The Creature, the Hole, and You

11.   Keep going. The hole is apparently a bottomless morass and, Jesus, you can’t give up now. Continue to shovel the bonding cement and make it snappy—it’s reaching a rigor mortis state and this is not the time for surprises (like six hours from now when you’ll call the cops. It never occurred to you that by cementing the hole you had sealed the only exit for the Creature who will respond by rambling though your cellar and dashing to the floor boxes of memorabilia such as twenty-years-worth of photos and VHS tapes of you dancing. Pausing to listen at your desk, you’ll imagine his claws inadvertently thrust through one of those boxes, piercing footage of Medea—the part when she dispatches her sons and, after a barbarous chase scene, catches your character—Princess Creusa. Salivating with vengeance, Medea wraps a rope thick as a man’s wrist around your neck and yanks, leaving your carcass for Jason. Michael Thomas as Jason finds you sure enough: dead with feet still pointing—it’s the ballet way. Though Michael’s gay, he takes advantage of his Jason-role—the audience of 3500 hidden in a thicket of darkness—to run his hand from your face, to neck, to breasts where he tweaks your nipple between his fingers on his way down to your belly and, yes, manages to part your sweaty vulva-lips beneath the skin-thin unitard dyed pale blue, a color delineating your character’s innocence. Michael’s artistic director position leaves you mute. Voiceless. Tongue swallowed to keep your dancing engagement. After the videotape plummets to the floor, you’ll accuse the Creature of lacking culture. Needless to say, the police dispatcher will offer little hope after you call. Six hours from now you’ll go to bed, inserting ear plugs so the Creature’s rowdy box-tossing theatrics won’t keep you awake.)

12.   At last. With a final press of your foot against the cardboard wall, fortify the cemented hole by stacking sundry rocks within reach. Take the last bit of cement in the plastic tub and wedge it into what looks like could become a potential hole, wishing you could as easily plug up the hollow in your chest. You’ve taken to pondering during your personal economic contraction if old lovers (i.e. future husband #4) were discarded a tad hastily. Like the Pulitzer Prize winning author you met last year in Barcelona. During the guided tour down mosaic-like cobbled streets with saints watching you from every rooftop and door ledge, he stood close enough for your shoulders to bump. His hand to your arm was followed by an invitation to dinner…and more. Pausing beneath a platter-bearing woman saint offering, as if hosting a cocktail party, her sacrificial chopped-off breasts (nipples cheerfully erect and skyward-bound)—“Please. Help yourself. Freshly whacked off but moments ago for your culinary pleasure”—you realize the Pulitzer Prize winning author judged a literary contest you entered, one you managed to place as finalist. “I remember your essay,” he lied. You mustered up a dubious expression: mouth set firm, brow crunched with concern, and held it. “I do,” he persisted, leaning his face toward yours with a dramatic tilt, “it was very…moving.” You knew it wasn’t nice, but you insisted he tell you something—anything—about your fucking essay. Halfway through an ambiguous discourse that included renderings such as: “Your essay embraced the underpinnings of the nature of mankind sensitively expressed beyond the quotidian rhetoric of most contemporary nonfiction writers,” you felt embarrassed and told him to stop. But he was on a roll, “I can go on…” He was that good.

13.   Rinse out the bucket, otherwise the cement will hold fast “like a piece of forever”1 and you won’t be able to scrub the kitchen floor or wash the dog with it again. You chose this beagle above the others at the shelter because he was the only dog not barking. (Later, after sunset, your dog won’t stop barking. Ignore him.) Ignore as well that you’re one of those people who should not have been approved for a mortgage four years ago—Thank you, Fannie Mae! You bought the house, no money down. Each year you’ve managed to make improvements, but now—between your underemployment status, the Creature, and the fleas beginning to make their presence known—the house no longer feels like yours. And if you did find a job elsewhere, who would/could buy your house now? (Other than one of the few highway workers replacing millions of miles of asphalt in the U.S.A. with guaranteed positions for the next decade.)

14.   Later, check on your first-time-ever foundation repair job. While testing the sturdy inflexibility of the cemented bricks, note the breathless air and the distant hum of cicadas comingling with leaves decomposing prematurely—even the squirrels stop collecting walnuts from the backyard tree. Soak in that tranquility (you’re clueless about the evening ahead). The nonstop barking (His location? In front of the holed-up hole.) inspires you to barricade the cellar door with an ottoman and the African drum that occasionally serves as a mini-coffee table. Aware of your every move, the Creature claws at the cellar door, clambers down the steps, and begins to cry—a purring-whining sound. Its desperate tone, difficult to dismiss, strikes a commonality-ish bone in you. Don’t go there. Insert earplugs and go to sleep (convinced that this will all disappear by morning). Later, much later, dismiss the glass beads strung from your bedroom doorway tinkling tenderly (that’s what you hear at first), though soon enough they’ll be clashing with a manic flare you’ve not heard before. Your first impulse is to imagine a wily breeze skipping up the staircase and whipping the candy-colored beads into a dizzy dance. It’s 3 A.M. You’re too tired to check it out. Besides, it might be a dream. But the tinkling turns cacophonic. You lift your head to catch a glimpse of the how and why, and there, silhouetted dark as chocolate against the downstairs light left burning at your desk, is the Creature. He bats at the dangling beads with one paw then, rising to his haunches, strikes with the other. Orchestrated by a feral curiosity, he’s charmed by the shimmering flash of glass, enough to briefly diminish his desire to escape and distract him from noticing you propped onto one elbow—momentarily dazzled as well—until you scream, curse and switch on the bedside lamp in hopes that he’ll run. Run he does, as do you—out the house and onto the street. The young cop arrives more frightened than you, but together you’ll come across the heat registers lifted up and out of the floor. (You won’t notice the Creature’s frantic collection of paw-impressions at every window sill until morning.)

