from The House of the Tree of Sores
I don’t feel like a manager anymore. I feel like a parent. I lead the burning little girl and the burning little boy through the store. My little loggar I brand with my eyes. Their fiery hands let go of my gaze and they tip over a nearby shopping cart. I take them by the flames again, I steer them through fake room after fake room until I locate a fake room that resembles a bathroom. The pipes inside produce water. (This must be a real bathroom.) I draw the children a bath, they push out their faces. I put out their fires. Geg mig kraken, squeals the boy. Give you what? I ask. Nej, nej—geg MIG kraken, squeals the little girl. A kraken is like an octopus, right? I ask them. The little girl points to a soft, cephalopodal something on a shelf behind me. I pick it up, I study it, I show it to them, I ask, Kraken? They both nod.
But we don’t sell crochet kraken, I say. Where did this come from? The children ignore my question and splash waves of water from out of their tub. Stop that, I yell. The little boy continues splashing; the little girl drums her hands against the side of the tub. Dröm, dröm, dröm, dröm, the little girl laughs. No drum, I yell back. No more drum. I angrily toss the crochet kraken to the floor. Mardröm? the little girl laughs. Mardröm, the little boy repeats. Mardröm, they both giggle. They pull the plug from their tub valve, they watch the water swirl down, down. Bowel vowels. Suddenly, something hisses from the hole. Mor kraken, they scream. They leap out of the tub and take to my legs. They hold on tightly, for dear life. Kisssssta, the tub hisses. Kisssssta, kisssssta.
Synkoperated shots of black slop bust from out of the drainpipe. Pinka, pinka lilla stjärna, sings the darkness of the drainpipe. The children choke back tears. The drainpipe gags up a cloacal call, a glowing yellow bubbles out, combines with the black tub-slop. Fattar, fattar—a bläckfisk tentakel. The tentakel protrudes from the tub-sken, unwinds like a spindel. Spits long bleka webs, spreads like the bleakest fog. Spreads across our bodies, spreads across our faces. Bleka sken, blekansikten. Mardröm. Mor, mor. Sinister sex sounds surround. A fog of sex, meningslöst sex. The tub sewage flows over the sides. The tentakel whips violently. A coprophagous cornucopia. Kroppssssspråk, the tentakel hisses.
Tentakel splits and. Tentakel spits and. Tentakel hardens, carves into the room with axe nerveux. Its tip goes soft, suddenly spools far off into a corner of the ceiling. Tentakel embedded, pieces of ceiling tile rise up with it. Mor tentakler split off from the primary tentakel trunk-section. Salivary glands and palps sprout from each kraken suction cup, long strands of nerve fibers protrude from each suction cup. Swelling with axoplasm, the strands harden into long knots of, long lobes of, long lips of magnocellular bark. Kraken eller träd? asks the little boy. I don’t know, I say. We quickly leave the bathroom as the massive tentakler twist up through the ceiling and into the second floor. The gross connectives of the stomach, the much-needed esophagus.
The children follow me onto the escalator. Mor, mor? they ask. More what? I reply. Are we going to go look for mother? the little boy suddenly asks in English. No, I don’t know your mother, I say. You married her, pappa, the little girl replies. You have me confused with somebody else, I say. No we don’t pappa. I ignore their high-pitched voices; I travel through fake room after fake room looking for a tentakel protruding from the floor. But I suit any space, the little boy squeals. But I consume up to 30% less energy, the little girl squeals. But I’m made from recycled paper, the little boy squeals. But I have a folding bin-lid, the little girl squeals. I wish your mouths had a folding bin-lid, I yell. Now, please, stop calling me pappa! And stop reading all the product descriptions!
NOTE: In 2013, crochet octopi (virkade bläckfisk) were banned from Skåne University Hospital in Malmö due to claims from the medical staff that the plush animals were spreading bacteria and posing a risk of infection to infants. Supposedly the crochet tentacles have been said to be comforting for premature infants because they closely resemble an umbilical cord. The crochet octopi trend allegedly originated in Denmark.
Paul Cunningham is the author of GOAL/TENDER MEAT/TENDER (horse less press, 2015). He manages Radioactive Moat Press and its literary journal, Deluge. He holds editorial positions with Action Books and Fanzine. His writing has appeared in Bat City Review, TAGVVERK, glitterMOB, LIT, Sink Review, DIAGRAM, and others. He most recently completed his M.F.A. at the University of Notre Dame.