Good Head: A Tale of Gay Horror by Julian Modugno

            Erik hopped out of the barber’s chair and Derik hopped in. The partners had discovered the barbershop after a well-placed ad in their local gay newspaper/exercise magazine promised ‘the traditional barbershop service of yesteryear but at a price that only makes sense in a dystopian future.’ The two, usually indistinguishable from one another, were now separated by a full inch of hair, but not for long. Derik pulled out a phone and took a picture of Erik’s new ‘do.

            “This is the haircut I’d like,” he informed the barber, showing him his phone.

            “That’s a picture of the guy I just gave a haircut to,” the barber said, nodding his head at Erik.

            “That guy is my partner!” Derik said, winking at Erik.

            “I see,” said the barber.

            “And I don’t mean business partner!” Derik said.

            “Right,” said the barber.

            “He means we are life partners,” Erik butted in. “But we are also sexual partners as well as tennis partners.” He admired his calves in one of the barbershop’s numerous calf-height mirrors.

            “Anyways, if you could please hurry, we have a tasting to get to shortly,” Erik said, admiring his biceps in one of barbershop’s numerous bicep-height mirrors. “I really love how this barbershop is literally lined with floor to ceiling mirrors. We’ll definitely be coming back.”

            After their matching haircuts, the men popped into their Honda Civic and headed off to the caterer, giddy and eager. Though they had thrown a very tasteful and monumentally expensive commitment ceremony years ago, Erik and Derik Gosling-Phillipe were finally going to get married! The two had met ten years prior at the nicest and most exclusive of the five LA Fitnesses that adorned their gayborhood. Following a particularly taxing leg day, Erik was admiring himself in the mirror. After a few minutes of strenuous flexing, he realized that this was no mirror, but rather a window. He locked eyes with Derik, stunned that a man with such perfect features and excellent taste in gym clothes could exist.

            Erik immediately asked Derik to be his date to the Fresh Squeezed Party, a shirtless fundraiser to help underdeveloped neighborhoods build juice bars. The night was a huge success, not only for Big Juice but also for Erik and Derik. Soon, they were a power couple to watch. Erik began spelling his name with a K and Derik started began spelling his name with an I. The two were truly inseparable and, now that gay marriage was the law of the land, they could finally be recognized as one, indivisible entity, joined forever in the eyes of their government and their tolerant Methodist God.

            When Derik came out of the closet all those years ago, he made a list of all the thing he wanted to do as a gay man. It had only one item on it: “ALL THE EXACT SAME THINGS A STRAIGHT WHITE MAN CAN DO.” And now, he could finally put a check in the only box that had ever mattered to him. Erik and Derik felt mostly responsible for this change in public policy, as they had decided five years earlier to cease their donations to that childhood cancer center and that gay teen runaway shelter so they could funnel all their charitable income to the marriage initiative.

            Derik gazed out the window as they headed down the road.

            “There sure are a lot of sick looking homeless kids on this street,” he said.

            “It’s a damn shame that the Fresh Squeezed Party got shut down by the American Diabetes Association,” Erik replied. “ A brand new Jamba Juice would be the perfect solution to this urban blight.”

            “That’s what I love about you, Erik,” Derik smiled as he rubbed his hand through Erik’s hair before realizing he was rubbing his own hair and adjusted his arm’s trajectory. “You really care about the community.”

            “And I love you because you care about all the exact same things and also we can really exploit those two-for-one sales at J. Crew. I never want to be away from you.”

            Derik’s eyes brimmed with joyful tears. “And I never want to be away from OH MY TOLERANT METHODIST GOD LOOK OUT!”

            Erik turned his attention back to the road and saw a horrifying sight: LESBIANS! Marching for reproductive rights for some reason. If he didn’t act fast, he would plow right into them! He turned the wheel sharply to the right and the Civic flew off the road and down a steep embankment. The Gosling-Phillipes screamed as the car plowed headfirst into a massive boulder. And then, blackness.

