Take Good Care of the Girls. Adios!
Daphne Buter

The father of Molly and Tiny reminded me of a dolphin. There was too much space between his eyes.

The mother of Molly and Tiny had left the family for an Italian guy. One day she just packed her stuff in a suitcase and left the house, leaving a note at the kitchen table that said: “Take good care of the girls. Adios!”

Since then Molly slept in the same bed as her father, on the spot her mother used to sleep. Molly pissed in the bed and her father didn’t seem to care. He said he was too busy building up his life again.

When I visited Molly and Tiny, their father always sat at the kitchen table eating fish, while a cigarette drew patterns of smoke in the air from between his plump fingers. He had lost his job. I never saw him building up anything else but weight and more asthma attacks.

He had almost no hair left on his skull. The dolphin-man smelled like fish and sunflower oil and nicotine.

My mother didn’t like Mr. van Muiswijk. She said she didn’t trust the look in his eyes, but I saw nothing but the friendly dolphin look.

“Don’t go upstairs. Molly sleeps in the same bed with him since their mother left them. That isn’t normal. There is something artificial about that man,” my mother warned me one day, right after I had said I wanted to pick up Molly to play outside with her, and I promised my mother I wouldn’t go into the house.

* * *

The sun was blistering the sky. The houses of Amsterdam looked like houses made of bread. It was so hot reality became fiction. The chestnut trees that hemmed the canal crackled softly in a juddering breeze. Insects fluttered around the branches and above the green salver of the water, buzzing.

Right after I rang the bell of Molly’s house, the dolphin peeked his head through the open window and grinned.

“Can you come upstairs? We haven’t finished our breakfast yet. I’ll open the door for you.” His voice pierced the hymn of the rustling leaves.

The door swung open and I looked into the gullet of the house. I hesitated. I hadn’t been there for some time and now I inspected the gorge. After awhile the purple cool shadows that hovered there seduced me to leave the sweltering eye of the sun. I went inside. An icy darkness embraced me, reminding me of the coldness of the bottom of the ocean I once felt when I almost drowned in France.

I started to climb the stairs while my eyes got used to the dusk. I saw little craters in the chalky walls, and words that were written there, in trembling circles around the craters. Cryptic messages said: “My mother strangled me with spaghetti... My mother is the whore of Babylon... This hole is a stabbed salty womb...”

Halfway up the stairs I smelled the sharp odour of urine and fish.

They sat around the kitchen table. A harvest of sunlight tumbled through the open kitchen window, soaking the broken family in light.

“Shall we play outside?” I said to Molly, who was sucking at the bones of a flat fish.

Tiny sat beside her, across from their father, and now I noticed they all looked like dolphins. The only one who hadn’t looked like a dolphin was the mother, and maybe that was why she had left them. The mother had looked like a flat fish with rusty speckles. I thought it maybe had been a dire thing for her to live among dolphin look-alikes.

“Have a seat, pretty,” the father dolphin said, tapping the empty chair beside him with his fingers. He was wearing nothing but a sleeveless shirt full of food spots and boxer shorts that exposed his pale legs.

“I’ll just wait here,” I answered from between the door frame, thinking about the warning my mother had given me that morning.

“Why’s that?” Tiny asked. Because she was squint-eyed she looked over my shoulder while she spoke to me. Her long thick hair, the only beautiful thing about her, was as red as copper. Glistening curls fell down beside her unattractive face.

“Because it is so hot,” I answered. “Your kitchen chairs are made of plastic. Plastic is too warm on a sunny day like this.”

They all looked at me with suspicious eyes.

“I won’t bite,” the father said. His voice sounded for a second like the whistle of sonar.

Molly took another flat fish from a mountain of fish that rose between them, and started to gnaw at the tail, while she gazed at me in a way that seemed almost hostile.

“Do you want a fish?” Tiny asked me.

“I’m not hungry.”

“Why don’t you want a fish? My father caught them in the sea yesterday. He went fishing and came home with tons of flat fishes.”

“Because it is too hot to eat fish.”

Her father laughed. “It is never too hot to eat fish, isn’t it so, girls?”

“It is never too hot to eat fish,” Molly echoed.

