Monday, April 20, 2009

Big And Small of It

Big and Small Of It

And then Bill came in the room again. He was fusing about, moving bills and random papers, looking over Tara’s shoulder as she sat reading a magazine and having a glass of wine. He went over to the counter where the dishes were still sitting, waiting for him, and poured himself a tall one out of the jug. Tara turned a page in her magazine. She laughed at some anecdote; some article about some actor on some television show, and that was when Bill decided he’d had enough.

“Hey,” Tara said, as he pulled the magazine away from her.

“Oh, were you reading this?”

“You know damn well that I was.”

Bill put the magazine on the counter, got it wet in a puddle of spilled red wine. “Well I wanna talk.”

“You did all of the talking that you’re going to do right now,” Tara said. She pulled out a cigarette from the pack she had resting on the table. “I don’t need anymore of your shit.”

“Okay, but how much did those cost?” Bill asked, pointing at her pack.

“You know how much they cost.”

“Yes, but I want you to tell me.”

“$9.50,” Tara said. Then she lit up.

Bill nodded. “And the generics?”

“$8.75. Honestly there’s no real difference.”

“There’s a seventy-five cent difference.”

Tara took hard drag on her smoke. “And that would’ve given us what?”

“An extra seventy-five cents,” Bill said.

“Don’t be smart.”

He stood there and looked at her a moment then went over to the counter where the dishes were. “It counts.”


“I don’t know.” Bill picked up a pot where the residue of boxed macaroni and cheese had coagulated to the sides. “Maybe it would’ve gotten us a second box of this.”

“Are you still hungry?” Tara asked. She said it in a way that Bill knew she didn’t care if he was hungry or not.

“No,” he lied. “You?”

“No. But you’re hungry a lot lately, so I thought I’d ask.”

“True. But of course you’re not hungry. You have your $10 pack of ciggies to quell your hunger.”

“Have one.” Tara pushed her pack toward the end of the table.

Suddenly Bill got red in the face. He put the pot down, drank the rest of his wine, and stormed over to where Tara was. When he got close she tightened and curled into herself, as if waiting for a blow. But all Bill did was roll up his sleeve and shove his shoulder into her face. “What’s this look like?””

“The patch,” Tara answered, turning her head away.

“That’s right,” Bill said. “And what can’t I do while I’m on the patch?”


“Again, you’re correct. So why would you offer me something as dumb as a cigarette?”

“I don’t know.” Tara wormed her way from the table and got up. She went over to the counter and poured herself another glass of wine. She refilled Bill’s out of instinct. “I forgot.”

“Ah, the joy of a woman’s memory.”

“I didn’t mean anything by it,” she said. Tara came back over to the table with both glasses of wine. “Have some of this.”

“Is there poison in that as well?” Bill asked.

“Yes, but it usually takes years for it to work. So I wouldn’t worry about it if I were you.”

Bill laughed. He took his glass of wine and had a good pull on it. It went down fine at first. But then, as soon as the sweet booze reached his belly, it began to burn. Bill turned red-faced instantly. He set the wine glass down on the table, spilling some, and then clutched his stomach. “Jesus Christ, what is that?”

Tara smirked. “What do you mean? It’s wine. Carlo Rossi. The same shit we buy every three days.”

“Something’s not right,” Bill said. He held onto his stomach with one hand, and leaned on a chair with the other. “I don’t feel right.”

“What do you mean?” Tara started. But then right before her eyes Bill began shrinking. “Oh God!”



“Tell me!” Bill shouted. His face was red and covered in sweat. He let go of his stomach and the chair, and tried to stand upright. That’s when Tara noticed the sleeves on his shirt go over his hands. She screamed. “Oh Christ, what?”

“You’re shrinking!”

“Come off it,” Bill said. But then he felt another guttural burn in his belly, and felt his pants drop an inch lower. Out of fear he grabbed his belt.

