When she thought about it (and she thought about it often), Daisy was amazed that Martin was interested in her. Sure, she was a great cook; she grew her own vegetables on the farm, and insisted on the best cuts of meat at the local butcher shop, shunned store bought pie-crusts and preserved her own fruit. She had made quite a success of the small village eatery where the local farmers had lunch with their families on Sundays after church and occasionally celebrated this or that and where teenagers took their first serious dates on Saturday nights, hoping for some necking and maybe more later; but when it came down to it, one had to admit, Daisy was rather homely looking. Blond curls, angelic features and heavenly blue eyes never graced Daisy’s countenance. Instead she was made, as the Lord intended (her father used to say), from sturdy stock. She never saw a reason to pretend that she was something other than what she was and eschewed powders, dyes and perfumes. “Natural,” is how most of the villagers described her, if asked, smiling knowing smiles and nodding their heads in commiseration because, nice and kindhearted as she was, they could not foresee Daisy, who still naively longed for a union at the over-ripe age of thirty-five, her prospects in the farming village rapidly dwindling, ever shedding her status as spinster.
The autumn day Martin knocked on her door, which was not that long ago, or perhaps long enough ago that they could now be considered a couple, he looked rather lost, his vehicle having broken down a ways up the road. Daisy had never seen him before. She would have remembered. Martin was quite handsome. He might have been the most stunningly handsome man she had ever seen. In fact he might, when you looked at him casually and looked away and looked back again to have a better look, have reminded you very much of George Clooney. Very much indeed. From the slightly graying temples and cleft chin down to his tiny heinie, which made Daisy think of the tightly packed sugar buns she served at her restaurant when they first came out of the oven and were all steamy. Except for the glazing, of course. Martin’s buns weren’t glazed.
Martin – his skin emitting an enticing silver glow which left Daisy’s stomach aflutter - had asked to use her loo – Daisy’s parents, when they were alive, had been British and she therefore also referred to it as a loo, but everyone else referred to it as a toilet, which had always seemed like a rather crude word to Daisy. And after he used the loo (which was located outside the house; who would want something like that inside a house?) for a curiously long time, he asked her on a date. Well, it sounded like a date to Daisy at least, Martin wasn’t a man of many words. In fact, he left most of the talking up to Daisy, who, after the initial shock of being asked out at all, was quite chatty, going on about this and that, practically talking the man’s ears off. Martin, for his part, smiled and nodded at the appropriate places and sometimes he would furrow his brow when Daisy made a dramatic pause, indicating that a big revelation was to follow. This is how the villagers would see them from then on(the women would openly stare (some of the men too, come to think of it)), the pair,walking arm in arm through the narrow village streets on their way to procure some interesting ingredient for the restaurant’s daily specials’ menu from the local market.
Of course there were rumors and gossip, most of it harmless, as nobody really wished Daisy ill, but Bathilda Blomquist did once proclaim, at the forty-second monthly gathering of the Bloomsbury County Knitting Club, to the congregation of ladies, that she doubted whether Daisy knew what to do with a man like Martin. This resulted in a titter of excitement, one could hear knitting needles clacking at twice their normal speed. Bathilda herself had many ideas as to how one could creatively engage Martin, should one find oneself alone in a dark (or dimly lit) room with that exceptional specimen, but she thought it prudent not to share these. It would be base and unwise as some of the elderly ladies (though Bathilda was no spring chicken herself) were prone to swooning.
And as for Daisy, she herself was amazed at her luck every time she looked up into Martin’s soulful brown eyes, his male perfection a daily reminder of what she had been missing out on all her life, heat rising in her stomach (as well as other places.) Martin, kind and considerate as well, assisted her with all the mundane demands of her daily life without ever objecting and indeed giving her his full attention every waking moment of her life (curiously disappearing while she slept, but she was blissfully unaware of this). Martin was practically perfect in almost every way.
A woman like Daisy, who had long ago given up the hope of spending cold winter nights in a hot tumble, begging to be carried to the highest ecstasy so that her loins might bear fruit, would fling away the prudish notions forced on her by a strict religious upbringing for a man like Martin. Indeed, Martin took up residence in her small brown cottage almost immediately after their first encounter, and Daisy was glad of it, even though Pastor Grimwell, lifting his bushy left eyebrow upon hearing the news, quietly lamented the fall of the once virtuous young woman. Nevertheless, when all was said and done, the villagers were quite accepting of strange events, any hint of scandal lasting about as long as the daily chore of hog feeding, the motto above the town coat of arms ever in their hearts: “QUAE TUA CYMBA NATAT,” or, “WHATEVER FLOATS YOUR BOAT.”
