burned above him. He pulled the string that killed the light. Roman exhaled heavily and trudged toward the stairs.

At the top of the basement staircase was the back door and the couple’s coat rack. Roman placed the phone in its charger

stand on the nearby kitchen table, put his coat on and yelled, “I’m going.” The door closed behind him before he could hear

the response, if there was one. Roman had committed this Saturday morning to helping Trisha’s father around his place. The old man lived in a ranch

Ward / Romans / 3

house on a wooded property either within or near the border of Parma, Ohio. The records on its exact location have been lost. Patches of Gray

Roman arrived after a drive of twenty minutes.

wet snow stretched themselves penitently across the yard. light filtered through the leafless woods. Approaching the

front door, his feet crunching along the gravel drive, he, when reaching the door, in what he thought the most gentlemanly course of action, grabbed the horseshoe-shaped knocker between his thumb and forefinger, noticed its chipped gold paint, and daintily tapped it against the door. unanticipated immediacy. Carl Odter answered with

Startled, Roman hopped away from the

door, threw his head back, widened his eyes, and lifted his shoulders, all in one motion. perplexed moment, then spoke. “Oh, ah, Roman, come in, come in. coffee? Yes? Would you like some Carl looked at him for a

Oh yes, I’ll make it fine, ensign,” Carl said in

his rapid, almost delirious manner. He gestured for Roman to sit on the couch while he, hampered by obesity, hobbled into the kitchen, looking back a few times at Roman as he did so, smiling. Waiting, Roman

glanced around the room and sniffed the air, which smelled like old paper. Soon the brewing coffee would mask the odor. The

green carpet was stained, stiff, and nearly worn through in many

Ward / Romans / 4

places. white.

The couch he sat on, once white, was now yellow and Upon every flat surface were stacked newspapers, Some of the stacks reached as

magazines, pamphlets, and books.

high as Roman’s chin when standing; many of them had toppled into each other, creating huge piles. Carl’s house was so

congested with the printed word that many areas were no longer usable. The dining room table had not been seen in years. A

retired widower, Carl spent his lonely hours reading.

Despite

the impressive size and variety of Carl’s collection, he did not read as widely as one would think: his massive gut--along with slight arthritis and other ailments typical of his demographic-limited his movement and thus prevented him from accessing most of his books. Sometimes, when bored with his easy-to-reach

volumes, Carl would imagine the pleasures of books read long ago he knew to be buried in the house somewhere. complete bookworm, however. Carl wasn’t a

His soul did contain a spirited

element, as evidenced by his love of golf, a sport he played with unusual enthusiasm, considering his lack of skill. Carl hobbled back from the kitchen, a rattling coffee tray pressed against his rotund belly. Roman offered to help. Carl, red-faced, shook his head and

cleared his throat of phlegm several times in a ritual of concentration. The cups shifted precariously as the tray

Ward / Romans / 5

quavered in the tight, dry grip of his hands: small, red, skeletal hands, the fingers fleshless, the skin brittle. His

wedding ring, with which he constantly played, hung loosely, leading Roman to believe that his hands were once fuller, that he had literally (not really) worked his fingers to the bone. “Could you be a valentine and clear some of those papers out of the way? Where? Oh, just put them on the floor, señor,”

he said, his tiny hands lowering the tray upon the spot Roman had cleared on the coffee table. Relieved of the tray, Carl sat

down on a blue corduroy chair that faced the couch. “So, how are things, Row-mahn?” said Carl, pronouncing his son-in-law’s name affectionately. “Things, they’re good,” Roman said with a sideways tilt of the head and a one-shoulder shrug. “How’s the job going?” “It’s going. The hours are longer, I’m busier, and the pay isn’t much more than my old job, but what are you going to do?” “Quit.” To this they laughed. “How’s Trisha?”

“Fine..she said to say ‘hello’,” said Roman, the last part his invention. “Well, hello yourself, Mrs. Markovsky dear,” said Carl. Both laughed at the voice he affected.

Ward / Romans / 6

A silence fell between them, so they sipped their coffee. Roman looked to Carl and smiled tightly, concealing his braces. Roman’s predominant trait was his appearance of permanent affability--so intrinsic that even when relating miserable news he seemed more sardonic than sad. The silence remained until

they finished their cups. Not yet ready to work, and in the dreamy interlude mulling over his own troubles, Roman felt the need to speak. He looked again to Carl, whose eyes, set behind

the lenses of his glasses, were opaque and distant in the unlit room. Before speaking Roman mock-convinced himself that he was

breaking some principles dear to his identity: that it is unmanly to complain and that one must face his troubles alone; for this he chided himself. “What of this Cindy?” Roman said without preface. attempted a casual tone, but his words sounded bitter. “Cindy? Pardon. Cindy?” He had

“You know, Cindy Novotny?” “Oh, yes, Trisha’s friend. understand, my man.” “What’s her deal? How come she won’t ever leave my house? It’s weird. She’s always What of her? I don’t

Doesn’t she have anything to do?

creeping around, never letting Trish and me alone.”

Ward / Romans / 7

“Oh,” said Carl, wondering what to make of this outburst. He sucked his lower lip far into his mouth, as he always did when thinking. This habit had caused two deep grooves to form

on the sides of his chin; the grooves met in his soul patch area, making a triangle, the third line implied beneath his chin. Some have been tempted into comparing Carl’s chin to that His entire face, however, is too

of a ventriloquist’s dummy.

much alive for that comparison to be apt. “Ah, yes, I see, oui, I see indeed. “Never.” “She hasn’t a job?” Roman shrugged. Carl sucked his lip and shrugged. Roman She never will leave?”

gave Carl an imploring look. “I’ll talk to Trisha,” Carl said. Mentally, Roman assumed postures of regret, but in truth he felt eased though he hadn’t been the husband, the man, but had passed his trouble onto someone less capable than he. Forty-six

years apart in age, the relationship between Carl and Trisha was not only chronologically distant. Trisha had been close to her It was her mother that

mother, only twenty-eight years older.

bonded her to Carl; Trisha never spent much time alone with him. Even now she wouldn’t visit unless Roman accompanied her. visiting she conducted herself like somebody obligated to When

Ward / Romans / 8

fulfill the obligation of another--that is, her mother. visits, really, only consisted of her presence:

And her

Roman talked

while she cooked meals, tidied things, or performed some other task of dubious necessity. Carl, for his part, became shy in

her presence, sometimes even embarrassed, but never spoke of any grief for her inattention. “Thanks, Carl. do that for me. I would really appreciate it if you could

It’s just that it’s hard for me to say anything

because Cindy is always around the house when I’m there, you know? Anyway, I’ll get started cleaning now.”

Roman was there to throw away all of Carl’s newspapers and magazines and to organize his books. Carl had rented a large It almost proved

construction dumpster for this project. adequate for the job: dumpster space.

there was more paper to be tossed than

What remained was put into five trash bags.

Roman had committed himself to this enormous labor because a near-tragedy had occurred. Earlier in the week Carl had slipped

on a newspaper and fallen into his corduroy chair, the rough landing leaving him gasping and terror-stricken. If not for the

chair he could have been injured horrendously, perhaps killed. Carl had asked Roman to do him the favor of removing the hazardous items from his house. Though Carl was not looking

forward to calling Trisha about what seemed to be a delicate

Ward / Romans / 9

matter, he couldn’t blame Roman for cashing in on his labor: favors beget favors. # When Roman got home, tired and mildly depressed, he found a note on the counter from Trisha saying that she and Lumpy had gone to a matinee and that she’d call afterward to meet for dinner somewhere. This provoked him. His feelings broke from

their moorings and rather than anchor them he indulged himself tempestuously. he hated Lumpy! He screamed aloud and pounded the counter. How

Only when necessary--say at a business lunch-Restaurants are

would he eat food not prepared at home.

uneconomical and of uncertain cleanliness, no matter what inspectors may claim. He saw the scene: Lumpy’s Neanderthal

brow, and below it, her mewling mouth, needling Trisha, saying, “Come on, Trish, so what if he’s a weirdo, you need to get out sometimes. You know, a relationship goes both ways; he should

take you out to eat sometimes, whatever his freakish weirdnesses.” argument. some more. He saw Trisha half-assenting to this sniveling

How he hated her! He screamed and pounded the counter Then he imagined ways in which he could murder her,

but realizing the work and anxiety involved in avoiding detection he instead imagined her in lethal accidents. He

didn’t want a murder on his hands, even if the ending of a

Ward / Romans / 10

worthless life could be considered as such. gone.

He just wanted her

Some hours later, while in bed reading, the phone rang. let it ring and walked to the kitchen, where the answering machine was. Trisha left a message saying which restaurant

He

they’d be at and that afterward they were going to a bar--he should meet them at one or the other. homebody, he rarely went to bars. Another outrage. A

How could she do this to him

after he had helped her father, a father she wouldn’t help herself? # Trisha and Lumpy came home after Roman had fallen asleep. Soused, they watched television briefly and then passed out on the couch. # The next day, Sunday, the house remained surprisingly Lumpy-less. Yet it was a solitary day for Roman with Trisha She didn’t shower and watched

hungover, mute, and withdrawn.

television while drinking water, moving from the couch only to use the bathroom or fill her glass. In the evening she began to

feel better and sensing his mood, made him dinner, which actually didn’t taste bad--it usually did. While she washed the

dishes he stood behind her and fondled her, his chin on her left

Ward / Romans / 11

shoulder; she smiled and laughed, left the dishes, turned, and kissed him hard. His erection pressed against her; grabbing it,

pumping it playfully, she led him to their bedroom. She had also led him to Parma, a suburb of Cleveland: city well-known as a hotbed of neurasthenia. at a bank he managed in Mobile, his hometown. student. a

Roman met Trisha She was a college

Often she overdrew her account, and contrary to bank The attraction that To him she was the most A rapid,

policy, he refunded her fees every time. bound them was immediate and powerful.

noticeable entity in the world, twittering about.

nervous being, she was like a moth with a leg stuck in the molasses of the South, trying to escape. Her wiry frame seemed When she

to vibrate, so constant and slight were her movements.

spoke to him in his office he drank in her worried fingers, her high cheekbones, her large, frantic eyes, her hair--a luminous frizz. Her every feature peculiar and wonderful to him, her

every movement and noise occurring in a different realm of time. To her he offered a solid affability upon which she could alight. When Trisha finished her bachelor’s degree the couple

moved first to an apartment near the Parmatown Mall and then, after a few months, to their house. Trisha was from the Before

Cleveland area and wanted to have her family there.

their marriage this past summer Roman knew nothing of Cindy;

Ward / Romans / 12

Trisha had never mentioned her. When fall came Roman got another banking job and Trisha began graduate studies in electrical engineering. # After their lovemaking they lay embraced. “Would you like some water?” he asked. “Sure.” In the kitchen, wearing only his pajama bottoms (his stillplump flesh prominent in their light fabric) he saw Lumpy on the couch in the other room watching television. each other. They nodded to

Roman got the water and went back upstairs.

“Here you go,” said Roman. “Thanks.” “You know, Lumpy...Cindy is downstairs.” “Who’s Lumpy Cindy?” “Oh, I said ‘Cindy’. Cindy is downstairs.” “Oh.” “Did you know she’s here?” “She has a key.” “She has a key?” “Yes. Why did you call her ‘Lumpy Cindy’?” “Did I?” “Yeah.”

Ward / Romans / 13

“Oh. Why didn’t you tell me she has a key?” “I don’t know. I didn’t think it was a big deal or anything.” “It’s not...it’s not, just wondering.” Later that week, while packing his lunch in the kitchen, Roman listened to Lumpy snore as she slept on the couch. He

banged drawers as he did so and slammed the door when he left. At work that day he closed the blinds to his office and had his underlings receive all customers. silently. He did little but brood

His irritation increased when he discovered that in

his morning fury he’d forgotten to bring his lunch bag to work. Without telling anyone he went home to eat. He got there with

five minutes left in his break, his trip delayed by a traffic accident. He felt like barking.

Anger was his usual response to the Trisha-Lumpy matter. Though sometimes, when hearing the two giggling together, a bitter sense of exclusion would overcome him and he’d feel suicidally lonely, like a socially weak adolescent; and like that weak and awkward adolescent, his mind would vacillate rapidly between asserting his superiority over those who excluded him and a desperate longing to join the fun. #

Ward / Romans / 14

Trisha was studying in the kitchen; books and papers were sprawled out on the table. when he entered. Leaving a book, her eyes met his

She had known him long enough to be able to

sense when something was wrong behind his exterior of bland positivity. In unhappy moments he would set his smile to one

side; his eyes, slightly downcast, would look to wherever the smile was directed. off-kilter happiness. “What’s wrong, Romeo?” she asked sweetly, using one of her nicknames for him. Stifled by bitter emotion, he mouthed a word, but nothing came out. conviction. “You’re here for your lunch, dear? I put it in the fridge. When I saw it I called to tell you, but you already left the office.” “Thanks.” “What’s wrong?” “Nothing.” “Roman, stop it. I’m your wife. You can tell me. Did something happen at work?” “No, nothing. Stop bothering me.” “Come on. Tell me.” He finally managed to say “nothing” without Strangers mistook this as an expression of

Ward / Romans / 15

“Nothing,” Roman said with sullen exasperation. “No, Roman, not nothing.” “Is Cindy here?” he said, his lips barely parting, his

braces glinting momentarily. “No. She left a little bit ago. Why, what’s up, why do you ask?” “Nothing. It’s nothing.” “Roman, what’s wrong?” “Nothing. I just fired someone at work this morning and I feel upset about it,” he lied. “Roman, I’m sorry. But you’ve fired people before, haven’t you?” “Yeah, once or twice, but I never liked it.” “What happened?” “This teller, she was careless, and cashed a check she never should have; it bounced and cost us a few grand.” Roman got his lunch and brought it to the table. “Roman?” she asked while he ate. “Yes?” he answered, a moist bread particle caught in his braces. “So now you’re understaffed.” “Pardon?”

Ward / Romans / 16

“You know, at the bank:

you fired that lady

today...unexpectedly, right? So now you’re one short.” “Well, sure, but it’s no problem, really. won’t mind some overtime pay.” “Yeah, but you’ll need to replace her.” “Yes, I imagine I will...yes, of course.” “Why not Cindy?” “Cindy?” “She needs a job.” “Oh, well, I would but, um, but I’ve already called the corporate office. You see, the procedure is when you fire somebody you tell them and they send you a preselected employee in the next day or so.” “But you run the branch. in hiring.” “Very limited discretion. I just choose when to order Certainly you’ve some discretion The tellers

supplies, basically,” he said with a tight smirk. Roman continued to lie. branch for two reasons. Cindy would never work at his

First, he hated her. Second, he had to

keep secret from his wife a gruff, hunched, cigarette-smoking woman.

Ward / Romans / 17

Chapter 2

An expression of restrained deviousness, her defining look, shaped her face. Often Cindy was wickedly happy. She cut a

short, stout, energetic figure: her parka a blue dash across a backdrop of wet-woolen sky, of pale, winter-stained houses, of unassuming bus stops, of the odd, sullen convenience store. Cindy, a pet shop assistant and a graduate student in literature, spent her free time, when not with Trisha, in coffee and record shops. In either type of place she could be found

reading or chatting with an enthusiasm not usually shown to vague acquaintances. With the aforementioned parka hanging wet on the chair she

sat on and one quarter of her mocha drink left, she spoke to Natalia Kirilov about an obscure writer and his work. happened to sit five chairs behind her in a seminar. Natalia “It’s the

Ward / Romans / 18

only one I’ve read, actually, and that was a few years ago,” said Natalia. “The Vigilant Stepson, though, that’s the best of all of them, really. Don’t Forget. I’ve never really felt that much for And So We The trick, though, is that even though the main

character in both books is named Christine Radisson, it’s really two different characters with the same name and different ages. The woman Christine Radisson in And So We Don’t Forget isn’t the same person as the little girl Christine Radisson in The Vigilant Stepson. Sure, Ellsworth leads you to believe that

they are, but they aren’t.” “You think? “It’s true. I don’t know.” Think about it. Both live in Trellisville,

but Trellisville is big enough for two Christine Radissons. Also, even though The Vigilant Stepson is more constricted in terms of space and time, with limited settings, how can you reconcile the fact that not one other character--besides Christine of course--from the first novel appears in the second?” “I don’t know” Before Cindy could continue her beeping wristwatch alarm

made her forget her subject. “Well, okay then. Sorry, Natalia, I need to go now.”

Ward / Romans / 19

“That’s fine.” Parka-puffed and running late to work, she waddled

purposively along the icy sidewalks.

She’d have to hump it if Magical

she was going to arrive at the pet shop on time. Grandma Novotny’s was their family business.

Outsiders may find

that a strange name for a pet shop, but insiders find it appropriate. Grandma was renowned for the seemingly magical She taught goldfish synchronized

power she held over animals.

swimming. She goaded reptiles into conveying their feelings. Even her cats, those critters of cool independence, were trained to fetch. By a series of unremarkable coincidences, Grandma’s local

renown grew into that kind of fame not actually extended to everybody: the Warholian fifteen. The host of a nationally

broadcasted late-night program, a putative funnyman, had Grandma on his show with some of her animals in the fall of 1993. one point Grandma got carried away talking, in a delightful manner, about a canary that could light matches. The host-overanxious to impress with the joyous wit he confidently thought himself to possess--tried to interrupt her, but she stopped him abruptly, saying, “Listen to me, I am Grandma!” These words made her famous. television commercials: She, for example, appeared in At

“Listen to me, I am Grandma, and I know

Ward / Romans / 20

when I see great deal on three-topping pizza...What the hell is pizza?” Obnoxious radio stations used the sound bite in their Tee-shirts were made.

advertisements and in other goofy antics. The whole shebang.

Bells jingled as Cindy entered the shop. counter sat her brother, Guy, a surly cipher.

Behind the Despite the

death-cold outdoors he wore black denim shorts and a black tee shirt promoting a heavy metal band. A big-fleshed fellow, he’d He farted and turned

no need of jackets, caps, and the like. the page of his comic book.

“I believe you’re late, Cindy,” he said without looking up. “I believe you’re stoned.” “Maybe...ah, Grandma is looking for you, and she just might

be the opposite of pleased.” For that reason Cindy wished to avoid her. “Cindy! I can hear ring ring of bells, you know!” hollered

Grandma from the back of the store. Excluding customers and the ferrets--whose smell Grandma

detested but stocked because they sold rapidly--all the animals in the shop had the last name Novotny, even the humans. The

ferrets were given the surname Krasnik, after her first husband, an incredible philanderer.

Ward / Romans / 21

Cindy made her way along a dim corridor to where Grandma

was feeding the Novotny goldfish colorful flakes, some of which clung to her damp hands. “Cindy, how come you cause harm to Grandma’s business? You

want to hurt her?” “No, Grandma, don’t be like this.” “You always late. Your brother, he never late.” “But he’s always high and all he does is read comics.” “At least he here.” “Grandma, you’re not being nice.” “Who needs nice? You late.” “I’m sorry.” “Sorry? Grandma does not think so. You late everyday.

You take advantage of Grandma. “Grandma!” “Cindy!” “But I need the money.

That why I fire you.”

I’m a student.”

“Whatever you are, I will not pay for you to not work.” “But Grandma, I’m a Novotny after all,” said Cindy, wearing

her most beseeching smile. “Forever you beg. Leave me alone. I am old woman, I

cannot take this bother,” said Grandma.

Ward / Romans / 22

“Grandma,” Cindy said, the last “a” rising ever higher as

it waned. “Okay, okay, you want job back, this what you do.” Grandma demanded proof of love, the proof taking form in extravagant labors or feats of endurance. Grandma, full of the

blazing energy common to all Novotny women, burned through those not able to resist her. She had been married six times to seven

men. Her third husband(s), she had learned during the divorce, were twins. her. They had shared in the duties of husband toward After she had

This knowledge scandalized Grandma.

announced the marriage’s end, Eugene, the brother of Gerald (whose name appeared on the marriage license), courted her desperately, saying that it was Gerald, not him, who was inadequate, that they, alone together, would flourish. wouldn’t have any of that nonsense. Grandma

While leaving the courtroom

one day, loosening a tie of fluffy orange fabric, Gerald said to Eugene, “A dozen of us wouldn’t have been enough for her.” another example illustrating Grandma’s demanding nature, her second husband, Walter, suffered three hernias during their marriage. His second hernia occurred, for instance, when she In

made him carry the groceries (heavy on canned foods) home five miles because he had insulted her cooking one damp evening (dry chicken). He knew that if he did not carry these groceries he

Ward / Romans / 23

would never again receive her cooking or her love.

The task

nearly complete, he fell before their house sweating and herniated, a mess of bags and cans all about him. In comparable

fashion most of the other men in her life, and some of the women, went down. “To prove you good worker, you find job somewhere else and Then Grandma think about taking you back.”

hold it six month. “But Grandma!”

“That Grandma’s offer.

You take it or leave it.”

Ward / Romans / 24

Chapter 3

Though old, obese, and often alone, Carl was not entirely inactive; he was still alive. His winter days were divided

between Always Yours, a nearby diner that provided his only source of dietary and social sustenance, and his reading. being old, he spent a good amount of time at the doctor’s. An elderly horde--of which Carl was a prominent member-invaded the same corner of the diner every morning at six, when the doors were unlocked to start the day. Always Yours first Also,

opened for business on October 4, 1955, and many of the hoary patrons had been there since the first morning--not for an uninterrupted duration, naturally: they left and returned at

expected intervals, their days as fixed as those of Kant or Schopenhauer allegedly were, though among them only Carl knew

Ward / Romans / 25

the peculiar ways of German philosophers.

This, their place of

public intimacy, had become as familiar as they were to themselves; it had absorbed so much of their time into the dull wood of its benches, into the spaces between the tables, into the candy jar next to the register, into the coffee mugs stacked next to the pastry display, into the brown splotches that stained the ceiling here and there...that the place itself, which held so much of themselves in its solid resistance to change, became their bulwark against the assault of time. With ever-fresh relish the elderly platoon gained its territory of tables the same way it did every morning, changing its tactics only when losing a member. It started with the

detachment of widowers--Ralph Anderson and Carl Odter--walking toward each other from opposite ends of the sidewalk. Though

dissimilar in build, in some ways the men were mirror images of each other: as Ralph strode towards Carl with his left foot,

Carl put forth his right; where Carl, his hands in his pockets, had The Plain Dealer wedged in his left armpit, Ralph had his in his right. Awaiting them before the front door of the

restaurant, sitting in the car of Susan McCarthy, the aforementioned accompanied by Eleanor Ridge and Penelope Knapp, were the widows, listening to NPR. Ralph, the brisker walker of When Carl

the two, always reached the front door before Carl.

Ward / Romans / 26

came within a few paces of Ralph the men would smile at each other. Carl would then stop abruptly and throw his right

shoulder back and pivot on his left foot, the movement ending with Carl clicking his heels together, facing the widows. did the same, mirroring Carl, of course. Ralph

The men then nodded Susan would then

cordially to the women, who smiled in return. turn off the ignition.

At this time rounding the sides of the

building from the parking lot in the back (to get street parking you had to rise earlier, and twos move slower than ones) were the couples: Joseph and Florence Dogger, John and Helen Fennel, For some uncertain moments they

and Bill and Dolores Swanson.

milled about until...huhp! there appeared from inside, keys in hand, middle-aged Anne Brick, a daughter of the founder, Milton Brick, a smile creasing her pasty, morning-bloated face. Like

children barreling out of a doorway for recess, the platoon barreled into the doorway for breakfast. Anne Brick avoided being trampled to death by executing a graceful spin maneuver that belied her chunky physique. Despite their chaotic

entrance, their seating was as ordered as their arrival. The shop window had “Always Yours” painted in gold and outlined in black upon its surface in a pleasing arch. In a

booth shooting out from this window sat John and Ralph across from each other, whose combined heads retained, said with some

Ward / Romans / 27

exaggeration, a sports knowledge as vast as the archives of Sports Illustrated. Carl sat next to John and across from In the booth Dolores, Helen,

Eleanor, on whom he’d always had a crush. perpendicular to them were the yakkers: Florence, and Susan.

Though taciturn, Penelope sat with them in In a table for two,

a freestanding chair at the table’s end.

set off a little from the rest, were silent Bill and Joe, who, over coffee, read the papers passed to them by Ralph and Carl. For the first hour of business Ms. Brick poured coffee and gabbed with them, disappearing now and then to attend to other customers and matters in the kitchen. at this hour was sedate. The conversational tone

It wasn’t until seven-fifteen or so

that the group, now fed and caffeinated, lively-upped itself. Heavily caffeinated. Coming from a generation of cigarette

smokers, these hearty beings, no longer smoking, maintained themselves on what would be for the younger, physically wan generations excessive caffeine, starches, and fats. These

people really enjoyed themselves, and this joy became the transparency through which their conversations shone. smidgens of their talk: “I always said to him: Some

‘You need at There’s

least two pairs of glasses and two pairs of dentures.

no way around it, you just have to.’”...“But, you know, in that situation Jordan would take it away.”...“Honestly, I can’t even

Ward / Romans / 28

remember where we were then.”...“Okay, but at least admit I have a point.” “So you have a point, it’s just that your point

points nowhere.”...“And the ham was just lovely, brownsugary!”...“Eh, by the time I hit seventy I couldn’t count anymore worth a damn.”...“What section do you have, huh, give it here buddy, I said I had it next.” The unit left around eleven. In

Carl would return by himself later in the day for dinner. this way the days accumulated, indistinguishably, nearly imperceptibly, as snowflakes accumulate upon snow.

There came, however, a winter’s day that differentiated itself from the rest. A blow of spring-like weather had chipped

a golden nick in winter’s mushy monolith, and on this happy occasion Carl received an invitation from Eleanor to take a walk in the park. Though aged, Eleanor’s flesh beamed: she walked

no less than twenty miles per week.

Carl, not into the physical

culture, was a touch intimidated by the prospect of this activity--he couldn’t remember the last time he didn’t use a golf cart, golf being the only thing he did resembling physical activity; he worried about being able to keep up with her, seeing himself far behind, his heart high-beating, his face a beet sweating dreadfully. They took their usual breakfast at Always Yours and then left for the park. Eleanor drove them in her svelte English

Ward / Romans / 29

car.

Carl, at first unable to squeeze in, had to sit with the

seat at its farthest remove from the dashboard to accommodate his commodious gut. “These foreigners, they make their cars too darn small,” said Eleanor with a laugh in an attempt to defuse his embarrassment. “I think it’s that they make Americans too big,” he said lamely, a statement bookended and interspersed with his usual “ahs,” “ohs,” and “yeses,” their frequency determined by how nervous he was. They drove with the windows rolled down some and enjoyed

the sight of the serene blue sky. Eleanor talked about her bridge club and laughed at some humorous incidents she related. Carl said, “Oh yes, I see,

chérie,” every now and then though he knew little about bridge. She parked the gleaming green automobile in a gravel lot that faced a polo field; behind the field stretched seemingly endless waves of tree-lined hills. Through the hills ran a

horse trail along which they planned to stroll. Eleanor wore a crisp blue jogging suit with pink stripes The only athletic

across the breast and new white tennis shoes.

articles that Carl wore were his golf shoes, which were missing the odd spike.

Ward / Romans / 30

They strolled pleasantly, chatting, pointing natural

niceties out to each other here and there; a few birds chirped. They had to walk around many puddles, but were able to progress steadily forward. (striding). Eleanor. Carl (hobbling) kept pace with Eleanor

The air was clearer than the purest music, said But alas, the continuity of “Ah, pardon,

Things were going well.

their enjoyment was interrupted by Carl’s bladder.

Eleanor, but I must wee--please don’t tell the warden that I spoiled this terrific view by using it as my loo.” turned her back to him as he walked into the woods. husband, when in his decrepitude, often thrust this inconvenience upon her when they nature-walked or golfed. didn’t think any less of Carl for it. To satisfy a fussy sense of privacy and to spare Eleanor’s ears from indecorous noise, he took yet another step into the woods. And another. And yet another...till, the anxiety that She Eleanor Her

clouded his mind for a moment lifting, he found himself far removed from the human world. In the dense homogeny of trees, He

he couldn’t orient himself and became nauseously dizzy.

lumbered for a few steps, rapidly sucking his lower lip in and then blowing it out of his mouth. He yelled out to Eleanor, his But the woods He yelled until

voice quaking as with a child’s first terror. absorbed his cries before they could reach her.

Ward / Romans / 31

his throat’s reed snapped in utter anguish, and he emitted one last broken sound that not even dogs could hear. he would die alone like a holy hermit. In the woods

When they found him only

his bones and clothes would remain--the conspicuous urine stain on the trousers would immediately declare itself to the search party that this was Carl Odter. Guffawing at his own thoughts, Carl sprayed an indecent amount of urine upon his trousers, more than the usual, creating a stain running down his left leg that resembled a map of the Florida Keys. “What’s so funny, Carl?” said Eleanor from twenty yards away. “Ah, nothing, nothing...saw a squirrel fall from a tree...perhaps it was stung by a bee.” “What’s so funny about that?” she said to herself. few moments later: “Oh, now I see. That’s quite a hoot!” His pants Then, a

Finished, he shook and then tucked himself in. clung to his leg uncomfortably.

Worse, the source of his Inherently polite,

discomfort was embarrassingly visible.

Eleanor most likely still had her back turned to him--this would give him an opportunity to do something, perhaps run deeper into the woods and hide; however, if he hesitated too long she would sense that something was amiss. The moment demanded quick,

Ward / Romans / 32

clear thinking that would lead to an elegant solution...now, if he were to stumble over a log or branch, say, not too heavily, but just enough to step “accidentally” into a few puddles, wouldn’t their muddy waters splash upon his pants and obscure the stain? Would not his feigned clumsiness, indistinguishable from his real clumsiness, cover his initial clumsiness in handling his member? As fast as he thought it he moved to

execute his plan. Turning around, he saw that Eleanor indeed had her back to him. Seeing this made him take pause--overhastyness often leads to regretfulness. Instead of stumbling about and

putting himself in danger of actually falling could he not simply step into a puddle and quietly plash around in it, and then step on some branches, so that, when turning around after hearing the noise, she would assume what he wanted her to assume? He quietly stepped into the nearest puddle, making a

slight noise...Eleanor’s back, fortunately, remained facing him. The black, icy water seeped through the holes--holes put there by the manufacturer for laces and ventilation--of his golfing shoes. Nervous, his heart beat fast, and his genitals pulled He lightly lifted his legs up and

tightly up inside of him. down.

The bottoms of his shoes barely rose above the water--the The water wet his pants no

highest he was able to lift them. higher than his ankles.

If he used more force, it would make

Ward / Romans / 33

more noise, and she would turn around to see what was happening. Things weren’t working out; time was being wasted and the desired result was not being achieved. around at any moment. Eleanor could turn

What if he bent down and cupped some

water in his hands and simply splashed it upon himself, and then stomped around? Now he had hit upon it! Carl--never nimble--

lost his balance while bending down and fell into the puddle (albeit from a short distance) making a dull, yet eminently audible sound. “Carl, my word!” Eleanor rushed to him, her nylon a-crinkling, her arms a-

swaying; whoosh, whoosh, whoosh, she came like an impetuous ostrich, whoosh, whoosh, henh...(His chin raised from the muck, how Carl perceived the onrushing Eleanor: in slow motion, in silence, and with perfect concentration he saw her foot catch on a log and “henh,” she’s airborne.) With her face she crashed

against a birch tree, opening a large gash under her right eye. Blood stained the tree’s papery bark.

Ward / Romans / 34

Chapter 4

Cindy sat on a dun couch looking at a People magazine and drinking green tea. The darkish hairs on her fawn forearms rose

slightly as she took a sip; looking into the cup, she fixed her eyes on the tea bag. Trisha closed the door behind her and

furiously thwacked off the bright snowflakes that spangled her beige parka. She roughly tossed her backpack onto the kitchen

table, hung the parka on the coat rack, and then went upstairs to take a bath. normal way. Trisha came downstairs dressed in puffy moccasins, red sweat pants, and a yellow tee shirt, which accentuated her erect nipples. Her frizzy hair was wet and combed back; her face She walked over to the stove. The women never acknowledged each other in any

glowed with moist freshness.

Ward / Romans / 35

Cindy, having difficulty breathing through her nose, coughed. said. “I hate how dirty the snow is near the sidewalks,” she

She resented that on occasion Trisha, claiming some

thwarting circumstance or another, would not pick her (who had no car) up, but rather had her walk to their house. Cindy knew

this resentment was selfish, yet couldn’t help feeling being taken for granted. They had been friends for a long time.

“Cindy, when the teakettle’s empty you should fill it up again--it’s the considerate thing to do,” said Trisha from the sink. As she fixed her tea, Trisha looked out the window and

saw sparse waves of snow undulate beneath the garage light, shimmering rainbow-like. Trisha set her tea on the coffee table before her and sat with Cindy on the couch. Without asking Cindy whether it would She didn’t watch

bother her, Trisha flicked on the television.

for long as her viewing was interrupted by little sniffly sounds. Trisha looked at her friend and, seeing that something Cindy made rapid, despairing

was wrong, flicked off the tube. inhalations.

Her face was ruddy and wet.

“What’s wrong, Cindy?” Cindy exhaled massively, anguished. “Poor puppy! “I was fired today!”

What did you do to irk Grandma?”

Ward / Romans / 36

“She says I’m late all the time.

I’m not, only once in a

while.” “Oh, puppy! She’ll hire you back, won’t she?”

“Only if I get a steady job for six months somewhere else.” Trisha scooted over to embrace her friend. “Don’t take it too hard, pup-pay bay bay. You know how

Grandma is--she’s sweet at the bottom of it all, puppy honey. She can’t stay mad at you,” she said, working her fingers through Cindy’s thick black hair, her fingertips massaging her friend’s oily scalp. bunched paunch. With her other hand she rubbed Cindy’s

As she stroked her she let the delicious

fragrance (a smell lightly dancing, touching the nostrils only here and there with flickering movements!) of her soft and snugly friend infuse her porous being. its charger stand on the kitchen table. The phone rang free of Though no less guilty

than she, Roman would often say, “Trisha, the phone’s dead again! Completely useless. What if there was an emergency? Come on, honey,

How come you won’t put it on the charger stand? it’s not that hard.” ringing. They had been friends since junior high.

Trisha, one with Cindy, ignored the

Sharing a

curriculum of advanced classes and a disinterest in boys, their friendship was inevitable. Cindy could always vividly draw to

Ward / Romans / 37

mind Trisha as she first saw her:

eyes wide; biting her lower

lip; a pink cloth band in her frizz; a linty, frowsy blue sweater hanging down to her knees; beneath her sweater, leggings; the ensemble terminating in nondescript Payless shoes. Cindy immediately saw a person susceptible to her friendship. Trisha, for her part, did not ward off Cindy’s approaches; she soon realized, to her surprise, that she wanted to be around Cindy all the time. Each in the other found their “unattainable”--not their ideal, but rather a set of superior qualities that they themselves lacked but were abundant in the other. grade. Trisha was an only child home-schooled until the sixth Till then she had been all too timid, intelligent, and Her

frail to be introduced amongst her tumultuous peers.

parents had decided not to thrust her among the public until puberty set in. They reasoned that though puberty and

adolescence sully all lives with their complications of identity, they could at least provide Trisha with an immaculate childhood, a place free of the scars contact with outsiders bring, a crystalline castle of memory she could always return to throughout her life. They could have a time when their child

was entirely theirs, belonging not to herself or to the world, but to themselves alone. When Trisha mentally returned to her

childhood she wouldn’t return to some former self, but to her

Ward / Romans / 38

parents, and that way they would always live in her. her mother’s project. Cindy was the only female child in her family.

