The Air at the Top of the Bottle

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Houses of Flesh and Bone (3)

June 25th, 2008 · 2 Comments

(We conclude here a short story by Paul Vibert, translated by Doug Skinner.)

I can repeat the celebrated procedure of the rats’ father, a prosthetic graft, and so join together two elephants, or two whales; then, when the graft has taken, all I need do is cut a small incision for communication; and as I have taken, of course, animals that have been treated with violet rays, I then possess a truly comfortable little apartment.

The second procedure is even simpler, for it foregoes the aforementioned prosthetic graft. All that is needed is to choose among the animals those infant phenomena that occur from time to time, Siamese twins (to use the traditional term). Communication through the membrane that joins the two stomachs is then not difficult to establish, and recalls the familiar “concertina” joint between railroad cars.

Finally, for the sake of the ladies, I will add that water and other waste can be evacuated naturally through the pyloric valve into the intestines; and that this ingenious plan of discharging everything into the sewer has the further advantage of nourishing the animal, which then need no longer eat with its mouth, and can keep its stomach free and clean.

You can easily train the animal with caresses; and it will let you come and go at will through its esophagus, by opening its pretty pink mouth, which is like the antechamber to your apartment, leading to the corridor of the esophagus.

With two conjoined or Siamese animals, you also have the option of two entrances: one for the family, and one for the servants!

Is that not practical and amazing?

In this way, rapidly and safely, at no expense, and with no fear of drafts, you can travel throughout the world by land or sea, thoroughly warm and snug.

Here then is the flesh and bone house of my dreams, which I am now working to realize.

(Posted by Doug Skinner. The reference to the “rats’ father” is a mystery to me. Any ideas?)

Tags: Animals · Literature

2 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Belarius // Jul 10, 2008 at 2:21 pm

    It seems likely, from context, that Vibert is referring to a “Rat King” (, in that he goes on to discuss grafting several animals together.

  • 2 Doug // Jul 10, 2008 at 10:19 pm

    Aha! Yes, that does seem likely. I did a quick search, and found that rat kings were found in Strasbourg in 1895, and in Ch√Ęteaudun in 1899, so they may even have been discussed in the papers around the time Vibert was writing. The usual term in French is “roi-de-rats,” but it still seems likely. And there I was thumbing through the French fable literature…

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