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Authors: Sam Pink

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BOOK: Rontel
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The cat looked like he was getting ready to jump into the crib.

“Ah, ah,” I said, loudly. “Fuck outta here.”

The cat meowed and looked at me.

My cat is better than you—I thought.

My cat is the only cat I like—I thought.

Which means, I don’t like you.

I stood there feeling so tired, waving the purple duck and pinching the baby.

Every few minutes, I checked the tarantula cage.

One time the tarantula was out, looking at me (seemingly) like, “Ey, fuck you, bitch. I’m Roy.”

My neighbor came back fifteen minutes later.

He put some shit away in the kitchen and came into the bedroom carrying a thin tinfoil pie tin.

He held it out and said, “Here man, take this. It’s pumpkin pie. My friend made it. Thanks for coming over and helping.”

He was paying me in pumpkin pie.

I said thanks and went across the hall.

I locked my door, ate two pieces of the pumpkin pie—holding the pieces in my hand like pizza—then went back behind the bedsheet into my room.

I was thinking something like—My life, it’s not terrible, I won’t be dramatic, but it’s something that, if offered, I’d say, “Nah,” and I’d be smiling a little but totally secure in my choice.

*

When I finished my sandwich I went out to look for jobs.

Took the Red Line to Addison and walked around shitty Wrigleyville—with all the bars and restaurants—half looking for dishwashing jobs, half just walking around.

I felt a little happier than usual though because of how much I liked the pants I was wearing.

Recently bought them at the Salvation Army.

They were really good.

They were grey and a little smooth, like sharkskin.

Soft and slick.

Cost me six dollars.

Felt such fulfillment.

Usually when I buy Salvation Army pants, I get home and they almost fit but then there’s like, a huge extra area of space (or lack of space) by one knee, or something else random, like tight thighs or something else I’d never think of.

But this pair fit so well.

The way they fit seemed to enclose my genitals and ass so nice as to be sexual.

Felt caressed.

Caressed in foul delight.

Such foul delight.

Oh North America, how I want to show you such foul delight!

*

When I was at the Salvation Army buying the pants, I folded them over my arm and walked around the store for a while—just to delay buying them, to prolong the feeling of anticipation, the sex.

And out from the toy aisle, an overweight homeless man walked up to me, smiling.

He was holding a few board games, each a decade or two old.

He was a foot shorter than me and had a huge stomach that hung out of the bottom of his shirt.

His shirt read:

“I

(image of heart)

America”

 

Only one side of his top teeth were present—and those angled off to the side, making his head look slanted.

Like his face had collapsed.

Like a house with a wall knocked out.

He had a cartoony voice too.

Made phlegmy sounds.

He pointed at my beard and said, “I yike how y’have dat. I yike ew beewd.”

“Oh, thanks,” I said.

“When y’have beewd-uh, don’t haffa cut ew face in duh mo’nin,” he said, and made a shaving motion with the hand not holding boardgames.

Smiling, he still hadn’t blinked.

Felt like he was giving me a “naughty” look.

I wanted to shake my finger at him and say, “Don’t get naughty with me, man.”

Couldn’t tell if his eyes were light blue or grey or silver or something else I didn’t know.

Couldn’t tell if he was looking at me, or slightly above me.

Fuck.

Like he was lifting me off the ground by looking directly at me with one eye and slightly above me with the other.

Holding me up just a little.

Paralyzed.

“Yeah, I hate shaving,” I said. “It sucks. I really hate it. I seriously—I hate it so much.”

He laughed and got a little closer.

His laughs had a honking-inhalation and/or sniffing-sound at the end.

Like, he laughed then breathed-in through his nose or mouth.

He said, “Beewds mate ew lutt smawter. O’der and smawter.”

“Hell yeah,” I said. “Thanks. That’s nice of you.”

He got closer.

Still smiling, still staring.

He made me very uncomfortable.

And I championed him for it.

Nice work.

You’re my champion.

He said, “Yeah but when ew come inchoo my do’way at home, I be waiting to hit ew in duh head wit a two by fo” —still smiling, same look on his face.

I laughed, didn’t say anything for a moment.

Then I said, “What. Come on, what’s this mean stuff now.”

He didn’t say anything.

Holding his boardgames, belly hanging out.

He adjusted the boardgames and I noticed how small his fingers were.

Such small fingers.

I forgave him for everything he ever did—even his intention to kill me with a 2x4—because of how small his fingers were.

I (heart image) America.

I paid for the pants and walked out of the store, feeling excited about the pants and not even knowing how well they fit yet, wow ahhhh!

I looked back into the store from the sidewalk.

Could see the cartoony homeless guy looking at clothes.

He looked very interested in a hooded sweatshirt featuring a professional football team’s logo on the front.

Seemed like the hooded sweatshirt was coming with the boardgames.

Then he walked away.

*

I wore the pants for the first month or two straight—even to sleep—without changing.

Only I eventually did have to change them, because I went twice without underwear after not washing myself post-sex.