But alas, all was not as it seemed. Their union was a curious one. Instead of spending their nights in passionate embrace, exploring the boundaries of the sins of the flesh as Daisy had hoped, Martin’s predilections proved most strange. Daisy didn’t quite know what to make of it. She attempted to find an answer by doing research at the local library under the pretense of looking for a new pie recipe. This ruse proved more difficult than it initially seemed, as the librarian, Mrs.Goodall, who had recently become an empty nester, now insisted on giving close personal assistance to all library patrons, her wire-rimmed glasses poised over the shoulder of all who ventured near the musty stacks. Mrs. Goodall was also a gossip, a trait that Daisy found most inconvenient at that particular moment, as the matter she was researching was rather delicate.
Mrs. Goodall hovered and smiled, inquiring about the restaurant’s Thanksgiving menu and such. Now that she had nobody to cook for except her husband Bernie, a bore of a man if ever there was one, Mrs. Goodall decided to join the ranks of those liberated women in the village who refused to be enslaved in their kitchens, cooking cranberry sauce from scratch and making sure that the offerings to the god of gluttony were not burned. Why do all that when Daisy was willing and more than able to feed everybody? Especially since Martin would be there at her side, smiling his white smile, delivering sugar buns on a silver tray to appreciative tables.
What Mrs. Goodall didn’t know, but had been suspected by eminent anthropologists chairing departments of Ivy League universities everywhere, was that this foregoing of cooking the Thanksgiving Day meal by the matron of the family, would be the beginning of the end of polite society and world order. But this theory was yet to be proven by the cumulative effect of many years of dereliction of duty. Living in the present only, with no thought of the dire consequences of her actions for generations to come, Mrs. Goodall decided once and for all that her apron strings would no longer be tied on that holiest of Thursdays.
Daisy leafed through cookbook after cookbook, pie recipes swimming in front of her eyes, her agitation growing, while Mrs. Goodall stood patiently at her side, expleting the occasional “Ooh!” and “Yum-meee!” The clock ticked, the pile of cookbooks grew smaller, Mrs. Goodall stood closer, her halitosis almost unbearable. Daisy hoped that Martin would remember to stir the lamb stew special that was bubbling away on the stove.
It was only because little Janice Erden, her button nose snotty and her dress dirty, reached for a book on the very top shelf of the children’s section, her chubby fingers clinging onto the edge of the bookcase, Mrs. Goodall noticing and rushing to her assistance before the whole monolith toppled down on them both with a loud crash, that Daisy could rush to the small erotica section in the back of the building and give a name to her predicament. She grabbed the first book her shaky fingers touched, leafing through the sticky yellow pages and lurid (yet utterly fascinating) illustrations, until her eyes found the word: Urolagnia.
Oh my, Daisy thought, her eyes growing wide.
Although, from what she could glean during her hurried read while Mrs. Goodall and little Janice dug their way through books and debris, their arms flailing and sticking out of the rubble like candles on a melting ice-cream cake, that wasn’t quite the right term either. But no other Daisy could find came as close. By the time the librarian and little girl flung aside the last book from the pile, standing on shaky legs, their faces bloody, their hair wild, sneezing from the dust until tears ran down their red cheeks, Daisy was even more confused than before. She surreptitiously dropped the book of erotic definitions in her bag with the skill of a teenage boy, thanked Mrs. Goodall for her assistance and strode out of the library, deep in thought. Villagers passing her on the street that day would remark to each other how unusual it was for her not to stop for a chat, some would even comment that Martin might not be a good influence, while others (Bathilda Blomquist for one) hoped that this was indeed the case.
You see, Daisy’s problem was this: although they displayed customary public signs of affection towards each other, she and Martin had never actually engaged in coitus. Of course this was not common knowledge among her elders and peers, but it bothered Daisy just the same. When she tried to remember, she could not pinpoint how it came to be, this strange state of affairs, only that it had evolved into the intimacy they now practiced.
