Michael Czyzniejewski

Michael Czyzniejewski is the author of three collections of stories, I Will Love You for the Rest of My Life: Breakup Stories (Curbside Splendor, 2015); Chicago Stories: 40 Dramatic Fictions (Curbside Splendor, 2012); and Elephants in Our Bedroom: Stories (Dzanc, 2009). He teaches at Missouri State University, where he is Editor of Moon City Press and Moon City Review. In 2009, he was awarded a fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts.

SECOND HONEYMOON by Michael Czyzniejewski

I met my wife on our honeymoons, the ones we were taking with other people. Both of us went parasailing when our newlywed spouses were too afraid. A storm came in just as we lifted into the air and we were caught in its path. Our lines got detached, sending us parasailing into the horizon. We woke up on a deserted island. 

Two months later, firmly in love, we were found by crab photographers. Coincidentally, our spouses back home fell in love, too, assuming we were dead. At the press conference after our rescue, the four of us laughed about how things work out. Soon we were all divorced and remarried to the right people, no hard feelings.

On the island, I’d heard so much about my soon-to-be in-laws. They lived in Minneapolis but didn’t wear sweaters. They were lapsed Lutherans, they line-danced, and they played competitive Jenga. They ran an apiary.

My parents had been dentists in Toledo.  They were both dead: parasailing accident on their twenty-fifth anniversary vacation—not from a storm, but by flying straight into a bridge. Miami renamed the bridge after them. It has a toll—it leads to an island where flamingos are bred—but they gave me an ID card, said I could cross for free. I was eight. I still have never been to Florida.

My new wife, Barbi, took me to see her parents after our wedding. I was allergic to bee stings and afraid to go. Barbi described their suits, the kind beekeepers wear in cartoons. She’d worked with bees her entire life and had only been stung once, on the tip of her right nipple. She swore it made her sting-proof: Bees were her chicken pox. We’d been through a lot together, I figured, agreeing to go. If I died from asphyxiation I knew she’d genuinely feel horrible.

Barbi’s mom looked exactly like Barbi, twenty years older, more of a big sister than a mom. Maybe she was future Barbi, sent back in time to pose as her own mother. She also didn’t care for me—she was a staunch fan of Barbi’s original husband, Santino, the guy now married to my original wife, Sue Ellen. Santino reminded Barbi’s mom of a boy she’d dated in high school, a boy who died visiting her at midnight, climbing the trellis to her bedroom, falling and impaling himself on the lawn sprinkler. Naturally, Santino had to be this old beau reincarnated, in love with Barbi, her genetic doppelganger. Barbi’s mom asked how our flight was. Barbi said it felt long. Her mom replied, “Santino knew the value of first class.” She looked my way. “You, sir, are no Santino.”

Barbi’s dad came in from beekeeping. He was still wearing the outfit, including the hat, a pith helmet with black netting veiling his face. He took off his glove to shake my hand, churning it like butter. He told me he loved me, leaning in to kiss me, pushing his net into my mouth.  He removed his headgear. He looked exactly like me. If Barbi was the genetic copy of her mom, I was that for her dad. Helmet off, he leaned in for that kiss. “I love you,” he said. “Son.”

Barbi’s mom had readied pot roast with potatoes and carrots. It tasted sweet, like candied pot roast. “You can really taste the honey,” Barbi said. I coughed, as allergic to honey as I was to bee stings. By the time I hit the floor, my hands swelled to twice their size. Just before my eyes shut, I saw Barbi’s dad straddling me, the epinephrine injector from my pocket in his fist. A pinhead of air seeped into my lungs. I fell unconscious.

I woke up in Barbi’s bedroom. Barbi leapt to my side when she saw me stir, kissing me up and down, crying from joy that I was alive. After she calmed herself, she asked why I’d eaten that pot roast if I was allergic to honey. I replied that I’d never had pot roast with honey. She laughed, asked where I’d grown up, Mars?!

Her dad stuck his head in. I thanked him for saving my life. He told me he loved me. Barbi’s mom, from the hallway, told him to ask if I wanted more pot roast. Her dad laughed like it was the funniest joke he’d ever heard. He came in and kissed Barbi on the lips then kissed me again, this time on the forehead. 

“Feel better, Champ,” he said.

Barbi shut the door when Dad departed. She came toward me, unbuttoning her blouse, mounting my abdomen. I told her I didn’t think this was the time. I still couldn’t breathe right. That’s what makes it so appealing, she said, everything that made her happy all in one place: her parents, her bedroom, me. As she undid my belt, she shared a funny thought: “What if I got pregnant right here, our first night together with my folks?” I laughed like it was the funniest joke I’d ever heard.

Afterward, Barbi asleep, I got up to use the bathroom. I walked past her parents’ room. Her dad was sitting on the bed. I only caught a glimpse, but I would have sworn he was masturbating. 

I stepped into the bathroom just as Barbi’s mom was coming out. It was dark, pitch. Before I could say anything, she put her arms around my neck, whispered, Are you ready for me? and attached her mouth to mine, prying open my lips. I tried to stop her, but she pushed me against the wall, forcing her tongue past my teeth, her thigh into my crotch. I pictured the horror that was on its way, her finding out it was me, not Barbi’s dad. Or maybe she knew already. She kissed me deeper and I tasted sweetness on her tongue, something from her palate, perhaps from between her teeth. 

My heart raced, my throat closed, my eyes shut, replacing one type of darkness with another. 

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