Swollen (c) 2005 Stan Crocker
Music by Paul A. Toth


by Randall Brown


She's been sitting in the emergency room for thirty minutes or so, shifting, wanting to unzip from her skin, claim another body. The Night Court marathon tries to suck her attention, but she doesn't let it, though she feels herself drawn to the bald headed bailiff, imagines him as a gigantic vibrator.

The emergency room feels barren. That's a good thing, she tells herself, a sign that all is right with the world. But she looks closer. A child in a sling. Another with his head back, blood dripping from his nose. A woman with a swollen face. I'm a kick boxer, the woman tells anyone who walks by. Not one of those women.

Six hours, she hears a man say from the front desk, turns to look, and his erection points right at her. Well, now. A divining rod-and it carries him toward her, across from her. He sits.
He's wearing an Eagles shirt, a white number 5 in the center. He's wide, hairy, a behemoth-not at all like the artists, writers, students she dates, desperately delicate and light, an illusion of understanding.

"Six hours," he tells her, as if she hadn't heard. His right leg lies across his left knee, no attempt to hide or cover. Well, there it is, as if it were a badge. And, of course, he deserves one. Eight, nine inches.

"How come your wife didn't come with you?" she asks.

"No wife. No girlfriend. Call it a test run."

They both stare at his lap-a monument, of sorts, but to what?

He looks her over. "What about you?"

"Vagistat reaction," she whispers. "It's swollen about six times its size."

A yeast infection. It sent Matt home early, and she imagined him writing a poem about his pain, the unsatisfied bulge in his heart, of all places. A myth of yeast, that it makes the things of the world rise. If not the infections, then her period drives them away, or the gurgles of her irritable bowel, the coughs and sputtering of her reflux. A constant battle she wages, pitted against herself, a test for would-be suitors.

A nurse walks over, throws a blanket on his lap. "There's children," she says.

But now, who knows. Maybe it could work to her advantage. She sits beside him, places the blanket across her own lap. "Whatta say we play show and tell," she says. "I'll even go first."

She lifts up her skirt, pulls aside her underwear. It's dark. To her, it looks like the plant from Little Shop of Horrors, something magically alive, throbbing. All lips, looking for something to suck in, swallow, never let go of. A big, big love. Pink like a heart.

It even beats like a heart, overflowing with blood. She stares at it with him, three, four minutes.

"Now you," she says.

She looks over at him. My God. Gone. Deflated. He stands up, tosses the blanket on her.

"So, we're cool," he says. "I bought the pills online. No insurance. You saved me, babe." He pats her head and away he thuds.

She looks up at the TV. Bull has a girlfriend.

"Really," Dan says, "animal, mineral, or vegetable?"

She looks back under the blanket. The foamy yeast spills around the lips. A froth. A potion. Of course no one wants to touch it, taste it.

A hand touches her shoulder. "You're up," she says.

She pulls her skirt down, stands up, and walks out of the electric doors. No one will touch her tonight. It's hers.

Nut-Head Productions