My name is Polly. It’s a stupid name that rhymes with dolly and I have always hated it. I can’t believe my parents had only one child to put a name on and couldn’t come up with anything better than this.
There is a whirlwind around my Aunt Orla’s well. It’s me, wishing for a little sister who will call me something else. She will change the shape of the hole that I fit into in this world so I can be different. She will call me Boudicca.
As I whip around the well, I wish. I throw in pennies. I pick four-leaf clovers. Ladybugs, falling stars — I go whole hog and leave nothing to chance and then, finally, finally the child is born; but it’s a boy.
Fine, a boy then.
In my head I name him Vercingetorix, and he belongs to me. Together we will be an army and conquer.
My parents call him Dexter.
He doesn’t like the name.
He throws it up.
When he hears the name his gut tightens and all manner of creatures disgorge. My parents are in a panic.
I laugh so hard when another salamander is catapulted out of Vercingetorix’s mouth and slaps Father Ahern’s face before dropping into his teacup. I laugh and hope boring Father Ahern will not come to tea anymore. But he just babbles more Latin. It makes as much sense as the encrusted, bald woman who lives at the bus terminal talking to herself. Who listens?
I tickle Vercingetorix under the chin until he hiccups. One after another he hiccups pages of the bible, but they are printed backward, in red ink like dried blood.
Father Ahern whacks his forehead on the glass patio doors trying to flee — in his distress he doesn’t see that they’re closed. He yanks them open and his black robes flap off into the Dämmerung and Vercingetorix and I are laughing, laughing so hard at his panic.
Mum and Dad stare at us, mouths open.
“…What?” I ask, and we laugh some more and split the last jam tart.
Susan Kaempfer was born in Washington DC. She was a product of the Summer Of Love, and currently lives in Switzerland with her beautifully lunatic husband and three nutty children. Career highlights include: night-shift in a university hospital pharmacy, flogging jumpers in a tourist trap in Ireland, and one single art show in which she sold enough drawings to buy a ferry ticket from Calais to Rosslare, which was all she needed at the time.