Coming Out Of The Outhouse

The veiled traveler retains something of her last world and perceives the next.

Sunday AM Punk Rock Gospel(ish) by Dia VanGunten
Art by Caya Crum, a featured artist for Wild West

Coming Out of The Outhouse

Excerpt from En Caul

Like Margaret Mead, I’m fat with memory; hundreds and hundreds of thousands; millions of memories. I keep meaning to sit down and actually count them. It would be strange to bring that upon myself, to let them come at me willy nilly, good and bad in a great deluge. The 14th of February: I’m with Mom in the art museum, making homemade valentines. We press pulp into window screen and sprinkle flowers. When it dries, rose petals are embedded into brand new paper. Sometime else, we’re coming home from the lake. Dad’s impatient in an MG convertible. He yells at us to duck so he can drive beneath a stalled train. Mom says, “Nope. No fuckin way.” As she unloads us, the train starts. Dad insists we would’ve made it but he’s wrong. Mom gave us life a few times. 

Cue Saturday morning cartoons. She-ra and He-man. Sister and brother. We brandish light spitting swords and hold them towards the stars. I HAVE THE POWER! The word “power” is a reverberating echo in the mountains of New Mexico.

A rattlesnake catches me coming outta the outhouse.

I close my eyes to the soap.

All the hippies showered at Georgia O’Keeffe’s Ghost Ranch. There’s so few ghosts in attendance. I expected vaginal caves dripping pink-blue-green.

I expected clouds, serene and wobbly like a child’s drawing.

Op! Another!

The phone rings with congratulations and then the doorbell. Men exclaim over a giant bottle of champagne, tall as a toddler, but men can’t handle success. Man of The Hour hulked out. He wrecked the kitchen and wrestled the stove. He tore O’Keefes Clouds from the wall. Daytime clouds sailed into the dark yard. Glass shattered. The stove followed. In the car, I hugged a koala. It was my birthday. I’m newly 9 but I’m back in New Mexico being born. The whole commune is in attendance. Not the guru though, a conspicuous absence.

He’s scared of the baby. Their whispers are giddy with fear.

They’re already telling a story so I don a costume. I come out in a caul. They claim I made eye contact with everyone in the room except my mother. It was only then that I screamed, as if I recognized them and knew well enough to be afraid. My first assessment of this incarnation was that I was well and truly fucked. These assholes again? 

A caul had currency in that crowd.

Folklore calls it a magical signifier. The veiled traveler retains something of her last world and perceives the next. These babies are destined for greatness. They possess darkness. They are bad omens. They are good luck. Is the caul the amulet and the baby the lucky one? Or is the child but a charm? There seems to be some confusion. 

This could go on forever. I could never collect everything into one jungian pile. I’m a hoarder in the house of memory. The floorboards bulge with crowded bits. Is it a fire hazard? 

My facts: It was my birthday party but I showed up late, after midnight, wearing only a veil. Like Solome. My outfit caused a ruckus. A real hocus pocus. No one noticed the missing afterbirth. 

Hard fact: Almost killed my mother. (I grabbed the amniotic sac but left the placenta behind.) 

My fictions: A viral tiktok, I’m a puppy with a fluffy voice — “I was born a dog. I identify as a dog. But according to my mom, I’m just a bayyyyby.” *bashful batting paw* #itme

Mom texted an article and a fact: A so-called “ Mermaid birth” is rare. Only 1 in 80,000 are born “en caul.”  I felt sufficiently special for being born with panache. Mom followed up with three exclamation points. (!!!) In that particular telling of the story, we left out the part where she crawled across the desert. The guru said it was drama. The doctor said it was sepsis.

Not a gospel proper – excerpt of En Caul, memoir work available in full in the Querencia Press Anthology…Summer 2023 (First published by Solstice Lit)

About the Author

Dia VanGunten is a born killer.

More recently, she is Cream Scene’s EiC and the creator of Pink Zombie Rose. (Major Arcana, a PZR collection, illustrated by Beppi will be released by Q, a graphic imprint of Querencia Press. )

About the Artist

Caya Crum is an artist and muralist based in Fort Worth, Texas. Caya’s work is inspired by pop culture references and historical paintings. It varies greatly from watercolor and acrylic paintings to murals and large scale installations. By sharing art, Caya hopes to create memorable pieces that resonate with people and contribute to making the world a better place.

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