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Fiction: Upside-down Roach

Out of the Sandbox

By Diego Diego Portal

The man was sitting at the edge of the bed still exceptionally aroused despite the two-hour sex marathon. The woman next to him was lying on her side at the other end of the bed, facing him. He looked at her with the corner of his eye peaking over his shoulder. He admired her breasts and the erotic curve her hip made, and traced the silhouette her body offered in the dark, down to her toes. One thing she has is perfect breasts, he contemplated.

“Are you hungry?” He asked.

“Not really,” she said in between breaths.

“I’m getting a little hungry myself.”

“Want me to make you something?”

“I don’t want to trouble you,” he said, “I was just thinking aloud.”

“That’s no trouble,” she said. “I have bagels. Want one?”

“Sure,” he said.

She got up and unruffled her hair with her hand. She didn’t bother putting on any clothes. After all, what was the point of that?

“Coming?” She asked. She was headed for the kitchen.

“Be right there,” he said.

He was closer to the exit door that led to the kitchen just outside the bedroom than she was, and could find his way to the kitchen with his eyes closed if he wanted to. But he would have missed the spectacle otherwise. To not let her go in first would be criminal, he thought. He watched all of her as if it was the first time he had seen her naked. But it was like the hundredth, more or less. He observed her breasts in all their splendor and savored every second of her buttocks from the edge of the bed until the high counter in the kitchen unintentionally concealed the bottom half of her body.

“Blueberry or everything?” She asked.

Everything, he thought, absolutely everything.

“Blueberry is fine,” he said from the bed.

She leaned into the fridge and the dimmed light reflected on her body like the lights above the iconic pictures in galleries do.

So that‘s what the infamous light is really for then, he thought quick-wittedly.

It only took her a few short seconds to pull out a bag of bagels and a container of cream cheese out the fridge. But it might as well have been a decade to him. He didn’t miss any details, nor did he ever miss a chance to admire her natural gifts. The color of her nipples resembled the color of her lips, he considered. He watched her exquisite breasts and thought of the way they fit in his hands and could almost feel them there, under his grip. He watched her glorious thighs in perfect proportion with the rest of her body and the sensual curve that began at the upper end of her legs and ended at the limit of her brief waist which defined the borders of her appetizing backside.

She closed the fridge door. One of the bagels was parted in half and each piece went into a two-slot toaster next to the micro. She set the butter knife down next to the toaster and proceeded to open the cream cheese container.

“There is something I want you to listen to,” he said in the kitchen now. “It’s a short story called Cathedral, by Raymond Carver.”

“Raymond who!?” She exclaimed.

“Raymond Carver,” he reaffirmed, as if the name alone demanded absolute knowledge. “It’s only one the greatest writers of all time,” he mocked her.

“Don’t think I’ve heard of him,” she said. “Is he American?”

“I think so,” he said.

“What’s the title of the story again?”

“Cathedral,” he answered. “It’s an audio book. Read by this other guy,” he said. “All we have to do is listen. It will be easier that way.”

“Sure,” she said, “that’s fine.”

The toaster rung and a spring-loaded mechanism pushed the bagel pieces up. She pulled them out of the gizmo one at a time grabbing them with the tip of her index finger and thumb and set them down face up next to knife on the counter, by the toaster. She then added a substantial amount of cream cheese to each and passed both pieces to him on a paper napkin. The knife went into the sink.

“Do you want any water? I also have tea.” She offered.

“Fine like this,” he said. “Thank you.”

“I also have this green drink I got at the supermarket.”

“I’m fine,” he said, “but thanks.”

“It’s supposed to be good for you.” She insisted.

“Water is fine.” He finally gave in.

He reached for the phone he had set down next to the car keys on this end of the counter when he had first arrived. It was one of those big phones that almost required two hands to handle. The audio book was under his “watched” list, on YouTube.

“Here it is,” he said, “ready?”

She nodded.

“I want you to listen to it,” he said, “especially the end. I want to know what you think.”

“I will,” she said.

“This guy is tricky,” he warned her, “the way he writes. You really have to pay attention.”

“I’ll do my best,” she said.

He pushed down on the enormous screen and after a few seconds of buffering a charismatic voice commenced to speak.

“I like this guy,” he said, “I like the way he reads this stuff. It’s amusing.”

She was fixed on the screen.

The story went on for a few minutes. He was planted on one of the two wooden stools enjoying his bagel and had eaten almost half of it, careful to avoid any unwanted chewing and swallowing noises. There were no other sounds in the room except for the narrator and the occasional bite on the crispy bread. The woman was staring hard at the screen as if the picture of the author shown there would reveal additional details regarding the mystery involving the intent of the story the man had so successfully announced.

He knew the story almost by memory. He had listened to it before going to bed, while brushing his teeth before work, on the scheduled lunch breaks he spent siting in his car, and every now and then when he could afford the luxury of burning through some free time. He knew the sound of the narrator’s voice by heart and even attempted to replicate it while reading some of his own stories aloud in private to make them sound more appealing and intriguing. He knew when the laughs would come up in the audio and the length of the celebratory applauds at the end of the recording too.

Her eyes were still fixed on the screen. She seemed to have been completely hypnotized by the monochromatic picture of the distinguished writer on the phone screen. She was leaning on the counter, supported by her elbows and paying attention to every word with all her might. She didn’t take her seat.

