Normally Special by xTxBen Loory
Last week I had to have some bloodwork done. NEVERMIND WHY, IT'S NONE OF YOUR BUSINESS. So I looked around the house for a book to take with me and settled on Normally Special. It's small, you see, only 96 pages, and designed to fit in your pocket. It's the first full-length collection from xTx, and the first publication from Tiny Hardcore Press.
I got in the car and drove to the testing facility, signed in and sat down to wait. I opened the book and read the first few stories. I hit "The Art of Folding Towels" and needed Kleenex.
By the time the phlebotomist called me in, about twenty-five minutes later, I was in such an incredibly agitated state, I didn't even want to think about my blood pressure.
The phlebotomist was a nice little lady who spoke in an exotic accent.
Do you have a fear of needles? she said.
No, I said, suddenly growing terrified.
I went through a period many years ago where I became well-acquainted with needles. After a while, the fear wore off. But now it was back with a rush.
The lady smacked my arms—first one, then the other.
This one, she finally said.
She swabbed a spot with alcohol and uncapped the needle.
DON'T LOOK! DON'T LOOK! my brain said.
I looked down at the cover of Normally Special, which I was clutching tightly in my other hand.
On the cover there's a little girl, looking lost. And a man in black pants and a red shirt.
THAT SHIRT LOOKS LIKE BLOOD, my brain said very loudly.
Oops, I heard the lady say.
And then I looked at my arm just in time to see the needle come tearing out of the vein.
Oh, I said, as the blood sprayed into the air, arced across the wall, up to the ceiling.
The lady was screaming and waving her little hands.
Blood! she said, as it came raining down.
PROTECT THE BOOK! said a voice in my head. PROTECT THE BOOK! PROTECT IT!
But then of course it was much too late as the whole room was covered in red.
Well, I said, as my vision cleared, what now? What happens next?
And then I was standing before a table at a reading, and xTx was looking up at me.
Do you want me to sign that? I think she said, looking at the bloody, dripping book.
No, I said. Well, yes, I do. I'm sorry. I don't know what happened.
But xTx didn't say another word, she just reached out for the book. As she took it in her hands, she opened her mouth. She licked the blood away with her tongue.
Oh, I said, you don't have to do that.
Yes, but I want to, she said.
And then, as I watched, letters started to form.
xTx gleamed brightly in the gore.
So, yeah, that's it: 23 semi-psychotic accounts of the horrors inside spilling out into the world. But, then again, not just the horrors; also the love and compassion. And, above all, the near-saintly need to somehow—anyhow—make everything right again.
Normally Special by xTx
Tiny Hardcore Press, 2011
$9.99, 96 pgs
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