Household Gods-1108 words

 

“where are you tonight, sweet marie?” –bob dylan

1. Matthias Then

He is lying on his stom­ach, on the hard­wood floor in the liv­ing room. The var­nish is worn off the floor­boards in the areas of major traf­fic through­out the house. This is also the case for the dull green linoleum in the kitchen.

(Matt knows this is a mem­ory, because he’s wear­ing a tan, cot­ton, Western-style shirt with mother-of-pearl snaps and that shirt is gone now; he thinks a girl­friend stole it. It had fit so well. Unlike some of his mem­o­ries, he sees this one through his own eyes, not through some third per­son like a movie camera.)

Marie is stand­ing on a kitchen chair by the front door, which is wide open, the bro­ken wood screen door ajar. A cat like a tatty gray shadow slips in, glares at Matt, skit­ters up the stairs. It’s the old­est one they have now, their mom’s old cat, the matri­arch Guin­e­vere. Marie reaches over her head and her rings clink on the frosted glass of the entry­way light cover. She is unscrew­ing the screws that hold it on.

“Marie, don’t do that,” he says. His voice is crys­tal clear in his head.

“You want to just let them die in there?” Marie smiles as she low­ers the glass. The moths that have been trapped inside flut­ter drunk­enly free but still hover around the light bulb. She waves her hand to shoo them away and the thing that Matt could have pre­dicted even then hap­pens. The glass bowl-shape slips from her grasp and shat­ters on the floor, wicked jags of white glass shoot­ing in all direc­tions. One hits Matt’s knuckle, neatly slic­ing it open.

“God­dammit, Marie,” he says with­out think­ing and now as this mem­ory replays, he wishes he could snap his teeth down on his tongue, but mem­o­ries don’t work like that.

“Why do you have to say that?” she says. “That’s what dad always said.” And she just stands there, bare­footed, on the kitchen chair, and looks at him.

He stands and walks over, lifts her up and car­ries her out of the bro­ken glass. The soles of his Vans grind the shards, carv­ing secret alien com­mu­ni­ca­tions into the wood. He drops her down on the faded loveseat. She curls into a ball. He goes and gets the broom.

2. Matthias Later, Kiss the Sky

His body is spread out like a pin­wheel, five points like a star. Crown, palms, soles are burn­ing; flesh melt­ing, body falling into the ground, no mem­brane where his body stops and the earth begins. He is cold sober. He is cry­ing, just silent, tears run­ning from the cor­ners of his eyes to pool in his ears.

I’m los­ing you… He thinks that’s John Lennon’s voice he hears, a gen­tle sort of wailing.

The branches of the maple are black against the sky. It is a true deep indigo tonight, shin­ing stars pricked out even through the light pol­lu­tion. What’s it like hav­ing a twin? He’s been asked so much.

Like your heart torn out and walk­ing around out­side your body.

Stu­pid ques­tion, impos­si­ble to answer. He had never not been a twin.

And how can he have thought that was John Lennon’s voice, when obvi­ously it belongs to the tree. It croons and keens, try­ing des­per­ately to get his attention.

He decides to let it pull him down and now he’s going, down to the roots, down where it is moist and black, cool earth and grasp­ing roots and she’s singing to him, her voice fill­ing his tear-slimed ears.

You’re los­ing her… So sorrowful—poor Matty.

3. Matthias Now, Acid Eater

The nights are sud­denly cool. The win­dow on the land­ing is open and the sheer cur­tains bell in with the breeze, a cool green exhale like the breath of pine trees in even in the heat of sum­mer. There’s a slight tang of smoke in that breeze and Matt won­ders who is chilly enough to light a fire in the fireplace.

Matt takes deep, deep breaths, try­ing to fill him­self with that cool, cool air—trying to fill his head, his chest, his gut, legs, arms. Lis­ten­ing. Lis­ten­ing hard.

And it seems he can almost hear…something. And then the boards creak in the hall behind him and he looks over his shoul­der, and through the dark gray rounded shad­ows comes a fig­ure. Tall, pale, slen­der with the hard flat stom­ach and pecs of youth that doesn’t even try, a stom­ach and pecs Matt never had. It’s Seth, dressed in cut-offs and hold­ing an empty glass.

“Is she tak­ing more Vicodin?” Mat asks in a low voice.

“Yeah, man, her wrist hurts.” Seth’s throat sounds full of gravel. He clears it. “I’m get­ting her some water.”

“You should tell her if that runs out too soon, she’ll be hurt­ing and the doc won’t give her any more.” He tells him­self he doesn’t care, that’s her fuck­ing look­out. He remem­bers how ear­lier in the ER he cussed the nurses out until they brought ice for her wrist. Am I my sister’s keeper?

“Fuck, man, you tell her.”

He strug­gles to keep his mouth shut. He con­sid­ers phys­i­cally pinch­ing his lips shut with his fin­gers, but he spits the words out like lit­tle chunks of metal, like solid lit­tle bee­bees that fall to the floor and roll around with a sil­very sound. “She’ll puke her guts after every­thing she drank tonight.” Or never wake up. Seth just chuck­les, starts walk­ing toward the bath­room again.

“Christ.” Her thin voice floats out and through them. “Will you lay off, Matty? I got a fuckin bro­ken bone here.”

He raises his hand to wave them off. Okay, fine, I’m done with you. A hun­dred pounds soak­ing wet, knock­ing back gin and juice, pop­ping Vicodin. What­ever. Every­body works out their own karma.

4. Matthias, Out of Time

There’s a door in the upstairs hallway—it’s a closet, really. But there’s a trap­door in the ceil­ing and it leads to the attic.. Rick­ety fold­ing stairs come out, it’s shad­owy, even though there’s a bare light­bulb with a lit­tle sil­ver chain he’s pulled and a pecu­liar smell drifts down.

He’s finally heard the voice he was lis­ten­ing for in the cool­ness of the stair­well, and now he fol­lows it. Fear shiv­ers in his gut like cold Jello. He asked for this. He asked for it in his dreams like one flash­bulb mem­ory after another. It’s a strong voice, a male voice. He’s heard it before, he thinks, a long time ago, it echoed in his bones when he slept curled around Marie in the dark, in the wet.

It’ll tell him what he needs to know.

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