Inspired by the Arthurian Legend of the Fisher King, Celebrity, and Infertility.
I. The Fisher King
Damaged, the king presides over his countryside, fire-torn hills, puzzle pieces of terrain. Miles of uninterrupted cracked turf. Looking out, the eyes loosen and spread their jelly limbs. Through a blurry film, the ground becomes an ashen background, tinged and frayed like the ends of burnt pages.
Early morning, he sips his coffee. Two sugars, a splash of half and half. It’s too early to not give into desire. It’s too early to resolve to say no to cheese Danish or buttered croissant. He alternates taking a few bites from each, the sweetness rises up to his temples and throbs there. A steady thudding. His eyes narrow over the wasteland in front of him, zooms in and focuses on one parched streak of dirt.
There’s no secret kept in this king’s court – even though no one around him will say what they mean. He has no publicist to filter out the bad headlines, to call and request a photo removed, an article gone viral, unsalvageable. The king’s land is barren. The quenched throat of the ground belches in the hopes that one day it will vomit.
II. The High Profiler’s Wife
The baby was born. Her mother appeared in the tabloids with lines on the sides of her abs and two diagonal dents that ran down her torso and met in the gap her legs made. Everyone gossiped and looked so closely that they couldn’t see anything but triangles. Triangles in her stomach, triangles in her shoulders, awash with Helvetica praise. She finds pictures of herself in the supermarket.
She looks down at her wow-factor glowing. A river dammed; a muddled layer of water so thick it holds like gel.
Nothing ever leaks from this triangle’s ends. No water wears out its paper corners. More porous women, more permeable women have wombs made out of the bottoms of sugar cones, softened and opened. Ice cream leaks like a dripping faucet. Husbands lap it up into their greedy mouths.
At nighttime, the king retreats into the dining hall. They open a wrapper of two saltines, less than 4 percent high fructose corn syrup. One saltine goes in the trash, the other on an emerald chalice. They send the youngest girl with the straightest hair to carry the cracker to his plate. He eats it. When he wakes up in the morning, the land is still dry. His eyes melt behind the glasses. Sticks break over the ground.
They said the three letters like she’d recognize their cadence, the I-love-you syllables, I.V.F. you. The creek was too narrow to swim in. They dived and died into the place where the triangle closed and suffocated in the tightness they found there. Nothing ever leaks out of her triangle’s end but that night she oozed clots of bright red flesh. Nothing harder than cookie dough.
What magic heals the Fisher King? The question reveals the answer. With a disregard for dignity, they locate the site of the wound. They bandage the groin, not the legs. Summer, the high tide, returns to a kingdom.
The tabloid producers were ignorant to the celebrity wife's illness. Toiling silently, the exasperated couple tried everything. Back in the Fisher King’s days, did water bottles leak estrogen, did teenage girls drink factory-produced milk?
The baby was born to a surrogate mother. Her agents advised that they keep it hush-hush so that when the bikini photos emerged two weeks after the baby photos, the kingdom went wow with their mouths. They write people like you down in history, they said. Let the fairytale live.