The Woman Who Didn't Want to Talk About Kentucky

Mary Blaigdfield headed for the sink. How dirty my hands are!, she thought, turning on the faucet. In a split second, clean running water poured over her dirty fingers. They really were filthy.

“Nothing like good fresh water for washing hands, huh?” she said aloud.

“It's true, running water will remove most of the dirt from your fingers,” the other person said. “If you wash with soap, you can kill off almost all the germs and other microorganisms. But don't think you're a hundred percent safe just because you washed your hands... A lot of things are resistant to it.”

“Like what, for example?”

“Like...” the person paused, as if getting ready to reveal something momentous. “Nuclear dust...”

At that instant, Mary Blaigdfield stopped rubbing her hands together and froze. She slowly raised her eyes and stared at the reflection of the other person in the mirror. She remained fixed until the other person offered her a towel.

“Did this city suffer some kind of attack with nuclear dust by any chance?” she asked in a solemn voice, as she dried her hands,

“Yes, a long time ago. Before Larry Bofferman, even before Paul Mackning... Things were different then and it came about so naturally..”

“Why didn't you tell me this before?” she asked irritably.

“We were afraid of your reaction. The interview was broadcast nationally! If you'd known the truth, you could've ruined everything, all the work that took years to do!”

“You mean, all of you made me lie to millions of citizens, without my even knowing I was lying?”

“We did, but it was for the good of the project. You have to understand.”

“I have to understand?” she asked sarcastically. “Like hell I have to understand! I'm going to call a press conference and set the story straight!”

“No, Mary, you won't,” he answered in a strained tone.

“Yes I will! I'm not going to carry this weight on my shoulders for the rest of my life!”

“No, Mary, you're not going to.”

“And may I know why not?”

“Because if you do, if you open your mouth, we'll let every single living creature on this planet know...” he paused. “… what you did in Kentucky.”

“I don't want to talk about Kentucky! I don't want to talk about Kentucky! I don't want to talk about Kentucky!” Mary Blaigdfield shouted in agony right there in the bathroom. 

She started going into contortions, thinking about Kentucky. Her body contorted until she fell to the ground, curling up. As her hands swept over the floor, they picked up microorganisms again, getting all dirty. She curled up into a tiny little ball. Her face turned all red and looked like it was going to explode. The groans coming out of her throat were demonic. Her skin broke out in hives. in a matter of seconds. As she lay there curled up, she began trembling more and more until she broke out in convulsions.

When it seemed like her suffering had reached an unbearable point, a dark, slimy substance spurted from her mouth. After that, she calmed down.

Mary Blaigdfield lay there like a worm on the bathroom floor, covered in her nauseating secretion, full of filthy microorganisms.

“Now you'll need a lot of running water,” the other person said before walking away, unfazed.


The café was more crowded this morning, she was sure of it. The ambiance of the place was different, too. A strange ambiance, with new waitresses and customers she'd never seen there before. Everything was really strange, as if it were an omen that something awful was about to happen.

She made her way between the tables until she got to her favorite spot, but sitting there were some complete strangers. Goddamned immigration, goddamned globalization, she thought to herself, irritably. She walked around to the other side and picked a different table at random.

Why did the place have to feel so different today of all days, just when she had a meeting that was so important? Why here, in this place that was always so nice and quiet? 

She sat down on the red-leather bench and slid over next to the window. Ever since she was little, she'd liked little corners like this. She remembered the arguments she used to have with her brother when their parents took them to the local luncheonette. They would compete good-naturedly over the corner with no way in or out, where she could feel safe and sound, living in her own little world. 

Mary ordered a good strong coffee from the waitress and then stared out the window, watching the cars go by in the street. Cars of all makes and colors, so many of them going by. She didn't know a thing about cars, but that didn't keep her from amusing herself by watching them all go by.

“Mary Blaigdfield!”

Mary was sucked back into the real world when she heard someone call out her name. It was the person she'd been waiting for.

“Andrezza Pascuoletto!”

“It's been so long!”

“Yes, it has, so long indeed!”

“Your hair looks different.”

