The Gods of Houston
by Rebekah Frumkin
It had been Missy Elle's idea to adopt Nixon and Reagan. According to the adoption agency, when Nixon was seven and Reagan was almost five, they had been living on welfare in a community north of El Paso and had experienced a shootout between a native and a ranger. Their birthmother had included this information in the adoption papers, as well as the fact that Reagan had had a stroke after birth and would always limp a little on the right side. Nixon's name was Timothy and Reagan's was Oscar, but the birthmother had insisted the boys be renamed. She felt the names she had chosen were boring.
In the mug shots the birthmother had taken, Timothy was licking his front teeth and grinning. He had a grotesque number of freckles. Oscar was sleeping. His skin was perfectly white, strangely untanned. Missy Elle had thought Timothy looked like a Nixon because he had a radish-like nose and the splotched, sunburned skin of a cancer victim. Reagan's name had been chosen by default, by the convenience of the current presidency.
Nixon couldn't remember the actual shootout, but he often had dreams about it. In his dreams, he and Reagan were walking through a pueblo. The sun was coming into the room in shafts, giving the illusion of stripes. He and Reagan were looking at a vase on a table. Before anything could be said about it, the vase started to rattle. The legs of the table buckled. Six gunshots sounded from the sky. A small, terra-cotta-hued Indian was walking bow-legged up to the ranger, who was holding a rifle. The Indian fired his automatic once. Every time Nixon had the dream, the Indian fired at the ranger and hit him in the heart. Even though he was bleeding from the chest, the ranger kept on living; he would start shooting and reloading with one of those old-fashioned pipe cleaners. He could never hit the Indian. When Nixon woke up, he always felt a dusting of gunpowder on his face.
- - -
Momma Laurent brought out her slender cigarette holder and her nice shoes. She sat on the porch and waved when the van pulled up. She signed the certificates permitting her to be an official guardian. After the van pulled away, she kneeled and grabbed each boy's chin. It was meant as a gesture of affection, but Nixon felt like she was actually trying to steal his chin for herself.
"We have you two because we don't want men putting anything in us, even if it's only for kids."
Nixon half-smiled. Reagan blinked. He'd just awakened from a nap.
Missy Elle appeared behind Momma Laurent on the porch and grabbed her shoulders. Nixon was immediately taken by her two-foot-long mane of blond hair. He observed that they were both fat, but the blond one hid it with coveralls.
"I'm your new mommy," Momma Laurent grunted. "You can call me Momma Laurent."
"I'm your mommy, too." Missy Elle kneeled, causing Momma Laurent to jump to one side. "We don't have any daddies."
"No daddies?" Reagan asked.
"Not even the kind that leave?" Nixon asked.
"None," she said again.
"Damn," Nixon whispered. He'd wanted to go fishing.
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"The Gods of Houston" is roughly 5000 words.
Pieces of Rebekah Frumkin's oeuvre can be found in FRiGG, Grimm Magazine, and Scrivener Creative Review. She lives and studies in America's kitsch-ridden heartland. Any endorsements, grievances, or second replies should be sent via email to firstname.lastname@example.org. "The Gods of Houston" originally appeared in Antithesis Common Literary Magazine in Fall of 2006.