Always found you can put your pants in that situation twice before needing to change—before you could smell your genitals through the pants.

Could smell my genitals today, sweating through Wrigleyville.

I decided to go back home after not seeing any signs about jobs (and just generally not wanting to talk to anyone).

I’d gone into one place and asked if they needed help and the guy seemed to say yeah and I was like, “I can wash dishes and shit.”

Regretted adding, “and shit.”

And the man asked for my phone number but it didn’t look like he would call me plus there was no way to leave a message on my shitty phone and I was too discouraged to set up a voicemail.

And shit.

Walking through Wrigleyville in the heat, half looking for dishwashing jobs, half just walking.

My brother sent me a message.

Half a minute—gone.

Subtracted.

Twelve and a half minutes remaining.

Death death, the plunge.

Him: “Hey that microwave you mentioned is still here should I grab it.”

Me: “I still work?”

“Yeah.”

“Should we smash that shit.”

Him: “Yeah man.”

Subtract subtract subtract.

Minutes gone.

Into the terrible plunge of death, oh lord.

I envisioned myself falling into a deep pit, as seen from above, with my arms out reaching for the place I always already was.

And my life felt complete, satisfying, and worthwhile.

But only for like, twenty seconds.

Kill
you—I thought, addressing Chicago (but more accurately, anywhere I was or would be).

*

When I got home, my brother was sitting on the floor drinking water.

His hair was sticking up and he looked unfocused, petting Rontel.

The microwave was on the floor next to them, no sign on it anymore.

“But,” I said, “does it still work.”

My brother put his water glass down and swallowed loudly.

Staring straight ahead, he made the sign of the cross then slapped Rontel’s ear and said, “Let’s find out.”

Rontel rubbed his face against the microwave.

My brother grabbed Rontel and held him up like a handpuppet.

He put his finger on Rontel’s bottom lip and made the bottom lip go up and down, doing fast laughing sounds like, “Meh meh meh meh.”

*

I carried the microwave, after my brother asked who was going to carry it then quickly said, “Not me.”

In an alley a few blocks away there was an open fence to an apartment building courtyard.

My brother grabbed the microwave from me—yelling, “Yuhhhhhhhhh”—running into the fenced area.

He went up the back staircase.

He was moving fast, considering how he had to hold the microwave in his outstretched arms, away from the rusty back part/ broken part (neither of us were updated on our tetanus shots).

Three flights up, he leaned over the railing and checked below.

With both hands—overhead, soccer style—he threw the microwave off the deck and into the alley.

The microwave hit the ground a few feet from me and compressed a little, sending out small pieces.

It was great!

Always felt like, if I could pause time, I’d just go around and break everything then un-pause time, leaving people unharmed but everything else broken, even clouds, mountains, and the sun, maybe a fish or two as well.

*

My brother and I ran home.

We slowed down by the entrance to our building and stood there.

I said, “Why did we run. We could’ve walked.”

“You started and I followed,” my brother said. Then he said, “I feel like I’m faster than you, but that you could run for a longer time than me.”

I said, “Yeah, definitely.”

And I remembered the gum I had in my mouth.

Worried I’d inhale it while catching my breath.

What would that do to me: a piece of gum, stuck in one (both?) of my lungs.

I saw myself decaying in the corner of a room empty but for a toilet—wheezing in the corner, purple-skinned and seconds from death.

My brother gave me the gum a couple days ago and I saved it.

It was pink and had been in a dresser drawer for a long time.

When I ate it today after my sandwich, the gum crumbled into dust at first.

It was extremely hard to keep the pieces together in my mouth but once they all combined it was nice, and then, hey, I was chewing gum.

Regaining my breath out front, I spit the gum against the wall of the apartment building.

The gum bounced off instead of sticking, which is what I imagined it would do, stick.

Why didn’t it stick.

Definitely thought it would stick.

This means something—I thought.

Followed my brother into the apartment building.

I thought about inventing a word for when your smile becomes a laugh.

The breaking point between the two.

This is the breaking point—I thought.

And I had a strong urge to tell my brother I loved him because I’d never done that and he’d never done that and he was the only person I talked to so it seemed important.

*

My brother showered and went to see his girlfriend.

I lay on the tile floor, playing with Rontel.

Dripping sweat.

I thought about how tomorrow, I’d completely change my life.

Tomorrow I’d do something new.

Something as yet undone.

Yes.

Tomorrow will be the start.

I’ll do something I’ve never done.

I’ll go to the store and purchase a new videogame.

The videogame will be a new release.

I’ll say, “Which is the newest, best game” to an employee, then buy whatever suggested.

I’ll take the videogame home, reading the instruction manual as I walk, because the anticipation to play the game will be so intense that I’ll need to read the manual before I even play.

At home, I’ll play the videogame to its conclusion, completing what the game asks of me.

Play the game until I win.

I’ll fucking win.

And the winning won’t be hard, because the game will have been designed for someone to win with very little trouble.

BOOK: Rontel
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