Tongue, Tongue, Tongue
by Shome Dasgupta
Shaker, shaker, shaker, went the salt. Eggs, eggs, eggs, went the chew. Ketchup, ketchup, ketchup went the bottle. Barn, Barn, Barn, went Barn.
At the grocery store, Barn stared at the box of pancake mix. Pepper was in the frozen foods section — she was looking for something that she could make for me. Barn picked up the box and moved it around in circles. He looked at the back and then held it up above his head.
I said, Do you want pancakes for dinner.
Barn jumped up and down. I put it in the shopping cart. Pepper walked up holding a box of frozen waffles.
Pepper said, We're thinking the same thing, Barn.
Barn wrapped his arms around Pepper's leg. She put him in the shopping cart and he stood inside like he was captain of the ship, pointing this way and that, directing traffic through the aisles. I couldn't help but imagine him wearing a cape. He was in the air, arms ahead of him like Superman, holding a box of pancake mix in one hand and a box of waffles in the other.
One day you will fly, I said.
Pepper looked at me.
What, she said.
I said, What. I said, Did I say that out loud.
Pepper looked at Barn.
Pepper said, Can you fly.
Barn looked around the grocery store. He looked up and down.
Pepper said, You can fly.
Barn looked at me with large eyes. I had put hope into his mind. He jumped out of the cart and ran down the aisles, trying to fly. Everyone was staring at him. Me and Pepper didn't do anything. I didn't know why Pepper didn't do anything, but I didn't do anything because, somewhere inside of me, I thought that maybe he would be able to fly. Fly away from the grocery store, from this city, to the sky, and keep going until he melted in the sun.
We eventually made it to the checkout counter. There was this man standing two people behind us. Pepper kept looking at him. He had a black mustache and dirty skin. His flannel shirt was tightly tucked in, revealing his gut slightly hanging over his waist. Raisin skin. Pepper pushed up against me. I pushed against her. He looked at us and smiled. I didn't like the smile. It wasn't a good smile. It was a smile that came from darkness. Where was darkness? It was an indescribable place where the wrong smiles existed. Pepper squeezed my hand until it hurt. Barn was stuffing candy into his pockets until I told him to stop and put them back on the rack.
The man walked up to us. Pepper's nails were deep into my skin. The man walked up to us, and Pepper's nails were deep into my skin. Pepper's nails were deep into my skin as the man walked up to us. Pepper's nails walked up to us as the man was deep into my skin. Pepper walked up to us. The man's nails were deep into my skin. My skin walked up to us, and Pepper's nails were deep into the man's skin. The man's skin was deep into my nails, and Pepper walked up to us.
Pepper, the man said.
Pepper didn't say anything.
The man said, Pepper.
Okay, Pepper said.
The man pulled down his hat a bit and looked at me. He stuck out his hand. I didn't move mine.
How's your Pops, the man said.
Let's go, Pepper said.
Barn was playing hopscotch with the tiles on the floor. I told him we’re going and he grabbed onto Pepper's leg as we walked away. The grocer looked at us and shouted.
Emergency, I said.
Barn jumped to the floor. I had to pick him up.
I didn't ask Pepper about the guy. I didn't want to get punched or slapped. I knew better. She didn't let go of my arm until we were in the car.
I need to put my seatbelt on, I said.
She said, Put it on.
I need my arm, I said.
She let go.
Barn was spitting in the backseat.
I said, Don't spit.
Barn started hitting his head against the back of my seat.
Pepper turned around and calmed him down. She just looked at him and smiled. Barn stopped.
We went back to my house. Ma was in the living room covered in yarn. She didn't know how to knit, but it never stopped her from trying.
Where's the groceries, Ma said.
I said, There was a mix-up.
Pepper said, It's my fault. She said, we'll go back tomorrow.
Ma said, Hmmm.
Barn tapped his finger against his head.
What are you thinking about, Pepper said.
Barn ran to his room.
I told Pepper that I would take her back to her place. She said she wanted to walk. I told her it's too far for a walk and not too safe at night. Ma said I was right and lit a cigarette. Barn came back with PlayClay and put it on the center table. He started eating it.
Ma said, Barn.
I said, Barn.
Pepper said, How does it taste?
Barn stretched his arms out to say, this much.
I drove Pepper back to her place. We went to her room and she licked me. I licked her. We licked each other.
Tongue, tongue, tongue, went the lick. Salt, salt, salt, went the skin. Skin, skin, skin, went the spit. Legs, legs, legs, went the air. Mouth, mouth, mouth went the grunt. Close, close, close, went the eyes. Fingers, fingers, fingers, went the plunge, and stick, stick, stick, went the semen.
Pepper said, What's your name.
Mutty, I said.
Pepper said, Why are you here.
Pepper, I said.
Mutty, Pepper said. She said, Do I love you.
No, I said. I said, No.
Pepper wrapped herself inside the comforter. I fell off the bed.