The tone and voice in this story is different than what I normally do. Nevertheless, I really hope that you enjoy it.
“The Bride Price” originally appeared in Issue #10 of Shimmer, which is a high quality publication that you should be reading.
THE BRIDE PRICE
© 2009 by Richard S. Crawford
We all thought Signe was never going to come back to school because she was, like, all dead and stuff, you know, but when Junior Year started, she was there and all ready to start school with us. But she was all pale and gross looking and no one wanted to sit next to her because her skin was like all slimy and blue and she had all these stitches all over her. There was this one on her neck that like went all around her neck, and the stitches were really big. Plus she had this lame haircut that was like a barrel on top of her head with these two white stripes that went from her face all the way to the top.
So no one wants to talk to her, right, so I go up to her and I’m all, “Like, what happened to you? Didn’t you like die or something?”
And she’s like, “No, I just got married,” but she’s all gloomy and stuff when she says it. I don’t know what her deal was.
So I was going to be all excited for her because she’s all like married now but the bell rings then and we have to go to Mr. Pretorius’s biology class which sucks ass.
Halfway during class, Shelley poked me with her pencil, and she’s like, “Hey, Elsa, what’s up with Signe? She’s all weird today.”
So I’m like “Duh, she got married over the summer.”
And Mary goes, “No, I heard she died over the summer. From rabies. Isn’t that gross? That’s like a dog disease.” She’s got this look on her face like she’s going to barf.
“Well, then, why’s she all like alive and stuff?” I go. “And, like, you’re not allowed to get married when you’re dead.”
“You can in this state,” Shelley said, and because her mom’s a lawyer, she knows it’s true.
But then we had to all shut up because Mr. Pretorius threw an eraser across the room and hit Mary in the face with it.
So we all sat in class while Mr. Pretorius taught us about homunculi, which are like these little people in jars or whatever, and then the classroom door, like, bursts wide open and in walks this giant guy with bolts in his neck and stitches all over him like Signe. And this giant guy’s all like, “Grrrrr! Arrgh!” and wandering all over the place and we’re all screaming and stuff.
Then this other guy comes into the room. He’s this weird looking guy who’s skinny and pale and he’s got this greasy black hair. And he goes over to the giant guy and he goes, “Quiet there, old friend. We’ll figure this out.”
“Grrrrr!” goes the giant guy.
And Mr. Pretorius goes, “Victor! What is the meaning of this?”
The skinny guy doesn’t say anything but looks around the room until he sees Signe and then he’s like “You! Miss Oh So Perfect! You have to come back with us right now!”
Signe’s all pale and gross already but when this giant guy came in she got even more pale and grosser and now she’s like shivering or whatever. She goes, “No, Victor. You can’t make me go if I don’t want to. You don’t own me.”
“Oh, but I do,” Victor goes, and he takes this piece of paper and he unfolded it in front of all of us. “This is my receipt. I paid plenty of good money to your parents for your corpse when you died. I own at least sixty percent of your body.”
So I’m all, like, “Hey! You can’t own another person. That’s, like, slavery! And slavery sucks or whatever.”
And he smiles and says, “It’s called a bride price. Signe’s parents aren’t complaining. They used to live in a double wide trailer next to the cemetery, and now they have a nice apartment downtown. With a swimming pool.”
I thought that was pretty cool, because I’ve always wanted a swimming pool, and I’m about to say that to Signe when Mary goes, “That’s totally unfair! You can’t be married to Signe! Did she even get to say no?”
“Oh, she’s not my wife,” Victor goes. “Signe is married to my old friend here.” He points at the giant guy who’s standing by Mr. Pretorius’s desk and growling.
We all go, “EW!” because the giant guy’s really gross.
Mr. Pretorius should be taking charge here but he’s not. He just goes, “My God, Victor! You’ve really done it! You’ve created a bride for your monster!”
Victor goes, “Yes I have. Now come, Signe. We must return to the castle.”
Signe acts all bummed but she stands and picks up her books, and goes over to the giant guy, who kind of smiles and tries to hug her but his arms are too stiff and he ends up just sort of squishing her.
But I’m all mad now because Signe’s parents sold her to Victor without her permission just because she died and now she has to be married to this giant freak. So I stand up and go totally Amnesty International and I say, “You can’t take her! Everyone’s entitled to a free education in our country!”
Mr. Pretorius gets mad and he’s all, “That will be enough, Miss Lanchester. Sit down immediately.”
I’m all nervous now because Mr. Pretorius is so creepy, but Mary and Shelley both stand up next to me and they cross their arms, and it’s total girl solidarity. “We’re not letting you take her,” Mary says, and Shelley goes, “Yeah!”
Victor doesn’t care, though, and he’s like, “And what are a bunch of girls going to do about it?”
And then Marty, who’s totally hot, stands up. He goes, “If you try to take Signe out of here against her will, you’re going to have to go through the whole football team as well.” And I’m so proud of Marty that I can barely speak.
Victor gets all mad but he knows he can’t do anything because now us girls and the whole football team’s against him. But he sighs and says, “Very well. Signe shall have a proper education. She is rather young, I suppose. However,” he goes on, “you will, young lady, return to the castle immediately after school. No clubs or games, and definitely no sports!”
“What?” I shout, because Signe was a totally awesome cheerleader and the team needs her and I was totally counting on her.
And Victor’s like, “Well, she must care for her stitches. Signe’s in a very delicate state.” But before we can say anything else he turns and goes out of the room.
After Victor and the giant guy are both gone, Mr. Pretorius tries to start lecturing again, but everyone’s still all excited, so he just gives up and sits and starts writing in this huge notebook.
Signe comes up to me and Shelley and Mary after class and goes “You guys are awesome, you know?”
I didn’t know what to say because the whole thing was so weird. But I smile and when she hugs me I hug her back even though she’s all cold and slimy.
She’s totally going to be on the squad this year, no matter what the creepy old Victor guy says. And maybe it’s kind of mean but I can’t wait to see Coach Clive’s face when she sees how Signe’s gross skin clashes with our cute new uniforms.
This one had its origins in a conversation I had with a coworker at a video store where I worked back in my late twenties (which was a fun job and sometimes I miss it). She was telling me that she had managed to track down one of her favorite teachers which she was happy about because she thought the teacher was “like, all dead and stuff.” I was dared to use that line in a story. So here you are.