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Life Arts    H4'ed 6/8/22

FLASH FICTION: Ocker's Razor and Bluebeard's Smile

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Ocker's Razor and Bluebeard's Smile

by John Kendall Hawkins

"Keep it simple stupid (KISS)"

- Kelly Johnson, Lockheed Skunk Works

This is part of a continuing series of Down Under flash fiction pieces begun with Down Under Flash Flood: 5 Easy Pieces of Fiction.


The first one she did was her husband who'd called her a sheila one too many times for her liking. He was an ocker with a straight razor, blue eyes that would glint in such a way that steel does in the forge under the pressure of fire. He could f*ck all day. He liked her hair in various shades. She'd started out a bottle blonde, then platinum, dressing like icons from the 50s, and he loved it when she did Marilyn Monroe holding back the wind from blowing up her dress, as if the wind were in on the secret desire to see the tragic sexpot's underwear -- or lack thereof. Then she was auburn, styling, sauntering, like Eva Braun, comfort girl in the bunker -- it was her or the luger, Paintbrush Stache thought, and pulled her trigger, sieg heil. Then she was dark haired, raven, ravenous in the sack, until he went almost mad and declared, "Never more. Never dress in black again." And then she found her niche -- henna hair! Monte Crisco, he loved that phony red headed look, with a tied-dye t-shirt, and matching henna tats! She was exotic, dangerous, and as mesmerizing as Boudica; he played CÃ Chulainn; in the sack there was much caterwauling and ululating, some say like Enya before her synthesizer fired up in the studio, enervated by too much satisfaction. They were a local legendary loving couple not afraid of generosity or wearing period costumes. Marijuana featured in their otherwise vegan diet. And they were mighty happy, playing evolution for the hell of it. And they were always up for the Eros award in the minds of their overly discerning neighbors, some of whom snooped. One morbidly obese onanist flew a drone to snap pix of their sexual licks that he kept to himself.

But all things must pass, as George Harrison sang on his star-filled benefit multi-LP Concert for Bangladesh. And one day, her man abused her in such a way that she had a crisis each time she looked at his face. He'd called her "sheila" and it broke her heart, for she was anything but. She was a oner, a feminist you could build a glad world around. Christ, she could cook and sew and make flowers grow (h/t Dylan) with the best of them, but it was her wild and imaginative engagement with the phenomenological world that had her standing out in from the ordinary, which is what "sheila" implied. She tackled him to the ground, and, knee in his the neck, invited him to recant. Instead, he farted, a blast of vulgar gas that she took the wrong way. Pulling out his straight razor from the side pocket where he kept it, she opened and held it up. He said, "We used to have such a simple way of seeing things together. Why this complication, my dear? And by the way you look fetching as Marie Antoinette?" She glared at him. "I'm Sleeping Beauty. My, how your discernment has changed, Paul." And with that she cut off his face, and held it up in the light, like a mask; his persona would never again offend her dignity and sense of self-worth. He howled and the blood shot out and she looked at the drone, which suddenly stopped in mid-air, turned and made a beeline for the treeline. Neighbors thought from the sound they heard that the perfect couple had found a new plateau, the Lost Chord of Love, Shangri-Lalalala. Then it was reported that the "fat f*ck" had disappeared, along with her husband, and the police bought her wild story, because her breasts heaved and made promises from some oceanic depth that mesmerized them. MILFers all of them.

In her study, where she wrote undinal poetry, and delightful etiquette tips for the local news rag, she unfurled his face, now dry, took some glue, and pasted his face to the wall, where she could moon on it and recall better days together. Things might have ended sedately; no one even bothered looking for the bodies. But she wasn't finished shape-shifting to the other side, to the world of shadows and ashen-faced creatures who looked like escapees from the caskets of smoke-filled funeral parlors. She re-henna-ed her hair until it screamed woman warrior. She had herself regaled in henna tat-oos. Then she added what would become her signature meme: she dyed her pubic hair a brazen azure and went by the name Bluebeard online at dating sites meant to bring self-assured monsters into her orbit. She dressed now in black leather mini skirts. She adopted a modified Sharon Stone gif that featured crossing legs and glimpses of her blue snatch, with lower labia lipsticked carmine, that drove her next victim, a fierce and musclebound biker named Scott, insane. He knew the type, he thought. And she was especially impressed by the shock and awe of his expression looking out at her from the wall next to her CÃ Chulainn. She wanted more in life, and now more in death.

She recalled something he'd said about the razor's origin, about his stock, his genes, his distant forbear (no plural) escaped from England on a transport ship, prime suspect in the Whitechapel murders of 1888, disguised as a woman with a black parasol so convincing a copper whistled after her (him). One thing led to another, as it often does, and fate would have it that he'd meet a fetching "sheila" in Albany, Western Australia. She'd stepped in mud outside the courthouse, the judge telling her to "keep it clean." And he was just finishing up with a bloke who'd reneged on a promise and got disfigured for his troubles and left in the alley to die wondering who his killer was and why such a fate. They'd never met before. Apparently, such things were a regularity in the West, the wild wild West. She thanked him; they lunched; and were wed by the end of the week. She was preggers by the end of the day. The wild wild West.

Breaking from her reverie, she decided to add more faces to her collection. She decided to give up the pursuit of men online and take it to the limit one more time in the red light district of Perth. In bars, she sat in such a way that Bluebeard did the talking for her. At first, she sought aggressors, types that broke dreams in half with screams. Red heads, pony-tailed grifter types with mustaches that gave away their game. Blondes. A guy who called himself El Aurens after Peter O'Toole's desert romp. Another blonde bloke who went by the name Dave Clark 5, who she felt a desire to do under the table, right there, right now. Faces, faces, night after night, until the real bad hombres disappeared. Then she started on the hypocrites looking to score a whore away from their unsuspecting sheilas at home. Then she went after light weight losers who preferred to drink alone and thought somehow it was alluring. She wanted to do putrid little smirking punks. She had her eyes on a guy who looked like Bradley Manning just before the heartbreak of psoriasis showed up. She even wanted to do the barkeep, but whenever she went to gaze at him she saw her own reflection in the mirror and freaked out.

At home, in her special room, where she wrote poetry and dished up etiquette advice, the walls were now completely covered in faces she'd taken. Dozens of them. Bas relief wallpaper! Even the ceiling. She was considering the floor. It was as if she wanted to live inside a wart. The blokes were never reported missing to the police, and the newspaper didn't care, despite juicy rumors that passed their way, and which the police, when called for confirmation, merely croaked, "Nuh. We haven't heard about any Jack the Ripper or Bluebeard or Batman and Robin for that matter." It suddenly stopped, when she ran out of "interesting" people to deface. The community seemed brighter now, like a darkness had lifted, and folks were seen walking along with a lighter, more buoyant step, smiles met smiles, and conclusions were drawn that Oz was indeed the Lucky Country. And nobody ever called her "sheila" again.

One day she went down to the basement and discovered a secret room. She knocked the padlock off with a sledge hammer. What had her Galihad been up to down under the floorboards in his secret men's business indoor shed? And she gasped in horror to discover a cube filled with faces pasted to the wall and ceiling. Women. Faces in a variety of 'taken by surprise' expressions. Many comely. Some seemed sad. Heaps of them though were in bloodcurdling scream mode. (Think Edvard Munch.) She got angry, very angry, and finally exclaimed until it echoed, "The bastard cheated on me!"

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John Kendall Hawkins is an American ex-pat freelance journalist and poet currently residing in Oceania.

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