Stories Page 2  
Fall 2009

 

 
 
 
 
AGAINST   A   DARKENING  SKY
  
           by Jason Castro
 
Against a darkening sky, a form casts its silhouette. I don’t know what it is; I wish not to. It lends a dark, sinister energy to the oncoming night, casting an ominous shadow across the horizon.
 
Bobbing and weaving, the spirit dodges imaginary obstacles as it descends. I watch it pass from my open window, leaving a stale, malevolent air in its wake. It finally disappears behind a distant high-rise building.
           
Swallowing heavily, I dare to look again. Calmness has returned to the winds, leaving the night sky a bit brighter. My blood pressure rises. Convinced I didn’t really see what I thought I saw, I close the shades and turn back to my living room.
 
My Mom’s green and gold hand-me-down couch waits. It’s a Monday night, and there really isn’t much to do aside from surfing the many versions of ESPN offered by my cable provider. I’ve got a few hours until my seven o’clock wake-up call, and draining the life from every single one sounds like a plan. Sure--the dishes need to be done, the garbage needs to be dumped out, and the throng of insurance papers on my coffee table needs to be organized for the morning meeting tomorrow. I don’t feel like doing any of it, but wind up at least rearranging the paperwork. After all, it may be the difference between affording the rent on my studio apartment and having to move back to my Mom’s basement.
 
Finally seated and comfortable, I grab the clicker from the coffee table and hit the power button. Before switching channels, I leave on the local news network, wondering if anyone else had picked up on that evil-looking thing in the sky. I was treated to a half-hour of the usual shit—war in the Middle East, bombings in Chechnya, a serial killer coming to trial. No visual disturbances.
 
I switch over from CNN to ESPN, where the Buffalo Bills are leading the Miami Dolphins 21-10 on Monday Night Football. I’m greeted by a smiling Terrell Owens, who has just met with a Chinese take-out boy in the end zone after scoring his latest touchdown. After paying the boy with a hundred dollar bill, he feeds the cheerleaders. A fifteen yard penalty is assessed on the kickoff.
 
Since I have no money on the game, I flick the remote again--this time, to Cinemax. Soft core porn; now that’s the ticket. I shove my hand down my pants.
 
There’s a knock at my door.
 
So much for having fun; I shut down my entertainment system and rise, wondering who this could possibly be—I’m not expecting company. Looking through my peephole and not seeing anyone, I sense that perhaps the apparition has come for me.
 
Before opening the door, I grab my Don Mattingly model Louisville Slugger from the nearby umbrella stand. I hold it in my right hand, ready to smash in somebody’s head, as I turn the knob and pull the door inward.
 
Nobody’s there.
 
To be sure, I check down the hallway. Nothing. I look left and right several times, even stepping out for a second, before giving up.
 
Closing the door behind me, I head back over to the couch. Before getting there, I grab a bottle of Jim Beam sitting on the kitchen counter. Pouring myself a shot, I note the six generations of brewers whose faces adorn the side of the bottle. They look like the dead presidents on our varied currency bills. Returning to the couch, I place the bottle on the coffee table with the faces staring at me. I lift my glass towards them.
           
Here’s to you, you bunch of dead drunks.
           
With that, I knock back the shot. It goes down nice and smooth, and I pour another. I down five shots in succession before closing up the bottle for the night.
 
Somewhere between using the bathroom and pulling out the bed, my head began to throb. I’ve been having some pretty nasty headaches lately; nasty enough that I even called my Mom last week to ask for guidance. She suggested that I see a doctor. I thanked her for the advice and swore that I’d make an appointment within a few days.
 
I never did.
 
The pain intensifies a little, so I lay down on the bed. Closing my eyes, I begin drifting off to sleep. However, my field of vision is suddenly interrupted. A sharp pain slices through the side of my temple. I try to scream, but nothing escapes my paralyzed lips. Everything goes white, and I feel an odd sensation—almost as if a signal in my head is suddenly being scrambled. My life literally flashes before my eyes.
 
