Bowlesian! – ItsiesPosted: August 3, 2022
by Jeff Bowles
*This story and others like it can be found in my collection Brave New Multiverse, available on Amazon now.
I introduced Pamela to my itsy on our first date. Oh I know, most people wait until their second or third, but I really liked Pamela. Straight away I could tell we were going to hit it off.
“I’m glad we decided to do this,” I told her.
She narrowed her eyes, “Why is your itsy dressed like a teddy bear?”
My itsy was dressed like a teddy bear. Head to toe, fluffy ears, fluffy tail, round little tummy. It was his favorite outfit. I wasn’t going to tell him he couldn’t wear it.
Itsies aren’t really people. They look and act like people, and they definitely do have minds of their own, but they’re more like little mini extensions of ourselves, you know what I mean? Like my itsy, I call him Tug. He looks exactly like me. That’s pretty common. Itsies live on the tops of people’s heads and sleep in their hair. They spend most of the day under their hats.
My hat was off just then, sitting there on our table. I supposed Pamela wasn’t quite ready to take her own hat off.
I smiled at her, beamed at her, actually. I said to Tug, “Don’t be rude, Tug. Say hello to Pamela.”
Tug said, “Fuck yourself!”
I sighed. “Now Tug, you know I don’t like that language.”
“Fuck it! You introduce me!” His voice was high, squeaky, a shrill, keening falsetto. “You promised me cookies! Give me my cookies or I’ll eat Pamela alive!”
I sighed again, reached into my pocket to retrieve a miniature box of animal crackers. I set the crackers atop my head. Tug started noshing and gobbling. I felt a sense of calm wash over me as he did.
“Are you sure you want to keep him out like that?” said Pamela.
I glanced around the restaurant. My favorite Vietnamese place. Really good phở and bánh mì sandwiches. Rich, mouthwatering smell of seared beef and pork. Portraits on the walls of Ha Noi and Ho Chi Minh City. The only other customers, an old white man and an old white woman, struggled with chop sticks and rice noodles in a corner booth.
“Do you think anybody minds?” I said.
Pamela shrugged. “I don’t. Only, you know, if he eats too much his stomach is liable to explode. That sort of thing can happen, you know. He might get the wrong idea, surrounded by all this food.”
“More cookies!” said Tug.
I gave him another box of animal crackers.
“So um, Tom,” said Pamela, “how do you like working for my father?”
I met Pamela at her father’s office. High-powered advertising, ads for humans and itsies alike. I was low man on the totem pole. I’d stared at Pamela’s picture on his desk for months before I actually saw her in person. Those deep brown eyes, those full, pouty lips.
I sat there studying her face and caught myself imagining waterfalls, thunderstorms, exploding geysers. Things wet. Things loud and gushing.
“Tom wants to fuck you,” said Tug.
“It’s true, Tom. You’re not fooling anyone. Hey lady, how many cookies you think I can fit in my mouth?”
“I … I don’t know,” said Pamela.
“A fistful. That’s how many. Watch.”
Then Tug made more noshing, gobbling sounds. I felt another wave of calm wash over me, even though I knew my face must’ve been five shades redder.
“Pamela, listen …”
“It’s okay, Tom,” she said. “If human beings were any good at saying what they really want, God never would have given us itsies to begin with.”
“I guess so.”
“And I’m flattered.”
Pamela sighed. “Well you know, my father being who he is. Most guys just pine for me and never bother to ask me out. Oh, I hope I didn’t sound full of myself just then. They pine. They just do, you know?”
“I do know,” I said.
She shook her head. “So either I don’t get dates at all, or I get to date the really crazy ones who think their tiny little men are God’s gift.”
“I don’t think my tiny little man is God’s gift. I’m nothing special. He isn’t anything special, either. My tiny little man’s only a few inches tall. He’s so tiny–“
“We are still talking about your itsy, right?” said Pamela.
