Zuzu


 

“Behold, anonymous omelet goddess,” Dmitri smirks and brushes the hair off her neck, giving her a friendly post-coital kiss. Goddamit, she thinks, shouldn’t he remember my name? He hands her a plate of sliced orange. Civilized gesture, she thinks.

Respectable women do not do this tightrope dance, do they, this retrograde zipless fuck – do they? Does anyone still do this? Dmitri puts a slice of orange in her mouth and slides his juicy hand netherward. She jumps up and writes her name on the white board magnetically attached to her fridge.

Zuzu DeGraib, she writes in red dry-erase marker. That is my name. She cuts the omelet in half and takes hers outside, shutting and locking the door behind her. She smokes a cigarette, without any coffee, picks at her toenails, listens to the whining buzzsaw of her neighbor’s conservative talk radio, and eventually goes back inside. Dmitri is gone. There is a smell in the room, of unfamiliar sex, eucalyptus oil, a lingering scent of orange. There are seeds neatly piled in one corner of his breakfast plate.

Later that day, Zuzu leaves the house, wearing her waterproof khaki jacket with the boy scout patches, and her favorite shoes, with the rhinestone horseshoe buckles she’d affixed with gorilla glue. Zuzu is deeply afraid. She reads the dictionary every day, looking for words to help her describe how she feels. Desperate. Delirious. Repetitive. Like someone who eats zeroes and ones for a living. Like someone who lies, and lies down with dogs. She looks up words for history, for memory, for moments of change. The Smithsonion. She looks it up. How much money does it take to go to the Smithsonian? How far is the Smithsonian from this town, this old Lithuanian town tucked into the northern woods near the Canadian border? Why isn’t there a fence between us and the Canadians? She asks her imaginary mother, who is long gone into a macabre alzheimer’s fog, from which she periodically yodels out Zuzu, Zuuuuuu Zuuuuu, raising Zuzu from the dead, from the heavy short sleep she sleeps when she sleeps at all.

She sits on the stairwell on her back porch, pictures her toenails decorated and painted in tiny pointillated miniatures. She sees starry starry night on her left big toe, a little Matisse with lady and umbrella on her right big toe. She thinks about DaVinci. She thinks about cutting off her own ear. DeGraib, you are pathetic, she writes on the white board. She uses a Sharpie, permanent, to remind herself.

Rules: These are the strict and unbending rules of Zuzu DeGraib, starting today, she writes:

  1. No gratuitous sex.
  2. No breakfast with strangers.
  3. Breakfast is the most important meal of the day.
  4. Clean your blender after each use.
  5. Donate to the Save the Lemur foundation.
  6. Change lip gloss every 30 days to prevent bacterial growth.
  7. Character counts.
  8. Answer your mother when she hoots at you, whether you like it or not.
  9. Stop smoking.
  10. Spend money instead of groveling around begging for attention from people you don’t care about anyway.

Later that day, she throws the magnetic white board away. She orders a new one online.

Lemurs are only one of thousands of animals facing extinction. It is hard to know which dying species to save on any given day, so her method has been to work alphabetically through the endangered lists. Anteaters, buffalo, koala, orangutan, zebra. She dreams in Noah’s arks, she dreams two by twos, she dreams four by fours, she dreams that nothing is meaningless and that all things are possible. When she sleeps her heavy short sleeps.

The spotted owl and the brown trout are also on the endangered species list. Brown trout taste especially fine grilled outdoors and served shortly after death, with friends and fruit salad. Zuzu is very fond of fruit, but less fond of strangers eating omelets with her without remembering her name. She is sensitive that way, she supposes.

At work, she catalogs and sorts, sorts and catalogs. There are amazing numbers of categories to be found in books, CDs and games. Even more when seasonal variations are considered. Like most book sellers, she is willing and in fact eager to answer questions about books: reference books, fiction, history, books of endangered species, self-help books, books on sex, books that reference obscure saints and books about the Smithsonian.  Books about religion have recently started getting on her last nerve, although when the trend first started she nibbled at each of the major religions in turn, some sweet, some sour, some bitter and some strictly rancid. She spit them out, but couldn’t help hearing the nastiness continue in the trash talking god on her neighbor’s radio. Too bad he was deaf. Maybe she should cut her ear off.

ear

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9 Responses to “Zuzu”


  1. 1 lollyloo August 6, 2008 at 2:16 pm

    Fabulous story. I want to hear more about Zuzu. Is she, I wonder, traveling towards another character in a novel?

  2. 2 Teresa August 13, 2008 at 10:48 am

    Thank you my dear. I added nice pictures to freshen it up. Nice to have a couple days off. I seem to be craving an outline.

  3. 3 lollyloo August 13, 2008 at 3:25 pm

    Hate to tell you but those pix don’t show up. Big holes.

  4. 6 ybonesy May 9, 2009 at 6:15 pm

    Oh, this made me laugh. There was such a Teresa quality to it, the pace and the quirkiness. Zuzu is great, eating her zeros and ones. I hope she upholds her new rules.

  5. 7 Teresa May 19, 2009 at 8:17 am

    Thanks Ybonesy. I like this piece a lot myself. Laurie reminds me to wash the blender after every use because Zuzu says so.

  6. 8 Jo-who-is-from-but-not-living-in-New-Mexico December 5, 2011 at 1:09 am

    I LOVE this teresa!!! …..eating zeros and ones for a living…..OMG…that is desperate. your writing continues to juice up my imagination. love you!

  7. 9 Teresa December 5, 2011 at 7:44 pm

    Love you too — wish you were here! Glad you like Zuzu, there are many Zuzu stories in here, you can search term and read some more if you like. I submitted this one last fall to a publication that I really wanted to take it but they didn’t and I fell into a decline from which I am now at last arising because dammit persistence in submitting is the one thing I haven’t had. Submit, submit — it’s so sadomasochistic, the whole publishing process.


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