After Mya Andring lost the use of her right leg, she decided to turn to bacon. No, she didn’t become some gargantuan overeater. Rather, the now lame Mya Andring, a once renowned scientist who’d fallen off the wagon (according to her colleagues) when she’d claimed that congealed bacon grease was the key ingredient to curing most of the world’s problems, made her kitchen into a lab and fried bacon in quantities that could’ve wiped the pig population out if genetic enhancement wasn’t so prevalent.
“What’s for dinner?” her husband asked on the first day of her lab tests.
“Bacon,” she said.
For three weeks, “bacon” was the only word she uttered as she perpetually stood in front of the stovetop, leaning on crutches, frying bacon in iron skillets on all four burners. When one batch was cooked, she pulled out the hot strips with her fingers, tossed them onto a plate, dumped the grease into a mason jar, and threw another batch into the heat, the meat already sizzling and curling upon contact.
“Bacon again,” the husband said on the twenty-first night of Mya’s great bacon cook-off.
“Last night,” she said as she tossed one final strip into the skillet.
When the final piece was cooked to her liking, she wiped a greasy hand on her unwashed forehead and let out an exhausted, “Finished.” For the first time in three weeks, she really observed her surroundings. Thousands of mason jars, stacked and scattered, surrounded her, the cloudy brownish contents solidified to a gel. Every plate in the house was piled to the ceiling with cooked bacon.
“How are we going to eat all this?” the husband asked.
“There’s no time to eat,” Mya said. “Now it’s time for research.”
Mya somehow found an open spot on the floor and sat down. “Bring me my equipment,” she ordered the husband.
“Where is it?” he mumbled through a bacon-filled mouth.
“In a box in the garage.”
He hurried out while she began forming congealed bacon grease into large spheres.
“Here you go,” he said upon his return.
“You can set it there.” She pushed aside a few jars to make a space beside her.
“How long will this take?” he asked.
“As long as it takes,” she said.
He shrugged, ate another piece of bacon, then left her to her work.
For days, then weeks, then months, Mya did not leave that spot on the floor. She separated the liquids from the solids and formed massive clay-like clumps. She delighted in the smell that permeated everything around, but she did not partake in the eating of the bacon. When it was time to sleep, she curled up and slept. When it was time to go to the bathroom, she used an empty mason jar. Other than those functions, Mya did nothing but form her bacon grease into workable shapes.
“Are you doing research or art?” her husband asked one day, many months later. Honestly, she wasn’t sure why he was still around. Not only was her leg useless, but she had brought nothing to the table in recent months. She certainly wasn’t “bringing home the bacon,” as they say, although she had arguably brought home—and cooked—enough to last several lifetimes.
“Research is art,” she said as she continued to tug and mold the gelatinous grease.
He didn’t respond. She knew he wouldn’t. The bacon fumes had given her a certain omniscience, so it seemed. She knew exactly what he was thinking at all times, and she knew exactly what would happen to her at all times. She knew when she would sleep, when she would pee, and when she would work with bacon.
And she knew how the bacon would cure the world.
She also knew the sudden ramifications of a massive cure-all.
Afraid of the future, but not willing to show her unexplainable defeat, she worked with the bacon grease night and day, developing the most intricate artwork humankind could imagine. The kitchen became a cathedral of bacon grease. Had she offered public tours, the lines would’ve stretch around the globe.
At the end of a year, Mya, stiff and atrophied, stood of her own accord. She hadn’t seen her husband for several weeks. Not disheartened, she dragged her limp leg to the door. As she flung it open, the scent of bacon grease escaped the house and into the outside world.
A jolt went up her leg, and the sudden power of full mobility returned. Mya stepped outside, stretched out her arms, and descended the porch steps. She took off running, following the scent of the bacon wherever it led her. She ran for days until she reached the ocean. The bacon beckoned her in.
“I’m afraid of the water,” she said.
The bacon scent shrugged, dove into the water, and swam far away, the ocean gradually turning a faint brownish color. The water hardened. A nearby surfer soared into the air when a solid wave caught his board. Mya laughed. She laughed and laughed and then dove headfirst into the waters. The baconed sea did not engulf her. Rather, she engulfed it, and the world became hers, fully mobile and cured.
Nathaniel Tower writes fiction, teaches English, and manages the online literary magazine Bartleby Snopes. His fiction has appeared in almost 200 online and print journals, and he has a novel and novella out through MuseItUp Publishing. When he isn’t writing or doing any of the other standard things writers do, he can be found joggling (running while juggling) through the streets. Visit him at www.nathanieltower.wordpress.com.
Lead image: “Bacon Highway” (via Flickr user Paul Long)