Such was

Along with

Guy, she had two other older brothers--they now lived far away and were no longer in contact with the rest of the family. had always been a teeming-with-being, gregarious, buoyant, comrade-in-arms type of person. excelled at female athletics? Trisha, a withdrawn sylph, became familiar with many stout girls through Cindy; she came to know a more bodily existence. Through Trisha, Cindy found a world more precious and abstract than hers had previously been; without meeting Trisha, Cindy would have never pursued an academic career. Within the first Need it be mentioned she She

year of their acquaintance came their first fusion--the first of a lifetime series, their beings becoming ever more entwined with each one--a fusion that occurred deep within the primitive orbs of their universes, far from the highest aether of consciousness. They were on a school trip in Washington, D.C. The day’s

sightseeing done, Trisha, Cindy, and two of Cindy’s friends from the softball team were lounging in their hotel room. Cindy had

sat on the corner of one of the room’s queen beds as they got ready to watch a show, unknowingly obstructing a girl’s view of

Ward / Romans / 39

the television.

The husky catcher playfully knocked Cindy to What ensued was a

the ground with a double-legged kick.

wrestling match for dominance of the bed between the three teammates. Trisha, her spirit low in vigor and high in

reticence, watched her friend nervously, cupping her hands around her nose and mouth--a compromise gesture reflecting competing desires to watch and cover her eyes. The three Trisha’s

grapplers giggled and jovially insulted each other.

worry vanished as she became absorbed in Cindy’s personal vibrancy. O to be like Cindy!--who wrestled with supreme ease Red-faced, breathing heavily, sweat glistening

and bodily joy.

upon her dusky mustache1 , her helmet of hair maintaining its permastable form, Cindy purred with delight, all entangled amongst seething bodies. If at this moment the essential selves of Trisha and Cindy had emerged from their persons like ghosts and spoke to each other, trying to fit rough words to states of existence that defy the constraints of language, they would have said something like this: Essential Cindy: because you watch.
1

Trisha, I wrestle for you.

I wrestle

I wrestle to save you from the harshness of

Cindy was the first girl in their class to shave--her face. Delia Samuelson, by the way, was the first to shave her legs, and that’s a fact, so whatever Leslie Rogers.

Ward / Romans / 40

the physical world.

I wrestle so that through the medium of my

being you may relish its coarse pleasures. Essential Trisha: I admire you so much, Cindy. I know at

times you’re uneasy with your tomboy vivacity and that through me you wish to experience what it’s like to be delicate and dainty. Cindy, I need you as much as you need me: you attach

me to the ferocious animality of Being.

Before I met you I was

all light and air; my life seemed so insubstantial as to be nonexistent. You provide me with a life of fleshy

voluptuousness. Essential Chorus: shuddering loins! Physically, Cindy was in her prime: at the age of twelve By not growing, O raging hearts! O moving fluids! O

she had reached her adult height and weight. she shrank.

Cindy, once the giant of her age, was now a puppy.

“Oh now, puppy, puppy; puppy, puppy, oh now,” Trisha said. The answering machine clicked on, and after the recorded greeting Trisha half-listened to the following message: “Hello, hello...oh yes, Trisha my lady, I haven’t seen you lately. Ah yes, yes, yes indeed, call back...do?”

Ward / Romans / 41

Chapter 5

She wore a leather jacket and a scowl.

Sandra.

The worst

teller, confronting the customers with her sullen, angry demeanor. Lumpy’s: Short and defeated, her physical type was similar to but if Lumpy was a troll, Sandra was an elf, albeit a grim weariness had stamped

void of elfin sprightliness: itself upon her face.

Yet one could not dispute that the shape

of her nose was alluring. It had started around Christmas. The office gift exchange On the

lottery had determined Sandra as Roman’s beneficiary.

slips of paper used in the drawing all the employees had to write their names and below it the gifts they wanted--nothing more than twenty dollars, please. What Sandra wanted spoke to candles (not

Roman of a sensitive, introspective nature: scented) and a journal.

Perhaps her outer character was but an

Ward / Romans / 42

injured person’s defense; perhaps her angry façade would crumble with a tender stroke, an honest word. It is enough to say that

Roman, compassionate man that he is, began with lofty intentions: to aid a sufferer. He felt ashamed for the

indifference with which he’d treated her since he took control of the branch and even winced when considering the times he thought of firing her. Sandra, though she put no more effort into it or had learned anything new, at first thought that Roman’s attentions, in contrast to his usual indifference, were upon her for exemplary performance at work. It was partly true: an entire At the

week had passed without one complaint against her.

Christmas party she realized that his interest wasn’t professional at all, but rather humanitarian, as it were. Alcohol, naturally, would serve to catalyze what would have otherwise remained latent. Knowing all of his employees to be

women, thus knowingly sending him unguarded into treacherous territory, practically condoning misbehavior by citing study time needed for a final examination, Trisha stayed home, and Roman went to the party by himself, imagining that beneath the detection of his conscious mind he seethed with resentment. #

Ward / Romans / 43

Sandra came alone and decked-out.

She entered the

restaurant and stood near the flattering glow of the Christmas bulb lights--strung through a trellis at the entrance. orange lipstick glittered charmingly. Her

“Sandra’s here!” Roman

said to the group, his excitement causing some disturbance among the skeptical, weary faces of his employees. Every banker is tragic, and the women of his branch were no different. For one thing, all the unmarried ones had children Also, at any given time, either

and the married ones didn’t.

they themselves or a close relation was guaranteed to be suffering from some horrible illness. In the mornings before

the branch opened the tellers spoke of patients in solemn murmurs. The only nonsmoker among the tellers, young Samantha Kobuzniak (whose father has a heart condition) sat next to Roman in a becoming green top--the only comely employee, for that matter. She studied at Tri-C, a community college, while

working full-time, and would in a few months be impregnated by her boyfriend, who would disappear shortly thereafter. She will

drop out of school and remain a teller her whole working life, her youthful flower withered within five years. Cynthia Harris,

pretty long ago but now done up like a plaster doll, sat across the table from Samantha. She led a life of dissipation because Each at the table--totaling

cancer had ruined her face.

Ward / Romans / 44

thirteen employees and seven guests--has her own tale of woe, but now is not the time to tell them. When Sandra--her shoulders tension-bunched beneath her black leather jacket--neared the table she was greeted by cigarette smoke and a jumble of voices, causing her confusion. Should she respond to each voice individually? Or try to think Who was

of something to say that would take care of everyone? saying what anyway?

This caused her anxious fright until she

heard the muffled basso of Roman issue out to her in an assuring tone beneath the din of her coworkers. anxiety. His voice allayed her She gave Taking

Relaxed, a solution soon arose in her mind.

a single smile in response to the assorted greetings.

her seat she noticed that Cynthia and the biker she had brought with her were already deeply soused, their hands inappropriate under and, at times, above the table. Seeing this she looked

over to Roman; he smiled at her, oblivious of the public groping, his mind upon her alone--a smile she took to mean that this behavior was amusing rather than unacceptable to him. Sandra had perceived Roman as a punctilious moral type and was surprised he would have such a libertine view of the matter. True to appearances, permissiveness wasn’t foreign to his character.

Ward / Romans / 45

Every year the corporate office allotted its managers a decent sum for the branch Christmas parties. stingy: Roman was not

contrary to the policy of every other manager in the

district, he pocketed none of it, or used any of it to make up for losses in the branch’s operating ledger. For this, his

first year managing the branch, he chose a lavish restaurant (by holiday party standards) for the occasion to make a favorable impression, and through his generosity was able, for the night of the party at least, to create an intimate atmosphere among his employees, who, sensitive to their ever-shifting esteem among their fellows, were riven by petty rivalries and the gossip that fueled them. This sense of intimacy, however, was

soon dampened when Roman, restaurant-wary, ordered only tea for himself, having already dined at home. Danielle, one of the

tellers, experiencing an itchy pain beneath her left shoulder blade where a non-cancerous cyst had been removed, even said, “Why won’t you eat? What, are you too good for this place or something?” Neither insensitive nor idiotic, Roman knew the He knew the resentment they must

consequences of his behavior.

feel, how by separating himself in such a way, he was, to their minds, reinforcing his position of advantage. He was there, it He

seemed to them, not to participate, but to monitor.

withstood their savage looks and muttered insults in silence,

Ward / Romans / 46

which further irritated them.

If he told them why he didn’t eat

at restaurants it would only confirm what they suspected of him: prissy superiority. Sipping his tea, his eyes shrewdly

narrowing, he considered that the stir he was creating might hinder his chances with Sandra. Roman saw himself as a man with

inflexible principles, and wouldn’t let the desires of others weigh upon him. He could sip his tea and be happy with his This bit of unpleasantness, fortunately, The general

inflexible principles.

soon passed and things loosened up again.

conversation, which began as a halting song of softly spoken polite remarks and other sociable chirps, transformed itself into a cacophony of pleasure-grunts with the arrival of food and alcohol, the growth of the conversation commensurate with that of their gullets. most got drunk. Needless to say, they had a cheerful time; At the party’s end Roman was the only one

entirely sober; yet his thinking also was distorted at the moment--by desire. Certain things said, certain glances cast,

and certain behaviors observed had led Roman to believe he would commit adultery that night. To his mind he had come to this

conclusion independently; to his mind he saw the impending adultery as revenge for the strange friendship of Trisha and Cindy. wholly. This conclusion, it must be known, wasn’t Roman’s Others, in the persons of his tellers, had subtly

Ward / Romans / 47

induced him.

Cynthia was the chief culprit.

She, keen to

everything sexual, was well aware of Roman’s newfound lust for Sandra; she was equally aware of Sandra’s sexual loneliness. short, Cynthia sought the sport of felling her superior. She In

enlisted some of the more seasoned, cynical tellers in her plot. Their machinations were simple and effective. In the hearing

range of Roman, they’d say, “Oh, Sandra, that sweater is really nice on you. It’s just perfect for your figure,” or some such,

after which Cynthia would never miss Roman’s eyes roving across her sweatered breasts. Around Sandra they began to comment on

all of Roman’s appealing features, some going as far as to suggest that if he weren’t their boss, they’d love to date him. Under thirty and already a branch manager! his money! Just think of all

And of the promotions that lie ahead for this Indeed, Roman lived relatively

successful, good-natured man!

well, earning at least twice the income of the tellers. # In uneven intervals, usually in couples, people left the party, most homeward bound to fornicate, some to defecate, some to both (though not at the same time, fortunately, or unfortunately, depending on your predilections), and a few lonely ladies to peruse the internet or watch TV or both, until only Cynthia and her biker, Danielle and her guy, and Roman and

Ward / Romans / 48

Sandra remained. Seated at the table end opposite Sandra and conversing at a distance, Roman moved a seat or two closer with each departure, as if their cross-table conversation compelled him to do so, until he sat next to her. Momentarily pulling her

lips away from the biker, a rope of saliva still hanging between them, Cynthia looked, bleary-eyed, over to Danielle, and, with a nod, directed the latter’s attention to Roman and Sandra. themselves they smiled. time to leave. a ride home. accepted. Roman’s brown sedan glided through the crystal winter They Soon all conversation died. To

It was

Danielle and her guy gave Cynthia and the biker Roman offered to take drunken Sandra home--she

evening; the moon shone down on the car like a spotlight. had little left to say to each other. “Do you mind if I smoke?” Sandra asked.

The radio played softly. “No, please, go ahead, The

just roll down the window a teence, if you don’t mind.”

near silence continued, interrupted only by Sandra muttering directions now and then. the window. Sandra flicked her cigarette out of

It bounced along the street like a lit firecracker Soon

until it rolled down into a sewer and was extinguished. after that they pulled into her driveway. park and gave her a queer smile.

Roman put the car in

She brushed her hair behind “Sandra,” said Roman,

her ears and looked out of the window.

Ward / Romans / 49

“is it all right if I ask you a question?”

She cleared her “Sandra, You’re

throat, a white fist against her mouth, and nodded.

talking to you tonight made me realize how nice you are. really nice. hand. Do you think I’m nice too?”

Roman patted her

“Sandra, please look at me...you’re so lovely...you are.” She cleared her throat again.

He lightly kissed her cheek.

Woodpecker-like, he kissed her cheek repeatedly, and while doing so, unzipped her jacket. He then reached under her sweater and

shirt and grabbed a handful of confused, tremulous humanity. She whinnied. Encouraged, he worked his hand underneath her She cleared her throat and

black pants into her hairy vagina. then began to sob.

Ward / Romans / 50

Chapter 6

Three days of constant asking having failed to win employment for her small friend, Trisha switched to a passive, yet more vicious method of persuasion: avoidance. She and Cindy

whiled their hours away from the house in book, coffee, or record shops. room together. Returning home late, they slept in the living Roman sat in his empty house, doing nothing but He confronted Trisha in the bathroom She stood before the mirror

thinking, ready to kill. after a few days of this. straightening her bangs.

“How could you do this to me? you? I’m your husband!

How?

After I moved here for

You love your silly little bitch more

than me?” “Roman, I love you, but she’s been my friend most of my life. You should be her friend too. I know you can get her

that job.

You just don’t want to for some strange reason.”

Ward / Romans / 51

Roman smiled tightly, leaned over Trisha’s shoulder, and screamed nastily into her ear, his idea being to implant a permanent scream in there; he wanted her to suffer the torment of hearing it forever. She whipped him with the flat iron; the He stumbled back into their

blow would result in a fat lip. bedroom, hands to his face.

“You could’ve blinded me, you fucking cunt!” “I can’t hear, you asshole!” she said through her tears. Roman sprawled himself across their bed enraged and dejected. He breathed emotionally through his nose and rolled His everyman’s gut extended and sloped

over onto his side. mattress-ward. off work.

He took the phone from the nightstand to call

Trisha had already left the room, her bangs Bitterly lonesome, he thought to

incompletely straightened.

call his mother, but the thought that he would think to do that depressed him even further. He wasn’t a man. # The next day at work Roman got a call from his district manager. The news was bad: his branch would be losing fifteen Sandra had cashed several large checks in the Some of these checks

thousand dollars.

past month without following protocol. bounced.

Per company policy she had to be fired.

Ward / Romans / 52

Roman got Sandra on the speakerphone and told her to come over when the branch was less busy. When she appeared at the The customer, who

mouth of his cubicle he was with a customer.

at first seemed a gentle housewife, became convulsed with hysterical rage disputing fees that had been assessed on her account. Red-fleshed and jittery, she tersely screeched threats Sandra’s gloomy, hovering presence disconcerted He focused on the lady’s face, not hearing

against Roman.

his concentration.

what she was saying, but noticing how, in the area beneath her thin eyebrows and above her eyelids, arches of electric blue eye shadow had appeared, arches imprinted by enraged blinking. Despite his anxiety he enacted the customer neutralization model with success. When it came time for “words of pacification”

Roman’s injured upper lip snagged on his braces, the flesh bunching up pug-like below his nose for an imperceptible moment. His mouth was painfully dry. Roman nodded Sandra in. “Sandra, how are you this morning?” “Fine, Roman. “Me? How you doing?” After dispatching the customer

I’m all right.”

“Here are those deposit leads you wanted,” she said with a timid downward glance. Roman remembered how he had felt her

tremulous humanity that evening and the pity it may have roused

Ward / Romans / 53

in him.

Strange:

now the incident was distant and unreal.

Her

furrowed, evasive facial expressions, however, reminded him, despite his impression, of its reality. He fired her. “Now I’m

“It’s because I wouldn’t fuck you,” Sandra said. really gonna fuck you, fuckhole.

Trust me, you can’t do

something like this, not after what you tried to pull that night. Everyone knows what you tried to do. You’re going to

get fucked for this, you hear me!” “Thanks for the input, Sandra. me improve my managerial efficiency. of your station. Your suggestions will help Now let’s do a final audit

Get ready, I’ll be over in a moment,” he said, Hunch-shouldered, she had

nodding with robotic affability. nothing left to say.

He searched the faces of the people in the

branch to see if any scandal had seeped out of his cubicle. None of the faces indicated it. with worry. What had he done? Still, inside he was trembling Why did he do it? This angry

lady could ruin his career, his marriage. Would she really, as she put it, fuck him?

He didn’t know her.

Beneath the bland music that soaked the branch he listened to her shoes squeak against the rubber floor’s gray and blue tiles, tiles that had little bumps on them for traction. Before

the teller windows puddles--the runoff of people’s footwear-curled around the little bumps; the antiseptic white light that

Ward / Romans / 54

bore into them from the ceiling did nothing to cleanse their septic aspect. Tacked to the gray walls, garishly colored

posters advertised interest rates with false, straining gaiety. After dismissing Sandra Roman left the bank claiming he’d be out the rest of the day meeting with clients; his true destination was home. When he arrived Trisha and Cindy were sipping tea and watching television. He’d expected them to be in class.

Neither acknowledged his presence. “Cindy can start work next week, okay?” It was over for him at the bank, so at least he could enjoy a brief interlude of domestic calm before his life completely unraveled, he thought as he walked upstairs, a thought he’d been trying not to think. itched. His tighty-whities were damp. His butt His suit

His skin felt filthy and tingled slightly.

needed to go to the dry cleaners. While staring out of his bedroom window he realized he’d made a mistake. harassed her. Sandra couldn’t get him fired. It was consensual groping. He never

Plus, it happened a

month ago, and she comes out with this after she’s fired? “Roman, I’m so sorry about everything,” Trisha said as she entered the bedroom. “Come here, Romie baby, hug me. You see,

you see; I’m still your Trish Trish; there’s no need for you to

Ward / Romans / 55

be mean to Cindy.”

Though he despised himself for it, her

affection made him feel altogether better.

Ward / Romans / 56

Chapter 7

Roman’s birthday was next week.

Trisha decided to have a He wanted to have

party when returning her father’s call.

dinner with her at Always Yours--not really, but he couldn’t find a natural approach to the Cindy issue over the phone. He

thought that if he could get her face-to-face it’d be different; also, he wanted to delay an unpleasant task. While Carl’s

dinner invitation hovered unanswered, Trisha was struck with a brilliant idea. Roman’s birthday. She said that they were having a party for Before that moment they weren’t. Instead of (That way she They would

meeting for dinner, he should come over for that. wouldn’t have to spend time alone with her father.)

have a good time and he’d finally get to see their house. The night of Roman’s birthday party the snow twinkled All was still. Carl

silver and blue beneath the full moon.

drove feeling at peace (a feeling qualified, of course, by his anxious temperament). It was unlikely he’d have to talk to First, Roman would

Trisha this evening about Roman’s complaint.

Ward / Romans / 57

be there, and it would be too awkward to bring it up in his presence. Second, Trisha’s friend would probably be there as He’d explain to

well; no way he could bring the issue up then.

Roman that he had made all reasonable efforts to convey the message to Trisha, and had indeed made some progress. Besides,

a delicate matter like this cannot be dealt with abruptly, but rather takes some finesse, as in chess, where a patient, methodical style is more often rewarded than an aggressive, haphazard one. The displays of the radio and the meters reflected greenly He looked up through his windshield to see Black branches--seeming like the He

in Carl’s glasses.

the moon bulging effulgently.

moon’s eyelashes--swarmed his field of vision’s periphery.

adjusted his glasses often, and scanned the directions just as much, not reading them attentively, but fulfilling a nervous compulsion. When he felt he was nearing the house he turned the Suddenly Trisha’s driveway sprung

volume down on the radio.

upon him. Instinctively, he jerked the wheel, so as not to pass it. The car lurched into the driveway, striking a patch of ice Carl lost control of the car as it barreled down The car’s deceleration

at high speed.

the driveway in a herky-jerky manner.

was greatly assisted by a small animal, that, from Carl’s perspective, appeared from nowhere in the lights as a blue blur,

Ward / Romans / 58

and then was sucked under the car as soon as it was seen, and was lastly heard and felt as a series of grisly thuds.

Ward / Romans / 59

Part II

Chapter 1

A year passed.

Roman’s most remarkable year.

Many great

things had happened.

For instance, he had his unsightly braces

removed, not to mention that Trisha gave birth to Carla Markovsky. The naming of the baby was a victory for Roman. Roman was violently opposed to

Trisha wanted to name her Cindy. this suggestion. done for him.

He wanted to honor Carl for all that he had Trisha would

It was an easy victory for Roman:

clam up at the mention of Carl, the subject of her father causing her such conflicted and confused feelings that she could not produce articulate speech. honoring her own father? His affability becoming ever more mechanical and unfelt, Roman had advanced himself two positions at the bank and now Anyway, how could she object to

Ward / Romans / 60

worked in the corporate headquarters, leaving behind the tellers Cynthia Harris, Danielle, Samantha Kobuzniak, et al., whose lives no longer touched his, alas. what his demeanor stood for. concern him. Everybody he met approved of

He gained thirty pounds--it didn’t Actually, it was

Life was less complicated.

perfect: after a little bump in the road, he had attained what all true men desire: a happy family of his own.

One morning he awoke to the cries of his child; not because of them--he was inured--but rather to a hard pain in his ribs. He felt as if he had just ran a four hundred meter dash, whatever that feels like. Trisha, a light sleeper and,

incidentally, a good mother, was already with wee Carla. The pain limited his ability to maneuver, an ability already limited significantly by his overblown gut, causing him some trouble getting out of bed. He rolled off of the bed and

onto the floor, landing silently on his hands and knees upon the pink carpet like a fat cat; he then pulled himself up with the night stand’s support. into the bathroom. Standing slightly bent over, he shuffled

Five of six light bulbs (one was always out) Roman stood dazed

blazed whitely in a line above the mirror.

while adjusting to the light, wearing only white briefs--his pajamas of choice since childhood. He examined his pale torso.

What he noticed was a patch of hair--about the size and shape of

Ward / Romans / 61

the Tramp’s mustache--that had established itself overnight--to his recollection--atop a mole situated on the flesh that hung from his ribs. It was like a furry island in the milky sea of

his flesh, remote from the hairy mainland--a mainland shaped like an hour glass, its broad termini (his subnavel and supernipple regions) connected by a downy isthmus. The patch in It

question, he was surprised to find, was numb to the touch. was the area around and under it that ached.

He then thought

that perhaps if he shaved the hair off of the mole he would see the problem. He ran the razor over it until the blade was Yet the patch was no shorter.

jammed up with specks of hair.

Three days later he was in the office of Dr. Hoffman, a dermatologist. The waiting room had white walls and institutional, blueand-gray-flecked carpet; it produced a sense of emotional aridity in its occupants. While waiting he pawed through a

national news magazine, his only companion a youth of around fourteen years with bulging eyes and a crimson cluster of acne on his chin. The boy sat with his arms around himself and

rocked back and forth (the office was chilly), his protuberant eyes on the aquarium: full of red and black fish listlessly

threading plastic stalks of sea grass or probing the pink and blue gravel for errant tubifex. The boy and Roman were called

Ward / Romans / 62

into the office at the same time. first.

Roman let the weird boy go in

Roman, his side throbbing, waited for the doctor on the

blue cushions of the patient’s table; the cushions had sanitary paper stretched down their center. In the intervening days the patch, at first a mere Its

mustache, had grown into a parasitic gerbil, as it were. alarming growth drove Trisha to hysterics. queasy. It made Roman

The doctor entered and Roman, for a moment forgetting his

ribs, leapt up like a private shocked by the sudden appearance of a general. Dr. Hoffman was a brusque fellow. He had a cylindrical

head. Bubbling with the joyful perversity that accompanies a rational-comic detachment from life, Hoffman, when not in the office, wore a stovepipe hat to exaggerate the effect of his head’s unusual shape. The arms of his mustache seemed like Some were disturbed when noticing

duplicates of his eyebrows.

that no hair grew in the tear-shaped hollow above the center of his upper lip. the middle. He parted his heavily pomaded black hair down

His gray eyes could not help but express bored

disdain--clearly visible even behind the small round lenses of

Ward / Romans / 63

his wispy glasses.

Shirtless Roman stood hunched while the

doctor crouched to examine him. “I see, I see,” Hoffman said in a tone of vague He patted down the pockets of his lab coat. After a moment of perplexity he What

satisfaction.

he wanted he couldn’t find.

raised his right index finger to the ceiling and left the room. He returned with pair of tongs. “Lie down on your side...the other side.” The paper that

was stretched across the table crinkled as it absorbed Roman’s girth. Roman made a quick sucking sound when Hoffman administered His whole being soon seemed to dissolve To Roman they

a surprise injection.

in liquid warmth; Hoffman applied the cold tongs.

seemed to press the flesh, so to speak, of a cloth dummy, albeit one tied to his floating center of consciousness by a kite string. At one point in this drifting, time-muddled experience, He then became aware

he felt as if the dummy had burst a seam. of his own shallow, rapid breathing.

And then of his pain.

What at first sounded like a jumble of indistinct rumblings soon announced itself to Roman’s ears as human speech. seemed to be talking to himself. “Stay put, damn it!” “I haven’t moved.” Hoffman

Ward / Romans / 64

“Not you.” “Who?” “Damned homunculus!” “What?” Drugged and lethargic, Roman was unable get himself in Hoffman’s shoes squeaked like he

position to see the doctor. was playing basketball. faint, devious laugh.

Roman could hear heavy breathing and a Thwacking noises and a final “damn it”

preceded a quiet moment--all that could be heard was the doctor’s heavy breathing. Hoffman pardoned himself from the He

room and left with something tucked under his armpit.

returned bearing a cardboard box (originally used for computer paper) that had several holes poked through its top. “Get up, will you?” said Hoffman. tremulous effort. homunculus’. detached. Roman sat up with

“You had what’s called an ‘emergent

What that is is a part of you that’s become

Don’t worry, it hasn’t been known to be fatal, though

I don’t see why it couldn’t be.” “You mean I might die!” “Don’t interrupt me.” “Sorry.” “Be quiet, man!” “Sorry.”

Ward / Romans / 65

Hoffman glanced cuttingly, paused for a moment to collect himself, then continued, “As I was saying...of course. As I was

saying, you’re made of innumerable people and each is a part of you, though each one is entirely you too. things, or whatever, we call ‘homunculi’. These people, or For reasons not fully In short,

understood, a homunculus will detach from its being. the fabric of your identity is unraveling.

If you continue to Anyway, in

interrupt me I’ll stop right here!...very well then.

the olden days it was thought a man squirted a fully formed human into his lady’s womb--a human of miniature proportions, naturally--this was called a ‘homunculus’,” said Hoffman, abruptly adopting a yokel accent, to his evident self-delight. He went on soberly: homunculus, you see. long disproved. “The womb served as an incubator for the This theory, as you may know, has been

In your school days you learned that millions

and kajillions of sperm, their flagellum a’ thrashing, vied to be the first to penetrate the egg.” Again, the accent. “One

sperm, one egg,” he continued in his natural voice.

“Certainly

the latter is a less primitive view than the former, but it is only partially correct, as new developments in gynecological technology have demonstrated. The truth lies in a combination We’ve discovered

of these two embryonic development narratives.

that--in the course of a week or two mind you--all the sperm

Ward / Romans / 66

enter the egg.

Each sperm, in its turn, when united with the The homunculi then integrate

egg, develops into a homunculus.

during gestation to form a whole person.” “So I could lose kajillions of these things?” “Quite possibly. you. If you did, however, that’d be the end of

Yet no one knows the exact number you’d have to lose until

you’d be effectively disintegrated, making Roman Markovsky no more. This condition is rare, and of the few known cases, there You can at least take some comfort in

have been no deaths. that.”

“Do they ever come back, you know, reenter their person?” “They haven’t been known to.” “Is there any way to prevent more from coming out?” Hoffman tapped the butt of a blue pen--recently withdrawn from his lab coat pocket--on his pursed lips. There’s nothing really to be done. “No, not really.

Not much is known about this

condition; of causes, cures, and all the rest we know nearly nothing. But don’t look so glum, man, research is being done. Anyway, enough of

There’s bound to be breakthrough sometime. this blabber:

I’m sure you’re curious to see the damned thing.” Dr.

What he expected to see was a gerbil-sized Roman. Hoffman lifted the punctured lid of the box. out and landed on Roman’s lap.

The thing jumped

He flailed his arms and kicked

Ward / Romans / 67

his legs like a man drowning. defecated on his pants.

The homunculus urinated and

Roman, saliva glistening on his

unbraced teeth, black malice in his eyes, smacked it viciously, sending it flying across the room. While brushing the mess off

of his pants, Roman turned away from Hoffman’s gaze. Dr. Hoffman made his mouth a tiny “o.” “You just killed a

small part of yourself,” he said, his dispassionate delivery spiked with a tone of reproof. “Don’t we have to just to get through a regular day?” Roman said, his rage bordering on tears. “Histrionical outbursts fail to persuade me of anything. The fact is you damaged yourself. Just because the homunculus

is detached from you doesn’t mean it’s not you.” “But it’s not me.” “Of course it is. from your side.” “But it’s not me.” “No. False. It is you. It simply doesn’t resemble you, Like Stop being foolish. I just pulled it

that’s all.

You cannot refute that this is a part of you.

everybody else, you either don’t know everything about yourself or you deceive yourself voluntarily or involuntarily, and when you find something out about yourself you hadn’t before known or admitted, it’s quite natural for you to be shocked and deny

Ward / Romans / 68

acceptance of what is to observers an objective fact.

Sooner or

later, though, a rational subject will assimilate a factual object, no matter how displeasing it is initially.” “It can’t be me!” “Really, it seems to be no use talking to you.” A stream of vivid gore poured from the mouth of the murdered homunculus. The thing, about eight inches in height,

lay on the floor, its legs spread in morbid wantonness, displaying its genitals. It was a miniature Cindy Novotny.

Roman, pale, his eyes set off to the side, his face drooping as if invisible weights tugged it down, his robo-smile quivering under the strain, managed to look over to the doctor. Dr. Hoffman, not willing to participate in Roman’s silly gloom, turned away from him and said, “It’s always astonished me how relatively big these homunculi are. If you’re composed of millions of them you’d think they’d be much smaller. This research topic is really fascinating, such paradoxes and perplexities.” again. His soliloquy complete, he addressed Roman

“Anyway, do you mind if I take this homunculus? It’s of

no use to you anymore, but of immense value to the medical community.” He then paused and stroked the arms of his mustache “Roman, wait in the room for a

with his thumb and forefinger. while.

I’m going to send a technician in here to take a blood

Ward / Romans / 69

sample from you.

Also, I want you to take a personality test. I’ll have the

Your behavior this afternoon was most disturbing. tech bring that along. day.” All right? Great.

Well, then, good

With that he grabbed the deceased with his thumb and

forefinger by its helmet of hair--but certainly not the same thumb and forefinger he had just used to stroke his mustache-and sauntered out of the room. Later that day Roman told Trisha that a cyst had grown beneath the mole; the mole grew so rapidly, he explained, because the cyst had fed it. The problem was minor, nearly

usual, and Dr. Hoffman was able to remove both mole and cyst in the office with a few scalpel flicks. Trisha--her wariness

aroused by Roman’s glum demeanor (his smile and eyes set off to the side)--said that he had cancer and didn’t know how to tell her. For months she accused him of lying about his cancer--he During this time he gained another eleven

never admitted to it. pounds.

He rationalized that he had to make up for the lost This weight gain assured Trisha of his health, thus

homunculus.

quelling her suspicions. Then horror and existential trembling. A wounded cherub Such now was

reaching out to a distant and indifferent God.

Roman’s state of soul, for less than a year after the first incident, he began bursting with homunculi, losing thirty in

Ward / Romans / 70

forty-five days.

They came from the same spot on his ribs, but

this time they didn’t need the assistance of tongs. This was to be expected. In his copious reading on his ailment Roman learned that the first homunculus, called the “burrower” or sometimes the “mole” homunculus, establishes the “homuncular portal”; once established, homunculi can easily exit their being. The homuncular burst began when Roman and Trisha were sleeping. “What the fuck, what the fuck!” screamed Trisha. Roman rolled over and turned on a lamp. He examined himself. wrong. His side ached.

Besides the pain, nothing seemed to be

Trisha continued screaming.

“Trish, honey, calm down, you’ll wake Carla.” He felt something scamper across his thigh. Trisha screamed louder. Carla screamed loudest. He screamed. Beneath the Roman punched Overcome by

sheets the homunculus laughed its singular laugh. the moving lump in the covers--it stopped moving.

the rational, albeit intuitive, sangfroid some people possess in extreme situations, he reached beneath the covers and grabbed whatever it was--his mind was forming some idea by now--by its thick black bowl of hair, took it to the kitchen, banged its head open on the counter, put it in the garbage, and put the bag

Ward / Romans / 71

outside with the rest of garbage. collection day.

Tomorrow happened to be

When he came back in he found Trisha with Carla.

Trisha

convinced herself that somehow a cat or something had gotten into the house. She’d only dimly seen what it was. It was The

summer; they had their screen-less bedroom windows open.

cat must have jumped through the open window from the branch of a nearby tree. “Yes, a cat,” said Roman. “Are you sure it wasn’t a squirrel?” “No, Siamese cat.” It is significant to add that on the very last day of the

homuncular burst the plug was finally pulled on Cindy.

Ward / Romans / 72

Chapter 2

From above on this full-mooned winter night Parma looks The houses are the dark squares, and the This works because,

like a chessboard.

snow-covered yards are the white squares.

due to a famous zoning regulation, the lots to the left, right, and center of any house must be vacant. In other words, every No doubt

house in Parma has ample front, back, and side yards.

this regulation was proposed and passed because of the doings of that wily Englishman who disguised his English accent with an Irish one, James Willis Garrett III, a tombstone merchant by trade, who some hundred years ago settled in Parma, for reasons undeclared, after living most of his life in Savannah, Georgia. This Garrett was a poet, a dreamer of the dollar. He envisioned

that every Parmanian home would be handed down from generation

Ward / Romans / 73

to generation, and that these homes would be surrounded by the remains of their ancestors. He said that burying your kin next In

to your house would make you more likely to keep the house.

this way the people would be bound to their land and ancestors, and the Parmanian community would be one of great strength. Garrett’s angle on this was that he thought people would pay more for tombstones if they had to see them everyday, which is to say if their neighbors saw what size gravestones they bought for their departed. Though the regulation was passed, nobody Garrett’s idea had emotional

buried their dead near home.

appeal, playing on the human instinct to glorify the past, and by voting for the regulation, people voted for the idea. But

the world had already changed to the deracinated and anonymous one we know today. The regulation was never repealed because it

gave Parma, in contrast to its actuality, a progressive, “openspaces” flair that made the city distinctive. Parma at night is a chessboard. squares diagonally we see a figure. bishop. Moving across the white That would make her a

The bishop piece, however, tends to be long, skinny, This bishop is short, fat, and round. In Ohio

and pointy.

people do not fear their neighbors, so there are no fences to impede her movements. party. She’s rocket-waddling to Trisha’s for the Cindy has store-bought

There’s going to be beer!

Ward / Romans / 74

cookies in her backpack that she’s bringing for the occasion. You may remember Part One ended with something like a cliffhanger. What, you’re wondering, did Carl run over?

It pains us talk about it, so we’ll tell it briefly, a sequence of events ending in disaster: 1) Carl looks up from his directions and notices Trisha’s house on his immediate right. 2) As he turns (very quickly) his car goes over a patch of ice. 3) Carl loses control and the car skids herky-jerky down Trisha’s driveway. 4) Cindy, waddling rapidly, crosses a neighbor’s yard into Trisha’s and slips on another patch of ice in the middle of the driveway. 5) Cindy, previously unseen by Carl (as she came from the neighbor’s yard), hangs suspended in air in the middle of the driveway. 6) Carl hits Cindy with the grill of his car. 7) Cindy bounces down the driveway with the car, her head striking the icy pavement several times. Since then she’d been in a coma, made a vegetable in her salad days. The little turnip’s life had been sustained at

Ward / Romans / 75

Grandma’s expense:

Cindy’s parents had died long ago.