“Maybe I’d better wait outside,” I said. “Maybe you’re uncomfortable if I just stand here while you’re having breakfast.”

“We don’t feel uncomfortable while you’re just standing there,” Molly’s father said.

They kept eating fish. The mountain of fish shrunk until nothing but brown sunflower oil was left behind on the serving dish. Stars of light were shooting from the platter.

When the last fish was consumed Mr. van Muiswijk asked for another cup of coffee and Molly stood up and started to boil some water at the stove.

“My mother gave me a doll for my birthday that can really piss,” Tiny said to me, maybe to break the silence.

“It’s a cheap doll,” her father said. “That bitch didn’t even visit you at your birthday. She had to send it by mail because she’s a bloody coward.”

“Our mother is an Italian slut,” Molly said.

A huge silence fell over the house. A silence in which I tried to figure out what to say. All I heard was the arousal of the water in the kettle, and the loudly asthmatic breathing of Mr. van Muiswijk. It was just as muggy in there as it was outside. Now I longed for the roasted streets of Amsterdam.

“Hey, pretty,” Mr. van Muiswijk said after some time, “did you know I have no circles around my irises?”

He gazed at me with his dolphin eyes and for a second he was examining my body.

“Irises are flowers,” I said.

“It is also the blue of my eyes,” he said. “I have no black circles around the blue marbles of my eyes.” He stood up and walked in my direction, his eyes wide open while his index finger pointed at one of them.

“My father has supernatural eyes,” Tiny said, a moustache of milk on her lip.

“No black circles,” Molly said, while she took the kettle that started to sing from the stove.

The father of Molly and Tiny smelled like fish and sunflower oil and nicotine. This swamp of bad smells stood now in front of me, jerking his eyelids up to prove he had no black circles around the blue marbles of his eyes.

“Look,” he said. His salty pant sounded colossal, like breathing filled with sand.

I looked in his eyes and noticed what he meant. His eyeballs were covered with fragile red ropes, and from between the red ropes his blue irises gazed at me. The blue of his eyes wasn’t framed by a black outline. My mother was right. That man was something artificial. A robot maybe, or a transformed dolphin.

“One day I gazed too long into the sun,” he said with a solemn-sounding voice.

I took a step backwards, into the corridor of the house, almost losing my balance because I stepped on a hill of wet sheets.

He grabbed my arm, saying, “Hey, don’t fall from the stairs, baby.” The next moment he asked me in a whisper, “Were you ever kissed?”

I didn’t answer him. I didn’t know what to say to that smelly massive man. He put his hands around my cheeks and he pressed his fishy lips on mine and folded his tongue into my mouth.

I couldn’t breathe and his tongue was swimming through my mouth for a while, until he had to stop to gulp some air.

“Now you know how to kiss.” He dried his lips with the back of his hand.

* * *

Molly and I were outside the house. The sun was scorching us.

“Did you mind my father kissing you?”

I shrugged. “I didn’t like it.”

“He just wants to teach us how to make love,” she said with a hollow voice. I looked at her face. She looked harmed. Her body had a lot of lumps. Her little breasts were dangling unripe peaches under her blouse. Everything was wrong about her body. Her legs looked like colossal carrots and even her hips were too swollen. Her face had the shape of a slice of sugar-melon, and still she looked like a dolphin.

“He taught me how to kiss. He taught me how to do all kind of interesting things.”

“Is that why you sleep with him in the same bed?”

“He’s lonesome,” Molly said. “He has asthma.”

“I know,” I said, “and your mother is an Italian slut.”

“She has a baby in her womb,” she said. “A little Italian baby that looks like a knot of spaghetti. I know how it got in her. Do you want to know how it got in her?”

I nodded.

We crossed the road and crawled into the yellow shadows of the houses. We leaned with our backs to the cool bricks of one of the walls. We just sat there, not playing at all. We gazed at the endless skies and tried to keep our eyes open while the sun was burning our irises.

“It really hurts,” Molly said.

This story was rejected by a few U.S. magazines that wrote me they were hesitant about the subject matter. I don’t know what they were afraid for.

A story cannot make the blind see, can it?

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