A short story for Halloween
Mature themes not intended for everyone
Bugs on the keys again. It always starts this way. I hate the damn things, always crawling under my fingers, getting caught beneath the tips, squirting their guts out across my plastic keypad. I love plastic. It’s so smoothe, not like bug guts which are slippery. They never give me a new keyboard when the old one is covered with bug slime. I learned that at my old job. I would call the help desk and they would send somebody over, but they stopped. My old boss told me to quit bothering the nice people at the help desk. I told him about the bug guts and then I had to find a new job.
Now, when the bugs come, I put the keyboard in the top drawer of my desk and sit back and stare out my window. When I open my drawer up again, the bugs are gone. I think they live in the back of the drawer, but I am too afraid to look. I think the janitor cleans them out once a week, but he does not understand that they come back every night.
I am going to call the help desk anyway, but I will not tell them what is wrong.
Everyone is all excited in Judy’s cube. She was full of bugs last night. I could tell just by looking at her that they were the long squirmy kind, like lampreys. I saw a picture of a lamprey once. It looked like a penis before the bugs come and bite off the tip. Bugs, buggy, buggering Bugs Bunny. I love rabbits, George.
Old movies are great, don’t you think? I have watched a million of them. They used to show them every Friday night in the big hall where they fed us. I think they put bugs in the food and waited to see when they would crawl out of us. I closed my eyes when I ate because I was afraid to look at the food.
The nice people at the help desk say they will send someone over to fix my keyboard. I told them the keys do not work.
Have you ever heard of John Steinbeck? He knew about the bugs, I could tell. Martha read to me from some words he wrote. She was the first person I ever told about the bugs. She said some guy named Burroughs knew about the bugs, but I got afraid when she tried to tell me about him. I saw his picture on the back of the book she was holding and he looked like a mean old man. But he knew about the bugs.
Martha has such soft hands. I remember her fingers curling around the edges of the book. Her thin, colored nails scampering along the sides of the pages. Sometimes her nails sprouted legs and popped off her hands and ran about on the carpet. She would scream at first, but later we would laugh and laugh. I love Martha.
A spider swings from a thread outside my window. It looks like a needle on the end of a tube after you have taken it out of your arm even though they do not want you to.
Lampreys look a lot like worms. Worms squirm beneath the epiderm. I once ate a worm. It didn’t taste anything like chicken like Jose said it would. I never talked to him again. He didn’t know anything about bugs or worms or anything, anyway. He said he did, but he lied. People who lie get bugs coming out of their mouths. Have you ever seen the inside of a person? Lies sound like bugs and worms crawling across your tongue. My mommy could make the bugs and worms go away.
I miss her a lot sometimes. Martha says everyone misses their mother sometimes, but you have to get over it. Martha’s very smart that way, don’t you think? I do not think she knows about Judy, though. I never tell her about any of the other girls because I do not want to upset her. Sometimes she asks if there is anyone else, but I tell her no. Then I have to run out of the room because of the bugs.
I have a big window because I am important. I type all day whatever they tell me to type and they pay me and I like my job. I have my own cubicle with cloth walls and a little desk. I have two file drawers!
I watch the spider outside my window as he swings back and forth like he’s on a trapeze.
I really, really like going to the circus. I once saw somebody fall from the trapeze. Her partner didn’t catch her and she fell and fell until she went splat and blew up all over the ground.
Something is crawling across my tongue. I can feel its little legs stepping so softly as its wings beat against the roof of my mouth. I hate when this happens. If I try to cough it out, then it just grabs hold tighter and tighter until my tongue turns purple. I can open my mouth and hope it leaves. I wish it would just fly away, but it’s crawling up my cheek out of my mouth. It’s big, too big, and it looks like a praying mantis. I really hate when this happens.
I lied about the magnificent girl on the flying trapeze. She didn’t die even though I thought she would. She fell in a net, but, really, she should have been dead. I think nets are like lying. Bugs on the girl, bugs big as a cat, bugs on the girl because she didn’t go splat.
William Faulkner is a funny man. Martha loved to read his stories. I buy his books whenever I see them at garage sales. I ask the owners why they’re selling them and they always say the same thing, “My daughter brought it home from college and left it when she got married.”
Martha does not approve of college girls. They do not like her too much either. They have to go to the little girls’ room and be sick after they meet her.
Sometimes I try to write because I think Martha has read everything by William Faulkner and she might want to read something else. With bugs in it. Everything I write has bugs in it.
I hate the daughters who forget about William Faulkner. They think they’re better than Martha and they’re wrong. I know this because I talk to their daughters. I meet them in clubs and in libraries and at work. I look for them, but I will never marry them because they’re married already. That’s what their parents tell me, anyway.
This job is easy as long as the bugs stay away. When they first started, I thought maybe it was because I ate at my desk so I always ate my lunch in the cafeteria. I never even sipped water at my desk, even when I was so dry that my lips cracked and my eyes itched. Then the bugs came and I gave up. I still do not eat at my desk, but that’s because I watch my figure. I need to stay trim so Martha will always love me. A trim limb is a good limb. Martha likes my lamprey.
