Listen to authors

The mothers called him their best chaperone. The daughters returned with their maidenheads.

What nobody knew: he shepherded them away from the clutches of their dates. To tickle what zones lay between the erogenous ones. These antics made the muscles burgeon in his fingers, improving the strength of his handshakes. The firmness of his hands on steering wheels. The steadiness of his smile at opened doors. Their ladyribs still aching from the ill-begotten laughter.

The fathers beat his ass, kicked it too when they found out. They whooped and hollered and spat on his name. Chased him with torches back to the swamp he came from. Should’ve known all along by his algae-green eyes. Those marshy perfumes were a dead giveaway. The pervert, the pervert, with a centipede’s heart!

Soon the daughters were stuffing their brassieres with lilypads. War cries trilled through the cracks in their doorways. They came from cheerleading practice with a squeak of mud in their shoes.

The muscles that suckle their hips will bear our children, dozens of children! growled the bachelors, flexing their armpits at the locker room mirror. Then they cut their jaws shaving and found that it stung. And that their pigskins had been deflated in the schoolyard, so they tackled each other until sundown.

Next the daughters were asking for flute lessons and communicating with each other by clicks of the tongue and taps on windowsills. The mothers spent nights washing grass stains out of knickers, wondering to themselves when flutes began to sound like birds of prey. A hawk that pierces a mouse as it skitters. Or a raven sighting the plumpness of a grasshopper in the bead of its eye. Whenever the daughters saw an anthill, they set the mouthpiece of their flute upon the sandy lip of the lair and sucked up the creatures one by one, as they used to do with tapioca pearls in their bubble tea. It did not escape the notice of the mothers that the necklaces in their jewel boxes were missing pearls like a retired harlot misses teeth. They sneezed, and told themselves gahblessyou!

The fathers hadn’t lit a bonfire since this business started. They tried tuning their banjos but the strings all snapped. They still spat on the ground whenever enough saliva gathered along their gums, and told themselves ‘attaboy!

Yesterday the ornaments on the Christmas trees began glowering. Today they were splintering and hissing like swans. As soon as the mothers reached for their brooms, the daughters jumped on the glass, which vanished into the bareness of their feet. So it was time for a town hall meeting. Cashiers came to complain that pennies were sticking to cash registers. Drunkards came to complain that thimblefuls of whiskey were sticking to the insides of bottles. Their AA sponsors confirmed that this was also happening to cans of ginger ale. Nor could lawyers pull their fountain pens out of inkwells, and scores of letter openers were glued to envelopes. Even the dogs lined up outside the vestibule, stumbling and barking because they couldn’t extricate themselves from their bitches.

The mothers came, but didn’t wish to worry about their daughters in public. The fathers didn’t come because they were teaching their sons how to belch.

The mayor tapped the microphone and confessed that during the election there had been some trouble removing ballots from boxes. But he said he knew the answer. Burn the swamp. Damn the crocodiles. The pervert must be smoked out of his hole. Deputize the fathers. Blaze the torches. Evil must be stopped and the boundaries of freedom defended.

When the Deputies For Decency reached the edge of the swamp, they shook their torches in the air and growled. A few of them burped and others broke wind. Then the chaperone appeared before them. He wore a tuxedo of muck with rhinestones on his fedora. He blew notes with his flute, which shot a string of pearls, striking the jugulars and gonads of his persecutors. The fathers roared like they had at the moment of conception, but didn’t retreat. So the chaperone fingered more fluteholes and sprayed them with arpeggios of fire ants that chewed plagues through their mustaches. But the fathers knew they could grow mustaches again in the future, so they took heart and heaved torches at the beaver dam where the chaperone dwelled.

As he watched the logs catch flame, logs which he had himself gnawed into the shape of an igloo, the chaperone shoved his flute into the dampness of earth. Waters rose and sprinkled out the torches of the fathers, who yelped in the darkness and zig-zagged back into town, bumping into trees all the way.

The daughters were ushered to jail for their safety. The bachelors went back to tackling each other. The fathers rekindled flames in their backyards. The mothers kept washing out grass stains. The daughters declared a hunger strike until they were promised a lunch of algae sandwiches on Fridays.