Brenda Losing/Valerie Losing 2 by Cookie Mueller

BOMB 2 Winter 1982
002 Fall 1982

Brenda Losing

She was five feet less than a year ago, but now she is four feet two because of a horrible, delicate operation where she had her thighs removed. Even though the operation had been absolutely unavoidable, she had not resolved it in her mind and she suffered terrible emotional anguish. She was always being overlooked.

The secret that she now had a vagina that began and ended at her knees was a source of much gossip but she held herself proudly and feared no one larger.

Luckily, she had a lover who she had lived with before the operation; this lover being a person who never let a minor physical aberration interfere with his feelings. Anyway their life together was enhanced by the operation, it had made each of them more independent yet closer. Their sex life was better too, because Brenda could easily bend at the vagina, giving her a remote feeling of distance from her mate.

Aside from her love, she began to socialize exclusively with midgets, and at first couldn’t understand why they all looked older than their chronological age. But after considering for a while she realized that they aged more rapidly than normal sized people because they’re closer to the ground and as Einstein’s theory proved, the closer you are to the earth and gravity the faster time goes. Because of this fact she knew she was going to die younger now than taller people but it didn’t bother her in the slightest, because in her life she had already seen quite a bit, she had been around the block a few times, as they say, and Brenda, being the kind of person she was, would make it around the block a few more times, even without thighs.

Valerie Losing 2

Six months ago Valerie woke up and discovered that one of her toes was missing. True, it wasn’t the really important first toe, the large one that keeps you from easily losing your balance. Nevertheless even though it was the next to the largest in size, it was tremendous to her in its importance. She had searched her bed painstakingly and had gone on methodically to dismantle her entire bedroom set in the search, she didn’t have leprosy. Nothing like this had ever happened to her before so she made phone calls to various clinics, then decided to see a specialist, fuck the expense, but couldn’t recall any category she might fit into or if in fact there was such a category.

“Doctor Rutin’s office. May I help you?” the receptionist answered; Valerie wondered if she was an RN or a PN receptionist, all the better doctors had RNs as receptionists.

Valerie’s voice didn’t break; she didn’t sob into the phone, “This is an emergency. I have to see the doctor.”

“Are you a patient of Doctor Rutin’s?”

“No, but a patient gave me this number. It’s really an emergency. Can I see him today?”

“I’m sorry, but there aren’t any cancellations today. I could put you in at 2:30 next Thursday. What seems to be your problem?”

Valerie made everything easier by hanging up. She got dressed, weeping. She struggled getting her shoes on, not because of pain, there was none, but because she was afraid that she may not be able to walk in many of her shoes. She went directly to the closest hospital’s emergency room and waited with two other patients: one had been shot and was bleeding badly from the neck, the other looked physiologically sound but kept rolling newspapers into balls, trying to set them on fire in the corners below the plastic chairs.

When the doctor saw her, he registered little surprise. He took some blood, gave her another appointment, gave her some Valiums and sent her home. When she got there she thought she should call her mother to tell her what had happened but her mother wouldn’t be sympathetic either, probably blaming the loss on Valerie’s alien lifestyle.

“You lost that toe because you stay up too late, you go to bars, you see too many movies, you don’t write to me…”

If only she could find the toe. There had to be an answer in the toe itself. She took the bed apart again and this time found a leaf. Unlike normal leaves it wasn’t green or autumnal colored but greyish beige, a very unnatural color for anything once alive or living. She had seen the same color on walls of very unprosperous Chinese restaurants.

She thumb tacked the leaf to her desk and took two Valiums and laid down to sleep.

Many days passed, Everything remained the same. She went back to the hospital and the doctors told her happily that she didn’t have leprosy which she could have told them, also she wouldn’t lose any more appendages. By now she was growing accustomed to the loss and she actually got a vague sort of sensual pleasure inside her shoes. She didn’t give up hope of a regrowth: a friend of hers once told her that a friend of his had playfully bitten off one of his nipples one evening and in a few weeks he had grown another one. He had shown it to her and sure enough it was fresher and pinker looking than the other one. But a few months went by and no newer, pinker toe grew. Even though she now felt the loss quite normal, she feared that someone might discover it. She kept the lights very dim at night and didn’t swim at the pool anymore.

The leaf she had tacked to her desk was now one sixth of the size it had once been. It was no larger than the thumb tack but was still as well formed with no visible signs of decay or disease. As before it was heavily veined, leaf-like and translucent.

After months of thinking the loss over very carefully she came to know why she had lost this part of her body. In the last 15 years she had lost a lot, beginning with her virginity. She had lost two husbands, countless girlfriends, passports; bankbooks, wallets, one apartment, plants, a car, a dog, valuable jewelry; there were so many things. This was nothing new, only slightly different. She had lost so much it was just something else to mourn over for a bit. She took it in stride. There is a great art to handling losses with nonchalance.

The Mystery of Tap Water by Cookie Mueller
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Announcing the Winner of BOMB’s 2021 Fiction Contest
Author photo of Edward Salem, who has a beard and short hair. He is wearing a shirt open at the color and is standing in front of a gray wooden fence.

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Originally published in

BOMB 2, Winter 1982

Tim Burns & Jim Jarmusch, ABC No Rio, Charles Ludlam & Christopher Scott, Jacki Ochs, Michael Smith, Mirielle Cervenka, Gary Indiana, Sonia Delauney, and Phillipe Demontaut.

Read the issue
002 Fall 1982