And finally, everything goes blank.
 
After a moment or so, I come out of it. What the hell just happened?
I try to move my limbs, but nothing happens. Paralysis still has me in its grip. And yet, I’m in motion. I’m floating. I’m floating towards the ceiling, as if pulled by a magnet.
 
I’m dead, aren’t I?
 
 
My question is answered once I pass through the ceiling. The apartment above me has been vacant for some time, so there isn’t much to see--just some cobwebs and dust, and an old dresser in the corner. My spirit slowly rises past these material vestiges, heading towards the fifth floor.
 
No use in fighting it. I guess I’ll relax and enjoy the ride.
 
Old Professor Stockton, the cooking instructor at Radbourne College, lives in the top floor apartment two stories above mine. As I pass through, I can hear plenty of huffing and puffing. Apparently, he’s banging one of his students again. I’d chuckle at this most days, and if I had the chance, I would have even grabbed my cell phone and snapped a picture. If I were in a really nasty mood, I might post it on the Internet, perhaps under the caption Cooking Student Gets A+ in Hiding the Sausage 101.
 
For the first time, I wonder if I was good enough to get into heaven if need be.
 
After passing through the roof, I’m out in the sky. The air looks cool and crisp, but I can’t feel a thing. Sight and sound seem to work okay, but my other senses are numbed; I can’t touch, taste, or smell anything. This seems pretty rational to me—in life, a person can lose their hearing and their eyesight fairly easily, but it’s tougher to lose the other senses for good without a catastrophic event having taken place. I wonder if a deaf or blind person can recover these senses after death.
 
Looking down at my building for perhaps the final time, I begin to think about what I’m leaving behind. A thankless job with an insurance company. An apartment I really could not afford. A domineering mother who wanted me out of her basement but still wanted to control my life. Once again, being dead didn’t seem so bad.   
 
I’m starting to miss my Mom.
 
Just before reaching the northern lights, I turn to look for the last time. The planet looks so peaceful, as if it had never seen war, plague or famine. I can only make out a few dots now on Earth’s surface—these appear to come from electrical devices. Just before fading away forever, a passing cloud blocks my final view.
 
And what of the living?
 
It’s hard to believe that I was one of them a few hours ago. Although death is always a possibility—we all die at some point—it seems like we can go on forever.
 
The paycheck has to be put away, so that I’ll have money for a future rainy day.
I’ll skip the bar tonight because I have to work in the morning.
The phone can wait. Mom knows I’m busy and I’ll talk to her later.
 
How foolish these thoughts are to me now. Maybe I should’ve had that extra beer. Maybe I should have splurged on the Lexus that I wanted, even though I could only use it on weekends. Maybe I should’ve called Mom just to say I love you.
 
Maybe Satan’s waiting for me on the other side.
 
The signal-scramble returns somewhere between Aurora and outer space. Consciousness leaves me again for a moment, but after regaining my senses, I inadvertently plug into a greater radio frequency than any I’d ever known. Millions of souls trek this supernatural highway every day, and I am suddenly connected to each and every one. It feels like I can sense every single emotion in space.
 
Mommy? Where are you, Mommy?
 
I turn to my left. The question comes from a small, disembodied cloud traveling fairly close by. I want to reach out and touch it.
 
Edna? What the fuck is going on? Everything is so dark…
 
This voice comes from behind me. A larger cloud is on my tail, and I pay it no mind.
 
I can’t do this…not now. I’ve got the O’Grady account in the morning, and I need to stay at work and finish up these reports.
 
Approaching Mars, I note him as well. This workaholic strays to the side, not quite moving with the rest of us. I sense that the earthly pull is too strong for it; however, his spirit has traveled too far to turn back. Perhaps this is where ghosts come from.
 
