All I Can Taste

all i can taste victoria griffin

Originally published at Alebrijes, now closed.

***

I am hiding under my mommy’s desk, shaking. There are men upstairs in my dining room. Some of them have beards that cover their chests. Some of them wear shiny sunglasses that shield their eyes. They are afraid of being seen, too.

Mommy is dead, I know that. Her body is cut open on the dining room floor, her entrails spread over the table. Each place is set with a fork and a knife.

They’re not animals, after all.

My daddy is with them, sitting at the head of the table since it is his home. I saw him as I crouched behind the living room sofa, peering through the open door into the dining room. He was laughing and joking, as though sitting down to Christmas dinner.

They all thanked him for the meal before they began—everyone told him they appreciated his generosity.

Then they ate.

They drove forks into the raw liver, sliced pieces out of the intestines, spooned undigested food from the stomach before devouring the organ like an edible bowl. The heart worked its way to the head of the table, bleeding as each guest pricked it with his fork, passing it toward my father.

He ate it in three bites.

At first the men were slow and deliberate. They ate my mother like a rich family eats foie gras. Then their feeding became more urgent. They dug into the guts like vultures picking at road kill, slinging blood and pieces of my mommy’s insides all over the dining room, into the kitchen, into the—living room.

A piece, a small piece, landed beside the sofa. I couldn’t tell what it was. It was red-gray and slicked with blood. I stared at it, watched the stain seep slowly into the white carpet. My hand reached out.

I didn’t smell it before I stuck it in my mouth. I just dropped it on my tongue and ate it, my teeth gnashing the muscly fiber. My daddy saw me poke my head out from behind the sofa. He saw me stick the thing in my mouth. He saw me chew and swallow. He smiled.

I ran downstairs, tripping over myself, peddling my feet down the steps, and I dove beneath my mommy’s desk and wrapped my arms around my knees. What did I just do? I was afraid of the men, hiding their faces. I was terrified of my daddy. And myself, because—

It tasted good.

I am sick, now. Not from the raw meat, but from my heart rotting in my chest. I can feel it drying up like jerky and growing mold whiter than what grew in mommy’s rose vase when she forgot to change the water. I can feel that piece of her settling in my stomach. I can feel it like a weight, threatening to crash through my insides and tear up my guts the way they were tearing up hers on the dining room table.

I peek out from behind the desk, at the window. There is a road outside, filled with rush hour traffic. Can they see me?

I cover my face with my hands. I am beginning to understand why my daddy wears his beard so thick.

The grub-grub sounds coming from the dining room have died away. All I hear is the sound of big feet shifting under the table. I stand up—I am barely taller than the desk.

The steps feel like mossy roots. My bare feet slip over them as I stumble upstairs, unsure of what I’ll do when I get there. The living room carpet is unsettlingly soft. Or maybe my feet are just rough. The men’s heads turn toward me as I enter the dining room. There are still scraps on the table, and they are watching me, waiting.

I step over my mommy’s carcass and stand beside Daddy. He has saved a small piece of her heart—I know it’s for me. I take his big fork in my hand like a fire poker and gently impale the bloody meat.

It stains my lips red as I devour it.

My daddy pats me on the back and smiles through his beard. When I get older, I will grow one, too. I will hide my face from the world, from the ones who wouldn’t understand.

But that’s okay. It doesn’t matter what the world thinks. These men know what I am.