            An indeterminate amount of time later, the two men awakened simultaneously amidst the steady beep of a heart monitor and the wet drip of an IV. The two were thrilled to find that even though they weren’t legally married yet, the hospital had allowed them to share not only the same room, but the same bed even!

            “Thanks Obama!” they said in unison.

            “Ah good, you’re awake,” said a white-haired man in a lab coat.

            “What happened to us, white-haired man in a lab coat?” asked Erik.

            “You can just call me doctor and I’m afraid you were in a terrible car accident.”

            “Oh no! Is my hair OK?” Derik asked.

            “Your hair looks fantastic, the both of you,” the doctor said. “But I’m afraid there were some serious injuries and, well, it’s probably best just to show you.” The doctor retrieved a small mirror from his pocket and yanked off the sheet that covered the men.

            “My hair!” Derik screamed. “It does look fantastic!”

            “Mine too!” Erik screamed.

            “Ugh hold on,” the doctor said, pulling the full-length mirror from the wall, turning it sideways, and holding it up for the couple to see. They gasped in horror. Oh yes, they had two perfect heads of hair, but those two perfect heads were now affixed to one perfect body.

            “I’m afraid that Mr. Gosling-Phillipe’s body was destroyed in the accident and we had to attach his head to Mr. Gosling-Phillipe’s body.”

            “Wait I’m sorry but—” started Erik.

            “Right,” said the doctor. “You see, youuuu…”

            “Erik.”

            “Yes, Erik. Your body was crushed.”

            “Even my abs?”

            “Yes.”

            “Impossible!”

            “I’ll tell you what’s impossible: this surgery. It’s a miracle that you survived. Honestly, I’m a podiatrist so this is sort of incredible.” Erik burst into tears.

            “Shhh, baby, it’s going to be OK,” Derik said. “Now we can be together forever, just like you wanted.” The two men stared deep into each other’s eyes, stunned by how perfectly they served as mirrors. They strained forward and kissed each other deep and with longing. Much to Erik’s surprise, he now controlled Derik’s left arm and started squeezing Derik’s nipple. Both men moaned in ecstasy.

            “Oh yeah, this is working for me,” the doctor said, peeling back the label on a bottle of rubbing alcohol to reveal a label that read “real alcohol” and taking a deep swig. The Gosling-Phillipes, too engrossed by their own reflections, completely ignored the podiatrist as they took turns pumping Derik’s dick before they arrived at mutual climax.

            “Oh wow,” they said in unison. “You came at the same time as me.”

            At first, life for the Gosling-Phillipes continued on its normal path. Derik was elected president of the local chapter of the Human Rights Campaign and Erik was elected president of the local chapter of the Human Lefts Campaign. Pretty soon, however, the two obtained more than a modicum of notoriety. They began going by Erik and Derik Gosling-Gosling-Phillipe-Phillipe to cut down on confusion. They were the talk of the town and their wedding quickly became the event of the season: gay, straight, or otherwise. People were clamoring for an invite and some went to extreme lengths to obtain one.

            Tim Toolman, their tailor, altered all of their Express Men shirts to have two collars and he even threw the collar stays in for free. The editor of Mundane Couples Monthly ran a cover story on them proclaiming “Two Heads Are Better Than Fun.” Even the Mayor himself tried to curry favor by naming a street after them and soon signs went up reading “Erik and Derik Gosling-Gosling-Phillipe-Phillipe Avenue” and down came the signs reading “Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard.”

            “Great news!” Derik exclaimed one Sunday morning after lying down with his eyes open for two hours, waiting for Erik to awaken so he could sit up. “I just got an email from that super-conservative, Christian-owned dessert place. The owner is willing to compromise all of her beliefs and bake our wedding cake! People are just so eager to be associated with our special day.”

