“Acquiring Joshua” by DeMisty Bellinger
She had started spreading over to Joshua’s side of the bedroom. A little at first: a pair of earrings one day, a compact mirror and a couple of business cards she collected the next day. Once, he’d come home to find her horizontally on the bed, one arm on his pillow. Her panties and pantyhose were on his side of the floor. Her blazer draped over his chair. Monday morning, he found that his men’s size eleven feet fit comfortably inside of her women’s size seven shoes, which he found beneath his side of the bed where his topsiders should have been. With no other shoes nearby, he wore them to work. He marveled at the height they gave him, how the heel points made him walk straight—his back a perfectly erect ‘T’ and his feet following one in front of the other with each step. People noticed him that day. Stood when he entered the room. They answered his questions and fulfilled his requests immediately.
Thursday, at 11:22, he was in the bathroom reapplying a coat of raisin red lipstick. Peterson was in the bathroom, too, and watched him don it. “Looking good, Joshua.”
“You know, Rogers is retiring. You should go up for his position. Time you made vice president of something, right? Only one way to go, Joshua. Don’t think about the other way.”
That night over dinner, he noticed his wife’s five o’clock shadow. She ate a burger and a half with two servings of mashed potatoes and a huge salad. Joshua had the salad and the burger patty, no bun.
His wife dropped him off at work. She wore a tie that could be considered spiffy. He recognized the tie. “I bought this for you,” she said. He smiled and fingered the buttons on her shirt. “Going up for this promotion,” Joshua said, “makes me hot.”
He wore an Anne Taylor suit with a cute satin extension at the hem. Gold earrings with tear-shaped pearls dangled from both lobes. He tried not to, but he kept playing with the charm around his neck during the interview, but the board loved all his answers. “It would be nice,” he heard Peterson say, “if we could get some diversity in the upper ranks, right gentleman?”
That night, Joshua and his wife made love. When they finished, they could not separate. “It’s our love,” Joshua said. “I love you so much.” The epiphany made him weep. He felt his wife’s vagina envelop him more and instead of going flaccid, he grew into her.
“It’ll be hard to go to work,” he said.
“We’ll go to work,” she said. “You worry so much over everything.”
Sunday, at church, Joshua felt a kid’s eyes on them. A kid of five or maybe six years old. He couldn’t help but to feel judged by this child, a dark haired boy with dark eyes, lashes long as falsies. Joshhua scratched above his left ear, but found his wife’s cheek there instead, which was slightly fuzzy even though she had shaved. He realized he hadn’t shaved his own face in a week, but he had shaved his legs and armpits. The hair in these places, though, thinned considerably.
He saw the child’s mother admonish the child for staring. He read the word “abomination” on her lips. He thought that they should go, that he didn’t feel comfortable in the church. He wanted to tell his wife that they should leave, but she already knew. They rose together. They talked as they walked out, not saying a word aloud, but saying, to each other, how alone they felt from that world inside the church and that condemning word.
“There is always work,” he said aloud once they were outside. “They like me at work.”
His wife tried reaching into her pocket for the car keys, but instead grabbed their penis, which is where her right pocket would have been.
“Here,” he said. He put his free hand around her shoulder and pulled her closer to him. She pushed into him. The sensation was similar to unpleasant but obligatory sex.
“How do you think we look?” his wife asked. “Like how our child would look,” he said. “We can never kiss again,” someone said. “We are kissing all the time,” someone said.
DeMisty D. Bellinger teaches creative writing at Fitchburg State University in Massachusetts. She has an MFA from Southampton College and a Ph.D. from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Her fiction and poetry has appeared in many places, including Kalyani Magazine and Driftless Review. Her short-short “Tiger Free Days,” published in WhiskeyPaper, is on the Wigleaf’s Top 50 Short Fictions of 2014.