“Yeah, I got it cut.”

“It looks great!”

“Thanks. Have a seat.”

Andrezza Pascuoletto sat down on the opposite bench and slid over to the corner, putting her purse and briefcase by her side.

“Is this place always like this?”

“No, it's different today, more crowded,” Mary answered, looking around. “But Andrezza, we didn't schedule this meeting to analyze how busy this place is. What do you have to show me?”

Andrezza picked up the briefcase, put it in her lap, and began looking for something inside. She was interrupted when the waitress brought Mary's coffee. She ordered a cappuccino and went back to searching around in her briefcase. She finally found a brown envelope and put it on the table.

“What's this?” Mary asked as she put sugar in her coffee.

“Photos: photos showing the moment when Larry Bofferman took ten million dollars from Yuri Guriskch in the lobby of a hotel in Moscow.”

“How did you get access to that material?”

“I'm very close to several people on the inside. I've got influence in the project.”

“That doesn't explain the fact that you've got access to that kind of material.”

“What would you have me do, refuse it? Say I wasn't interested in the information?” She spoke nervously, her pitch rising as if she were about to cry.

“Calm down, somebody might notice us.”

“I'm sorry.”

“Something tells me that it wasn't just the photos that led you to schedule a meeting with me. Do you have something more to say?”

“No... that is... yes, I do.”

“All right, then say it. Every second that goes by is one second less you have.”

“It's something that a source inside the project told me, something that concerns you.”

“How so?” Mary asked, alarmed.

“It's something personal, but, since I'm your friend, I feel obliged to...”

They were interrupted by the waitress putting the cappuccino down on the table. When she left, the two went back to their conversation.

“Andrezza Pascuoletto, either you get to the point now or I might lose my mind!”

“Mary, I came here to talk, to find out if you needed to talk...”

“About what?!?”

“About... about...”


“About what happened in Kentucky... But don't worry, I don't want to force you to...” Andrezza stopped short when she saw Mary Blaigdfield's eyes blinking rapidly. While she still could say something, she blurted out,

“I...don't...want... to talk... about... Kentucky.”

Although it was true that there was something different about the café that day, nobody took note of it any more after the horror show that Mary Blaigdfield put on. Convulsions, cries of pain, hysteria, fits, sobs. This time, she even pissed in her pants in the middle of a fit. Andrezza, frightened, came over and tried to help her.


A group of tourists was horrified when Andrezza Pascuoletto rushed by, covered in a black, slimy substance. The smell was really revolting. Mary lay on the floor, curled up in her own filth. 


Lions! She never did like male lions. They don't do anything! The female lions, yes, they’re the ones who work, hunt, take care of their young. It's really the female lion who's queen of the beasts. It's like a game of chess, where the queen sacrifices herself moving this way and that, up and down the board, to win the game, while the king just sits there like a great big pawn with a crown. Not to mention that, every so often, he gets into check and has to call his wife to save him. It's pitiful!

No, the lion cage definitely wasn't the one that caught her interest the most. And there were so many interesting things to see there. Where is the reptile section? she wondered, looking at a sign. “You are here,” the sign read.

No, the one who's there is a yellow circle. I'm here, in front of the sign!

It wasn't just the male lions that bothered her; the didactic information on the sign did too.
One thing was certain, she sure was stressed out. When she was stressed out, everything seemed problematic.

“Take some time off for yourself,” Larry had told her. “Getting some rest has never hurt anybody.”

She didn't understand why. Why should she waste time unwinding when she felt just fine? People like to see problems where they don't exist.

“Popcorn! Popcorn! Popcorn!” shouted a vendor, pushing his cart as he came nearer the sign where Mary was standing. His shouts were accompanied by irritating, shrill children's music that wouldn't stop. So irritating!

I wonder if wanted some popcorn, she thought. Sure she did, a visit to the zoo wouldn't be complete without popcorn.

“How much is popcorn?”

“A small bag is two-fifty, a big one, four.”

“A small one, please.”

“What flavor?”

“Excuse me?” 