            “Wow,” yawned Erik, rubbing the sleep from his eyes. “Sweetsus Pies-t Our Torte and Flavorer is the best bakery in town!”

            “It’s amazing!” squealed Derik. “I can’t wait for my sister to find out, that miserable bitch. Remember how she had to get married at the courthouse? What a bitch!”

            But as Derik’s enthusiasm for the wedding increased, Erik became sullen, withdrawn, and contrary. If Derik wanted to work their lats, Erik wanted to work their delts. Their relationship had never suffered this level of strife! Soon, Erik began skulking off on his own, forcing Derik to wear the privacy hood their one kinky friend bought them as an engagement present. Derik wanted to know what was going on in Erik’s head. He wanted to ask him but Erik had made him wear the privacy gag their one kinky friend had included in that package that also included that privacy hood. Surely it was nerves! The wedding planning now consumed every waking hour of the day. That had to be it! Derik was sure. They shared a body; surely they shared a mind.

            Finally, the day of the wedding arrived and all of the town’s A-listers arrived and also Derik’s bitch sister.

            “Oh well, hello, Leslie,” Derik said with false sincerity.

            “Baby brother, it’s so good to see you,” she grinned, a twinkle in her eye. “And where is Erik?”

            “Oh he’s on the other side of this tastefully designed canopy veil,” Derik explained, gesturing towards the cube of gossamer that fit beautifully over Erik’s head. “Tradition and all that. You see, in a gay relationship, as in a straight one, one person has to be husband and one the wife and, well, clearly I’m the husband so, you know, I can’t see Erik before the wedding. You OK in there, sweetheart?”

            “Whatever!” snapped Erik.

            “He’s a little anxious,” Derik explained.

            “Cold feet?” asked Leslie.

            “You wish!” snapped Derik. “I know how embarrassed you are by your gay homo little brother. I bet you’re just humiliated that I’m having such a perfect wedding in this tolerant Methodist church while you got married in a courthouse and the town drunk threw up on your bouquet!”

            “Oh Derik, that was our uncle.. And besides, I’ve never had a problem with you being gay. You’re thinking of Becky. Remember? Our sister Becky? The one who got hooked on meth and then died in that meth fire and then her funeral ended in another meth fire? She was the homophobe. Not me! I’ve always wanted to know you and Erik better but you’ve been so distant. I got you an infusion pitcher for your wedding. That’s how little I know about you. I miss you, Derik, and now that we’ve put this misunderstanding behind us, I hope we can…”

            “Oh my word!” exclaimed Derik, glancing out the window. “The cake just arrived! Did you know a Christian woman turned her back on the Lord and accepted eternal damnation to make that for us? If only you could show that level of tolerance!”

            “Why do you refuse to listen to me!?” Leslie wailed. The string quartet struck up an orchestral arrangement of “Summertime Sadness” and Derik perked right up.

            “Grab a seat if you can stomach it,” he told his sister. “The ceremony’s about to start.” He darted off to the front of the chapel and took his place by the tolerant Methodist preacher. The quartet wrapped up their song and transitioned into the wedding march. It was time for Erik to begin his procession, so Derik ran to the back of the aisle, turned heel, and began to elegantly trample the petals thrown by the flower girl. The priest nodded tolerantly and Erik removed the tower of gossamer that had obscured his face.

            “Oh my God!” screamed Derik. Attached to his shoulder was a head that resembled that of his partner but was tired, angry, and unkempt. “I thought we had agreed on George Clooney’s beard circa the 2012 Golden Globes. That thing is practically Brad Pitt at the 2011 Independent Spirit Awards!”

            “So what?” Erik pouted. “It’s just a beard. It comes, it goes.”

            “Look, I’m fine with a beard,” Derik said. “This isn’t like the 90’s or early 2000’s when every gay man had to be clean shaven. Now every gay man has to have a beard. And I get that. But that’s too much beard! What about my grooming moodboard?”