Grandma

had raised her and her brothers. Trisha was inconsolable, having refused Cindy a ride, saying she hadn’t time with the errands she had to run to get things ready for the party. Carl, perhaps, was more distraught,

considering he ran her over, and that, furthermore, he’d indirectly caused Eleanor’s accident, which required stitches and left a long scar down her face, only a couple of weeks before. while. # Carl, accompanied by Roman and Trisha, came under Grandma’s spell when visiting comatose Cindy in the hospital a few weeks after the accident. Coming from the neutral atmosphere of the He referred to himself privately as “Killer Carl” for a

hospital’s corridor, they were arrested by the smell of the room as they entered--on first sniff seeming a combination of must, mushrooms, and camphor. They then noticed Grandma--a slim

crucifix hanging from her sinewy neck--rubbing Cindy’s chest, periodically dipping her hands into a marble bowl filled with ointment. “Friends of Cindy, Grandma welcomes you to room of You, out the chair now.” Guy--Cindy’s

sadness; please, sit.

brother--grunted and obeyed.

“I guess I’ll grab a drag,” he “Look, I rub Cindy

said, nodding to Trisha as he left the room.

Ward / Romans / 76

with Grandma’s special ointment.

The secret ingredient is The three

camphor,” said Grandma, whispering the last sentence. nodded to this.

“Grandma,” said Trisha, “you remember Roman and my dad from the wedding?” “Grandma not senile!” “Oh, Grandma, I know. How’s Cindy?”

Grandma explained what the doctors had told her. Since entering the room, Carl had unconsciously bent his head and hunched his shoulders; he consciously kept a pace or two behind Roman and Trisha. nervously. “You back there, you Unsteady Eddy?” said Grandma. “Ah, well, ah” said Carl, sucking his lip in and looking down, “I don’t know how to tell you how sorry I am, ah, ah, if there’s anything I can do...” Grandma noticed Carl’s hands. They resembled tiny fetuses. “Here, help Grandma rub ointment on Cindy. Is least you He had rubbed them raw. He rubbed his hands together

can do.” “Ah, rub her...chest, ah, isn’t it best I...” “Is not wrong to rub chests of sick. Come here.”

Ward / Romans / 77

Grandma grabbed Carl’s hand--a pleasingly light and

feminine hand--and dipped it in the ointment, which made his raw fingers tingle. “Now rub; is easy.” Grandma guided Carl’s hand as he rubbed. His eyes were

like those of an astonished horse. That day Grandma put a spell on Carl. As Roman, Trisha,

and Carl were preparing to leave, Carl said to Grandma, “Ah, oh well, yes, indeed, Grandma dear, if there’s anything, ah, ah, I, ah, can do, yes, for you, ah, I’m so sorry, but, ah, here’s my number, just, ah, call me if you need anything.” Carl then

handed her a scrap of paper on which he had written his name and number. While the normal person may have taken this as a merely

friendly gesture not to be acted upon, Grandma made the most of it. She would call Carl, asking him to get her something,

saying that she was unable to do it herself because she was busy with Cindy. When Carl arrived, shopping bags in hand, the

errand complete, Grandma would invite him to eat with her, somehow having found time to cook despite being busy with Cindy. During these meals Grandma would further ensnare Carl in her web of calculated kindness. As well as making him her errand boy,

Grandma became quite adept at separating Carl from his cash,

Ward / Romans / 78

making him her banker. resistance.

Carl, guilt-ridden, didn’t put up any

It wasn’t long before Grandma had Carl under her control. This did not go over well with the Always Yours crew, especially Eleanor. “That Carl,” a waitress overheard one morning, “he Carl now ate most of his

disfigures ‘em, then leaves ‘em.”

meals at Grandma’s, who as Carl said, was also a magical cook. He dined at Always Yours only a few times a month now. When he

went there it was mostly an irritating affair for the regulars, as Carl wasn’t in the know anymore, and things had to be explained to him. of, the group. He was now a friend of, rather than a part

“He’s abandoned us, after all these years,” they “Why doesn’t he bring Grandma here? We’ve Has she cast some strange spell on

said at Always Yours.

never even met the lady.

him, the damned foreigner? She could be a witch, you know.” Months passed. Grandma, consumed by the effort of restoring Cindy’s vegetable to animal life, had diverted her attention and resources from her business and was now in danger of financial collapse. Recently she’d closed Magical Grandma Novotny’s and

sold the store space; she claimed to The Plain Dealer--who published a piece about the closing of the renowned store--“When you old you should not be busy. Now is time to reflect.” She

Ward / Romans / 79

needed the money for expenses.

In the beginning she thought Now she wasn’t

that her magical powers would bring Cindy back. so confident.

Carl, his own finances only slightly more than

modest to begin with, couldn’t keep providing Grandma cash, though he felt compelled to, as he had hit Cindy. held valuable property. her: He, however,

Which is why Grandma made Carl marry

the sale of his house would infuse them with money.

Selling her house was not a possibility. Carl sat in a chair in Grandma’s living room, reading a newspaper one evening. prayers over Cindy. She tapped him on the shoulder. “I made you cookies, man,” Grandma had just come from saying

said Grandma, who had been calling everybody “man” the past week. He speculated that it was something she had heard on the

television. Grandma had been especially kind to Carl recently. just brought him cookies. She had

The other day she loaded him up with Last week she had knitted him a Whenever they passed she Grandma did nice things for

Tupperwared meals for his home. matching hat, scarf, and gloves. embraced him. This troubled Carl.

emotional leverage. She was indifferent to whether one wanted or appreciated the favor: when you’re swimming. she might bring you a glass of water She felt differently about favors being

Ward / Romans / 80

paid back.

After all, what scoundrel could deny Grandma’s

simple requests, a woman who only thinks of your happiness, as proved by the cookies you’re eating now? “Carl, we are to be married,” she said. “Ah, ah, ah, I think, ah well, let’s see,” said Carl, who then sucked his lower lip in nearly to his tonsils. coughed and had another cookie. “Grandma is living in sin! husband! A man in her house not her He then

Is not decent to not be married.” Grandma’s

The living in sin part was false.

manipulativeness and Carl’s guilt is what caused and sustained their bond; which is not to say there was no real affection between them--there was--just not amorous affection. Grandma pecked Carl on the cheek and gave him a hug, her fuzzy purple shawl tickling his chin. “Soon you are to make whoopee with Grandma,” she said as she patted his rotund belly. Carl was in for hitherto unknown

delight, as Grandma was quite skilled, having torridly enveloped many a member in her day. Not for nothing did six (seven) men “Carl, you do not need house Is museum, old furniture,

marry her and obey her commands. anymore.

Living there is craziness.

sad memories.

You must sell house, you must change your life!”

Ward / Romans / 81

“Ah, but, ah, you’ve never even been there, my dear,” said Carl, his eyes trying to find somewhere to hide behind his glasses. Grandma never learned how to drive; thus all of their

meetings were conducted at Grandma’s. “What, do you think Grandma does not know things?” Timid, thoughtful Carl could not fight domineering Grandma. Not that he opposed her in this case, it’s just that he had some reservations--that’s why he tried to keep the sale of his house, and the marriage, secret from the Always Yours crew. They married a couple of weeks after Grandma’s announcement. There was no reception. Guy was the only person

besides them to know of the union.

They enjoyed several months

of pleasant, somewhat secret matrimony until, not long after the sale of Carl’s house closed, they were sunk by disaster, its courier the estate of Junior Henry. Junior Henry had been a truck-driving man all of his life. He was Grandma’s boyfriend at a time when she was between marriages. too much. Grandma, with Henry constantly working, was alone She finally said it was her or the road. At first he

said her, but after a year cooped up he snuck out of the house and never came back. He felt sorry for leaving Grandma like

that--he was also afraid of her--so he allowed her to stay in the house, which was his, and furthermore, fully paid. Junior,

Ward / Romans / 82

his name the only one on the title, had died recently. heirs wished to sell the house. afford a lawyer.

His

Grandma and Carl could not To

They were now homeless; poverty loomed.

cut expenses the plug was pulled on Cindy.

Ward / Romans / 83

Chapter 3

“Trisha, Grandma is now your mother.

Hug your Grandma

mother!” said Grandma, standing with Carl in Trisha’s doorway. “What?” Trisha hadn’t expected any visitors. smiled at Carl. She held Carla, who

He fluttered a tiny red hand in response.

“Grandma and Carl are married,” said Grandma, standing in the doorway with her arms open. A homunculus, suddenly appearing between Trisha’s legs, leapt out of the doorway into the bushes outside. “What the hell was that?” said Grandma. “Our cat,” said Trisha. when?” “Is baby Cindy!” said Grandma. After a moment of startled “You guys are married? Since

reflection, she added, “What is meaning of this craziness?”

Ward / Romans / 84

A social bunch, these homunculi seldom traveled alone. escapee was soon followed by others. playing hide-and-seek. Perhaps they had been

The

Ten or twelve of them, giggling Carla cried.

incessantly, danced about Grandma.

Ward / Romans / 85

Chapter 4

Roman stumbled amongst some unexpected clutter in the back doorway, nearly falling down. Dangerously reeling in an effort

not to let his heft get the better of his feet he forgot his left hand and flung his briefcase down the basement steps. dark basement swallowed it with little noise. homunculi Roman had become clumsy. manner was careful and precise. The

Since losing his

Before, though portly, his

Now he seemed perpetually

disoriented, as if he and the world had been calibrated to different standards. In normal times--to take the instance of

eating to illustrate a general trend--Roman, neat as a surgeon, cut his food into small identical pieces. He ate neither too

fast, nor too slow, and chewed everything, without noise or excessive jaw movements, until it was ground into tiny particles. Then, his Adam’s apple betraying no motion, he’d

suck everything into his stomach with one efficient swallow.

Ward / Romans / 86

Nowadays, his mishandled silverware screeching against a ceramic plate, he roughly tore at his food like a caveman, skeptically frowning at his impossible utensils. Then, say when cramming a

stabful of salad into his smile, a tomato wedge would fall from the fork and bounce off of Roman’s chest to the floor--some homunculus inevitably would scamper over and devour it--leaving a splotch of Italian dressing on his blue polo shirt. blankly ahead, he’d munch leaves. Though Roman’s capabilities were diminished, his utility, paradoxically, increased. His home life improved. Trisha now Staring

found him agreeable to live with as he no longer made her conform to his exacting regulations--even he violated them. work improved as well. Roman’s job consisted of applying his Sometimes His

signature on the correct spots of certain documents. company policy changed or a new banking law passed the legislature and new documents crossed his desk.

This would

complicate Roman’s work for weeks, as he would, by force of habit, place his signature where it went on the old documents, forgetting that the new documents were signed elsewhere. Besides this occasional lapse, his work was exemplary; his supervisors especially loved his anally neat penmanship. Though

his penmanship had markedly declined since he began to slow down, his productivity had quadrupled. It seemed only natural

Ward / Romans / 87

to his supervisors that his penmanship would suffer with such apparent hustle. ceaselessly. Nevertheless, the result pleased them

Before EHS (Emergent Homunculus Syndrome) hit,

Roman spent most of the day on the Internet reading about sports or emailing jokes, bits of news conveying patriotic sentiments, or cute pictures to his coworkers. In his new state of being it

didn’t occur to him to fritter his time away in the usual manner. The very act of signing his name took on a new aspect

of difficulty, as if his hand and the paper were moving at wildly different velocities. To place his entire signature, not

missing a single letter, on the correct line, had become for him a fascinating challenge, where before it was rote and dull. After completing each document he would look with relish at his achievement before moving on to the next one. Immersed, he

rarely went to lunch, barely looking up from his documents the eight hours he worked. Fortuitously, as Roman’s productivity Ray controlled

was peaking, Ray Bucalo visited his department. several departments in the company.

It was hard to determine He traveled constantly:

exactly where he was at any given time.

his position required him to perform manifold duties in divers locations. The man demanded the best; he could see right From time to time one of

through a weak employee with a glance.

Roman’s supervisors would get an email from a friendly source

Ward / Romans / 88

saying that an inspection from Bucalo was due.

For a whole

workday, and sometimes for the next one too, Roman and his coworkers did only their work; their worth depended on Bucalo’s judgment. Godot. He never came. Waiting for him was like waiting for

To Roman and his coworkers the threat of a Bucalo visit

seemed a transparent ruse their supervisors used to increase productivity. The seriousness of the matter, however, prevented But then...Holy Shit! (Or, in

them from treating it as such. pardonable French: Sacre Bleu!)

He appeared before them.

Years afterward Roman and his colleagues would still share stories of how it was just an ordinary day, just doing what they do, then boom, Ray Bucalo. Roman would never forget the

conversation he had with Bucalo, that precious moment when the whiskers of his life brushed against greatness. “And you must be Roman Markovsky. good things,” Bucalo said. “Ray Bucalo! It’s an honor to meet you,” Roman said as he shook his hand. Ray knew who he was! Roman surely was on his I’ve heard nothing but

way up in the company! “It’s pronounced ‘Bu-CA-lo’,” Bucalo said, raising his arm in an operatic gesture as he pronounced it, his hand open as if he were holding an invisible grapefruit. “Bu-CA-lo.”

Ward / Romans / 89

“No, no, it’s ‘BU-calo’,” he said this time with the same gesture. “BU-calo.” “Not quite, almost. “Buca-LO.” “Goddammit! “BUCA-lo.” “BUCA-lo?” “Sorry, sorry. “No.” “I think that’s what you said.” “I think I know how to pronounce my own name!” “Sorry, sorry. I must be a little hard of hearing.” Maybe just a little thick in the It’s ‘Bu-CA-lo’, right?” Do you listen? ‘BUCA-lo’.” Say, ‘Buca-LO’.”

“Yeah, it’s all right. head.” “Pardon?”

“Your hearing mustn’t be too good.” “Yeah.” Anyway, back to the present, back to the unexpected clutter: backdoor. Grandma and Carl had left their suitcases by the They were moving in. A few hours ago Grandma had

convinced Trisha of this, after first weakening her with the sad, though unsurprising, news of Cindy’s ultimate demise.

Ward / Romans / 90

Roman, deciding to get his briefcase later (staircases were treacherous for him), did not yet know this. Angered by his

near fall, he sucked in air through his nostrils to pacify himself--Carl’s car was in the driveway: present. “Roman, are you all right, honey? Grandma’s and Carl’s suitcases upstairs. now,” Trisha said as he came into view. Roman smiled. They were in the living room drinking tea. A homunculus napped in Grandma’s. We need you to take They’re living here he knew guests were

Carla slept in Trisha’s lap.

She stroked it behind the ears as it dreamily inhaled and exhaled like a loved puppy. Carl giggled nervously. The

microwave chirped plaintively, the kind that sounds periodically after it is done cooking that says, “Oh please, please do not forget me, please take what I’ve heated for you, do not forget what I have done for you!” Then many things occurred at once, mostly in Roman’s head. Yet one occurrence was more pronounced than the rest. “What the hell, what the hell, what the hell!” screamed Trisha. “Complete insane bonkers!” said Grandma. “Ah, ah, oh, oh my, why, ah, Roman, yes, Roman, oh my,” said Carl, rubbing his hands together.

Ward / Romans / 91

“What?” said Roman, oblivious. bag, there was a feisty cat in it.

If Roman’s shirt were a Pop, pop, pop, went Roman’s

shirt buttons as a homunculus leapt out. Silence. The homunculus stood in the kitchen, looked about, grunted, then lit a cigarette. The cigarette and lighter seemed to have (Where the said chattels came from

materialized in its hands.

not even the narrator of this tale would say, even after being administered one gnarly purple nurple.) “Who the hell is that?” asked Grandma, referring to the smoking, hunched-shouldered homunculus. “Yeah, Roman, who is she?” seconded Trisha. Roman, smiling insanely, stared at the homunculus. one was markedly different from the rest. “I, I don’t know, I don’t know,” said Roman, “I, I have no idea, absolutely no idea who this is.” Roman’s cell phone vibrated in his pocket. bother to take it out. It was his mother. He didn’t This

Ward / Romans / 92

Chapter 5

Though initially averse to having Grandma and Carl live with them, it only took a few hours for Roman to see what a boon it was. Before Grandma’s arrival, the homunculi were making Rambunctious, devious,

Roman’s and Trisha’s lives unbearable.

and intelligent, these homunculi constantly played destructive pranks upon the Markovskys. Never could they find their keys, Just to mention the more

Roman his wallet, Trisha her purse. common occurrences.

When the previous paragraph was begun it seemed best not to detail any of their pranks for the sake of narrative brevity, but you have to be told this because it’s so sordid. All of

us--the moral, immoral, and amoral--love to consider, at least just consider, the sordid. It’s nearly a deontic axiom: One

must consider the sordid--and secretly enjoy it, or not so

Ward / Romans / 93

secretly, depending on your company--then comment gravely on the depravity of man, the sick animal. Here it goes...well, first this. You may remember that a

homunculus is only about eight inches tall after it exits its being--sometimes referred to as the “home being.” Like all The

things that eat, homunculi grow, both tall and wide.

largest homunculus on record was three feet tall and weighed one hundred pounds. fellow. Its home being was Wesley Porter, not a big

In fact, his friends called him Lil’ Weezy, a moniker

he shared with the rapper, even though his respiratory health was vigorous, despite being a heavy smoker. old saw: Which proves the

all of our homunculi are different, and the way we

look on the outside doesn’t give reliable indication of what’s inside. itself. Not that having big homunculi is a great thing in Anyway, the smart little homunculi gobbled up all the to the size of a baby,

Markovsky’s food and grew accordingly: say Carla.

Perhaps their intelligence paralleled their growth.

For when they were fat they devised their most novel schemes. They shaved all the hair off one of their sisters. the hair and a cantaloupe skin, they fashioned a wig. With They took

Carla from her crib, removed her clothes and the cap her parents decked her bald head with, and fitted the wig to her head. shaved homunculus took her garments and her place. Trisha The

Ward / Romans / 94

breast-fed the impostor for three days.

And the sordid part? Carla had no

She knew from the beginning about the switcheroo: teeth, the homunculus did.

She would be a bad mother for that O, to behold it! To hold

face, that softly-glowing Cindy face!

Cindy again restored the charm now vanished from her life. In those three short days baby Carla grew some feral tendencies. Even the homunculi, a notoriously rowdy bunch, They had to return her. Roman, by the

couldn’t handle her.

way, given his mindstate at the time, couldn’t have noticed that his daughter was different. Now, there is no way you could have realized that the above incident actually didn’t happen, at least not in the way described. Trisha is a good mother. Almost as soon as they

switched the baby, Trisha, hysterical, called Roman at work. Roman came home, took his baby and gruesomely killed three homunculi by throwing them against the basement wall. homunculi were not to be seen for a week after this. Whoever came in here and spread these lies...some rotten, calumniating fiend, a person who would defame our innocent and frail Trisha, deserves--as all moderate, sane people can agree-to be driven before the public, pilloried, and then sodomized by Clydesdales. These mental wikis be damned! The

Back to the true story.

Ward / Romans / 95

Within hours of Grandma’s arrival, the homunculi had completely changed their behavior. They now were as cute as Grandma still

Mogwais; before they were as evil as Gremlins. commanded a powerful magic.

By rubbing them under the chin, by

mumbling foreign words (the language of sorcery?), by covering their bodies in ointment, and by forces unseen, Grandma subdued them. “Grandma, why don’t you teach the homunculi to cook and clean?” Trisha asked one day. and clean,” said Grandma. and talent. “But then Grandma could not cook

For both activities she had passion

Grandma’s cooking and cleaning were the second and Trisha’s

third reasons Roman enjoyed Grandma’s presence.

dishes, as Roman once told his mother, were nothing to be appreciated. cans. Most of the stuff she cooked came from boxes and

If she experimented with a scratch recipe the result was She overcooked meat and

invariably bad, sometimes bizarre. undercooked vegetables.

Once she made lasagna that had canned Roman used

peas, bologna, olives, and goldfish crackers in it.

to complain about such things, but she was helpless in the kitchen, so he cooked the meals, which were only so-so. With

Grandma and Carl they now feasted upon bramborová polévka, guláš, bramborové knedlíky, vepřová pečeně, and even vepřové s krenem. Never had Roman eaten so well since he lived with his

Ward / Romans / 96

mother and dined on her borsch, mushrooms and sour cream, pickles, potato pancakes, niania, kalachi, kokoorki, skorodoomki, krendels, rassolnik, vatrushki and other recipes transmitted through the generations. Where Trisha cleaned carelessly, leaving spots on mirrors and dishes in the sink, never vacuuming because she detested the noise, piling clothes on the closet floor, etc., Grandma brought everything to domestic perfection. Yes, Roman loved having

Grandma in the house; Trisha couldn’t stand it for many reasons, the most glaring one was that with Grandma came Carl. Finding

words to say to him made her tension mount till she felt like spider web quivering with the weight of raindrops. the same tension. however. Carl felt

Things improved after the first few days,

Carl was often out running errands for Grandma, who

had quickly gained control of the house--no difficult task considering the native Odter passivity and Roman’s diminished equilibrium. The house even began to take on a Novotny smell;

one couldn’t tell if the homunculi aided this.

Ward / Romans / 97

Chapter 6

One day Dr. Hoffman telephoned Roman at work. “Roman, I’m scheduling you to visit me tomorrow morning. Certainly it’s in your best interest not to miss the appointment.” “What?” Roman said dopily. “Are you drunk, man? “What? Oh, yeah.” “ ‘Yeah’, what?” “Since losing my homunculi, I haven’t been myself lately. I stumble everywhere, can’t think or talk, just like I was drunk.” “How many have you lost, man?” “Thirty-two. I just lost one the other day, but five are Isn’t this your work number?”

dead, the one I killed in your office and four that I killed at home.”

Ward / Romans / 98

“Well, that’s quite a lot.

From my studies I suspected

you’d have a decrease in energy so maybe you’re simply not functioning well because of that. without sleep.” “I do feel tired all the time.” “Roman, I think I can help you. I’m beginning to think Maybe you’re like a man

EHS, rather than a pathological condition, may be a manifestation of a new evolutionary process. Roman, though

entirely unexceptional as a man, you--all EHS patients--may represent the next step beyond Homo sapiens. You may be capable

of asexual sexual reproduction...Don’t worry about what that is now. thing: We’ll talk tomorrow. You’ll come then?...Good. One more All

you must bring one of your homunculi with you.

right?...All right, then, see you tomorrow. eight.

Let’s say around

Don’t forget to bring the homunculus.”

The next day, Saturday, after working his way through some construction, Roman arrived at the Rockside Road medical building, known as The Hospital, that stood next to I-77. building was made of maroon stone and glass. The

Its many windows

were mirrors in the day but transparent at night, displaying neon-lit elevator cars. In Roman’s passenger seat a homunculus rustled in its cage. Obtaining one for the appointment, as he foresaw, was a

Ward / Romans / 99

difficult task.

Grandma had taken full command of them, which She loved them as much as

amounted to taking full possession. she did her “big, not-here Cindy.” “Why, Roman, must he see it?”

“I don’t know; he’s a doctor, he has his reasons.” “Will he hurt her?” “Of course not.” “But you hurt her. garbage!” “Grandma, nobody will hurt it, and anyway, this is me we’re talking about, not Cindy.” It was then that the Sandra homunculus, having been trained to smoke outside, came in through the dog door Grandma made Roman pay to have installed. “Fine, Roman, fine. Take mean one,” said Grandma, folding Trisha say you kill them and throw in

her arms defiantly, nodding at the Sandra homunculus. Nobody in the household approved of the Sandra homunculus, especially Trisha, who sensed that it represented something filthy about Roman, if only because it smoked and had a bad attitude. Regardless, Roman left for the appointment under a

cloud of threats, as Grandma cared for all small animals, no matter how nasty. She warned him that she would deprive him of

Ward / Romans / 100

his manhood if she felt any wrong had been done to her homunculus. To Roman’s astonishment Dr. Hoffman awaited him in the lobby. Roman hitherto perceived him as a man who not only It was unlike

observed all formalities, but did so with relish.

Hoffman to be seen before the visitor had checked in with his secretary. Even more unsettling was the glint of what may have Roman thought

been enthusiasm in his usually indifferent eyes.

he even might have detected him trying to suppress a smile. The men exchanged the customary greetings of their region. Dr. Hoffman then snapped his fingers and two men in white uniforms eased Roman of his burden. Grandma had stored some of

the stuff she wasn’t able to get rid of from her pet store in Roman’s basement. Among those things were some birdcages. One

of the cages was large enough to comfortably fit a homunculus; so in it went, and over the cage went a beach towel: not

understanding the situation, the public, if it saw what was in his cage, could take him as a child abuser. Dr. Hoffman, with a tilt of the head, indicated that Roman was to follow him. That he did to a part of the building he had the penthouse. It was like a penthouse

never been to before: in a fancy hotel:

leather couches, multiple levels, a

Ward / Romans / 101

fireplace, a well-stocked bar, space and windows galore, nothing medical about it. “Please, Roman, make yourself comfortable, please, sit down. Would you like a drink?”

“Ah, sure.” “Well, what would you like?” Roman wasn’t really listening, as, with some fear, he was trying to figure out why Dr. Hoffman was buttering him up, as he obviously was, replacing his former severity with restrained bonhomie. Roman heard as he came to, “A whiskey man are you?”

A tea man actually, but to be polite he agreed to whiskey. “Doctor Hoffman...so where’d those guys take the homunculus?” “Don’t you worry, Roman, I’m just having it examined. It’ll be returned to you shortly.” “My manhood depends on it not being mistreated.” took his cell phone out of his pocket. He saw that it was his mother calling. pocket without answering. “I don’t know if I fully understand you, but you can be assured that no harm shall come to it on my account. forget what you yourself did to your first homunculus. shall put your drink on this coaster.” Let us not Here, I Roman

It had been vibrating. He put it back in his

Dr. Hoffman put the

Ward / Romans / 102

drink down and sat across from Roman in a big black leather chair, one of its arms almost touching the glass of the floorto-ceiling windows. “Thanks.” Dr. Hoffman settled in his chair and crossed his legs. The

men silently raised their glasses and then sipped their drinks. “So, how do you like this place?” said Hoffman. “It’s fabulous, quite lavish. Hospital?” “In a sense. However, it’s my private residence. You see, Does it belong to The

I own The Hospital.” “You do?” “What, do you take me as a liar?” “No, of course not.” “Good.” Here Dr. Hoffman adjusted his spectacles, a “Pardon me.

procedure which seemed to adjust his tone as well.

I should have explained myself before simply dropping such an assertion, one that surely must have taken you by surprise. me tell you about myself. I hail from New York City. Let

Certainly

you’ve heard of my family and our company, Hoffman Financial. As a young man, however, I couldn’t see myself as a businessman. The constant traveling, the frivolous carousing...well, it didn’t seem like a serious way to live one’s life. What I

Ward / Romans / 103

wanted to do was be painter...well, as you may have guessed, I met with little success. an artist manqué. I must confess to being something of

Yet, though I ended in failure, I did gain New York, as you You see people of

something valuable from my years as a painter. well know, is absolutely teeming with people. all stripes. terribly.

Disfigured people, I found, interested me

Voyeuristically, I devoured with my eyes twisted

limbs, carbuncles, empty eye sockets, harelips...any kind of deformity, scar, growth and the suchlike titillated me. average man, you may find that strange, but it is not an uncommon perversity among aesthetes. subject as a painter. Deformity, you see, was my An

And perhaps it wasn’t perverse at all,

since my work forced people to acknowledge the existence of people they willfully avoid, not because of a disfiguration of character, but of the body. And more than that the deformed

body, when seen by the arresting and serene gaze of Art--that is, pulled from the pell-mell of our moment-to-moment existence--is seen as it truly is, beautiful.” Here Dr. Hoffman

looked out the window with a thoughtful face as he took a sip from his drink. “Anyway,” he continued, “failed as an artist,

well, a true artist never fails to be an artist...but that line of thought is by the way. Finding out I wasn’t an artist, I

needed to find something meaningful to do with my life.

Ward / Romans / 104

Skipping pointless details, it’s easy to see with me being attracted to grotesque flesh that the practice of dermatology was quite appropriate. Plus, dermatology, though I get paid to I enrolled

do it, is more directly altruistic than my painting. in Case Western’s school of medicine.

While there it occurred

to me that with my money and training, I could really make medicine better. That’s why I established The Hospital. You Arab

must be aware of its sterling international reputation.

sheiks having their procedures done here and all the rest. Obviously, I’m a very private man. I stay away from the media,

work as a humble dermatologist, draw no attention to myself. But Roman, your condition has really fired my imagination. I think, is a significant evolutionary development. EHS,

Thus I’ve

abandoned dermatology altogether and have focused all of my efforts upon EHS. researchers. I’ve gone so far as to hire a staff of

The reason I tell you all of this, my life story,

is that, to get to the bottom of your condition I need you to be as candid with me as I was with you. And trust me, it’s not easy for me to disclose such personal matters.” Unaccustomed to drinking, Roman, as he put the glass to his lips, found that he had downed the whole whiskey during Dr. Hoffman’s lengthy story. He was buzzed already.

Ward / Romans / 105

“Here,” said the doctor, “allow me to refill your glass.” While he was at the bar one of Dr. Hoffman’s flunkeys came in with the homunculus in the birdcage. Dr. Hoffman told him to After

put it on a coffee table near where Roman was sitting.

giving Roman his drink, but before he sat down again, Dr. Hoffman bent over the cage and scrutinized the homunculus. “This one is rather different from the original specimen,” he said to himself. “What was that?” “Nothing.” “How come it’s not moving about; what did you guys do to it?” “Calm yourself. It’s simply been sedated. Now, Roman, do

your homunculi resemble people you’ve known?

Do all, what is

it,” here Dr. Hoffman looked down to the notebook he withdrew from his coat, “do the twenty-seven living homunculi look like people you know? Is each one different? Are some the same? I

noticed that the one you brought today is markedly different from the specimen I’ve been working with.” “Ah, that one over there and the first one are the only two kinds. The one on the table is the only one of its kind.”

Roman said, after smiling blankly for a long time.

Ward / Romans / 106

“Now, I’m curious. you.

Obviously the homunculi don’t resemble

But I have a hunch they may resemble people you know, or If

people you may have seen before, if only in a photograph.

this is correct, I want to know whom they resemble precisely. Give me all relevant details. Name, their relationship to you,

how you feel about them, et cetera.” “Well, the one you pulled from me, her name was Cindy Novotny...I mean it’s name...whatever, they look like her. She’s dead. She was my wife’s best friend. She spent a lot of

time in our house.” “Please describe your feelings towards Cindy.” “To tell you the truth, she annoyed me. stealing Trish, my wife, from me in a way. I felt she was She was always over

our house and me and Trish never had any time to be alone together.” “I see. Cindy?” “No, no, of course not.” “Did you have any sexual fantasies involving her? when masturbating, did you imagine yourself sadistically penetrating her orifices?” “What kind of questions are these?” “Medical ones. Did you fantasize about her?” Such as, Did you have any romantic feelings for this

Ward / Romans / 107

“Of course not.” “And the other homunculus?” “This woman who used to work for me at the bank. She was a teller.” “Did you have any feelings for her?” “Not really, but I was angry at my wife for spending so much time with Cindy, so I wanted to prove to myself that if my wife wanted to be with somebody else, I could be with somebody else. This Sandra, you see, was a desperate type, so I’d be It happened at a Sandra.

doing her a favor by showing her affection. Christmas party for my branch. asked for a ride home. that was it.” “Oral sex you mean?” “No, not that.” “Petting then?” “Yeah, some.”

Sandra got a little tipsy and

In my car we fooled around some, but

“So how come you couldn’t close the deal?” “She was an emotional type. somebody she didn’t know so well. all. I lost interest. Didn’t want to sleep with And the whole work thing and I

I really wasn’t interested in her.

just wanted to prove to myself that I didn’t need my wife’s affection.”

Ward / Romans / 108

“But obviously you do, if that was the real reason for your infidelity.” “What do you mean?” “We can get back to that later. How’d it end with Sandra?”

“She cashed some checks she shouldn’t’ve that bounced, so we had to let her go.” “I see. fired?” “No. Weren’t you listening?” It’s still a valid question. Such Did your tryst have anything to do with her being

“Of course I was.

errors mustn’t always lead to firing, do they?” “Not always, but she lost too much money.” “I see. this time?” “No, not really. It was Cindy that was bothering me. My So you felt some aggression towards your wife at

wife is easily influenced, you see. of our lives.

I wanted to get Cindy out

“So Cindy was a threat to your marriage.” “In a way.” “And now she’s dead. “Got hit by a car.” “Not yours?” What happened?”

Ward / Romans / 109

“What the fuck!” sat back down. when sober.

Roman stood from his chair and quickly

Alcohol was no good for a man already unbalanced

“No, she got hit by Trisha’s father, actually, an

accident, on my birthday.” “Interesting. And the other dead homunculi, the ones you

killed at home, whom did they resemble?” “Cindy.” Dr. Hoffman made some more notes in his notebook. Then he

snapped his fingers and a flunkey appeared, a man by the name of Billy Wiltshire (whose forearm hair was the blackest black, but whose forearm flesh was the whitest white) who took the cage to the other room. “Where’s he going with that?” “Don’t worry; you’re going there too...You can go right now, actually, my assistant is waiting for you. a quick test, and then you can leave. today, Roman.” She’ll perform

Thanks a lot for coming

With that he stood up and shook Roman’s hand.

Dr. Hoffman snapped his fingers again and Billy reappeared, grabbed the disoriented-looking Roman by his right elbow and wrist and led him to the other room, the bedroom. door behind Roman. The room was dim, illuminated impressionistically by whatever light found its way through or around the drawn He closed the

Ward / Romans / 110

venetian blinds.

In the far corner of the huge room a woman Behind this couch

reposed languidly upon a red leather couch.

stood a canopied bed, where the sedated homunculus rested in its cage. Roman--still by the door--couldn’t tell if she saw him.

He didn’t think to announce himself, however; he studied her so intensely that he was aware only of her; absolutely nothing else appeared in his field of consciousness. On the coffee table

before her was an elegant tea set made of baby blue porcelain. She held a teacup against her stomach. She removed a teabag

from the bottom of the cup and squeezed it, expressing the remaining tea into the hollows of her long fingernails. She let She

this drip back into the cup. She put the cup on the table. leaned back into the red leather and cast glances around the dark room.

She dug her back deep into the cool leather and slid

her bottom toward the coffee table, listening to the cushions creak, a sound that apparently gratified her. cat with its scratching post. She was like some

Her feet were now up on the

coffee table, her hands rested on her stomach, and her hair was in her face. She brushed it away. Her eyes were large robin’s eggs surrounded by venus flytrap eyelashes. her glance. shoulders. One fell prey to

Her hair, cut in a jagged style, hovered around her Her skin was the color of the sun. This is to say

she was an unblemished Caucasian, her attractiveness

Ward / Romans / 111

metaphorically described as a radiance.

And for the rest:

she

was small where she needed to be, large where necessary, and hard and soft in all the correct places. In other words she had

a tight twat, big boobs, hard elbows and knee caps, and soft lips, oral and vaginal. imagine. “Come here,” she said. She had to say it twice. Roman He went All this from what Roman could see and

opened his mouth in response, but didn’t say anything. to her. When he drew near the couch she stood. he was. “Roman, I’m Doctor Estella.” She extended her hand. took it. “Yes, yes...yes. literature.” “Well, Mr. Markovsky, it is pleasing to know you’re familiar with my work. recognition.” “Someday you will. Your work is very important.”

