Oct/Nov 2001  •   Fiction

My Barbarian

by D. Harlan Wilson

Art by Bob Dornborg

Art by Bob Dornborg

The barbarian wasn't working out. It kept defecating all over the upholstery, and whenever the wife and I had company over it insisted on tackling and molesting every last cleavage-toter it could get its bony, gritty fingers on. I decided to return it.

"You sure you wanna take that route?" said Harry Arboreal, the manager of The Barbarian Boutique. We were standing in the middle of the store. Surrounding us was an ersatz jungle laden with barbarians like mine. Most of the barbarians were swinging on vines or whaling on each other with femurs or logs. A few were masturbating. One was banging its face against a tree trunk. "I mean, I'd be happy to take your barbarian back, but maybe you're being a little bit hasty here," Harry added. "Maybe you should give your barbarian another chance. After all, he's your barbarian."

He had a point. I thanked him and greased his cold calloused palm with a fifty for the advice, then grabbed the barbarian by its leash and clicked my tongue...

On the way home, the barbarian gnawed through its leash and attacked a street mime. The street mime saw it coming and, thinking it was a dirty crazy person instead of a barbarian, tried to reason with it by gesturing at it in a certain way with his face and body parts. The barbarian paid no attention to the gestures; it leapt on and began strangling the mime. The mime didn't have a voice box—it was stolen and sold on the black market by his stepfather when he was a child, an awful thing in that he lacked the capacity to express himself by means of speech acts, but a good thing in that, had his voice box never been stolen and sold, he never would have become a mime, a profession he thoroughly enjoyed—so all he could do was mouth "Help! Help! Help!" in silence.

I felt sorry for the mime and said, "Leave that thing alone!" The barbarian didn't listen to me. I took what was left of the leash and gave it two quick, bloody lashes across the back. The barbarian squealed like a piglet and jumped off the mime. Urinating uncontrollably, it gamboled into traffic. Horns blasted, tires shrieked, cars crashed and exploded. I waited patiently for the smoke to clear... but when it did clear, the barbarian was gone.

I spent the rest of the day looking all over the city for it. I looked in dumpsters, I looked in manholes, I looked in every house of ill-repute. No luck. So I started knocking on people's doors and asking if they had seen it. Nobody had. Then, as I was leaning up against a lamppost catching my breath, I saw the barbarian running down the middle of the street. It ran right by me, saluting me with a curt fart as it passed.

I pushed myself off the lamppost, flagged down and leapt into a taxi. "Follow that barbarian!" I pointed. The taxi driver refused. "It's against my religion to acknowledge the existence of barbarians," he said, "and if I follow that barbarian, well, that's precisely what I'll be doing, isn't it?"

"Not if you pretend that that barbarian is a haberdasher," I said. The taxi driver grabbed his chin with the tips of his fingers and began fondling it. I waited patiently for the fondling to come to an end... but it never did. And by the time I leapt out of his taxi and flagged down and leapt into another one, the barbarian was long gone. After having a little fit, I told this taxi driver to take me to the police headquarters. I wanted to look around for the barbarian some more. I wanted to tell it that, even though it had been misbehaving, I was sorry for abusing it. But I was too tired and depressed. I filed a missing barbarian's report and went home, wondering how I was going to explain everything to the wife.

As it turned out, I didn't have to explain anything. I walked into my house and there was the barbarian, my barbarian, micturating on the couch. It was squatting on an arm rest and the wife was yelling at it, trying to convince it to go use the toilet. But the barbarian wouldn't budge. And when I nodded at it, it nodded back at me.