            “FUCK YOUR GROOMING MOODBOARD!” Erik shouted, knocking Derik’s grooming moodboard from the easel next to the altar. The wedding guests gasped and pulled out their phones, ready to film whatever came next.

            “What happened to you?” Derik sobbed. “What happened to the sweet man I mistook for a mirror those many years ago? The man who took pride in how he looked and also took pride in winning the Pride Festival’s proudest abs award, 2008, 2009, and 2013? I thought that sharing a body would bring us closer together but it turns out the exact opposite happened. On an emotional level. In terms of physical proximity then yes, it did bring us closer together but not as a couple. Do you follow me? Is everyone clear on what I’m saying?”

            “Yes,” replied Erik and the guests in unison.

            “I just don’t know you anymore,” Derik bawled. “Sometimes I think the only thing we even agree on anymore is that trans people need to wait their turn.”

            ‘Trans rights are indistinguishable from gay rights,” Erik said. “It’s pointless to leave our fellow humans behind in the struggle!”

            “Who are you and what did you do to my Erik!?”

            “The Erik you knew is gone! He was crushed along with his body the day our Honda Civic decided to make like a Nissan and Leaf the road” He held for ample laughter from the wedding guests. “I lost everything that day. My identity! My freedom! My MyPanera card with a free sandwich on it! Nobody knows what it’s like to suffer a loss like that!”

            “I know what it’s like!” said Leslie, rising from her seat. “I lost my sister!”

            “Shut the fuck up, you miserable homophobe!” Erik screamed before turning his attention back to his betrothed. “And you! You’re actually enjoying this! Having two heads made you into a real celebrity, huh? But what about me? You think this is fun for me? I have control of ONE arm and only sort of! We spend four hours at the gym and I’m exhausted by the end of it and for what? So your abs look better by the pool?”

            “My abs look incredible by the pool!” Derik exclaimed, lifting his shirt up and holding for applause from the wedding guests.

            “Well congrats on your perfect abs and your perfect beard and your perfect life! You know, I actually used to want the same thing! To be handsome and toned and just like everyone else! And here we are, getting married in a church that would have run us out of town 30 years earlier!”

            “Actually,” interjected the tolerant Methodist preacher, “30 years ago, this church was a bowling alley.”

            “And now we’re just going to get married here because it’s what everyone else does. We put marriage ahead of those shelters and that cancer charity, like it’s the only thing that matters. Just so we could have the same boring wedding as everyone else! Well you know what? Assimilation is death!”

            “Um this rant is getting a little on-the-nose, don’t you think?” asked Leslie.

            “Well here’s something a little less obvious,” Erik proclaimed. “I’d like to introduce you to the Human Lefts Campaign, a group of radical separationists who, like me, are the leftovers of other disfiguring accidents.” The doors to the chapel flew open, revealing a man with no legs riding on a skateboard, a teenage girl with no face, and a hugely muscular man with tough, grey flesh and a horn on his face. “Everyone, meet Halfpipe, Tiffany the No-Faced Girl, and, of course, Rhino Man.”

            “He’s no man, only a rhino!” screamed a guest in horror.

            “He was a man,” Erik explained, “before the incident with the ooze.”

            “Actually I was all rhino beforehand.”

            “Just get the cake, Rhino Man!” Erik ordered. “I’ve got a very special wedding present for you all.” Rhino Man returned, pushing a decadent seven-tiered wedding cake.

            “My cake!” screamed Derik.

            “It’s full of dynamite,” said Erik.

            “It’s supposed to be full of pineapple!”

            “No it’s…” Erik sighed. “Look, never mind! When those candles on top burn all the way down, the cake will blow up this church and everyone in it. Anyone who survives will be horribly scarred and then they’ll know what it’s like to be a freak.”

            “Why would you put candles on a wedding cake?” asked Derik.

            “Oh. Right. Look, just shut up! This church is about to get blown sky high and there’s nothing anyone can do to stop it.”

