Posted by: dougery | April 8, 2012

[FGC #9] We Forget How Long It Has Been

The television is on. The screen is an eel that writhes. Little framed people and their little framed arguments. Successful conflict resolution in 22 and a half minutes. Making allowances for sponsors.

We sit on the couch. We sit there together alone. We forget how long it has been. It has been always.

The smell of rotting meat and spoiled milk is creeping under the baseboard. There are animals outside snuffling and scraping and banging around in the dark. The trash bins are overflowing and the animals have come to feed.

We are not hungry anymore. We can’t remember the last time we were hungry. We prepare enormous multi-course meals. Sauces simmer. The oven preheats eternally. We scrape lumps of uneaten food into plastic bags. The bags pile up.

Outside it is raining. It rains often. When it rains various swollen breastlike bags bulge down from the ceiling.

We look up at the trembling sacks and watch them grow. We are up on a rickety chairs poking them with pencils. Pierced they leak gray water. The water rushes down to spatter on the floor. It smells of lacquer and bird droppings. The cat comes over to lap at the filth but we brush it away.

All the windows are boarded and sealed. To keep out the cold air. The cold gets in just the same. Inside it is musty and close.

We rub each other’s feet while we watch television. The skin is tough and there are odd thicknesses about our heels and toes. Textures of sandpaper and chalk. Ribbed parchment. Toe knuckles crack. We should probably get up. Maybe just to use the bathroom.

There is cat litter in the hallway, little crystals scattered everywhere that stick to socks and skin. The bathroom is so very far away.

We lock the cat in the bathroom because it will not stop crying. We forget how long it has been. Not individual repeated cries but one constant unending whine. We feed it 17 times. We spread fresh littler everywhere. We brush it and play with it for hours but still it keeps on crying. We lock it away and attempt to sleep. It is difficult to say how long it has been.

The cat tries to eat through the wall during the night. It is nearly successful. Paintchips and splinters and pieces of sheet rock are everywhere. The pipes and guts of the wall revealed for us to see. Pipes surprisingly bright and new. Some dewy with condensation, others too hot to touch. Coppers and silvers and reflective metals carrying their various fluids. Up from the well or down and out into the sewer. Or wherever water goes once the best parts of it have been used up.

The washing machine runs constantly. Something zippered rattles and clacks in the dryer. The fan in the bedroom turns slowly to the left, hitches, halts, and bends back toward the right. Over and over again.

We have our hair trimmed short. The shampoo turns what is left to hay. We sniff at each other’s napes. We lay together under feathers and cloth to stay warm. We sweat but do not move. We sweat despite the cold. We are afraid to turn over. We are afraid of what might be left. It is difficult to say how long it has been.

We forget which door leads outside. All we find are closets. Some of them are empty. Some are so full we can’t shut the door once it has been opened. Knobs loosen and fall, roll in concentric circles. The cat follows along with the motion, its head rocking back and forth like a pendulum. The cat is bored.

Books multiply in the corners of our rooms. There are so many of them. Books spilling out of shelves, books looming atop dressers and bureaus. They cluster together in piles, self-segregating by the color of their spines.

We use the internet. We log-in to things. We comment and lurk and surf. We post and download and our computers become warm. They hum. We forget that the television or the toaster or the vacuum is still on. The toilet flushes 3 times.

We sit on the couch and don’t say anything. We have laptops on our laps and the television is still on. Our thighs are sticky. We type. We look up and change the channel. The cat paws at the boards on a window. We draw down the shade. It gets bored and walks away.

We forget to sleep together. We spend all morning in the shower. The washing machine cycles down as loud as a helicopter. There’s more water on the floor but we can’t tell where it has come from. We mop it up but there is always more.

We put on perfume. We run our hands through our hair. We get dressed. We walk around.

We forget how long it’s been.
[ 819 Words ]


  1. The cautionary tales of techno-zombies.

  2. “swollen breastlike bags bulge” I think Croftie is gonna have words with you after she reads this sentence. I’m pretty sure that’s at least three gross words right there.

    • yeah, wherever she was when i wrote that sentence I’m sure she twitched or shivered. Her Spidey sense for gross words going off, if she were drawn she’d’ve had all those squiggly lines around her head.

      • ARGH!

  3. […] Storm Dweller 2. Carolyn Wagner 3. Stacey 4. Annie Evett 5. douglas riggs 6. JM Merchant 7. Jodi Cleghorn […]

  4. Ugh a nightmare world that I think many people live in. Nice imagery!

    • Thank you Stacey. It was surprisingly easy to tweak the typical into nightmare territory.

  5. Beautifully described. Can totally see the place that the characters are residing in. Very intruiging. I enjoyed this one.

    • Thank you Carolyn. I’d like to say that this is 100% NOT “write what you know” but alas…

  6. The imagery here is breathtaking. Fantastic stuff.
    Adam B @revhappiness

  7. Thanks so much, Adam. That means a great deal to me.

  8. Ooo. You get a really poignant sense of being stuck in a rut in this piece. Very powerful, if a little uncomfortable to read. Well done.

  9. Wow, I love this one! Just beautiful. And gross. In a good way. (Though I hope to God that this part is not a description of MY feet… “The skin is tough and there are odd thicknesses about our heels and toes. Textures of sandpaper and chalk. Ribbed parchment. Toe knuckles crack.”)

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