I am proud and anxious to present my first real work of fiction, as an adult.
The story is entitled “Meat” and is about a couple who have been married just long enough to realize the honeymoon is over. The couple, David and Julie, are beginning to see the true nature of one another. The changes are taking their toll more on David than Julie, so David resorts to drinking a bit too much.
Being one of my first works of fiction, I had a really hard time not resorting to just making David into me, so he pretty much is. Julie isn’t so much my wife, but she does have some characteristics. I find Julie is bit more aggressive than my wife. Writing this intro at this moment, I honestly think Julie is probably just me arguing with myself, with a bit of my wife attached.
Enjoy the read and please provide me with some candid feedback. Let me know if something just doesn’t work or is egregiously offensive– whether it be grammatically or just bad storytelling. Thanks.
Ever truly yours,
The front door bursts open, slamming into the door stop:
“Thanks David. I had an awesome evening with you. You know what really was the highlight? Cussing me out in the restaurant. That really did it for me.”
“Julie, listen, listen, just listen. I didn’t cuss you out. I just called you a bitch. Just a bitch that’s all.”
“Oh, that’s all? Well you called me a bitch loud enough for every one to hear. You never want to go anywhere,” she snaps, “and when we do go somewhere, you usually end up getting drunk and this happens. Every time.”
“What? What are you talking about?”
“You know– just, just, don’t– every time I say we have to go do this or that, you start moping, saying you don’t want to go. Oh, and so conveniently, we always get into a fight before going, so you can say ‘well just go by yourself then’,” she quotes him in a nasally tone, “I mean– how many did you have tonight?”
“Know what Julie, I work hard. Really hard. I work all week — sometimes 60 hours. When the weekend comes, I just want to relax in my home,” he says jabbing his thumb into his chest, “and when we go out, I like to have a drink or two or three, maybe four. What’s wrong with that?”
“I would be fine with a drink or two, David, but it’s not– more like six or seven, then you wanna fight. You know what, you’re an angry drunk.”
“Angry drunk? I am not an angry drunk,” he said trying to affect a believable tone, at first, “I’m not a fucking angry drunk.”
She turns her back, and walks from the front door across the tile with an angry gait– her heels clopping. Her head fixed down and forward, he can see her hips working furiously to carry her away. She throws her purse and keys on the kitchen table; kicks off her heels, and pounds up the stairs swinging her arms in rapid strokes.
A couple of months ago, he would have chased after her, “Julie, Julie, just wait.” They would have sat on the bed, while she cried and he apologized– promising he wouldn’t drink so much. He would go on to reassure her he would be more engaged in their relationship, maybe cut back on some hours at work. She would lift her eyes, mascara running, and clutching her snot soaked tissue with both hands– finding his gaze she would ask meekly, “Can we get a cat too?” He would laugh with a forceful blow of air through his nose and nod.
Now is different. Now he gains satisfaction from her anger with him; he’ll have the rest of the night in solitude. She won’t come creeping down the stairs, nagging him to come to bed–freedom is granted to him, for this night.
Watching her disappear up the stairs, he confirms his victory:
“So fuck her then. Telling me I drink too much. Fucking bitch. She can go fuck herself.” He says, mostly in his head.
He hangs up his coat, grabs a beer, and heads for the office. Walking from the kitchen a buzzing sound stings his ear. He feels the breeze of something flying then a tangled struggle. He combs his fingers through his hair and they itch with something between them. Startled, he loosens his pinch on the insect. He tracks the winged dot to the counter where it rests. He reaches for a paper rolling it into a swatter. Cocking back his arm with controlled tension, he brings the paper to hover near the condemned. A pop echos off the tile and appliances; the insect circles and lands again. Another pop of the paper and a grotesque figure is left behind. He scoops the entrails with the edge of his swatter and throws the whole utensil away.
Pleased with ridding the house of the fly, he continues to his office. Flopping himself into his chair, he shakes the mouse of his computer, bringing it to life. The monitor hesitates then glows. He squints and water dams in his eyes. He squeezes the moisture away. He empties the beer into his throat, reveling the carbonated sting against his tongue. Letting the spin of the alcohol from his night out lull him, he folds his neck over the back of the chair. The weight of his eyelids melt and sleep.
