BY DR. AGONSON
She looked cute in her hiking outfit. He called it an outfit—hadn’t heard anyone else say it—her latest outfit. This was a cute one; he liked it. Short pants tight around the hips, her starved midriff exposed—these outfits often sacrificed practicality for, well you can guess—and increasingly, with every passing year, and every passing costume, she managed to bring further attention to her growing elements of femininity. These he watched with great interest as she, in a panic, ran toward the camp.
“There’s a face in the wall!” she shouted.
She continued talking, and he watched with riveted fascination. Though, to be honest, he’d be hard pressed to recite any of her words. Normally, his wandering eyes—which moved up and down her body in the same way a tomcat would roam about his neighborhood—she’d have giggled over, and to continue in perfect honesty, often her conversations were only ploys for her to fiddle with long strands of hair, lean forward a bit, and stick her hips out to the side. But this time a real touch of fright had pushed the thought of boys out of her head.
“Look at me for once,” she screamed.
Arresting his eyes from their natural course, he met hers for the first time that day. They were wide and brown, like those of a doe staring at an oncoming car. She met his green, lusty spheres and felt her breath leave her. They were eyes like that, eyes that filled her bowls with butterflies, and she loved that they looked at her, were never bored with her.
The shout alerted her sister, her older sister who had not changed her outfit in several years. Even in this midsummer heat, in the sun’s high noon, in this record hot day, she dutifully wore the costume she’d chosen. Black. She didn’t go for the Goth look per se; never one for much makeup, and she was rather lukewarm on Hot Topic—a subtle Goth, if she was one.
Both wore their costumes, and though like the moon the younger’s dress grew and shrank, the sisters’ clothes consistently delivered their message. She, the older sister, came toward the two, and frowned at the boyfriend. If asked, she’d have said he was no good. This, strictly, was untrue on two counts: He had qualities, and though his motives were, let us say shallow—and to be fair, how is one to go into the deep without first wading the shallows?—he had so far been faithful; And if asked why she frowned, it could not be held, truthfully, that she thought little of his virtues.
She thought of them much, in fact, and such thoughts naturally led to thoughts of her own virtues. These, compared to her kid sister, were of a mean quality, and of little note when likewise compared to anyone else of her sex. Plain, even when she’d tried. In for a sheep as a lamb, she had long ago embraced her look.
And glaring at the boyfriend, she asked her sister, “What’s up?”
“I don’t know,” he said, looking at the kid sister, his eyes, momentarily, flitting toward more practical pursuits before reconnecting with hers.
The older sisters rolled her eyes, and asked again, “What’s the matter?”
“I saw a face in the wall.”
Now, the older sister was the only one of these three with the requisite free time to pay attention to an historical plaque, of the kind set up along these tourist destinations, which related the cheap fiction of some native myth surrounding the area. Something about this mountain being, in reality, a sleeping giant, the snoring an explanation of the area’s somewhat frequent earthquakes. There was a bit she rolled her eyes at, a part where this giant would swallow foolish virgins. According to the myth, there was one particularly beautiful virgin swallowed, and her young suitors—nearly a whole generation of braves—perished trying to save her.
She rolled her eyes because she was in college; she knew the myth was but an explanation, a primitive grasp of reality, trying to understand the world. All superseded by science, of course.
It was not long before the three returned to where the girl had seen the face. No doubt, there was a face in the rock, if one were to turn their head and squint. More evidence, thought the older sister, of the influence the natives took. They’d seen this mountain, felt it shake, and then someone found this “face,” and they all believed they were standing upon a sleeping giant.
“You see it?” cried the younger sister. “There,” she pointed, “the two eyes, and there, the nose. You must see it. That cave, look at that mouth.”
“Careful,” said the older sister, “giants eat pretty little girls like you.”
This had an effect on the younger sister, and having at first fled this place when suddenly seeing that face hungrily staring out at her, she now strode forward in a huff, her well-practiced, less-than-subtle walk serving her little as the only boy nearby was distracted by the mountain’s face. And just to prove her sister wrong, she walked right into the giant’s mouth. The earth shook, and the mouth closed around the virgin.
