Pest

by Jakub Racek

“I wanted to throw my coffee in his face.”

His eyes don’t blink. He accepts the violence in her frustration.

“How could anyone say a thing like that? I was only following orders.”

The cat jumps out of her lap, its movement muted by its calloused paws.

“People are assholes.”

He rubs her back as they sit silently on the couch before he whispers into her ear. His words are too soft, inaudible from my position. A playful grin rises from the corner of her mouth—my best guess: a seductive proposition. He shows his support with the emotional intelligence of an animal in heat. Resolution in the bedroom is how it always ends. They’ll be waking the neighbours in no time.

She licks her bottom lip but continues her tirade.

“One more scene like this and I’m done. I can’t work for someone whose power trips disregard all sense of reason. It’s abusive.”

The kettle rattles on the stovetop before he can respond. As he stands, the parquet floor resonates beneath me like shifting tectonic plates. He enters the kitchen and opens the tin of loose-leaf tea. The revolting scent of citrus fills the room before he scoops the leaves into her favourite mug, boldface: NEVER HALF-EMPTY.

“How’s your novel coming along?”

He changes the subject as if the tea has persuasive properties.

“It’s ok. Sort of a narrative mess though. It’s like I have one mouth with two voices. One of them has to go.”

He pours the honey in. A drop falls to the retro-tiled floor but he doesn’t wipe it—lucky me.

“Just try to put yourself in the reader’s shoes. Step outside yourself.”

He hands her the mug and the steam makes her face sweat. Flashbacks tickle my mind. That perspired face—the one she wears on the treadmill. Running from her problems as her surroundings remain the same. She sips the scalding liquid calmly; her lips likely numb from distracting thoughts.

“My therapist says I’m simply manifesting my conflicts with identity.”

She reaches down her shirt and scratches between her shoulder blades where her cardinal tattoo lies. I saw it the other day. The big red bird drowning in the shower.

“Do you agree with her?”

He lays his head across her lap in place of the cat.

“I see where she’s coming from. My mind is a mess these days.”

She runs her fingers through his freshly cut hair. She cut it in the bathroom yesterday. The discarded remains are still littered on the floor.

“It’s pretty clear to me—you’re a brilliant writer.”

She lowers her head and kisses him.

“You’re sweet.”

He places his hand on the back of her neck and pulls her closer. Such intimacy. How I long for it. The barren floor’s inanimate tactility lacks the warmth I desire—a warmth only produced by the presence of another. Will I ever step off this wretched surface and fulfil my carnal appetite?

I make my move.

“Silverfish!”

The rubber sole of death rains down upon me. Its dark shadow marks my bitter end—[squish].

 

Jakub Racek is a Slovak-born writer and musician raised in Ottawa. He holds an M.A. in Psychology from Carleton University and suffers from a self-diagnosed fiction addiction. He also releases indie-rock music under the name Pocket Writer. His work has appeared in The Steel Chisel and he is currently writing his first novel.