The pace picks up a bit as I head towards Jupiter. The signal becomes stronger. Memories of my past flood back, kind of like the moment I died. Except now, I can remember every moment, no matter how mundane. I remember coming out of the womb, crying my head off when the doctor slapped my butt. I remember my Dad’s big smile the first time I ever said Dada, andhis bigger smile the first time I ever said first down. I remember the day my Mom bought me a G.I Joe for washing the dishes, I remember telling Lorraine DeLuca I loved her after downing nine shots of Rumple Minze and swearing that the squirrels were out to get me, I remember wearing my black turtleneck and Levi jeans and New Balance sneakers on July 9th, 1996, when I had the flu and moped around the house all day. Smoking weed with Jeff Sanders and Corey Martinez the day before Jeff left for college. Watching M*A*S*H with Jenna Nicole, my babysitter from next door. The comforting arms of my Grampy, who passed when I was still a toddler.
 
A giant file cabinet has been blown open, and its contents have spilled out into my consciousness. Some of the deepest chambers of my mind have been unlocked, and I’m using at least 80% of its capacity. And yet, it feels like these things all happened to someone else. Reviewing several of the memories, I realize some did. The Crusades? Spanish Armada? Harlem Renaissance? I’d lived quite a few lives.
 
And yet, I’m still not sure how this would all turn out. 
 
Several light years along the supernatural highway, I begin to consider the existential ramifications of the information I had become privy to. Sheesh, I could write a book. Too bad I’m dead; I’d make millions. Universal secrets have opened up to me. No astronaut dares venture this far into space, and no man-made piece of space junk can pick up on the actual purpose of this universe. Scientists, whether from Earth or any of the other 144,000 planets with intelligent beings, cannot build a piece of equipment strong enough to break this veil.
 
Deep inside, I know that holding onto the knowledge is futile.    
 
Hurtling onward, I think about my Grampy. While alive, I only had one memory of him—the day he tossed chicken bones from his car window. It was the funniest thing ever when I was two years old. I relayed the story to my Mom one day, but she didn’t remember him doing anything like this. She wasn’t surprised by it either—even she would admit her father was a little cracked.
 
Thinking back, now I understand why he did it. The date was May 16th, 1979. I wore my blue and white sailor outfit with the matching sandals. We went to Chicken-X on Broadway and Marcy Avenue for lunch. And, because Grampy was old, retired and really didn’t give a shit, the leftovers went out the window of his gold-colored 1974 Chevy Caprice.
 
He died three months later of a heart ailment. Everyone was sad. I played with a Tonka truck at the wake. Mom left me with Jenna for the burial because she didn’t want to take me to a cemetery.
 
Come to think, Grampy was the closest family member who ever died.
 
Past Saturn, I begin to miss my Mom quite a bit more. She’s not thinking to call me right now, but she will. She’s busy watching American Fido—that dumb reality show where everyone sings like dogs for record contracts. I’m not even in her radar at this moment, but the thought to call has entered the back of her mind. It’s the Mommy instinct.
 
If she doesn’t hear from me, she’ll probably convince my Dad to drive her to my apartment. She has the keys. And they’ll open the door and find my body, dead of……an aneurysm. That’s what was causing the headaches. Fuck, I seriously should’ve gone to the doctor when I had the chance. Then again, there were no guarantees I would have survived. I would have needed an operation; me, the insurance guy, who didn’t want to see a doctor because I had no health coverage of my own. Whether I realized it or not, that was why I kept putting it off. I didn’t want to have to pay for it.
 
When Mom and Dad get to my place, things are really gonna suck.
 
At the edge of the galaxy, I see a dim light off in the distance. The universe bends a little, guiding us in the direction of the light. What appears to be a black hole is at the center, but the pull is more magnetic than gravitational. I realize that we have been pulled into the worm hole to end all worm holes.
 
Still feeling the energy of a trillion dead with all the effort of running a fingertip over a strip of Velcro, I say a quick prayer. To whose God I’m not sure, just the one that’s up there.
 
God, please protect me on this side. Thank you, Amen.
 
I’m not the only one.
 
Praise be to thee, O Lord my God.
 
The Aesir receive me. Laughing with pleasure do I die!
 