“Bill!” Tara screamed. She backed away from him and headed toward the counter. She dumped the rest of her wine down the sink then took another long drag on her smoke. Tara looked at Bill. It seemed he’d shrunk another few inches. His pants had completely gone over his shoes now, and Bill’s shirt hung so long on him it slumped over his shoulders. He looked like a child playing dress-up with his father’s clothes.

“Help me!”

“I don’t know what to do?” Tara stubbed her smoke out and straightened herself. She made to go over to Bill, but then she felt a strong burn in her stomach. It doubled her over and she fell to the ground. When Tara looked up, she saw that her husband’s eyes were filled with terror. “What is it?”
“You.... you’re growing!”

Tara moaned. She felt an intense pain in her joints, bones, and muscles. It felt as if someone were pulling her about a thousand different ways. She fell on her back and raised her neck. The jeans she was wearing were almost up to her knees. Bill’s old crew neck shirt, one he’d warned her not to wear; the sleeves were up to the elbows. “What’s happening?”

“I don’t know,” Bill said, right before his pants and underwear fell completely off of him. Tara looked at him. He was maybe three feet now. Then he was two. And then...

“Bill!” She screamed. Tara tried to get up on her knees but she’d gotten so big that her ass hit the counter, and knocked over the wine bottle, magazine, and pot of macaroni and cheese residue. They all fell on her back. The wine bottle rolled off and smashed on the floor. Glass and blood-red liquid went everywhere. Wine ran down the kitchen toward where Bill was standing. He was maybe six inches tall now, Tara thought, listening as her jeans and shirt ripped. He was completely naked, standing maybe an inch away from his clothing. She reached for him, but she smacked the side of the table hard. She’d grown so much that it turned over on its side. “Bill!”

He had a look of horror on his face, as a stream of red wine raced toward him. Bill moaned. He felt the burn again, and then a horrible new pain all throughout his body. Three more inches were gone. Quickly, he ran toward his mound of clothes. He began climbing the fabric of his brown pants, getting to safety just as the wash of red river encircled him. “Tara!”

“I can’t,” was all that she could say before the pains came again. Tara screamed. The remnants of her shirt and jeans fell off of her, as did her shredded bra and underwear. When the pains stopped, Tara turned and sat, her head tilted against the cold, rough ceiling, one arm, which broke the screen, hung out the kitchen window, and the other pressed against the mixture of wall and cracked table. She was stuck.

“Tara, are you okay!” Bill shouted. But his wife couldn’t hear him. She just sat there, naked and frightened, staring down at him on his island of clothing, at the patch as it went floating by.

It was then that Bill heard a noise coming from the living room. It was a thump and then the patter of feet. From his height, the sound was deafening. The vibrations made him nauseous. Oh, no, Bill thought, bracing himself down in his mound of clothes, the goddamned cat. Sure enough Reggie came around the corner and surveyed the scene without any kind of fear. Fat, round, blue-eyed, Siamese mutt, shaped-like-a-football Reggie, who could never get enough in his damned belly, who always cried during every meal; the ten-year-old nuisance of a cat that Bill couldn’t wait to see die. They were face to face. Reggie was staring Bill right in the eye, and the cold, determined glare of the cat was beyond frightening, aside from being beyond all logic and comprehension. Bill felt his heart race. How long had it been since he tossed the cat across the living room? Five minutes? Ten? Surely, cats couldn’t remember that long.
“Reggie!” Tara screamed, looking down at the cat and her husband. “Reggie! Get!”

But the cat didn’t register her voice. He took his time and walked around the scene. He sniffed at Bill’s clothes, and then came around toward where the spilt wine rested. Reggie sniffed and then turned away. He walked over to where Tara was, found the pot of macaroni and cheese and began licking.

“Thank God,” Bill said from his mound. He looked up at the mountain of flesh that was his wife. “Tara!” But he was sure that he heard nothing.

