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Clover’s Story by T.J. McIntyre

There was once a man born in a teacup. He was bred by sugar cubes and Earl Grey, made less acidic by a nice drop of cream, and he emerged covered in the reek of bergamont orange. He was a small child (as one might imagine a child from a teacup would be) and misunderstood by his peers. It didn’t help that his peers usually looked right over him and past him, because he wandered closer to the ground than they. He found life a constant struggle and grew tired of having to run away from the endless stomping down of the soles of his peers’ shoes.

His name was Clover. He was raised by parrots. His first words were “Happy Birthday” because that was the only word his adopted mother knew, and she repeated those again and again while he sat beneath her and enjoyed the warmth of her downy, colorful, feathered breast. Those words were a lullaby, a condolence, a greeting, and a goodbye.

As Clover grew older, he eventually grew taller. At age thirty-three he attained a growth spurt. For the most fleeting of moments he was as tall as regular people. A girl named Vermont saw him and fell in love with him when he announced “Happy Birthday!” She did not know how he knew it was her birthday, but was pleased to find a stranger who knew her so well on first sight. She knew it was meant to be. She wanted him to marry her and threw her clothes off and began kissing him on the spot. He murmured “Happy Birthday!” and she cooed in his ear and fondled him where he stood naked and shivering (he outgrew his doll’s clothes seconds before during his latest growth spurt). He found her flesh to be disturbing next to his after having lived so long beneath his mother’s feathers. He pushed her away and continued growing.

Eventually, his head was wreathed by clouds like a cottony crown. He stood looking down. Blackbirds flocked towards him, and he stretched out his arms, happy to let them roost. Their squawks and squeals and sleek feathers reminded him of his former home in the bird cage. Sometimes his mother came to visit and served him a meal of bird seed. She perched on his lip and dropped in the chewed up seeds one by one as she always had, and Clover was happy about this. This was comfort food.

Vermont, meanwhile, fell down on his feet and reclined between his toes. She set up a shelter by tying a tarp to the hairs of his toes and lived there. She caressed his flesh and Clover laughed because it tickled. He grew to love Vermont in his way and told her so: “Happy Birthday!” She took off her clothes and embraced his pinky toe to consummate their union. She inhaled his bergamont orange scent.

One day an adventurous young man named Jack decided it was time to find a giant. With a name like Jack, he served no other purpose in life. Everyone knows about Jack the Giant Killer and Jack and the Beanstalk. Jack knew his destiny. He saw Clover standing over the mountains and sought him out.

Clover saw Jack approach and said, “Happy Birthday!”

Jack held up a sword and struck it into Clover’s big toe. Clover screamed and leapt up and down. He knocked over Vermont’s tent and nearly stomped on her several times. Jack’s adopted mother noticed the commotion and led a battalion of blackbirds swooping down towards this stranger, this attacker, this wannabe giant slayer.

Jack waved his hands in the air and battered away the cloud of blackbirds. Sharp beaks bit skin, and he cried out. At the sight of blood Vermont yelled “STOP!”

The parrot perched atop Jack’s head and held up her colorful wings. “Happy Birthday,” she said and repeated again and again as she flew into the air. The blackbirds followed her back up above the mountains to perch atop Clover. Clover was crying. He had never known pain.

Vermont looked up and was drenched by a giant tear. It soaked her clothes and created an instant pit of mud that started to suck her down. Seeing her struggle, Jack ran over and pulled her free.

She looked up and examined Clover – her husband, her lover, her everything – and she realized her husband didn’t know her at all. She hated men who cry. She turned to Jack and saw a young man with a chest puffed out so that it almost looked to be of respectable girth, a young man who had tried to slay a giant, and who had rescued her from the filth created by her wimp of a husband.

“I want a divorce!” she screamed up to Clover.

Clover swallowed some chewed up birdseed from his mother and smiled down on her. “Happy Birthday!”

“It’s not my birthday!” she yelled. She turned to Jack and took off her clothes.

Jack forgot about the giant. He decided to visit Vermont instead and took Vermont home with him.

After an embarrassingly short union – with their clothes still draped around their ankles, with Jack’s panties tossed over a lamp casting the shadow of a g-string up onto the ceiling – Vermont smoked a clove cigarette. “I’m thirsty,” she said.

“I’ll get you some tea,” Jack said as he slid his panties back on. He walked to the kitchen and turned on the burner beneath his tea kettle.

Minutes later, the kettle whistled and Vermont smiled knowing she would soon have something to drink.

Jack emerged back into the bedroom holding two steaming teacups. He held one out to Vermont. She took it and inhaled. Then she wept.

“What’s wrong?” Jack asked as he slid on a pair of panty hose and shoved his surprisingly fat gut into some Spanx.

“I think I made a mistake.” Vermont said.

“Huh. Why? It’s the undergarments isn’t it? Dad said no girl would like this, but he did it, too, used to walk around the house in nothing but high heels and panties while fixing me breakfast when we still had money for food. I sent him out for food one time. Told him I was hungry. So he sold our last cow – the one that lived on top of our duplex, the only one we brought back with us from the farm back east . Anyway, he sold it for a string of white beads that almost looked like pearls. In the right light, of course. I stole them from him and buried them in the pot on our fire escape, but no bead stalk ever grew.”

She sniffed her tea again and inhaled the scent of orange bergamont. She looked out the window and looked for the sun but could not see it. Clover’s tall dark outline hid the light. In his shade, with his back turned to her, she shivered.

———————–

T.J. McIntyre writes from a busy household in rural Alabama. He’s been published in numerous places including recent or forthcoming appearances in Moon Milk Review, The Red Penny Papers, and the 2nd hand. In addition to writing fiction, he also writes a monthly column for the Apex Books Blog, contributes to Skull Salad Reviews, and works as an editorial assistant with Fantasy Magazine.

Clover’s Story is a universal tale about life, marriage, infidelity, and masculinity. We’re all born in teacups, start off small, and grow. It is based on true events that happened somewhere over the rainbow inside a wardrobe where princesses kiss frogs only to find the wings of partially digested flies stuck between their teeth and receive nasty warts on their lips in return for their kindess.

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