Be My Guest
Walking through the house just a few minutes ago, I felt the
monsters welling up inside me, pouring into my throat,
tapping at the inside of my two big front teeth with their
claws. Elbowing one another to get out, bellowing that
incomprehensible yell-language they use when I deny them
air, keeping my mouth shut. The time wasn’t right. You
were not here. It wasn’t twelve-thirty yet. And now it is. I’m
sitting next to you here at the picnic table. Answering the
expectancy in your eyes, I lean to you, tilt my head and
open my chompers. Nothing. The monsters have departed.
They do not like to be kept waiting. It’s not my fault.
You’re welcome to go in looking for them, I say. You look
me right in the eyes and do so.
Fright Night, Our Little House
Smitty and I were up one Saturday night watching the late
late show—we were up late late—with our feet in slippers
and the gas fire glowing in the corner of the living room. A
webby terror crawled out of the swamp at the edge of a
black and white town, dragging itself off in search of
courting couples. Smitty reached into the popcorn bowl
and her hand touched mine. For a second she jerked away—
then all four fingers and that thumb I nibble on after
lovemaking remembered that I was not a swamp monster,
but rather her own David. She came forward and grabbed
hold of me in the butter and the oil. Blue light flickered
across the puckered surface of the bowl as we swam and
blew popping kisses to each other safe below.
Something Awful, Autumn Nights
The sound of Linda’s chattering teeth is the greatest sound
in the world to me. It’s as if the stars climb down the tree
trunks and dance around us clapping. They have claws for
hands. “They have claws for hands, Linda!” I cry. Linda
turns to me, says, “I know they do. Now can we please go
inside. My knees are beginning to knock.” “The gods of the
underworld have coconut feet!” I yell. I have to yell.
Linda’s heading for the back door. Suddenly I am sitting
here alone. Wishing I had a hot cup of tea. Trying to recall
the greatest sound in the world. The stars twinkle in the
black sky. I miss them.
Stop living like it’s one of those giveaway days at the
supermarket and a tight-haired lady will be out there
around each corner with a hotplate and sausage segments or
mini meatballs on toothpicks and you’re not invited. Even
though she looks at you as if you’re the kind of person who
doesn’t deserve these nibbles, as if you were precisely the
sort of person these nibbles were not at all made for, as if
you were absolutely not the demographic the manager had
in mind when he came up with this brilliant nibble plan,
start living like you’re the kind of guy who actually does
deserve those greasy bundles of happy steam. Live like you
could walk right up to the lady, set your machete down on
soft pillows of Wonder bread, wipe the beetles from your
lips with your shirt cuff, cough once and smile as you reach
with both claws for your just desserts: miniature sugared
egg rolls filled with boysenberry jam.
Happiness, in a Way
Once upon a time, a door slammed somewhere in the
house. Evie looked up from her crossword puzzle—a
Danish reputation, in a way—and the light from her
bedside lamp flickered. Who could that be, she thought? A
seven letter word for bump in the night. It can’t be Steven.
He’s just six letters and he said he’s never coming back.
Pauley, the same. Six letters again and he even tore his
name from the little white card the mailman slipped into the
mailbox window. It must be Johnny, fifth grade—I sat in
his lap while he showed me his scratch ‘n’ sniff sticker
album. Or the other Johnny, the boy from the cornfield next
to the senior parking lot, the corn already harvested, just
stalks halfway up and shredded silk in the autumn light.
Two Johnnys. That’s seven letters. J-o-h-n-n-y-s. Now a
nine letter word for joy in the middle of the night when my
Johnnys come marching home, slamming the door.
Save Us From All This Care and Attention
I think it was in Tampa. A kid got the chicken pox but also
turned orange and circular and smelled like a tangerine. It’s
something to do with the fact that no one’s getting their
offspring vaccinated anymore. They’re all superstitious
because of something they read about the government’s
being secretly evil. They’re raising their babies on organic
kale and bottled water, and their kids are all bright-eyed
and bushy tailed and coming down with whooping cough
and meningitis. The plague’s on the rise in the most affluent
neighborhoods, the honest to goodness Black Death.
Schnabel’s boy came down with buboes. That Lowry girl,
little Anne Marie—they say she’s turned into a pterodactyl,
won’t stop flying around the house, trying to break the
windows with her wings.