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Last updateTue, 06 Aug 2013 2am

Monday, 22 August 2011 05:22

Bunnies, Rats, Ferrets and Me

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Amanda Gowin Amanda Gowin

I’m waiting for Suzannah to get home smelling like four different kinds of cock. This shitty ground-floor apartment in a shittier part of town is a jail. Self-imposed. The hideous scar spiderwebbing across my forearm makes it a life sentence. A constant reminder that I’ll never get out alive, that she owns me.

Drops of moisture bubble over the concrete walls, sliding down patches of mould in the corners of the room. The smell of wet towels lingers and every breath feels like it’s damaging my lungs.

Suzannah’s rat scuttles through dirty clothes and takeaway bags. Through scraps of paper with bad drawings and worse poems scribbled on them. Tim Burton, she calls it. Fucking ruined Edward Scissorhands for me. She changes pets like she changes hair colours. Bunnies, rats, ferrets. Disease-ridden beasts. Things you wouldn’t bother kicking in a back alley because you wouldn’t want your boots to get dirty. They die within months because she can’t look after her self, let alone an animal.

Tim Burton surfaces from a Maccas bag and sticks his head in my direction, sniffing. If I could stomach picking the foul thing up I’d fucking throw it across the room.

The sound of boots on concrete and a wallet-chain clinking against jeans.

Tim Burton stops shifting around in the paper bag. A banging on the screen rattles and reverberates through the flat, bouncing around the concrete walls and landing in my gut. I slide onto the floor, thankful the lights are out. Must be the cops. Who else’d be kicking it in at four in the morning? They’re coming to tell me Suzannah’s been found in an alley behind The Black Diamond. They’ll tell me she was raped. Some guy she teased a little too much got impatient. They want me to identify the body.

The screen door opens. Four quick thuds against the hardwood. I stay low. My bladder’s full, stretching the seams. I walk on my elbows down the hallway and into the windowless bathroom. I sit down on the loo to take a piss so it doesn’t make a sound. The screen continues to rattle under an angry fist.

I creep down the hallway, close to the wall. The cold concrete against my arse. I peek around the corner and a silhouette shifts behind the distressed glass window next to the front door, looking in, searching for movement in the darkness. I sink to the ground and crawl into the bedroom, separating the verticals cautiously.

Oi, wake the fuck up, says the visitor. I know you’re in there.

The voice is familiar.

I need to talk to you, mate, he says.

Banging on the door. Sounds like it’s coming from a boot and it clicks. It congeals in my mind. Boots. Keychain. I know who it is.

Come on, mate, he says. Open the fuck up.

My old friend, Christopher. He’s parro, no doubt. But what the fuck’s he doing here? This is my desert island. My cell. No visitors allowed. Maximum security. I’m in my own little witness protection program. I had to make it that way.

He steps away from the door and trips on a potplant, stumbling backwards. The screen slaps against the frame. The bad thing about shitty parts of town is that this sort of noise at four in the morning is not considered unusual. People keep their heads down. I could really use a concerned neighbour about now.

Telling the ground to fuck off, he starts over to the window and I fall backwards, my finger dragging on the curtains and they sway back and forth. Fuck. I slide on my arse into the corner of the room and hope he doesn’t notice. Bladder’s full again. I should just do it on the carpet like the dirty animals. Maybe she’d love me if I did that.

Dickhead, he says, tapping his knuckles on the window. I know you’re in there. Can see the blinds moving.

I guess I know why he’s here. To save me. To tell me things that I already know and have made a conscious effort to bury.

I open the door and he walks over from the window, all smiles.

What do you want, man?

Fuck, he says. There you are, Osama. And you’ve got the fucking beard to match.

What do you want?

The smile disappears from his face, like it was never there to begin with. This isn’t a social call. He says, I had to come here, man. Had to.

You’re maggot. Why’d you drive over here?

I couldn’t not, man. It’s gotten to me. The guilt. I’ve been ignoring it for too long and I can’t take it anymore. It’s fucking bubbling over, consuming me.

Guilt?

Yeah, guilt. Come on, you must know.

Know what?

How else do you think I know where you live?

I don’t know. The White Pages?

You disappeared. You’re a fucking ghost. Didn’t tell anyone where you’d gone, what you were doing. How am I here right now? How the fuck do I know where your house is?

How am I supposed to know?

I’ve been fucking Suzannah, he says.

The hole where my heart used to be before Suzannah starting taking a piece every day somehow collapses and the emptiness in my chest is recognisable. I knew she was spreading her disease. But with Chris. My best mate. Fuck me dead.

You can hit me, he says. Go on. I deserve it, I know. That’s what I come here for.

I’m not gonna hit you.

Why not? Just fucking do it. I want you to.

I’m not hitting you.

Don’t be a fucking pussy. You let everyone treat you like shit?

How long? I say.

How long?

Yes, how long. How long’ve you been fucking her?

It doesn’t matter.

Yeah, it kinda does.

