Copyright © 2016 by Nancy M Long
This book is a work of fiction. The names, characters, places and incidents are products of the writer’s imagination or have been used fictitiously and are not to be constructed as real. Any resemblance to persons, living or dead, actual events, locales or organizations is entirely coincidental.
No part of this book may be reproduced, scanned, or distributed in any manner whatsoever without written permission from the author except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles and reviews.
We Were Soap
Nancy M. Long
I guess I don’t think about it that much. I hunt. I suppose I would consider myself a bad man, but I don’t think that’s such a bad title. Hi, Chance Talard, predator. I am what I am. I’m like any shark in the ocean, or wolf on land. I hunt. It’s my function. And in that capacity I give back to the community in ways they do not fully appreciate. It’s the classic, they don’t want to know how the steak is made. They just want it in front of them, perfectly spiced, medium rare, a quick controversy over whether to love or to loathe the A1 sauce. I am the butcher. I do what you all don’t want to. Not because I think there’s a great need in the world, but because I like it. I love what I do. It’s in my blood. A taste handed down to me by my father and to him by his father.
My father is Richard ‘Dicky’ Talard. He runs the family business. They farm pigs and sheep out in the Kings Valley countryside. I am separate from the farming branch, for now at least. During summer I help at the farmer’s market booth. We sell handmade soaps, skeins of hand spun sheep’s wool, cuts of pork, and homemade sausages. My mother, Celeste, spins and dyes the wool while my dad makes the sausage.
By now maybe you’ve guessed my contribution. I provide the secret ingredient. Only a little per batch is needed, sprinkled in like salt. A drizzle of the fat is added to the soap recipe, and a portion of powdered bone to give it that nice exfoliating lather, a small portion of the best meat to the sausage, a handful of hair added to the wool roving before it’s spun. It’s considered a large part of our success. It makes everything better.
We have a reputation for creating long lasting repeat customers on the first try. They smell our sausages on one end of the farmers market and can’t stop themselves from being dragged by the pull of it.
My parents stand together at the booth selling and talking with all their regulars. They never sit down. Every weekend is a reunion of people many of whom I’ve known all my life as loyal, voracious customers. My mom goes around the table and hugs a good number of them. I’ve always thought my mother was beautiful. She had long light brown hair. She wore it braided at home and when she was working on the farm, but at the market she let it down and it fell in waves. She propped her glasses on the top of her head like a headband, keeping hair out of her face, only flipping them down to quickly check receipts that she’d written out or large written orders.
Jim the hot dog guy was a regular. He had a hot dog cart that he brought out every summer. He worked the Saturday market too but would come over to make small talk and put in orders. “Hey Chancey! How’s it hanging?” He reached out to shake my hand but would pull me out of my seat and hug me across the table. He had a thick bronx accent and an exuberant style that put him out of place in Corvallis. He was a long standing family friend. A person who could always be relied on for quiet discretion. He always kissed my mom on the cheek. When she was around he was the epitome of gentlemanly behavior. He cleaned up his language, he pulled out her chair. And he always joked about how he was waiting patiently for her to get tired of my dad. They’d all laugh. Though jim always stopped laughing first.
My mom wasn’t born into this. My dad just got lucky. I think it has to be true that there are people out there meant for certain other people. Before my dad took over the business from his father he did my job. Our hunting lure is a compliment or a hand through their hair. It’s how they’d met. She had been on the menu. One night, he’d invited her up the hill to watch the meteor shower. But once up there he began to strangle her. She’d pulled out a knife and stabbed him in the shoulder, chastised him and then drove him to the hospital where they blamed all the injuries on a drifter who ran away. Whenever he told this story he always rubbed his scar through his shirt, smiling like a dopey eyed teenager.
My parents story notwithstanding, picking up women is a great way to become jaded with love. You realize how cheap it is. It’s easily manufactured. And they all crave it like a crack pipe and are willing to sell anything for it. But that’s why this works.
You can smell it. If you don’t know what you’re smelling you think you’re attracted for other reasons, you’ll think it’s their eyes, their body or hair. I’ve got news for you, they’re not as funny as you think they are. Lust aside, they sell a kind of unconditional acceptance in exchange for a caress of the cheek, or a long stare into their eyes. Say they’re beautiful and that caress gets greenlit to go anywhere. That marketable blindness is also what makes my job so simple. It carries over in the meat. It’s that smell that lures you to the person as well as to the sausage. People who use our soap bathe in that subtle feeling of falling in love. That can be more powerful than the will to survive.
It’s a similar feeling to the one had, not the first time I saw her, but maybe the second or third time. She’s called Rory, short for Aurora. She was a catch and release.Though I hadn’t meant her to be. I got as far as bringing her to my apartment. The first time I saw her in the bar I sat next to her as she was getting a drink. I said something cheesy like, “hey I think you’re really pretty.” She smiled, though not as wide as they usually do. But she kept talking to me. I’m definitely not a bad looking guy, which helps.
She fell asleep watching movies on my chest. I inhaled her as she slept. And in the mo rning, I let her leave.
There was something different about this one. The other girls, and I mean a long list of others, would look at me. But Rory was actually seeing me. We recognized each other. I wondered if this was what acceptance felt like when it wasn’t blind.
I didn’t call her after that. I avoided her at the bar. But we were both regulars at the same pool shark dive. I would catch her glancing at me when I tried to dart a look at her. She was ever surrounded by the non stop chatter of her girlfriends. But she didn’t chatter. She didn’t even move in the same way. I believe she was hiding in plain sight.
