A flip gets switched in my brain
A story by Chuck Palahniuk
The crossword comes first. The New York Times one, and not just any day’s crossword but the Saturday one. The paper hits the doorstep. Before the toast is up, every vertical and horizontal holds a word. And not just erato and iambi, but eland and thediscretecharmofthebourgeoisie. Written in ink. In Stella’s handwriting.
At the kitchen table I fold back the page to show the puzzle. I ask, “Your doing?”
Stella salts her eggs. “Beginner’s luck.” She shrugs.
Another day I ask her the time.
Without looking at her phone, she says, “Six forty and twenty-five seconds.” She sits on the sofa knitting.
My phone says the same. I tell her, “Good guess.” I pull up random cities and ask the time in Samarkand and Banja Luka.
Still knitting, Stella says, “Three thirty-nine and twelve forty a.m., respectively.”
I ask the current temperature in Nay Pyi Taw and Rotorua, and she asks, “In Celsius or Fahrenheit?”
I scroll down and ask what TIPT is currently trading at.
She loops a strand of yarn around a knitting needle and says, “$15.71.”
I ask, “What? Are you some kind of Siri?”
Then she says it. She asks, “Does Kitty-kins seem okay to you?”
First the crosswords, then the temperature, then the blow job. Before this, blow jobs were out of the question. Then she began to dust the baseboards. We’d been in this house since before the kids, and Stella had never touched the baseboards or made kugel from scratch. Then one night she’s got my Don Johnson in her mouth. I blink awake, and she’s got my Don Johnson swallowed so deep my pubes make it look like a bushy mustache, like she’s Joseph Stalin with her eyes rolled backward in her head with only the whites showing. I’m somewhere deep inside her neck and her body’s bucking like the Heimlich Maneuver but in reverse as she chokes down my Don Johnson. Like the cat trying to cough up a hairball.
She’s sleepwalking, I figure. Stella’s sleepwalking, and you know what they say about not waking one up. A sleepwalker. There’s no looking down at her with those bulging white eyes and that Geraldo Rivera/Mark Spitz/Tom Selleck mustache, and my Don Johnson feels the cartilage of her throat, just a hundred-twenty pounds of squeeze around me, and I think of Suzanne Pleshette and let nature take its course.