Kathryn Mayer ~ Vestigial Twin

Peter, the man at the din­er with the growth on his face, final­ly saves up enough to have it removed in October. Opioid painkillers. Face ban­daged. Immobilized at first, a few days – pees in one water bot­tle, drinks from anoth­er, chews on saltines.

In the after­noon sun, in the qui­et neigh­bor­hood, birds chirp, a dog barks, a hose runs. There are no peo­ple out­side today, not dur­ing the week. A cab­bage patch doll sits splayed out on the curb. He counts the trees (twelve). He walks and walks, tries slid­ing glass doors until one opens and he ven­tures forth, right into some­one else’s basement.

There are dolls every­where. Or maybe not dolls. Figurines, girls in fight­ing pos­es with big eyes and big tits. A stair­glid­er at the bot­tom of the stair­case. A wet, musty smell like mold.

Another young man, skin­ny, beard­ed, pony­tailed, is smok­ing on the couch. Watching him.

Can I help you?” asks the man with the ponytail.

Who are you?”

The man with the pony­tail smiles a bit, like he wants to maybe laugh, but it only comes out as a sigh.

Daryl,” he says.

A water bot­tle in the cor­ner of the room filled with sus­pi­cious­ly yel­low liquid.

What hap­pened to your face?” asks Daryl.

Peter puts a hand up to his face, for­get­ting. Wet gauze. Sweat? Blood?

Is it bleed­ing?” he asks.

A lit­tle,” says Daryl.

This is why the doc­tors want­ed him to rest, perhaps.

Do you have a bath­room?” he asks.

Daryl is amused. Unconcerned. Around the cor­ner, he says.


There is a jar of pot­pour­ri atop the toi­let. An abstract paint­ing that looks like a clown. A toi­let seat cov­er like a mauve shag car­pet. Where is he? Where the hell is he?

He for­got they shaved his head when they oper­at­ed. He bare­ly rec­og­nizes him­self in the mirror.

There’s min­i­mal blood on the ban­dages and he wants to see what’s under­neath, what’s been under­neath this growth all this time. He brings his hand up to the gauze, pulls where it sticks.

Dinner!” some­one calls.

He’s hun­gry, he real­izes. He resticks the ban­dage, gives it a short pat. There is Oxycontin in his pock­et. He pops one in his mouth.


Upstairs there is an over­weight woman with swollen ankles and a cane, scoop­ing ham­burg­er helper into a casse­role dish. She takes one look at Peter and clutch­es her chest.

Daryl!” she screams. “Daryl?!”

Daryl lum­bers up the stairs after Peter. “It’s okay,” he says. “Friend of mine.”

Daryl gives him a nudge.

Peter,” he tells the woman. “Sorry to bother.”

Well good­ness,” says the woman. “Please excuse me. Daryl didn’t tell me he was hav­ing a friend over for dinner.”

She’s look­ing at Peter’s face but she doesn’t say any­thing. She is polite. She is not the moth­er like he orig­i­nal­ly thought, but the grand­moth­er, and Peter knows how it is – he didn’t have par­ents either.

There is a broth­er who isn’t there, and a lit­tle sis­ter who is – a girl that looks to be about 12 or 13 with greasy black hair and heavy eye­lin­er and a t‑shirt with Invader Zim on it. Peter didn’t know Invader Zim was still some­thing peo­ple watched.

They put it on Netflix,” Daryl tells him around a mouth­ful of hash browns. He must have been think­ing it out loud.

The grand­moth­er is kind, asks him ques­tions about him­self and his life. Where he lives, what he does for a liv­ing, what he wants to do next. The sis­ter eats in silence, scowling.

I have to ask,” the grand­moth­er says. “Are you alright? Your face…”

I was born with it,” Peter says reflexively.

You were born with ban­dages on your face?” the sis­ter asks.

Don’t be a smar­tass, Abby,” says Daryl.


After din­ner, they go back down into the base­ment. The moldy smell returns. Grandmother sends them down with peach cob­bler for dessert, and they eat it togeth­er on the sofa. Daryl offers a joint and Peter accepts.

Thanks,” he says. “And thanks for let­ting me stay for dinner.”


Kathryn Mayer lives, works, and writes in Baltimore, MD, where she also grew up. She is a grad­u­ate of University of Maryland, College Park, and the Jimenez-Porter Writers House. Her work has been pub­lished in Pif Magazine. Other work can be found at https://vegetablelamb.home.blog/.