I am two years old, possibly three, and my mother has her hands in my throat. We’re at my grandmother’s house. In the living room. The carpet is a smoky gray color. The walls too. No, they’re more yellow. Like nicotined fingers. My grandmother is tending the fire by blowing hot air through a ray gun into the fireplace. My mother has her hands in my throat. She’s standing. I’m on a stool, looking up at her, when I hear the buzz of my grandfather entering the room. He’s half-robot. Not really, but he is, his lower-half strapped into a chair powered by batteries. The carpet, before I forget, is pimpled with cigarette singes. My mother has her hands in my throat. She is retrieving something. And her nails, painted green and stenciled with dolphins and stars, scrape my vocal chords. I’m hoping she finds what she’s looking for. Then something changes. Things get muddled. I’m sorry, but I can’t explain it. I’m on the stool looking up at her when suddenly she’s on the floor, looking up at me. Her hands remain in my throat, and, perhaps out of fairness, she opens her mouth, so I can see something like what she sees—the pink, toothy cave of the mouth. At the back of her mouth, where the tongue hinges onto the glottis, are shiny metal gears spinning with lazy, impertinent effort. My grandfather, the robot, presses his joystick all the way to the left and spins in circles and circles, forming a dry shallow moat in the smoke-colored carpet. My grandmother rayguns the fire. Her cigarette smoke tinges the walls. And my mother pulls her hands from my throat, clutching nothing.
Alex McElroy's writing appears in The Millions, Black Warrior Review, Iowa Review, Music & Literature, Gulf Coast, Diagram, Tin House, Passages North, McSweeney's Internet Tendency, and more work can be found at alexmcelroy.org. He is currently the International Editor for Hayden's Ferry Review.