Published in Black Heart Review, 28th October, 2013.
Albert Einswine was born with two thumbs.
“If only they were as useful as my tool,” said Bulk, his older brother, scratching his huge balls.
Albert Einswine must have been standing behind the door when beauty was being handed out. His head sat like a bulbous blob on his short neck. And while his siblings all had the finest pink skin, Albert Einswine’s torso was covered with spots that looked as though God had heaped dollops of excrement onto him. He was the kind of baby only a mother could love, and she did, with all her heart, taking care to nurse him first before she fed her other children, just to fatten him up a bit. She tried hard to make him feel confident and loved, despite his strange looks, giving him an extra nuzzle here and there. But no matter how much he suckled at her breast, Albert Einswine was always hungry for more, which made his siblings as bitter as their mother’s milk was sweet.
“Shove over,” said Bulk, ramming his rump against him.
“Watch your manners,” Mrs. Einswine cautioned her largest son. “There’s enough love and milk in me for all of you.”
She fed Albert as often as he demanded, but one day, with winter fast approaching, in a frenzy of insatiable hunger and thirst, Albert Einswine went and spoiled everything by stumbling upon a use for his limpid digits. Clamping onto his mother, he milked her like a cow, running his thumbs forcefully along her teats. She raised her head and looked down with horror and disgust at what her son was doing, watching him greedily emptying her breasts of every last drop she possessed. He left none for the others.
“What on earth do you think you’re doing?”
She glared at Albert Einswine’s face which was covered with white rivulets. His tongue licked the droplets running off his nose.
Frau Einswine maneuvered herself up from where she lay, took hold of young Albert by the scruff of his neck and with a curdling squeal he would never forget, threw him out the door, into the pouring rain.
“And stay out!” she yelled.
Albert landed stomach first in the mud.
“Please, mother!” he wanted to say. “Please, let me back in. I’ll never do it again, I promise.” But all that came out of his mouth was a desperate shriek.
His brothers and sisters had already barricaded the entrance to the barn. They rumbled at him from the other side of the door: “Go away, and stay away forever. Weirdo.”
He yelped back at them, not because he couldn’t think of what to say, but because young Albert Einswine still hadn’t learnt how to talk. Everybody who met him whispered behind his back that his large head must be half empty. Little did they know.
Albert Einswine left his village that day, walking all the way in the rain, tail between his legs, headed for the big smoke. He arrived at dusk, wandering the street, longing for the warm milk from his mother’s teat. His greed had ruined everything.
As he passed the Hogsbreath Café he saw a young woman who wore a blue velvet dress, standing on the pavement. She was playing a violin. It was the most exquisite sound he had ever heard and when the last note faded he couldn’t stop applauding. She lowered her bow and smiled at him.
“Are you lost?” she asked, cheeks turning red as she looked at his muddy feet.
How did she know? It seemed she could almost read his mind. All of a sudden, for the first time in his life, words began to flow from Albert Einswine’s mouth, like the woman’s music leaping up into the air, those delightful notes dancing around his head when she played.
“Not anymore,” he said. She was the most ravishing creature he had ever seen, her pale skin and straggly, long blonde hair unsettling him so much that he struggled to stand up straight. He stared at her with goggling eyes that made him look permanently surprised.
“What was that beautiful sound you made?”
“Mozart, silly.” She suppressed a giggle and held out her hand. “My name is Elsa and this is Lina, my violin.”
“Pleased to make your acquaintance, Miss Elsa and Miss Lina.” His voice sounded reedy. “Albert Einswine, at your service.” Just then his stomach let out the loudest rumble, and from his rump he trumpeted an almighty fart.
“But you are hungry, you poor thing” she said, reaching out to place a hand on his shoulder. “Let me take you to meet my Uncle Blaubart. He is in need of someone to help him with his very important work, and in exchange I’m sure he will feed you like a king.”
As Albert Einswine followed this apparition, trotting behind her as fast as his stubby legs would carry him, his thumbs swinging wildly to and fro like tiny, useless penises, he was transported to the dizzying heights of love. Presently, the unlikely pair arrived at a large house, its walls covered with climbing roses. They walked up the stairs to the entrance and Elsa lifted the door knocker. An ugly man with a crooked nose and black eyes appeared. He was dressed in a lab coat, his name engraved in blue across the front pocket.
“I have brought you a visitor, Uncle Adolf,” Elsa said. “He is lost and hungry and eager to work. I knew you wouldn’t turn him away.”
Dr. Blaubart examined Albert Einswine over the top of his pince nez. He rubbed his small moustache. “Of course, of course. Come in, my dears. Let us dine together and your friend shall stay here to help me out with my work. He will be my trusty assistant.” He placed his hand on the back of Albert’s neck. “In return, my friend, I shall look after your every need.”
“But how will I ever repay you?” grunted young Albert.
“Don’t bother thinking of the future – it comes soon enough,” the doctor said.
