back to stories
474 words


Clifford told people he was a magician. That he’d been one ever since the moment he was born, when he’d sawed himself in half.

The story went like this.

His mothers were conjoined twins. They half-shared a uterus, or rather, shared a uterus that halved halfway down, split like the cloven trunk of a tree. Each woman had a vagina of her own, and when Clifford was conceived (which, he likes to say, was a whole separate magic trick) the little embryo he became attached itself to and grew on the very place the two sisters became one, on the very precipice of their connective misfortune.

On a particular night, and it was a Thursday, Clifford got this far into his monologue without anyone in the audience so much as gasping. He supposed that having two mothers was becoming some kind of social norm, and that was all right. It always bothered him when they reacted too early. When they reached for a polite applause or sympathetic ooh. So far, everyone in the audience kept silent. That was good. Because here was the trick.

“I grew there,” he said, “a fragile egg, to the size of a pear. Then to a gourd, a pumpkin. Okay, not a very big pumpkin.” No canned or polite laughter.

“Finally I was due to arrive. A child of conjunction. And here I came, but from which mother? Which would bear me, birth me, send me into the world wet and screaming? The doctors didn’t know either - there was one on each side, holding each of my mothers open, waiting for me to slide down. That was when they discovered I was twins, that one of me was coming headfirst and one of me breach, and out came the instruments, one cold metal grabbing spoon for each of us, pulling.”

“Out we came, but again the doctors were surprised. The nurses were so bewildered one of them fainted and the other one puked on her. From the right mother, my head, my chest, my arms. From the left, my legs, my torso. I shot blood at them, posing. Ta-da.”

Clifford stripped, dropping clothes in piles at his feet. It was a change he’d timed, improved, perfected. Before anyone had a chance to look away he was naked in front of them, deep purple scars running like train tracks across him just where they’d expect, where he’d been stitched and sewn back together so hastily. His spine curled in on itself in a Q, and now he heard the gasps, the cries. Now he heard the same hurking noises the nurse, and every nurse after her had made.

Clifford told people he was a magician, but his only trick was this. On a Thursday, this particular day, he threw his arms in the air and yelled.


Pay what you want

This story appears in Clayton's Secret Notebook. Get the collection on

Follow me on Twitter