There are six clumps of my dirty blonde hair left. I sit in front of my vanity, tying different colored bows at the base of each one. I dyed the tips of them my favorite color a while ago -- hotter than hell pink -- so people know I mean business. When I'm done with that, I pinch my cheeks, make kissy faces in the mirror. I'm looking a little dull, I finally decide. I reach below the vanity and pull out my secret weapon: a tub of Crisco. I dig my fingers into the thick white goop and start smearing it on my face. When that's done, I roll a little margarine under my pits and give myself an approving wink with my good eye in the mirror before getting up and prancing downstairs.
Mum is sitting at the kitchen table when I skip in. "Heya, Mumsliums!" I holler, giving her a frantic wave. She nods once and waves back as I cut through the tiled kitchen for the mud room to get my tennies from the shoe rack. She doesn't say much anymore, now that she's lost her lower jaw. I shrug and fixate on tying my neon green laces in perfect bows.
Buck, my older brother, is already on the bench tying up his own sneakers. He reaches over and smacks me on the back pretty hard. "Yo, Minerva!" My right eye goes flying across the room. He cackles. I slap my hand over my empty eye socket.
"Mum!" I shriek, making a dive for the escaped eyeball, "Buck knocked out my eye again and I JUST got it glued back in place!" I close my fingers around the eye -- it had rolled into a spider web and was all dusty and gross now -- before standing up and glaring at Buck with my good eye. He makes kissy fishy faces at me as he finishes his second lace and stands up.
"I'm going out, Mum," he says, waving at her before walking out the back door. Mum waves back. That's about all she does anymore.
I grumble, dusting the eye off on my shirt, glaring at the door. Mum tilts her head to the side as she looks at me. She knows I'm weary about not having my eye in. I blow on it a little then try to smush it back into the socket. The blasted eyelids get in the way and it pops back out. Mum shrugs from the table. I sigh and stick it in my pocket for later. Maybe there will be a ping-pong tournament later today I can get in on by using my eye instead of a real ball.
"I guess I'm going out too," I tell Mum before I sulk out the door.
The sky is a wonderful shade of acid green today. I suck in as much air as I can, even though my lungs haven't moved in ages. An Epidemic of Cooties plagued the earth a while ago, you see. Now everything has changed. Living things are now the living-dead. It's not really as bad as it seems, it solved a lot of problems, like world hunger is no longer an issue, and money is invalid. We even had a video about our Changing Bodies in school the other day. It was pretty spiffy.
So, anyway, now that all our living creatures are not quite that anymore, officials decided we needed to move into a new era, starting by renaming the world. It was clear there was only one choice that really represented our earth. It is now called Green Bean Casserole. See, the Green is the color of the sky. Even the color of some of our skin. Beans is what we're now called, instead of humans. And Casserole is meant to represent how we all live together in delicious unity. It's perfect.
I'm heading to Man Hands, the hippest hangout around here. It's run by an old guy, Manny, whose left arm is hanging from his shoulder only by a couple of tendons and some duct tape. Today, it is adorned with a string of Christmas lights, plugged into a power pack at his belt. It flashes in a very merry way. I suddenly become very jealous of not thinking of this epic idea first. I throw myself onto a stool at the counter and plant my face in my arms.
"Hey, Minerva." Manny grins down at me. I lift my head.
"Roxie. Call me Roxie from now on," I tell him.
"I like Minerva," Manny says. "Why the change?"
I cover my face with my hands. It doesn't matter how hard I try, I'll never have a hanging arm covered in flashy lights. I shake my head, and he drops the question. Instead, he leans in, pats my head with his good hand, then pulls the notepad from his apron. "What'll you have?"
"I guess I'll have a Man-Toe Tower, extra crispy. And a Monkey Brain Milkshake, please."
Manny nods, scribbles on his notepad, then moves to the kitchen to fill my order.
I glance to the left, where other girls are sitting. They're gossiping and giggling. I check out their apparel; all tube tops and short skirts, covering nothing but skin and bones. I sigh. Mum won't let me get my insides taken out to be skin and bones. I've asked at least fifty two times, but all she does is wave me away. I poke my belly with one crusty finger. Having organs was such a kick to my social life, I could barely stand it. I roll my eye and rest my head in my hand.
Stink lines come out from the kitchen window. My Man-Toes must be just about done. As I wait in anticipation, I do some Bean watching. Jabberin' JoJo is in the corner booth at the back of the place. He's talking to Weebs, his imaginary friend. Poor guy has nothing but one leg left. Both his arms dropped off a few days ago, and his other leg was stolen by a dog weeks before. The lost posters are still fluttering on light posts outside.