            Suddenly, at the back of the chapel, Erik and Derik’s doctor pushed his way past Halfpipe.

            “Wait!” he screamed. “Misters Gosling-Gosling-Phillipe-Phillipe! I have something I need to tell you both. On that fateful day all those months ago, I made a mistake. It wasn’t Erik’s body that was crushed. It was Derik’s! I sewed Derik’s head onto Erik’s body instead of vice versa. Is everyone clear? You see, I double majored in medicine and theatre so I think in terms of stage right and stage left which has presented some unique challenges in the medical world.”

            “So all this time I thought Erik had been stitched to my body, in reality, I had been sewn to his?”

            “Yes,” sighed the doctor, exhausted.

            “Well I guess that would explain all these stitches on my neck,” said Derik.

            “Wait, then how come I only have control of one arm?” asked Erik.

            “Some people want it more,” suggested the doctor.

            “Oh my God,” moaned Derik, the gravity of his now apparent loss washing over him. “I’m so sorry, Erik. For being so ignorant. For thinking being made into this monstrosity was fun! I understand your sense of loss. I understand the plight of all those who have ever suffered because they were different.”

            “You get it now,” Erik smiled, taking Derik into his arm. “We’re just two freaks now, without a place in the world.”

            “Actually that’s not true!” said Leslie, rising from her seat. “Many Native American tribes considered the homosexuals among them to be what they called ‘Two Spirits.’ Somewhere between man and woman, these tribespeople were honored and considered shamans and spiritual leaders. In modern times, certain alternative gay societies have adopted the concept of the two-spirit to carve out a more spiritual, naturalistic lifestyle for themselves, one where being different is celebrated. Well, you guys are pretty different and with two heads, you are basically the physical avatar of the concept of the two-spirit. Perhaps you could look to those traditions to help you carve out a place in the world?”

            “I told you to shut up, you homophobic bitch!” shrieked Erik.

            “No, wait,” Derik said, calming his lover. “Maybe Leslie is right. After all, we can’t go back to the way we were. I think we could be happy together if we followed her advice.”

            “All I’ve ever wanted was to be happy with you,” Erik said, tears welling in his eyes.

            “Hey this is all really heartwarming,” interrupted the doctor, “but shouldn’t we be worried about that?” He gestured towards the explosive cake, the candles nearly burned all the way down.

            “THHH CKKKK! SSS GNG SPLDD!” screamed Tiffany the No-Faced Girl. With a grunt, Rhino Man stampeded down the aisle, throwing himself on the cake, just as it exploded. He was vaporized instantly into a fine mist of gristle and blood, as hot rhino meat rained down on the wedding.

            “He is gone now,” the preacher said in a solemn tone. “May his soul find eternal torment in Hell as any abomination such as himself deserves.”

            “Everyone!” Derik yelled. “Erik and I have an announcement to make. We’ve decided to become radical, separationist homosexuals and, therefore, this wedding, the patriarchal and heteronormative display that it is, is cancelled!”

            “Instead of joining in holy matrimony, Derik and I will be moving to the mountains of North Caroline where we will open up a commune and our relationship, connecting with other gay men on a spiritual and sexual level. We are 100% that this is better.”

            “I don’t know if it’s all the excitement,” said Derik, “or all the vaporized rhino horn I just inhaled, but I’m ready to sexually connect with you in nontraditional ways right here!”

            “Save it for the commune, you sexy forest spirit,” Erik said as the two began towards the exit. “I want to grow a rat-tail!”

            “Ooh, I want one, too!” Derik exclaimed.

            “Can we braid them?” Erik asked.

            “Yes,” said Derik, “but only if it’s a braid like Willy Nelson’s at the 1997 CMAs and not Joaquin Phoenix at the 2009 Golden Globes.”

            They stopped in the doorway, stared into each other’s eyes, and smiled.

            “I couldn’t agree with you more.”

 

The End