The old man’s coat was worn and matted with what looked and smelled like animal dung. He was clearly some kind of tramp. There were holes in his gloves and stains on his pants and his shoes were quite unspeakable. Frederik quietly took a very tight grip on his backpack.
“I’m sorry,” he said, as he had been taught to do in such circumstances. “Not today, thank you.”
He averted his eyes and stepped aside and waited for the old man to shuffle off and worry someone else.
“Sorry?” the man growled, leaning close with his terrible breath. It was all Frederik could do not to gag. “You’ll be sorry when her zombies rise from the bowels of the Hill!”
“Zombies?” said Frederik, alarmed.
For Josh E.
You taught me to play SuperMario Bros.
You showed me that I will never be as good as you
at playing SuperMario Bros. You always,
always beat me.
You corrected the way I clip my toenails. Straight
across, not curved in at the corners, and you saved me
from years of ingrown pain.
You told me I’m no good at building model planes.
When I sat on my F-4 Phantom and crushed it,
you told me not to take things
You told me that porn is best when stolen,
and we talked about how stark—how unmysterious
and frankly funny porn is, once
Whenever he talks I hope he knows I’m listening,
But I only respond when he is gone.
I dream that I can ask him questions. Why is there thunder?
How long were you alive before me?
When he takes me for a walk I know he is thinking of his regrets.
That is what silence has always done to him, I bet.
He looks at me every day and says the fur on my tail
Is growing back. I take his word for it. I don’t think
He would lie to me, especially about something like that.
But when I dream, I dream I walk upright and don’t limp anymore.
We both walk without pain, and we run.
I can hear him from far away, calling like he is lost.
What a fat, behemoth of a baby. What kind of plump mutant did they bring home? It looks like a flesh-tone sack of tuna purée, cream-heavy milk rolling around with a little black toupee clinging on to the top of its tiny block head. I am less than unimpressed. A new low even for these two metalheads somehow charged with my well-being.
I’m trapped in some bizarro version of Little House on the Prairie, where the farmhouse has been transported to the human’s poop plant, their only neighbor a mountain lion inhabiting the crawl space underneath. They’re all too happy to let us drift off into oblivion on our very own poop-plant-adjacent planet. All I can hope for is to become more mythological than memorable, nine lives defined by the absurd circumstance.
Who of sound mind and body would allow these two juvenile delinquents to bring home a baby of all things? If only they knew that a real who’s who of backwater thrash monsters would be attending her first birthday kegger, maybe then they’d have thought twice. It’s as if I’ve been dropped in the middle of some Coors-fueled Aesop’s fable. My fairy catmother will soon appear and whisk me off to someplace by the sea where there’s nothing but fresh-popped cans of Fancy Feast as far as the eye can see.