FRANK THE PHRENOLOGIST AND THE FABULOUS WOLF WOMAN
Frank avoids people. For him, it’s enough to speak into the loneliness pretending the echoes belong to someone. The quiet in his cluttered apartment sounds like something; I’m just not sure what—the silence between songs on a vinyl record? The hush between previews at a movie theater?
Frank’s appearance can be described in a word—shabby. He wears darkening sunglasses and worn-through shoes. Frank is this big: a bear. And he is never seen without a tatty translation of Franz Joseph Gall’s The Anatomy and Physiology of the Nervous System in General and of the Brain in Particular.
Frank wears hats.
The remarkable thing about Frank is this: he has the ability to comprehend a person’s character by the prominences and protuberances on their head. For Frank, to look at you is to know you.
According to Franz Joseph Gall, a bump on the forehead is indicative of wit. Ridges around the temples bear the unmistakable mark of someone with the tendency for affection. And the mole-like knob on your cheek is sign of perversion. At a glance, Frank knows you’re an ironically kind pervert.
Unintentionally, Frank maps the hills and dales on the skulls of strangers. The prudish lady at the bank has dimples above her eyebrows, signs of a carnivorous instinct, the propensity for murder. The children’s crossing guard has the telltale bulges below his eye sockets of an elevated spiritual temperament; Frank hates religious people. The knobby nose of the gas station attendant discloses a prodigious linguistic ability, a man who talks too much.
I’m sure you can appreciate why people feel uncomfortable around Frank. And why Frank avoids face-to-face meetings.
If not for love and alcohol, Frank’s phrenology would be the most intriguing aspect of this tale. But it’s not.
In a rare visit to The Winking Lizard, a local bar, Frank meets Dottie. She’s wearing an ankle-length, hip-hugging, gray dress and black gloves which run the span of her sturdy arms. A black scarf envelops her entire head and face, save for the slit through which her blue eyes are flirting.
Dottie’s mystery teases and Frank climbs into her eyes.
She drinks a vodka gimlet. He drinks bourbon. She’s mustering courage. He’s trying to relax.
Eventually, they stumble to his apartment.
Frank undresses, anticipating the sudden knowledge of Dottie once the scarf is removed. Yet, Dottie does not undress.
“There’s something you should know,” she whispers through the black head wrap.
They stare at each other, one nude, one not.
“I’m ‘THE FABULOUS WOLF WOMAN’ at Ringling Brothers Circus.”
Frank isn’t sure how to respond.
Dottie shoulders out of her cotton dress, fingers off the gloves, and un-wraps the black wrap around her head. She stands naked in the bluish light blinking through the window—every inch of her body is covered with hair.
Sheepishly, Dottie says, “Hypertrichosis.”
Another room in Frank’s brain opens. For the first time in his life, he’s unable to immediately read someone—she’s covered in hair.
Unsure if it’s the alcohol or curiosity, Frank moves toward Dottie, “THE FABULOUS WOLF WOMAN,” aroused.
Her legs, they go on forever exploding in the sweetest flower Frank ever plucked. She blooms. He buzzes. And there are stings and honey all evening. After, they sleep.
Frank wakes to the nickel-shimmer of a full moon on the wet street outside. It looks like aluminum foil crumpled and then smoothed with a thumbnail. Frank rolls over and stares at the hirsute face of his mistress thinking, “Perhaps there’s a chance for a normal relationship after all.”
Outside, a yard dog barks at the moon.
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