I know not another Reality than that of the lotus-eyed Krishna, hands adorned with flute.
And off we go. The distant stars begin to mesh with the darkened atmosphere. Mister Worf-- maximum warp, as Jean-Luc Picard used to say.
 
As the worm hole sucks us in and my consciousness begins to fade once more, I repeat my prayer. Again, and again, and again.
 
I wake in my Mom’s unfinished basement, circa 1999. I can tell because of the bare, gray walls; these were replaced with wooden panels a year after I moved out. The green and gold couch is underneath me. The washer and dryer and stove are still there, and everything says fucking Maytag, and holy crap, how that used to drive me nuts when I was stoned out of my skull. A ganja clip sits in an ashtray, practically begging to be smoked. Although I gave that shit up years ago, my first action is to reach for it. As I pull it to my lips, it dawns on me that I am a physical being again.
 
Fumbling around for a light, I start to wonder if this whole thing was just a farce—perhaps I haven’t really died, and I dreamed up the last eight years of my life. If this is the case, it was some really intense dream I’d had, and maybe I should really stop smoking this shit--at least this particular clip, because maybe there’s something wrong with it.
 
As I reach under the couch cushions, the television across from me turns on by itself. My mug spins to face it.
 
“James?” My Grampy is on the screen.
 
“James, you hear me?”
 
I put down the clip and sit back on the couch.
 
“Uh…yeah, I hear you fine.”
 
“Good. We need to talk.”
 
He looks just like I remembered—reddish bald head, thick black glasses, and orange checkered shirt. Add a chicken wing, and I might as well go back to 1979.
 
“Is this your happy place? In your mother’s basement, with that garbage hanging out of your mouth?”
 
“What do you mean?”
 
“Your parents didn’t bring you up that way. They brought you up to be a man. And what do you do? You spend ten years of your life smoking that garbage. It helped kill you, you know. You couldn’t handle it like your friends could.”
 
It figures.
 
“So now you’re dead, just like your old Grampy. Your mother is worried sick now. She’s trying to call you and not getting an answer.”
 
My heart sinks. “I’m never going to see her or Dad again, am I?”
 
“No.” 
 
I take a deep breath. A tear falls from the corner of my eye. “Am I going to Hell?”
 
“Yes.”
 
I take in a deeper breath, holding it while clenching my fists.
 
“I’m kidding, James. You’re not really going to Hell.”
 
Relieved, I exhale whatever atmospheric element I had just sucked in.
 
“You are going back to Earth, though.” The way he said it, I knew I wasn’t going back as James Ramiro.
 
“You see, I’m going to teach you something about life and death. You won’t remember it later, but it’ll come back to you the next time you die.”
 
Nodding, I sit up on the couch.
 
“You took philosophy classes at that fancy college you went to. Did they teach you about the Tabula Rasa?
 
“Yeah. John Locke.”
 
“Kind of,” Grampy says. “The idea has been around forever, but he made it famous.”
 
In life, my Grampy was a construction worker. I never thought I’d be having a philosophical conversation with him in the Afterlife.
 
“You see, the soul is like a giant puzzle. The purpose of each life is to add another piece. In order for this to happen, the mind must be completely blank at birth. This way, you can lean new lessons without hanging on to old fears. Each life is a brand new experience.”
 
“It makes sense,” I say.
 
“Of course it does. Death is a way to erase the slate. Coming here, to this place, is like leaving a deposit at the bank. Once your puzzle is completely filled in, you can come back and withdraw all of your experience. That’s what I have been able to do.”
 
I want to ask a question, but Grampy answers it before I say a word.
 
“Having completed the puzzle of life does not make me a God. It makes me an enlightened spirit. Gods can alter reality. I am able to appreciate it better than I could when my soul was mortal. Do you understand this? "
 
I nod again.
 
“Does this mean I’ve learned what I needed in life to add another puzzle piece?”
 
Grampy smiles. His thick mustache crinkles at the corners of his mouth. I take it as an affirmation.
 
