Thursday, July 30, 2009

Character Study (Fiction)

He always felt guilty when he squashed bugs. He didn't know where it came from, just knew that smashing a spider or killing a fly made him experience a twinge of guilt. And flushing them down the toilet, wrapped up in their tiny burial shrouds of toilet paper did nothing to ease the feeling. 

He imagined them, swirling dizzily in the suction that must have felt massive to their relatively tiny bodies, until they were pulled down through the s-bend and into the main line of the house drain--sticky, dark, only partly aqueous and mostly clogged with filth. Kitchen sink scraps, grease, fecal matter; flushed down to rot with the rest of the stuff. All these would be the last the insect or spider would see, how would their tiny soul make way to God? Would they be trapped in the sewer gas and slime, lodged in limbo? 

Perhaps they became tiny ghosts. Perhaps the billion or so he had killed in his lifetime, between car travel and fly swatting had formed a virtual sea of dead insect spirits, all of them hanging about in sewer mains and car bumpers, waiting for the end of the world and the summons of the four horsemen before jumping to action.

The Native American tribes had respect for animals, apologizing to them after they killed them, believing the spirits of the dead animals would haunt them otherwise. They held the animals in reverence, and spoke to them before using them for food.

He wondered how a billion mosquito souls would feel for not being apologized to. He idly supposed it just might make an interesting B sci-fi flick, "Revenge of the Bloodletters" or some such--the swarming undead mosquitoes sucking the soul out of the poor masses at large.

He even avoided stepping on pill bugs when he left the front door in the morning--the house keys were just fresh from twisting the lock shut and he walked among them, mincing steps, trying to avoid them as they scurried along in their prehistoric exoskeletons. There were spider webs all up the length of the siding by the front door, their webs littered with corpses of gnats and mosquitoes, the victims of the porch light he switched on at night. 

But the porch light trumped the pain the spider webs brought; the idea of someone breaking in to rob/kill/beat him driving him to greater fear and justification. He had cleaned them all off once, a few weeks back, but had thrown up after sweeping away their houses, his worry upsetting him so much that he had puked at work an hour later. As he recalled regrettably, he had eaten a hearty meal of ham and eggs that morning.

Another time he'd tried gardening. It was the year-before-last actually, and that time he hadn't been able to bear the thought of spraying pre-emergent insecticides; his tomatoes had lasted approximately 2 weeks into summer, and then ghosted away. The plants had gone just long enough for the swelling green fruit to start making him hope for a fresh BLT sandwich, when they began to wilt, wither and die. 

And like the mysterious fetus that does so well one week in a late middling term, and the next week loses the desire to live, so went his tomato plants. He'd reacted horribly when he found them limp and chewed off at ground level--he'd curled into a ball on his bedroom floor, barely able to speak into the phone and whisper that he was too ill for work that day.

It had been cutworms, he found out later, a nasty caterpillar who lived in the dirt, only emerging to climb up a plant stem and chew it's way along into developing into a moth. He'd had no heart to kill them, they deserved to live as much as he! They'd aborted his tomatoes and slaughtered his anaheim peppers and he'd still let them be, for some reason unable to squish or spray them to oblivion--he was no entymologist, no entomophobic. Perhaps he was a spectrophobic? That must explain it. He suffered from a deep seated fear of ghosts--in this case tiny insect ghosts--and was so scared about it he immediately took action. 

Last week, he killed a wood roach and an earwig, and he apologized to them, trembling out in broken tones which they did not know and could never hope to understand as he crushed the life out of their bodies. Those two had found their miserable way into his condo; he found them in the kitchen, scurrying across the floor. Indoor bugs crossed the line after crossing the threshold, and were fair, albeit painful, game.

What a strange man I am he thought. I am so because I give a damn about bugs, yet don't give a shit about my illegal immigrant neighbor, nor the old Mandarin guy two doors down who's cooking always makes my allergies act up.

It was always the little things that mattered to Mallory James Montblanc, the mundane tiny moments, the squashing of bugs; he found definition in these empty spaces. He busied himself worrying about things like this that really didn't matter, because he was afraid of the greater larger universe all around him. His real phobia was not due to bugs; no, his real bare-bones-truthful shake-you-to-the-core terror was that he had no control over anything. Bugs were merely a cover-up, a strange obsession, a curious footnote in his neat-freak world.

What he didn't know was that God had something more in store for him. He didn't comprehend that also very soon He was going to shake him enough to see it. God was going to throw his life into turmoil, twist him up, wring him out, throw him on the rack and break him and make him see. make him reach past all the bugs and straightened pencils in their cubby by the phone. God had plans for James.

Of course, none of that had happened just yet. No, today he was standing on the deck at the rear of his house, looking at his tiny postage stamp of a yard (as he lived in a condo) and looking at his empty garden which bordered the tiny stamp of grass. He had his hand on his hips, his lips pursed out, and he was sweating. His glasses had slid down his nose, his hair was mussed into a sort of half mohawk, and he had newsprint smeared on his forehead from where he'd fallen asleep on a yesterday's newspaper on the couch. 

He had no idea of the meteor hurtling towards him, ten million miles away and closing, nor that it had been sent directly from Kolob, with a label for 10 N 1040 W apartment B. 

Today he stood and considered cutworms, and God in turn considered him.

1 comment:

Jarubla said...

Have been revising it a bit, giving him a name and creating some sort of plot.

Writing for the sake of writing's sake is a good exercise for me.