She was taller than

He

Your work is cited often in the EHS

We in EHS studies seem to get little

“I must agree with you on that,” she said, then laughed briefly. down. “Oh, Roman, if you wouldn’t mind,” she said, looking “Roman, please sit down, and

Roman released her hand.

Ward / Romans / 112

make yourself comfortable. I think.

Relaxation is key to overcoming EHS,

Would you like some tea?”

Roman nodded and sat down. As she leaned over the coffee table to pour some hot water into his teacup, Roman could see the milky perfection of her left breast, and its cherry, exposed through the opening of her rather exquisite silk robe, the fabric dark blue with pink flowers on the outside and all pink on the inside. After fixing

the tea, she sat down on the couch end opposite Roman. Roman sipped his tea, not relaxed at all. smiled at him. and mysterious. Ancient Egypt was in her face. Dr. Estella Something severe

Her beauty was strange, highly valuable, the No suppliant maiden, she, a queen, a men would kill for her.

only one of its kind.

Cleopatra, had a commanding beauty:

She swung her hips and put her feet on the couch cushion that separated her from Roman. She opened her knees. Roman’s penis

barreled slantwise towards the elastic of his tighty-whities. “Do you like my pussy, Roman?” underwear. She wasn’t wearing

She fingered herself and sighed.

“Ah,” he smiled, “Yes, I do.” “It’s so wet now. your hard cock? over to Roman. I’m so wet. Can I wrap my pussy around I need it.” She slid

Please...please let me.

They kissed passionately, their hands working

Ward / Romans / 113

furiously, ripping off garments, massaging genitals. were naked.

Soon both

Dr. Estella blew Roman for some moments, vigorously She

working her tongue over his cock, especially the tip. stopped, her upper lip still touching his cock. her warm, feminine breath on it. whispered. They stood and faced each other.

He could feel

“Let’s go to the bed,” she

They kissed softly,

without tongue, the index and ring fingers of his right hand on her labia, his middle finger inside her moving as if it were doing sit-ups, she turning his cock like it was a doorknob. Abruptly she shoved him toward the bed; he fell back, his head striking the cage. “Let me get this out of here,” he said. “Keep it where it is, Roman. she said breathily. Get up on the bed, honey,”

Roman did as instructed, his man-breasts

pressing against the top of his gut as he lifted himself on the high bed, ass first. It wasn’t easy. He strained, desperately

wriggling his ass over the edge of the bed to keep himself from falling to the floor. Dr. Estella jumped on top of him with one catlike leap. The homunculus lay next to them. The couple kissed, Dr.

Estella’s pointy nipples lightly brushing Roman’s flat, hairy ones. She worked her hand between his legs and played with his

Ward / Romans / 114

balls.

She then stroked his cock and brushed her wet pussy

against the head. “How bad do you want to go inside me?” she whimpered. bad?” “More than anything.” “I don’t know if that’s enough,” she whispered. “I’ll do anything for it,” he was barely able to say. “Anything?” “Anything.” “I’ll fuck your brains out, whenever you like, if you fuck the homunculus for me.” “What?” “You have to fuck the homunculus.” “I can’t do that.” “If you want me you must. You have to do it for me. “How

Roman, I want you so bad, you make me so fucking hot, but I need you to fuck the homunculus before you can fuck me. I’ll suck your dick anytime you want.” “I can’t. Grandma will emasculate me.” Only I’ll know. Oh, your dick Fuck it.

“Nobody will do anything.

is so damned well-shaped, with the head clearly distinguished from the shaft. I need you inside me, only you can satisfy me.

Just fuck it for a little bit, baby, I need you to do it for

Ward / Romans / 115

me.”

Dr. Estella straddled Roman, letting his dick a few She was on her knees, giving him She reached over to the cage, She withdrew the

centimeters inside of her.

full few of her luscious torso.

undid its lock, and opened its door.

homunculus and rested it on Roman’s belly. “Oh, no,” he said. “Oh, yes,” she said, lowering her hips, her pussy swallowing more of his dick. Roman, the pleasure in his cock

and brain causing him to breathe spasmodically, felt himself relent. in. Dr. Estella, sensing her victory, took his whole cock He was almost

Before he could come, she swung off of it. He gasped.

there.

Dr. Estella dove across Roman and grabbed a With this she

bottle of KY Jelly from the nightstand drawer.

lubricated the homunculus’ vagina; with Dr. Estella’s enticements Roman was able to ejaculate inside it. Afterward,

the homunculus rolled about with its eyes closed, smiling, its expression seeming to say: Oh yeah. Damn, muthafucka. He pelted (On a separate note: in the

my beaver in a righteous way.

homuncular future pedophiles will be much less dangerous to society, since they can get their jollies from their homunculi; in essence raping themselves at no cost to others.) The intense orgasm Roman experienced inside the homunculus dislodged the obstruction that had kept his mental fluids, as it

Ward / Romans / 116

were, from flowing freely. him.

His full consciousness returned to He was overly aware, a he felt

He was hyperconscious, in fact.

feeling so pleasurable it was nearly uncomfortable: strange to himself without his usual dullness.

“You see, Roman,” she explained later as she helped Roman dress himself, “Dr. Hoffman and I have a theory that EHS is an evolutionary advancement in human reproduction: reproduction. asexual sexual

The homunculi, we’ve discovered, have a slightly Perhaps they are some

different genetic makeup than you do.

kind of symbiotic parasite that have sucked genetic material from your cells’ cytoplasm. So, you see, you get the benefits You don’t have to

of both asexual and sexual reproduction.

expend energy finding a mate, so much of which is wasted in failure, but you still have genetic diversity, which in turn will foster further beneficial adaptations. if you can get these things preggers, Roman. So, we need to see Dr. Hoffman knew

that you, since you’re psychologically abnormal, would feel repugnance towards your homunculi, that you’d refuse to sleep with them. his office? Remember, he had you take that psychological test in We figured that in a normal person homunculi would

resemble people the host is attracted to, people the host desires to mate with. screwy. Your psychology, however, looks a little Trust me, if it

So, you see, that’s where I come in.

Ward / Romans / 117

wasn’t for your homunculi you’d never fuck somebody like me. You know that. This is a fair tradeoff. You get my body for

the course of the study, and you also get to advance scientific understanding, and perhaps humanity, by simply getting off with a foxy mama. It’s not a bad deal for you.”

When Roman left the room he saw Dr. Hoffman smoking a cigar and writing in a black leather-bound journal. Roman wanted to

speak, but he felt lightheaded, and all the light in the room seemed pastel. These pastels suddenly lost their color, and He was fainting. But before he

were drained to pure white.

fell a huge throbbing shook the entirety of his being and his senses returned to him. The throbbing had started as pleasant

tingle after he’d ejaculated in the homunculus, increasing in power until...it suddenly went away; and now, just as suddenly, it returned, in full force, nearly shaking his whole being to bits. Indeed, the fabric of his reality vibrated in its very

strings. Hoffman spoke, startling Roman. said, looking over to Roman. “Good job, my fellow,” he

“Sounded like quite a performance.

Dr. Estella is very passionate about her work, as you now well know.” Roman smiled stupidly. “Do you have anything to eat?” he

said, finding it hard to speak, as if he were having another

Ward / Romans / 118

orgasm.

His animal hunger overpowered his peccadilloes about “Sorry to be rude. But I

food not prepared by his own hands. really need to eat.

I’ve never felt so hungry,” he continued in

the same strained manner. Dr. Hoffman gave him a frightened look. man. You can have anything you like. “By all means,

I’ll have it brought up

immediately.” “No, now!” Roman said as he rushed toward the Running with violent, ungainly strides he tripped The fall

refrigerator.

on a footstool and fell down, taking a lamp with him. didn’t slow him whatsoever.

He quickly reached the refrigerator

and flung its doors almost off their hinges, and in ten minutes devoured everything within, including a pound of raw steak, a jar of capers, and three bottles of champagne, which he opened by breaking their necks on the countertop. Sated, he felt so Then in a sudden

jolly and light that it bordered on dizziness.

and powerful fit of post-meal torpidity he slumped to the floor like a tranquillized bear.

Ward / Romans / 119

Chapter 7

Carl had not been to Always Yours for two months. meeting Grandma he stopped being a daily customer.

After

For a time They

he came regularly on the weekends, then abruptly quit. feared him dead or worse.

Forgetting their pride (for it was

upon him to visit Always Yours) they sought him at his house one morning after breakfast. held a baby in her arms. A young woman answered the door; she She gazed upon the elderly horde with

undisguised perplexity, her face at times wrinkling with a mother’s worry. “Yes?” the woman said. “Trisha?” said Eleanor, assuming the role of spokesperson,

as everybody implicitly thought she would, being the natural

Ward / Romans / 120

choice, given that her feelings for Carl, while never verbally acknowledged by the group, were known. “Yes, I’m Trisha.” “Wonderful, it’s been so long since I’ve seen you, I barely I haven’t seen you since your wedding.”

recognized you. “Oh?”

“I’m Eleanor Ridge.

And this must be little Carla.

Carl

showed us some pictures, she’s so adorable!” “This is Josh.” “Josh?” repeated Eleanor, her eyes for a moment arrested by

consternation, as if they looked not outward but inward; she then looked to the faces of her friends who in turn mumbled “Josh?” and turned their faces toward other faces. “Carl said her name was Carla.” “Who’s Carl?” “Your father.” “Carl isn’t my father.” “Isn’t your maiden name Odter?” “Oh, Carl Odter you mean?” “Yes!” said Eleanor, beaming. “He used to live here. We just moved in a few weeks ago.”

Carl’s old house, set back in the woods, could not be seen from the street. None of the Always Yours crowd had reason to

Ward / Romans / 121

visit him there.

Carl had moved out and others had moved in

without being noticed. Disoriented and uncomprehending, the group retreated to

Always Yours, where they could regain their bearings in the familiar surroundings. “That Grandma!” said Eleanor shrilly, the color rising in Embarrassed by her outburst, she paused, swallowed, “She’s totally deluded our He was lost

her scar.

and continued on in a measured tone. dear Carl.

I should have done something sooner.

without Beatrice.

He’s a man that needs a woman, the poor thing

just can’t take care of himself by himself.” “Where do you guys think Carl is?” said John. “Grandma has that pet shop, right?” said Ralph. “I think

there was something in the paper about it not too long ago. It’s kind of famous. I’ll go look in the phonebook and if I That Some of

can’t find it, I’ll go to the library to get the story. broad, Delores, taught me how to use the microfiche.”

the men laughed, remembering that broad Delores who worked at the library; they laughed not only at her saucy reputation, but also to poke fun at Delores Swanson, wife of Bill, who didn’t think it funny at all to mix up her person with that creature from the library.

Ward / Romans / 122

Ralph excused himself and went to the phone booth. returned five minutes later. right.

He

“Well, I found the pet shop all The

It’s...or it was called Magical Grandma Novotny’s. Do you think Carl and her

number’s not in service anymore.

would have skipped town without telling us?” “Why would Carl want to go anywhere else?” Eleanor said

sadly. Guy, Cindy’s brother, heard what Ralph said as he bused the adjoining table. Guy, you see, after being kicked out by

Grandma when she lost her home, moved in with his only friend, Pete Winkleman, a student at Tri-C (they met during Guy’s brief attendance there) and the guitarist (stage name Pete Wicked Man, or, when feeling lighthearted and content, Pete Wicca Man) in an unsuccessful heavy metal band, The Skull Maggots. by the name, their noise was bad for the brain. As suggested Together the

two lived in Pete’s basement, smoking marijuana, dicking around on the guitar, and reading comics. Occasionally one of them

would leave the basement, sometimes just to masturbate in the bathroom. Pete dwelt within walking distance of Always Yours.

He knew one of the dishwashers, who helped Guy get a job. Although a bit plodding and stoned, Guy was a reliable worker, well tolerated by Anne Brick and his coworkers, since, despite

Ward / Romans / 123

his bulk, he drew nobody’s attention, even when you had to squeeze by his fat ass when navigating the crammed kitchen. “Did Grandma leave town?” said Guy in alarm. “Pardon?” said Penelope. “Grandma is my grandma, but I haven’t talked to her in a long time.” “She is?” said Ralph, Eleanor, and Florence at the same time to themselves, two in a tone of surprise, one in suspicion. “Do you happen to know where she’s at, son?” John asked. “Tell me, boy, is Mr. Odter with Grandma?” Ralph interrupted before Guy could answer. “Yeah, they’re married.” Eleanor heaved a prodigious sob, then bolted out of the restaurant, her athletic suit whistling, the scar on her face inflamed, itching her madly. her. “Where are they now?” said somebody--it was hard to determine who, with the Eleanor situation throwing the group into momentary confusion. “They’re living with Carl’s daughter and her husband,” said Guy. “Why?” asked another. Penelope and Susan went out after

Ward / Romans / 124

“It’s a long story, but they spent most of their money paying my sister’s medical bills, then they lost the house because it wasn’t Grandma’s to begin with.” “Can you tell us where it is, boy?” Ralph asked. “Uh,” said Guy. “Like, I know where it’s at and all, but I I mean, if I was like

couldn’t really explain it, you know. driving there I could tell you. my sister or something, I think.”

I’ve only been there once, with

Later they tried to extract from Guy Trisha’s married name, which he like, heard once or something, but couldn’t remember. However, Susan, a pack rat, had saved Trisha’s wedding invitation in an album. All the wedding invitations she had

ever received were in this album, her own wedding invitation having the whole first page to itself. she pulled out her phonebook. After finding the name,

The Cleveland White Pages lists

such promising names as “Markovich” and even “Markowski” but no “Markovsky.” That’s why one fall Saturday Guy sat shotgun in Ralph’s Cadillac giving the old man directions. Behind them

trailed the widows and the couples, all in their respective vehicles.

Ward / Romans / 125

Part III

Chapter 1

“It is always nice to see my Lady T,” Carl said, looking up from a cup of coffee he was fixing for Grandma, who, with the assistance of the homunculi, was raking leaves outside. “And the same to you, Papa.” Trisha, by degrees, had come to know her father; he came alive to her. The shroud of falsehoods that her mother had

wrapped him in began to unwind from his body, revealing a creature neither more nor less than human. Carl was often away

Ward / Romans / 126

from home during Trisha’s formative years.

A fact peculiar to

Grandma is that all of her husbands, and even some of her boyfriends, spent their entire careers or good portions of them as truck drivers of various kinds. OTR (over-the-road) drivers. for the same company. Junior Henry and Carl were

Gerald and Eugene delivered bread

And so forth.

Carl Hilary Odter was born July 22, 1929, on a farm in Berlin, Ohio. It was once common for farm boys to get jobs as

drivers. Even college-educated people, among whom Carl can be counted, drove truck, as they say in the business, since the pay was high. He enjoyed his work for mainly two reasons: 1) he

saw all of America and 2) OTR drivers spend plenty of time waiting for loads, time Carl passed reading copiously. Beatrice, Trisha’s mother, etched a strange portrait of Carl in the clay of her daughter’s young mind. Mrs. Odter, one

could plausibly argue, though a functional citizen, was deranged. Trisha remembered her mother, speaking rapidly, trim

and fidgety as Trisha would become, her hair prematurely gray, holding her hand tightly as the two walked home from the bus stop one October day. “Carl is unlike any man there is, dear. It is not right for you to speak to How many times must I Why, just this

You must never bother him. him.

You are to be seen, not heard.

repeat this!

Trisha, you never seem to learn.

Ward / Romans / 127

morning I saw you walk past his bedroom door. not permitted.

You know that is

Why do you try to hurt Carl and your mother?”

Beatrice had her reasons to keep Trisha away from Carl, primarily because she hoped Trisha’s real father would agree to marry her. She wanted Carl and Trisha to part painlessly as They would never know of

strangers, not as father and daughter.

Beatrice’s affair, or of Trisha’s true paternity--this secret was buried with Beatrice. Her lover was himself married, and

happily so, never imagining that his lighthearted and drunken escapades could produce such an unpleasant result. Beatrice

concealed her pregnancy for as long as she could from the man, intending to lure him away from his marriage; she failed but was not thwarted. Upon learning of the baby he avoided her, going

so far as to getting an unlisted number and changing residences. Beatrice, who couldn’t believe that he didn’t love her, found him wherever he hid. Finally, he agreed to sleep with her on That

occasion, but not to marry her or recognize the child.

arrangement, while not completely satisfactory, worked for Beatrice until her love waned for the man and she resigned herself to Carl, the old fart she married for his savings and obedience. Carl considered himself lucky to have a wife; he

thought it never would happen, that something was wrong with him. He was forever grateful to her.

Ward / Romans / 128

Her lover, it turns out, later became one of Cleveland’s foremost citizens, a person everybody knows the name and face of. If not for the hush money paid to the writer of this tale,

a writer who is also a professional detective nonpareil, we would have replaced every instance of “lover”, “the man”, and “he” with “---- ----------.” While the genetically false, but conventionally true father and daughter enjoyed their pleasant chat, Roman drove to the house, dreamily thinking about all that had happened earlier at Dr. Hoffman’s. His state of reverie subsided when he discovered it was full of cars. More

he could not park in his driveway:

disturbing was the geriatric brouhaha outside of his front door. He also noticed a young tub of lard, a fellow evocative of some hazy memory. Even though his car windows were rolled up he He thought of not stopping; realizing

could hear them yelling.

the excellence of this idea he drove to a diner, where he ate yet again and read The Plain Dealer.

Ward / Romans / 129

Chapter 2

Grandma had moved to the front yard to rake leaves.

She

coldly eyed the Always Yours team as they exited their autos. “Hello,” said Eleanor as she approached, her scar bright red, but her voice restrained, “I’m Carl’s friend, Eleanor,” she said with a twitchy smile. Grandma continued to rake leaves, “Is Carl in?”

not acknowledging Eleanor’s words.

“He take nap,” said Grandma, using her thickest accent. “Oh, I see, I hate to bother him, but we’re worried about him.” “Do not worry.” “Well, we’d like to talk to him.” “He take nap.” “Well, I’ll knock on the door then,” said Eleanor, her voice rising.

Ward / Romans / 130

“No!” “Yes!” Grandma clicked her tongue and four homunculi, previously unseen, sprang from under her dress and seized Eleanor by the ankles. She gasped, looking ready to faint in the manner of a

nineteenth century mademoiselle. “Carl take nap. Leave now!” said Grandma. And who the hell are those naked

“Let us see Carl, ya nut. baby quadruplets?” yelled Ralph.

Grandma hissed, opening her mouth wide, showing her big white teeth. A high-decibel shouting match ensued, the elderly horde inching forward menacingly, the homunculi--responding to Grandma’s signals of distress--now at full force, warding them off. about. Trisha and Carl stepped outside to see what the furor was Guy still remained hidden behind the crowd.

“Carl!” shouted the whole group except for Penelope Knapp, who was trembling in terror, tears running down her face. “Ah, yes, hello, why, everybody, yes, hello indeed, it’s nice to see you again, my friends.” “Tell these things to back off of us, will ya Carl?” “Oh, Grandma dear, please clear the homunculi from the area, if you don’t mind.”

Ward / Romans / 131

“Carl, who are these people?

Grandma does not know them.

Nobody said visitors were appearing.” “Ah, well, these are my friends, dear.” Grandma harrumphed and folded her arms, pressing the rake against her breast. Carl and the horde exchanged awkward glances. “Would you guys like to come in?” Trisha asked. “Ah yes, do come in, I’ll make some coffee, I’ll make it fine, friends o’ mine.” The group followed Trisha and Carl in, Guy trailing behind. “You!” said Grandma. “Uh, hey Grandma.” Grandma and Guy remained in the front yard, catching up. From Guy Grandma gleaned the skinny on the Always Yours crowd. Angry and sullen because Ralph had batted him in the face several times with a rolled-up newspaper as punishment for his stoned blundering as navigator, Guy said things that made Grandma even less keen on the group.

Ward / Romans / 132

Chapter 3

Carl waved his arms, indicating where to sit. in with extra chairs, then went to get the coffee.

Trisha came Before she

left the room she asked if she could take anybody’s jacket; all opted to leave them on. Some coughed. A few nodded their Ralph, who didn’t

heads. Mouths opened, but produced no sound.

give a damn about delicate feelings said, “Carl, this isn’t rational behavior. job out there. and you know it. You know you shouldn’t’ve married that nut It’s all wrong We’re

She’s got you thinking screwy.

That’s why you didn’t tell us about it. How could you do this to us?”

your friends, damn it.

Carl’s face reddened; he sucked in his lower lip. A heavy, prolonged silence ensued. Carl’s friends fixed their eyes upon him. They waited for

him to say something.

Their faces seemed to offer no sympathy. They had charged him guilty of bad

He felt naked and accused.

Ward / Romans / 133

behavior.

It looked to them that he had abandoned them for no But that was just the appearance of the matter, If only he could explain to them that he

good reason.

not its reality.

consented to the marriage because his guilt over Cindy had weakened the already feeble defenses of his passive system. There was no way that he could have protected himself against Grandma’s influence in that condition. they could perhaps forgive him. agreement with his inner man. would be with Eleanor. If they knew that then

His outer man was not in If his inner man held sway he

So it is with people who lack the energy their

to make their outer self conform to their inner self: outer lives become indefensible frauds.

Either this is the

case, or there is no difference between the inner and outer self, and there is only one shameful self, the so-called inner man nothing but a self-serving fantasy that allows people to think that they are better than they actually are. Trisha came back with the coffee, relieving the tension for After serving the guests she left the room. The aged look simian. A room

a moment.

full of old people.

With the years they

lose their human luster, exposing the frail monkey that was concealed behind the glow. Ralph Anderson leaned towards Carl, resting his forearms on his thighs. He licked his lips. Time had slashed rough

Ward / Romans / 134

grooves in his cheeks.

Liver spots flickered in and out of He then

visibility, depending on how the light caught him. leaned away, back into the couch. him; their bodies did not touch.

Susan McCarthy sat next to Her short white hair asserted

itself against her forehead in five identical isosceles triangles. She was thin and veiny, her skin healthily roseate. And at Her

Like the rest of her girlfriends she wore a tracksuit. her age, why not? In the loveseat sat Penelope Knapp.

thick, racoonish coiffure arched itself high above her forehead. She wore lipstick and blush. Her eyelids were a shade more She blinked often. Sharing

pallid than the rest of her face.

the loveseat was Eleanor, who looked away and put her hand to her scar. “Carl,” said Eleanor weakly, pronouncing only the “c” Head down, she

in his name, the rest breathily tapering off. looked at either her hands or the floor. Carl muttered into his lap. an hour.

“Ah, yes, yes, yes,”

The meeting limped on this way for

In the end Carl promised to start going to Always

Yours on the weekends; the horde took this as the first step toward getting Carl back full-time. battle against Grandma. difficult. They had won their first

The war, they knew, would be much more

Their job done, they made to go.

Ward / Romans / 135

Chapter 4

While the elders moved out of the front door in a hunched, shuffling file, Roman, returning from the diner, exited his car, which he parked on the street. Not knowing who these people As Roman stood

were, he waved, nodded, and cleared his throat.

waiting for them in the tree lawn with his signature smile, something peculiar bit his nostrils. Something full of life The

that made the inside of his nose tingle pleasantly.

throbbing that he had experienced earlier in Dr. Hoffman’s penthouse overcame his being. Before he was even aware of

noticing it, he had pounced upon a homunculus that had ran out from under the legs of Penelope, the person nearest Roman. put his savage teeth to its neck and shredded up its jugular rapidly. The blood was hot, bitter, and tasty. He slurped it He

up ravenously. of moist clay.

He then tore its limbs off as if they were made Penelope fainted, striking her head upon a rock

Ward / Romans / 136

on which the address was painted.

This killed her.

Grandma,

her senses preternaturally keen, intuited what was amiss from the noises that carried over from the tree lawn. She rushed

from the garage--where she had been directing Guy as he stored deck furniture--to the front of the house with quick, light steps. Grandma burst through the crowd that had surrounded

Penelope, trampled the dead body, and leapt upon Roman as he sucked the marrow from a thighbone. She punched him furiously.

Roman swatted her off and stood up, his face and shirt covered in blood, his pants tenting from his erection. (According to

the current homuncular literature, sexual excitement is common during the “reabsorption” phase of the “homuncular cycle.” Roman’s time such things weren’t known.) In

Grandma, on her knees, With one blow he

lunged forward, viciously biting Roman’s knob. broke her nose.

She sunk to the ground half conscious, holding

her nose with two cupped hands, blood oozing out between her fingers. Roman stepped over Grandma and carried the remains of

the homunculus behind a tree and ate them guardedly, as if he were in danger of somebody trying to take them from him. He

breathed out of his nostrils in regular horsey blasts as he chewed. One could hear his teeth grind bones to bits. his pocket, his cell phone vibrated. was unaware of this. Inside of

Engrossed in his meal, he

It was his mother calling.

Ward / Romans / 137

For a moment everybody just stood there, their minds blank, until Trisha ran out of the house screaming, “Carla’s missing! Somebody’s taken her!” She screamed this over and over, louder

and louder, getting harder and harder to understand.

Ward / Romans / 138

Chapter 5

Penelope’s death and Roman’s carnivorous pouncing gave Eleanor the opportunity she needed to sneak off to Susan’s car. Carla was hidden within her jogging jacket. She put the baby in

the back seat, rolled down the windows a bit, and then joined the brouhaha surrounding Penelope. During the interminable meeting with Carl, Eleanor, when going to use the bathroom, had passed the baby’s playpen, which was kept in the dining room. Three homunculi were in there with The They

her; one had a dust bunny attached to its pubic hair. homunculi roughly pushed the baby about. Carla fell.

jumped on top of her and shoved their fingers into her mouth, nostrils, and ears. Eleanor grabbed the homunculi by their hair Mildly injured, the

helmets and tossed them out of the pen. homunculi slumped away.

Eleanor decided it was her moral duty When exiting the front

to save the baby from this nuthouse.

Ward / Romans / 139

door with the group Eleanor made as if she had forgotten her purse in the bathroom--she had left it there for the purpose of this ruse. As Trisha and Carl saw the guests out, Eleanor went out the back door with the baby at the perfect time, as Grandma was already rushing towards Roman, while Guy, not yet noticing Grandma’s absence, continued to place the deck furniture in the garage loft. Trisha’s hideous fright made Eleanor regret her actions.

To see Trisha--slight and vulnerable, her translucent skin revealing an ethereal network of green veins--transformed into something red, screaming, and wild-eyed, was unbearable, like watching a baby monkey being tortured; unless, of course, you’re of the disposition to enjoy such sights, of which Eleanor wasn’t. “My child’s missing!” Trisha screamed. Though Roman was in A

a bestial state, even he was upset by Trisha’s screaming.

silent creature, one could hear the unnatural strain raising her voice caused her. violently. Her eyelids and face muscles twitched

She breathed heavily and, at times, whimpered.

Veins throbbed visibly in her neck. Trisha was always such a strange creature, inhabiting this or that corner, not saying anything unless spoken to, and then only nodding her head rapidly and muttering some inanity or

Ward / Romans / 140

something incomprehensible.

It astonished these people to see If

her suddenly seem so big and human, dramatic, overwhelming.

she didn’t look so strange and horrible at the moment, one would want to embrace her, try to hold her together before she unraveled completely. Trisha--red, wet, and desperate--screamed her throat out. A neighbor had called the police, apparently, for they were there. Everybody started talking to the officers at once. Eleanor screamed, “Arrest me! Arrest me! The baby’s in the

car!”

Ward / Romans / 141

Chapter 6

Roman awoke in jail.

He didn’t know why he was there.

Dazed, he placidly accepted this situation, like a drunkard awaking in a strange place after yet another blackout. He had been sleeping on the floor. His left cheek had a His pockets were An

grainy imprint on it from where it had lain. empty.

He knocked on the door. “Hello, hello, I’m awake.”

officer came and removed him from the cell. Roman did not get an answer.

“Why am I here?”

He was sat down in front of a Periodically a name was Eventually Roman had his

television with some other fellows.

called and somebody was led to a desk.

picture taken, a psychological evaluation, and was given a sheet with his charges on it: battery, one count. second degree murder, one count, and he didn’t feel

Roman took it strangely:

Ward / Romans / 142

his emotional response was adequate to the gravity of the charge against him. “So it is,” he thought. In reality horrible

crimes don’t have the same emotional texture for the perpetrator or the victim as they do in movies, in Shakespeare, or in our other representations. Then he was put into another cell. With him was a short,

pudgy fellow of about twenty-five years (drunk driving), a street-smart kid (gun possession), and a thug-life veteran (drugs) who slept, except for one tense moment, the whole time Roman was there. As the hours passed, Roman became lucid, and He paced the cell without A television played

his placidity gave way to anxiety.

rest, not even stopping to eat or sleep.

constantly, but it was impossible to pay attention to it. From what he gathered from the kid, he’d have to wait three days before his hearing, after which he’d be transferred to the county jail. A few officers appeared. Who knows at what time? They

made everybody move to the back of the cell and face away from them. “Roman Markovsky,” one said, “take a step back.” Roman

took a step back.

“This guy,” the same man said, “is a fuckin’

kiddie-fiddlin’ cannibal, a fuckin’ child sucker, a goddam babysnatch-eater.” The officers left. Roman walked backwards,

trying hard to remove the weird smile that was always on his

Ward / Romans / 143

face without success. cell door.

He walked until his back was against the

The pudgy fellow remained facing the wall, shivering. Roman looked to the kid, who looked away from him. was glaring at him. Thug Life

Thug Life returned Roman’s smile, Roman had never been in

displaying gold teeth that said, KILLAH. a fight before.

Thug Life was probably tougher than he was,

Roman thought, but he was bigger. Roman still had on the same clothes he was arrested in. They were caked with dry blood. His bloody clothes and that

weird smile on his face, plus the fact that he had an erection at the moment (homuncular reabsorption is activated by the adrenal system), all played a part, we can reasonably assume, in persuading Thug Life to reconsider his first thought, for he resumed his former spot on the bench and fell asleep. A few

minutes later the last thread of tension slackened and the rest of the men returned to their former places. About an hour later another officer appeared. Roman from the cell. Roman was being released. some forms and then waited to get his stuff. The door he was led out of opened into an alleyway. cold and dark. There was a car parked near a dumpster. “Roman, get in,” said Dr. Hoffman. It was Its He withdrew

He filled out

window rolled down.

Ward / Romans / 144

# Exhausted, yet vaguely elated, Roman looked out of Dr. Hoffman’s car. They were driving to his penthouse. The yellow

lights of the city glowed in the North. seats smelled new.

The gray leather of the

Dr. Hoffman--whose pleasant smell of pomade,

baby powder, and cologne transfused the car via the heated air-brushed his mustache with his right thumb and index finger. “Roman, you’re rather lucky to be here in this car,” said Hoffman. “The police thought you killed an old lady, not to

mention battering another one, and that the homunculus was a child. All the witnesses, thank God, were able to get the dead Trisha called me about the All

old lady thing straightened out. homunculus.

I called the mayor and explained everything. That’s why you’re here.

charges have been dropped.

The mayor

made me promise, however, that I’ll keep you under close observation. That being said, I’m exhausted, and you must feel

worse, so we’ll talk more in the morning.” “Thanks for everything, Dr. Hoffman. By the way, that’s a

neat hat you’re wearing,” said Roman as he smiled (when Roman wished to smile intentionally through his permasmile he’d thrust his chin out). Roman said this to lighten his heavy feeling.

Ward / Romans / 145

Hoffman, as was his wont when out of the office, had donned his stovepipe hat. He did not dignify these words with a reply

because he considered it vulgar to praise somebody directly. After parking in a secret garage under the medical center (Roman was too tired to appreciate how extraordinary it was, how the ordinary-seeming bushes parted to reveal an underground entrance as Hoffman’s car drew near), the two shared a wordless elevator ride. The glowing city--the white cap of the Society

building its highest point--seemed to rise with them as the neon elevator climbed the tower. Dr. Hoffman put Roman in the lavish

guest quarters located one floor below his penthouse. Now in bed (a marvelous contraption of creaturely satisfaction, his stay in jail making him deeply appreciative of this fact) and enjoying the hotel feel of the room, Roman rolled over to the edge, emptied his pockets of his wallet, keys, receipt (from the diner), and cell phone, deposited the items on the nightstand, and fell asleep in his clothes. The tone of Roman’s cell phone woke him earlier than he wished. On the screen he saw that it was his mother. He didn’t

answer and went back to sleep.

Ward / Romans / 146

Chapter 7

After the fatal, gory melee, after the cops and ambulance

had left, after the horde had dispersed, Grandma, Carl, Trisha, Carla, and the homunculi remained. Those inside the house that

day, even the homunculi, experienced fits of collective hysteria, followed by despair, followed by the baby crying, followed by anxiety; the anxiety would bubble until it finally fizzed out into calm. And then it was calm...until some submerged image surfaced to consciousness from the sea of memory and disturbed their mental waters, almost against their wills, as they fought to keep their minds at peace, and again the cycle of hysteria, despair, crying, anxiety, and calm would begin anew. Besides this, only one other thing worth talking about The emotional cleansing had just

happened during that time. cycled into calm.

It was around eight p.m. Trisha had put Carla

Ward / Romans / 147

to bed.

With Grandma too enervated to cook, Trisha was placing

an order for a pizza--which Grandma still considered impossibly exotic, a delicacy. When Trisha put the receiver down a They were all brought mentally

terrible wail pierced everybody. back to that afternoon.

When Trisha and Carl came forward to

the present, they ran upstairs at varying speeds, each moving his fastest. Trisha got there first. The door

The scream had come from the upstairs bathroom.

was open.

Grandma stood before the mirror with brown roots Grandma had refused to be

hanging out of her swollen nose.

taken to the hospital, and instead treated herself; hence the roots stuffed up her nostrils. Trisha was going to say Finally Carl

something but Grandma made a silencing gesture.

appeared in the doorway next to Trisha, red and breathing heavily. He tried to say something; again, the gesture.

Grandma waited until Carl’s breathing decreased to a negligible volume. “He hit. He hit,” Grandma whimpered as she looked into the She waited for Trisha and Carl to console “He hit. He hit,” she said

mirror tragically.

her. They put their arms around her. again.

Trisha and Carl increased the pressure of their hugs.

“I take his manhood!” she yelled, and then sobbed without restraint.

Ward / Romans / 148

Chapter 8

Penelope’s funeral took place on an inevitably gray The sun rarely shines in Cleveland.

Cleveland day.

Hives of incense fumes hung from the wooden rafters of the dimly lit church. Carl, not wanting to look at anybody,

especially the priest, scanned the Stations of the Cross. Father Pastille was a large, sickly, protuberant man. nose twitched and his face looked like he was about to sneeze...but he never sneezed. cheeks. Dark blood swelled his puffy Often his

Jelly-filled bags hung under his grave, bloodshot eyes.

An audible film clung to his words: before bubbling out of his mouth his syllables had to break through a thin phlegm-wall. Between each word he licked his swollen, purple lips. That his

green vestments were immaculately laundered did nothing to dispel the unpleasant impression he gave. Actually, he was a

sublime man, but his bloated-corpse appearance turned off even the most spiritually sensitive natures.

