“Which wouldja rather have?” Nee-Nee said to Barkus, “mayonnaise come out from under your fingernails for the rest of your life or the Darth Vader theme song play whenever you entered a room?”
It was a few days after Nee-Nee’s 15th birthday. She was flopped on Barkus’s bed looking up at the ceiling and tossing one of Barkus’s small stuffed animals – apparently a blue ferret – up in the air. Barkus was absorbed with something at her desk.
“Gross.” Barkus said.
“But which would you take?”
“Neither. I wouldn’t take either. They both suck.”
“Of course. That is the point. But which would you take if you had to take one?”
Barkus did not answer.
“Come on Barkus. You have to chose.”
“No I don’t. It is stupid. I am trying to do my homework.”
Nee-Nee tossed the ferret in the air for a minute or two, trying to see how close she could get it to the ceiling without actually touching. She began to hum. After a while she said, “I would take Darth Vader. Every time. I know it sounds gross, but once you were in the room you’d be on your own and could do whatever you wanted. But mayonnaise is so … so… slippery. It makes me sick just to think about it.”
“You could wear gloves.” Golden Boy was sitting in a chair positioned directly in front of a floor to ceiling dressing mirror. He was running his hand through his long blonde hair. At the end of each stroke he turned the hair up as if trying to make the upstroke of a “J”. “With gloves, no one would ever even know about the mayonnaise.”
“UGGGGGHH! That is so disgusting. Can you imagine?” Nee-Nee said, “you are wearing these gloves and outside they are all leather and soft and inside they are slowly filling with gross mayonnaise. First the fingers get all full and soggy, and then the mayonnaise slips down onto your palms and then onto the backs of your hands. And the gloves get bigger and bigger. The fingers all swollen like hot dogs and then when someone goes to shake your hand, the mayonnaise bursts out of the glove like a big old zit bursting...”
“Nee-Nee, “Barkus said, “You are just disgusting.”
“…and suppose the person shaking your hand was Scotty and now he has gross mayonnaise all over his hands and pants and shoes and he is looking at you like …”
“Oh God,” Barkus made a show of putting her hands over her ears, “not with Scotty again.”
Scotty was a boy in Barkus’s class who followed her around at school. He was under Barkus’s power. He did her small errands. He made sure that she got the choices she wanted at lunch. He hovered. Barkus refused to concede what her brothers and sister all concluded: that Barkus had taken the boy’s soul and made him a love slave. Barkus did not see it that way all; to the extent she devoted any attention to the question at all, she was quite confident that Scotty did not have anything better to do with his time than attending to her.
“Scotty would go racing to get a soft towel for his Darling Barkus.” Golden Boy pronounced. “It is really quite lovely, when you think about it. That love can be so pure and so true…”
Nee-Nee was not getting distracted by Golden Boy. “And now he is dripping with white gross and slippery mayonnaise and what if it was contagious so now his fingernails start oozing mayonnaise and then all the kids in class start oozing too and then the floor starts to fill up…
Barkus looked at Golden Boy. “Which would you chose? Mayonnaise oozing from your fingernails or having Nee-Nee as a sister?”
“The Mayonnaise. No question. You can just wash it off. But Hee-Haw is like poisonous gas. You breathe and she gets all inside you and then your organs shrivel up and wither.” He continued to stroke his hair intently. “I would definitely go with the mayonnaise.”