“What flavor?” he asked, distracted. “Natural, cheese, bacon, chocolate, or Mendolathium?"

“Mendolathium?!” Although she should've been used to it by now, it still seemed strange. If only everybody knew the whole truth! All that Mendolathium being consumed around the world! One day, the consequences will come to light, but then it'd probably be too late, she thought in a flash.

“Natural, please.”

She paid for the bag and headed off for the reptile section. On the bag, it had the words, “Do not feed the animals,” along with a figure of a man giving popcorn to the monkeys, inside a crossed-out circle. That irritated her too.

It was true: she hadn't been herself lately. No wonder, considering how things were going. Time was running out; her secret was spilled and spreading fast. It was no coincidence that she was stressed out. That was precisely the reason for this Sunday outing, for relaxation, pure and simple.

But the news was going around, she could feel it. The fact that she couldn't do a thing about it, but was obliged to relax in the middle of it all, made her even more upset.

She came across a happy family. So, happy families do exist! This made her think of her own family, remembering her past. Her reminiscence was interrupted.

“Mommy, mommy! Where's the giraffe, mommy?”

“We're getting there, sweetie. Are you going to finish your popcorn, or can I throw it away?” 

Mary couldn't help overhearing and turned around. She looked at the bag of popcorn. Purple popcorn: Mendolathium! She felt dreadful inside, seeing that innocent child, thrust in the middle of it all.

“Everyone is a tool! Everyone!” She remembered the exact moment when she heard this for the first time ten years ago. She'd never agreed with the sentiment. She'd never been in favor of involving innocent people who had nothing to do with the project.

It was killing her inside to see that little child running about, crossing her path, and knowing that he had swallowed some Mendolathium. The shrill music kept on wafting toward her ears, shaking her sense of self. The popcorn vendor must be close by.

The situation was getting more and more unbearable. She threw down the bag of popcorn and ran off. She ran through a crowd of visitors, almost knocking a few of them down. Some people got frightened and began to run too. Given the tense climate that had set in after the revelations in the latest news reports, such a reaction was understandable. A few minutes later, wholesale panic overcame the place: children got lost from their parents, animals were grunting, and people were running in all directions. Here and there, security guards tried to calm down the crowd, but in vain. Trash bins were overturned and their contents scattered, adding to the chaotic atmosphere. Windows got broken, children shouted and cried. 

In the midst of it all, Mary was the only one who knew why she was running, and she also knew that it did no good to run. There was no place to go. What was needed, above all, was to keep calm. Keep calm!

She stopped running. She was gasping for air and her heart was pounding harder than her chest could bear. She leaned against the bars of a cage and stood there, exhausted. So many thoughts went through her head.

“Kruuuuuuuuuuu! Skraww! Skraww!”

A strident shriek pierced her, like a lance in the chest of a warrior who recently recuperated. Parrots! She didn't need anything like this: strident parrots screaming in her ear.

At that very moment, the unexpected happened. Was it an absurd turn of fate or merely a fit of nerves.? No one knew, but just then the parrot turned toward May Blaigdfield and said,
“I know! Skraww! I know what you did in Kentucky! Skraww! Skraww!”

What followed was not hard to guess. On that Sunday morning, Mary was the cherry on top of the cake in the chaos that emerged at the zoo. In the midst of the bedlam, few noticed her epileptic-neurotic convulsions, except for the parrots, which wrapped Mary's agonizing show in a tangled web of shrieks, drowning out the popcorn cart's shrill music.


Dr. Sophie was such a sophisticated person. Her office seemed to be decorated precisely to make patients feel compelled to speak, to open up, to work through memories and emotions in an ever more revealing way. The choice of pictures, the colors, the abundant flowers, even the little elephant figure with its rear toward the door seemed hand-picked. She must practice feng shui or some other millennial philosophy for interior decorating, Mary thought as she lay on the couch.

Indeed, Mary Blaigdfield had finally admitted that she needed help, some sort of help. Everyone insisted that she needed therapy. She could still remember Larry Bofferman in his office as if it were happening right then and there, his face striped in light and dark by the blinds, assuring her: “The psychiatrist's fees will be completely covered by the project, don't worry. I'll submit your case as one of the war wounded. You know, Mary, with all the retirement benefits you can get...” 

