Bruce H. Hinrichs
It had been quite a while, Mrs. Bonkers mused, since she last saw her husband, Mr. Bonkers. People say that things happen suddenly, like “suddenly one day he was gone,” but the disappearance of Mr. Bonkers didn’t seem sudden at all to Mrs. Bonkers. It definitely seemed gradual. Although, to be fair, her memory really was quite confused on the matter. Mr. Bonkers clearly wasn’t around now, but Mrs. Bonkers could not recall how long it had been since she had last seen him. How long had it been? Mrs. Bonkers vaguely remembered seeing Mr. Bonkers around the house about a year ago. Or, so she thought. He’s certainly not here now, so far as Mrs. Bonkers can tell.
Mrs. Bonkers came from a small family and never had many friends. She does have one sibling, however, a sister, a Siamese twin named Katinka. Mrs. Bonkers is named Irinka. The sisters are very close. In fact, Mrs. Bonkers met her husband, Mr. Bonkers, through her sister Katinka. You see, they had previously been married to each other, Katinka and Mr. Bonkers. They had been married for about three months. The marriage did not work out because Mr. Bonkers claimed that Katinka was not his type. He didn’t go for conjoined twins, he had explained. Still, ironically, shortly after their divorce Mr. Bonkers started dating Irinka. People are funny like that.
Mr. Bonkers and Irinka were married shortly after they started dating. Katinka was the maid of honor at their wedding, which was convenient. Fortunately, Katinka did not seem to hold a grudge about her conjoined sister marrying her ex-husband, Mr. Bonkers. However, during the wedding ceremony a strange, perhaps revealing, thing happened. When it came time for Irinka to say “I do,” her left arm (well, her only arm) inexplicably jerked forward and Irinka punched Mr. Bonkers hard in the stomach. Mr. Bonkers bent over and gave a cough and his face turned red. Katinka turned her head to the side and smiled, maybe even giggled a silent giggle. Then the wedding ceremony continued.
Now it had been quite a while since Mrs. Bonkers recalled seeing her husband, Mr. Bonkers, around the house. It’s funny how that goes. She just hadn’t noticed him missing for who knows how long?It was odd, she accepted, but she had been busy with other matters and just didn’t notice that he wasn’t around, she rationalized. “Where could Mr. Bonkers have gone off to?” she sometimes wondered. But most of the time Mrs. Bonkers simply didn’t think about the missing Mr. Bonkers.
One morning Mrs. Bonkers asked her conjoined sister if she had seen Mr. Bonkers lately. “No,” Katinka replied. “Well, that’s very odd,” responded Mrs. Bonkers to the former Mrs. Bonkers, “it seems he was just here a little bit ago, but now I seem to have misplaced him. I wonder where he could be?”
Katinka said nothing.
A few days later Mrs. Bonkers noticed she had a funny feeling about the disappearance of Mr. Bonkers and Katinka’s reaction to it. Something nagged at Irinka. Something was off. For instance, when she had asked her conjoined twin sister if she had seen Mr. Bonkers lately, Katinka had merely said, “No.” Yet Mrs. Bonkers detected a slight tingling sensation in her spleen and at that very moment, Katinka’s face evidenced the glimmer of a tic, a slight spasm of the cheek muscle. Katinka had turned to look away from Irinka’s face, perhaps in an attempt to conceal the facial twitch. That seemingly minor incident gave Mrs. Bonkers an eerie notion. Yes, she had the heebiejeebies. She felt that something surely was up. So, after a few days Irinka broached the subject again with her Siamese sister.
“Katinka, are you sure you have not seen Mr. Bonkers lately?”
“Yes, I am sure. I have not seen him around.”
Katinka’s eyes darted sideways and Irinka noticed the facial tic was there again.And so, too, was the tingling in the spleen of Mrs. Bonkers.
“Katinka, is there something you want to tell me?”
Well, that was that. No sense beating a dead horse. Katinka was not talking. However, Mrs. Bonkers observed that while Katinka was sleeping she was having some very frightening dreams. You see, during sleep sometimes a dream, or a fragment of a dream, could seep from one conjoined twin to the other. The phenomenon is called ‘dream seeping’ and it is one of those idiosyncratic experiences known only to Siamese twins. This matter was duly noted and filed away in the subconscious mind of Mrs. Bonkers.
Some time passed and Mrs. Bonkers had mostly forgotten about the disappearance of Mr. Bonkers and the somewhat puzzling and disturbing reaction of her sister Katinka. Now it was spring and time to do some spring cleaning. This entailed a trip to the attic – an annual occurrence. The conjoined twins went together to the musty upstairs storage area to clean, arrange memorabilia stored there, and to throw out what they could stand to see gone – though, truth be told, each year more objects were placed in the attic than were removed. It was on this particular trip to the attic that Mrs. Bonkers discovered the reason for the disappearance of Mr. Bonkers.
While scavenging through the material scattered and piled in the dusty space, Mrs. Bonkers bumped into an assortment of old rugs. The pile of rugs moved in an odd way, as if something soft and squishy was beneath it. However, at that very moment Katinka pulled in the opposite direction and inquired, “Irinka, where is that old yellow sweater we wore in high school?” But Mrs. Bonkers did not answer her sister. Mrs. Bonkers was aware that Katinka was trying to distract her from the large mushy bump on the floor. Mrs. Bonkers continued staring down at the pile of rugs, though she was being aggressively pulled sideways by her sister and consequently had to twist and stretch her neck awkwardly. That is the very moment when the dreams came flooding back to her, flowed into her consciousness – the dreams that had seeped through from Katinka some time ago, the scary, alarming dreams. Apparently the cockeyed wrenching of Irinka’s neck had loosened the dreams from her subconscious mind and they now came tumbling into her awareness like lava erupting from a hot volcano and flowing down a mountainside.
