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Another's Table
by Nicholas Hayes

Near the body, Hector is beautiful: lean and symmetrical. His choppy hair is not black but deep, rich brown. However, inside his mouth, his teeth are jagged and discolored for love of lemons.
    For too long, he lived at the foot of his parent's bed before coming here to ruin and excess during a time of siege. Teeth aching, he wanders inky night. The streets are infinite, bleeding into alleys, parks, homes. Void and presence break against each other, no coherence, only rupture.
    Words would cut an easy escape, but he travels alone.
    His eyes burn from exhaustion. Tenements and warehouses are affixed to the foreground by occasional front lights. Purple, green and gold flecks of resplendent rubbish radiate in the gutter. Some old beads betray themselves in a mound of ordure. Waste and beer labels adhere to his bare feet.
    He is not scared of parasites; he is a parasite.
    The beauty of any parasite is that it devours its host as its host devours. The host spews seeds of its intruder's super-hunger in feces. The host must not be fully filled or emptied because to do so would represent complete loss of reproductive potential for the parasite. But with its last bite, the host is dispatched, glutted on the world, and the parasite is released in a turd that hangs awkwardly like a second dick from the carcass.
    Hector approaches his brick and plaster hotel. Pairs of whitewashed cement angels prostrate themselves on each of the front steps. Above the door, light-triumphant Mary stands, holding a crucifix standard in her left hand.
    Weeds grow erect in the gutters.
    Ferns cling to the wall.
    Evading the front desk attendants and their questions about payment, he retreats to the brick courtyard and reclines in a cast iron chaise. His fingers rest on the arms' ivy and pansy motif. Terra cotta lions with vegetable bodies spit strong streams into the deep jade swimming pool. Plaster lamb lighting fixtures on salmon and light blue walls cast an indirect light over the entire courtyard.
    A gentle wind refreshes him, coaxing him to sleep.
    He wakes to the sound of a faceless boy crying next to him. A cascade of tight dreads makes Hector hunger. He fingers the dreads of the boy who smells of Pop Rocks and dark rum.
    The boy pisses a delicious orange stain over himself and the concrete.
    Depleted, Hector can not bring his hunger to an end. He pulls his hand away.
    The boy seizes Hector's lean calf. Viscous blood pools as the boy digs his nails in. One hundred and twenty pounds of meat struggles with the parasite.
    The boy drags Hector from the chaise and pulls him to the ground three times before Hector breaks loose.
    The boy scales the gate back into the night.
    Hector runs his head under a lion jet and then retreats inside. He follows the musty hall to his room across from a portrait of the hotel's portly matriarch. The oval frame is draped with black crepe. The yellow linoleum tile reflects him and catches the diluted blood splatter. A partially preserved alley cat, mummified and emaciated, is nailed above his door.
    Hector enters his cramped room. Red curtains, the velvet of cardinals, block the early morning light. He wraps his wound in his last clean pair of socks and crawls into bed.
    He savors the ache by letting his bloody leg dangle limply from the bed. The city whets his appetite while leaving him too drained to eat.

About the author:
Nicholas Alexander Hayes is a Chicago-based writer and Super-8 filmmaker. He is currently working on contemporary retellings of Greek Myths with Terri Griffith. His writing has appeared in Suspect Thoughts, Velvet Mafia, Lodestar Quarterly, 5_Trope, Eleven Eleven and Bloom.

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