The young sister found herself in a dark hole. The other sister found her world sinking into darkness around her. Screaming her sister’s name, she came running at the mountain’s face, but the mouth had closed. Now, the tears in her eyes were such that she could hardly see, and the wails escaping her drowned out any sound of the boyfriend as he desperately dug at the collapsed cave entrance. And so, as she approached, and he was already there, she tripped over him.
Of the heated moment, let us not remember the precise diction which then spewed from her. It would be just as well to say—the two being rather high strung—that the boy’s reaction was somewhat mitigated, though not excused, by her choice of words. It was upon standing that she found herself again knocked over, and this time by his blow. She sat upon the dried sand, too shaken to cry.
He was not sophisticated, not eloquent in words, but he spoke his mind, “Of the two of us, which one is helping your sister? Go get help.”
It was in his passion that the last phrase, “go get help,” was spoken, or shouted, and that passion overruled perfect elocution. The effect was the production three syllables which were vague enough to relate a meaning the boy did not intend, nor could have intended, as he had never bothered to read the plaque that the older sister had. In that last command, the sister thought he said the name of the virgin whom the mountain had devoured, and the whole myth relived itself in her mind.
She remembered how the braves were all destroyed by the giant, and how the chiefs soon forbade further rescue. But now she cared to recall the rest, how one brave still went to the mountain. He took with him his love’s dress, for the virgin was his love, and filled it impractically. It was said he dressed his dog in it. And leading the dog before the mountain, he talked to it as if it were the virgin. The mountain saw this and was vexed; he knew he’d eaten this girl, and how was it then she should be with her lover?
But the lover was crafty, and in his conversation joked, “How wonderful to fool that mountain there,” he said, “feeding to it a dog in your dress. There’s but one thing giants fear to eat, and that’s a dog. How we have laughed at him!”
At this the giant was enraged to be made a fool of, and quickly revealed himself to the man. “Man,” he said, “I’ve played your game long enough. Here is your dog,” And here he coughed up the virgin, “And I’ll take the lovely virgin.” And he ate the dog.
Now, swallowing the dog, the giant died, becoming the mountain, or so the fable went. And remembering this, the sister did return to the camp. She found her sister’s clothes and arrayed herself in them. She did not fill out those places her sister filled, but instead found that where her sister lacked, namely about the middle, she liberally expanded upon. Thankfully, she knew not where her sister’s mirror was, and thus not seeing, though she had a good guess, what she looked like, she more readily exposed herself to the world’s judgmental eye.
She went running along the trail, her flabby flesh jostling at every step. She covered herself by crossing her arms and hanging her head, and it appeared as if she were trying to fold herself over herself. As she came to the smiling giant’s face, the boy, exhausted at trying to pry open the collapsed cave, turned to see what the sound was. For a moment, a horribly wonderful moment, he himself was fooled, and hopefully called to the approaching sister by her sister’s name.
She did her best to do the walk her sister had perfected, awkwardly sauntering near the mouth. The boy was too confused at this display, though he soon parsed the identity of the imitator, to make any protest. He was sickened to see such a hateful mockery, and an unbecoming twisting of his lip revealed his disgust. The whole scene had come upon him so suddenly, and was so strange, that he soon broke into a bitter laugh:
“I guess the mountain must have swallowed the wrong sister.”
Catching the boy’s eye, she leaned into the rock she guessed to be the mouth and replied, “Yes. We sure fooled that giant into eating the wrong sister.”
Again, this was too much for the boy, too confusing, and he was silent as he tried to puzzle the meaning from these crazed words. Yet, before he had a chance, the ground began to shake. The cave split open, and the frightened sister came running from the entrance into her lover’s arms. They held each other tightly, and for the first time desired the other truly and desperately, wanting more than the bare physical embraces they had known. They tasted then a nakedness of soul together in that moment.
The unloved sister fell into the darkness of the giant’s belly.