The dreams were surreal. They involved strong emotions, sexual tension, and a vivid ambience of terror. One dream had lots of blood, another chaotic screaming, and still another powerful jealousy. This is what had seeped through from the brain of Katinka to the now conscious mind of Irinka. Well, the effect of the dreams bursting into her awareness while simultaneously staring at the curious bulge beneath the pile of rugs made Mrs. Bonkers feel a deep, all-consuming sense of anxiety. What could it mean? Mrs. Bonkers experienced an overwhelming urge to look under the uneven, lumpy stack, even while Katinka continued to pull at her in an attempt to distract her.
And that is when it happened. The flood gates burst open. It was the moment of truth, the definitive answer to the strange disappearance of Mr. Bonkers. Irinka reached down toward the mysterious protuberance, struggling with difficulty against the reverse pull of Katinka, stretching her arm and half-body, pulling Katinka sideways with her, and then abruptly, unexpectedly, their feet gave loose and the two conjoined sisters lost their balance and fell, kerplunk, directly atop the irregular protrusion on the attic floor. Katinka screamed and appeared to suffer a minor seizure. Her eyes rolled back in her head, her mouth gaped open, and her half-body shivered as if freezing. Irinka stared at her sister, speechless and confused, her mind now a jumble of unsettling dreams and fears. Below her she felt the mushy, uneven lump. And then, Katinka spoke. The words tumbled out of her. She could hold it back no longer. Her overpowering guilt propelled her to confession. She was as if in a trance that compelled her to speak.
Katinka began by dropping a bombshell: Katinka and Mr. Bonkers were having an affair! They had been sneaking around behind Irinka’s back. Well, not exactly behind her back, rather a bit to the side. “But how is that possible,” Irinka asked, “without me knowing?” Katinka then dropped another bombshell: She had concealed the affair by hypnotizing her sister. Katinka explained that some time ago she had seen an advertisement in the newspaper and signed up for hypnosis training sessions. She later had hypnotized Irinka and gave her a post-hypnotic suggestion to forget the hypnosis training they had attended. Oh, and of course, also commanded Irinka to forget about Katinka’s affair with Mr. Bonkers.
Katinka continued her story while Irinka sat astonished, hardly comprehending the incredible tale now spilling from her sister’s mouth. The affair had gone on for several months, Katinka elucidated, but reached a nadir when Mr. Bonkers once again claimed that he was not into conjoined twins and wanted to break things off with her. Katinka was devastated and could not tolerate the idea of losing Mr. Bonkers once again. In a state of frenzy and near panic, Katinka had poisoned Mr. Bonkers and placed his body in the attic beneath the jumble of old rugs. And, Katinka explained, again she had hypnotized Irinka and ordered her to repress all memory of the gruesome incident. That’s when her horrible dreams began. Dreams driven by her deep sense of guilt.
Irinka stared at her sister in utter disbelief. How could this be? I thought Mr. Bonkers was true to me, she told herself. My sister, too. And then yet another bombshell transpired: Irinka felt the lump beneath her move. She also heard a muffled, moaning-like sound resonating from the moving lump. The sisters awkwardly clambered to their feet and stood glaring at the mass of rugs and the moving lump, their mouths agape and their faces frozen in stunned expressions. From beneath the pile of rugs slowly arose the lump, which remarkably proved to be Mr. Bonkers. Yes, Mr. Bonkers, amazingly still quite alive. Katinka stammered, “I, I, I…” Irinka exclaimed, “It’s alive, it’s alive, it’s alive!”
Apparently, the dosage of poison that Katinka had used had not been entirely effective. Mr. Bonkers was not dead, but had simply been in a mild coma. He was now awake and aware, though a bit drowsy and befuddled. Mr. Bonkers sat on the attic floor, the old dusty rugs across his lap, and he gawked at the twins for quite some time, slowly looking back and forth from Irinka to Katinka. Likewise, the twins silently goggled back at Mr. Bonkers with looks full of bewilderment. For a long time all was quiet in the musty attic. Finally Mr. Bonkers broke the silence. He leaned forward, glaredintently at the faces of the sisters, and then ardently asserted to Irinka and Katinka, “I’m starving!” The twins continued to stare dumbfounded at Mr. Bonkers, and then after a bit Irinka said, “Well, of course you are, dear. Come to the kitchen and we will fix you a nice bite to eat.”
Mr. Bonkers arose clumsily from his long-held spot on the dusty attic floor, brushed himself off, and then he and the twins wriggled down the attic steps to the hallway below. The twins shuffled into the kitchen and Mr. Bonkers sat at the dining room table awaiting a meal, his head still a bit cloudy after being comatose for so long, but the mental fog was eclipsed by his teeming hunger.
The conjoined twins stood before the kitchen cupboards, each in a similar mindset of deep thought and reflection mixed with disbelief and confusion. Mrs. Bonkers reached for the bread while Katinka twisted her body enough to reach the tea kettle. She then placed a cup on the counter directly in front of them. Irinka was busy preparing a sandwich but felt the tug of Katinka bending down and reaching under the counter. When the former Mrs. Bonkers stood up she was holding what appeared to be a dark brown bottle marked with three large red Xs.
Irinka stared at her sister in astonishment and perplexity, and then meekly inquired, “Is that poison?” “Why, yes, it is,” responded Katinka. “Well,” replied Mrs. Bonkers, “be sure to use a double dose this time.”
Bruce H. Hinrichs is a professor, artist, and author of both nonfiction and fiction in Minneapolis.