“The point, Pam, is that even though I’ve got a few shortcomings, whatever the cost, whatever it takes, I made the decision to always be brave and to be the kind of man I am meant to be.”
“Hmm. I like that. When did you make that decision?”
“I decided it the moment I laid eyes on you.”
Pamela smiled. “That’s sweet.”
* * * * *
I didn’t know it at the time, but Pamela was a very unhappy woman. She hadn’t always been. She was sunny when she was younger, the most positive person in the room. Just lately, as the years had begun to mount up, and forty was suddenly closer than thirty, failed relationship after failed relationship had left her feeling damaged, marooned, poisonous and poisoned
She’d gotten into feeding her itsy late night snacks. Our little men and our little women don’t come with instruction manuals. God gave them to us. Or evolution or whatever. We come screaming from the womb. Our itsies come screaming after. If God did it, it was because he understood men and women are masters of self-deception. If it was evolution, then nature randomly selected humans to have a miniature rude version of themselves camped out on the tops of their heads.
Anyway, bad things happen when you feed itsies late night snacks. Pamela knew this. Even so, cold fried chicken, piece for her, piece for her itsy. Double pepperoni, double cheese pizza. Everything double. She was ordering for two, after all.
Thing about feeding an itsy is, it makes you feel better. Makes you calmer, tames the beast. They are the id. The inner child which dwells deep inside, that which is never at peace, always lusting, always wanting more and more and more.
* * * * *
We ate our meals. We talked and joked. At some point Tug said, “It’s half past a baboon’s bright red ass.” And we both knew it was time to go home.
On the sidewalk, we hugged.
“I had a nice time,” I said.
“Yeah, me too,” Pamela replied.
“You mean it?”
She laughed. “I do mean it.”
“Walk you to your car?”
Brown and yellow leaves crunched beneath our feet as we huddled together and crossed to the sidewalk. A harvest moon shone high above the tops of buildings. It was autumn in the city. A cold breeze blew and Pamela scrunched herself down into her Barbour jacket.
“I’m glad you asked me out, Tom,” she said.
“Yeah, me too. Would you like to do it again?”
“I know this great Greek place over on–Oh my god, that woman is crushing that car!”
“Over there! The parking lot! That woman is–“
“–crushing that car and she’s–“
“That’s no woman, Tom,” said Pamela
“It isn’t?!” I exclaimed.
Tug rustled around under my ball cap. “Let me see!”
“Petunia!” Pamela shrieked. “I told you to stay at home!”
Petunia? Dear Lord. She was eight feet tall and had more muscles than human beings are supposed to have. Only she wasn’t a human being. Thigh muscles, neck muscles, rippling biceps, triceps, sheening and glossy, bare breasts of muscle, even her head seemed like it was one big, veiny, throbbing muscle.
“Oh Tom, what you must think of me.” Pamela said.
“She’s crushing that car.”
“That’s my car.”
“And she is way too big for that pair of underwear.”
“That’s my underwear, too. Oh Tom, I am so embarrassed.”
Petunia looked like Pamela coated in liquid Schwarzenegger. She was lying on her side on top of the car, eating a chicken. Not a piece of chicken. Not a cooked chicken, either. Petunia was stuffing a whole live chicken into her face. It clucked and screamed and fought like a little chicken champ.
Petunia bellowed, “Down the hatch!” And then, the chicken disappeared.
Pamela ran to her.
“Bad girl, Petunia!” she said. “That’s a bad, bad girl!”
Petunia belched and grew a whole foot taller. Pamela’s car crunched and all four tires popped.
Pop! Pop, pop, pop!
Big Petunia made a queasy face. “Was that me? I think that was me.”
“No it wasn’t you!” said Pamela. “If it was you, the shockwave would’ve killed us all!”
My mouth hung open. My eyes were wide like Vietnamese noodle bowls.
I heard Tug say, “Damnit, man, let me see her!”
