|Oct/Nov 2010 Fiction|
After an unpleasant encounter with Emma's mountain gorilla, whose shock collar she had removed, Emma's husband and his girlfriend fled, he with his laptop and backup hard drive, the girlfriend holding her shoes.
To mark the event, Emma removed her wristwatch and let it fall to the floor, grinding it under her heel until, looking down, she saw only tiny golden wheels, splinters of crystal, and bits of this and that. The mountain gorilla followed suit with his shock collar.
Then Emma, perhaps as a nod to the base commonality of all species, removed her clothes and, using the clumsy instruments her husband left behind—and with the not insignificant help of the gorilla—gutted the interior and much of the exterior of her house. The roof she would deal with later.
Next, the gorilla heaved the basement junk, now revealed by sunlight, onto the already large pile of debris in the driveway, obscuring much of Emma's view of the Tummerson's Bauhaus-inspired house, its flagpole—looking from the basement as Emma was—the only visible evidence of its existence.
With sunlight running diagonally across her knees, which were hugged tightly to her chest, and her back resting against the chilly stone foundation, Emma thought, in this instance wrongly, All memory is now gone. It was a short thought, and she knew it flawed, yet it was a thought, and for this she was a little bit glad.
The monstrous circulatory and digestive systems of the house now hung above them: the four toilets, the eight sinks, the Jacuzzi, all connected by a zigzag of tubing and pipes, and all around them the exterior stud wall, encircling, repetitious and boring. It was easy for Emma to count the studs, but the gorilla could not and grew furious from trying. Bellowing and banging his chest, he threatened the stud walls with violence. That's when Emma stood and slapped him sharply on the snout.
Startled, the gorilla shimmied up a waste pipe and clung to the underside of the dangling and now dangerously sagging kitchen sink, where he remained, dejected and pouting, until Emma, discovering a carrot on the basement floor, shimmied up the same waste pipe and handed it to him, thinking perhaps the gorilla would accept this carrot as a goodwill token and understand that all was forgiven.
The gorilla grabbed the carrot and crammed it up his left nostril. Only the carrot's greenish tassel was visible. Seeing all this from close-up, Emma thought (correctly): There remains much to learn. Then the gorilla howled, maybe because he was happy, maybe not, and he beat on his chest, which caused him to lose his grip on the sink. He fell heavily to the basement's concrete floor, leaving Emma clinging to the maimed electrical outlet that controlled the garbage disposal.
Scattered helter-skelter over the concrete floor were some of her clothes, and also those of her husband. Dropping down, she rummaged, poking around in the debris until she came upon a flattened portion of what might be, she thought, the skin of an animal who when alive had considered her basement its home. She tugged, and out of the rubble came her fake leopard skin coat.
A chill had passed through the open ribs of the house and settled in the basement, so Emma donned the coat. In one of its pockets she found a matchbook, K & Kitty Lounge screen-printed on one side. She had originally found this matchbook inside her husband's locked humidor during the week she devoted a portion of each day to picking through his possessions.
Removing the coat, she tossed it on the pile. The matches she kept, ripping one from the pack and dragging the red-tipped end sharply across the pack's roughened strip. There it was, the spark, the hiss, and from inside gray smoke, a blue, pear-shaped brightness. If the blue pear were touched, Emma recalled, one felt pain, and here and there she touched the blue to the pile.
A darkening fog of toxicity rose from the fake fur coat, forcing Emma and the mountain gorilla to huddle together against a portion of the foundation wall most distant from the flames, where they remained until the pile was cool ash and the air was as clear and as sweet and as pure as it ever would be, as it ever was going to be, ever.