The following story is by guest author Rochelle Cashdan. If you enjoy this story, you can find more of her work at here two blogs: Mexiguana and Guanajuato Legends and Arts. You can also find her book “Indians of the Northwest” on BarnsAndNoble.com
I entered the seaweed-colored office ahead of the blunt-headed man whose name I hadn’t caught. He was a sturdy fellow in a grey worsted, unfashionable double-breasted suit, but it was only after he sat down in his swivel chair that I noticed the complex design of the lower part of his clothing. Instead of two encased, beefy legs, he had, I realized after counting, eight slender ones.
“Your complaint?” he asked briskly.
“Right now, a feeling of unreality,” I responded, looking directly at his legs.
“It’s quite usual,” he said without inquiring whether his multiple appendages had intensified a longstanding problem.
“What’s the it?” I thought, but merely replied mildly that maybe he had similar feelings.
“I’ll ask the questions,” he thundered, his eyes like cigarette lighters sending sparks through the room. His words dropped like large stones covering the space between us. For a moment, I looked away.
When I looked back his large, intelligent eyes were calm. Surely, I thought, reassured, he must know he has an unusual anatomy.
“I’m not sure I dressed appropriately for this appointment,” I murmured, hoping to smoke him out in a subtle manner, turn the talk to his attire.
“You look all right to me,” he said, then frowned. “Maybe a little underdeveloped,” he added, glancing at the ankles showing below my skirt.
“Well, of course,” I was about to say amiably when I realized with a start that I was beginning to absorb the standards of the eight-legged person a few feet away.
“In the part that counts, he is a human,” I told myself, aiming to keep the matter in focus during a period of my life when I tried hard to be politically correct. “He has a human brain, a pair of human eyes. In his line of work, what’s below the crotch doesn’t matter.”
He began to sidle across the room to point out something on the large red and purple chart that covered the side wall. I thought I was having the first hallucination of my life when his hands and face turned from greyish-pink to lurid tones matching the colors on the chart.
I was now so tense I began scratching the wooden arms of my chair. The room began to tilt. Maybe I had unwittingly triggered his transformation.
“Restlessness,” he said, looking me over. “A common symptom.” While he moved back and forth between the chart and his desk, he kept changing color as he talked.
“Is it?” I asked, but I was either having a hot flash or else the air in the room was getting denser.
“Yes,” he said, looking me straight in the eye. Then he started firing questions.
“Do you like water around you? Answer yes or no.”
I scratched my head. ”I’ll have to say no.” The thought of water on my new silk blouse didn’t appeal to me.
He broke in. “Just yes or no,” he repeated loudly. “Which would you rather take in your hand, an oyster or a starfish?”
“Starfish are dying out,” I was starting to say, but stopped when I saw him glaring.
“Have you ever missed your mate?”
“Yes, when he . ..”
But he was already on to the next question. “Any offspring?”
“Yes, two.” making a creative attempt to say more than his rules allowed.
“Of course,” I replied without thinking.
He looked puzzled, then told me I was missing the point. Would he explain or keep on firing questions until our time was up?. Meanwhile he sat there braiding and unbraiding three of his legs.
“Do you like bright things?” he asked slowly and patiently. “Or perhaps pieces of sea glass?”
That did it. The guy was crazy, above the crotch and probably below. Even with this epiphany, I didn’t dare to start crossing the carpet to the door. But I was regaining my sense of reality. ”Your legs frighten me,” I blurted.
“Why should they?” he asked with surprise. “I’m a perfectly normal hybrid,” he added firmly. He didn’t know that to me a perfect hybrid was an ear of corn.
Something of my disbelief must have shown in my small, rather narrowly spaced grey eyes.
“Surely, you must have seen my kind before.”
“I have heard of your kind, that’s all,” I said, my voice carefully neutral.
My caution didn’t seem to matter. He was shaking his watch in disbelief. “Surely we have spent fifty minutes by now,” he muttered, his forehead furrowed.
His testiness reassured me that I would not be in the room forever. “Let him think he is ordinary.” I told myself. Maybe I could work it to my advantage.
“Magnet,” I said, pulling a U-shaped toy from my pocket. One of his legs darted out but he couldn’t quite reach the shiny thing. Between his cuff and the shoe I saw a gelatinous leg.
“No,” I said firmly, “this is mine.”
During the whole time I had been in the room, not one sound from outside had broken through.
Although Dr. Hybrid Octopus had just acted like a child, he quickly regained his composure. “Expect a bill from me in two weeks,” he said, as he opened the door with a professional flourish. I felt the pressure on my skin lighten as I left the room.
Outside, when I sopped to look into the window of the dress shop next door, I began to shake in front of my reflection. The warm-blooded, warm-hearted creature I knew stared at me through the eyes of a fish.