- Josiah Dreyer
There had been a three-quarters stick of butter on the stairs. Who’s were these barbaric footsteps that moved in above us? We tied a string around the butter, concealed it in two plastic baggies and put it in the fridge. We would not ingest it, but there would come a time when could use the butter eco-consciously, possibly in the form of mechanical lubrication.
Late at night, after an appointment with her masseuse, Carissa rushed in without taking her coat off. She locked the white panelled door behind her and put her back to it with arms spread out like a barricade. She took quick, erratic breaths.
“What are you doing inside with your boots on?” I stood up from my taxidermy, leaving the magnifying light on. There was a tremor in Carissa’s cheeks, but she’d brought in a few leaves so I couldn’t help but chastise her.
Shaky hands untied her boots and a shakier voice apologized for the leaves and explained how she’d seen one of them, “smoking a cigarette and drinking a beer in the courtyard.”
“He was on the phone, laughing. The cretin nodded at me and followed me in through the door.”
“You let him in?”
“I tried but I couldn’t close the door fast enough. He caught it and even smiled.”
“He came in? Against building rules?”
I peered through the peephole; the hallway was empty. I went to the cleaning closet for a broom, disinfectant, paper towels, and a belt. I laid the cleaning supplies by Carissa and kept the belt in the back of my waistband.
“He came in without a key?”
“Jesus Christ, Carissa. You didn’t even have time to takes your boots off?”
“He was coming up the stairs behind me! He lives above us, so he’d be following me the whole way, god forbid—”
“Okay, okay. I apologize. This is all just terribly low class.”
“It wasn’t my fault! Would you rather I—”
“Not you. This living situation. The music. The three flies. The butter. I haven’t been able to concentrate on my work.”
“You don’t think this isn’t hard on me?”
”Has your crystal massage night been tough? I have a meeting with the museum in a week, and would you care to know how my opossum looks?”
“I’ll tell you. It looks like shit!”
“Don’t take this out on me. I’m shaken up.”
“Take it out on you? I’ve been unable to take it out on you and, consequently, I’ve taken it out on my damned opossum!”
I developed what must have been unsightly perspiration on my brow, so I retreated to the bathroom. Hum num da tra, Dee cum na dra. My mantra only elevated my rage and realizing I would have to hire another yogi threw me into an uncontrollable fit. I dried my forehead, washed and dried my hands, and violently threw open the bathroom door.”
“How am I supposed to acquire a yogi who’s actually fucking effective in time to finish that miserable marsupial!”
“What do think? That mantra is civilian crap,” I thundered down the hallway, wishing I could tear up the foul trim, and turned the corner to find her on the entry hall stool, boots and the leaves unmoved.
“So we’re just going to live in trash now, like the rest of the animals in this building?”
“Keep your voice down.”
“Why should I keep my voice down when they feel perfectly comfortable letting their disgusting dogs bark, or playing that insufferable music, or putting hideous plastic furniture in the courtyard?”
“They’re going to hear you.” Clarissa walked into the parlor.
“Hear me, no one hears me! Not even my own partner hears me when intimate to her we can’t keep shoes indoors.”
“I’ve had a traumatizing moment, leave me be!” She flopped onto the divan, implying she wouldn’t be getting up for some time.
I stood over her, making my presence overbearing as possible without touching her. My breathing involuntarily bullish, I reached behind my back, “I imagine you have it in your mind to shit all over my antique divan?”
“What’s wrong with you?”
“I’ll show you what wrong with me!” I snatched the opossum by the neck, held it in Carissa’s face. “This is what's wrong. This unorderly home had caused me to sabotage the most important work of my life!”
“ It looks fine to me.”
“It looks like a possum.”
“Are you blind? It has dirty fur, crooked digits, and its face, it’s all… fleshy-headed!”
“You’re out of your mind. Stop talking to me, you cretin.”
“Excuse me?” I set the opossum on my workbench and positioned the magnifying light in front of its face. The gaping, jagged mouth, mangled nose, wiry whiskers and beady eyes were enlarged and illuminated, watching over us.
“What did you call me?” I produced the belt from my waistband, brandished it above my head and slapped it into my palm before Carissa’s face, producing the desired snap.
“I called you a pathetic fool,” Carissa stood and grabbed the belt. I let go. She brought me down to my knees by my collar, bent me over the divan.
“What are you?”
I buried my face into a cushion. The belt whistled and hit the divan, I bit the divan. She teased me several times before delivering a blow.
“What are you?”
I flinched and she whipped the divan.
“No!” Another fake strike.
The belt connected.
“Thankful for what?”
“To be punished by you.”
“Because my opossum is a failure!”
“Correct!” She pulled down my chinos and brought the leather to flesh four consecutive times. I thanked her.
“Look at your failure!”
In the middle of a fluorescent halo, a bulbous nose and stained, sharp teeth laughed at me.
Carissa cackled. “It’s mocking you! We think you’re pathetic!”
“Thank you, opossum!” The divan was damp with tears and saliva and the belt continued.