“Bill!” Tara screamed, as loud as she could. She tilted her head slightly. She looked down at her husband and he was clutching his ears. Shit, she thought. It must be the sound of my voice. Oh God, what’s happened? But then. “Reggie!”

Only it was too late. Reggie had come across the kitchen and pounced on the mound of Bill’s clothes. Tara watched in horror as her husband backed away. But it was only a matter of time. Reggie was patient. He’s been a farm cat, and Bill and Tara had gotten him when he was already a year old and living and learning with his mother and the rest of the liter. Bill made one last attempt. He punched at the cat, full on, right in the middle of Reggie’s nose. The old Siamese mix didn’t even flinch. Then Tara shut her eyes. Tears welled in them. When she opened them, Reggie was laying the middle of Bill’s pile of clothes. He was licking his paws.

“Oh God!” Tara said, looking down at the half-soaked mound that used to be her husband. Reggie looked up at her and meowed. Tara watched a tear fall and splatter on the kitchen floor, and felt a burning in her stomach again. It came long and felt like she’d eaten fire. She tried to clutch her stomach but couldn’t. Then her head wedged away from the ceiling, and she could begin to feel herself shrink.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Modern Romancer

Modern Romancer

“Come here,” he says.

“I told you I don’t think I can,” she answers.

“Just this one time.” He pats the cushion, beckons her with a smile. “I’m feeling a little lonely and vulnerable.”

“I’m not programmed for this.”

“Right. But you sure were programmed to do what we just did.”


“But you can’t come sit next to me?”

“No,” she says.

He smiles. “You seem uncertain. It seems like you want to.”

She looks at him. Her eyes are beautiful but he notices a coldness behind them. “That is simply what you perceive.”

“Perceive? Why so formal?”


“Programming,” he mumbles. Then he gets up. “Look, you want a beer or something?”

“Why?” she asks.

He lifts his arms. “I don’t know. It was just an idea.” Then he goes into the kitchen to get a beer. When he comes back in, she is standing. “Where you going?”

“It is time to start your dinner and do your laundry,” she says.

He sighs. “Right. Dinner. Laundry. How ‘bout we order out tonight. Pizza?”

“It is your decision.”

“Of course, you won’t eat no matter what I bring in here,” he says.

“That is correct.”

“Well, can’t you at least let the laundry go. I mean how many tighty whiteys do I need? You do the laundry so much I don’t think I’ve even touched most of my wardrobe.”

She looks at him. “Would you like that I clean the bathroom?”

He sits down, cracks his beer, and takes a pull. “No, I would not like that you clean the bathroom.”

“You are mocking me?” she asks.

He laughs. “A little.” Then he turns on the television. He looks up at her. “Are you going to sit or what?” She sits down in the chair where she was. “That’s not what I had in mind.”

“As I said before I’m not pro...”

“Programmed,” he interrupts. “What exactly are you programmed to do?”

“To love you and serve you,” she says.

He raises an eyebrow, has some more beer. “Sweetheart, what we do isn’t love.”

“It is a form of love.”

“Sometimes,” he says. “More often than not it isn’t.”

“But it is what you requested. It is what you said you wanted. Is it not?”

“I...” But then he puts down his beer and studies her. She has the most beautiful face: porcelain skin and a chin that comes down to a point, all surrounded by waves of auburn hair. She has a slightly upturned nose. It gives her a little bit of an air about her, a subtle aloofness. He likes it. He eyes are such an icy blue they make him cold. “I guess it is.”

“Then am I not serving you as you requested?” she asks.

“I guess you are,” he says.

“You sound troubled.”

“Look,” he grabs his beer again and leans forward on the couch, “I’m just trying to say that this isn’t exactly what I bargained for. Do you understand?”