Ward / Romans / 149

Carl stood next to Eleanor during the service, and she, weeping from the beginning, gripped his hand. Eleanor had

explained the rationale of her baby-theft to the cops and Trisha; charges were not pressed against her; nor were they pressed against Trisha for child endangerment. Grandma was at home worrying. The group, she knew, was as There was nothing she

capable of influencing Carl as she was.

could do to prevent Carl from coming under their sway during the funeral. She could neither disallow Carl to go, as decency

wouldn’t allow, nor could she attend herself to monitor him, as the mutual hostility between her and the crew wouldn’t allow. Grandma paced the house, unsure of what to do when alone. Dust fuzz had gathered in the corners like idle tumbleweed. With nobody there, there was nobody to clean for. assert order. No reason to Even

Trisha and Carla had gone to visit Roman.

the fat ass had absconded, off to poke smot (as one of Guy’s tee shirts put it) and play guitar in somebody’s garage. stomach had been empty for a long time. deprivation, like discipline. windows. Grandma’s

It felt good, the

Fuzzy light bloomed in the

The hallways were empty; down them time stretched out Grandma, in her purple shawl, in her thin

like an accordion.

pink Lycra slippers, walked the hallways, humming the music of the old country nervously.

Ward / Romans / 150

Though Grandma is often depicted as a fierce manipulator, she had her humane side, evidenced by her weakness for small, vulnerable animals. One afternoon Trisha and Carla found themselves alone at home. Roman was at work, and Grandma had gone with Carl to the Excluding

medical center where he received various attentions.

preternaturally vital people like Grandma, being old is like a full-time job with all the hours you put in at doctor’s offices, waiting rooms, and laboratories. Trisha had spent the morning doing some homework. With

Grandma in the house, she was able to return to school parttime. Not having eaten breakfast, she was famished by the lunch hour. Ever since Grandma had seized control of the kitchen, everything in the fridge and cupboards was foreign to her. The

food in the fridge was fresh, purchased at the Westside Market. The boxes and cans in the cupboard had unpronounceable names and unidentifiable contents. Trisha’s culinary skills were adapted if it couldn’t

well to dorm-life, but not to the greater world: be microwaved, she couldn’t prepare it.

She would go get some

Swenson’s (a drive-in hamburger joint), but they were low on cash until Roman got paid on Friday.

Ward / Romans / 151

There was some ground beef in the fridge and buns in the cupboard, so Trisha thought she would try her hand at making hamburgers. While in the midst of burning the fragments of her crumbled patty, Grandma and Carl came in through the back door. “Oh deary, deary,” said Grandma softly, setting her purse upon the table by the door. She moved behind Trisha and grabbed “Let Grandma show how

her gently by her quivering elbows. cooking is done.”

That afternoon Trisha and Grandma bonded in the kitchen. Trisha admired Grandma’s know-how and self-sufficiency; she admired her tempered severity: swatted. how she could assuage as she

Grandma loved Trisha as she would a hamster (that is

very much so), for she was tremulous, small, and helpless. # After the service, the small funeral party was handed purple flags by an elderly gentleman in a black suit. The flags

were attached to thin metal wires, with the flags occupying the tops of the wires and thick round magnets at their bottoms. funeral party stuck the flags on its respective cars. Two The The

motorcycle officers waited in the parking lot, chatting. party said little.

Though none mentioned it, and though it may

Ward / Romans / 152

not have occurred to all of them consciously, all enjoyed the traffic privileges of being part of a funeral party. After the funeral everybody was invited to Eleanor’s. As

with any party, there was a guest who arrived first and one who arrived last. Let us tell you a bit about the last to arrive.

That ample, ampullar Parmanian personage--never suspected, accused, or guilty of pedophilic frottage or any other clerical indecency--Fr. Pastille, that is, emerged from the parsonage like a purple walrus in its death throes. that he had means to ease his ambulation: It should be noted he owned a walker.

The walker, it would seem customary to add, had punctured tennis balls snuggled round the feet of its front legs. You would

think that in the increasingly competitive walker market somebody would step in and manufacture a walker whose design obviated the need for tennis balls. What you don’t know is that

walker companies get a cut from tennis ball companies not to redesign their walkers. But maybe there’s just a lot of

paranoia going around and that’s way off base, since there’s an obvious, market-based reason why this is so. Fr. Pastille’s walker remained in his closet. That being said, His torso had

swollen so that it was impossible for him even to clap his hands. His arms, perforce, always remained at his sides. Thus

Ward / Romans / 153

a walker was out of the question. tusk-like canes.

He had to lumber with two

Fr. Pastille smiled, farted, and sometimes giggled with utter jubilance as he walrussed along. because he felt God in the world. World were One. He was always happy

He felt that God and the

God Loved him and he felt happy to be in a He actually felt this Love in the way we

World that Loved him.

can have a premonition, or sense we are being watched when nobody is in our field of vision: sensed or felt like

everything else we pick up on our nameless detectors that operate on a subconscious level. sound, smell, taste, and touch. Today he was particularly happy. He felt his soul surge Some We are not limited to sight,

with such joy he thought it might burst from his body.

members of the crew had related strange, confused stories to him while making the funeral arrangements. Due to this, Fr.

Pastille was extra eager to attend this gathering, his mind bubbling with curious speculations. Moreover, he was always

eager to attend any event which involved him being fed abundantly, be it a baptism, first communion, confirmation, wedding, or funeral party. Against his doctor’s warnings, Fr. Eating great amounts was

Pastille remained a prodigious eater.

not only pleasurable in itself, but it produced in him the

Ward / Romans / 154

secondary joy of realizing that out of everybody else, he had eaten the most. To make sure of this, he never strayed far from Once he enraged an entire wedding He stood before

the food table at any party.

by single-handedly consuming all the caviar.

the caviar, started eating, didn’t move, and continued to eat till it was all gone. He had begun by daintily scooping the

caviar onto little baguette slices, curring with pleasure, but once he got into the rhythm of eating he gradually abandoned the baguettes and the curring and eventually piled it into his mouth two hands at a time, breathing out of his nose only, his dove sounds replaced by a percussive rit raw rit raw rit! Rit raw rit raw rit! Rit raw rit raw rit! sides of his mouth. Black tentacles oozed out of the

The groomsmen, a strapping bunch, tried to

shove him out of position in a futile attempt to derail the locomotive force of his eating machine. When word got up high,

Fr. Pastille, though he vehemently argued he had done nothing wrong--“The food’s for the guests. I was a guest.”--was forced

by the diocese and God the Father (the Son and the Holy Spirit had recused themselves on this one without explanation) to write a letter of apology. But did the sin of gluttony discomfort his And that was the thing. He never felt

mind, if not his belly? full.

So how could he be gluttonous?

According to his own body

Ward / Romans / 155

he never overindulged.

As proof of this he was fond of claiming

that he had never suffered from heart burn. Is there sadness to be felt in this scene we are witnessing: a decrepit man, his walking labored and

inefficient, apparently exhausting and painful as well, all alone? No, no, no. Fr. Pastille, though he looked a fright, He took as little help as he needed.

mostly felt all right.

One thing he couldn’t do himself, however, was drive. Sister Nancy, pinched-faced--like there was an incipient sinkhole under her face that sucked her eyes and nose together-waited for him in a white and teal conversion van, its muffler puffing fumes. Though conversion vans are associated with

creepy or criminal sex, this one is used by strict virgins. Since Fr. Pastille refused most assistance, she stayed inside the van, trying not to look at him; first, because looking at him was disturbing in itself, and second, if she saw he was on his way, she would grow impatient, his progress forward achingly slow. So she looked directly ahead at the

street, and closed her eyes from time to time to imagine things. Sometimes to amuse herself Sister Nancy would make up little jokes. She never told anybody about these. Anyway, they’d be

funny only to her.

Ward / Romans / 156

The automatic side door of the van opened.

All the seats

had been removed from the back of the van. Pastille’s sake.

This was for Fr.

Straps hung from the ceiling of the van, just

as straps hung above his bed, which he used to raise his bulk. He heaved himself into the van and rolled around for a while to adjust himself. be shut. Once settled, he indicated that the door could

In his struggle to get in, he had dropped one of his No matter, because

canes, where it remained, along the curb.

for that very reason the van was stocked with extra canes. “Good afternoon, Sister Nancy,” he said in dignified tone between deep, phlegmy breaths. “Tchopotoulis and booger-

stachio, if you will, and I will,” she replied, these words the punch line to one of the little jokes she had just made in her head. Sister Nancy was known as a weird one. Off they went.

The gray sky darkened above the van as it cruised along. Sister Nancy pulled into Eleanor’s driveway. The house was

inviting:

white with red shutters, drapes open, yellow light It

shining through the windows, people inside milling about. looked festive.

After being introduced around, Fr. Pastille made his way to Luckily for his reputation,

the food and filled his gullet.

nobody noticed how he ate, because he came late, and everybody else had already eaten and moved away from where the food was.

Ward / Romans / 157

Ralph and Carl approached the holy eminence in the parlor, where he sat eructating, which he considered a necessary part of the digestive process. Carl, drawing near to Fr. Pastille,

encountered a smoky smell; a powerful smell indeed, considering it had to compete with Pastille’s rancid oral effluvia. venerable curé smelled like cured meat. The

Against his will, as it

were, Carl’s mind drew the inference that if a cannibal were to devour Pastille, the flesh would taste rather salty. taste like prosciutto or salami or...? Would he

Hmm, well, most likely

he would taste like schinkenspeck, because that is Cleveland’s favorite cured meat: you can’t go anywhere without somebody

stuffing it in your face, so Pastille probably ate a lot of it. Regardless, cannibals wouldn’t eat Pastille because from his human delicatessen there emanated a thick, feculent smell, swooshing in from the back room, as it were, the back room, we can imagine, having a white door with a little round window in it and no handle that opens when you push it and swings back closed without assistance, like all deli doors do, going swoosh, swoosh. When Pastille’s metaphorical door went swoosh, swoosh, it actually smelled fart, fart. “Your face, Father,” said Ralph, brushing around his own mouth. Fr. Pastille wiped his jowl with a napkin. “Is it all

Ward / Romans / 158

gone?” he asked.

Ralph nodded.

The spread included, among

other delectables, a fine assortment of pastries. The men were quiet for some moments, nodding and smiling at each other. was terrible. Ralph spoke again. “Let me tell you, Father, it

Those damn little demon things.”

“Oh my, the homunculi, Father,” said Carl. “They were mentioned to me at the wake. them, right? What are they, Carl?” “Oh my, the homunculi, the homunculi, are us. Scientifically speaking, we are democratic animals, our several parts working together to form a coherent whole. Our conscious You live with

minds, the I that we are, is but a, a, a representative (in every sense of the word) majority of a teeming nation within. Homunculi are the citizens of our being, indeed, indeed.” had started speaking furiously, but with each word gained greater composure. ease. pug’s. Fr. Pastille had a way of putting people at Something like a Carl

Maybe it was his benign ugliness.

The animal’s face saying, “I am too ugly, too sorryI accept

looking, too sorrowful, to ever judge you, my friend. you. Please accept me.”

Another explanation might be that

people despise pugs, and you cannot feel anxiety when confronted against somebody or thing you despise. booster like spite and its kin. There’s no confidence

Let’s face it, pugs and the

Ward / Romans / 159

people who like them aren’t entitled to respect.

Pugs are ugly,

have moronic personalities, breathe disgustingly (like Pastille) and smell like shit (like Pastille). Carl spoke with confidence, like he was dealing with a pug. “We, are, in fact, composed of little people, Father. Most

normally they remain within us in a merely molecular form. However, for reasons undiscovered, they can express themselves, just like genes do, and exit their beings. people that inhabit our interiors. They are the little My son-

The animals within.

in-law Roman has the rare condition when they exit one’s being.” “Well, may God be with him. And God may be with him. This

sounds almost supernatural, dear Carl Augustus,” said the priest, with the intention of rankling Carl in a jocular way. For you see, Carl and Pastille were no strangers. Pastille

knew Carl did not believe in supernatural things. back Carl had developed a passion for Latin.

Some years

He loved the

little red books published by the Loeb Classical Library. Autodidacticism can only take one to his personal boundaries; sometimes we need others to push us beyond them. Figuring that

his studies would be enhanced by the help of a teacher, he reckoned that the Catholic church was the most likely place he would find a Latin scholar in Parma, Ohio. Carl Augustus was

the moniker he devised for himself during this time in his life.

Ward / Romans / 160

That’s how he referred to himself, and it caught on.

Even

today, you might hear a “Carl Augustus” tossed around here and there during a long morning at Always Yours. The men were friends, but had drifted apart over the years, not out of discord, but because Carl had learned all he could from Pastille and had moved on. “Father, I know you’re trying to bother me, but there’s

nothing supernatural about molecules, genes, evolution, and the like.” “It’s hard to see the supernatural, perhaps, when you get

down to the particulars, but to view it all as a limited whole, why, how can you avoid mystical feelings?” “Mystical, shmystiscal, it’s just our reaction to

complexity, and complex systems, when not fully understood, always seem counterintuitive, paradoxical, and abundantly strange.” “The overwhelming strangeness of Being! Yes, yes indeed,”

murmured and chuckled Pastille.

“Carl, could I meet Roman?”

Carl blinked, at first not registering the question, as it did not flow with the conversation. “I can arrange that, yes,

yes,” he said and nodded, then sucked his bottom lip into his mouth.

Ward / Romans / 161

During this whole exchange Ralph stood silently with his arms folded, looking at Carl and Pastille as if they were faggots. Fr. Pastille left the party that night quite happy. As he

would later confess to and obtain absolution for, Fr. Pastille had indulged in a shameful fantasy. When hearing the group’s

confused stories about the homunculi and Roman’s grisly behavior, he imagined himself to be like the priest from the Exorcist; he would expel Satan from Roman’s body, his holy exertions causing him to perish in the struggle a martyr, an instant saint in resplendent cinematic fashion.

Ward / Romans / 162

Chapter 9

Roman was conscious, but just barely. of itself, and that’s it. yet.

His mind was aware

He didn’t want to open his eyes just It was

Soon enough he felt that he had to pee.

uncomfortable, yet he still didn’t want to open his eyes or get out of bed. this point. Though conscious, you couldn’t say he was awake at Mind aware of mind, then pee-feeling, then the next

sensation he had was aural: two flautists were letting waft some dulcet tones from their pipes. Undoubtedly this all was some

Montaigne-inspired fancy of Hoffman’s. Roman didn’t know that there were flautists playing in the room. He just knew it was pleasant. Even though he had to pee Over the flutes

he was enjoying this conscious-not-awake state.

he then heard a pleasant, “Roman, oh, Roman.” He thought--if it could be said he was really thinking at this point rather than passively perceiving sensations--that his mind was generating all this pleasantness. He couldn’t conceive that there were two

Ward / Romans / 163

flautists playing and a speaker in the room. flunkeys and Estella. his cock. “What are you doing?” “Trying to get you off.” “I have to pee.” “Then pee.”

There were:

two

Roman finally awoke to Estella stroking

The three waited while listening to Roman pee.

He returned and the stroking began anew. “Uh, why are you jerking me off? complaining.” “I have to extract a sample for our research. To see if Not that I’m

you’ve developed a special kind of semen to impregnate the homunculi.” The flautists then started into a medley of Bee Gees melodies. Roman looked up, noticing them for the first time.

“Doctor Estella?” “What?” “Can you ask those guys to leave? The flunkeys continued to play. “Roman, I can’t believe you. rotten. You’re like a child spoiled We had to Guys, can you leave?”

We got these flunkeys especially for you.

enter into a complicated agreement, and quite hastily too, with many disadvantageous terms, with the Cleveland Orchestra to

Ward / Romans / 164

obtain them.

We did this all for you.

We thought you’d like it

after your rough night. woken by flautists.

I’ve never had the pleasure of being

But I see this is all wasted on you.” I mean this is great, a But those dudes are

“I don’t mean to be an ingrate. super-awesome thing to do for me.

Thanks.

looking at me and my boner all weird, and are even giving weird looks to each other, with their cheeks all puffed out.” “Fellows, give the man some privacy. backs.” Show Roman your

The men turned around, playing all the while.

Some time passed. “Tell me when your ready.” “I’m ready.” Estella, with her free hand, picked up a container she had set on the ground. With this she deftly collected the whole of Roman,

Roman’s fractious discharge, not missing a drop. impressed, gave her a look.

“I was raised on a farm--

seriously,” she said, by way of explanation. After capping the semen container, Estella left with a smile. The flautists followed her. Roman then heard Estella

murmur something to somebody.

He didn’t hear the door close.

He looked over and saw a flunkey come in with food. “Your breakfast, sir.”

Ward / Romans / 165

Chapter 10

Roman was detached from the world, floating in a bubble of pleasure. You could see it in his smile: it was stupider than

it usually is. He lounged in bed, exhausted by satiation, his robe open, the remnants of breakfast sitting on a tray next to him, sipping green tea, the TV pulsing with the sound off, his mind freely wandering from image to image in a blue mental sky full of rainbowed bubbles. Then he did. He didn’t notice his cell phone ringing.

He answered it without suspicion or irritation. He said “hello”, and she began talking and

It was his mother. talking.

Due to his current torpor, he let her words flow It

through him like meaningless currents of massaging sound.

took him a while to realize she was actually screaming at him. “Roman I here, Roman I here, ROMAN I AT CLEVELAND AIRPORT! I AT AIRPORT RIGHT NOW! COME GET ME, YOU DUNCE!” “Okay, Okay, I’m coming,” said Roman.

Ward / Romans / 166

Mrs. Markovsky had been trying to call her son for weeks. He never answered or responded to her messages. This, plus her He must

motherly intuition, told her that something was wrong. be in need of her help. With the boldness of a mother

protecting her young, Mrs. Markovsky had arranged to go to Cleveland unannounced.

Ward / Romans / 167

Chapter 11

Mrs. Markovsky was as round and abundant as the Earth. Thick black curly hair. Big nose, big glasses, big red lips. Her

Dewlap & dunlap in graceful symmetry with each other.

purple dress patterned with green flowers, white frill around the neck. Shiny green high heels. When she saw Roman walking

towards her she opened her arms, making her ham-like triceps more conspicuous. “Mother!” said Roman, opening his arms for an embrace. She

lifted him off of his feet and pecked him liberally, splotching his face with lipstick marks. “Even though you bad son I filled with joy,” she said and laughed. Roman’s face turned red. I am ill,” he said

“But, Mother, my life has been insane. morosely.

Ward / Romans / 168

“Nonsense!

Look at you!”

Indeed, since he had entered the

reabsorption phase, not only did his hair seem thicker and blacker, but he also had a golden aura about him--he used to be pale. “Well, not an illness, but a condition.” “Condition! have condition? What you talk of? Condition! Who does not

To be human is condition.

You are well, Roman.

Do not lie to your mother! condition? Hah!”

You have not called because

“Well, you’ll see.

Here, let me take your bags.”

Mrs.

Markovsky had brought a large carrying bag and a suitcase. Roman slung the bag over his shoulder and dragged the suitcase (it had wheels) behind him. “Here, this is our car,” he said.

As he said that the trunk popped open and some of Hoffman’s flunkeys appeared. bags.” “Here, Mr. Markovsky, let us take those

They nodded cordially to his mother before they went

about their work. “Oh, oh, oh, my Roman!” Mrs. Markovsky said as she put her hands to her cheeks. Then her eyes narrowed. She laughed while

saying, “I see, I see. You do this to make forgiveness.” “Yes,” Roman smiled, assenting for reasons of parsimony. Hoffman had taken Roman to the airport in a chauffeured limousine, along with some flunkeys. First, Roman needed a

Ward / Romans / 169

ride:

Hoffman had picked him up from jail, so he had no car.

Second, Hoffman, believing that his research had reached a critical point, was loathe to release Roman from The Hospital. He wanted to be there if something happened. Hoffman’s supervision of Roman extended further than he knew. Hoffman had installed secret video cameras throughout Before taking the semen

Roman’s room at the medical center.

sample, Estella had inserted a nano-monitor and a nano-tracker into Roman while he was sleeping. (This was before the day when pico-level miniaturizations became all the rage.) did escaped Hoffman. Nothing Roman

Roman had at first resisted the idea of Hoffman

Hoffman accompanying him to pick up his mother.

persuaded him by saying that he had to be there just in case Roman had another episode. This seemed reasonable enough.

During the limo ride, Mrs. Markovsky unabashedly scrutinized Hoffman through her thick glasses. was a complete freak. She thought he

It appeared to Mrs. Markovsky that Dr. His tie was excessively pink. He

Hoffman was wearing makeup.

wore an emerald on his pinkie.

Not to mention his ‘stache was

waxed and his eyebrows, of all things, were “threaded!” “This your doctor? What illness requires such man?”

“Strange illnesses, require strange doctors,” Hoffman said with a sly smile.

Ward / Romans / 170

“I do not believe doctor!” Roman gave Hoffman a look that said, “Don’t blame me for Hoffman looked out the window. They drove in

what she says.”

silence along the 480 freeway, its most notable sight The Plain Dealer building. Mrs. Markovsky broke the quiet.

“I cannot wait to see grandchild, your wife and your home,

my Roman!” “Ma, here’s the thing. “‘Temporary home’! We’re going to my temporary home.” Oh God,

What in hell you saying?

hurricane destroyed your home?” “No, Mama, there are no hurricanes up here. I’ve been But I can’t

living at the medical center for medical reasons. go home because there are problems there.” “You are not getting divorced, are you?

So soon!

What

about Carla?” “It’s not that. The baby and Trish are going to be with me Indeed, a separate limo had been sent

at the medical center.” for them.

After speaking to his mother, Roman called Trisha to

tell her that he was all right and that his mother was in town. Trisha explained to him how he had mauled Grandma; for that reason it would probably be a good idea for him to stay away from the house. This information, piled on top of the anxiety

he already felt because of his mother’s sudden arrival,

Ward / Romans / 171

overwhelmed Roman.

He rushed to Hoffman, frantic.

Hoffman, as

if previously apprised of Roman’s mindstate, paused shortly (for dramatic effect?), and then dictated a plan of action to a flunkey, his words flowing out with perfect pronunciation, without any hemming or hawing, an effortless, forceful eloquence, like Julius Caesar must have spoken while dictating his Commentaries from horseback, if in fact he dictated his Commentaries from horseback. Arrangements were being made for Trisha and Carla to live with Roman at The Hospital. Furthermore, it was agreed that Roman was going to take a sabbatical from work and that Hoffman would take care of his finances. Grandma and Carl would have the house to themselves.

Mrs. Markovsky would be put in one of the many hotels on Rockside Road. “What wrong with home?” said Mrs. Markovsky. “Well, Carl’s wife, Grandma, is not getting along with me.

You see, they live with us.” “I do not know where to start. What in hell? What in hell Look at your What goes on

wrong with this person? smile!

How can she not love you?

But why in hell she there in first place? I should know these things!”

with you, Roman?

Ward / Romans / 172

Chapter 12

Roman, his mother, and Hoffman were entering Roman’s room

at The Hospital. Trisha was on the bed, watching television with Carla. She stood up and smiled when she saw them enter. Mrs. Markovsky, trailing Roman and Hoffman, burst through them, nearly knocking them down. “Trish, Trish,” yelled Mrs. Markovsky, standing on her toes and throwing out her arms in excitement. In her younger days, when her girth was less substantial, she would leap into the air on such occasions. Trisha nervously scuttled toward her. Mrs. Markovsky seized her by the waist and lifted her off the ground as one does an infant. Mrs. Markovsky would have gone for the traditional bear hug, but because of the recent attacks against Carla, Trisha now carried her around in a baby sling under her breasts...well, under her nipples, really.

Ward / Romans / 173

“Ooooh, and this Carla?” said Mrs. Markovsky, bending down to be eye-to-eye with the child. As she leaned in for a kiss the baby opened its mouth as if she were about to cry, but we’ll never know if she ever did cry, because before she got a chance to make a sound, Mrs. Markovsky was doing a mouth-to-mouth number on her. When Mrs. Markovsky pulled back the baby was covered with lipstick. With wide eyes, Carla drew her tongue around her face, trying to get a taste of the lipstick. During these greetings Hoffman looked at Roman and bent his head and turned a thumb towards the door. Roman followed Hoffman out the door. They stood in the hallway. “Close the door,” said Hoffman. Roman did as commanded. “Roman, I should have done this earlier, but now it is essential we get all the homunculi into the lab.” “I don’t care. I have no problem, you know. It’s Grandma. It was hard enough getting that one homunculus here, and the only reason she let me is because it didn’t look like Cindy, you know? She thinks those damn things are little Cindys. But now there’s no way she’s gonna let me take them. Not after I killed one. The big deal with her’s going to be, not that I punched her in the face, she’s a tough broad, but that I killed one of the shitfuck little Cindys, you know?”

Ward / Romans / 174

“I see,” said Hoffman. “I don’t want to have to take them by force. No, not at all.” He then paused for a while, and stared into Roman’s face, his head tilted to the left and his mouth puckered. Roman’s smile twitched. “She leaves the house sometimes, correct?” he said, after about a minute and a half. “Yeah, I guess, to shop and things.” “And does she take the homunculi with her, when she shops and things, or does she leave them at home?” “At home.” “So we just have to get her out of the house!” “Yeah, I guess.” “Well, let’s go to my office to discuss this. We need to take care of this now.” Roman followed after Hoffman, who strode briskly toward the office; eventually they turned the corner of the hallway. A few moments after they left our sight, Estella came from the other way, looking for Hoffman. She knocked on Roman’s door, as Hoffman told her he’d be there. Trisha opened the door. Dr. Estella gave Trisha a severe look. Dr. Estella wore a tight black dress that pushed her large boobs up high. Trisha stood in the doorway--Carla held against her left breast, smiling and cooing--looking frazzled.

Ward / Romans / 175

“Hello, you must be Trisha. I’m Doctor Estella,” she said. Without waiting for a reply Estella stepped aggressively towards Trisha, somewhat batting Trisha’s face with her large upright breasts. “Is Doctor Hoffman here?” Estella said looking over Trisha’s head. Maybe you’d like to know what other people thought about Dr. Estella. Either way, we’re going to tell you. What we did was contact her friends, family, former college roommates, former teachers, former coworkers, etc. Most would surrender information only under the condition of anonymity. We render her portrait, or rather a collage composed of different viewpoints, which curiously combine into a unified, coherent whole, thus: Her personality was masculine, not feminine. She was aggressive. At bars, she approached the guys with lines. Likes to go to dive-ish bars, where she’s guaranteed to be the prettiest girl. So, even though pretty, rarely pairs with a handsome male. Her fashion sense was, until she paid for an advisor on this matter, lacking. Concerned with appearances and prestige. No sexual restraint, no emotional attachment afterward. Always had to be in charge. Never has fun when she’s

Ward / Romans / 176

not in control, when itinerary not hers. Intelligent, driven, “successful.” Estella stepped into the room. She saw that the bathroom

door was closed. “Who’s in the bathroom?” said Estella. “My mother-in-law.” “Oh. Where’s Doctor Hoffman?” “He and Roman were here. They just stepped out.” “I see.” Estella sashayed out the room, her hips swaying, her callipygian ass pumping in her dress like angry pistons. “Nice meeting you,” Trisha whispered, trying to conceal her indignation. “What a bitch!” she thought.

Ward / Romans / 177

Chapter 13

Hoffman pressed Roman to think of regularities in Grandma’s schedule so they could find a proper time to seize the homunculi. Did she go to the grocery store the same day every week, for instance? Roman couldn’t say; he didn’t pay much attention to what others did. “Hmm. How about your wife?” Roman shrugged. “Is there anybody else who would know her schedule?” “Her husband, Carl.” “Let’s get him on the phone.” “What if Grandma picks up?” “Then I’ll call.” Hoffman picked up the phone off the desk. “What’s his number?” “He lives with me as well.” “Oh, yes, I should have known that.” Hoffman dialed. Carl answered. “Is this Carl?”

Ward / Romans / 178

“Yes, oh, yes, it’s me indeed.” “I see. Carl, this is Doctor Hoffman, Roman’s doctor.” “Yes, he’s told me about you, yes indeed.” “Carl, I need to ask you something. When does Grandma leave the house? Does she have a regular schedule when she’s out of the house?” “Hmmm, let me see, hmmm, well, ah yes, yes...I mean no.” “Okay. Ah, well Carl, here’s the deal. I have to get those homunculi. It’s essential. Can you take her out to dinner, do anything to get her out of the house?” “Ah, yes, well, I see, I see, it won’t be easy, but yes, I guess.” It was agreed that nothing could be done right away because of the recent brutal events. Some days later at the funeral, Carl, while following all

the rules of propriety, made a case for Grandma before the crew. He argued that Grandma was miserable about how she treated them when they first met. He explained that Grandma had not taken her medication or that she had, he couldn’t remember. He said she wasn’t at the funeral because she thought they wouldn’t want her there. Grandma, he said, wanted to make amends. Perhaps they could get together one morning at Always Yours? Having seen Grandma mauled by Roman, the crew felt sympathetic towards her.

Ward / Romans / 179

They agreed that it would be a good idea. She was Carl’s wife; of course they would get along, eventually. Back home from the funeral, while Grandma helped him out of his suit, Carl said, “Ah, Grandma dear, I fear that your relations with my friends are strained. This causes me pain. From angry behavior you must ah, yes, yes, oh yes, yes, you must refrain. So let’s make amends. How ‘bout you properly meet my friends?” Figuring dealing with the crew directly was the best way to

neutralize any undue sway they may hold over him, she agreed to a breakfast at Always Yours.

Ward / Romans / 180

Chapter 14

“With ever-fresh relish the elderly platoon gained its territory of tables the same way it did every morning, changing its tactics only when losing a member.” You may recall that

sentence from Part 1, Chapter III of this tale, dear reader. Wait, wait, don’t flip back. We’ll do all the explaining. Where before Ralph Anderson strode, hands in his pocket, The Plain Dealer wedged in his right armpit, where Carl served as his rotund, or more fancifully, his funhouse, mirror image, now Ralph strode towards the empty, open sidewalk, and perhaps if the weather was right, he would stride towards an impenetrable mist, symbolizing his journey into the hereafter or whatever. And now, when he faced the car, a lone soldier, only You needn’t refresh your memory.

the widows McCarthy and Ridge looked up to greet him, Knapp as deceased as her husband. Then, rounding the building, those

slower moving twos, Joseph and Florence Dogger, John and Helen

Ward / Romans / 181

Fennel, Bill and Dolores Swanson, and Carl and Grandma Odter. Etcetera, etcetera. They go to eat.

Their seating was pretty much the same as before, except

now Grandma took Eleanor’s place, and Eleanor took Penelope’s place on the freestanding chair among the yakkers. next to Ralph and across from Carl. across from Ralph. Things were tense, quiet. Even Ann Brick, in her morning Grandma sat

John sat next to Carl and

haze, felt uncomfortable.

Whenever Carl and Eleanor met eyes

both would quickly look away. “So, I hear you were on television,” Ralph said to Grandma. She told her story. The entire crew listened. Some of the

loudest laughs came from the yakkers’ table.

Even Eleanor found Grandma put the

herself amused and delighted by Grandma’s tale. whole crew in a good mood.

The group was so animated that some

folks seeking breakfast (not regulars), left almost as soon they set foot in the door, driven off by the noise. When the food came the cross-table conversations ended; individual conversations were contained within the table. Ralph and Grandma got to chitchatting away. Ralph, gruff, exuded a rugged confidence. He was tall, in

his high school’s football hall of fame, and a former a ladies’

Ward / Romans / 182

man, having bashed his way through at least a football field’s length of gash in his day. At one point Grandma slapped Ralph on his thigh, which

deeply disturbed Carl. The meal over, Grandma said to Carl as they walked to the

car, “That Ralph is a big guy,” while subconsciously spreading her hands apart.

Ward / Romans / 183

Part IV

Chapter 1

Hoffman and Estella lounged in his well-appointed den, theorizing. They were both drinking rather fancy teas, not the

kind that comes in a bag on a string, but the free-leaf kind you have to put in a strainer. indulged a vice: Along with the healthy tea, Hoffman What he enjoyed was not He liked to watch

he smoked his pipe.

breathing the smoke in, but breathing it out. the swirly patterns form. Mandelbrotish mood.

It put him in a relaxed, Benoit

So there they sat theorizing--and we don’t

mind mentioning that among the capital pleasures of Being, sitting in a comfy chair, sipping tea, and theorizing or philosophizing with a friend occupies a high place, perhaps forehead level. Increasing his pleasure, Hoffman sat not only

Ward / Romans / 184

on a comfy chair, but also a new one. magazine.

He had ordered it from a

The workmen had just left, carrying with them torn up One

plastic sheets, cardboard, and other packaging materials.

of the two workmen, Chris Turner, had been spotted earlier that day by one of Hoffman’s patients--Craig Storozuck (psoriasis)-at a British Petroleum station during his lunch hour, sitting on a white plastic bucket, eating a sandwich, and handling his junk. All three, naturally, were unaware that their lives were

connected by this incidental triangle. “It’s strange that he would eat the remaining homunculi. You would think he would impregnate them all or let them roam free to be impregnated by others,” Estella said. Hoffman sat in his green velvet chair (patterned with diagonal lines of golden fleurs-de-lisle) in the darkened room, the wooden venetian blinds drawn, white dandelion light puffing out between the slats, breathing heavily through his nostrils: when thinking he tilted his head to the left and kept his mouth closed, puckering his lips now and then. Hoffman, wishing to ignore Estella’s conjecture and to start with the fundamental issue, began with the question: “What is a homunculus?” His first thought brought him back to

his childhood, and to a friend of his youth, now deceased, Stephan Jay Gould. Their friendship did not survive their

Ward / Romans / 185

differences.

Hoffman’s temperament was aristocratic.

He could

tolerate neither Marxism nor baseball. attending a baseball game nauseated him.

The very thought of The proletariat,

standing and screaming, packed together on a hot summer’s day. Exposed beneath their rising tee shirts, their hairy, pale guts hanging over their braided leather belts. God forbid it was a Their

doubleheader, for those guts would surely get sunburnt.

unshowered bodies sweating; their red, drunken faces shouting obscenities, peanut matter caught between their teeth. A foul

miasma of hotdog belches and farts cloaking every part of the cloacal coliseum, not to mention the boring, moronic game that elicited all this nastiness. Hoffman drew a perfumed

handkerchief from his breast pocket and placed it against his nose, somewhat subconsciously. again. “Is the homunculus phenomenon evidence of punctuated equilibrium? Is asexual-sexual reproduction the next leap Granted, He put it back before he spoke

forward for mankind? Or are the homunculi symbionts?

they’d have to be an intra-species symbiont if their genomes proved similar enough to successfully mate with humans. Is the

homunculus phenomenon an isolated occurence, an aberration suffered by only a few unfortunates, a trait not to be reproduced, a trait without evolutionary significance? Who

Ward / Romans / 186

knows the number of weird, short-lasting things evolution has wrought? Are we wasting our time?” Hoffman then stood from his

chair and paced moodily. People pursuing goals that take a lot of time, effort, and money to achieve, like getting a medical degree, climbing Everest, venturing into space, winning an Olympic medal, solving an unsolved math problem, or building a gothic cathedral, will at times, perhaps for long periods of time, hate the thing they’re trying to achieve, say it is worthless, and feel no passion for it. Or if they don’t hate it, they will question

their own competence. Where did Hoffman get this ambition? He had told himself After meeting

that he just wanted to be a humble dermatologist.

Roman he could no longer keep up the pretense that he had dispensed with the ambition of his youth to achieve greatness. Art was not the medium of his destiny. would elevate him above all other men! Oh, how deluded he must have been when he started this project! situation? Where did he get off thinking he could handle this He was just a skin doctor, not a scientist; what did Nothing. He consulted All he learned It was now science that

he know about genes, evolution, etc.? the homuncular literature.

It provided no help.

was that the so-called “homuncular investigators” were not even

Ward / Romans / 187

considered members of the scientific community. as charlatans. outrageous.