Ah, I don’t know, man, like, I guess, since before you guys moved in together.

Chris. Fuck.

Do it. Hit me. He pushes me, gets in my face. I grab his shirt, shoving him away, my fist a whisper from his face.

When was the last time? I say.

Really?

Yes, fucking really. Tell me, you cunt. I dig my knuckles into his cheek.

Half hour.

Fuck me, mate. I drop my fist and push him in the chest and fall back against the door frame.

She came home with me. We were at The Diamond. I was driving her back here, going through reds, hoping I’d get t-barred. Speeding round corners praying I’d roll it and fuck-up the both of us. I can’t take it anymore. I hate her. I hate myself. I’m sorry, man. I’m so sorry. But this is good. I mean, you got caught up in her. You’re not the first to fall for her tricks. Her games. I did. This is for your own good.

You did?

Yeah, man. She’s convincing, you know?

You’ve got no fucking idea. You didn’t fall for shit. You’re not the one living here. In this dump. Paying the rent. Paying her bills. Paying for the phone she fucking texts dudes on. Buying a new pet every time one dies. Buying her endless fucking haircuts and colours. You don’t know shit.

Well, nah, I mean—

Where is she?

Kicked her out in Mayfield. Couldn’t stand it. I needed to tell you.

Great. This is perfect, man, just fucking perfect.

What’re you gonna do?

I don’t know. Go to bed.

You can’t stay with her, man. That’s fucked up. She’s off. Something’s wrong with her. You know she’s been dating some other dude, right? Like, proper going on dates and holding hands and shit.

What am I meant to do? I’ve got nothing else. I mean, look at this shit.

I pull back my sleeve and throw my arm in front of his face. Her violent name. A bulging scar, thick and lumpy, spotlighted. Out on show for the first time since. He looks at it and looks at me and tries to touch it but I pull my arm away.

Why’d you go and do that? he says.

I don’t know. She wanted me to. Said if I loved her, I’d do it.

When?

Not long ago. Fuck it.

Mate, you’ve gotta get our of here. Come home with me.

No fucking way, dude. Look, man, just leave. I’ve gotta go to work tomorrow and this shit’s rough.

Nah, fuck that, he says. You’re coming back with me. He grabs my shoulder, dragging me away. Says, There’s no way you’re staying here. Not now. Not after all this.

Piss off, mate. Who the fuck do you think you are? You can’t come here and tell me you’ve been rooting my girlfriend for six months and then expect me to jump in the car with your drunken arse and leave all this behind.

All what? He laughs and I realise this is a joke. A bad one, sure. But a joke, nonetheless.

You’ve got nothing here, he says. Look around. Place is a fucking dump. Your girlfriend’s a whore. What’ve you got to lose? Nothing.

Look, I can’t. I just can’t. I’m stuck. That’s just how it is.

Doesn’t have to be.

Yeah, it does.

Your mum misses you, mate. I run into her the other day. She said you haven’t even seen her in months. Go stay with her. She’ll help you.

I can’t, all right. It’s done. It’s too far gone. I’ve just gotta live with it.

I push his hand off me and step backwards inside, closing the screen door, locking it.

Just go home and sleep it off, mate, I say. I’ll talk to you soon.

I close the door, knowing we won’t talk soon.

I collapse on the lounge and there’s a squeal under me. I jump up and Tim Burton darts out, hides under some clothes. Fucking rat. I take the remote control from the coffee table and pick up the pile of clothes slowly, revealing the filthy lump of fur. I hover the remote over him and drop it on its head. He scampers forward, confused.

I sit up on the couch so my feet aren’t on the ground and lean over to where he’s sitting, grooming himself and hover the remote behind his head, an inch or two away. With the flick of my wrist, I smack him on the back of the head. He bolts forward and then around in circles maniacally, aimlessly. He runs into the wall and jumps back, freezing. He stares at nothing. He’s still alive, nose twitching. I lean over and smack him on the head again and laugh as he runs around, scattered. No idea what’s going on, the dumb thing. I imagine it’s like being hit over the head with a steel bar and I’m amused by the fact that I’m probably giving him permanent brain damage. He’d be dead in a couple of weeks anyway.

I go to bed and shut the door behind me, blocking the gap under the door with a towel so Tim Burton can’t come in and bite my face while I’m sleeping. Lying in bed, I think about the rat going psycho and about whether I’ll have peanut butter or vegemite on my toast in the morning and about how I’d kill myself and about whether I’ll even have to because maybe the apartment air will just do it for me and about calling in sick tomorrow and about how I can’t because there’s overdue bills but mostly I think about nothing. I stare at the white walls and try to paint a better life on them but they just stay white, blank.




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Doc O'Donnell

Doc is the deadbeat responsible for www.dirtynoir.com. His work has filthied the pages and screens of a few other dives: Crime Factory, Warmed and Bound: A Velvet Anthology and a bunch of Thunderdome issues. He can be abused for his many misgivings at www.docodonnell.com. Dare you to drop him a "Fuckyou".

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