Would you look at that ass, he entertained. Boy would you just look at it. This woman might as well be perfect! I’m either too lucky or she’s just too dumb. This thing is perfect! Perfect I tell you! Next time, I’m gonna bite it. Not hard, but a gentle bite. I wonder if she would mind. I think not. We’ve tried many things before and she’s never minded. She might even like it. I bet she likes it. Perhaps a slap as well. Why not? A gentle slap. That’s it! Slap it! Slap it! Slap that ass! SLAP THAT ASS!

What are you thinking about! She suddenly asked.

“The slap! I mean..the STORY. THE STORY! Just listening, that’s all!” he corrected himself.

“I like this guy,” she said. “I think it’s funny. The way he narrates it, I mean.”

“Told you,” he said, “he does a great job.”

“This other guy, Carter, he is good too,” she said.

“It’s Carver,” he corrected her.

“Oh! Sorry,” she said, “Carver, I meant.”

“Keep listening,” he said, “I really want to know what you think.”

“So far so good!” she said.

He went to work on his bagel again and tried not to let his impulses take him on another session of daydreaming. He took a couple more bites. The story went on. There was a third of his bagel left so he grabbed it with one hand and licked the cream cheese from his left fingers without making any noises.  He took a sip of water and put the bottle back on the counter.

The narrator was talking about the blind man, Robert, who was sharing some dope with the main character, in the story. The man listened to that part and laughed along with the audience in the recording at a line which was part of the wife character’s reaction to the situation that was taking place there, according to the narrative. The woman laughed too.

The story continued and he was thinking now about an accident he had witnessed that afternoon. Someone had left the car running in gear and it rolled down the road until it bumped unto the side wall of a mechanic’s garage at the end of the street. Can someone really be that imbecilic? He thought at first. Then he found it diverting that the car had crashed, ironically, into an auto repair shop. These are crazy times, let me tell you, he thought, anything seems possible nowadays.

He had heard somewhere that morning something about increasing minimum wages. He was thinking about that. What would they do that? He thought. They got us right where they want us. Am I right!?  This way we have to keep buying their low-quality low-cost shit. Let alone buying a book or paying for a decent education. Dumb and broke! Just the way they want us. What a joke!

This would go on indefinitely. One thought after another forcing their way in, in complete chaos, an avalanche of thoughts inside his head in which the presumed notions of time and space were consumed whole. And it rarely ever stopped spilling, including nights. I wonder if this is why I don’t dream anymore, he thought.

He thought about her now-her lips this time. He thought about their shape, color, volume, and taste. And of all the places of his body they had explored. He was gone now, unreachable. His body was present but his mind had traveled to places of absolute liberation and uncontained fervor. An unsettling shiver originated in his stomach and rushed up to his head cuing the signal he was daydreaming again. He checked on her. She was still in a complete trance. God willing I wasn’t talking aloud, he hoped.

From behind the counter a huge cockroach had come out. Only he had noticed it, he realized, because the woman wouldn’t take her eyes off the phone screen for a second. It was a filthy bug, obscene looking, nothing like the ordinary roach, no. This bug was horrendous-a macabre version of the common roach. A repulsive aberration without question, like out of a Stephen King’s story. It was peacefully resting next to the toaster where his bagel had been before almost habitually. He dropped the bagel on the counter.

“You don’t like it?” she asked.

He didn’t answer.

“Something wrong with it?”

He looked at her. “It’s fine,” he said. He didn’t think it would be civilized to let a woman know she had been sustaining a mutant cockroach in her kitchen.

“Good,” she said, “I don’t like to waste food. “

“I won’t,” he protested.

“Ok,” she said. “But go ahead. Eat it. Don’t let it go cold now.”

He faked a smile in the absence of words.

He picked up the bagel again and brought the bottle of water closer. He forced what was left of the bagel in his mouth and without chewing he swallowed it whole with the help of an unnecessary amount of water. He finished the entire bottle.

“Want another one?” she asked.

“This one was more than enough,” he said, “trust me.”

“Glad it was to your liking,” she said chirpily.

She went back to the screen.

What a nerve you have, he thought, you, indecent beast. The roach stood there, undisturbed, its antennae scanning the space for any scent of food lingering in the air. Looking for a bagel, huh? Bet you are! Is blueberry ok? Would you like some cream cheese with it? Don’t mind if I do! He thought sarcastically. The defying bug stood motionless. I swear I would crush you right now if it weren’t for her. It will be easy too, like popping a balloon. That’s right! Pop! That’s what dead roaches sound like. Bet you didn’t know that, did you? You’ll make a good pop too! In fact, you’ll probably explode like a firecracker, you fat, hideous monster. Taking advantage of this good woman, aren’t you? Well, that’s gonna end soon. Be sure of that! Because now I know you are here. Even if I don’t see you again. Even if you hide so well that I can’t find you again. Even then! No matter! At least I have a last consolation price. Because you’ll end up like all other reaches: up-side down. That’s right! An upside-down roach. Hear that! Up-side down roach. That’s you! UP-SIDE DOWN ROACH! UP-SIDE DOWN ROACH! UP-SIDE DOWN ROACH!

Clapping began now and soon after, the story was over. She pulled away from the counter. Her reflection didn’t reveal much about her experience with the story.

“So, what do you think?” He asked.

“I’m not sure,” she said, “for some reason I can’t stop thinking about an upside-down roach.”

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