Buck and his friends are by the pinball machine. He looks almost Human instead of Bean from far away, but I know under that varsity jacket of his, he's missing a handful of ribs. The dummy got too excited at a Bums and Rums concert a while ago and pulled them out himself to use as drumsticks on some guy's head. What a doofis.
Manny comes out with my Toes, all towered and deep friend and delicious. He slaps the milkshake down in front of me, and I take a long sip through a straw. Ah, I hope I never lose my lips. I pick up a Toe, about to take a nibble, when He comes through the door. That's right. HIM. Rock god of Green Bean Casserole, Marvelous Marvin Manoid. I drop my Toe.
He walks up to the counter and slides onto a stool a few from mine. He scans the menu above the kitchen door as I stare at him with my good eye. I forgot how to work my jaw. It's dropped open and I don't care, cause frickin Marvelous MARVIN is sitting TEN FEET AWAY FROM ME. He gives Manny his order and taps the counter with the four fingers left on his right hand as he waits. My hand slaps my jaw back in place and I turn to face forward, trying not to get caught gawking at the most gorgeous creature known to Bean.
The girls on the other side of me squeal in delight as they watch him. One goes up to him and they start to talk. I suck at my milkshake with bitter rage. If only I had no organs, I would be brave enough to talk to him too! I think. He waves the girl off though, not to be bothered by silly girls who have no noses and no insides. I smile a little to myself at this. At least he's not shallow.
"Hey," he says. I swallow too hard and somehow Monkey Brains comes shooting out my nose. I blink my eye, trying to decide who he's talking to. Manny is in back. The girls have moved to eye him from the end of the counter. I tilt my head slowly, trying to get a better look at who is around. He smiles at me, or at least I think he's smiling, since he had no lips I'm not really sure. And here I am, in my spiffiest clothes and Crisco shining up my face, napkin made of old newspaper at my nose to clean up the Monkey Brains.
"A-yah-yay-uh-Hi!" I say, slapping the napkin to the counter and thrusting out my hand for him to shake. I think he grins again. We shake hands.
"Can I try your Toe Tower?"
I nod vigorously and nudge the plate closer to him. He gets up and moves to the stool next to mine. I see little birdies fly around my head. I think I'm going to faint.
He twirls a Toe between his fingers delicately before placing it in his mouth. He chews. Considers. Nods. Turns to me. Flashes a pointer's-up, for his lack of a thumb. I fall off my stool in sheer joy. After floundering around on the floor for a minute, I sit up. He offers me a hand to help me back to my seat. I sit down, my eye glued on him. He takes another Toe from my plate. "My name's Marvin, by the way."
I blink. "I know who you are, Marvelous Marvin Manoid!" I didn't mean to shriek, but it just came out. I mentally smack myself for being so smooth.
He chuckles, a low, throaty sound. "That's just my stage name," he says. He stares off into space. I gawk freely now. He looks back at me. "So, you are?"
My eye goes wide. "I-I'm Roxie! Yep, Roxie, pleased to met you Mister Marvin."
He looks back at the counter, seemingly disappointed. "Roxie, huh? Flashy name."
I nod. Is it so bad that I want my name to be as shiny as my Crisco-covered face?
He fingers another Toe. I nudge the plate a little closer to him, encouraging him to take more.
"I knew a Roxie once," he sighs. He's no longer looking at me.
"Yeah?" I smile. Maybe he'll like me for my name, at least.
He points to his lipless mouth. "My last girlfriend. Bit my lips clean off so I could never kiss another girl."
My jaw drops. That's pretty intense. Suddenly, my shiny new name doesn't sound so glossy and smart. Fingers of thought poke at my brain, trying to think of something to say. Finally, in defeat, I say, "I lied. It's Minerva."
He glances over at me, like he forgot I was there for a second.
"My name," I clarified. "It's Minerva."
He tilts his head. "I like it."
I feel as shiny as the blinky lights on Manny's lame arm. If my heart was still beating, it probably would have thrown itself out of my ribcage by now out of sheer delight.
He reaches for a newspaper napkin. I chew a Toe in wonder as his fingers dance over the surface, folding here, tucking there. He holds up the finished product for me to inspect. My eye widens. A paper rose. He reaches to tuck it behind my ear, but stops. My ear has been missing for ages. Dropped off months ago without me even noticing. His hand hovers where it should be for a moment, before he pulls back and delicately places the stem of the paper rose into my empty eye socket instead.
Suddenly, I feel more shiny and beautiful than if I had used my whole tub of Crisco all in one day.
All of Man Hands is staring in our direction.
I smile at him.
He smiles at me.
I feel the tug of an epic romance budding in my moldy heart.
I am Minerva, hear me roar.