Come See Exciting Delaware

If it was true that: a person could wake up in Box Elder, Montana and greet some of the other 786 residents on the way to Big Sandy airport, board a plane, switch at ICA or ORD and eighteen hours later have a foot massage while staring at the Reclining Buddha in Bangkok and also true that Phil had been given an IV, slept in a sterile operating room, and awoken with one less kidney so that the other could be deposited into his brother Stan’s abdomen, the tissues sewn and checked against host-body issues, and if it was true that a migratory shorebird could fly more than 400,000 miles appearing in Delaware of all places, then it was also true that Dottie’s vagina could be guarded by two knuckle-sized dragons and a knight the size of a cashew.

Under the floral comforter, Dottie and Phil had their legs overlapping like Lincoln Logs they’d long packed away, his leg, hers, his on her knee, hers atop that. She knew, of course, where his hand would wind up and looked forward to it but when they’d unstacked their limbs her body wasn’t as receptive as her mind. It took effort these days to get ready, to find the desire and lock it down before it wisped away, the aroma of a dish unserved.

“Don’t you want to?” Phil asked with his eyes so close to her face her focus blurred, making her husband a momentary Cyclops.

“I do, I do.” Dottie kissed him, guiding his hand between her legs. She tried to connect the mental picture of Phil sliding into her with the physical sensation.

“You’re all closed up.” He touched her left breast, slightly larger than the right, the areola pink and rippled, the nipple winking up at him.

The chimneys needed to be relined. Her college boyfriend disliked going down on her. Phil jacked off in the shower. Why hadn’t they repaired the ripped screen on the side porch? Was she getting looser? Phil jacked off in the shower, his hand tossing up and down like a good mixed drink. Yes, that was working. The way his mouth slacked like an unused rubber band before orgasm.

“There you go,” he whispered in her ear.

His breath was initially sweet but then muddied with turnip stench. The shower scene evaporated with no warning, boxes in the attic needed to be packed, donated, organized. Dottie was determined not to be the kind of older person who left a bunch of crap on the shelves, life’s detritus and mementos compacted for her adult children to sort through.

“I’m terribly warm,” Dottie said. Phil pulled the sheet down, exposed Dottie’s body.

Phil sighed, patient but disappointed. He kicked off the comforter, too. “Want me to take a look?” Once in a while Phil would rest his face on her bare belly as though listening for a fetal heartbeat, allowing his fingers to roam her pubic hair, soft upper thighs.

“Sure—take a look under the hood.” She’d had a thing for mechanics, gasoline station attendants in their coveralls, a little dirty but with confident thumbs.

Phil swung his body around. “My God! I've never seen anything like it!" Phil said. Dottie was unmoved so Phil pointed. “You’ve got to see this, Dot.”

Sure enough, it was a sight: two tiny dragons flanking either side of a—my, she reminded herself—drawbridge vagina, the whole crew fronted by the cashew-sized knight.

Dottie hunched over herself, staring. “What can I tell you? I felt a little rustling a few days ago but I didn’t think to look.”

Phil rubbed his hands together, thinking about reaching for the telephone. What was the protocol? Was he meant to phone for help? “Does it hurt? And how long has it been like this?”

Dottie propped herself up and moved her tongue like a metronome across her teeth. “I just don’t have a clue,” she said. How had they gotten there? Did they flee when she urinated or showered? She studied Phil’s face. “Have you known about this?”

“Me? Don’t look at me,” he told Dottie, “How would I have known?”

Phil’s head was perfectly bald, not a hair on top or on the sides, his eyebrows bushy and furrowed.

“It’s not your fault,” she said even though she thought it might be. Maybe Phil had invited the guests to warm up when he wasn’t in her. Hadn’t he entertained the idea of vacationing in a castle at some point? “Who on God’s green earth has seen this before? I mean, maybe I noticed something moving around but . . . I don’t think so.” Had she grown immune to her own body? “One minute we’re pulling the comforter back so you can position yourself comfortably—not too much strain on your back and the next thing . . . well, how the hell am I supposed to explain that?” She sucked air in through her nose even though the whistling annoyed Phil. “To think—we’d talked about a bike trip this summer!”

Dot and Phil waited a week—they are not alarmists—but still no change so Phil made the appointment for Dottie while she maneuvered into an elastic-waist skirt just for ease, maybe the visitors—or did they live there now?—needed space, air.

Now they’re at Dr. Lichter's office.

“It’s a terrible name for a gynecologist,” Dottie says. “But there you go—you can’t choose everything in this life.”

