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Hello in There by Sean Gill | Word Riot
Flash Fiction

September 15, 2015      

Hello in There by Sean Gill

We sit in near darkness, a sliver of light peeking in from between the green plastic curtains. Lewis and I are sipping Mai-Tais-From-A-Can. 25 Proof, Shake Well, Serve Chilled. The mouth holes are shaped like little Isosceles Triangles, which means they are at least thirty years old, which is good because you can’t get decent Mai-Tais-From-A-Can anymore.


      Lewis and I watch old reruns of The Monkees. The Monkees were an artificial band engineered for mass consumption, and like many synthetic creations from Cheez Whiz to Chocodiles, they blurred the line between discomfort and delight; raw pleasure with a lingering chemical aftertaste. Is the implication that if they weren’t too busy singing, they would be putting people down?

      Lewis claims to be a muckraker. Muckraking doesn’t pay very much, which is fine because Lewis is the cheapest guy that I know. He uses dish soap to clean everything. His favorite’s a cheap concentrate, the label’s in Burmese, and it doesn’t even have an ingredients list. Blue ooze, difficult to define. He cleans the toilet with it, polishes his shoes, washes his clothes, mops the floors. He uses it as shampoo, and, boy, you can tell. If you were to run your fingers through his hair, brittle strands would break off in your hands.

      Every hangover’s different. There’s the Dessicator, the Nauseator, the London Fog, the Chainsaw Massacre, the Fixed Bayonet. This one’s a Ground-Pounder: I can feel my pulse thumping in the back of my brain. Without any distractions, this sort of thing could drive a girl to madness. You start to think about the blood vessels, constricting, expanding, strangulating; a little man astride them, hoisting a big hammer. The blows land home and the juice flows between the lobes… pup, pup, pup.

      I like to keep a jumbo bag of aspirin and an economy-size jar of marshmallows on the coffee table. I call ‘em “My Pain Killers.”

      I daydream that I’m a sweet old woman, a pensioner who achieves balance by visiting the zoo every day and talking to the animals. The bats are the best listeners, hanging quiet in the dark, lightly chirping out their consensus. Later, I collapse from a heart attack at the end of a 24-hour dance competition. Blackness blurs my field of vision, and I pass away into the gloom. My funerary veil has a tear in it, but the service is well-attended.

      I resolve to drink enough Mai-Tais-From-A-Can that when I stand up and walk to the bathroom, I’ll see a stranger staring back in the mirror. I rarely make a good impression when I meet new people and am looking to get some practice.

      When a courier arrives at your doorstep, you must make sure he’s a real courier and not an impersonator. A real courier has industrial grade rubber bands tightly wrapped around the cuffs of his jeans. This is so that his cuffs will not be caught in the chainwheel and ripped to tatters by the spokes. You would not want to allow an imitation courier into your home.

      Lewis went out muckraking the other day for about fifteen hours straight. I was so bored I cut apart the couch with a knife to see what was inside. It was pretty much what I expected: faux-cotton stuffing packed around a wood frame. I was trying to sew it back together when Lewis came home and asked what the hell I thought I was doing. He said, “You like a dog? You like a dog who tears up the couch cause she’s lonely?” Technically he may have been correct, but psychologically he only scratched the surface.

      This place is a dump. The hardwood floors are coming apart at the seams, shredding away into masses of splinters. At least four times a day, Lewis screams because a shard of wood has penetrated the ball of his foot. It’s my job to remove it with a pair of rusty tweezers, sterilized by the flicker of a matchbook flame. When the splinter has struck so deep it tickles the nerve, I make an incision. I must dig deep and remove the entire splinter, lest a fragment enter the bloodstream, flow up the leg, lodge in the heart and detonate.

      Yesterday Lewis suffered a fit of sadness and rolled around on the floor. I spent two hours uprooting the splinters from his thighs. I think of the splinters as the immune system of the apartment. They are trying very furiously to expel us interlopers, but we are stubborn as barnacles.

WriterSeanGillAbout the author:

Sean Gill is writer and filmmaker who has studied with Werner Herzog and Juan Luis Buñuel, documented public defenders for National Geographic, and was an artist-in-residence at the Bowery Poetry Club from 2011-2012. His latest stories may be found in McSweeney’s, decomP, Pacifica Literary Review, Eclectica Magazine, and Akashic Books.

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