“What was the lesson?” I ask.
 
“You’ll figure it out when you come back,” Grampy says. “Maybe not the next time, but eventually, you will.”
 
“How much left of the puzzle do I have left?”
 
“I can’t say exactly. A lot of it is filled in. Your physical body should soon acquire some mystical properties when you go back. You may be able to do some really interesting things.”
 
As he says this, the basement begins to fade. The bare, gray walls disappear. The appliances melt away. Everything is now replaced by a brilliant, white light. A comforting light, which envelops me in its essence. I recognize it instantly—this is the true glory of God.
 
Just before the TV fades as well, Grampy steps out from behind it. “It’s time to go.”
 
His eyes well up with tears. I reach for him, and we hug. He whispers softly in my ear.
 
“Just know that I love you, my grandson. I have watched over you since I left, and I long for the day you will join me in Nirvana. Take care of yourself.”
 
I feel him leave my grasp. Still immersed in the light, I try to scream out. I’m not ready to leave this place. Not now, and not ever again.
 
At first, it seems as if the pace is quicker on the way back to Earth. But as I continue, I realize that…
 
forgetting things…
It’s kind of like I’m finally waking from that dream…
Tabula rasa…
star…
what’s happening…?
white…
can’t see now…
Grampy says time to go…
 
 
Find the egg.
 
(heartbeat…heartbeat…)
           
              
           
 
Bio: Jason E. Castro has never started a revolution, performed on American Idol or sold furniture. Fiction writing is his passion, and when he's not playing insurance consultant in Manhattan, dusting off his B.A. in Psychology from the College of Staten Island (New York), or failing to convince the two-year-old that stalking Elmo is not proper, his middle-aged bones putter away on a Dell laptop. Some of the results can be found in the literary e-zine Danse Macabre (DM XXII Fruhlingsstimmen "Son Herb"; DM XXIV Hauptfriedhof "The Last Good Seat on the Bus.")
 
 
           
 
 
