I prepared a handsome spread that morning: pancakes, coffee, tea, fruit, a parfait or two, and a sampling of cured breakfast meats; fancy term for sausage. It was my day to cook, but more so, an opportunity to engage my new housemate, maybe understand all of this a bit more.
“Can you not burn the toast this time? That would be great,” Ghoul sneered.
Toast was not on the menu and he knew that but Ghoul had to remind me of my follies with passive-aggressive jabs. I executed the norm: Changed the subject, ignored for the moment.
“You have to try these out.”
Ghoul shook his head with disgusted reluctance as I held a platter of cooked delights inches from his rotting nose. Something dislodged from Ghoul’s brow and rolled down his nose, doubling in size and ferocity. I eyeballed the mass folding over his cheek. My body froze, stuck in a prison built on icy revulsion; arms trapped between the mind’s cold metal bars, thumbs pressed white on the rim of the platter.
“Gives me heartburn. Remember?”
The rotted flesh-ball hit the platter with a slap. Whatever it was began to move with a faint pulse. Then, it jolted with life, and devoured the sausages, platter and all within seconds. Last I saw of that blubbery abomination was outback, snoring in the shade.
“I do remember, sorry. But… you’re… well you know, you’re—
“Undead? No joke man. Still doesn’t change the fact that I have GERD.”
I have been down that road before, you know, questioning his existence. There was an incident of simple misunderstandings, not too long ago, which led to a disastrous altercation of heated words. Our points were valid but Ghoul made sure that I understood where he was coming from.
“Well what do you want to drink?”
“I’ll take a V-8.”
“I didn’t get any.”
“Didn’t I put it on the list?”
I couldn’t recall. Caring for Ghoul–more so his identity than anything else–drained my mental guidance to the point of exhaustion.
“You probably did. Let’s just say that I forgot it.”
Ghoul sighed, then tapped his exposed digits off the table with an annoyed rhythm. The tension was taught as tightropes. A sensation of genuine annoyance built at the back of my mind. It was warm, almost acidic. Then a pressured brushed the inside of my skull with stiff bristles. I wanted to give up and move on from breakfast, maybe keep clear of Ghoul the rest of the day so I don’t yell. Or cry, whatever came first. Best to leave on a good note, I thought. Don’t want him to think somethings wrong. Then he would be up my ass all day. How could I sit down? Eh, still don’t get the phrase.
“I’m sorry. I must’ve spaced it, it’s not easy–
“No excuses, just tea. Can you at least do that?”
I muttered, “Sure, it’s the least I can do,” and put the kettle on. I stared at the kettle, not sure if I was waiting for a whistle or the exposed patches of rust between chipped-silver finish. All I knew was that I couldn’t look at him right now. Could he even feel pain? Wisps of steam trailed out of the spout and I pictured scalding water being dumped on Ghoul’s head. All I have to do is dump and run, watch from the living room. I placed two cubes in his cup and stirred them until they dissolved, then added the teabag. It was a black tea, something from the south. They have swamps in the south, I thought. Gators, too. There would be nothing left of him.
“Saucer,” said Ghoul. “Or is that too much to ask for?”
My knuckles turned white and I felt the ceramic snap on the cups handle.
“They’re in the dishwasher.”
“Yesterday was your day to unload the dishes. So why –
“Just take the tea, man.”
I plopped the cup down. Hot tea splashed over the rim and onto Ghoul’s hand.
“Jesus you burned me, man. Be careful.”
“You do feel pain,” I whispered, only loud enough for myself to hear.
Ghoul scoffed, and wiped the residual mess of tea with the sleeve of his shirt off the table. Then he sipped gingerly.
“How is your tea?”
“A little too sweet this time.”
“Do you want me to remake it? Because I won’t. You can make your own tea next time, and while you’re at it, maybe show some gratitude for all that I do.”
Ghoul sighed and the words “thank you,” hobbled between his lips.
“But what I want is some of that flesh.”
The movement was spontaneous, dangerous. Ghoul’s hand gripped the hilt of an exquisitely crafted Chef’s knife. He stood, turning, brandishing the slick edge with threatening intent. I was trapped. Ghoul shuffled with a lazy scratch across the shoddy laminate. The tip of the knife inches from my belly. The breath caught in my throat as Ghoul lunged forward with his blade.
“Let me just put this down,” the knife smacked the stove with a metallic thwat. “I don’t even know why I have this. Kinda unnecessary, right?”
“Just be careful with that; someone could’ve got hurt.”
I shimmied around Ghoul and our breakfast bar with an eye slanted to my rear. Ghoul pivoted to the fridge, opened that and the crisper, then pulled out dated Tupperware. The plastic container was pushed across the bar, stopping right before the edge. I picked it up.
“Wow, giving me a second chance to get your food right?”
“Don’t screw this up, man.”
The lid peeled back, releasing wafts of teriyaki and decay. Gelatinous slabs of marinated flesh jiggled inside.
“How do you want this? Pan seared with some onions?”
“You know, Sam, you’re not that bad of a guy.”
© Copyright John Potts Jr 2016 – 2017. All rights reserved.