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By Brett Paesel

It was amazing in its wrongness. A monument to bad judgment. It didn't look like hair; it didn't even look like a hat. It looked like something matted and living.

"Did you guys have an OK time getting here?" he asked.

Aunt Jo lumbered in with Cokes, giving a can to Pat and one to me.

I stared at the Coke can. The nice neat swirl of white above the letters C-O-K-E.

I repeated the letters in my head. C-O-K-E.

The wax Pat turned from the window and said, "It was pretty easy going."

"Good," said David.

I thought, what kind of person looks in a mirror and thinks that looks good?

Then I thought, obviously a person who threatens to kill people. A person who lives in a house with his mother and a thousand porcelain pigs.

David flipped out the footrest of the lazy boy, popping his legs in my direction.

"George and Dee Dee are late," he said.

I took in a long breath and narrowed my eyes at Pat.

The wax Pat moved to a chair like he was marching that slow, hesitating march soldiers do when they bury one of their own.

I looked at the Coke can. In the middle of the word Coke, were the letters O.K.

O-K. O-K. Don't look at it. Don't look at it.

The doorbell rang. Aunt Jo leaned over to me quickly. "That'll be George and Dee Dee. Do me a favor and don't offer Dee Dee any nuts."

I nodded like we were old friends. Aunt Jo winked and trudged over to the door.

As I looked up to greet Dee Dee and George, my eyes grazed the black thing on David's head. I paused there, not meaning to, willing my eyes to move. But they were paralyzed.

Move eyes. Move eyes. C -O -K -E. C -O- K- E.

I thought, is the black thing supposed to be hair? Or is it a hat? Did killer David pick this one out of a bunch of other choices? Snapping and unsnapping different colors, different textures - curly, bone straight - till he said, "This is the one. This black fuzz that looks like a smoker's lung. This is the one I want?" When he unsnaps the thing, does the skin around the scalp snap pull? You know the way you lose snaps from clothing -- Is his scalp snap in danger of pulling out of his skin? Is "scalp snap" the correct term?

"Brett, this is George," I heard Aunt Jo say. Only with the sucking sound, it sounded like "thorsh".

I had to move my whole head, because my eyes had lost all movement. I saw a bulky man wearing a faded t-shirt that read, "I like pussy" above a cartoon kitten. Behind him loomed a round woman who was wider than she was tall.

"And here's Dee Dee," Jo Anne said.

I nodded and smiled. I think. And threw a "help me" look to Pat.

He had melted into the chair. Only his head retained its former shape.

"Pat," I said, in a high, small voice. "I left my cigarettes out in the car." I rose and walked like a sailor on a choppy sea, making my way to the door.

"Excuse me a second," I threw over my shoulder to the humans, to wax Pat, and the pigs.

Outside the log cabin, in the fading daylight, I made sharp little barking sounds as I struggled to regulate my breathing and stifle the scream that was pushing itself out of my chest. Shaking, I reached in the car for a cigarette, pulled one out and lit it. I inhaled the smoke, let it out, then hummed a satisfying, sustained MMMMMMMM. Then I did it again. The repeated smoking and humming calmed me in much the same way rocking calms psychotics. After awhile, my mind and body rested.

My pupils regained some movement and I scanned the other log cabins, wondering about their inhabitants. I thought about all the things Pat and I had to learn about each other. When he returned to his natural state. I thought about all the things I had put him through. Long, boring teas with my uptight college pals. Sweet Honey in the Rock concerts. Demanding that he read, Getting the Love you Want and then do the exercises where you mirror back what your partner just said.

When I thought about it, I had put Pat in many more uncomfortable situations than he had me.

I sighed, dropped my cigarette to the ground and stepped on it. I turned to face the log cabin, pulled in a breath and held it. Yes, being married would be a series of compromises. Little things I would do for him and little things he would do for me.

I walked toward the doormat that said, "Leave your shit-kickers here". I paused with my hand on the door handle and thought, so this is it - these are the little things we do for each other. I turned the handle and froze. I froze because deep in my heart I knew that NOTHING I COULD EVER PUT PAT THROUGH-- NOTHING WOULD EVER COME CLOSE TO THE SNAP. NOTHING.

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