“That’s for damn sure,” Phil says.

Are they basically contented people? Yes. And yet they’d managed to raise two children who lived in a state of mild dissatisfaction year-round. When the daughter visited she looked as though she had a hair in her mouth she could never quite remove and the son tugged a rolling suitcase of woes he couldn’t unload even on his partner, a man named Brian whom Dot and Phil secretly preferred to their own kids and not-so-secretly hoped Brian felt the same way about them versus his own parents. Will Dottie and Mat share this new predicament with their grown children? Phil guesses not.

Dottie pages through Women’s Wear Daily as though she’s actively searching for a mushroom soup substitute for her next casserole. What if they did a story about her? Or what if they wouldn’t because it was just too odd, made people too upset? Which would be worse?

“You're up,” Phil says and cups her shoulder. “Should I . . . ”

“It’s okay, I’ll go in first . . . you can take a walk if you want.” She doesn’t need him any more involved than he already is.

It’s the same office Dottie drove to when she she’d been pregnant. The same room where they’d rolled gel onto her belly and found signs of life all those years ago when Dr. Lichter had just been in training. Now he’s the one in charge, his white coat all egret wings, flapping as he enters the room clapping his hands. What have we here? Spontaneous triplets? Seen it. Stage 5 uterine cancer undetected until right now? Seen that, too. Cystic teratomas, growths with eyes and hair and even teeth, adhered to an ovary? Many times.

He presses on Dot’s loose abdomen, checks her breasts for what she doesn’t know, and then settles onto the stool between Dottie’s knees. She waits for the shock, a gasp from the nurse who stands off to the side watching.

Dr. Lichter motions for the nurse to bring Phil in. Here we go, Dot thinks, this is it. Terminal dragons. Emergent knight removal.

Phil helps his wife sit up, standing close to hear the news.

“Huh,” Dr. Lichter says. “They’re certainly present.” He’s seen one twin consume another overnight, a twenty-three weeker survive after a motor vehicle accident, and—a few times—animals of unknown origin appear without warning. These last usually resolved themselves over a matter of weeks or months.

“I suggest,” Dr. Lichter says, “just going about your business.”

“I’m retired,” Phil said.

“I mean,” the doctor says to Dottie as he removes his rubber gloves with a snap, his mind on the next patient and the roast turkey sandwich he’d ordered from Sully’s, one with thick sliced Italian loaf and mayo flecked with basil. “You should think of your vagina like Delaware.”

“Because it has no sales tax?” Phil asks.

“Because it has a small population?” Dot asks. As far as she knew no one was meant to live in a vagina.

The doctor shakes his head. “No. Delaware’s a small state, right? Geographically.” Dr. Lichter turns off the Broadway light shining on her genitals. “So it might surprise you to learn that Delaware actually straddles two climate regions: humid sub-tropical and continental.”

The paper Johnny robe crinkles at her hips as she swings her legs over the side of the examination table. “I think I understand,” she says.

“Do you?” the doctor addresses them both at the door. “Delaware still has surprises. Just when you thought there was nothing new, here comes Delaware all exciting.”

“Calidruis canutus rufus,” Dot tells her husband while she strokes his penis. She and Phil are in bed, following their new routine, waiting to see if the tiny reptiles—that’s what dragons would be, right?—will let him in. Her husband props his head on his hand, his body next to hers in bed. “That’s the Latin name. I like Moonbird better, though, don’t you?”

“Sure,” he says, making her hand stop. It feels good, too good, and he doesn’t want it to be over so fast.

“Twenty-six years they’ve been tracking it—since we got married! Imagine that—maybe on our wedding day this bird got a band on its ankle.”

“Imagine that,” Phil says, flicking one of Dottie’s nipples. He pictures a red band on his wife’s ankle. All along he’s been sure he knew her movements, her habits and routes. What statistics and migratory stories doesn’t he know about her? “Anyway, it’s reassuring, isn’t it?”

Dottie nods. “Moonbird B95. So many names for just one thing. And it’s tough besides—can you imagine being that small and going that far?” She looks at Phil’s face—is that frustration? Disappointment? “Don’t worry,” she tells him.

Phil had asked her if she controlled the knight, the door’s opening, the dragons backing off, and she’d assured him she didn’t. True, they allowed her access whenever she liked. Really, the knight seemed to know what she wanted better than her own mind did.

“We’re in this together, that’s the main thing,” she says to Phil now. But it was anxiety producing, waiting to see if the mini-knight would give the signal. Let the drawbridge down, he might say if they’d had strong enough hearing. Phil licks her neck, slowly moving one hand under her ass.