The ball cap popped off my head. Tug gasped.
“That’s a whole lotta woman!” His tiny hands and feet dug into my scalp.
I stooped, grabbed my hat, and made my way to Pamela and nudged her with an arm.
“I don’t get it,” I said. “Why are you wearing your hat if you left your itsy at home?”
Pamela shook her head. Her eyes glistened in the harsh orange neon light. “Oh Tom, I am just so ashamed. I fed her and fed her, and she just ate and ate, and she hasn’t stopped eating, not in weeks. I just wanted to feel good for a damn change.”
“Weeks?” I said. “You’ve been feeding her for weeks?”
Pamela wiped her eyes. “I know you think I’m this awesome person. I know everybody thinks that. I’m just not.”
“Pamela …” I said. I wrapped her in a hug.
Petunia rose onto her knees, car metal creaking and glass shattering to sparkling pellets. She grimaced at me, pointed one long veiny finger. “Hey you! Lover boy! Hands off the merchandise!”
“Me?” I said.
“Did I fucking stutter? You! You wormy little bedsheet stain! You and your miniscule, worthless, man-doll of an itsy!”
Tug shrieked. “She means me! She knows I exist! How do I look? Is my teddy bear costume on straight?”
“Petunia, stop,” said Pamela. “I’m sorry, Tom. She’s a bit roided-out at the moment.”
“Roided-out!” said Petunia. “You ain’t seen me roided-out. Not yet, sister.”
She hopped to her feet and stepped off Pamela’s car. Thud. She dwarfed us. My eyes were level with her enormous, erect, inch-long nipples. Big Petunia took her head in her hands. She cracked her neck left, cracked it right. She slammed her fist into her palm. Again. Again. It made a loud, solid thocking sound. Thock. Thock. Thock.
I stared at that fist. I was dumbstruck. Couldn’t think of a word to say. Pamela pulled away from me. Her eyes darted from me to Petunia. Nobody said a thing. Just that heavy thock, thock, thock.
“Gah!” said Tug. “I can’t take it anymore! Do it! I need to see you in action!”
“Tug,” I said, “you’re not helping.”
“Not trying to help, you human gutter ball! God, I need to see you in action. Oh, it’s killing me!”
“Killing you?” said Petunia. “Little man, down the hatch you go.”
She plucked Tug off my head, clutched his body between a massive finger and a mighty thumb.
“No, don’t!” screamed Pamela.
But it was too late. Petunia ate Tug. Swallowed him whole. Gulp and then, he was gone.
“Now it’s your turn, lover boy!” she said.
She took hold of my arm and lifted me up by it until we were mouth to mouth and eyelash to eyelash.
I’m not going to lie. Fear took hold and I thought I might cry or scream or piss my pants. But instead, I took a moment and told myself a few choice words. You decided to always be brave. The moment you laid eyes on Pamela, you decided to be the man you were meant to be.
I hocked a wad of phlegm and spat in Petunia’s eye. She wiped it away, glared at me, then grinned.
“Mistake number two, lover boy,” she said.
Pamela beat against her, slamming impotent fists at her itsy’s taut, flexing abdominal muscles. She kept screaming, “You monster! You monster!” But Petunia paid her no attention. Her eyes cooked me like sliced beef in scalding-hot Vietnamese broth. Breath stinking like rotten chicken corpses and little itsy men.
“You listen here,” she said. “No man is good enough for my Pam. No man, not nowhere, not no-how. You don’t think I know what you are, lover boy? You don’t think I know you’ll hurt her like all the rest?”
Pamela was shrieking now. “Stop! I said stop it!”
“She feeds me so she’ll be happy,” said Petunia, cheeks red and quivering with barely suppressed rage. “She feeds me so pukes like you can’t touch her no more. I am going to eat you now. And you are going to let me do it. I like my meat raw. I like it tenderized.”