They were suggesting that she retire! Mary understood pretty soon what was going on and decided to play along. It was the best thing to do, especially since no one knew better than she the alternative way of getting eliminated from the deck of cards―not an especially pleasant thought. He even said that the project was going to be deactivated and it really would be better if she agreed to take a “medical leave” before mass lay-offs or transfers took place. “When the Democrats return to power, our funding will not be guaranteed.” Our funding, our funding...

While this movie played in her head, Mary was silent. Dr. Sophie sat in front of her, gazing at her calmly. Their agreement was that she didn't have to say anything if she didn't want to. From time to time, the doctor would ask some questions, maybe simply to avoid a session going by with nothing said at all. But this happened only on the days that Mary was especially disheartened; it was not the case today. 

“Are you the one who decorated the room?”

The doctor raised her eyebrows and smiled proudly.

“Yes, it was me. Do you like it?”

“Yes, quite a lot. And listen, it's not easy to please me, but I feel relaxed here.”

“I practice feng shui. “

I knew it! thought Mary.

“Oh, really?” Mary paused a moment and then exclaimed, “Ah, China...”

“What about China?”

“The Chinese... They wanted to steal the project...”

“Steal the project? How so?”

“'Steal the project' is just an expression. They were our greatest enemies, for sure. They wanted the project because they wanted the protoform of Mendolathium. But they never got it! At least, they didn't while I was director of the Department of Security and Anti-Espionage. Doctor, are you sure that anything said here stays between the two of us?”

“Of course, that's part of our professional ethics, as I told you.”

“Dr. Sophie, did you check that your house isn't bugged?”

“Ms. Blaigdfield, what did we say about your persecutory delusions? I already told you that I'm not associated with that ‘government project’ you talk about so much. I never knew any of the men you mention and there's absolutely no hidden camera in my office! Either we establish a relationship of trust or I cannot continue my work with you. I will have to send you to another therapist.”

“I'm sorry. It's just that I feel like everything I have to say are things that must never be disclosed, or else they could cost you your life. You don't understand the dangers of knowing too much.”

“Of course I do. I'm a doctor of psychiatry, I studied plenty in my lifetime. Mary, have you ever heard of Prometheus by any chance?”

“A Russian?”

“No, Greek…” After a short pause, the psychiatrist continued. “Look, forget it. Let's talk about Kentucky.”


“Why the shock, aren't you from Kentucky?”

“I don't want to talk about Kentucky...”

“And why not? Does it have something to do with your past?”

“I already said I don't want to talk about Kentucky.”

“Okay, we don't have to talk about Kentucky. Why don't you tell me about another one of your dreams? I think last time you did, it had a positive effect.”

“Yes, anything. But I don't think I've been dreaming much lately.”

“Try to remember, Mary.” 

Mary closed her eyes slowly, trying to concentrate.

“Yes, I did have a dream. I don't know if it was last night or a few nights ago.”

“Tell me the dream.”

“I'm in a car.”


“No, I'm in the back seat.”

“Who's driving?”



“No, the car's falling. It's shaking a lot. I can't get out; I'm trapped. Outside, everything's purple, outside the car windows. Yes, purple! Mendolathium! I'm in a sort of river of Mendolathium, falling. Sinking in my car. There's no way to get out.”

“And you can't get reach the river of Mendolathium.?”

“I swear, Dr. Sophie, I wouldn't use a Mendolathium inhaler even in a dream.”

“So you don't like Mendolathium?”

“Not one bit.”

“So it seems like the dream is worse than I imagined.”

“It is?”

“Yes, outside the car windows, not only is there no salvation, the situation's even worse. We still have to understand further why you associate this with Mendolathium.”

“For reasons that aren't hard to understand, Doctor. The explanation is concrete, it has to do with the project.”

“Yes, yes, I know. We'll talk more about this at your next session, our time is up.”

“Goodness gracious!” she said quietly.