I remember staying in the house with many beds. Father said I had to go and mommy did not love me enough to stop him.
I had a fat neighbor named Mr. Nose once, but he does not live next to me anymore. All my neighbors are thin now. I like them better that way. Fat people are always getting in the way and they always tell you what they think when you ride with them on the elevator. They complain because they think you are making the building stink. Mr. Nose even called the police, but they did not smell anything. I bought stuff you plug into the wall and stuff you pump and stuff you spray and the cop said it smelled like a whorehouse, but there was not anything they could do about it. Nose knows nothing.
I went to the circus every night after the girl fell from the trapeze. She had thick, strong legs and never fell again. I was a little disappointed, but she was not supposed to fall every night. She fell for me on my first night. I watched her hands wherever she held on as she swung. I loved her strong hands and thick legs. When the ringmaster announced that the circus was leaving town, I stayed after the show and talked to the girl.
We walked by the creek. She liked my nice, big hands. Hers were not as big as mine. There was a lamprey in the creek, but she said it looked more like a crawdad. She liked movies, too, she said, but I think she lied. I do not know when she started lying, but bugs started coming out of her mouth. More and more, they raced out of her, but I could not help her. Stream screams, we all scream for ice cream.
I followed Mr. Nose home from work one night because I wanted to know what he thought he smelled. Do not tilt your head back, a bloody Nose needs pinching. Streams of blood and bugs. Ice cream! With worms.
William Faulkner eats bugs!
Judy’s parents sold me her copy of Absalom, Absalom. She had signed her name on the inside front cover and I found her in the telephone book. A, B, C, easy as you please. D, E, F, how many more are left? Judy has very nice parents, but I hear her talking with her mother all the time. She sounds like a little girl, even littler than the magnificent girl on the flying trapeze. Judy is married, but I do not care.
How do spiders get up so high? I am on the eighteenth floor. If he is swinging outside my window, then he must be coming down from somewhere. Do you think he climbed all the way to the top just to swing all the way down to the bottom?
Sometimes I hug my window. I kneel on the ledge in front of it and spread out my arms as wide as I can. I press my cheek against the glass and breathe in and out. I can see down out of the corner of my eye. I am not afraid to fall if the spider isn’t. I leave a breath stain when my boss makes me pull away from the window. She always tells me it is not as hard as I might think to replace me, but I do not care. I can leave my job now.
I once ate a spider. What goes in must come out. Jose taught me to tear the legs off it first. The trick is not to taste it, just swallow real fast. Over the lips and past the gums, watch out stomach, here it comes. Without the legs. The magnificent girl on the flying trapeze had thick legs. Martha has thin legs. Judy’s legs are just right.
My monitor is a bug like I have never seen before. A hand is grabbing me. It feels like my father’s hand. I type all day and stare at the monitor. The hand is telling me to type. Press the keys.
The spider has blown away to I know not where. That’s where my father said I live — I know not where. And I never went back. I wonder what the spider thinks of his thread. I wonder what the thread thinks of the spider. I wonder what I think. I wonder what I thread. Ding, dong, the witch is dead.
The receptionist is passing out a notice about Judy, but I already know what it says. Judy will not be in to work today. She has a bug. I never call in sick, but that is a point of pride with me. My father taught me right. You won’t be on a team if you’re not there when they’re picking sides. Judy’s parents are nice, but they did not teach her right.
Judy never saw a lamprey before, so I told her that I had one.
I wonder what a lamprey eats. I should know, but I do not. I love books, but I never have time to read. I buy books for Martha. She likes old books, dusty books, yellow books. The smelly ones do not bother her.
Judy stayed late last night. So did I.
I open the notice about Judy with my nose and hold it really close to my face. I like to read this way. The police are here and want to talk to us. They must want to hear about the bugs. I hear them talking to her friends, but I try to ignore them. The police always take the side of the fat people. Copper, flatfoot, pig. My house smells better than your house. I better pick up more room deodorizer on my way home.
Judy did not want to meet Martha, but I knew she was lying because I saw the bugs coming out of her face. First, a little grasshopper stuck its tiny head out of her nose and looked around. Then, a big old beetle crawled out of her ear and down her cheek. I slapped it to get it off but that only made her mad. I am supposed to count when I get mad. One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten. When I reach ten, I can do whatever I want. Bugs, rugs, slugs. Girl twirls. Skin like paper in an old book. Blood like bugs. Spiders like needles. Love like death. Faulkner likes me.
I miss Judy already. Martha says it is only natural. Martha does not care though. She is glad Judy is gone. So is William Faulkner.
Here comes the man. Hear his footsteps. It’s the nice man from the help desk to make the bugs go away. He says he passed police on their way out. I wonder if my next job will be as nice. I went to a garage sale on Saturday and bought a copy of The Sound and the Fury.