Copyright 2009 by Wrulf Gunkl VonGlashaus-Steinberger
in honor of Anton Chekov
... it came with a certainty, it seemed, and that
strangest of times remains indelible in my memory: a half-sunny day
molting season when thousands of mother-flies lay their eggs and die.
I sat on the bed, that spring afternoon, when one of
them landed in front of me and slid nearly fifteen feet across the
of the studio apartment. It flipped on its back, and buzzing, spun around for several seconds and died. Just like that, as they all
did. Across from me on the other side of its inert form, an open suitcase lay on the plaid-covered couch. An auburn-haired girl sat
beside the suitcase, watching me with eyes asking the questions in her pained voice.
"Shall I leave, is that what you want?" – she, Connie, was my girl, or least she had been for the last five months.
"No," I said.
"Shall I stay?"
"I don't know."
"You don't know?
"No," – our relationship had become
assumption by now, and oddly, this only our sixth real falling-out in
five months, apparently
hopeless, senseless. I felt trapped, mocked by memories from the past which burned distantly in the russet reflected from Connie's hair in the late-afternoon sun.
Another fly began its dance of death… Connie
paused in her packing: "Well, like, do you still love me?"
– the insect's silence
punctuated the plea in her voice.
"Yes, of course I love you," I replied.
Her eyes remained unwavering: "What's our problem, then?"
As she spoke, I admired her, admired her citadel
which seemed to hold her in contempt of looking for broken
fingernails at such
moments. For in her tall, young loveliness, she was neither ice nor all fire.
"I don't know what's wrong," I said.
Connie raised her eyebrows. "You don't know?" she prodded me. "Just what do you know, like, your own name?"
I shrugged: "Of course I do."
"Uh-huh, and what year is it?" she nudged.
"Okay-y, and what's the date, today?" she continued prodding.
With rising frustration I countered, "April the fourth, dammit!"
"Uh-huh!" she triumphed, "So you do know something after all!" – a strangely seductive taunting had crept into her voice now: "So what's our problem, then?"
"I don't know!"
"You don't… !"
"Actually, it feels like it's someone I don't know, a missed connection."
"A missed connection? What the hell are you talking about? Have you been seeng someone else behind my back? – maybe, like, Melissa? – you kind of like her, don't you?"
"Yes-s," I admitted.
"... or maybe it's Wendy. You think she's kind
of nice, too, don't you?" – and Connie stretched her leg
forward with ominous
determination, smothering a fly with her shoe: "Is that who it is?"
"No! I – I didn't mean!..."
"... or maybe it's Joan, or LaTasha!" she interrupted me, "or Marybeth or…"
A knock on the door interrupted her.
Connie stopped short of crushing another fly before looking toward the door: "Who the fuck is it?"
Her citadel had begun crumbling now. She'd also quit packing. "Oh, hell, come in!" she called out, "The door's open!"
After a moment of prurient hesitation, our neighbor
Randy opened the door and thrust his lanky nose inside. He was the
young painter from down the hall of our apartment building.
"Yo, Tinkerbell and your better half!" he
chimed, "I need help but not from you, her," - and he
directed a bony finger at Connie as he
insinuated himself into the room without closing the door behind him.
"Yes?" I ventured.
"Oh, no big deal, it's just that I have this
important painting I have to finish before the end of the week, and I
need a model. How
about it, Connie? By the way," he continued, looking condescendingly at me, "I promise she can keep her clothes on." He fixed oddly
impervious eyes upon her again: "Will you do it, girl?"
Somewhere I felt lost seconds ticking over the edge
of lost time; the tilt of Connie's head, meanwhile, was articulate:
guess – like – sure, I'll do it while he decides what he knows!" and she pointed a long finger at me. Already, a sense of increased value
had begun to inform her attitude as she rose to her feet.
"Now, just a... !" I spluttered, suddenly
smitten with a realization that something like this moment had always
us through all the moments we'd occupied each other's lives since Connie had asked me that college calculus question before class five
months earlier. I felt her unawareness – of me, as she walked resolutely toward the door. My hand, raised in protest, fell to my side.
"Jeez, that was easy!" Randy chirped, "Obviously a woman who knows her own mind!"
The door slammed behind them, upon my mind - and I...
I sat there on the bed, trying not to think how it wouldn't do any
think. Soon, the body of a deceased fly began teasing my vision out of the corner of one eye, and another out of the corner of the other.
There were many insects, many dead bodies. For a brief, terrifying moment, I felt tempted to count them all. Instead, I decided to
concentrate upon what I'd been doing. I continued sitting, thinking how it really wouldn't do any good to think.
After a while, I began feeling the weight of an
uneasy oppression. I stood. I went into the bathroom and looked
in the mirror. For the
first time I realized that I'd never known, never understood the person I saw in it's reflection. As though drugged by a deadening
poison, I stood there. As I did so, I heard Connie's shriek, perhaps of pleasure – sensual, recognizable, yet unfamiliar – down the hall.
I bristled and felt the rise of a decision to ignore the sound. Instead, I decided to concentrate upon what I was doing. Transfixed
with a numbness, that I might never understand, never know, I continued looking at myself in the mirror… looking and looking…
The apartment door opened. Connie came in and I
followed her into the living room. I almost reached for my suitcase –
at the foot of
Connie didn't seem to notice.
"Do you know any more than you did?" she cheerfully asked.
"No-o, actually, yes."
"... good!" she interrupted me even more cheerfully. Tossing her head defiantly, she took her pink blouse from the suitcase. Turning briskly toward the shallow wall-closet, she hung it with a certain wild abandon. She hung her woolen sweater and gray pantsuit. Next, she placed two pairs of shoes on the closet floor, and with that same abandon, hung her blue dress. And her tight, faded jeans, and finally, her red dress.
That was all.
Oh, there was a fourth pair of shoes, her gray, suede
pumps, which she laid on the closet floor. Then Connie abruptly
Listening to her silence, I rose to my feet: "I just don't know," I softly said.
As I began walking toward the door, the whisper of my self-dialogue, the sound of my footsteps, seemed overwhelmed.
"Dammit!" Connie sobbed through her tears, "Gaw-wd dammit!"
I felt her words through me like a shot. Engulfed by
the sounds of death around me, I stopped while reaching for the
doorknob – while a
fly slid across the floor, flipped on its back, spun around for several seconds, and died. Just like that - and then another one… and
another… and another…
I, in mine, and she in hers, we occupied our places. Connie softly cried...
I'm 58 and live in Pueblo, Colorado. I've been
writing short fiction and poetry since I was a kid. Several of my
works have been published in anthologies and journals.
Contact Wrulf Gunkl VonGlashaus-Steinberger
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