They were seen

Their evidence was slim, their claims

And here comes Hoffman with the case that would Hoffman pictured himself in the

validate the discipline!

history books of the future, the savior of a discredited phenomenon, perhaps the most important phenomenon in the history of mankind. But where did he get off? What did he know? In

his greed for fame he kept Roman to himself; he made Estella and their assistants sign confidentiality agreements. think he could handle this? and stupidity. Whatever, whatever. periods, he told himself. He was just going through one of those He felt like this at times in medical How did he

His was the arrogance of naiveté

school; he was well aware that this mood was only temporary, and that it indicated nothing about the success or failure of the venture. Nevertheless, he felt the need to vent, if only to He sat back down, and gave Estella a look

himself, silently.

that indicated that he was ready for her to reply. Before she could answer a flunkey interrupted them to announce the arrival of Roman, Carl, and Pastille. taken Pastille to see Roman, fulfilling his promise. Carl had After

meeting with Roman, Pastille asked if he could be taken to

Ward / Romans / 188

Hoffman, since he wanted to get an expert’s opinion on homunculi. The doctors greeted them and ordered more tea to be brought in. Roman and Carl were seated on brown leather chairs,

Roman sitting next to Hoffman, and Carl next to Estella, the pairs facing each other. To the right of Hoffman and Roman, and

to the left of Estella and Carl, Fr. Pastille was given a chaise lounge on which to recline, so as not to cut off circulation in any part of his body, especially his feet. The flunkey served

the tea to the guests and then left the room, closing the door behind him. “Gentleman, to what do we owe the pleasure of your company?” said Hoffman. “Well, well, eh, eh, uh, uh, eh, eh, oh yes, I mean ah,” Carl said, before wrapping his lips around his tea cup to prevent himself from coming down with nervous giggles. Roman, feeling a sudden humane urge, jumped into the conversational waters to save Carl from drowning, “Well, guys, it’s like this,” he said. Before he could finish Pastille spoke over him in phlegmy tones.

Ward / Romans / 189

“I’m Father Pastille, the pastor of Roman’s and Carl’s church.” Not true in either man’s case; Pastille did marry

Roman and Trisha, however. “A pleasure. I’m Doctor Hoffman, Roman’s physician.”

“And I’m Doctor Estella, another one of Roman’s physicians.” “Well, doctors, we’re here, or rather I’m here, out of sheer curiosity. I’ve heard all about Roman’s strange case.

I’d just like to know what you think.” “Well, Father, you couldn’t have chosen a better time, for Estella and I were just trying to figure that out.” “Good, good, good,” said Pastille, which really sounded like ood, ood, ood; having failed to produce an audibly intelligible “good” after three tries he gave up. Without showing any embarrassment, Father Pastille then searched the faces of the doctors. “Allow me,” said Estella, casting a glance at Hoffman. “This is an exciting time in biology, sirs. witnessing here with Roman is rather complex. to sort out what is exactly going on with him. What we’re It may take years Is this the next Is

step in evolution, perhaps a case of punctuated equilibrium? this a case of a harmful, deleterious mutation? invaders, symbionts, or maybe aliens? Are homunculi

Are they perhaps some

Ward / Romans / 190

part of Roman that’s been genetically altered by something in the environment?” “I see, I see,” said Pastille. amenable to scientific advances. “The Church, you know, is

What you say is most However,

interesting and I await your further findings eagerly.

whatever you find will not disturb the doctrines of the Roman Catholic Church. That being said, I’d like to posit an If

alternative theory of what we’re seeing in Roman’s case.

it’s genetic, how come nobody else in Roman’s family has the disorder, as far as I know? have this?” Does anybody else in his family “I’m going to argue

The doctors shook their heads.

a non-genetic theory of qua-sation.” clear his throat of phlegm.

Here he paused a minute to

“In fact, it’s going to sound

downright theological, but it is nevertheless actual, as it is documented in the annals of the Church. What I think Roman

suffers from is demonic possession, and a very particular kind of it, called Pandemonium.” This being a civil gathering, “Yes, Roman is not

nobody guffawed at the words of the priest.

merely possessed by Satan, but by Hell itself, the ‘abode of all demons’. If a Buddhist can fit into a yak’s horn, then the And what a candidate!

entirety of Hell can rest within Roman. Look at his vacant, robotic smile.

He’s empty on the inside!

Ward / Romans / 191

No wonder Satan built his hive within him. by the way.” Roman smiled at him.

No offense, Roman,

Pastille gave his belly two quick taps with both hands; if he were inclined to wear suspenders, he would have snapped them in self-satisfaction at this moment. Pastille’s spiritual

fumigation of Roman would be the greatest achievement in the history of priests. Sure, some had exorcised a demon or two,

become martyrs, saved souls, or written treatises, but Pastille would be the man to expel Hell from Earth. “Are there not good demons, Father?” said Hoffman, to seem as if he were taking Pastille seriously. “Well, yes, I suppose. But by the nature of this That is to say

inhabitation I suspect dark forces are at work.” benign demons did not suit his fancy.

Hoffman opened his mouth to ask a further question, but determining he had already satisfied the requirements of politeness, instead nodded his head and said, “I see. gentlemen like to see the impregnated homunculus?” murmured affirmatively. Roman and Estella were silent as they walked the corridors towards the laboratory. Hoffman educated Carl and Pastille Roman thought: Roman Would you

All three

about some unique features of the building.

“Hmmm, the Devil, hey...that’s not too bad, not too bad.”

Ward / Romans / 192

felt happy about this news. But now he was the Devil!

Before he was just ho-hum Romo. More than that, Hell itself. The

Devil, along with being more glamorous, is way more important than he could ever be. They were taken to an observation room. homunculus through a thick glass window. They could see the

The room it sat in

resembled the candy bar-shrinking room from the first movie adaptation of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. gentlemen mentioned this. One of the

“That’s what I was going for,” said “I simply adore Willy Wonka. Perhaps when genetic I

Hoffman, apparently sincere.

wish I had oompa-loompas of my own. science advances far enough...”

The Sandra homunculus, her eyes droopy and vacant, sat at a plastic Little Tikes table and apathetically forked spiral macaroni and cheese into her slightly open, sullen mouth; a few noodles were stuck to her cheek and the orange cheese glared around her lips like lipstick applied in a sad, Anna Nicole kind of way. Perplexed, Pastille and Carl looked at the doctors; this depressing scene was not what they were expecting. Hoffman felt

compelled, being the lead scientist on this, to offer some explanation of what they were witnessing, or, in Hoffmanish phrasing, at least a soupçon of aperçu.

Ward / Romans / 193

“Vain, vain, is mankind to believe that his future is of his making. We’re all familiar with the various utopias and

dystopias that have been proposed, all similar in that they’re described as the fortunate or unfortunate result of human doings, especially human technology, be it info, bio, nuclear, nano. Look at what we see here before us, this impregnated Was this the result of human intervention? No! Nature made the Was the

homunculus.

homunculus engineered in a lab? homunculus!

Nature has yet again beat us to the punch and We are not in control, Nature is.

confounded our expectations.

Sometimes we think of Nature as a benevolent mother, giver of fruit, sunshine, and ocean breezes. Other times we see Nature

as a rough beast, either actively hostile, roughing us up with earthquakes, tsunamis, and the like, or as alien and indifferent to our concerns. The question, esteemed friends, the all

important question, is in what aspect will Nature emerge from this impregnated homunculus?” Hoffman felt a rare pang of shame However, he

as the banality of his words echoed in his head. quickly forgave himself:

it was a reasonable enough thing to

say extempore, though the language was a little overheated. Roman made a noise. turned red. Everybody looked at him. His face Strange

“Ah, my...yeah, you see,” Roman mumbled.

to say, but seeing the Sandra homunculus made Roman suddenly

Ward / Romans / 194

feel terrible for the real Sandra, the teller of old. she now? Was she all right?

Where was

The homunculus looked just like Why was he

her sad little soul. such a bad person? room.

Roman actually wanted to cry.

He was so distraught he had to leave the Moral images and

He waited for the others outside.

feelings plagued him for as long as five minutes until the group rejoined him, and they got to conversing again about the homunculi. Before seeing him out the door, Hoffman said to Carl, “Is

everything prepared for tomorrow?” “Ah, yes, yes, indeed. Yes. We’ll leave for the diner by five-

thirty.

I guess we, ah, won’t be back, ah, till eleven.” Then, looking over to Pastille, he said, You are welcome back

“Very good.”

“Father, I enjoyed your company today. anytime.

I’ll communicate to you through Roman or Carl when the I think that should be of

homunculus is about to give birth. interest to you.”

“I thank you all for your cordiality,” said Pastille.

“It’s been a terrific day.” As they walked back to their offices, Estella said to he’s so disgusting, so

Hoffman, “I really liked that Pastille:

repellant, yet at the same time, so attractive.”

Ward / Romans / 195

“Yes, he’s rather strange, and he has a charming selfYet so, so, so ugly. Disgusting! And how he

confidence. smells!

Perhaps Socrates was appealing to his acolytes in the

same manner.” Roman walked Carl and Pastille out to where Sister Nancy awaited them. Carl had offered to drive, but Pastille explained

that the van was his necessary means of transport. “Father, what does it feel like to be Hell?” said Roman. “Ewil,” said Pastille, trying to say “evil”, “is the God is good, and God Since Hell is not

absence of good, according to Augustine. is everything, and overflows all things.

good, it must be evil, meaning there’s no good in it, meaning there’s no God in Hell. Since God is everything, and there’s no So to feel like Hell is to

God in Hell, Hell must be nothing.

feel nothing, empty, absent from God, I suppose.” Pastille’s words, despite his convoluted logic, released a

spurt of inky associations in Roman’s mind. out. “You’re so right, Father, you’re so right!” “What you said is true! Roman spurted

That’s the thing about me. Things happen or they

That’s it.

I’ve never felt anything! Who cares?

don’t happen. me?

What does anything have to do with Nothing matters! It’s all

We all die anyway, so what?

neither here nor there.”

Ward / Romans / 196

Carl looked at Roman in alarm; he was, after all, the man

married to his legal daughter. “Roman,” said Pastille, “You take my words too literally. The only Reality is God. Roman, you see, the homunculi aren’t They

established in physical reality the way you and I are. come from beyond the limits.

You see, the world is divided into The known and the

the known, the unknown, and the unknowable.

unknown occupy the same region, as it were, since the unknown is simply the known that is not yet known. forever unknown. The unknowable remains

Dividing the unknowable from the known and the Without the limits the world would lack The limits, however, aren’t Through them

unknown are the limits.

form and all would be chaos. impenetrable:

they’re run through with fissures.

we can, at times, glimpse the light of the higher world, that is, the unknowable. Religion is the effort to translate these I’ve communicated with you, with your You are not nothing. God

glimpses into symbols.

doctors, by means of these symbols. is you.”

Neither Roman nor Carl tried to make sense of this. gentlemen said their goodbyes.

The

Ward / Romans / 197

Chapter 2

In the Markovsky home homunculi were constantly zinging in and out of perception. If you didn’t know they were actual, you

would think that perhaps you hadn’t seen them, that perhaps something was caught in your eye or that perhaps you were a little dizzy, and that was what was causing those odd blurs in your field of vision. tamed them. This was true even after Grandma had

She was able to stop their mischief, but not slow The nature of

their motion, or reverse their tendency to hide.

the homunculi explains the necessity of the space-age suits and oxygen tanks Hoffman and his team of thirty flunkeys wore when they went to capture them. Having earlier obtained the key from Roman, Hoffman let himself and his men in. doors in the home. Next they sealed all the windows and

Then they gassed the entire house; hence the Only then did they begin their search.

suits and oxygen tanks.

Ward / Romans / 198

They checked everywhere, going so far as to remove the covers from the vents and remove floorboards from the floor, where they peered inside with flashlights. secret hoards nor hordes of homunculi. the same place, the basement. What they saw looked something like a miniature homeless colony. With assorted unused things of the Markovsky residence They found neither

Rather, they were all in

the homunculi had created a jerrybuilt city. Some of the more stable-seeming structures appeared to be made of dismantled fitness equipment and plywood. Some were

just made of plain cardboard boxes (every city has its poor). The little shantytown looked more like Euclid, Ohio, than it did Houston, Texas. That is, there seemed to be some organization In the heart of it all there

to the whole thing, zoning, say.

was an area resembling a market, with selling stalls made of golf clubs and sheets. In these tents they found boxes of They even found

raisons, razors, toothbrushes, and other wares. US currency.

And amongst all this they found knocked-out some appeared to have

homunculi, slumped over in media res:

been trading, others manufacturing, some reading, some sleeping when the gas hit.

Ward / Romans / 199

“Remarkable!” said Hoffman.

“Please fellows, be careful

not to disturb anything; retrieve the homunculi with as little damage to these structures as possible.” Altogether they collected twenty-six homunculi, which they put into individual pet-transportation cages. They removed the

seals from the windows and doors, put the covers back on the vents, and replaced the floorboards. Lastly some of the

flunkeys used machines that utilized vacuum technology to suck any residual gas out of the air. Before exiting and locking the house up, Hoffman placed a letter on the table near the backdoor in the kitchen for Grandma.

Ward / Romans / 200

Chapter 3

Hanz Hoffman Hoffman Medical dba The Hospital 6701 Rockside Rd. Suite H Independence, OH 44131 October 20, 2000

Mrs. Odter, If you haven’t already found out, I write to inform you that I have taken the homunculi. This notion that the homunculi are your dead Disabuse yourself of any ideas of recovery They are a part of

granddaughter is patently absurd. and/or retribution at once. him. They belong to him. Sincerely, Hanz Hoffman

The homunculi are Roman.

Though not a model of diplomacy, Hoffman’s letter conveyed the necessary information. This was heard in the Markovsky residence later that day: “Carl! Who the hell is this Kraut Hoffman?”

Ward / Romans / 201

Chapter 4

“If you send me to hotel, how am I to eat?” yelled Mrs. Markovsky. Roman had foreseen this reaction. He had been mindful

enough to discuss it with Hoffman when they went to his office to figure out how to get the homunculi back. Like mother, like son. Mrs. Markovsky would only eat food Room service and

prepared by her hands or under her auspices. restaurants were out of the question.

Hoffman had his meals cooked in a kitchen located in the medical center. The kitchen was also used to prepare meals for

the professional and corporate conferences that were often held in The Hospital. meals there. Roman gave her Hoffman’s offer. “Well, let me see kitchen before I agree.” He gave Mrs. Markovsky permission to cook her

Ward / Romans / 202

Chapter 5

For the past four hours the Sandra homunculus had been The birth, or whatever Roman called Carl to

groaning and holding its engorged belly. was to happen, was going to happen soon. give him a heads up. Pastille.

A few hours later he arrived with

Ward / Romans / 203

Chapter 6

“Who was on phone, Carl Augustus?” said Grandma, who had

heard the moniker for the first time at Always Yours. “Ah, let’s see, it was Father Pastille, yes. He and I are

going out for lunch.” “I have already started making goulash. Why did not you

tell me?” “Sorry, sorry, I, ah, my memory isn’t what it used to be.

Ah, ah, I didn’t realize that we were to meet today till he called just now.” “You are acting strange, Carl.” Grandma peered at Carl through the living room window as he

entered the front passenger side of the conversion van. After Carl had left her sight, Grandma found the Yellow Pages and made a call to a cab service.

Ward / Romans / 204

Forty-two minutes later, holding Hoffman’s letter in her

hand, she said to the cabbie, “Take me to Hoffman Medical Center. Six seven zero one Rockside Road.”

Waiting at the light where Broadview meets Rockside,

Grandma rolled down her window and said to the cabbie, “Do not move this automobile.” “Guy, Guy, it is Grandma!” “Uh, whoa, Grandma, hey!” “Mister, pull car to side of road to pick young man up,” Then to Guy: “You do not move. You are coming

said Grandma. with Grandma.

She needs your help.”

Guy was on the sidewalk straddling a bicycle. Now, we’ve received numerous communications from readers

outraged by the mean descriptions of Guy Novotny contained herein. Guys, you’ve gotten the narrator all wrong. What was

going on there was just some brutal dude humor between close hetero friends. this tale. Guy cracks up when he reads about himself in

In fact, Guy turned out all right as an adult.

Right now we’ve caught him at a moment when he’s turning the corner from his somber, stoned, plodding, confused, fat adolescence and heading towards what is going to be a productive, happy adulthood. See that bike he’s on? Well, Since he

yeah, he’s still fat now, but he won’t be for long.

Ward / Romans / 205

couldn’t afford a car he bought the bike as a means of conveyance. That bicycle riding is going to thin him out. He’s

going to work up to riding some 40 miles a day.

He’ll get so

involved in bike riding that he’ll buy spandex shorts, which when worn will display a squashed mollusk that will do his family proud. It all takes off from here for him. A life of

motion is a life of happiness. “What about my bike, Grandma?” “When did you get that thing?” “Dunno.” “Driver, we must get that bike in car.” “Hey lady, I don’t know about that. The Hospital. you there?” “All right, all right.” Grandma gave Guy his orders and off they all went towards Hoffman Medical, the cabbie pressing the accelerator, Guy peddling, his calves fat-man large and pink. We’re not too far from

Why don’t you just have the boy ride up and meet

Ward / Romans / 206

Chapter 7

Mrs. Markovsky was cooking lunch in the kitchen. was playing with Carla in the room. drinking coffee in Hoffman’s den.

Trisha

Carl and Pastille were Hoffman and Estella were

hurriedly making preparations before the imminent homuncular event. Cameras were stationed in the Willy Wonka room. The

doctors and their flunkeys all wore those space age suits we saw earlier at the Markovsky residence. The cabbie dropped Grandma off at the medical center. pedaled up fifteen minutes later. located near the front entrance. Grandma looked at the directory. Suite H was not listed. Guy

He chained his bike to a rack

Stranger still, its format was wrong, as the suites were numbered 1A-50C. She went to talk to the security guard at the front desk.

Ward / Romans / 207

“Where is, eh, ‘suit’ ay-cha?” “Do you have an appointment with Dr. Hoffman?” “Sure.” “All right, I’ll give him a call. “Grandma.” “Grandma? Okay then,” he said with a smirk. He dialed and they waited. “Is Doctor Hoffman in?...All right.” “Sorry, ma’am. He’s not in right now. You can give him a Your name please?”

call and leave a message if you like.”

Ward / Romans / 208

Chapter 8

All that morning Hoffman’s and Estella’s assistants had been running various tests on Roman. Estella told Roman they She led

had to run one more test on him before the final event.

him to a dark, unused corner of the laboratory where there was a door. It looked and smelled like some construction had recently Buckets of paint, brushes, sawhorses,

been done in this area.

piles of sawdust, and all manner of tools were carelessly strewn about, as if the builders had worked with great haste. She opened the door and put him in a bare room and then left him alone, closing the door behind her. okay?” she said before leaving. He was wearing a tee shirt, mesh shorts--exposing his incredibly hairy legs (by non-Slavic standards)--and flip-flops. The floors, walls, and ceiling were covered with plastic sheeting. Cameras were set up in the ceiling corners and the “Wait here a sec,

room was rigged with sensors detecting temperature, movement, air composition, and other vital data.

Ward / Romans / 209

He heard some commotion outside of the door. didn’t feel right. Roman paced. He felt agitated.

Suddenly he Sparks of Feeling

rage would suddenly light and dissolve in his mind.

horny as well, he grabbed at his dick till it was half-hard. His sense of smell was acute. Though odorless to the normal

nose, beneath the smell of fresh paint, he could smell faint traces of drywall powder. Hungry, he salivated like a mad dog, He ground his teeth.

phewing large loogey gobs on the floor.

He felt like yelling, but still in control of his mind, he growled instead. He stopped startled when the lights were killed. Somebody

quickly opened the door, light and shapes appeared in his eyes, and then it was shut. light was switched on. The light went on and homunculi scattered like cockroaches. Roman, primeval-minded, lurched after them and screamed. Moving He was even less himself by the time the

close to the ground, bouncing about on all fours like a hyena, he was able to work them into a corner. He dove into them Success. He had one

before they had a chance to scatter again. by the leg.

He rose to his feet and grabbed its other leg, He then pushed his right

holding the homunculus upside down.

arm forward and pulled his left back, ripping the homunculus in half from its anal cavity to its chest cavity, the flesh making

Ward / Romans / 210

loud noises as it was torn. the “wishbone.” bones.

Homuncular aficionados call this

He then devoured the whole thing, even the

Ward / Romans / 211

Chapter 9

Guy followed Grandma as they searched the building. Grandma’s eyes shone fiercely. Guy smiled highly: this whole

adventure had a farcical Mission Impossible feel to it. “Oh Lord!” said Grandma. She said it as if she were in pain. The pain in her voice

dampening his frivolous mood, Guy felt his heart constrict with sympathy. “What’s wrong Grandma?” “Something awful,” she muttered abstractly. Then, “We must

hurry.”

Ward / Romans / 212

Chapter 10

While Estella and Hoffman continued to work in the laboratory, Trisha, Carla, Mrs. Markovsky, Carl, and Fr. Pastille sat down to lunch in Hoffman’s private dining room. The dishes had been prepared by Mrs. Markovsky. were laying everything out on a buffet for her. The flunkeys Hoffman had

provided her with a substantial food budget, so she had gone all out. The meal started with a Georgian salad. Next came potato

ladky followed by kharcho.

For the main dish sturgeon and fried

potatoes were served, and lastly, fruit blintzes for dessert. Mrs. Markovsky was at first excited by the rapidity with which Pastille slammed down large quantities of food. it as praise of her cooking. seemed he would never stop. himself eating like that. She took

Then she became frightened, for it She was amazed he didn’t hurt

When he ate it sounded like he was

Ward / Romans / 213

choking.

Trisha was afraid she would puke if she looked at him.

She covered Carla’s eyes so that she could not see him. Before her eyes were covered, Carla laughed and giggled while watching the priest. Though too young to eat a Happy

Meal, Fr. Pastille probably looked somewhat like Grimace to her. An eminent child psychologist, Susan W. Pasternak, in a freelance review of one of the earlier editions of this tale, assured readers that babies perceive reality in low resolution-akin to the outdated blooming, buzzing confusion model. This is

due to a lack of conceptual acclimation rather than due to their sense organs being in a formative stage. would indeed render Pastille as Grimace. The conversation was loud (it had to be because of all the noise Pastille was making) and amiable. Toward the end of the meal a flunkey came in and announced that all were requested to go down to the laboratory as soon as possible so as not to miss the homuncular event. This resolution level

Ward / Romans / 214

Chapter 11

Grandma closed her eyes and let it come to her. flash of red, then a kitchen briefly.

She saw a

When she opened her eyes Stepping in In other

her nose was filled with the smell of sturgeon. some directions the smell would become stronger. directions, weaker.

Following the strong smell, she eventually

found herself in the kitchen. “This is where we should be,” she said to Guy. While poking around the kitchen for clues, they heard a “ping” or to some ears a “ting.” A utility elevator opened and two flunkeys came out, pushing the cart that held the dirty dishes of the Markovsky lunch. Grandma grabbed Guy’s forearm When the

and ducked beneath a table; he went down with her.

flunkeys’ voices had trailed off, they rose and made for the elevator. Dah, dadada, dah, dah...Dah, dadada, dah,

dah...dadadahhhhhhh, dadadahhhhhhh...

Ward / Romans / 215

Chapter 12

Mrs. Markovsky and the others had gathered in the Willy Wonka observation room with Hoffman and Estella. Through the

glass they could see flunkeys attend to the Sandra homunculus, which lay on a table, fixed up in gynecological stirrups. “Where my Roman?” said Mrs. Markovsky to the doctors. “He’s having tests done,” said Hoffman. “But he would not want to miss birth of thing.” Before he could respond to her, Trisha asked quietly, “Now, how did that thing get pregnant?” Neither doctor wanted to answer the question. Their facial

expressions and body language made it clear they weren’t going to bother trying. Both doctors smiled as Carl approached them.

They could now forget the awkward question and focus on him. “Ah, yes, yes, doctors, do you know what we are to expect?” said Carl. “The sonograms, unfortunately, have provided us with an anomaly. We don’t quite know what’s going to come out of

there,” Estella said. “Ook, ook,” gurgled Pastille, pointing his finger.

Ward / Romans / 216

The flunkeys were moving excitedly about the homunculus, each one attending to various machines. They had been given

orders not to occlude the observers’ view of the homunculus’ vagina, spread wide with the stirrups. Out came a red, gelatinous glob, equal in size to the homunculus, seething like a hive of maggots. Impulses coding for fear, awe, and exultation circuited the observers’ limbic systems. Hoffman and Estella began bouncing In

and embracing, celebrating the success of their hypothesis. fact, everybody else in the room began to congratulate each other, shaking hands and embracing, saying, “Well done, well done”--and who knows why? How did they help?

Most likely they This was

were just taking their cues from Hoffman and Estella.

an unfamiliar situation for the Parmanians, and nobody knew how to act. Also, there was a general sense of relief since The flunkeys too

whatever it was didn’t appear to be a monster. jumped about and patted each other.

Billy Wiltshire, the dark-

haired flunkey, also shared in the collective joy of this historic moment. Amidst the social touching and air of As a

bonhomie, a thought from the past flashed into his mind.

lad of fifteen he had kept score for his school’s wrestling team, the Walsh Jesuit Warriors. One evening, the Warriors,

ranked first in the nation, were scheduled to compete in a dual

Ward / Romans / 217

meet at home against the Saint Edward Eagles, ranked second in the nation. Both teams were so good that each match was likely In Ohio, this is as

to be repeated in the state finals. exciting as it gets.

The gym was boisterous and over-packed,

with streams of people spilling out the doors craning their necks to get a glimpse of the action. The first match (103

lbs.) was back-and-forth--takedown, reverse, reverse, escape, takedown!--all topsy-turvy, completely whiz-bang, and won by a last second escape: two lean primates in a zero sum game, one

struggling to rise to his feet, the other holding him to the ground. Like John Travolta in his prime, wearing tight black pants, the striped referee circled left, now right, around the quick athletes. Though his hair was thinning, the ref, Joey As

Fatiglione, had a terrific moustache--very healthy looking. a matter of fact, the night before, Joey had shoved ample amounts of homemade gnocchi under that mustache.

Praising the

gnocchi, his wife Maria exclaimed, “It’s like silk in the mouth, Joey, like silk in the mouth.” At the end of the match, Joey,

standing between the two sweaty and trembling boys (the thin elastic fabric of their singlets wrapping distinctly around their shafts, heads, and balls) holding each by a wrist, raised the hand of the victor while the loser’s remained at his side.

Ward / Romans / 218

The second match commenced (110 lbs.).

By just looking at the

ref and noticing the visible intensity of his concentration and the exceptional grace of his movements, you could tell that this was an important meet: this guy was good, no heavy-gut schmuck It was obvious no

or some blind, deaf, and dumb octogenarian. expenses were spared in hiring him.

Again, Joey pranced around the athletes, shuffling once to the right...another shuffle right, then hit by an invisible Mack truck, his feet flying out at the crowd and his shoulders and head striking the ground first. The moment it happened there

was a collective pause followed immediately by a collective moment of self-deception: everyone had convinced himself that

the ref merely slipped, despite the fact that he was as dead as a doornail. When the collective pause/trance snapped, those Finally

trained in the resuscitory arts swarmed to save him.

the ambulance came to haul away the corpse and the meet was cancelled, the 110 lbs. match unfinished, forever hovering in a state of indeterminacy: match was...who knows? Upon being released from his reverie, Billy cringed. What though the ref was dead, the cat of the

queer creature would think of death amidst the triumph of life? This was kind of like those moments when Billy, minding his own, would be assailed by a thought, say raping a child or fellating

Ward / Romans / 219

a homeless man in front of his family and peers, that he didn’t intend to have; it would appear in his mind for no reason and against his will. In such moments he worried that people could

see into his disgusting mind.

Ward / Romans / 220

Chapter 13

For those in the observation room, their perceptions of

time, suddenly acute, slowed down... ...The heavy mass plopped down onto a tarp placed under the homunculus. The mass moved about, alive. It oozed slug-like

toward the Sandra homunculus... ...Slugs seem to move without effort, as if being pulled along by an invisible force... ...The mass engulfed the entirety of the Sandra homunculus...The mass began to vibrate...It did this for...a while... ...The mass moved past the Sandra homunculus, revealing an empty spot, and fell down to the floor, splattering when it hit... Some flunkeys moved about it. Hoffman rushed into the Willy Wonka room, Estella following behind.

Ward / Romans / 221

A few flunkeys were still jumping about and patting each other in excitement. “Stop your grab-assing, gentlemen! away from us! Hurry, capture it!” The birth is getting

The glob began breaking up into smaller and smaller pieces. “Hurry up! Hurry up!”

Hoffman and his men went at the splattered blob with whatever was close at hand: flasks, beakers, cylinders, jars.

Hoffman was first to attack, and came away with a good chunk of it. Hoffman took his quarry, captured in a flask, over to a table to look for a rubber stopper to cap it. Once capped, he set it on the table and went to get a magnifying glass to examine it. He came back with a magnifying glass. To the naked eye,

the glob contained within seemed to be composed of red cells bunched together, like the inside of a pomegranate. With the

glass he was able to see a little entity moving within each cell. He stood for some time, trying to see what the little He thought of getting a microscope, but before he

entity was.

went to do so, he noticed that the red cells were dissolving. Hunched over the table with a magnifying glass held to his right eye, he waited intently to see what would happen.

Ward / Romans / 222

Eventually, after the cells melted away, the jar was filled with tiny homunculi, little Romans. The homunculi were about as

small as the shrunken children in Honey, I Shrunk the Kids.

Ward / Romans / 223

Chapter 14

Grandma rushed into the observation room, yelling, “What you doing? Cindys?” “Grandma,” said Trisha, “everything is fine. about the Cindys.” “But where are they? You tell me, Trisha!” Don’t worry What you doing? Where are Cindys? Where are

Guy finally made it in, breathing heavily, but nobody noticed. knees. “Everybody must look at this,” said Hoffman triumphantly, walking into the observation room, raising a flask by its neck. He bumped into Guy, who, looking at the ground, was not expecting the contact, and fell down. Hoffman stared at Grandma. “I presume this is Grandma.” “I am Grandma!” Hoffman chuckled superciliously, barely parting his lips. Still, nobody noticed. His cheeks were flaming. He put his hands on his

Ward / Romans / 224

“Where are my Cindys!” “In here,” Hoffman said, shaking the flask. me into the Willy Wonka room.” The flunkeys were still dashing about, running into each other, dropping glass things, which broke when they hit the floor. “Hurry, hurry, hurry,” some said. While others said, “Come, follow

“Go, go, go.” “Take a look, everybody, take a look,” Hoffman said, holding a large magnifying glass to the flask. They waited for their turns like children on a field trip lining up to see an exhibit. “They’re getting smaller.” Indeed, inside the flask

homunculi could be seen killing and fucking each other, the survivors ejecting ever smaller homunculi. Roman wandered in, his tee shirt and mesh shorts caked with blood. “My God, Roman, what is wrong with you?” said his mother, the first to notice him. “He is possessed by Hell, Mrs. Markovsky,” said Fr. Pastille. “No, I’m not,” Roman said through his smile. “Of course you are, look at you!” said his mother.

Ward / Romans / 225

“Okay, okay, I see little Romans, yes you Kraut, but where are my Cindys?” said Grandma, looking through the magnifying glass at the homunculi; she did not notice Roman come in. “These are your Cindys,” said Hoffman. “Liar!” Nobody really paid attention to Grandma’s outburst. they milled about, discussing what they had just seen. Giddy,

Ward / Romans / 226

Chapter 15

Grandma, noticing all the broken glass on the floor, stealthily bent down and picked up a pointy, wide, thick, jagged, eight-inch long piece of it. dropped it in. She opened her purse and

Next, she undid the floral scarf from her neck,

which she also used as a babushka, and wrapped it around her hand. She casually walked up to Roman, who was talking to his mother and Trisha, while reaching into her purse with her clothcovered hand. “Roman,” she said cheerfully. “Yes?” “Grandma make present!” With these words she withdrew the shiv from her purse, and thrust it into Roman’s crotch with a grunt. inches into his flesh before breaking off. Roman let go a high-pitched scream. The glass dug three

Ward / Romans / 227

Blood drenched his thigh.

It could have been worse.

Grandma, intending to mutilate his genitals, missed, and struck his inner right thigh. Her initial aim was on point, but Roman

made a reflexive backwards-sideways movement when he saw the shiv. She struck him a second time with the shiv in his right Though it scratched him, little damage was done, since

nostril.

the point of the shiv was lodged in his thigh. Grandma, suddenly and seemingly inexplicably, found herself flying through the air. She went through the open doorway of As soon as

the Willy Wonka room and into the observation room.

she stood up, Mrs. Markovsky hit her in the nose with a powerful right, breaking it again. Her eyes watering, tasting blood,

Grandma stumbled back, lost her balance, and fell into the door leading to the hallway. She grabbed the handle and went out.

Once on the other side, she leaned against the door, trying to keep it closed. Mrs. Markovsky lowered her shoulder and blasted Grandma was launched

the door open with an explosive lunge. from the door and flew into a wall.

She landed on her bum.

Mrs. Markovsky rushed her, and crushed her nose a second time with her fat knee. vivisected. Grandma, blinded by tears, crawled on her hands and knees, coughing from swallowing blood. Blood covered her face, her Grandma howled abjectly, like a dog being

Ward / Romans / 228

blouse; it was all over the floor.

Mrs. Markovsky ran up to her Grandma, momentarily

and kicked her in the nose yet again.

lifted off the ground an inch or two, landed, her knees striking first, her nose second. She was unconscious. Carl and Guy,

along with some flunkeys who had been sent to break up the fight, ran out into the hallway. There was nothing they could do. Everybody else had crowded around Roman. It had happened quickly.

Ward / Romans / 229

Chapter 16

Regaining consciousness, Grandma was aware of being “Get away, get away,” she mumbled.

surrounded.

“Oh dear, Grandma my love, oh, ah, are you, ah, all right?”

asked Carl. “Grandma is mess, but fine. Get away you other people!” she “Oh God!” Guy,

said, tears in her voice.

“Yes, gentlemen, yes, please step away just a moment. Thank you, ah. Ah yes.

you too.

Please, please go and find a Carl withdrew

gurney, will you?

Thank you.

Here, dear, here.”

a handkerchief from his pocket and wiped Grandma’s face. Grandma looked about her. “Carl, get my purse,” she said.

Grandma was near where the recent construction had been on the room Roman was put into to eat the homunculi. After Carl left

to get the purse, she grabbed a hammer that was lying nearby. She hid it in her skirt. Later she concealed it in her purse. They hoisted Grandma

Some flunkeys returned with a gurney.

onto it.

She, clutching her purse, pretended to sleep.

Ward / Romans / 230

Seeing that the homunculi kept shrinking, Hoffman ordered He didn’t want to kill The room was evacuated

everybody out of the Willy Wonka room. the small homunculi or have any escape.

and the flunkeys tried to seal it the best they could. Hoffman had Roman taken to one of the center’s operating Grandma was taken into an office to be looked at; later, Carl went with

rooms.

she was sent home in one of The Hospital’s vans. her. Pastille stayed on to enjoy dinner.

Roman pulled through

all right.

Ward / Romans / 231

Chapter 17

Everybody that was present at the homuncular event, excluding Grandma, Carl, and the flunkeys, ate dinner together. Roman, stitched up, came in feeling slightly goofy from pain medication, but mostly feeling good, as today was the day he reabsorbed his remaining homunculi. As doctors say, the

importance of autophagy to one’s well-being cannot be stressed enough. Yes indeed, Roman was integrated again. He was a new man,

his old parts displaced, reorganized, or rather, dare one say, reorganismed, and replaced. Roman, renewed, was reawakened to

the world, enjoying an internal Spring. Fortune wasn’t entirely on his side, poor fellow. from disintegrating to disabled. table in a wheelchair. temporary. “I’ve never been hungrier,” Roman said. table felt the same way. Everybody at the He went

Roman rolled up to the dinner

At least his disability was merely

So intensive was the group feeding,

nobody even took notice of Pastille’s slurping, crunching, breathing, burping, and farting.