“Oh—yes,” she sighs. “Can’t you feel it?” She luxuriates in the warmth. The dragons are small but fire-breathing, and their exhales feel good on her thighs. She tries to let the floodgates open in her mind, just like the meditation articles suggest. “All that worry about this bird surviving his annual ten thousand mile migration and year after year—oh, this is good.”

“They’re letting me in!” her husband cries. It is a good night. The bed firm but not too hard, his penis the same, the doorway to the magic land opening. Narnia. His wife’s pussy was Narnia.

Afterwards, he reaches for a few M&M candies, studying each one briefly before consuming it. He thought they were beautiful, those colorful discs. “Each one’s supposedly the same,” he says to her, his breath still ragged from sex. “But see here? This one’s got a dent.”

She nods but doesn’t like chocolate, which is actually good for their marriage because he never has to worry about her taking his bedside nibbles.

Dot scoots her bottom up so she can pull her nightgown down. Should she say goodnight to the dragons and knight? Is there etiquette for such things? She falls asleep thinking of the plump Moonbird, imagines flying from the Canadian Arctic to South America’s Tierra del Fuego. “Now that’s exotic,” she whispers. “But Delaware?”

A while later, Dot and Phil have a system, which is how all things develop in their marriage. Coping with their son’s dyslexia and coming out, their daughter’s uninteresting first two decades followed by a year of radiation for a tumor that prevented biological children. The pissing away of Phil’s pension by an unscrupulous boss. Sometimes they tried for a full hour, kissing, fondling, openly wishing. They tired of yelling, pleading, begging the knight so other times ignored the whole lot.

Now Dot and Phil have a system of languor, just lying on the double bed waiting to see if the drawbridge door would open. At first the waiting was just fine because Dottie was hooked on the next Vampire in the Desert Mystery and Phil liked to listen to sports on the radio. The fake clack of mallet onto wood in baseball and the overt cheer from the announcers made green appear underneath Phil’s closing eyelids along with the comforting sensation of recalling his father’s mitt-sized hand around his at the park as they’d watched games together, the topography of his dad’s veins a map of this person he could only know so much of.

But now Dot was finished with Blood and Sand and had to wait two months until the next mass market was released and Phil’s indigestion kept him from being flat, the twisting ache worse with his eyes shut.

She’d taken to rubbing one foot over the other, which he’d try to silence by touching her toes with his own. Sometimes this worked and the room grew still with the silence of waiting.

But other times before they could both enjoy the quiet thrum of someone else’s noise outside the window, Phil would reach for a handful of those M and Ms.

He kept a steady supply of candies in a ceramic bowl their son had made in sixth grade. Dottie thought he had the bowl to prove how okay he was with his son’s artistic side but in fact Phil had only chosen it because everything was dirty and he didn’t like washing dishes as it irritated his cuticles, a part of his body that was so feminine-sounding he was ashamed to have it associated with his own.

“Do you have to crunch so loudly?” she asked. She did not like to reread novels but eyed the worn stack in case she changed her mind.

He had a bit of blue candy on his upper lip. “I’m not trying to.”

“But you are.”

“I didn’t know the chewing bothered you.” He’d been eating M and Ms every night for five years, just a few while he listened to her turning pages or in between cutting his toenails over the side of the bed.

“Actually,” Dottie admitted, “It’s not the sound. It’s that you leave them in there just collecting dust.”

She picked up a small frame, the two kids when their forearms still resembled doughy hot dog buns. “See how much dust this has on it? And I clean it every week! And you never clean the candy.”

“You want me to dust the M and Ms?” Phil picked at a bit of dry elbow skin. They would have to figure out a system for this.

A sheet tented her knees but it was warm in the room and she could feel the dragons waking up, an uncoiling on her upper thigh. Unexpected. Their nostrils flared fire that she’d worried would burn her eventually but the heat was gentle again, like sitting by the lake as a kid waiting until she was good and ready to fling herself all at once into the morning-cool water.

“It’s just gross,” she said, “All the stuff that floats down on them and then you don’t wipe the bowl you just add more after you get the next bag.”

She knew she contributed to his cycle by ripping coupons from the Sunday circular and carefully handing over her customer care card to accumulate points so he’d get another oversized bag nearly free of charge which he’d then pour into the bedside bowl dropping a few on the floor which remained there until she collected them.

“Why didn’t you say something before about them?”

