By Vanessa Mancos

At night, we must remove our mouths. We leave them in the mouth bucket on the front porch until dawn. The new law that dictates this was put into affect effect after the demonstrations.

The demonstrations: ecstatic airing of our grievances, many small globs into one big one. They did not care for that.

When the mouth buckets arrived to our homes, we had to practice taking our mouths off a few times before we really understood how. It’s tricky, you know. A mouth doesn’t just jump off your face because you ask it to. You have to grab your lips with both hands and sort of twist it around a bit before it slides down with a slimy pop. It does hurt at first, but as with all types of pain, after constant repetition, you forget your discomfort.

The discomfort: a searing hot iron held against the outline of your lips, down your throat, to the direct center of your heart. The pain shoots blue light across your eyelids until you come to, standing over the bucket with everybody else, wondering how you all let it get to this point.

And there’s no gaping hole where your mouth used to be, like you’re thinking. Almost instantly the skin smoothes over, like a slick and tender scab. I have taken to holding my fingers across the space like I am about to puff an invisible cigarette then humming loudly, using the vibration to get the feeling that I still exist.

Of course, you worry about your mouth out there all night. Sometimes it snows and you have to place your mouth over the fire to thaw it out for a few minutes before reattachment. Sometimes there are animals: raccoons, coyotes, your neighbors. There have been a few mouth thefts, but they assure us they are looking for them. I am not sure if they mean the mouths or the thieves. At this point we are all getting used to living without our voices.


Vanessa Mancos is a writer living in Los Angeles. Her surrealist fiction and humorous personal essays have appeared in NY Tyrant, Hello Giggles and Memoir Mixtapes. She currently works as a television writer, was a finalist for the 2019 Esalen Emerging Voices Fellowship, and has appeared as a storyteller on the critically acclaimed live show and podcast Mortified! In her spare time, she enjoys hiking, hanging out with her fluffy Calico cat and finding new and inventive ways to destroy the patriarchy.