The car ride back to the Von Esterburg place is awkward, just awkward as hell. I really should be feeling a sense of triumph right now, I really should. This is good, I’ve done good work, I should be proud, and sort of, sort of I am. But more I’m just hoping we don’t get pulled over on the way back, because I don’t want to explain this to anyone. I don’t like making right turns on the way back to the Von Esterburg place because I have to turn my head back and forth to see if anyone’s coming, and when I do, I have to face the fact that there’s half a kid sitting in the seat next to me.
I try to make conversation. “So…” I say, “What’s your favorite sports team?”
“What sport?” half a kid says.
“Uh…I don’t know…baseball,” when what I really want to say is, Jesus kid what the fuck there’s only half of you ONLY HALF JESUS FUCKING CHRIST. But I don’t.
“The Blue Jays,” the half a kid says with his half a mouth. One eye, one ear, one arm, one leg. ‘Till a couple of days ago he had twice as many of all these things. He seems to be doing okay, though. I’m doing okay, too, if I don’t look directly at him. Julian is his name. Julian Von Esterburg, the half a kid.
I pull up the drive to the Von Esterburg house. House is too weak a word, the place is a glacial fucking estate. Rich kids are weird enough. Now the Von Esterburgs have a rich half a kid. But I am getting paid, paid well, and soon he will be off my hands. I have two hands. He has one. The weird thing is he doesn’t seem to mind.
“The Blue Jays are a really…The Blue Jays are a really good team.” We’re walking up the hill to the house. I am walking. He is hopping on the only leg available. He only has one lung, so this is really taking it out of him, breath-wise. “My favorite player is…Edgar Wesley is my favorite player.”
“He’s a good one, alright.” We are at the front door, thank fucking God. “Catch your breath, there, slugger.”
“It’s hard cause…cause I only have one lung.”
“…Now in Quyanji, which is a…if you’re not aware, Quyanji is a small island republic in the South Pacific, the child slave market is, is huge and it’s apparently a lot cheaper to feed and clothe a half-child than it is a whole one.” It’s a stupid explanation for why I’m just bringing back half of their child, but it’s the truth, the Von Esterburgs seem to be taking it okay.
“Well,” says Mrs. Lillian Von Esterburg, “well why can’t the Quyanjuns just cut their own children in half?”
“Quyanjians,” says Mr. Markus Von Esterburg.
“The native inhabitants of the island republic of Quyanji are called Quyanjians.”
“Well, why can’t they just cut their own children in half?” she asks me.
“It’s actually not a cutting, uh, they don’t cut them in half, so to speak,” I say. “I believe it has something to do with lasers. That accounts for there being no scarring or blood of any kind.”
“Half-children,” says Mr. Von Esterburg. “Genius.”
“Regardless, why don’t they just laser their own children?”
Good question. American children are better nourished, maybe. Fatter, and thus you get more out of each peace. I don’t know the answer for sure. And looking for the answer isn’t easy. I don’t find out the answer from the pilot on the connecting flight to LA, or the flight from there to Jakarta, or from the three Greek women sunning themselves on the boat to the tip of a peninsula, or the man rowing the little ferry full of leaks all the way to Quyanji. The answer isn’t on the dock, neither is the other half of Julian Von Esterburg.
He’s not among the desperate-looking half children carrying crates off the shitty little boats, staring at me with one pleading eye. I show them a picture. Nothing. I cover half of it with my hand. Still nothing.
Jesus, I think, you’d think you little kidnapped American half kids would look out for each other. You’d think you’d kick right in the nuts any stranger that wanted to strap you down and laser you in half and ship you across the ocean. You’d think I’d learn to stop accepting these assignments.
You’d think a lot of things. But on Quyanji, probably a lot of them are wrong.Posted by DC at October 18, 2002 11:33 PM