“Excuse me?” 

Gracias: it means 'Thank you' in Spanish.”

“Ah, so you speak Spanish? I didn't know that, Mary. Listen, I want you to keep on taking the medications I prescribed. If you happen to wake up in the morning sweating again, take another red pill. And if your convulsions start again, give yourself an injection. If anything comes up, you have my cell phone number.”

The two bid farewell. Dr. Sophie opened the office door for Mary, who left grasping her purse, walking down the stairs from the office.


A new hairstyle; it changed her appearance. For the better, of course; more feminine. But to achieve this, she had to endure three hours in the salon. Conversations she didn't find one bit entertaining swirled around her. All the other women were looking at each other in the mirrors. A disagreeable odor of dye and burnt hair permeated the whole place. So did squeals, the sound of hair blowers, gossip.

The place had nothing to do with what was going on in her life―she had no patience for such matters. Neither patience nor time. It was a question of priorities: the whole project was at risk! Unimaginable secrets were about to be revealed; a total nightmare. In the middle of all the confusion, of all the stress of the past few days, she still found a way to make time in her schedule for Henry.

“A white Corolla: is that yours, ma'm?”

“Yes, thank you.”

Mary Blaigdfield got in the car and set out for where they'd agreed to meet. She drove carefully, since her nail polish had not yet dried completely. Luckily the car was an automatic; not that she needed such amenities. Even though she knew nothing about cars, she drove very well.

A red light gave her a chance to look at herself in the mirror. Her bangs were lighter than the rest of her hair. Whose idea were those bangs? she thought, irritated. Try as she might, she was unable to think of a single time when she'd left the salon satisfied.

Driving a bit longer, she reflected on everything that had happened lately, one thing after another. This built up her anguish to a crescendo.

When she got to Henry Havengard's building, he was there waiting for her with a small bouquet of flowers on his left arm by his side.

Oh, Henry... flowers... the same Henry as always, Mary thought, her heart giving in to the enchantments of an old flame. All her walls came crumbling down in that simple gesture of refinement.

She pulled the car up to the curb so Henry could get in. He opened the door and, with a big smile, sat in the passenger seat.

“This is for you, the most enchanting woman in the entire east!”

“Oh, Henry! You didn't have...” she interrupted herself. Oh no, look at them: purple flowers! Botanists had been using Mendolathium for quite a while to dye flowers, but even so, she was taken off guard. Henry noticed her shock.

“What's the matter? Is something wrong?”

“No,” she said, trying to compose herself. “It's that... I'm allergic...”

“You're allergic to flowers? I don't recall that.”

“No, no. The Mendolathium... those flowers were made using a mutation of Mendolathium.”
“Are you allergic to Mendolathium? I'm sorry. I didn't know anything like that was possible. You know, everyone's talking about...”

“I know, Henry. I know what they're saying. Let's forget about the flowers and go have a nice time. It's not worth bothering about.” 

That was a lie; Mary knew she'd spend the rest of the evening upset. Henry had shown up from her distant past, and that was wonderful. But with him had come Mendolathium, which, in turn, brought back the project, the problems, the...

She couldn't let this flood of thoughts go on, not tonight! She had to get herself under control, breathe deeply and calmly. Henry was at stake this time. Had she brought the red pill with her? Yes, she remembered. 

“The problem's solved!” he said, always the gentleman, throwing the flowers outside the car and closing the window again. “Next time, no more Mendolathium!”

Oh, Henry, please don't even say that word, she thought to herself, painting a false smile.
“So where are we going?” she asked, changing the subject.

“I made a reservation for the two of us at the Côté D'Alegan Bistrô. I bet they have lots of dishes without Mendolathium,” he said playfully.

That's enough, Henry, please, she thought, the smile fading from her face. “So let's go,” she said, putting the car into gear before he had a chance to think up a new phrase with the word "Mendolathium."

She drove nervously. The silence was beginning to feel uncomfortable; she turned up the sound on the radio a bit, which was playing some hit from the seventies, though she didn't want to think about the past. It was Henry who broke the silence.

