Issue > Fiction
Tim Fenster

Tim Fenster

Tim Fenster is a young writer, reporter and editor in the beautifully under-appreciated city of Buffalo, NY. He graduated from SUNY Brockport in May 2012 with bachelor's degrees in both English and journalism. He's been writing since high school.

The Beast In The Kitchen

Paul sat in the living room couch enjoying the slow pull of liquor and an Animal Planet narrator: pleasures he would have enjoyed far more if it weren't for the racket of Jane washing dishes in the kitchen. He had long wondered why she always waited till ten at night to start banging around with the Bad China; God only knew how Junior and Emmy could sleep through it. He was about to ask her to leave the plaster shit for tomorrow afternoon, to do it while he was out working, when suddenly a plate shattered in a crash of breaking glass. Then she screamed.

Paul had the glass to his lips when he heard her. He poured a little Jim Bean down his thro at, then pushed off the couch to see what her problem was.

Jane was pressed against the wall, one finger raised toward the opposite corner of the kitchen. The look on her face seemed to evoke something from Stephen King's imagination. But he only saw the same old kitchen, overly cluttered but otherwise ordinary.

"It's right there. A centipede," she said very softly.

He followed the aim of her finger and found the hairy little critter, sitting as calm and dumb as a slug on their front stoop. He set his glass on the counter, tore three squares from a roll of Bounty, and moved in for the kill. The centipede was bare inches from death-by-Bounty when Paul drew back and set the paper towels on the counter.

"What's the matter, Paul? Why can't you kill it?" she said.

Taking his glass, sipping Jim Beam, and breathing off the burn, he finally turned to face her. He knew well the look she was giving him; he'd gotten it most every day after those first years of magic faded to a routine dullness, as if something between them had either grown lost or died.

He shrugged lightly. "Why not take it outside? No reason I see to kill it."

"No—reason? That thing will crawl into your mouth while you're asleep," she told him. "All one hundred legs of it."

He chuckled. "If I'm asleep I won't notice. Besides, you sleep-snack on spiders, too. Tomato tamato."

"Will you just—"

He spoke over her: "Also, for your information, centipedes don't actually got a hundred legs." His voice was loud but toneless: his Whiskeyvoice, she called it. "It's impossible that they have an even number of legs."

Her sneer shifted between it and him, it and him. "Do you really want that thing crawling through all the dirty dishes and leftovers that you never put away?"

"Well, I don't expect it to touch your meatloaf," he said, and suppressed the urge to comment further on her meatloaf. "Hell, I don't even know what these little fuckers eat; do you? My guess would be little bugs and things, but who knows. Maybe they don't eat nothin. Maybe they live here just to bug us, as if that's the only reason God put em. . ." He trailed off, leaving Jane to wonder what point he was trying to make, if any. Paul was never very clear with his points.

"Look, if you hate the darned things so much, how bout you just kill it so we can get on with our oh-so-lovely evening."

Paul grinned. "I'll do ya one better," he said, and threw down his Jim Beam and reached in the liquor shelf and pulled out the bottle of Everclear. At one hundred ninety proof, it was illegal in fourteen states. But not Pennsylvania.

Jane was saying, "Are you serious? Like you haven't had enough already."

Paul didn't reply. He poured a small amount in his glass and slowly re-approached the centipede, which remained very still. He bent over and held the glass sideways not a foot above it, then flipped the glass and slammed it dowm—on target.

The centipede went as wild as a zebra in a lion cage, running circles up, down, and around the glass.

She approached cautiously. "I asked you to kill it," she said. "Not get it drunk."

Speaking slow in his Whiskeyvoice, he explained, "Centipedes got to stay in moist environments—bathrooms, cellars, and whatnot—cause they lose water real quickly through their skin. If you'd even call it skin." He glanced at the glass and added, "And of course alcohol sucks water out of everything it touches. That's how hangovers are born."

She stared at the glass, watched the dehydrated centipede slow bit by bit until it came to a permanent stop. Her eyes drew wide.

Paul gave her that petulant toldjaso look: a look he had well rehearsed and well refined. Then he retrieved his glass and set it in the sink and sat back in the couch. He'd let her take care of the dried-out centipede.

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