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Nucleotide Pairs of the Double Helix.

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The Two-Headed Calf
Laura Gilpin

Tomorrow when the farm boys find this
freak of nature, they will wrap his body
in newspaper and carry him to the museum.

But tonight he is alive and in the north
field with his mother. It is a perfect
summer evening: the moon rising over
the orchard, the wind in the grass. And
as he stares into the sky, there are
twice as many stars as usual.


The medical model still sits resolutely on the shelves of late-century doctoral public opinion, spreading its legs wide so that G. Engel has no space to rest his three-pronged theory. Earlier on, when they were pried from the womb, the biopsychosocial sustained no place in the gurneys or iv drips, neither stitched into the fabric of medicine or accepted between the wool that the twins’ mother stained when she birthed them.

There was much interest in the separation of conjoined twins during those days. Animals were bred across blood streams and with complications in order to increase the likelihood of birth defects, so that the process could be generalized to human newborns. Doctors were getting closer to reworking the errors of god, and to simplify the related ethical complexities, the mind was decidedly deemed independent of the body. In this way, the implication for splitting a shared brain was not an act of severing any conceptual mental function; the man with the scalpel refused to admit he was bridging any gap into psychology or theology.

However contradictory, the nature of that entire curative age seemed to be completely disregarded for a few weeks, as there was much talk of putting these two babies back together; sewing them by the skulls or attaching their digestive systems so as to fuse them into one being.

The boys came out undernourished but not functionally disturbed, as if the full belly of the first twin appeased that of the latter. While bottle feeding the youngest boy, the second was known to suckle at the air, even as physically distant as a floor away. The nurse who cut the umbilical cord had reported witnessing that the pipe connected the two children to one another, rather than the children to their mother, but then, there had been so much blood that she was sure, in hindsight, that the unexpected shock had altered her memory. For instance, no other doctor corroborated her claim that the oldest twin verbally expressed concern about the low temperature of his smaller brother.

The state quickly took them in after the death of their last willing surrogate, and on the cusp of splitting them into two adoption homes (the younger, sickly one required a more comprehensive living situation), Murkoff came in and offered to keep them together in their private care, offering intensive rehabilitation for the trauma that the two had no doubt suffered. “It is often best for recovery if the dyad remains intact,” it was explained, referring to the way the twins had remained close during their traumatic experiences. “That way they can assist each other in finding resolution, as well as a safe space if they feel unstable during the therapy.”

They find safe places to attack each other after a day of politely documenting the others’ progress to the doctors.

They are placed face-up on the examination tables, (2, elongating), with their crowns pressed together, thus making them into one palindromic being. Electric waves are sent up through their feet and meet in their joint scalp, thus linking them with a voltage that two could survive, but not one.

The day that they trap the Walrider between their bodies and confuse it into dancing on its head, doctors cease all therapy and retire them to the male ward permanently, depositing them into separate cells.

Nobody is really all that surprised when the cessation of food to the second twin causes the first’s stomach lining to rupture.