He has more beer. “Okay, let me break it down for you this way. In a relationship there are certain obligations, sexual or otherwise. We got the sex thing down, baby. Don’t think I’m complaining here. You’re exactly what I asked for. It’s’s...well, I didn’t think I’d miss the intimacy as much as I do, you know?” He looks at her. She is staring back at him blankly. “I guess you do know.”

“Intimacy is not a part of my protocol,” she says. She rises and hands him a piece of paper out of her back pocket. He takes it but does not read it. He already knows what it says. “I have been programmed to love you and serve you, as per the contract, as per what you specifically stated in the needs and desires section of the agreement. Has there been a problem with my service? Do I not do exactly as you stated, as you need and desire?”

He puts the paper down on the end table. “You do exactly as I ask in the contract.”

“Good.” She rises again. “Then if you desire food out and do not want your laundry done, then I will go and clean the bathroom now.”

“Fine,” he says.

He watches her leave the room, and then sits there absently watching a baseball game. He takes a few more pulls on his beer, before getting up. He goes into the kitchen and grabs another beer from the refrigerator. Above him, he can hear the sounds of water running, of the bathroom being cleaned explicitly as he stated it should. He opens the beer. He takes a few pulls before he feels sick to his stomach.

He puts the beer down on the kitchen table, and then leaves the kitchen. Quietly he goes up the steps. He leans in the bathroom doorway, and watches her scour the bathtub. Porcelain skin. Pointed chin. Upturned nose and waves of auburn hair. Icy blue eyes. She looks so much like Samantha it makes him ache. He thinks he’s had enough. And when she looks up at him and doesn’t smile, he knows he has.

“Stand up,” he says.

She puts the scrub brush down, and does as commanded. “Is it time again?”

“Yes. Turn around.”

She turns around and faces the bathroom mirror. She puts her hands on the sink. “Is this what you like?”

“Yes,” he says.

He gets behind her and leans in close. He sniffs. She smells of nothing but bathroom supplies and his scent. He leans closer, moving some auburn hair out of the way. He looks at her neck. It is thin, swanlike. He wants to kiss it but suddenly realizes that it doesn’t matter. So instead he raises his one hand and flips the small switch behind her left ear. He smells a whiff of ozone and immediately she goes limp. He catches her. He turns her over and looks into her eyes. They are dark and vacant. Then he cradles her in his arms for a few minutes, before gently setting her on the ground, and going back down to the kitchen to finish his beer.

Friday, April 3, 2009

The Lake

The Lake

Marvin began screwing the girl who worked at the convenience store, not long after he and Sharon moved in with her parents. Sharon found a job in the city within the first month. Marvin was on month number four without work. He spent most of his days waking around ten, eating a bagel, looking for jobs in a half-assed manner, and then masturbating to Internet porn on his in-law’s computer. It was an okay lifestyle, but ultimately unsatisfying. Marvin felt he was getting fat too. So in an effort to boost his spirits, he began going for walks promptly at noon every day. Marvin would clean up his mess, turn off the PC, and then he would put on a comfortable pair of shorts, sneakers, his old Ramones t-shirt, and go for a walk around his new neighborhood.

As a gift to himself for being so industrious, and for holding on okay with the stress of looking for work, Marvin treated himself to one twenty-four-ounce bottle of light beer a day. He had previously been a heavier drinker, but moving in with the in-laws had helped to change that. It was no fun hiding the scotch and wine bottles in their home. And it was no fun driving all over town, dumping the empties in various garbage cans, after driving Sharon to the train station each morning. So Marvin figured he’d go sober for a little bit. But after a few weeks he got restless. He got tired of the constant thought of drink, and the aching desire. He wanted a drink the way he wanted a good screw. But he needed an excuse to touch the hooch again. Exercise seemed good enough.