“I don’t know,” she said, “there was never a good time.” One of the dragons had a lame leg—had he tripped over her?—and she felt its awkward drag on her skin. “And I didn’t want to hurt your feelings.”

He looked at her and sighed. It made him sad that Dottie hadn’t spoken up. He reached for her hand, his body parallel to hers.

Ahem, a small cough.

It wasn’t Dottie making noise and it wasn’t Phil.

She pointed to her sheet-covered knees and her husband slowly tugged the sheet off, the fabric slipping over her thighs. She liked the feel of it.


There, between her legs. She looked and saw everything upside down—the dragons, the mini knight with his thumbtack-sized helmet. They’d grown accustomed to the odd trio seeking shelter in her labial folds, so much so that they’d barely glanced at them in weeks. She only knew the dragon was lame because she felt an interruption in the pattern of footsteps.

Phil cocked his head, staring. “He looks bored,” Phil said.

She nodded. Up until now she hadn’t thought to address the knight directly, when they’d shouted and begged it was just in general, into the bedroom air, but now it seemed the polite thing to do.

“Are you . . . do you need anything?” She asked, cupping her words in her hands like a megaphone.

Phil went close to her right thigh and then, to get a better look, moved under it so one leg lopped onto his shoulder. The knight’s outfit was navy and dark gray metal, his eyes not quite visible through the helmet slats.

The dragons were peaceful though fiery, one with its spiked tail high, the other with it curled under him. The knight sighed.

“It’s possible he can’t talk,” Phil said.

“Or that we can’t hear him,” Dottie added.

“Maybe,” Phil said as he thought of something. He let his wife’s leg flop onto the bed and shimmied up the mattress on his belly to reach for a couple of M and Ms. One red, one yellow.

First Phil pinched one candy between his thumb and index finger. Then, fearing the disc was too large, he bit it in half. “Here,” he offered the knight the smaller piece.

Hesitant or maybe just too tiny to seem confidant, the knight gripped the candy in one hand, the other hand still holding the guard spear. Was it made from a cocktail toothpick and colored in gray marker?

One night Dottie had been sleeping and Phil had put his hand near her vagina only to have the knight spear his palm. It was a small puncture wound but a mark nonetheless so the Phil was careful now, gentle with the offering.

“I hear him chewing!” Dottie said, delighted. She recognized the same tone in her voice that she’d had when their daughter had finally learned to nurse. What a fussy baby with colic and constipation, prune juice dropped in her mouth even when she was only a few weeks old, and it took days filled with shrieking and another woman handling her breast to get the baby to latch on. And now, the same relief and thrill.

“Yes,” Phil husband said, “he seems satisfied. Are you happy, Mr. Knight? Sir?”

“Oh—the doors!” She felt them opening and Phil can see the cranking circular motion, the knight turning and lowering the drawbridge and the dragons backing away.

Finally, a system! Each night at first and then maybe once or twice a week, they have the pattern. Even when the next book in her series comes out, Teeth and Mirages, they keep going. Spring training all the way through the World Series. The knight prefers yellow M and Ms so Phil takes to sorting them, which also means cleaning them with a dry cloth. Is it silly to polish M and Ms one at a time, getting them ready for a tiny knight in order to connect to his wife and gain access to her guarded vagina?

No sillier than the Rufus Red Knots that once numbered close to 100,000 on Delaware Bay, the birds whose population declined to a fraction of that due to over-harvesting of horseshoe crabs which left the birds terribly hungry and unable to survive. There was talk in the ornithology world about the bird’s song; had the cries changed over time? One fellow thought it was the same cherreep-cherreep-twoo but the head of Delaware’s Wildlife Commission believed there was a subtle juun-di! added between the cherreeps.

They feed the knight and have sex and the radio announcer tells of a three run homer while Dottie uses her pointer finger to hold a place in the pages as she closes her eyes to hear. Is it the knight or the migratory Moonbird or just the rustling of sheets or candies?

“No,” she says sitting up so suddenly the tiny knight and dragons stumble away from her and she and Phil are stunned. “Do we put them back?” she asks.

“What do you want?” Phil asks.

Does it matter? Maybe she can push them back inside. Or maybe her vagina is seasonal, like coastal properties. There they are, slinking across the mattress off to wherever they have to go, dragon tails scratching the bedsheets, the knight’s spear clinking on his metal helmet with each step.

Dottie can hear it all. She is sure the bird is coming back after all of those winged miles and she can hear it singing, the song unchanged, there is more there is more there is more.  

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