15.   When two guys arrive the next evening in a thirteen foot high truck to estimate damages, make a cake. After an hour of rummaging in the cellar and crawlspace, snapping photos of Creature excrement and yellowed scraps of insulation scattered like autumn leaves, the thick-necked fellow tells you, “Twenty-two hundred dollars. We’re ready to get started.” It’s 7:30 p.m. Both fellows empty miles-worth of hoses from the belly of the truck: green-ribbed ones ample enough for your beagle to trot through, alongside yellow hoses comingling with blue and white ones, spilling like entrails onto the driveway, over fallen walnuts, through lilac bushes and down the cellar steps. Feeling useless while the men shout to each other from duct registers you didn’t know existed, slide the cake pan brimming with batter into the oven and go for a walk because soon the men will ignite a tsunami-strength generator inside the truck. It’s only when you leave the house—the sucking sound of Creature-hairs audible four blocks away—that you acknowledge feeling plundered. You want to give up. Give the Creature the damn house. Three hours later the men return to Ottumwa, a paper plate between them heaped with gingery cake slices soaking in lemon sauce.

16.   Since you didn’t properly rinse out the bucket, replenish with water because the sludgy cement inside is cleaving to its plastic sides with symbiotic adulation. While poking a trowel at it, the duct-work repair men arrive—Hungarians (what else?). Slavic slurs echo through the floor boards as they rattle, drill and hammer into the night. They argue, every bit as noisy as the Creature (who, incidentally, escaped once you threw ammonia-soaked rags in the cellar and left the door open all night), rousing your curiosity enough to descend the flea-infested cellar steps. One Hungarian, 50-ish with a tuft of hair stranded in a hairless sea-scalp, stands at the cellar sink tucking his dick into his pants. After clearing your throat, he pretends to handle a silver-throated section of duct work when, in reality, he’s attempting to zip his pants with one hand. Apparently there’s a thin line between Hungarians and Creatures. Meanwhile, the pant-zipping Hungarian says goodbye three times before letting loose a slew of guttural vowels punctuated with salvia-riddled consonants to his handsome comrade working in the crawlspace (who has taken to reciting your name repeatedly as if it were a poem). You back up the flight of steps and only then does it occur to you that every time you enter the cellar fleas catch a ride into the house via your ankles. A flea festival is in full swing and you’re the host. The fleas thrive, fattened from your blood, giving birth to colonies of baby fleas staking outposts that eventually reach your second floor bedroom. (Defy the temptation to research fleas online.) By the time one has bitten and sucked your blood, it’s too late to kill it. Lemony-green-purplish bruises emerge on your thigh from scratching, you scrape both ankles raw, then one finds its way into your unruly mass of curly hair that you refuse to brush since you stopped performing. Your skin stings and pops with real (and imagined) bites, causing you to immediately stop whatever you’re doing and strip down to your panties. Every mole, speck and freckle is suspect. You get sneaky. Even when you catch sight of a wingless creep, he’ll soar with a prodigious leap Nijinsky surely would have envied. My advice: Wait for that subtle sink of blood-sucking tubes (the better to slurp with) pierce your flesh, zero in on its position, then cautiously nab that black speck between thumb and forefinger. Squeeze until that flea loses all hope. You’ll soon discover, however, that squeezing is not enough to snuff out its life. But do tell that flea what’s up: Down the garbage disposal for you—and all your pretty babies, too! Run the kitchen facet full-tilt, flick the garbage disposal switch and push that demon-flea into the uncompromising whirring blades below. Chalk it up, baby: One down. Sleep is not possible. You imagine flea trumpets the size of toenail clippings blaring from the perimeter of your bed, urging the dark-eyed varmints to perform daring circus acts. You hear: “One! Two! Three! Jump!” Their sinister choreography includes bungee-jumping, group bite-ins and flesh-eating contests. In spite of your excellent thumb-pressing/die-hard garbage-disposal flea flushing technique, you are faced with an insurmountable certainty: the fleas are making love and laying eggs insuring generational survival into the next millennium. Night drawls on with maddening jolts and furtive clawing. You plot: the Fucking Flea Fest is over. By the time dawn approaches you finish strategizing a mass murder rivaling the Battle of Agincourt (negotiations with the French—I mean Fleas—be damned!). Days of hand-to-hand combat are over. You dress, and with steady hands steer your car to the one place on earth sure to possess the deadly provisions needed for your scheme: Wal Mart.

1e.e. Cummings