Sticky throat and swollen tongue, his consciousness seeps back to him. Eyes still closed, starring on blackness he feels shook awake as he shook his computer the night before. He hears her slamming cupboards and the clink of glass. He begins to work his tumid tongue to scrape away the dehydrated crust. When, in the midst of his smacking, a buzzing gobbet comes swooping into his throat. Heaving himself forward, he feels the beast lodged; he hacks twice. The invader is rocketed, encased in a blob of snot. The disgusting amalgam is splattered onto the back of his hand. He examines the mess and sees little wiry feet swimming. He plucks some tissues from the box on his desk, and wraps them around the mess. He applies pressure to confirm a kill and throws the tissue away.
He remains hunched over in his chair, after being violated– the sounds of her fade back in. He remains suspended for several minutes exacting what his wife is doing by her sounds. She has moved to the living room, the TV is on. Knowing she is not in the path of direct confrontation, he moves. Arching his back and splaying his arms, he rises and makes for the kitchen. On his way, he encounters more flies, each one he swats at. He finds the fridge and bends himself over in the classic looking-in-fridge stance. He peers over the top of the door to see the back of his wife head. He can see she is affecting a preoccupied state: gaze fixed upon the TV, forearm and hand manipulating spoon from bowl. He grabs the milk. She still sits with no acknowledgement.
The culmination of the flies and her impassiveness cause heat to gather at the backs of his ears. His shoulders and biceps tense, and his fists clench. His brain is one of these flies bouncing off the light fixtures. The back of her head shouts at him, screaming invectives.
She drops her spoon into her bowl; the resonance of metal against glass echos bringing respite to his stewing anger . She frantically flutters her hand. Hacking and gagging she hurls the offensive object into her slender fist. She unrolls her fingers and there, another fly. She curls her lip and squints her eyes on the mess in her hand. She stands and drops the bowl on the coffee table. She lets out a guttural screech through gritted teeth, “David.” She marches to where the carpet meets the kitchen tile. She juts out her upturned palm:
“Do you see this. These things are everywhere, and now I swallowed one.” Her hand bobs.
At the sound of her stamping feet he had quickly ducked behind the refrigerator door to shield himself. He now rolls his eyes out of her view. He grabs the milk and pivots to the counter, affecting his own impassiveness now.
“David. Did you hear me? I swallowed a fly and almost choked.”
“I heard you. What do you want me to do? Besides, you only briefly swallowed it. So, you almost swallowed it, and you almost choked.” He replies, turning toward her.
Seeing his wife, he can’t maintain his derisive front. He’s mollified by his wife’s beauty, even with dead fly in her hand. He takes in this forbidden view of her. The privileged scene of her in the morning: no makeup, loosely wrapped in her robe, the sides of her breasts visible, her flawless white skin. His brain feels sulky and shame invades his posture. He grabs a paper-towel and wipes the impurity away. He draws in closer to her, hooking his arm around her waist.
“I’m sorry, let me get some breakfast and I’ll exterminate the fly infestation. Promise.”
“and…” She says.
“…and what?” He replies, knowing she is attempting to coax a more obsequious apology.
A brief stare down begins but the view conquers him again. The shapes of her breast outlined in her thin robe; the hem coming down just enough, hanging from the curves of her hips. He wanted so badly to take her; ravaging her over the back of the couch. Giving her the apology she wanted and eliminating the flies would be a start toward his desire. So, he relents:
“And I’m sorry for drinking too much, and not wanting to go out with you, and always complaining, and I’m sorry.”
“Okay, I forgive you.”
Satisfied she returns to the couch. He turns to pour milk over his cereal and notices two flies busy capering on the flakes, “Damn it.” He fans them away and relapses to his anger. He blames her for making him apologize, leaving his bowl unguarded. Now the flies have spoiled his cereal. He empties the bowl into the trash, grabs a section of newspaper, and rolls it into a swatter. He directs his anger at the flies.
Thirty minutes go by with him moving from room to room, stalking his prey, bringing down the paper in loud pops. He counts a dozen dead flies but for every one killed, more come buzzing in as reinforcements.
“How did all of them get in here,” he calls into the living room, “did you leave the door open, or something. Maybe a window, you know that one with the hole in the screen?”
No answer comes, “Julie?” He walks in to find her gone. He hears the whistle of the pipes and splashing water upstairs. Finding a clock for reference, he figures he has about an hour before she’s done with showering and getting ready. He tosses his swatter onto an end table and makes his way to the fridge. He cracks open the door and takes stock of his beers– seven left. Enough that if he has one now, he will have six for tonight, which should be enough to give him a buzz. But six is not enough to really get the spin he needs; seven would be better, “Ah, fuck it.” He reasons killing the flies has been hard work, and confronting Julie has only compounded things.