“And so, what have you been working on lately? Are you still making jewelry?”

Henry, cut it out already! she thought. How could she talk about her work? What a question! It seemed like Henry was provoking her on purpose with each new utterance―but this couldn't be true. Just imagining that Henry might know something made her whole body feel weak and start to tremble. How could he have found out something about her? Was this the real reason he'd made a date with her? Might he be involved? She seemed to remember saying something about him to Larry, but... She didn't know whom to trust any more.

“Lately, I haven't been working on anything, I took some days off for myself...”

“I see. I'm still doing what I always did. Business has been getting better. Uncle Ben wants to turn the farm into an ecology park. Can you imagine that place full of children and animals? Just like the Zoology Park. Can you imagine, Mary? A zoo?”

Tell me this can't be, she thought. No, no, no! Coincidence or not, every topic Henry brought up touched on some traumatic event, forcing Mary to think fast so she could come up with a response that was at least plausible. It was unlikely that he knew about the incident at the Zoology Park. But why was she forced to deal with that all over again?

“I went to a zoo just a little while ago,” she said, trying to close the subject. “Can you hand me my purse? It's in the back seat. I need a cigarette.”

“You started smoking again?” Henry asked, surprised, as he handed her the purse.

“Yeah, a few days ago. I've been through a kind of tough time.”


“Sort of... Henry, honey, do you mind if we stop talking a moment while I smoke this cigarette?”

“Huh? Well, sure,” he said, thinking maybe he'd said something wrong. He had no idea that everything he'd said was wrong.

Mary Blaigdfield opened the car window and lit her cigarette, trying to calm down. Henry Havengard couldn't stop looking at her. He looked kind of foolish, like a dog that doesn't realize it's doing something that annoys its owner, “Didn't you like those wonderful holes I dug in the backyard?”

Mary thought long and hard as her cigarette burned down. Could he really know everything? Was it time to escape her life here and take off for some distant country? But she was no criminal―she was forced to take part in this farce against her will.

And this guy, with his idiotic expression, had to come out of her past and pose all sorts of stupid questions that only the gods could have come up with!

In the middle of the silence―which normally would be uncomfortable, but which this time afforded her a measure of tranquility―all she could hear was some hit from the seventies in the background coming from the speakers in the back seat.

Mary's heart sank when she realized her cigarette was almost down to the filter and with it would come the inevitable question from Henry. She took one last drag and tossed the butt out the window.

Henry got ready to say something.

Mary's hands trembled on the steering wheel. She already knew what he was going to say. Oh, no, not today, she thought.


This can't be happening again...

“Mary, I know...”

Impossible, impossible. Please, not today, I beg of you, she said to herself.

“... what you did...”

It can't be...

“... with your hair: it's your bangs! I noticed they're lighter than the rest of your hair. How long have you been doing it that way?”

Whew! thought Mary. That was close!

She was Mary Blaigdfield and she didn't want to talk about... about... well, you already know about what.

LUCAS VIRIATO was born in Rio de Janeiro in 1984 and has a Master's in Brazilian Literature. Since 2006, he has been acting as the editor of Plástico Bolha [Bubble Wrap] literary journal, which has published hundreds of authors.

In 2007 he published his first book of poetry, Memórias indianas [“Memories from India,”] which narrates his trip to India. Retorno ao Oriente [“Return to the Orient”] completed his poetry project the following year.

With Contos de Mary Blaigdfield, a mulher que não queria falar sobre o Kentucky [“Mary Blaigdfield, The Woman Who Didn't Want to Talk About Kentucky, and Other Stories,”] he made his debut as a fiction writer in 2010. That same year, he also organized Antologia de prosa Plástico Bolha [“A Collection of Prose from Bubble Wrap”] with the best short stories published by the literary journal.

In 2012 he published Curtos e Curtíssimos [“Short and Very Short Ones,”] a collection of his main micropoems. He has also participated in several Brazilian and international poetry events and has just been awarded the Prêmio Agente Jovem de Cultura [“Young Cultural Agent Award”] by the Ministry of Culture in Brazil.