Fast forward a few weeks. I had gotten a request earlier that day to bring in a catch. So diligent worker that I am I went a hunting. I saw a new girl sitting at the bar, a sparkling tiara on her blond head and a neon deadly cocktail in her hand. It was early but she was already throwing her hands up energetically whooping at everything the bartender said. She was new, she was naive, she would not be remembered.
The trick to sustainability was to stay away from anyone with clear established ties or roots in the community. This was a college town. People came and went regularly. Never take a familiar face. College students were as good as weekend visitors. There were always reasons that they might not be found. They might have run away with a boyfriend, gone on vacation, drowned, suicide in the woods body yet to be discovered. It was a fragile group without a face.
As I was leaving with her I took a glance at Rory’s table. She was sipping her drink through a straw, looking at me. No quick look away, no apologetic smirk. She was looking right at me. Not angry, she’d seen me leave with other girls before, just deliberately staring.
Rory couldn’t have been more different than my new twenty one year old friend, Angie. Her long dark hair was straight and pushed back behind her ears. Her earrings were talons dangling down to match her black leather choker. She was also a college kid, but the window where she would be easily removed was very fast closing. Even if that’s what I wanted it was too risky now.
It had taken less than ten minutes to convince Angie to come with me. I used a systematic approach. I’d sit down, compliment them, touch them, then, “Come on,” I’d say, “take a chance.” I’d hold out my hand and smirk. It worked on my new blond as well as it had worked on the others I’d used it on. It worked because it was cheesy. It worked because it was me. I considered myself reasonably good looking. Certainly bigger than the competition. But what I had that they didn’t was the outright arrogance that comes from knowing that I can take what I need when I want it.
It was about a week after that night that Rory sat next to me at the bar. “Buy me a drink?” She said. The question mark was put there to be polite. We’d never talked about that first night and we didn’t talk about it now. This was a new day and she was overtly toying with me. I remembered her smell. I let it lure me. I asked her to come to my apartment with me. Omitting my regular cheesy lines and going instead with pure straight forwardness. She took my hand and we left.
She was exaggerating her inebriation. She was energized. Her eyes were lit up, but not looking at me the way they had before. She was caressing my arms, tracing the cut of the muscles. She brought my arm up and wrapped my hand around the front of her neck. She pressed the fingers down until I held them there. We stood locked together in the front hallway of my apartment until I said something stupid. I didn’t mean to say it. It just fell out of me.
“You know, I think about you.” It hung in the air. It might not sound like much, but I really meant it, this time. I felt exposed.
“I thought you understood.” She said, quietly taking a breath. Her left hand was tracing down the side of my face to the edge of my jaw.
“She was my sister.” I hadn’t been paying attention. She pulled a knife out of her bag with her free hand. She cocked back and stabbed down. I moved just in time for the blade to miss my chest and go straight through the muscle in my shoulder. She pulled it out to try again and I caught her wrists. Flashes went through my mind of her stare as I’d left the bar the night I’d taken Angie. I was trying to understand. I pinned her to the floor. She wouldn’t let go of the knife.
“You let me leave with her.” I was holding both of her wrists across her chest. Squeezing until she dropped the knife and let out a yelp.
“Not my favorite sister.” She kicked out, hitting me in the groin. I let her go and curled in on myself.
“I didn’t think that was going to be the last time I saw her!” She grabbed the knife from the floor and went for my chest. It happened so fast. I was still recovering from the flash bomb of pain. Instinct took over when I caught her hands and I twisted them around and thrust the knife into her chest. It was over before I realized what I’d done. Her eyes were back to staring at me as she went to the floor. I caught her and helped her down. It didn’t take long before there was nothing behind that stare. I stopped feeling the pain in my groin, and my shoulder, my focus was locked onto her. I slapped her face a couple of times back and forth. I looked around like I’d be able to find a doctor waiting on the bed.
I took a shower, washing our blood off. I put a couple butterfly stitches on my shoulder. I barely registered that it was me in the mirror. I’d missed something that night. I hadn’t been paying close enough attention.
I called my parents and they came and got her. I asked that a stronger soap be made just for me. I didn’t want her sold over laughs at a Saturday market booth. I spent the next couple of months trying not to think about what had happened. I went to the bar but only to watch. Winter was coming and there wasn’t much demand. People seal themselves off when the weather gets colder. As luck goes, it was a good time to feel paralyzed.
Then one morning I got a knock on my door. When I opened it there was my mom with the package of soaps.
“We haven’t seen you in awhile.” She said, but more as a question. “Anyway, Jim says he has some work for you. When you’re ready give him a call.” She gave an extra squeeze in her hug before she left me to alone in my apartment with the box.
As soon as I sliced open the tape seal I could smell her seeping out of the package. She stared up at me through the cardboard.
Normally my mom used the fine powdered bone as an exfoliant when making the soap. For this one I had requested a larger, coarse grind. I could see them in the pale cream colored soap, as little spires of white the size of coarse rock salt.
In the shower, I raked the soap across my chest like sharp fingernails. I wanted to force her scent into my skin. I could practically see her in the shower with me. Her dark eyes staring back at me, framed by her wet dark hair, sticking to the sides of her face.
That day was the first day that I’d ever felt truly intoxicated. That night was the first time I’d ever felt real pain.
Laying in bed I reached up to touch the scar on my shoulder. I could still feel the itch underneath.
We Were Soap, is a short psychological horror/love story. In it we meet Chance Tallard who knows what he is. He's a kind of monster, but he loves what he does and accepts who he is. After all, this was who he was born and raised to be. It's after a series of sudden decisions that who he is forever changes who he will be. "Absolutely f***ing brilliant!" -momostewart, nosleep-subreddit