This short story first appeared in Literal Latté.


by Tyler C. Gore

My son will not spring full-grown from my head, but instead I am fashioning him out of easy-to-find household items. I must warn the reader that it is very difficult to make a son this way; there is a staggering number of decisions involved, and even if one is very careful and deliberate, occasional mistakes are inevitable. From the outset, I was aware of the enormity of the project and weeks passed after the initial conception before I could summon the moral courage to begin. Building a son, after all, requires an unwavering sense of purpose and responsibility, and a certain sensitivity to the hidden nature of being. In short, I did not begin until I was willing to freely offer my entire person to the task. There was no place here for regrets.

photo closeup of face of cracked antique porcelain doll

photo: Tyler Gore

When I felt sufficiently sure of myself, I wasted no time in making the essential preparations. With a ball-peen hammer, I smashed every mirror in the house, and then covered the windows with black construction paper. The mailbox, of course, had to be destroyed. All unnecessary sharp objects were cast into the street. My house thus in order, I purchased a case of scotch.

I thought I should begin simply, until I had gained confidence in my skill. At first, I had wanted to start with his hands, but after a cursory examination of what was at stake, I realized it would be safer to begin with his arms. A miscalculation with the hands might give my son a grasping nature. I constructed the arms, rather easily, out of four candlesticks; later, I realized that this had been my first mistake. I should have given my son stronger arms. I had forgotten that I could not always be there to protect him from the anger of the world.

I did better with his little legs. For these, I performed a relatively simple amputation on an antique end-table, made of good hard oak. My son would be able to run — fast and tirelessly, if necessary. Half a broomstick, straight and strong, became his spine; for his stomach I used a hot-water bottle, which had, for me, pleasant associations. Early on, I did some preliminary work on his skin, which I had hoped to make from potter’s clay, perhaps in deference to my parochial upbringing. But there was none to be found, so I had to settle for plasticine, which, although easier to manage, emitted an unpleasant odor. Nevertheless, I found an inexplicable pleasure in shaping the clay; in some ways, this was the happiest part of my task.

I didn’t know what to do about his head, which I felt warranted special attention. Various items were considered and rejected, until I settled upon a particularly large and red apple, thinking that my son would then be both the fruit of my labors, and the apple of my eye. An unfortunate selection. You see, in order to steady my nerves for the day’s labor, I had to consume large quantities of scotch every morning. A precarious balance had to be maintained, for if I remained too sober, my hands would shake uncontrollably, rendering my work impossible; but if I drank too much, I became overconfident and careless. I am deeply ashamed to confess that I was in the latter state when I absentmindedly ate my son’s head. I will not describe the enormous anguish I felt when I had discovered what I had done; suffice it to say that I had to abandon my responsibilities for days. And several more days were wasted in rummaging around the house for a suitable replacement, which was finally discovered in the attic in the form of a long-neglected fishbowl. I attempted to alleviate my guilt by telling myself that a fishbowl was, at any rate, a more suitable head than the original choice, although it was not without shortcomings. Most notably, it required a thorough cleansing, for it still contained its original occupants — two moldy goldfish — and the bowl stank terribly, even after two washings. When the bowl was finally ready to be used, I stuffed it full of my old letters and notebooks, for I did not want my boy to be empty-headed. I really did have the best of intentions, but our motivations are never as selfless as we think.