He throws his opened hand at one of the beers; wrapping his fingers around the cool can. Knowing she can’t hear him, he takes no caution concealing the snap of the opening aluminum. A puff of foam sprays from the mouth of the can. He throws back his head and squeezes his eyes closed. The pulse of a river of beer pours into his throat. An airy belch escapes his lips and he lets go a pleasurable sigh. After the first drink, he rocks the can side-to-side feeling how much is left. Swinging the fridge door closed, he heads for the couch to enjoy the rest of his drink in languor.
He sinks into the cushions, and pulls another drink from the beer. The alcohol and taste bring him ease. His breathing slows. Suddenly he feels the burn of her stare upon him. He quickly turns his head to the upstairs balcony where he finds her posted. Being caught, he must take on a defensive tactic:
“What Julie? I’m just resting. I’ve been chasing these damn flies everywhere.”
“Oh, so you need to drink at ten in the morning. What the hell David. What? you can’t even finish killing some flies without drinking?”
“Just like you, David– can’t finish anything.”
“Oh, so now, because I can’t kill some stupid fucking flies, I can’t finish anything? Just like you, Julie, to over generalize everything.” He says pulling another drink.
“Just like me? Just like you David to turn your faults into attacks on me. ‘The flies made me do it. They made me drink. You over generalize,'” she mocked with the nasally tone from last night. “How bout own something for once. Own anything for once.”
He shoots to his feet, “Fine. I own this beer.” He slams the rest of the drink and wipes his lips on his sleeve.
“Fuck you Julie.”
He knew he was being petulant. The look on her face was disgust; complete rejection of him. He crushed the can in his fist and turned to throw it away, leaving her in her disgust. As he walked to the trashcan he passed the basement door. He caught a cool breeze slipping from beneath the crack. The breeze had a fetid odor.
He set the crushed can aside and moved to the door to investigate. Kneeling down on all fours, he pressed his nose up to the crack. The breeze felt of the outside temperature and carried the definite smell of rot. A fly crawled from the crack and up the door. He stood and pulled his shirt up over his nose, bracing for the stinky assault. He swung open the door and the stench intensified exponentially. Even with the shirt tucked up over his nose he wretched. Near the base of the stairs, in the darkness, he could hear a buzzing mob.
He reaches for the light switch and flips it on. He hears the mass of flies disperse then settle. Along the stair case the walls are speckled with winged dots. He descends the stair case, the stench growing, assaulting his face, seeping into his eyes and hair. He nears the bottom and he spots his first glimpse of the hive. Thousands of flies capering over one another, all attached to some object of desire. Upon reaching the bottom step, the vibrations from his foot steps causes the resting mob to form into a cloud then a curtain– they move toward him as if attempting to ward him away.
He flails his arms into the horde of flies, closing his eyes. His breathing grows rapid as flies bounce off his body. Finally, the onslaught subsides. He straightens his neck and opens his eyes. The shirt slips off his nose. He can now see, against the wall, a rotting cat: eyes hollow, tongue draped and blue, intestines spilled. A moisture outlines the body. The flies, grown accustom to his presence, settle back in on the decay. The stench is registered again and he wretches. He jogs back up the stairs to find Julie gagging:
“What is that?”, she asks.
“A rotting cat, it crawled in through the basement window– looking for a place to die. I guess,” he said.
He is amused by her melodramatic gagging:
“the poor guy figured he do like the humans do, and make his way into one of those big boxes all the humans crawl into to die,” David finished by spanning his arms.
David knew she either wouldn’t understand, or wouldn’t care for his analogy:
“Okay David, just get rid of the files and that thing. It reeks,” she turned to leave him to the task.
He grabs her by the arm, “Julie, just like you to want to throw away the rot and flies without ever seeing the real problem.”
“What are you talking about?” she responds tugging against his grasp and eyes wide.
“Can’t you see the real problem is the opened window?”
“Let go David. You’re hurting my arm.”
Not realizing he was holding her so firmly he let go.
“Sorry. I just wanted to show you the real problem.”
“David, get rid of the cat and the flies and close the window, please. I just want you to get rid of the rot and flies, and address the real problem.” She finished by resting her hand in the center of his chest.
Julie knew, maybe, he would understand.