What was this mysterious act? you might ask, holding your breath in anticipation of dire depravity. Well, Daisy herself had trouble putting the act into words, but she tried nonetheless as she lay on the white table, her feet in stirrups, deciding that if you could not trust Dr. Sorto with delicate matters of this kind, you could trust no-one. Martin, instead of giving in to the urges that all men are subject to, preferred that Daisy notify him of her bodily functions, handing her a small jar when the time came, standing outside the loo, a closed door between them, while she relieved herself. Upon handing him the golden liquid, Martin’s face would beam and Daisy knew that she, in her own way, had proven her love to him and that that same love was being given to her in return. Daisy did not like to dwell on what Martin did with her pee. For her it was enough to know that her act gave him pleasure just as his presence pleasured her. Dr. Sorto, after hearing the tale, nodded gravely, rubbing his bearded chin between thumb and ancient forefinger before shrugging his shoulders and getting on with business. He had heard of stranger things.
And so they lived quietly in the little cottage in the woods until the day Martin, which was quite unusual for him, did not show up for the dinner shift at the restaurant. Daisy was frantic, trying to keep her mind on the task of feeding her patrons, but she burned buns, turned cream to butter and put nectarines instead of peaches in the pie, dwelling on apocalyptic scenarios of Martin’s demise.
Here it might be wise to interject with the tale of Daisy’s father, who also did not show up for dinner one night and was found floating in the river after his horse bucked him during a moonshine ride, but you might not be interested in all of that, so suffice it to say that her dad was a drunk who drowned and Daisy worried about Martin doing the same even though he never touched liquor. Irrational, you might say, but it happened just the same.
As soon as the last remaining patron, Bobby Downs, shoved the final bite of his chocolate silk pie into his piggish mouth that night, Daisy pushed him out the door. She didn’t even wait for Bobby to pay the bill before she slammed the door behind him and turned the white placard over, proclaiming to the village that the restaurant was indeed closed. This dismayed Bobby no end, not because he liked paying bills, but because chocolate silk pie was his favorite kind of pie and he was desperate for another piece, even though his wife feared for her life every time he got amorous and rolled his considerable bulk on top of her. Bobby would eventually kill his wife – she was a bit of a nag, you know – but not by rolling on top of her.
Daisy ran home, a wake of billowing dust following her down the road, her visions of Martin bleeding on the front steps or the kitchen floor or quite possibly the breakfast nook, propelling her forward. The cottage, however, would not cooperate with her dire expectations and was, in fact, dismally empty. Daisy searched every room twice. She searched the loo three times, melancholically flushing the chain handle a few times in the hope that this would bring Martin back to her, a tear dripping down her cheek.
It was then, as she stepped out of the loo and headed back to search the cottage one more time, that she saw a brilliant light in the woods surrounding the cottage, which was quite unusual since the cottage was rather isolated. The village municipality did not find it a cost-effective proposition to provide Daisy’s farm road with street lamps, no matter how much they enjoyed her buns. The mayor, of course, put it a little more delicately when he relayed the news to her over coffee, preferring not to mention buns in polite conversation.
Daisy darted, then walked, then crept closer to the light, fighting with foliage and thick underbrush, the pulsating glow becoming more blinding with every step. She had to leopard crawl in spots, scraping her elbows and knees. When she at last broke into the clearing, her clothes ripped and shins bruised, the sight astounded and amazed her. She felt a rush of relief as her eyes adjusted to the light and she saw Martin standing there, a halo surrounding him.
Martin’s face lit up, as it always did when Daisy was near. She rushed to his arms, but Martin gently pushed her away, proudly pointing to a large egg-shaped ship behind him. The vehicle undulated with the light she had been following through the woods.
Martin said, “Whoooooosh!” and flung his arms up at the heavens.
Daisy felt some confusion. Not at the fact that Martin had a strange mode of transportation, or that he seemed to be an alien life form, or even the fact that he was standing in front of her in the middle of the woods in only his tidy whities, which hugged his buns (as well as other bulges) tightly, but because she had already imagined their wedding day and resulting children’s names and could not consolidate those plans with Martin’s departure. This confusion, however, was quickly dispelled when Martin nodded in confirmation, waved his arms and emitted another “Whooooosh!”
Daisy was filled with the rage and despair that so many dumped women through the ages have felt, but which was quite new to her. She wanted to fall at Martin’s feet, begging him not to leave her and rip his stupidly perfect eyes out, all at the same time.