Ward / Romans / 232

The meal over, torpidity setting in, everyone sunk himself down into a chair, and sipped a drink: whiskey for the men, wine for the ladies. Baby Carla slept in another room. Trisha

monitored her with a walkie-talkie. They got to talking over their drinks. Despite some of the

unpleasant things that had happened that day, they were still exhilarated by what they experienced. They spoke giddily.

The evening was pleasant, but all things must end. As they were fixing to leave the table, a feeling akin to the feeling devotees of the band Phish experience came over them. This feeling occurs during Phish concerts, most

especially at multi-day Phish concerts held at an outdoor venue. Between shows, members of the transient Phish community-composed mainly of Trustafarians high on drugs--wander from tent to tent, and engage in abnormal intimacies that would embarrass the sober mind. Strangers pat and commend each other in great “Hey man, you’re a cool man. You’re

weird effusions of fellow feeling. It’s so cool here.

Everybody‘s just so cool and mellow.

the greatest person I’ve ever met. man. You’re so cool.

We just know each other, I love you.”

Everything‘s so cool.

Everybody felt weirdly close to Roman, but not quite Phishy. Though their engagement with Roman’s mind lacked the Their

Phishy euphoria, their encounter was sympathetic.

Ward / Romans / 233

understanding of him was complete.

While it’s not true to say

they didn’t judge him, it can be said they regarded him impartially. They understood how his system operated and how

the constraints of his system prevented optimal behavior in all cases. Roman could feel them in him. They looked at Roman.

What was he doing to them?

Or were they doing something to him? Their minds contained neither

They felt what he was thinking.

images nor words describing the deed he was planning, yet they knew. It was mostly a feeling: they felt he was going to do

something to Grandma. If asked how they knew this or what the content of their knowledge was, they would not be able to answer. And by the same indescribable transference, they were able to communicate to Roman, using no words, that he should not take his revenge. They knew he received their messages. Though

Roman could feel everybody pressing in on him, he realized that he was still free to do as he pleased. The more the dinner party focused on Roman, the more they discovered about him. Trisha let out a cry, stood up from the Everybody else awkwardly

table, and ran out of the room. averted each other’s eyes.

Since it’s the negative memories we constantly go over in our minds, everybody first sensed Roman’s most recent negative

Ward / Romans / 234

memory: affair.

what Grandma did to him.

Next they felt the Sandra

That memory was rekindled when he saw the Sandra

homunculus eating macaroni and cheese in the Willy Wonka room. They’d have to immerse themselves in his mind for a while to feel his pleasant memories, him sitting in a plastic lawn chair on a dock in Mobile Bay one summer night, a lad of eighteen, some of his buddies and some of their girls with him, them talking, spraying themselves with OFF! ®, drinking beer, seeing needlefish swim up where the dock lights lit up the water. Roman was totally exposed, an open source. He had no

secrets.

He could feel the masses rummage about inside him with He was no longer a

grubby mental hands, pulling and prodding. private man.

The next morning every living human being able to reproduce, The

except for Roman Markovsky, awoke with an aching side. world had gone homuncular.

Ward / Romans / 235

Chapter 18

You have just read, dear reader, the story of the homuncular The main players were introduced;

age, to wit, its origin.

their personalities and actions were described; a little later on we will learn their fates. It was but a concise study. A We did

lot of questions raised here must be answered elsewhere. not, for instance, solve the mystery of identity: things are blended and discrete. analytic work. how all

This is a mere history, not an

We have already learned some things; some other

things will be explained below. # How did everybody get into Roman’s mind? The answer is as

follows.

The Sandra homunculus gave birth to the first batch of These homunculi, constantly killing and

“connector” homunculi.

fucking, become ever smaller and smaller, generation by generation, while growing exponentially in number, pervading the human universe like the aether of antiquarian physics. These

homunculi stop getting smaller--i.e. they stop killing and fucking--once they reach the size of elementary particles, which

Ward / Romans / 236

raises the question of whether biology or physics is the proper science to study them. aside. But let’s set obscure technicalities

Once they reach their smallest state they connect to and

communicate with other connector homunculi and human minds via chemical and electrical messages. hovering, universal neurons. Now, everybody’s homunculi remain separate from everybody They are, more or less,

else’s in that asexual-sexual reproduction is their only means of reproduction. The homunculi of Smith cannot reproduce with Though genetically separate, the

the homunculi of Jones.

connector homunculi are so intermixed and interconnected in the homuncular aether it begs the question of whether you can really separate the homunculi of Smith from those of Jones in any meaningful way. Another interesting feature of the connectors

is that they apparently continue to exist after their home being dies. # Roman’s homunculi entered every living human being.

Everybody that day, via the homunculi, became Roman, in part. They were connected to his mind. but not become his mind. They could inhabit his mind,

The medium of exchange was limited.

Roman’s mind could be understood in neither words nor images. Only in feelings. Feelings in the form of sudden flashes of

Ward / Romans / 237

insight.

It was an ineffable, intuitive understanding.

One

could not describe how he knew the contents of Roman’s mind, he just knew. Roman’s homunculi, using chemical messages, triggered all

people capable of reproducing to birth homunculi of their own, which had hitherto been dormant. happened with everybody else: devoured the rest. What happened with Roman

they mated with a homunculus and

Homunculi, by the way, model themselves on

actual people the home being is attracted to. People continued to engage in old-fashioned coitus. there was no longer any

Homunculi just aided this process:

question of who wanted to mate with whom, and whether she should. The homuncular age saw the disappearance of the costly

preliminary processes that preceded mating in the days of old. You just went and started fucking. No dating, no heart breaks.

No infidelity either, unless it was permitted. Though some argue that the more things change, the more they

stay the same, make no bones about it, this was a fundamental transformation of the human experience, with wide-ranging implications. Everything--court rooms, politics, international It became impossible to lie, to

affairs, etc.--was transparent. conceal anything.

So pervasive was the homuncular revolution,

it would take thousands of books to document its effects

Ward / Romans / 238

adequately.

As of this writing, for example, there are five

books on The New York Times bestseller list that have homuncular advertising as their subject. # Nevertheless, the world did not become one of complete and At the time this happened the

entirely accessible information.

mental universe was composed of approximately six billion minds. Finding the right information was like finding a needle in a haystack. Thus the need to invent mental data mining--the

complex details of which we leave for somebody else to explain. We can explain here, however, one of its simpler forms. Usually, to access the contents of a mind, you had to know exactly which mind to link into. Indiscriminately throwing a Too

mental net out into the public would yield only static. many signals at once.

To lock into the right frequency you had

to think of a particular person, or look at him or an image of him to read the contents of his mind. Once inside the mind, You could

again there was the problem of information glut.

access the thoughts the mind was currently thinking, but tapping into the memory was nearly impossible. also needed for specific minds. Mental data mining was

It was actually pretty simple.

If you asked a mind a question (again, not articulated in words) you could find the answer. You could cause the answer to arise.

Ward / Romans / 239

Further limiting the content of knowledge were those born The more interesting class of people, however, were These people had to be

sterile.

those intentionally sterilized.

sterilized before puberty; otherwise they would go homuncular. Who were these unfortunate children who had an irreversible adult decision forced on them? They were called “carriers” They were employed by

usually and “eunuchs” derisively.

governments and other entities that could afford them to hold secret information and make decisions based on that information. Like the clergy of yore, they constituted a non-reproducing elite. These carriers were developed from the sperm and eggs of A good memory was a highly desirable

high-achieving people.

trait that was selected for, among other faculties. A young carrier could opt out of his future, but none did,

because the decision had to be made when very young, and his surrounding influences made it impossible to choose otherwise. Despite the opulence and privileges they enjoyed, as well as

the deprivations they endured, young carriers lived somewhat normal lives with (non-biological) mothers and fathers, who themselves were carriers. arduous. Carrier training was long and

Alongside memory training, they built up their A carrier was not told any valuable

immunity to torture.

information until the age of twenty-five.

Ward / Romans / 240

All efforts were made to keep carriers outside of public They lived cloistered lives among other carriers. If a

view.

carrier went out in public, it would soon be found out that he was a carrier, since his mind couldn’t be read. Once a

carrier’s identity was leaked, he was in danger, for interested parties would try to capture him to get his information. Even

those who paid the carriers for their services did not know what they looked like or where they lived. All communications In the

between carriers and their bosses were done anonymously. carriers true power was held.

Over time real power had shifted

from public and corporate officials who told the carriers what to do until the situation was reversed, and the carriers told the officials what to do. The elected officials of the

government and the public faces of corporations became mere figureheads. The actual politicians and the actual corporate

officers were carriers, their identities unknown to the open public. # How did the carriers operate? The carriers enacted some of This is how it worked.

their designs through the “influencers.”

Say the carriers wanted a fellow named Moosbrugger to kill a prostitute for whatever reason. The influencers would be shown

the way to Moosbrugger’s mind and given the message to convey to

Ward / Romans / 241

him.

Then, thousands of influencers, sometimes millions of

them, depending on the importance of the matter at hand, would incessantly bombard the mind of Moosbrugger with messages to kill the girl. Killherkillherkillherkillherkillherkillher would The traffic through

constantly go through Moosbrugger’s mind.

his mind would be so heavy, that no room would be left available for him to think his own thoughts. The only solution

Moosbrugger would have to relieve this torment would be to kill the prostitute. How would a court assign responsibility? And not just in What about the

cases of people being acted upon by influencers.

myriad nudges the normal citizen would receive daily from friends, relatives, and strangers to do this, that, or the other? How much resistance would you have to put up against the

influencers and the suggestions of others to absolve yourself of responsibility, to show that you were a puppet guided by the will of many? # Once the influencers knew who you were, there was no escaping There was no way to block them from entering your brain. The carriers carefully monitored the mental

them.

One couldn’t hide. aether.

Attempts to develop technologies or biological

modifications that would de-homuncularize normal people were

Ward / Romans / 242

quashed immediately.

One of the first measures the carriers

took was to eradicate Buddhist monks and other advanced practitioners of meditation who were immune to the influencers. # Unaffiliated sterile people, that is, those with carrier

potential but not carriers, were often tortured and killed, since they could never prove to their captors that they were not carriers. Anybody with a private mind was under constant

threat, excluding prepubescent children. # How did it feel to be alive in the homuncular age? What was

its psychic condition? Hell.

Fr. Pastille predicted that it would be

His belief in the importance of what he had to say

inspired him to write a book about the theological meaning of the homuncular world. Pastille had quickly begun work on a He died

memoir/treatise after witnessing the homuncular event.

a little over a year later, his book incomplete, but mostly finished. Before the argument of his work, entitled The Kingdom of Hell

is Within You, is summarized, we give the warning that the following statements do not constitute the official Church teaching. Pastille was a renegade who had railed all his career

against the dogmatic theology of Rome.

Ward / Romans / 243

Pastille began his discussion of Hell with the death of God. They were

Before God died all was well; humans lived as humans.

able to do this because they knew they were made in the image of God and that God existed. So long as God existed, their humanity did as well. He did not think God had actually died. Pastille believed,

rather, that humankind had suffered an enormous tragedy of the imagination when the nineteenth century shifted into the twentieth, when Nietzsche, modernity, technology, the fragmented man, and other similar words gained currency in the mentalsphere. The tragedy was that man could no longer see God,

because he had, like Oedipus, blinded himself; man had gouged out his spiritual eyes, his imagination. holy way of seeing. The imagination is the

Imagination is the way of seeing that Reality cannot exist without

creates the reality that it sees. the imagination.

What scene of recognition, what horror realized, stirred

mankind to such insane grief that it gored out its eyes with Iocastaian brooches so as to see the real world no longer, the sight of which would only remind it of its unbearable misery? Like Oedipus, mankind had unwittingly been the author of its own disaster. Mankind, in thinking it had found its saviour, had the machine. By liberating man from labor, it

created an idol:

Ward / Romans / 244

was thought, mankind could return to its Edenic state. foolishness! Fall.

What

Labor was the punishment imposed by God after the Pastille This

To attack labor was to go against God’s will.

saw the creation of the machine as mankind’s second Fall. time the punishment was not hard labor, but death. would kill man. The machine had been killing him.

The machine Year after

year man was becoming less and less human.

He was beginning to

resemble something other than the image God made him in. Pastille used some examples from literature to buttress his argument. Pastille asserted that the reality described by authors such

as Musil and Kafka had not yet run its course, or at least was the operable human reality until the homuncular event. This was

the era of where the primitive man and the technological man lived together in one man, the divided man, the fragmented man, the man with old hardware and new software. The contradictory man’s days were numbered. He would achieve

a new unity. unification.

It was obvious what he would lose in gaining Perishing was the primitive man, the man of

feeling, the religious man, the intuitionist, the romantic. Each new advance of the machine’s rationality made his ancestral territories uninhabitable. Sure enough, with each new

explanatory theory, and with each new empirical confirmation

Ward / Romans / 245

thereof, there remained some incomplete area, either in the theory itself, or in the evidence, where the primitive man could find sanctuary temporarily. The radii of these sanctuaries

described smaller circles by the day. Don’t be quick to think that the unification of man would The cost of

take place in the psyche of the individual. unification was the individual itself.

In the post-human era In

there will be no more individuals, only mankind will exist. the homuncular panopticon it will be impossible to cultivate inner weirdness. It will be impossible to have a mental life

that would distinguish you from everybody else.

The pressures

of conformity will be enormous; any thought of rebellion or disagreement with the status quo will be extirpated as soon as it arises. Anything strange and beautiful cannot not sprout

under the harsh mental rays of ordinary men, no matter how fertile the soil. The homuncular age marks the end of privacy Only the carriers will be able

and the end of the individual.

to have, if they wish, inner lives; only they will have the luxury of being human. Everybody else will be no more than a

cog in the great machine, a neuron in the great brain. That we have value independent of the machine is a religious That I am I, and that you are you,

belief, Pastille asserted. is a religious belief.

Without the imagination, religion is

Ward / Romans / 246

impossible.

Without religion, human life has no value, and This is so In

everything is reduced to killing and fucking.

because without God, without imagination, reality is empty. the greater scheme, it does not matter if you break babies’

heads on rocks or anally rape elderly women because all things are temporary: they’re here and then gone, so fleeting they Even the Buddhists, who

might as well have not existed.

honestly recognized the emptiness of reality, fudged by inventing karma, a make-believe game that what we do and think matters. It is the imagination, the make-believe, that makes

life worth living! The imagination, cultivated in inviolable privacy, in our Our names, our

pure, unfiltered minds, was our real self.

smiles, our handshakes, the things we say, these are all the little lies we live to get through the day. a game we play. Social life is just

But what happens inside us, in our These little private

imaginations, that’s the real thing.

realities, these little alephs that glow in our minds, that’s what our focus should be on. Our external lives exist only to

provide fuel for the light that shines within. In the homuncular age there will be nothing left to the Though the homuncular age brought people closer

imagination.

together than ever before, though people could directly access

Ward / Romans / 247

each other’s thoughts without having to imagine them, its effect would be, paradoxically, to destroy true morality and fellowfeeling. You must kill and you must fuck are the commandments of the

new age, an age without imagination, an age in which everything is reduced to its basic elements. If one refrains from killing,

he does so not out of fellow feeling or because of a moral principle, but because he is weak and fears retaliation; the homuncular man will kill or cooperate not according to moral law, but according to what most benefits his continued survival, according to what stratagem creates the most opportunities for fucking. The members of this world would live in a miserable

psychic deadlock if not for the carriers, who, with secret knowledge, guide the actions of men. Clacking away at his typewriter, Pastille’s spiritual

machine, running on fumes, made its final rusty sputterings. Like that steadfast band that played on while the Titanic

sank, Pastille wheezed, coughed, sneezed, snorted, chortled, burped, and sweated with gusto as his soul subsided. He hacked

up dollops of sputum that were swirled with blood, giving them the passing appearance of mint candy. He ejected it so

violently and in such profusion that catching it in a handkerchief, towel, or kidney-shaped bowl proved useless. He

Ward / Romans / 248

just let the dollops plop down everywhere: pants, his manuscript.

on his shirt, his

Gusty as ever his farts blasted on,

while what looked like used cooking grease trickled from his anus. His member leaked urine and smegma. His eyes teared with

viscous green goop. out.

Even his earwax had liquified and dribbled

He was oozing fluids out of every orifice, every pore. “When we finally become inhuman, when we no longer resemble

the image God made us in, God will no longer recognize us as his children. Though we will be intimately connected to each other, first, from our These were

we will be isolated on a greater level:

imaginations, that is our souls, and then from God.” the last words Pastille wrote.

In fact, the very last act of His finger on the “D” key, So died this

his life was typing the word “God.”

his soul ascended to Heaven on a nimbus of farts.

man of great emanations, this man of great spirit, pneuma, farts. Though Pastille had been discovered not long after he

expired, the medical examiner dated his death as occurring two weeks prior, so advanced was the liquefaction. The corpse, by

the way, set a world record for the weight of its impactions. # Hoffman wrote a review of Pastille’s work in The Plain

Dealer. The article was entitled The Impassioned Lament of the

Ward / Romans / 249

Late, Beloved Father Pastille.

Since not much worth reporting

happens in Cleveland, newspaper space isn’t held too dearly; thus prolixity is not discouraged. (Cultural artifacts, by the

way, remained even in the homuncular era. People continued to produce and consume novels, newspapers, photographs, films, etc. because they cannot be sustained in the mind, but rather must be made: e.g. written or filmed.) The main points of Hoffman’s article were as follows. Like

most species that have ever lived, Homo sapiens would someday give way to its successors. homunculus. Exit Homo sapiens, enter Homo

True, Homo sapiens did maintain a stronghold in the

institution of the carriers; but there were reasons to think that they were not long for the world. arrangement was politically unstable. First off, the The carriers were a tiny

elite who were much weaker than the masses they controlled. What kept the masses at bay was fear. Fear of the carriers’

secret knowledge, fear of their impenetrable minds, fear of being assaulted by influencers. than the known. The unknown is always scarier

But if the homuncular masses had a notion to

test that power, maybe they would find that it was illusory. Second off, Homo homunculus probably didn’t need the carriers to order its affairs. The future may prove the carriers an

evolutionary stopgap that aided the transition from Homo sapiens

Ward / Romans / 250

to Homo homunculus.

After a certain point, perhaps, the The importance

function of the carriers would not be necessary.

of secret information was probably a vestige of the Homo sapiens way of being. Either the whole of the Homo homunculus

population would form into an integrated super-brain and secrets would be unnecessary or ways would be found to hide information in the homuncular static. Nevertheless, whatever the future may hold for the carriers Hoffman and

the planet was, in the main, becoming dehumanized. Pastille agreed on this point. that life would be Hell.

Hoffman did not think, however,

Homo homunculus, like Homo sapiens

before it, would take pleasure in its existence, just like any organism that is well-adapted to its environment. Conceiving of

existence as Hell surely isn’t conducive to survival and reproduction. Any creature that experienced the world that way

wasn’t bound to live long. Hoffman also disagreed with Pastille’s contention that Homo

homunculus would lack imagination and a sense of private, individual identity. Surely imagination, the ability to imagine

things as being other than they are, would be retained by Homo homunculus, since it was such an excellent survival tool. But

Pastille didn’t strictly mean that kind of imagination, Hoffman conceded. What Pastille meant was that human beings have

Ward / Romans / 251

private, individual inner lives constructed by the imagination. It is these inner lives that make humans human and life worth living. It may be the case that Homo homunculus would have a On the other hand, Homo homunculus Granted,

dull, homogenous inner life.

may find a way to maintain privacy and concentration.

as it stood now, everybody’s mental lives were filled with noise, always communicating with minds, delving into others, or having yours delved into. But maybe there would arise a weird,

socially isolated type of Homo homunculus who wouldn’t bother to communicate with anybody and nobody would bother to go into its mind. These people would have the privacy and silence needed As always, the advancement of civilization

for imagination.

would depend upon its weirdos.

Ward / Romans / 252

Chapter 19

Roman, Trisha, Carl, Carla, Grandma, Cindy, Guy, Dr. Hoffman,

Dr. Estella, Fr. Pastille, Sister Nancy, the elderly horde, the bankers, the flunkeys too: these are our homunculi, they have That is not to say we wish

sprouted from our rib, as it were. to devour or fuck them.

Rather, we relinquish them to the

world, where we hope they will, like connector homunculi, hover in eternity. thing: Before they go, however, we ask of them one last

to let us glance at them one more time so they may round After all we’ve done for them, it’s the least

out our tale.

they can do for us.

Ward / Romans / 253

Chapter 20

“Father, I want to confess a sin of the mind. I have this horrible thought, you see. I am not saying I’d ever do anything

like this, have ever done anything like it, or would remotely even consider doing anything like this. lot. I can’t help it. But I think about it a We don’t

It just comes into my mind.

choose what thoughts we have.

This thought, you know, used to

come up when I’d think of my boss, or, I don’t know, if there was a bill I’d have to pay that I didn’t have the money for. These were thoughts of revenge, Father. I don’t like other I mean when people

people having power over me, controlling me.

fuck with me...I mean...when they fuck with me...no, no...pardon the language, Father, oh God, pardon my language, but I just get so worked up, Father. And, Father, the worst thing, the worst

thing, is I like this thought, it makes me feel good, but it makes me feel terrible, because my life is so pathetic that I

Ward / Romans / 254

have to imagine I have the power to make this thought happen against my enemies. I just don’t like being pushed around,

Father, oh God I’m pathetic, a real shit, I know, and maybe I’m talking crazy and it’s not even that bad, you know, but oh God, sorry about my language, I mean just a real shit, I am, Father, oh God, Father, maybe it helps, but now I’m talking like mad at you, so I better just tell you, but when people piss me off, and the pathetic thing is they really don’t have to piss me off, but I just don’t like people having power over me, Father. It’s a

power thing, I know, I’ve thought about it because I’m just so pathetic and powerless, oh I feel that way sometimes, Father, I just don’t like being jerked around. But what I’d like to do,

Father, is take these fucks, pardon, oh God, these fucking cocksuckers, who are trying to lord it over me, oh God, and you know, these fucks, I want to have their arms and legs surgically removed, you know, and then when they recover, I’ll say to them, ‘Look at you, you fuck, you stump fuck, where are your arms and legs, fuck? Oh, you were a big man when you had arms and legs,

fuckface, just walking around and pointing your finger at me, you fuck, thought you could push me around, but look at you now! You don’t have arms or legs! And that’s not all, no, that’s not

all; you’re going to a prison with a bunch of blacks,’ oh God, this is terrible, I mean, ‘now you’re going to a prison with a

Ward / Romans / 255

bunch of big-dicked niggers, and they are gonna use you as a fuck stump, they’ll put you up on a stool and make a fucking sexual pommel horse or whatever out of you, you fuck, fucking your mouth and asshole all day long.’ Oh God, Father, this is Am I racist? But I’d

terrible, why black prisoners, why black?

rather have my enemies punished with big dicks rather than small ones, I wouldn’t say Asian prisoners. I’d say, ‘Look at you now, look at you! big. Look at you now!’ And sometimes, Father, You thought you were so

Then I’d stick some pins in their balls

and the whites of their eyes and under their finger nails, oh God, but they don’t have arms, so just in their eyes and balls, and let the prisoners go back at them, oh God, Father, but I’d never do it, I just think it, I’m so pathetic, but these fucks want to push me around, Father, oh God, the language, but if I could give it to people with power over me like that...” the nut talked. And on

Doctors, policemen, and priests constitute a

non-exhaustive list of people who regularly hear and see things that happen beneath the social surface. after a while and absolved him: Fathers.” Pastille held confession every Saturday from eight to ten a.m. This particular morning he had a baptism to do as well, at Only one person came in for confession that Pastille cut him off

four “Hail Marys”, three “Our

eleven a.m.

Ward / Romans / 256

morning, the fellow who gave the lively monologue recounted above. When confession was over, Pastille went to his lodgings to have a meal. pancakes. Sister Nancy had made him a stack of fourteen

In those days, while nobody would say there was

anything protuberant about her face, it didn’t look quite as sunken. Perhaps it was the force of all that inner reflection

over the years that made her face collapse into her head. Pastille ate quickly because he had to get ready for the baptism. It took him a while to put on his garments and then

get into the proper sacramental mood. The baptism was for the baby of a Slovenian couple. Pastille doused the head of the baby with holy water and christened him Nathan Athanasius Sustersic. A younger man at his sacs had

the time, he enunciated all of his words clearly: not yet filled completely with puss.

Pastille pictured the baby with its arms and legs hacked off; a gruesome, unintentional flashing of his mind. up from the baby and smiled into his father’s face. The ceremony done, Pastille talked with the couple and their family members outside of the church. sunny and mild. It was a fine day, He looked

Pastille enjoyed seeing women in their dresses

and men in their coats and ties, especially if these were young

Ward / Romans / 257

women and men. celebrate.

Pastille waved them off as they left to

Ah, happiness. family. children.

The highest aim of life is to raise a

For a man and a woman to fall deeply in love and have And certainly this happiness rises above our Husband and wife love each other The family is love. God is love.

biological urge to procreate. and they love their children. God is a family:

Father, Son, Holy Spirit.

One must assume the Mary and

Paraclete wears the dress. Joseph.

Jesus had a family:

To not have a family is to live only half your life, Oh, but what about him, the clergy in He

the lesser half at that. general?

God made up that other half for them. Yep, yep.

couldn’t stand it, though, when the nuns would say things like, “I’m married to Jesus,” or “God is my lover.” thing to say. C’mon. What a queer

Yeah, maybe if you prayed to Zeus. But Jesus? Should’ve

That’s a god who was always on the prowl. chosen a different religion, sister. Having a family was half the story. this:

The other half was

to live for others, to cultivate gentleness, to forgive, Lies, violence,

to be fair, to not get angry, to be humble.

arrogance, intoxication--without these things people would be happy, avoiding them was all it took. Ah, a life of peace and

Ward / Romans / 258

freedom, aided by a religion natural to life. like a nice couple. #

Yes, they seemed

Pastille was watching television in the sacred lair when Sister Nancy came home from the cancer hospice where she ministered to the patients. where Pastille was. time. She walked over to the living room,

They often chatted there during their down

Pastille flicked off the television.

Sister Nancy hovered near him, pacing, not quite entering the room. Usually she would sit when they had their chats. She looked troubled.

Pastille turned his face toward her.

Whenever she came home from the hospice she carried in her clothes the smell of feces and food. The staff at the hospice

proudly discussed what great food they served; they were especially proud of their Swedish meatballs. even when you’re dying. Still a pleasure.” “Food’s important It always seemed to She

be Swedish meatball day whenever Sister Nancy visited.

wondered if they actually served anything else besides those gray balls of meat wallowing in a gray sauce. They looked to

her like gray tumor-chunks served in a sauce of ground up oysters. Not really. She fancied that.

“What’s wrong?” Pastille asked her.

Ward / Romans / 259

“Oh, Tony, you wouldn’t believe the awful thing that It’s just too awful.”

happened.

Pastille waited in silence for her to speak again. “The hospice had hired this attendant. He had been working

there for the last three months, helping with the patients and cleaning the place at night. It’s just terrible, Tony. Mrs.

Gautrey, she’s not quite at the end. and she’s nice to talk to.

She walks around the place

Maybe not all there, though, you She probably

know? She had breast cancer; it metastasized. won’t last the next few months. raping her.

This guy, at night, he was One of

Who knows how many nights he’d done it for?

the other attendants found him...found him attacking her last night. on. It’s just too awful. As far as I know she didn’t let You know, she’s not all there.

Maybe she wasn’t aware.

But how awful!” “What can you do?” “What should be done?” “It’s probably punishment enough to have a mind like that.” “Nevertheless.” “Indeed: nevertheless. Perhaps he should have his arms and Then, when he recovers, they can send Father Pastille

legs surgically removed.

him to prison to be used as a fuck stump.” began to laugh after saying this.

Ward / Romans / 260

Well aware of the laughter that bubbles out from a comic

inner life, Sister Nancy’s initial shock disappeared and she began to laugh with him.

Ward / Romans / 261

Chapter 21

Seeing a common variable in the lives of the distinguished

centagenarians Ernst Jünger and Albert Hoffman, Dr. Hoffman, after the éclat engendered by his homuncular work faded, began research into the correlation between mild LSD use and longevity.

Ward / Romans / 262

Chapter 22

When the weather wasn’t too oppressive Mrs. Markovsky spent in the morning she tended to her

her remaining days thusly:

flowers; in the afternoon she conversed with her friends on her veranda, everybody sitting in wicker chairs, a sweaty pitcher of sweet tea nearby, wisteria dangling everywhere; in the evening she cooked a feast.

Ward / Romans / 263

Chapter 23

Estella shared in Hoffman’s homuncular fame.

Later they

married.

Ward / Romans / 264

Chapter 24

Guy and his friend Pete Winkleman spent the summer It wasn’t easy: Finally, their

practicing smoking while playing the guitar. the smoke got all up in your nose and eyes.

persistence paid off; the skill was mastered in the fall. Success could not be far away.

Ward / Romans / 265

Chapter 25

Like a reluctant party guest--forced, perhaps, by his

celebrity to attend--who, smiling, his face to the crowd, his back to the door, takes one little imperceptible step backward, and then another, and then another, and is then detached from the social circle, and is then out the door, and is then in his car to go home to some solitary relief, so Roman, wearing his dolphin smile, quietly backed out of life unnoticed.2

2

Excepting a brief period of attention gained for a justifiable manslaughter.

Ward / Romans / 266

Chapter 26

Grandma’s life was provisional, yet happy. most of what was at hand.

She made the

Nothing ever lasted long, but she

never let go of anything until she had sucked out all its juice, scraped out all its meat, and then ground up to dust whatever remained. She never burdened herself with stockpiles of any

kind or arrangements that could not be suddenly dissolved. Unlike most unfortunates who live in the enormous present but are unequipped to do so, and who end up destroying themselves with stupidity, drugs, and criminality, this way of life suited her best. Her mind followed four rules: seek, seize, extract,

destroy. She fed off of the energy produced by the destructive absorption of things. Grandma was very beautiful. When the events described The salient features of

below took place she was twenty-eight.

Ward / Romans / 267

her beauty are laid out thus:

large blue eyes, long dark curly

hair, fair skin, full lips, and her breasts, angled upward, neither too large nor too small. A smoldering Eastern European.

The type of woman that nowadays becomes an underwear model or a pornographer. She was always with a fellow. Grandma’s husband at the

time, Michel Nalovic, worked at the Westside Market selling fish. Despite the reputation of his people, Michel was a happyIn fact, he was only half Serb. His mother

go-lucky Serbian.

was French and he had been raised in Paris. Grandma was in the habit of reading Michel’s mail. She

became an expert at steaming letters open without ruining the paper and then resealing them after she had searched the contents. This was how she discovered that Michel was due to

inherit $5,000 US from his Parisian uncle, Henri, who died sans progeny à la homosexual. For dinner that night Grandma prepared Michel’s favorite meal, a simple hangar steak with pomme frites, and even broke out some wine. When she saw his car pull up into the driveway

she ran out to the porch to greet him. “Michel!” she said, then hugged and kissed him. “Maria! Why such joy?”

Ward / Romans / 268

“I do not know, my love. away from you. “Good.”

Sometimes I cannot bear to be

How was your day?”

It was the custom of their home that Grandma and Michel would eat dinner when he arrived home from work. Afterward, as

Grandma cleaned in the kitchen, Michel would retire to his den for an hour or so to go through his mail, read the paper, and attend to his business in general. When finished with his

business, Michel would emerge from the den to spend the rest of his evening with his young wife. That evening Michel left the den with an unconscious smile on his face. “So,” said Grandma as he stepped into the living room. “So?” said Michel. Grandma frowned. The whole night Grandma waited for Michel to say something about the money. As they got ready for bed that night Grandma started a fight for apparently no reason. Mostly she harangued him about

how much younger she was, how he married her out of vanity, how he was not committed to her as a husband should be, yadda yadda yadda. Her sudden outburst and the complaints contained therein They seemed to have this quarrel every

were in no way unusual.

Ward / Romans / 269

other night.

Michel had no reason to suspect the real cause or

subject of that night’s fight. Grandma couldn’t sleep. For long stretches of time she Her

would sit up in bed and stare at Michel’s face in the dark. mind hummed all night long. inviolable determination.

Before dawn she had arrived at an

The next morning Grandma rose and showered before Michel, per the usual. the kitchen. “Morning, dear.” Michel ate. “Bye, dear.” Grandma followed him to his car. “Is everything all right, dear?...........Well, I must get to work.” He opened the car door. Grandma opened the passenger door. Breakfast was ready for him when he went down to

In those days Clevelanders didn’t necessarily lock their car doors when parked at home. Michel fired the ignition. Silent

She sat with him in the fish stall all day, silent. in the car ride home. Silent at home.

Michel would say little He knew she

things now and then as if everything were normal. had learned about the money. Damn her!

Ward / Romans / 270

For three days he tried to pretend everything was normal. Deciding to pit his will against hers was an ill-chosen course of action. “All right, Maria. All right,” was all he said the third night. She continued to follow him until the cash was in her hands: Tuesday. $2,500 US, “her” half. Grandma received the cash on a

Wednesday morning, Michel woke up alone.

Ward / Romans / 271

Chapter 27

Carl was alone in the room he and Grandma shared at Ralph’s, where they took up residence after the homuncular event. Wave-particles of sunlight sprung about like unhinged Oh to

ballerinas moshing to Gwar. Such delights! Such delights! be alive! Carl sat in his blue corduroy chair.

He wore his red He said

long-sleeved polo shirt, and even some other clothes.

to himself, “In reality space is vibrating, yet ever so gently, as if precisely a googolplex of butterflies had somehow gotten trapped under the earth and their wings were scraping at the crust in a mayhem of delicacy.” off of the sleeves of his shirt. he. Then he giggled and picked lint “Oh yes, I am blessed!” said

In a gliding mood, swiftly shifting in directions ever more In this

pleasant, he felt the capital pleasures of Being.

whimsical, carefree mood, he sang light verses to himself: Long in years; Short in hairs.

Ward / Romans / 272

Here I repose In my lair. My blue chair; My linty clothes. My toes are exposed. “I should put on my socks! Time is ever moving,” muttered Carl after singing; he then giggled again. Being! Ha! Ha! ha ha ha Ha! “The purity of Stop

Haaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa!

me, please.

Please,” Carl purred.

Experiencing pure Being, Carl thought only of the present, the past out of mind for the moment. But the past would return,

as it always does, either to increase or dissipate his enjoyment of life. Carl’s reflections on the past came in two varieties: If good, he’d mostly remember the feelings If bad,

good and bad.

associated with the incident, and some of the images.

he’d be plagued with shame and disturbing images that were particular and vivid. smolder in his gut. The shame was painful; he could feel it The images made his mind a prison--as long Time heals, and as time passed his Memories that once consisted of

as the memory was fresh.

memories were made concise.

several images were condensed into one image that conveyed the incident and all its associations in one mental glance. Hence,

Ward / Romans / 273

the older he got, the swifter he could go through his catalogue of memories and experience the vicissitudes of emotion. Carl figured that his bad memories were essential because they prevented him from forgetting life’s most important lessons. The only lessons he retained the knowledge of were Some of

those that had caused him the most pain in learning. these lessons he had to learn many times over.