They dined on mashed potato and roast suckling pig. For dessert there was apple pie with fresh berries and clotted cream.
“Eat like there’s no tomorrow,” Dr. Blaubart bellowed. “Elsa, give your young friend another helping. He needs fattening up.”
By the end of the evening Albert Einswine’s head was spinning from all the sweet wine his generous host had kept refilling his glass with. He yawned, stretching out his short arms.
“It’s time for us all to retire,” Dr. Blaubart said, pulling out a set of keys from his pocket and handing them to his new assistant. “I have important business at the academy in Berlin tomorrow and I must leave urgently tonight. I will be away for several days and I am placing you in charge of looking after the equipment in my laboratories. These keys allow you access to all my important experiments, over which you are to keep careful watch.”
“Don’t worry about a thing. I’ll do just as you ask,” Albert Einswine said proudly as he took the keys.
Dr. Blaubart patted him on the back. “Good, good,” he said. He reached out his hand and pointed to a key that was much smaller than the others. “This one here you are forbidden to use. It opens the large laboratory downstairs at the end of the east corridor and is off limits to everyone except myself.”
With that, he showed Albert Einswine up to his room and bade him goodnight. Elsa gave her new friend a kiss on the cheek and said she’d be back to see him in the morning.
Albert slept like a baby under the softest duvet and woke early in the morning to birdsong. He trotted downstairs, strangely drawn to the forbidden room at the end of the east corridor. He came across a door which had a yellow and black trefoil painted on it. Below this, the word DANGER screamed in bold letters. Albert Einswine had always been a curious fellow. For the second time in his life, his thumbs proved useful as they helped him turn the small key in the lock, slowly opening the creaky door. To his horror, he saw a room filled with pig’s carcasses hanging from hooks on a rail. Each one of the poor creatures had been decapitated. Beside them, lined up on a metal shelf, brains floated in formaldehyde-filled jars, each one labeled with a different name. He noticed that one of these jars was empty, and on it, in beautiful handwritten script, he read the flowing letters of his own name. In his panic, he careened into one of the headless beasts, dropping the small key on the floor. It disappeared into a puddle of blood that had pooled and congealed underneath the swaying carcasses. He groped for it furiously with his trotters until once again, his thumbs came in handy. He placed the blood-stained key into his pocket and fled from the room, horrified as he ran straight into Dr. Blaubart who was standing at the top of the stairs.
“Good morning, my son,” beamed Dr. Blaubart. “As you see, I have returned. My meeting was cancelled at the last minute, so I rushed back in order to help you settle in. I will take you on a tour of my laboratory immediately, if you would be so kind as to give me back the keys.”
Albert Einswine handed over the main bunch, making sure the small key he had taken off the ring was hidden in his pocket.
“Ah, but one seems to be missing.” A smile crept across Dr. Blaubart’s face. “You will pay for this lost property dearly now, with your overgrown head.” He grabbed young Albert by the throat.
Albert Einswine squealed, begging Dr. Blaubart to be merciful and allow him to go back up to his room and prepare for his departure from this dear world with ablution and prayer. The doctor released his grip, knowing that it was always easier to dispatch his laboratory animals when they were clean and calm. Albert ran upstairs and opened the door to his room, where he found Elsa making his bed. Grunting quietly, he told her of her uncle’s plans for his future.
“Look out the window, Elsa. Maybe my brother Bulk will come to my rescue.”
She pulled aside the curtains but saw no one approaching the house.
“Then I shall ready myself and sacrifice my life for the good of science.”
He washed the blood and dirt from his body, as the Shema Israel instructed, and headed downstairs. Dr. Blaubart was waiting for him with the guillotine he used to euthanize his specimens. Albert Einswine calmly placed his head inside the machine and waited for the blade to fall.
All of a sudden he heard a crash. Lifting his trotters, he felt his cranium still attached to his neck. He looked around to see that Elsa had struck Dr. Blaubart with Lina, her violin, which now lay shattered on the ground. Dr. Blaubart was out cold.
Just at that moment, the front door flung open and in rushed Bulk Einswine, followed by all of Albert’s other siblings. Bulk pulled his brother out of the guillotine and shoved Dr. Blaubart into it instead. Albert Einswine used his accessory thumbs to pull the lever and the doctor’s head soon toppled onto the linoleum floor, rolling over into the hearth, like a soccer ball into a goal.
Albert Einswine married Elsa in a grand wedding, where all their family and friends danced well into the wee hours of the morning. The State of Pigsrael invited him to take up the honoured position of President, in recognition of his brilliance and bravery. He graciously declined, explaining he wasn’t kosher. After the honeymoon, the two of them settled down to a cozy life in the small town of Hiroshima, living happily-ever-after lives together, until one day Albert Einswine was attacked by a wolf while hiking in the forest. A hunter found his brain and kept it pickled in a jar for 43 years, driving it cross-country in the trunk of his Buick, as a gift for his granddaughter, who eventually sold it for $63 dollars on eBay, shipping included.