Lake Effect, Spring 2009, Volume 13: Hapax Legomenon

Michael Czyzniejewski


Hapax Legomenon

A word or form of which only one instance is recorded in a literature or an author.
—Oxford English Dictionary

The last thing I remember before blacking out was the phantom opossum pissing on my leg. Regaining consciousness, I can see a light at the end of a tunnel and I assume that I’m dead. How this relates to the ghost opossum, I don’t know, but when I inch toward the light, I find myself sliding back, deeper into the darkness. A quick diagnosis: purgatory. Four months of CCD classes taught me that souls sometimes spend centuries here. Not that I ever believed in any of that crap, but now, dead, I stare up at the light and can’t help but wonder.
My agnosticism is answered when Brucie’s face appears, eclipsing me to black. I’ve skipped centuries in purgatory and have gone straight to hell. Brucie, my ex-fiancé, is my Dante-esque punishment. I’ll pay forever for breaking off the engagement, for making her—after a stint of stalking and a restraining order—take a shotgun to her jaw. I will now stare at her damaged face for all eternity.
“I found him,” Brucie yells down the tunnel. Her face turns into the light and she repeats, “I found him!”
I’m guessing now that I’m not in purgatory, limbo, or even hell. I am not even dead, but in some sort of dark, metal cylinder. I make another educated guess: the iron cannon on Long John Silver 9, a decoration on a mini-golf hole.
Brucie’s face reappears, her headgear scraping against the interior of the big gun. “I knew it would be me who found you,” she says, and does her best to make a kissing sound, which she can’t do, her real lips blown off, along with her natural teeth and a good portion of her birth chin. The ceramic prosthetics just don’t cut it, and neither does the thigh skin they sewed on around her mouth. Instead of kissing, she sounds like she’s hocking a loogie, which would, in reality, be much healthier for the both of us.
Brucie redisappears and another face takes her place. Too much Brut tells me it’s Sanders. “We’ll get you out of there, boy,” he says, sounding confident and reassuring. An aluminum baseball bat, attached to Sanders’ ropy, tattooed arm, soon appears down the hole. My hands are pinned at my sides, making it impossible to grab on. After explaining my predicament, the bat slides out then back in, handle-first. “Bite down on the knob,” Sanders says. He pokes the 31 on the tip into my nose and eyes. I am wedged like Excalibur and my best option is to be ripped out of a cannon by my teeth.
Forty minutes, a quart of popcorn oil, and a lot of chafing later, I’m sitting next to the cannon on the soldered-together cannonball pyramid. I am in my underwear, the rest of my clothes spread over the mini-course á la a tornado. My gums are bleeding like prime rib. I feel an overbite and an underbite at the same time. Brucie sees me stroking my chin and offers up her headgear, which I decline. ...