The previous day he was reflecting on his personal history. These memories were triggered by a depressing incident. # After the homucular event, various new pains beset Carl, physical ones. He had dealt with the pains of age for a while,

but these ones were located in different parts of his body and were of greater severity. breath. His joints ached. It was hard to

His chest felt tight.

Rising from chairs and walking The pain in his side

up stairs had become even more difficult.

was just another item in a long list, hardly noticed amongst the others. But he knew what was coming. time. It was a beautiful day. He would have liked to gone It was just a matter of

golfing, something he hadn’t done since running out of money. Although, even if he had the money, he couldn’t have gone because of the pain.

Ward / Romans / 274

Much as we find him today, he was alone in the room he shared with Grandma, sitting on the blue corduroy chair, reading. Suddenly, his side split. He tried to leap out of his

chair but hadn’t the energy.

For a second he thought he was They He

having a heart attack, but soon realized what it was. groped his torso apathetically, trying to find an exit. wanted to scream. sloths sans claws.

It was unpleasant, like being attacked by Breathing heavily, he was able to untuck his Out they went,

shirt from his pants so they could crawl out. not so much crawling, but moping, as it were.

Moping on the floor before him was a miserable sight. didn’t know if he wanted to vomit or weep. them, all gray-haired:

He

There were five of

his homunculi, most resembling a

disfigured Eleanor, the better ones resembling Eleanor gone to seed. He saw cranial concavities, fingerless hands, toeless

feet, hairy faces, bright pink patches of skin, and other monstrosities. Like our other systems, the reproductiveDespite this, not a small

homuncular system degrades with age.

number of elderly gents actually reproduced with their awful homunculi. (No longer fertile, post-menopausal women were

spared from making this choice, since they didn’t produce homunculi.) Out of these fellows, few were those with Why most of them did it was to satisfy

ungovernable libidos.

Ward / Romans / 275

not their sexual appetite, but their most insatiable appetite of all: the appetite for knowledge. These men did not want to be They wanted to

excluded from the homuncular revolution.

question the great minds and get the facts behind the intrigues of state. Carl, detached from the world, couldn't care less. He would spend his remaining days

He knew he was near the end.

with the minds of Plato, Montaigne, Tolstoy, and the other authors he loved. # Looking at these little Eleanors, Carl thought of his life, what it all meant. Again he had to realize that he was not Eleanor should be his wife, not

living the life he should. Grandma.

This was always the case with him, the tantalizing happiness was always near to him, Though he doubted whether he was

irony that defined his life: but he was unable to grasp it. unable to grasp it. blame circumstance.

Mostly he seemed unwilling. He couldn’t He should have told Grandma to buzz off and But what the hell was A widower, all of

he should have told Eleanor how he felt. he doing worrying about women at this age? this stuff should be behind him.

He had had his love. Nothing ever goes away. The problems are always the

We never put things behind us.

People never change, Carl thought. same.

These kinds of regrets were the same he had had all of

Ward / Romans / 276

his life.

Age doesn’t matter much.

It’s as if we have a builtOur whole lives we

in image of who we should be, an ideal self. pursue that image, try to mirror it. resemble that image, we are happy. unhappy.

At the times we most When unlike the image we are

The inner kernel of Being never changes, though the

shell around it might. # In Carl’s most troubled times, in the depths of neuroticism

and insanity, when his serotonin levels were abysmally low, not even having it in them to neurotransmit worth a damn, the Shadowy Voice would whisper in his ear such things as, “Oh, dear Carl, where to begin with you? Your funny way of speaking? How

you, with your defective speech (lousy with peculiar tics) believe you will never be able to articulate all the wonderful things you find in books, never show others the beauty of your inner world? That it’s like your inner world refuses to enter

the outer, that it purposely overwhelms your feeble speech organ? person? That your words thus have nothing in them of your real It’s all so fucking sad that the world is missing out

on this shit, isn’t it? "Everything you hold true, all your poetical feelings of life, show themselves as flaccid nonsense when articulated, don’t they Carl? You’re a sham, Carl. There’s nothing in you

Ward / Romans / 277

but some buffoonery that expires as soon as it’s born.

Your

greatest achievement is a wilted, limp, hesitant blossoming of a false flower. You’re big but you’re not strong. You read Does

constantly, but you’re inarticulate, and, worse, ignorant. this describe you Carl? terror? “You nearly have everything you need, but you’re always Are you shriveling up inside with

missing one thing.

And because of that success is denied you.

Most people, you think, have missing pieces too, but they have others who provide them with what they lack. isolated. You can’t connect with others. You, though, are

You’re too anxious,

and your anxiety makes it impossible for you to talk right. That’s what you’re missing, the ability to show your ‘true’ self. are. People can only see and hear the deformed freak that you All they hear is your incomprehensible talk and all they That’s why you’ll never become

see are your little hands. anything.

Realizing that, you’ll come to love your isolation,

which you pretentiously call privacy, or dignity, or some kind of bullshit like that. a woman. Nobody will ever accept you, especially

You’ll be wedded to isolation; your existence will be

onanistic on every level, and thus you will obtain satisfaction that doesn’t satisfy, you miserable fuck!” #

Ward / Romans / 278

Since his pains began, Carl had been using a cane.

He

shifted his butt to the edge of the chair cushion and extended his arm to lift the window open. After several jabs, he popped One by one, he

out the screen with his cane--sorry Ralph.

hooked the cane around the necks of the homunculi, and then flung them out the window. The mopey nature of these ill-formed they didn’t put up a fight. If

critters made this easy to do:

he had been in a better mood when he was doing this, he would have thought of the homunculi as cartoon characters being yanked off stage with big canes by unseen impresarios. To enhance his

pleasure Carl often developed accompanying fictions or images that he played in his mind while performing activities. Opening

a door became unlocking a safe, him a master jewel thief; when doing nothing in particular he might pretend he was being watched so that he would have to act carefully, his behavior sending disinformation to the opposing party while at the same time secretly signaling to his faction that men with cigars should avoid stepping out into the rain on the first. forth. # The homunculi tossed, Carl found himself alone again. Eleanor. Oh, And so

Carl felt that he would die the husband of Grandma. Maybe he could explain

But maybe he had some time still left.

Ward / Romans / 279

to Eleanor how he felt and how it all had gone wrong. know if he had the nerve to tell her. didn’t have it.

He didn’t

In fact, he knew he Why

Maybe the fear of death would change him.

be afraid to tell Eleanor this when he had bigger things to fear? Why die without saying the one thing you should say? He owed her so

Eleanor had been so important to his life. much. #

Carl thought of how he met his first wife, Beatrice. was through Eleanor. met in Parma.

It

Eleanor was one of the first people Carl

Since she first saw him reading and eating alone

one Sunday morning at Always Yours, Eleanor felt tenderly for Carl. He looked like a sweetheart, she said. She wanted to

know him.

They had noticed and nodded to each other long before Eventually they spoke and their friendship Eleanor was

they first spoke. began.

When they met Eleanor was already married.

proud of her husband, an authentic Ridge, the family after which Parma’s most famous road was named--though the proponents of Broadview, Pleasant Valley, and State may beg to differ. In those days Carl’s hair was blond, as was the beard he His girth was more moderate. He was thickly built, not he’d the body of a

wore.

lean or defined, but blocky and strong: guardsman.

His hands seemed even tinier then, contrasted with

Ward / Romans / 280

his powerful build.

While the chin triangle was already

visible, it was faint, but actually invisible, as it was hidden beneath his blond beard. He looked like the trucker he was. He

usually donned a baseball cap, tinted glasses, a tee-shirt that held a pack of cigarettes in the breast pocket, a belt with a large buckle, jeans, and work boots. for both work and leisure. He moved to Parma from Berlin, Ohio after inheriting a Carl’s mother’s uncle had willed it to him. Long before That was Carl’s uniform,

house.

his final death, this uncle had first died in a hunting accident, but was resuscitated before the condition assumed a more permanent character. suicide attempt. It was rumored to have been a botched

When this uncle visited the Odters, Carl, a

young boy, would hide from him, the man’s disfigured face and right hand (missing three fingers) a sight he was unable to endure. Early in his adolescence Carl began to regret this Carl, taking

behavior, since the uncle was a kind, wise fellow.

a personal vow of rectification, made up for his youthful avoidance by befriending this uncle. The two spent much time The man died

together, mostly fishing and talking about books.

in his sleep at the age of eighty-five, content with himself, as far as anybody could tell.

Ward / Romans / 281

Included with the ranch house and the wooded property were a stuffed turkey, duck, pheasant, coyote, and deer’s head; there was also a fetal pig and several tapeworms in formaldehyde: uncle was a biology teacher at a Parma middle school. Everything else in the house, including the furniture, had gone to other kin. Carl lived there as a bachelor for many years, the preserved animals his only companions. He kept them to honor He hid the his

his uncle’s memory, though he did not like them. animals behind stacks of books and papers.

Sometimes, when

looking for a certain book or paper, he would accidentally uncover one of them--an eye and fangs appearing suddenly--and nearly soil himself. The only furniture he put in the place was a bed. He was

on the road at least five days of the week, so why bother making it comfortable? It was just a place to sleep, basically. When

home he ate his meals at Always Yours, a habit he maintained until marrying Beatrice. At this time the horde was in its

nascent form, not yet a horde but a confederation of families. Over the years Carl had become firmly established in the

confederation as a beloved avuncular figure, and took part in its social routines, one of which was Eleanor’s summer clambake. It was there he met Beatrice, a friend of a friend of Eleanor.

Ward / Romans / 282

# The clambake was nearing its crescendo. Carl, his face

cherry-red, felt cheery and beery. the radio.

“Anything Goes” played on

An admirer of the song, Carl, nearly involuntarily, first the

began to dance, not all at once, but in increments:

tapping of a foot, then, while the foot continued to tap, a slight swaying of the waist, then head movements and so forth until it all coalesced into a full-out boogie-woogie. The dance

that emerged from this was no obscure creation, some series of movements decided upon willy-nilly to be lost forever after the song is over. No. Carl did a dance famous among Clevelanders,

one that has an almost mythic status, a dance that is evocative of all our primitive joy, having its origin, perhaps, in the heroism of the ancients. He did the Tyrannosaurus Rex. How

does one do the Tyrannosaurus Rex?

Follow these instructions.

1)Keeping your elbows down and tucked tight to your torso, raise your forearms until your biceps prevent them from going any farther. 2)Let your hands hang limply. 3)With lumbering leg movements and much booty wiggling, stomp around. 4)Intersperse your stomping by trying to touch your nose to the ground (as if you were sniffing out prey).

Ward / Romans / 283

5)Then, from your crouched position, spring violently up while clattering your teeth and roaring. Duly inspired by Carl’s dancing, Eleanor, slightly

inebriated, and maybe sexually aroused as well, pranced over and joined the fun. Not to be outdone by a strutting competitor

male, Eleanor’s husband asked Beatrice, with whom he happened to be chatting, to dance with him. Everybody else, Clevelanders

all, were quick to perceive what was a-brewing, and joined the frenzy. In theory, once a Tyrannosaurus Rex party gets started, it That’s because the dance can accompany nearly

may never end.

any song, from the hypnotic way it’s performed to “Ghost Riders in the Sky” (which happened to come on the radio after “Anything Goes”) to the grave romp of the mysteriously acronymed “Strictly 4 My N.I.G.G.A.Z.” When done correctly, that is with passion,

the dance causes the bodily fluids to flow freely, especially those of the genitals. To attract partners the Tyrannosaurus

Rex dancer must bite the air around the neck (as if he were going for the jugular) of the person he wants. If the person

snaps back, he wishes not to dance; if he shows you his tail, he does. The preceding two sentences remain true even if the you may mix and match them

pronouns have a sex change:

according to your inclination.

Ward / Romans / 284

The dance, however, is quite tiring, and usually doesn’t In want of a breather, couples united in slow

last long.

dancing when “Stars Fell on Alabama” played--as performed by Ella Fitzgerald and Louie Armstrong. legally sanctioned mates sought them. Those not with their Beatrice, urged to do so

by Eleanor while relinquishing Mr. Ridge, danced with the sweating Carl, somewhat reluctantly, but also somewhat willingly: his starting the Tyrannosaurus Rex indicated a Carl’s sweat, she was pleased to find, smelled

charming spirit.

manly and mellow, not at all sour, though imbued with a liquorish tang. danced. # The night coming to an end, the revelers departing, The summer stars blazed above them as they

Beatrice grabbed hold of Carl as he made his way out the door and told him to wait there. She went inside and returned a few

minutes later with her phone number written inside a matchbook. She then asked him to walk her home and he did so. After making

plans for a date, they hugged without awkwardness before her door. When leaving Carl noted her address. Some distance from

her house he raised his arms to the sky and did a jig, but then stopped abruptly when startled by a cat darting across his course.

Ward / Romans / 285

The next weekend they had their first date.

Carl arrived

in his white Buick sedan, donning khaki pants, a brown belt, socks and shoes that matched the belt, white undergarments, and a short-sleeved red dress shirt. She bounded out of her house A pleasant

with a wave before Carl could turn the motor off. fragrance preceded her entering the car. clung to her narrow thighs as she sat. her bare neck.

Her blue summer dress Carl fixed his eyes on

“I, ah, cannot help but see you’re lovely Beatrice looked

tonight, yes indeed,” said Carl with a smile.

along his left inner thigh where his khakis tightly hugged his genitals. “Hello,” she said to his eyes. Carl adjusted his

glasses and then backed out of the driveway. They ate dinner outside on a courtyard surrounded by

luscious shrubs that imbued the air with a rich green scent. Red and yellow paper lanterns glowed above them. merrily. They burbled They

Attempts to restrain their mirth were useless.

abandoned themselves to their feelings; only they existed it seemed to them. The date went well. Every

Time elapsed and they continued to see each other.

now and then Carl would send little poems to Beatrice through the mail; poems like: Our time together is play. Over my mind you hold sway.

Ward / Romans / 286

My thoughts point to Beatrice, Who makes my world with a kiss. These were Carl’s happiest times. When they started Indeed, every year

dating. The early years of their marriage. of their marriage.

True, it was not joy unalloyed as it was Before they married,

lived, but in memory it seemed so.

Beatrice promised Carl many children, but after Trisha she refused to have anymore. Sure, Carl was disappointed. He

thought only children never turned out fully right--the adult Trisha proof of that--but he learned to be happy with just one child. If now we burst into Carl’s solitude while he sits on the

blue corduroy chair and reveal that the best time of his life was based on a falsehood, that his happiness was nothing but a fantasy bred of ignorance, lies, and misperception, that Beatrice did not love him and that Trisha was not his, we could not destroy his happiness. Granted, he may feel a passing There was

gloom, but he would dispel it like the sun does mist. still much in his life with Beatrice and Trisha worth cherishing.

Life is about settling for less and less while As you get older you stop You don’t let

becoming happier and happier. bothering about things. yourself get sad.

You just accept.

This they call the process of becoming wise,

Ward / Romans / 287

or learning to die:

this accepting of less and less, expecting

less and less of life, until you can accept your death, and expect to die. You learn to let everything go, even your life.

All things considered, wise and happy is not a bad way to end up. This is how Carl ended up. # Carl had a childhood memory he was particularly fond of.

He was playing in the backyard underneath a tree he often climbed. He was alone. It was a sunny day. He looked to the It was revealed

sun and felt the presence of God in its light. to Carl that he had a special destiny.

It was said not in Now, sitting in

words, but in feelings, in a great surging joy.

his chair, his last thread almost spun out as he approached death’s darkening loom, he wondered what that destiny was. Nothing came to mind. behavior. Maybe he had fallen out of favor for bad After a period of many bad He was at a restaurant,

Could that really be so?

actions, he had a second visitation. hungover, eating alone.

This was during his youthful He

dissipation when he tried to drink himself to death.

despised himself, but as a coping mechanism he made himself believe he despised all of humanity. The meal nearly over, the

recuperative whiskey not quite finished, he heard these words of Shakespeare from a disembodied voice, “All the world’s a stage,

Ward / Romans / 288

and all the men and women merely players.” looked around the restaurant.

Hearing this, Carl

Yes, nothing was real, but

everybody, talking and eating, was playing her part beautifully. Carl wanted to run up to everybody individually, hug and kiss her, and tell her how perfect she was, how beautiful. The meal ingested, the bill paid, Carl walked to his car. A massive shape of

He looked up into the gray sky.

indescribably intricate geometry flashed before him, the shape the color of the sky, but flecked with black, yellow, brown, and red. Immediately he understood that life is beautiful and that Though there were some setbacks, this is

death is beautiful.

the moment when Carl began to love himself, the world, and its people. # What was the use of these mystical feelings and their Carl always had a

implicit promise of a higher reality? rational, empiric mindset.

What these memories meant was that

he had experienced some fluctuations in his brain’s electrochemistry. The visions did not point to something that In fact, after reading up on the

happened outside of his head.

subject, he learned that his experience was common and that the patterns he saw and the feelings he felt were typical of such visions. He was just an ordinary fellow, even in his

Ward / Romans / 289

extraordinary moments. something.

He knew this, yet he wanted them to mean

Ward / Romans / 290

Chapter 28

Yes, you are right to think of Trisha as being all too We have not mislead you on this point, we assure you.

timid.

She once had, though, a bold moment not too long ago. Trisha, her pajama shirt open, fed Carla from her breast. Peeking around the doorway the little Cindys watched. Trisha Now

put Carla in her cradle and then went to her room to read. in bed, she leaned over to the nightstand and turned on the

walkie-talkie she used to monitor Carla. The baby was quiet. She could hear the homunculi giggle as they played beneath her bed, making it difficult to read. It didn’t irritate her; their

laughing was pleasant, and made her life feel charmed, as if she lived in an enchanted realm where pixies flit about, where youth is eternal, and where the sun shines invigorating light upon the fresh and dewy grasses; and later, as the morning became afternoon, the dew would evaporate and fingers of sunlight would massage a red sheen out of the tips of the grass blades--oh yes, so lovely.

Ward / Romans / 291

Some of the homunculi emerged from beneath the bed to play with Trisha. She opened her legs to let the homunculi run

between them, scampering up her genitals to her pelvis, then across her belly, between her nipples, and giving her a quick little kiss on the lips before jumping off her. The homunculi

would get in line to run up her in this way, like she was a piece of playground equipment. Trisha would be sure to play

these games with her bedroom door locked, lest any passerby peek in and think something unseemly was occurring. private fun. # Though this life gave her some pleasure, it was still inadequate. A million homunculi wouldn’t add up to one Cindy, It was just

or so she thought. Roman offered no consolation. Watching him make peanut

butter and jelly sandwiches for lunch, working the butter knife methodically, coating one side of a slice of bread with a thin, evenly distributed layer of peanut butter, not missing a spot, and then doing the same for the jelly slice, the whole process taking him much longer than it should take to make a pbj, Trisha wished he would die suddenly, maybe from a brain aneurysm. Trisha was lonely. She was dissatisfied with her life.

But there is always hope.

Ward / Romans / 292

One day, amidst much static, she heard the following over the baby walkie-talkie: “I don’t know, but I might want to leave him.” “But how can you say it? You’ve just had the baby.” “I know, I know. Sydney. But that’s how I feel. How I’ve felt,

The baby hasn’t changed anything...about how I feel The baby is wonderful.”

about him, I mean.

Trisha could well imagine herself talking to a friend named Sydney, saying these very things. For a moment Trisha wondered that she was

if she had plugged into some alternate reality:

really listening to a version of herself and a version of Cindy that continued to live. sanity. The next moment she worried about her

Then she was back to normal.

Trisha became obsessed with the ladies she heard over the walkie-talkie. She picked up their signal fairly often. They

were with each other every afternoon, it seemed.

She assumed

they lived close by, since the dinky baby walkie-talkie had a limited range. She wanted to meet them. Trisha bought a baby

carriage to accomplish this end. Carla around the neighborhood.

She started taking walks with

Trisha became a regular sight pushing the baby around, her frizz overgrown, her small sunglasses on, her skinny arms sticking out of a sleeveless tee shirt, her sticks for legs

Ward / Romans / 293

visible from the ankle to the back of the knee--unintentionally Trisha wore capris shortly before they became au courant: pants were old ones she had outgrown. carriage she hid the walkie-talkie. the

Under the cover of the She hoped that she would be

able to find the house the women’s voices came from by the strength of the signal, that is, the clarity of the voices. After a few weeks of this, she found her house. picked them up on the walkie-talkie. “Look, it’s the freak job with the floodwaters on.” “Yeah, she needs to get herself to the salon. like she’s from Fraggle Rock or something.” “Doesn’t she care? That hair is too much. I think I saw a She looks Trisha

bird fly out of it the other day.” “Oh my God, did she stop? think she’s looking in at us.” “Ugh. Creepy.” Is she looking in the window? I

“Yeah...it’s nice though, maybe we should take the baby out. I’d like to take a walk, actually. I don’t think I’ve

lost any of the baby weight yet.” “Yeah.” “Yeah?” “We should take a walk.” “Oh...yeah.”

Ward / Romans / 294

Trisha was pushing the baby right in front of a particular house as this came over the walkie-talkie. in range. No other houses were

When her circuit brought her back by the house, she

saw two women coming out of the front door with a baby in a stroller. sisters. They were younger than her. They looked like

Two black-haired girls, their haircuts identical, the

hair straight and shoulder-length, with straight bangs, Xena: Warrior Princess-style. Trisha was disappointed; she wanted

somebody her age, but this would satisfy her predilections. Trisha made a squeaky noise meant as a greeting as she passed them. They didn’t appear to hear her. Red in the face,

she quickened her pace. # The sisters, Tara (the elder and mother) and Sydney, hailed Tough broads they were, though not unkind,

from North Royalton.

just entirely practical, not the kind of women who make much of a fuss when it comes to makeup, clothes, manicures, and all the rest. They also possessed great physical strength.

Tara’s husband, Derek, worked as a pilot in the merchant The work kept him away for months at a time, but he His

marine.

never worked for more than six months out of the year. income was large for their needs.

In addition to his salary,

Ward / Romans / 295

the couple owned several properties, the purchases funded by, sadly, Derek’s parent’s estate. Tara was a housewife. To

Sydney was a student at Tri-C.

quash any suspicions:

she was not acquainted with those former Sydney worked

students, Samantha Kobuzniak and Guy Novotny.

evenings at Swenson’s, a drive-in burger joint, home of the best-tasting burger in the world, without qualification. top, the absolute, the platonic form of burger taste. a fancy burger, just the best. Sydney lived with Tara and Derek. She helped with the baby, The

It’s not

so they didn’t charge her rent. # As Sydney and Tara walked they discussed their options for Tuna salad sandwich with potato chips prevailed over the

lunch.

other candidates. Trisha, after dashing home in embarrassment, awaited them at She saw them pass by. Carla

her window while nursing Carla.

started spitting out milk and coughing.

Involuntarily, Trisha’s

breast milk, usually flowing in the merest trickle, erupted like a geyser due to her excitement. (Of course, what we just wrote

about the milk geyser isn’t true; but why restrain ourself when we’re having so much fun?) #

Ward / Romans / 296

How does one meet people?

Surely it’s possible she could Others know how it’s A group of freshmen

befriend these girls, these strangers. done.

Trisha had seen it happen at school.

at orientation, each an individual, would join over time, somehow. Trisha remained an individual her whole time at

school, more or less; she did make a few attachments and with those people she was like a barnacle to a rock, or rather a rock to a barnacle, the unmoved to the mover, the passive to the active, the chosen to the chooser. girls notice and select her? # This incident took place in the days of Roman’s He constantly complained that they needed to Grandma Of How could she make these

disequilibrium.

rid the house of the junk he was always tripping over.

suggested that a garage sale could turn them a tidy profit. course! If well advertised, the lure of Trisha’s goods may

prove irresistible to the girls. A garage sale was held. Grandma took charge of the endeavor, Grandma

naturally.

Trisha volunteered to post advertisements.

allowed that she could, though the advertisements themselves had to be designed by Grandma. “We must get those girls from down the street to come. The

ones with the baby,” said Trisha.

Ward / Romans / 297

“Yes, we must,” said Grandma, her attention on a balloon she

was knotting up. The day of the garage sale came. Balloons were tied to the

Markovsky mailbox, as if somebody were having a birthday party. Grandma worked the till. purchases. Roman helped people with their

Trisha was not assigned a task.

The girls came! “Uh...hey,” said Trisha, her cheeks lighting up. The girls looked at her. “Hey,” one said.

“We’re having a garage sale........duh, I mean, yeah,” said

Trisha. She was now frantically tugging her hair. The girls resisted the urge to look at each other, lest they

laugh. “Yeah. Looks good. We’re just looking around,” said Tara.

“Could I help you with anything?” said Trisha, asking a

question that had been preempted by Tara’s words. “We’re just looking around.” “Oh, yeah.” The three’s attention was drawn from the awkward conversation Roman had stumbled onto a table and

to a large crashing noise.

took it to the ground with him as well as all of its wares. “Damn clumsy bear!” shouted Grandma. Roman was always getting in the way of things.

Ward / Romans / 298

“I don’t like my husband either,” Trisha said to Tara. Tara heard her, but didn’t understand, as the words were so

unexpected. “Huh?” Trisha saw the look on her face. “Pardon?” Trisha said,

trying to hide that she had said something by behaving as if Tara had said something. “Did you say something?” Tara said. “No.” Later, Sydney said to Tara, “I think she told you that she

doesn’t like her husband...but hey, thanks again for the calculator. I really need one for class.”

Tara had bought Sydney one of Trisha’s old calculators.

Trisha had paid keen attention to this transaction. # A few days later Trisha rang Tara’s doorbell. All of her

senses were whirled in confusion.

She felt like she was giving Whom or what the Nobody answered

herself up for sacrificial slaughter.

sacrifice was meant to appease she knew not. the door, which provided sweet relief.

Trisha, you see, had put

together an unlikely story as a pretext for visiting the girls.

Ward / Romans / 299

As Trisha walked away from the front door, the girls pulled Tara was driving; she rolled down her

into the driveway. window.

“Hey. What’s up?” “Oh, nothing, nothing.” “You were stopping by?” “Yes.” “What for?” “The calculator.” “The one we bought?” “Yes.” “I don’t understand.” “We didn’t give you the manual. I noticed that we didn’t But you

give it to you.

It has graphing functions, you know.

don’t have the manual.” “So you brought the manual. Thank you. That was very

thoughtful.” “No.” “Pardon.” “It doesn’t have a manual. Once it did. I was just going to Now I’m going to go

show you how to use the graphing functions. home.” “Okay.”

Ward / Romans / 300

This was the last time Trisha saw the girls eyeball-toShe felt suicidal after this had happened. She

eyeball.

continued to live, however. again.

Time passed, and Trisha became well

Then the homuncular event occurred. #

Trisha, to our surprise, was upset when she learned about However, it didn’t take her long to She saw that the Sandra affair was partly

Roman’s infidelity. reconcile with Roman.

her fault; and the Dr. Estella thing...well, only an impotent man could have maintained fidelity when combating her seductions. Plus, now that she had access to his mind, it would Not to mention that she

be impossible for him to cheat again.

was somewhat disinterested in Roman, and probably had always been. # A few weeks after the homuncular event, the following scene

took place in the Markovsky residence. Roman, home from the golf course, sat in the kitchen drinking

a lemonade; the windows were open and the room smelled of freshly cut grass. It was an unusually warm fall day. feeding time. Trisha

came in with the baby: “Trish?” “Yeah, babe?”

Ward / Romans / 301

“Where are your homunculi?” “Huh?” “Well, everybody else has them, and you were complaining

about the pain in your side just last week, but now nothing.” “Yeah.” “Yeah, what?” “They’re not here?” “What do you mean?” “They, uh, ran away.” “Do they do that?” “Apparently.” “Well, maybe we should talk to Dr. Hoffman about this. He

might know what to do.” “Yeah.” Trisha thought that while Roman did not completely buy her Roman, for his

explanation, he did not find it implausible.

part, looked out the window and enjoyed the pleasantness of the day. As always in life, problems existed. Sometimes big,

sometimes small, sometimes few, sometimes many; they never went away. Surely, one can enjoy full peace and freedom with Other times, one

problems, so long as they are small and few.

is a prisoner of his life, either guilty of a definable crime, or guilty, like Kafka, for just being.

Ward / Romans / 302

Roman, the heat of the day on his skin, the grass smell in

his nose, the sky blue and clear to his eyes, could feel his problems recede. He’d been waiting a long time for this day.

Actually, he wasn’t free and peaceful quite yet, but almost. That’s why he wouldn’t ask Trisha any more questions. problems were hers, her secrets as well. tell him, he didn’t want to know. Trisha, of course, was lying. For indeed, homunculi had Her

If she didn’t want to

burst out of her side: man-sized dicks.

little Cindys with out-of-proportion,

(If you were wondering: the homunculi of gay

men are anatomically male, except that they have pussies in their asses, hairy ones.) Trisha was afraid of what Roman might While Trisha may

think if he saw that she had Cindy homunculi.

not have loved Roman in the traditional sense, she wanted to keep him from harm. Grandma, now persona non grata in the

Markovsky household, served as her accomplice in concealing them. Dealing with Grandma was certainly a greater sin than You see, while Trisha may have told

birthing Cindy homunculi.

herself that she wanted to protect Roman from emotional pain, the real reasons she sheltered her homunculi secretly were personal ones. #

Ward / Romans / 303

On a day like many others, Carla in tow, Trisha paid a visit Due to Grandma’s enemy status, she Carl,

to Grandma and her father.

was no longer allowed to live in the Markovsky residence. a dutiful husband, moved with her.

After sending out discreet

signals of distress to their friends, finally Ralph picked up on their situation and said it was okay if they stayed with him. One wonders if, due to the influence of Grandma, stronger signals were sent to Ralph than to others. Trisha arrived to find Ralph asleep in a chair, Grandma in

the kitchen, and Carl in the room he shared with Grandma, sitting on the blue corduroy chair he was inseparable from, reading. “I’m here, Grandma,” Trisha whispered as she entered, wishing Grandma had left the door unlocked for

not to disturb Ralph.

her so she wouldn’t have to knock or ring the doorbell. Grandma appeared before her, smiling, wiping her hands on her

apron; her hands dry, she raised them to Trisha to relieve her of Carla. Grandma then went off with the baby. The homunculi were Some

Trisha went down into Ralph’s basement.

upon her before she was even able to flick on a light.

shot their loads immediately, making a mess on the staircase. Now, it may be obvious why grown men are attracted to homunculi the size of little girls, but how can women be attracted to

Ward / Romans / 304

mini-mates, since women prefer tall men?

The answer is that the

homunculi of females produce a musk that makes them irresistible. This musk pours from their pores in such

quantities that gunky accretions of it can be found in their armpits and in other dark, hairy places. A second question you

may now be considering is what are the procedures of producing connector homunculi vis-à-vis human females? Well, one or many

of the homunculi inject their home being with semen via vaginal intercourse. Next you have the same old sperm and egg routine.

The following pregnancy isn’t all too bad--there’s barely a bulge. The connector homunculi are born, their birth causing no Last, the home being

more trouble than the monthly flushing. devours her impregnator homunculi.

Trisha reached down to jiggle some balls and stroke some Oh, how she loved these little fuckers! #

cocks.

The phone rang from the couch.

It had negligently been left

off of its charger stand, its battery no doubt on the point of expiration. answered it. “Hello?” “Hello, Trisha, this Grandma. I stand here with hammer. You Trisha, waking from a Saturday afternoon nap,

bring Roman to me; you understand?

You bring Roman, or they go

Ward / Romans / 305

bye-bye.”

She was, we should mention, holding the hammer she

took from The Hospital as she spoke, as if to emphasize for Trisha, over the phone, the seriousness of her threat. “Grandma, what are you saying? How could you do this? They

are your Cindys!” “My Cindys? Pshaw! One cannot fool Grandma twice. I change

Cindy baby diaper!

Cindy has no dangle-bobber!

Grandma does You

not even want to know what weirdnesses you participate in. not see them till you give Roman to Grandma!” Grandma hung up. With this,

Making her decision after a brief bout of spiritual agony, She

Trisha chose the homunculi over the safety of her husband.

set the trap by persuading Roman to visit Carl with her, saying that Grandma would be gone for the day. In fact, it was Carl

who would be gone, as Grandma would send him away on a shopping errand with Ralph shortly before their arrival. The appointed day for Trisha to hand Roman over arrived. She thought On

the way to Ralph’s, Trisha suddenly felt unwell. that she may have creamed herself.

All day she had been a bit

queasy, but she attributed this to nervousness, worrying whether Grandma would gravely harm Roman or the homunculi. Roman pull into a gas station. She had

Smiling and giggling, baby Carla

was with them, strapped into a car seat in the back.

Ward / Romans / 306

Luckily, this was a gas station where you didn’t have to ask Fearful that she had excreted something odorous,

for the key.

leaky, or both, Trisha wanted to avoid an embarrassing scene. Secreted in a stall, with the paper cover on the toilet seat providing psychological ease (for what disease will you actually get from a toilet seat?), she inspected her panties--stretched taut between her shins--and saw not creamed corn, but a familiar-looking discharge. an odd time of the month. “You okay, babe?” Roman asked when she got back. “Yeah, all good now.” “You have a blowout?” “Nothing that exciting.” “Some windy squirtage?” “My period.” “Oh,” Roman said with a sudden lift of his head. He fired She had begun her period, albeit at

the ignition and they were off again to Ralph’s. As Roman guided the car up Ralph’s driveway, odd feelings He tried not to dwell on this and The car parked, Roman went to get

impinged upon his mind.

focused on the task at hand. Carla from the back seat.

“I’ll get her, I’ll get her,” Trisha said, bumping him out of

the way with her hips.

Ward / Romans / 307

“Fine...Christ.” Roman was the first to approach the door. Trisha trailed

several paces behind.

When Roman knocked on the door, it opened Roman

by itself; it had been left unlocked and slightly ajar.

turned to Trisha and made a perplexed face; Trisha looked back at him with wide-open eyes. Roman, only later realizing why his reflexes were so quick,

turned around and threw a punch that landed squarely on Grandma’s nose as she came at his head with a hammer. (You may be wondering what just happened. Here it is. In

her homuncular frolics Trisha had always put condoms on her Cindys; obviously something went awry, for Trisha was now homuncular. Roman had intuited her design against him at Roman had looked at Trisha as she

precisely the right moment.

saw Grandma bursting through the doorway hammer in hand; sensing Grandma’s attack through Trisha’s mind, Roman was able to defend himself in time.) Before Roman could get his bearings, Trisha rushed through

the door in a homuncular frenzy, Carla bundled in her arms. Roman tried to grab Carla from her, but before he could Grandma was upon him again; he raised his forearms to cover his head from the blow; she struck him smack in the middle of his right

Ward / Romans / 308

forearm, which hurt like a bitch. retaliated.

Roman screamed as he

Ralph and Carl pulled into the driveway to see Roman kicking Carl had left the shopping list on his dresser. He They

Grandma.

realized this after they had already gotten to the store. tried calling, but there was no answer. Ralph, the former athlete, rushed to save her.

Carl hobbled

frantically behind. Ralph tackled Roman and the two men fell to the ground and

started rolling around. Grandma, dimly coming to, groped in front of her, found the

hammer, stood up, and started swinging wildly, her eyes almost swollen shut and blinded by blood. sickening thud. Carl, struck directly in the temple, fell heavily to the She connected with a

ground and died. Roman, after knocking Ralph cold, stood to see Grandma kill Enraged, he tackled Grandma, wrested the hammer from her,

Carl.

and hammered her face until it caved in completely, exposing her brain. Trisha, in her frenzy, devoured Carla along with the

homunculi. The holocaust was complete.

Related Interests