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Talia and Kate


Recipient of the 2012 Adroit Prize for Prose

Talia and Kate were feeling frustrated and sort of stalled in their lives, so they decided to drop acid together in order to gain wisdom and perspective. After they came down from their trip, they found a spiral notebook that had been entirely filled with what amounted to a pencil-sketched graphic novella.

Flipping through the notebook, they saw that most of the text had been written in Kate’s handwriting, and most of the accompanying drawings were Talia’s, which made sense, because Kate was an incompetent artist, and Talia, whose native language was Spanish, considered herself to be a terrible writer. They found it interesting, however, that the most sexually explicit scenes were written in Spanish, and illustrated by pencil stick figures with enormous genitals drawn in pink and purple highlighter.

The novella begins with Kate and Talia having a discussion about their breasts. Talia has large, sensuous breasts, but Kate’s breasts, though nothing to sneeze at, are a lot smaller than were before her eating disorder. Talia’s mother has recently been diagnosed with breast cancer, and so she’s anxious that her breasts might also contain tumors, because she knows that genetics play an important role in that sort of thing.

Kate is unhappy with her smaller breasts, because she remembers when she was so thin that she stopped menstruating, and even though her period came back when she gained some weight, she still has a dull sense that she accidentally sacrificed her womanhood by starving her body.

Talia is worried about her mother’s hospital bills and compulsively checks for lumps throughout the day, as though a little bulb might grow in her breast tissue between breakfast and lunch.

Kate is worried about infertility, even though she knows she won’t want a baby for at least six years, and she’s also worried about sexual dysfunction. She doesn’t masturbate, because she’s afraid to find out that she’s broken.

Kate and Talia decide that the solution to both of their problems is to have breast transplants, which is to say that Talia would end up with Kate’s, and Kate would end up with Talia’s. They go to the hospital together and ask to have the operation, and a team of doctors immediately agrees to go forward with the procedure.

Kate and Talia are placed in adjacent hospital beds, which are close enough for them to hold hands, so they do. Each of them has an IV bag attached to her arm through a needle for the anesthesia to drip into her veins.

But the doctors have made a mistake.

Kate and Talia simultaneously fall asleep under the anesthetic, and the doctors remove their hospital gowns and begin drawing the guidelines for their incisions with black permanent markers. Then they take out their scalpels and begin to surgically remove the girls’ breasts, careful not to sever any nerves or cut too deep.

An hour into the procedure, Talia’s nose twitches, but the doctors are too engaged with their work to notice. Though that don’t realize it, they have accidentally given Talia the dosage of anesthesia that was intended for Kate, and vice versa. Kate is significantly lighter than Talia, so Talia is going to wake up during the operation, and Kate’s pulse and heart rate are going to drop to dangerously low levels.

Two hours into the procedure, Talia wakes up screaming. A doctor is holding a handful of Kate’s breast tissue and drops it on the floor in surprise, and an intern scurries to pick it up. Talia goes into shock, and has an encounter with God. God, referred to as Dios, is depicted as a pink and purple highlighter phallus so large it takes up an entire page of the notebook, and he tells Talia that she must submit to this suffering because this is the nature of life on earth.

Talia asks why.

The narrative then moves to Kate, who, as the doctors frantically attempt to sedate Talia, is slipping deeper and deeper under the anesthesia. Her brain is not receiving enough blood. Kate has an encounter with God.

Kate sees pink and purple light and feels a divine presence. God tells Kate that she is about to die, and Kate weeps and begs to continue living. God does not reply to Kate, but rather penetrates her with His cosmic pink and purple highlighter phallus, and Kate orgasms so intensely and powerfully that her vitals return to normal, and the doctors never realize that they had given her too much anesthesia.

Meanwhile, the doctors have managed to successfully tranquilize Talia and sterilize the dropped breast tissue, and complete the breast transplants without any further mishaps. Talia and Kate wake up some hours later and are thrilled with their results.

In order to prevent a malpractice suit, the doctors pay Talia a settlement that is exactly the amount of money that she needs to pay her mother’s hospital bills. An attractive orderly flirts with Kate as the girls leave the hospital, and she feels a wave of lust that is not directed so much towards him as it is to males in general, and she’s so grateful and happy to be feeling this way that she kisses him on the mouth and grabs his crotch and then gives him a fake phone number before she and Talia get into the town car that’s going to take them home.

The story ends there.

“What do you think?” Kate asked Talia after they had first read the whole thing through.

“I wish life were that easy,” said Talia, and they both laughed, because neither was certain whether or not she was kidding.

Phoebe Nir is a junior at Brown University, majoring in writing for performance. She became a 2010 Presidential Scholar of the Arts in Writing from the National YoungArts Foundation, and was nominated for a 2010 Pushcart Prize for a short story published in Xenith.