Sissy had a slight build. She wasn’t thin but she wasn’t fat. She had blonde hair and wide eyes, and looked the way most women did. Maybe she looked a bit more haggard because she spent her days behind the counter of a local convenience store. Sissy ran the register and poured coffee and made sandwiches for people coming in on their lunch break. She serviced any and all random town folk, and just about every construction outfit in a three-mile radius. Sometimes she was kind to people. Sometimes she grew short with them. And on her own lunch breaks, Sissy made a Muenster cheese sandwich and walked across the street to stare at the lake for the remaining twenty-eight minutes she had.

Marvin met her after his second walk. It was ninety-five degrees outside and he came into the convenience store sweating and panting. Sissy was making some asshole a ham and Swiss sandwich. While Marvin studied the coolers full of beer, he could hear the asshole berate her for how thick she was cutting the cheese and meat. He made her cut the portions three times, causing a line to form. People began to grow impatient. They looked at their watches and began whispering their discontent to each other. Sissy had to have her mom come out of the back to handle the influx of people. Marvin could tell she was embarrassed to do so.

“What do you want?” Sissy said to Marvin.

“Just this.”

“Just the beer? Do you have I.D.?”

“Sure,” he said. He handed his license to her.

“I’m sorry,” she said, giving the license back. “I have to card everyone.”

“I don’t mind.”

“Anyway, you look like you need a water more than a beer.”

“I do?”

“Yeah, you’re all covered in sweat.”

“I think I’ll just take the beer.”

Then Sissy’s mom came over and rang up the beer. She gave Sissy a harsh look then made her fix a sandwich for the next customer in line. It was a roast beef sandwich with two slices of Cheddar cheese.

“Take it easy,” Marvin said, as he left.

“You too,” Sissy answered, looking up from her work.

The next day he was trudging up a hill. He was sweating and panting, and holding a damp brown paper bag. It was ninety-five degrees again, and he was beginning to rethink the whole exercise bit. What would be wrong with just having one large beer during the day, just for the sake of having one? They payoff was good, but it wasn’t worth the sweat and stress. Then he heard a horn blast. Marvin made to get out of the car’s way, but it stopped. It was Sissy. She rolled down her window.

“Hey, beer guy.”


“What are you doing?”

“Finishing up my exercise.”

“It’s too hot to exercise in this.”

“I know.”

“Do you live close by?”

“Up the street.”

“Hop in and I’ll take you home.”

Marvin let Sissy inside his in-law’s house. He turned on the air conditioner and the television, and then went to the refrigerator to get them both some cold bottled water. Then he sat next to Sissy on the couch. She drank her water in three gulps, and he drank his in four. Then they watched a little bit of the television. It was a bad movie on HBO that Sharon had made Marvin see the previous summer.

“So what do you, like, do?” Sissy asked.

“I’m a college teacher. Community college. I teach English Literature and writing, mostly.

“Are you off for the summer?”

“No, I just can’t find a job.”

“What’s your wife do?”

Marvin looked at his wedding ring and then at Sissy. “She works in advertising.”

“Cool. But it must get lonely here all day by yourself.”

“A little. But I manage.”

Then Sissy impetuously leaned in and kissed Marvin. They both looked surprised. Her eyes bulged. His lips tightened before they slacked. He could taste the Muenster cheese sandwich she’d had earlier in the day, and he could taste her sweat. He grabbed the girl’s breast and she moaned a little bit. Marvin laid Sissy on her back. He took off her t-shirt and shorts. She was wearing a turquoise bra and panty set. He took those off quickly. Sissy was pale and soft, and her cunt was shaved. He kissed her again, and then moved down to put his tongue between her legs. She grabbed the top of his head. When he was done, Sissy kneeled in front of him. She put Marvin’s cock in her mouth. It felt nice. It was something old, rudimentary and banal, made new again. After that, they fucked bareback and doggie style on Marvin’s in-law’s couch. They faced the large paneled windows, moaning and sweating, watching neighbors come and go in between pulls and thrusts.