“Stop making threats,” I said. “If you’re going to eat me, go on and–“
She wrapped her arm around my waist. She wound me up, and then she threw me clear across the parking lot.
I was airborne. A million thoughts occurred at once.
No more id.
No more inner child.
God, he was a rotten little itsy.
God, he was just awful, wasn’t he?
Yeah, but he was my rotten little–
I crashed through the plate glass window of the ticket booth at the end of the parking lot.
I went through up to my waist. My legs caught on the glass. I felt a knifing kind of pain. Lacerations. The feeling of being cut to pieces. I screamed.
Petunia stomped over to the booth. She stuck her head through the window. “Oh, you big baby! It’s just a scratch.”
But I could see blood, and I could feel that knifing, that gouging, those lacerations.
“Big baby! Big baby!” she said. “You want to cry? I’ll give you something to cry about.”
She reached through and clamped a hand down over my head. Bam! She slammed my head against the concrete floor. Blam! She did it again. Boom! One more time.
I saw stars and moons and clucking chickens taking flight, flying like real birds, all around my head. And I saw my itsy, poor little Tug. I saw chicken beaks biting into him. Saw chicken teeth chomping on his little brains.
I mumbled, “Chicken teeth.”
Petunia leaned further into the booth. “Huh?”
“Do … chickens … have teeth?”
“Don’t think so, champ.” And then Petunia broke my arm.
I howled and spat and spoke in tongues.
Pamela crept up behind Petunia. She jabbed at her with a tire iron.
“You leave my man alone!” she said.
She used the prying crowbar end like a mafia hitman might use an icepick, sliding it into Petunia’s ear. Seemed like Pamela was trying to scramble her itsy’s brains. Then again, it also seemed like the world was falling away from me and growing browner and browner and more and more like nap time yes into the sticky syrup, captain I soiled myself I apologize most sincerely must be dying, please sew my coffin from clean undies.
The brain scrambling thing didn’t work. Petunia wrenched the tire iron from her ear. It was coated in blood, but the big girl was still on her feet.
“Pamela!” she said. “Oh, so we’re calling him your man now?”
Petunia backhanded her. Pamela flew from view.
“I have had it with you, Pam,” Petunia bellowed. “I have absolutely had it! Shit! Fuck it! Let’s eat!”
She tore off my shoe, my sock, and then she stuck my whole foot in her mouth. She bit down. Took a few toes.
It didn’t hurt like I expected. In fact, I felt kind of good. Yes, suddenly, inexplicably, very comfortable and very calm. The face she made was indecipherable. Maybe it was all the glistening muscles. It was the kind of expression a person wears when they’re concentrating really hard. Or maybe the kind of expression a person wears when they drink too much soda and have surgery, bubbly-pain like diving ocean deep and emerging with the bends. She made that face, then she spat the rest of my foot out.
“Oh,” she said, and then again, “Oh.”
Blood dripped from the corner of her mouth.
She said, “Oh.”
And then her stomach exploded. Blood, guts, muscles, chickens, it all burst out like a cheap New Year’s popper loaded with Halloween gore.
And it splattered me like sopping red confetti.
A tiny voice said, “See? You see that? Ate too much. You gotta watch that, sister.”
Petunia slumped against the ticket booth. A little man, my little man, emerged from the carnage-crater that was her stomach.
“Tug?” I said.
Petunia’s dead, twitching eyes stared right at me.
“Yeah, boss?” Tug ate a chunk of something small and pink. He was covered in blood, a few inches taller than when Petunia had swallowed him. His teddy bear suit had ripped and popped its seams.
“Stop eating,” I mumbled.
“Yeesh, boss, you look rough.”
“Stop eating. For God’s sake, stop eating.”
“Huh? Why the hell should I stop? It’s delicious. That girl was well fed, man.”
Every time he took a bite, I felt it, that calmness and warmth. It was nice. Felt better than the pain. Even so, I mumbled, “Tug, you have got to stop eating.”