 
 THE POPSICLE PLANET
       by Dietrich Kalteis
 
        Dawn twists the troublesome key in the lock and considers taking it back to the super and telling him to shoot whoever cut it. She is starting to hate this place. Half the electrical outlets don’t work, the fan in the bathroom sounds like it’s powered by an ancient Sopwith Camel engine, and she suspects the neighbor above her has a late-night furniture building business going on. Tap, tap tap, all night long. Twice she’s complained to the management, and twice she’s been ignored. The door pops open, and she tosses the keys into the bottomless pit of her purse, forgetting about them by the time she tugs off her sandals. Rubbing her tired feet, she exhales the day’s poison, trying not to think about her AmEx card being refused at the cafe in front of her colleagues; it was likely a typical, clerical fuck-up. Hopefully, a phone call later will straighten it out. She’ll just have to live with the embarrassment of being the subject of conversation around the water cooler for the next day or two.
She longs to fill the tub as hot as she can stand it and lay her head back on a rolled towel and let the hot water melt away her hell-of-a-day. She wonders where she put the scented candles her mother gave her when she notices it.
The Piggly Wiggly shopping buggy stands at the end of the hall, heaped high with half-melted popsicle boxes. It blocks the entrance to the living room and looks like some freakish post-modern sculpture; the multi-colored puddle under the little wheels shimmering like oil under a rusty Dodge. The headache starts far back in her skull and chugs forward like a distant, onrushing train.
“For fuck’s sake. Cam?” She steps over the sticky mess and edges past the buggy.
The living room, crammed with her paint-it-yourself and her Mom’s hand-me-down Swedish modern, has dozens of stacked, leaking popsicle boxes in every flavor imaginable on the coffee table, end tables, window ledges and piled against most of the walls.
Cam turns, glancing over the rim of his glasses – the grin belonging to a mischievous schoolboy. “Hey, babe.”
On the TV screen, Jerry Springer assaults the viewing world, providing Cam entertainment as he pulls off one popsicle wrapper after another. He tosses the carcasses into a cooler of melted popsicle glop, occasionally wiping sticky fingers on his ripe-smelling Mars Hotel t-shirt. He flattens the wrappers and adds them to a soggy stack that stands beside several other stacks of labels.
“What the hell?” Dawn looks around incredulously, her temples throbbing.
“That Jerry cracks me up,” Cam cackles, looking at the TV.
“Cam?” She picks the remote off the coffee table and clicks off the TV. “Explain.” She draws a deep breath, making an attempt to stay calm.
“Sorry, no time right now, babe. I’m going nuts here.”
“Give me more, Cam.” Dawn stiffens.
“There was no more room in the freezer, and the tub’s full,” he explains.
The breathing doesn’t slow the headache train that rushes on strong, speeding up to smash through the front of her skull. “More, Cam.”
“Okay, get this: for every dozen wrappers, Popsicle Pete’s gonna award us air miles.”
“Air miles?”
         “Uh huh.”
         “And who’s Popsicle Pete?”
Cam’s eyes light up; he picks up a box and shows her Popsicle Pete’s cartoon likeness.
“You swore off the nose shit, right?”
“If they’re post-marked by the end of the month, he’ll double ‘em – and guess what?” Cam’s eyes go wide with excitement.
         “I’m afraid to,” she says.
         “I’m taking you to Venice. What say now?” His brows do a Groucho.
        “You and this Pete want to take me to Venice?” The breathing isn’t helping.
        “Yup – not the Beach – the one with the canals and gondolas and shit.”
“You mean Italy.”
“Uh huh.” He bobs his head, thinking she’s warming to the idea. “So grab a box and start peelin’.”
“What on earth are you gonna do with …” She looks around, putting her forefingers against her temples, rubbing gently.
“It doesn’t matter – eat the ones in the freezer …”
“Cam–”
         “Flush the rest – who gives, man. Important thing, we’re goin’ to Venice.” He tears open another box and shakes the popsicles onto the table.
“I just had the floors redone.” She thinks of the numerous black spots left where her recently-deceased cat, Pele, had peed, a protest to her absence, while she was at work.
“With my shit wages, we couldn’t afford a weekend at a
state park,” Cam says.
         “You need to be employed to get shit wages.”
He puts up a halting hand. “Just think of it: Venice.” He taps his temple. “Hey, I’m doin’ for us here, man – best way I know how.”
“By buying all the popsicles in town?” She tries to remember what it was that ever attracted her to him. Oh, yeah, desperation.
“As many as I could find, that’s right,” Cam says. “Now come on, Jimmy’s got his van; he’s dropping off more.”
“There’s a limit, Cam.”
“No way. I read the fine print. Popsicle Pete never stated a limit.”
“I mean on how much I can take.” She nears tears now.
         “Hey, if Pete starts with that limit shit, we’ll sue,” Cam says.
         “Oh, my God.”