Martin, being male and therefore a little bit slow in comprehending these matters, began to sense that Daisy was displeased for some or other reason, though what that reason might be, puzzled him. He had a sudden flash of inspiration and grabbed her arms, pulling her towards the light. A short ladder stood at the craft’s base, leading to a small round entrance in its side. Martin pointed at Daisy and at the ladder in turn, hoping that this would convey his intention.
Relief washed through Daisy. Martin wasn’t abandoning her after all. But this relief was short-lived, replaced by dilemma, causing an uncharacteristic frown to rest on her unplucked brow. If she were to go with Martin, she would have to give up her cottage and her dear little restaurant in the village. It was the only life she had ever known. Fear of the unknown loomed strong. Daisy gazed into Martin’s dark eyes. Thoughts of duty and baking faded to dreams of them holding hands on a splendid beach, running along the water’s edge, rolling in the sand while waves lapped at their feet, tilling the soil of a new frontier.
“It will be tight!”
Daisy squeezed her robust figure through the tiny hole of the strange egg, her resolve firm. She was eloping with the man of her dreams, her one and only love, fulfilling the destiny she always knew she had, romance making her giddy. Martin wanted her. In her mind, that was all that she needed to know, trusting him implicitly.
And so Martin and Daisy ascended into the heavens, never to be heard from again.
Some villagers would recount, if pressed, that they heard a strange boom late that chilly spring evening, waking them from their slumber, but they dismissed it as thunder, though no clouds could be seen for miles. Daisy’s disappearance was the talk of the town for quite a while after and even made it into Pastor Grimwell’s sermon that Sunday when he chose to speak to the congregation about the dangers of lust, but the cottage remained empty and the “closed” placard hung silently on the restaurant door. Soon these buildings were occupied by youngsters starting their own dreams together. The story of Daisy and her Martin grew vague in the villager’s minds, though Bathilda Blomquist did occasionally dwell on the memory of sugar buns and Mrs. Goodall had to tie her apron strings again on Thanksgiving mornings, her liberation short-lived.
But what of Martin, you ask? Who was this handsome stranger that swept the dull earth from under Daisy’s size eleven feet? It is a very interesting question indeed. You see, Martin, on the planet he is from (we’ll call it X, as nobody is sure what it is really called) was in fact an avid botanist as well as the minister of agriculture. On X, famine had loomed, preventing prosperity, threatening to decimate its inhabitants. The reason for this gastronomic poverty, after millennia of careful research, proved to be the poor fertilization of the food-producing plants, which were very finicky plants indeed.
And so Martin had set out on a brave interplanetary quest to solve the problem and avert certain disaster. Preliminary probes suggested that the answer might be found on the small blue planet, commonly referred to as Kumura, but which the locals called Earth. Why one would refer to your planet as dirt when most of it was covered in water was a mystery to the people on X, and was once discussed at length during a council meeting with no satisfactory conclusion except perhaps, and this Martin proposed due to his appointed position, that Kumura’s food grew in dirt.
It was therefore good fortune that made Martin crash land and knock on Daisy’s door that day. Her reaction to his disguise was most satisfactory (he did the research on the suitable appearance of Kumura males himself) and to his delight, human urine proved to be rich in nitrogen, phosphates and potassium, the ideal nutrient combination for X’s plants. Daisy’s healthy constitution also meant that her urine was especially suitable for plant-fertilization. After extensive experimentation, which Martin did while Daisy was sleeping, he felt confident that the council on X would agree that she was the answer to their problem. Daisy did talk an awful lot and required him to smile and run his hands extensively over her body before she would give up the precious product, but Martin felt that any solution would have its drawbacks and that it was a small price to pay to feed his people.
As Martin lay next to Daisy on their journey back to X, their bodies sandwiched together in the narrow hull of his ship, he started to compose a proposal to the council – a plan of action in which other earth women would also willingly accompany X’s farmers to their fields and fertilize their crops. Martin felt quite satisfied, his mission accomplished, a hero to his people.
Daisy looked at the smile on Martin’s face and felt utterly content. This, she thought, was the start of something beautiful.
Michelle Pretorius was born in South Africa and has lived in London, New York and the Midwest. She is a graduate student in Fiction Writing at Columbia College Chicago and has been published in “Word Riot,” ” The Copperfield Review” and “The Columbia Review Lab” and her photographs have appeared in Midwestern Gothic.
Photo courtesy of Marco Djermaghian.