The Evolution of Reptilian Handbags, fiction by Melanie Lamaga


“The two biggest problems in Otto’s life were finding a home, and finding women with whom to copulate. In fact, the two problems seemed to go hand in hand.”


The Evolution of Reptilian Handbags by Melanie Lamaga

Lizard, public domain

One Friday, Joy fell into a horrible trance . . .

HER FALL WAS NOT a metaphor, for metaphors had vanished long ago. Some people said they’d gone extinct, like bees. Others maintained they’d never existed in the first place, like angels or altruists. In any case, these days, falling into a trance was exactly the same as falling into a very narrow, very deep ditch.

Joy had been on her way to enroll in business school. Now she found herself sinking deeper and deeper into the trance, which was made of oil, water, and red and yellow food coloring like a lava lamp. Ugly mythological creatures—gorgons, chimeras and chupacabras—floated in the gobs of oil.

Seeing the annoying, psychedelic kind of trance she’d fallen into, Joy wished mightily that metaphors did exist so that this event could be seen as a colorful representation of her state of mind. Instead, it was her reality.

“Why?” Joy lamented. “Oh, why is it that every time I have a good idea of what to do with my life, something like this happens? How am I ever going to get ahead so I can buy a crocodile handbag large enough to contain a small, third-world country?” And with that she began to cry big, fat tears.

Joy’s tears became part of the trance. They turned into swans and dived down to eat the green grass that swayed on the bottom of the ditch. The swans were so graceful, white and shimmery that Joy forgot to cry and started to wonder how she was breathing under all that goop.


I want that enormous handbag!

The shabby young man named Otto eyed the red crocodile handbag in the window of a fancy boutique. If he had a bag like that he wouldn’t need an apartment. He could crawl inside it at night and fall asleep on the luxurious lining.

The two biggest problems in Otto’s life were finding a home and finding women with whom to copulate. In fact, the two problems seemed to go hand in hand. Women liked nice places in which to copulate. That very morning his girlfriend had left him to go to business school so that, he suspected, she could copulate with other people in nicer places than he could currently provide.

Women like his ex-girlfriend also liked enormous reptilian handbags. Loved them, in fact. So Otto broke the boutique window and snatched the red purse, howling with glee because he thought he’d just solved his two biggest problems.


Unfortunately, across town . . .

The mayor had just issued an edict against living in handbags. Simply too many people had begun using their handbags for shelter, and it was cutting into tax revenues.

Of course, the homeless people were not living in fancy designer handbags; their handbags were secondhand knockoffs made by children in third-world countries. But still, very large.

Satisfied with his day’s work, the mayor decided to have a steak to reward himself before going home to copulate with his wife.


But what the mayor didn’t know was . . .

At that moment, his wife Winifred was boarding a plane with her lover (formerly their maid), destined for a small, third-world country on a high mountain plain. There the couple planned to raise chickens and llamas, and paint mythic animals on the sides of handbags so tiny that only one bean could fit inside them.

At first Winnie had been skeptical of this plan. “Enormous handbags are all the rage!” she’d told her lover, Esmeralda. “No one will buy a purse big enough for only one bean.”

“Ah,” Esmeralda had replied, “but you are wrong, mi amor. The excesses of the past are fast catching up with your countrywomen. There is a wave cresting behind them, full of the basura of the past one hundred years: Tupperware without lids, mismatched shoes, millions of plastic water bottles and billions of tiny screws.”

“Oh my!” said Winnie. “That does sound unpleasant.”

Si.” Esmeralda nodded. “After that wave breaks, everyone will be up to their designer asses in so much trash that the very thought of enormous handbags will turn their stomachs, I promise you. And that is when we make our move.”


Soon, civilization collapsed!

Just as Esmeralda, the maid-turned-impresario, had predicted, it ended in a tsunami of trash. The oceans belched their Texas-sized garbage patches back onto dry land. Plastic bags hung like jellyfish from every tree, and water bottles returned like salmon to the places of their birth.

The survivors wished so mightily that drowning in your own trash was a metaphor, the collective force of their desires brought metaphors back into the world. Of course, this did not remove the trash from anywhere but people’s lungs. But folks took comfort in knowing that kindling a relationship no longer created third-degree burns, and when it rained cats and dogs no one would get bitten, and so forth.

Joy emerged from her horrible trance. The mountains of trash made the colorful goop and ugly mythological creatures look quite charming by comparison. Sadly, they were only metaphors now. Joy had no choice but to trade in her cute shoes for heavy boots, useful for kicking aside garbage.

Otto put wheels on the bottom of the enormous red crocodile handbag, hitched it to a dappled horse named Karma, and started a trash collection service. Not only did Otto enjoy his work, he found plenty of women with whom to copulate, for these days removing trash was just about the sexiest thing anybody could do.

Esmeralda became the wise mayor of the small third-world country whose elevation and lack of Tupperware and bottled water had left it one of the few pleasant places remaining on earth. This also worked out well for Winnie, who had enjoyed being a mayor’s wife, except for the inconvenient fact of the mayor himself.

Winnie and Esmeralda spent their nights metaphorically devouring each other. Days, while Esmeralda participated in collective governing, Winnie fell into lovely trances and painted gorgons and griffins onto handbags made from the skins of small, desiccated blue lizards. The bags were large enough to carry only a single bean, or one of the tiny screws that, once upon a time, had held the world together.


About the Author

Melanie Lamaga is the author of The Evolution of Reptilian Handbags and Other Stories. Her poetry and short fiction have appeared in Bartleby, The Pearl, The Tusculum Review, Zahir, and Fiction International.

Lamaga holds an MFA in Writing, and a BS in Photography. She has worked as a university writing instructor, a professional photographer and a developmental editor. She lives in San Diego and Baja California, Mexico.

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