I was powerless to stop him. Couldn’t move. I was bleeding to death and I knew it.
“Well maybe I don’t want to stop,” said Tug. “Maybe I’m sick to death of taking orders from you. Yeah, you know what? I think we need a regime change. I think I ought to be the one calling the–“
Pamela snatched the chunk of Petunia from his hands and smacked him upside the head.
“Don’t be stupid,” she said.
“Hey, I was eating that!”
She smacked him again.
“And don’t talk back. I’ve had enough of disobedient itsies to last a lifetime.”
Tug shouted, “Who the hell do you think you–“
She smacked him.
“Goddamnit, quit smacking me!”
She raised her hand for another.
“All right! All right!” he said. “Nasty woman! Nasty!”
“Go get in my car. The crushed one. Bring me my cell phone. We need to call an ambulance. Treat you like I should’ve treated her.”
Tug grumbled and swore, but he obeyed nonetheless. Once he was gone, Pamela carefully picked her way over the broken glass, past the ruined, bloody form of her former itsy, and through the window until she was crouching beside me.
“Oh Tom,” she said. “I am so sorry.”
“S’okay,” I said.
“No, it’s not okay. I created a monster. Oh what a mess. Tom, I am so, so sorry.”
“Yer’kay?” I said.
“What? I didn’t hear you.”
“Asked r’you okay?”
Pamela sighed. “I know. I feel kind of empty now. No, that’s not right. I feel full. Way, way too full. Like I’ve got all this emotion now and I don’t know where to put it, how to choke it down. You know what I mean?”
“No,” I said.
“Tom? Stay with me, now. Keep your eyes open. Tom, you’ve earned your second date.”
Eyelids were heavy. I tried to smile at her, but it was so hard, so hard.
“That’s right, Tom. Second date. Just survive for me, okay?”
I survived. Of course I did. How else would I be telling you this story? I underwent months of hospitalization and rehab and all that stuff. Learning to cope with fewer toes and all. All that horrible hospital food really made me slim down. Tug slimmed down, too. He got regular-sized again. We had a nice long talk about why it’s okay to eat animal crackers but not okay to, for instance, eat whole live chickens or people’s internal organs.
I had my second date with Pamela. And my third and fourth. She’s not the same since her itsy died. She’s tense, a bundle of nerves. She goes to this support group now for people whose itsies have died prematurely. Sometimes it seems like it helps. Sometimes not. There’s a whole population of people in this world who no longer have the means to quell and suppress the pain in their lives. You know what she said while we were snuggling on the couch the other night?
“I feel so horrible all the time now. How do I cope without her?”
“How any of us copes,” I said. “You’ve got me now. I’ll be your itsy if you need me to be.”
She smiled at me. “My Dad was right about you. He said that Tom guy, he’s a good one, Pam. You should hang on to that guy.”
“Smart man. Brilliant, actually.”
We leaned in for a deep kiss.
Tug hopped off my head and started kicking at Pamela’s scalp.
“No kissing! Last time you kissed him, you didn’t put out! I will eat you. Do you hear me? I will eat you alive!”
Pamela flicked him across the room. I didn’t do anything about it. Kissing Pam was so much better than feeding the id.
Jeff Bowles is a science fiction and horror writer from the mountains of Colorado. The best of his outrageous and imaginative work can be found in God’s Body: Book One – The Fall, Godling and Other Paint Stories, Fear and Loathing in Las Cruces, and Brave New Multiverse. He has published work in magazines and anthologies like PodCastle, Tales from the Canyons of the Damned, the Threepenny Review, and Dark Moon Digest. Jeff earned his Master of Fine Arts degree in creative writing at Western State Colorado University. He currently lives in the high-altitude Pikes Peak region, where he dreams strange dreams and spends far too much time under the stars. Jeff’s new novel, Love/Madness/Demon, is available on Amazon now!
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