A Reading

Pool Party is all launched – both on line and in life. It’s also turned loose on Good Reads, something else still. Here, I’ll post the material I read at the virtual and the in-the-flesh launches. Enjoy.

“Are you just getting home?!”

Ken stood beside the gate, smoking. Not a relaxing morning smoke, but an uptight one, like some disaster had occurred. 

“Yeah.” 

“Fuck, we were going to call the police. Chrissy said she went back to look for you, and you were gone.”

“If I wanted out of the car in the first place, why would she expect I’d wait for her just so I could get back in it?”

Ken had no answer.

“I hitched a ride and ended up on an overnight in Clearwater.”

“You Canadians really can’t handle confrontation.”

“I couldn’t handle her driving.”

Ken laughed. “Wait’ll I tell her.”

“She should know. I told her myself.”

Ken flicked away a half-finished cigarette. Never in Canada. At eleven bucks a pack, people smoke them right down to the filter. “By the way, thanks for busting me.  Can I at least see this painting? I’d just convinced her I quit poker.”

“So she said.” Marcie unlocked her door.

“Shit, it’s hot in here. You got the AC off?”

“Is there a rule against that? A sign somewhere I didn’t see?” 

“In rentals there’s a rule, yeah. It’s in your lease. All apartments have to be kept at eighty degrees or colder ’cause of mold. If you get evicted for mold, good luck getting another place.”

Marcie pointed to the painting standing up against the dining room wall. “It’s not quite finished. Jim’s buying it.”

“That’s really good, even though I’m in it. Are you, like, famous?”

“No.”

Ken noticed the half-finished picture of Abe in the sunbeam then looked at his watch.

“I gotta go. If I’m late for this job interview Chrissy set up, I’ll end up sacked out at somebody else’s place like that amoeba.” He pointed toward Abe’s face glowing from the canvas.

            When Ken left, Marcie resentfully stared at the thermostat. Eighty. She tapped it down to eighty-two and closed the windows before going out to the pool to paint and finish Saint Abe. Later, she ran off to print her Clearwater pictures and buy a shark magazine so she could add sharks to a beach scene she planned.

            Once she returned, Marcie sketched out the lifeguard, crowds of kids at the water’s edge, and fins sticking out of the surf, before adding one shark head—complete with teeth—raised above the waterline. She titled it “Paradise Bites.”

            By the time Marcie came inside for dinner—when it got too dark to see—her apartment was freezing.

She’d need blankets. Blankets in Florida. As stupid as carpet—which she stared at, noticing the dark spot again, only bigger now, and in a different place. It was moving? Or had she been in the sun too long? A black leaf being blown around by the draft from the air conditioning? What kind of a tree has black leaves?

Stepping closer to investigate, Marcie screamed. A huge, palm-sized, black butterfly lumbered across the thinning beige shag. She grabbed one of her sneakers and raised it, then hesitated. Clubbing the bug would splatter its guts all over and grind goo into the carpet. But she couldn’t leave it to roam—or fly. Were there more? Like mice? See one, and…. Well, she could scrub up the mess with soap and water, or scoop the thing up in a wad of paper towel and step on it outside

Since the butterfly-bug seemed in no hurry, Marcie ran to the kitchen for a plastic grocery bag, then, with the toe of her sneaker, flicked the velvety body onto the bag, folded the top half over to make a sandwich, and gently rubbed the shoe over the lump of bug so its guts stayed in the plastic. Creepy sensations ran up her arm right through the rubber sole of the shoe. She shivered then sobbed. 

As soon as she dropped the wad of plastic in the garbage, a smaller, amber creature, also with wings, crawled out from under the cupboards. She shrieked, whacked it—flattening it slightly—yet the insect continued its journey across the kitchen floor. Even as she beat it more, it kept going.

“Die, you son-of-a-bitch!”

She hit it repeatedly, put her shoe on then hopped on the thing, finally crunching its shell. With a ball of paper towel, she wiped up the guts, dropped the toweling into the garbage, then tied up the bag and left it by the front door so she wouldn’t forget to take the sack out to the trash. What if these giant insects had gotten into the cupboards and laid eggs in her food? Could that tickle she felt the other night on her leg while in bed have been…? She glanced over as another winged body now scaled the wall. Shrieking hysterically, Marcie pulled her shoe off again and whacked at the creature.

 “Die you motherfucker!”  She bawled hysterically.

“Are you okay?” A voice called from outside her door.

She clammed up and listened.

“Anything I can do?”

 “No.”

“Are you sure?”

            She wasn’t.

“Would you like me to call anyone? Or come in?”

Composing herself so she’d sound normal for a second, she answered, “No.  I’ll be okay.” She didn’t want a man seeing her in such a mess or with these things in her place. She got more paper towels and some spray cleaner and wiped down the wall.

“I was just leaving Jim’s and heard you screamin’ and hittin’ something, so I thought I’d check.”

In her strongest voice, she belted out, “Thanks, but I’m okay.” She stuffed the latest gooey paper towels into the freshly changed garbage bag under the sink. Marcie scrubbed her hands, splashed some water onto her face, and, in front of the mirror, practised looking normal before heading out to buy insect repellant and blankets. She grabbed the trash on her way. 

She’d barely gotten out of the breezeway and into the parking lot when a whole swarm attacked. Things the size of small birds pinged off her skin. Screaming, she ran back to the door, desperately digging in her purse for the keys. One of the dive-bombing vermin got stuck in her hair and flapped frantically in an attempt to escape. “Get out!” she screamed, flinging the trash bag and shaking her head just as wildly.

“You’re not okay.” The same voice she had heard while inside, now spoke from directly behind.

“There’s one in my hair!”

The man held her still and pulled the bug free from a tangled knot, then hugged her close. She clung back.

“What are they?”

“You’re not from here, are you? Them’s cockroaches.”

“Cockroaches? I have cockroaches?!”

He laughed. “It’s Florida. Everybody has cockroaches. Pretty soon it’ll be too cold for ‘em, but meanwhile, if I was you, I’d call the office to have your place fumigated.”

“This is ’cause I left the patio door open, isn’t it?”

“You what?”

“Oh fuck. It is, isn’t it? The patio’s screened in. I didn’t think….”

“Aw, Honey, on the ground floor, they crawl in under the railing.” He stroked her hair. “Hey, you wanna chill at my place for awhile? I ain’t got no roaches. I’m on the third floor and I know to keep my windows shut.”

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