         “Come on, lend a hand, would you? This stuff’s melting like crazy.” Cam pulls off the last wrapper and throws the icy mess into the cooler. “Hey, switch Jerry back on.” He reaches for another box.
Dawn tosses the remote a little too hard, and Cam catches it in a wet, sticky hand.
“When Popsicle Pete tells you where to stick your wrappers, maybe you can make a popsicle stick raft – sail that up your canal.” Dawn shakes, feeling the tears coming. Leaving him peeling wrappers, she goes to the kitchen and pops some aspirin and sips water. She takes a tissue to her eyes and yanks the freezer door open. A half dozen popsicle boxes tumble out, most hitting her feet.
Tugging out the Stouffer’s entrées, she contemplates beef pot pie or mac and cheese. Her usual dilemma: making the right choice. She scatters the popsicle boxes with her aching feet. Comparing the cooking times, she hopes her head won’t explode before the aspirin takes effect. Then a thought stops her abruptly. Shoving the entrées back into the freezer, she walks slowly back into the living room. “Cam, how’d you pay for the popsicles?”
His brows knit as he peels another wrapper, his eyes on the screen.
“Cam?”
“Let’s talk later.”
“Cam?”
“Later.”
“Cam?”
He looks up at her, the look of a man facing a surging shit storm. “I only drew half from your AmEx.”
“Fuck!” Dawn stamps her foot, causing white sparks to dance before her eyes.
“Fair’s fair,” Cam argues.
“You forgot to fucking ask again.”
“I wanted to surprise you.”
“I couldn’t pay my lunch tab today,” Dawn says.
“Hey, Dutch is the way we do things around here.”
“Fuck Dutch!” Her toes grip at the floor. “Nazi fucking Germany more like it.” The white sparks get bigger.
“I’m bustin’ my balls here – doing for us.”
“My card was declined; I was embarrassed in front of my boss and everyone.”
“Small sacrifice – it’s the trip of a lifetime, man.”
“What planet are you on?” Dawn asks.
“If you’re gonna yell …” Cam turns up the volume on the remote. “I’ll tune you out.” He draws a pretend invisible shield around himself with his fingers.
“The popsicle planet.” Dawn looks at the floor she just paid to have refinished and her mom’s Swedish modern with pools of orange and red.
“Jeez, Louise, that Jerry,” Cam says in a vain attempt to lighten the mood. “Look at those hooters.”
Dawn steps in front of the TV and grabs for the remote, but he snatches it away.
“It’s mine,” she says, stamping her foot, “just like everything else.”
“Oh, now it’s unreasonable bitch time?” Cam sits on the remote and drops a grape popsicle on the shag rug. “Don’t push it, Dawn. I overlook a lot.”
Their eyes lock, her giving him that look that could vaporize, and him with the nervous twitch starting at the corner of his left eye.
“Get out,” she hisses the words.
“What are you saying?” He gets up instantly.
“Out!”
“What do you …” He backpedals.
She snatches up a limp box and hurls it at him.
Looking down at the glop soaking his shirt, he feels the sticky cold against his chest. “You did that on purpose.”
“You’re a genius, Cam.” Dawn hefts another box. The throbbing, the white sparks – none of it matters anymore.
“You’re nuts.” He steps backwards toward the safety of the hall.
“I’d have to be – letting you move in here. What the fuck’s wrong with me?” she demands.
“Hey, I’m not hangin’ around for another one of your–”
She hits him in the back. Angered, with the hallway wall for cover, he grabs a box from the shopping cart and lobs it; she punches it out of the air, knocking over the Ikea lamp. He throws another one and glances her face, causing her to lose her balance.
“I can see hooters down at Benny’s.” With that, he makes for the door.
         “Don’t you fucking leave this–”
The door slams hard, rattling the walls.
Dawn flips her Mom’s coffee table over onto the slosh-soaked rug and throws another box at Jerry Springer’s stupid face. Juice rolls down the screen while a hefty couple pummel each other mercilessly on Jerry’s stage amid security personnel trying to peel them apart. The camera turns to a woman in the audience who hoists up her top. From the apartment above her, someone pounds on the floor. Dawn begins to cry.
The light is nearly gone as she wakes. She recounts the events of Cam’s departure and sits up, her skin peeling from the sofa. Stepping across the saturated rug, she pads into the kitchen, hungry now that her headache is gone. Pulling open the freezer door, she decides on the mac and cheese. Later, she’ll get a mop and bucket. She checks for Hefty bags under the sink. She punches the cooking time on the microwave and pictures gathering Cam’s things and taking them to the chute. She also needs to call AmEX and have the super change the locks again.
           
 
 
Bio: Dietrich Kalteis is a writer living in West Vancouver, Canada. His short stories have appeared at The Short Humour Site UK, the Clockwise Cat, Cantaraville, the Cynic, Defenestration and Dew on the Kudzu. The screenplay 'Between Jobs', that he co-authored with his wife, Andrea, is a past finalist in the Screenplay Contest, and he is currently completing his first novel.