Friday, February 17, 2017

Life + Oscar

Life + Oscar
Bobby Derie

There was a hole behind and a little above her ear, covered by a flap of skin. It looked like a resting eye. Yanni had lifted her hair up to show me, and then she started to sing, a wordless little croon, and tap at her mastoid bone. I watched as something stirred, beneath the skin. Then it poked its head out, tiny black eyes shining, the antenna swept behind it. The legs emerged and it pulled itself forward, the long brown carapace, smooth and mottled sliding out.

"His name is Georg," Yanni said. "You should think what you will name yours."


It - he - crawled across the table top, no bigger than a thumbnail, carapace shaded yellow and green.

"Let him crawl onto your hand." Yanni hovered on the other side of the table. Georg was absently crawling over her forehead.

Mhari obediently stayed still as he found her hand, and began to climb.

"They mostly eat dead skin, the stuff that flakes off and sheds naturally. They don't go after living tissue, shy away from open wounds. What you will need to keep on about is water; they need a couple milliliters a day, or they dry out."

The little bug had climbed the first step of Mt. Mhari, and found her cuticle: a ragged bit of yellow hide she had a tendency to pick at. He began to nibble. It didn't hurt; in fact she could hardly feel it.


The gel felt cool as he rubbed it onto Mhari's head, behind the ear. Numbness spread, chasing it away.

"What we are going to do is pinch the skin and fold it over." The doctor said, his warm brown hands encased in blue gloves. "To form a little pocket. Living skin connected to living skin, you see? Then we put a little spacer in there, to give it shape. Like an ear plug. You leave that in there for a week, because we want to give it time to heal. Then we can start stretching it out a little. Your cucaracha," he pointed to Oscar, who was currently crawling on her hand. "will need enough space to get in and out, turn around. Not much; when we are done, the pocket will only be about the size of a quarter. As he grows, he will stretch it out on his own. Pleasure relax your neck."

Mhari realized she was tense, and deliberately tried to relax her muscles. All of her concentration seemed to be focused on the bug on her hand, and the numb spot on her scalp.

"You know, in nature these cucaracha find their own hosts, bite the skin and burrow in. But these pet varieties, they were bred not to do this, you understand? Domestic breeds, they can no longer live in the wild. They lack the pincers for it now. They depend on us to have a place to live."


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