Marvin and Sissy did this a couple times a week. She switched some of her schedule at the convenience store with a guy named Joe, so that she could drive to his in-law’s house and fuck. When they didn’t fuck they watched movies, or drove around the town, laughing and talking. Sissy took Marvin to the lake she loved, and they ate Muenster cheese sandwiches while they rowed a boat that her mother owned. Marvin quit walking on a daily basis. He quit drinking just his twenty-four-ounce bottle of beer. He went back to drinking scotch and wine, and six-packs taken from the store by Sissy. Marvin liked Sissy a lot. And he preferred this situation much more to the previous one.

It was about three months into the relationship, when autumn really started blooming, that Sissy told Marvin she was pregnant. He was shocked at first, then scared, then worried about what the two of them were going to do. Marvin had assumed she was on the pill, and Sissy didn’t care either way. She was happy for the pregnancy and excited about the baby. She really didn’t care if he was a part of it or not. She figured she’d tell her mother she got knocked up, and her mother would eventually get over it. After all, Sissy’s family had money. They owned four convenience stores in town, and two others in the surrounding area.

“I’m worried about my wife,” Marvin said to her one day.

“Why. I told you, I don’t want anything from you. No one knows about us, and I don’t plan on saying anything to anyone. You have the ideal situation, Marvin.”

“Yeah, but these things can come back to bite you in the ass.”

“I promise it won’t.” Sissy kissed Marvin. “You can trust me.”

Then Sissy and Marvin got in her car. They drove down to the convenience store. Marvin walked over to the lake while she went inside the store and made them two Muenster cheese sandwiches, and grabbed them two twenty-four-ounce bottles of beer. When Sissy came out of the store, he waved. He watched her walk over to the lake. Sissy gave Marvin the sandwich and beer bag when she got there, and then she grabbed the rowboat. She put the oars against its side, and pushed the boat into the water. Sissy got in the boat. Marvin followed.

They rowed to the center of the lake. It was a cool September day, so not many people were out. Mountains surrounded the lake. And on the other side, Marvin could see a few deer eating the leaves off the trees and bushes. He looked at Sissy. She smiled at him. He smiled back then handed her a sandwich out of the bag. When she looked down at her Muenster cheese sandwich, Marvin hit Sissy on the side of the face with his twenty-four-ounce light beer bottle. The impact made a loud thud. He didn’t have leverage on the boat, so the bottle didn’t break. But she still screamed anyway. Then she fell into the water.

“Marvin. Oh, Christ! Oh, Shit! Sissy screamed.

Panicked, Marvin hoisted the bottle again. He swung it down on the top of Sissy’s head. This time it broke. The boat swayed violently, and glass shards fell in the water. Blood poured from Sissy’s forehead, into the lake. She screamed then sunk beneath the surface of the water. Marvin grabbed one of the oars. When she rose, he hit her on the top of the head. He beat her three times. Nothing worked. Marvin threw the oar into the water and looked around. No one was there. So he jumped in the water and grabbed Sissy. Her arms flailed. He grabbed her by the shoulders to pin them. He looked at her. She looked at him through the tears and blood. Her mouth was agape but nothing came out. Sissy didn’t want anything from Marvin. It was a kind gesture. So he made sure to grip her tightly when he pulled her underwater, so the drowning would go fast.

After, Marvin got back in the boat. He pulled the other Muenster cheese sandwich out of the bag, and ate it quickly. It was a little wet, but it tasted okay. It tasted like Sissy. Then he grabbed the other twenty-four-ounce beer out of the bag, and jumped back in the water. Marvin swam back to shore in a laborious manner. It was hard to swim with the beer. When he got to the other side, he got out of the water and crossed the street. He was careful to walk on the other side of the road, away from the convenience store. He didn’t want to see Sissy’s mom working behind that counter. Then Marvin trudged back up the hill toward his in-law’s house. He was wet, but he had his walk back and his bottle of beer. And if all went well, Marvin thought he might go out for a walk again the next afternoon, unless someone finally called him about a job.