Douglas W. Milliken
Yeah, sure, I could start off saying something real weighted and purposefully misleading, like winter was the easy hunting, but man, fuck that, Ro and I were just bored. I mean, stacking wood in the cellar could only hold so much appeal, right? As long as our dickhead stepdad wasn’t around, we pretty much could do whatever we pleased. So what we’d do is, my brother and I’d creep out of the cellar and walk guileless as a senator to any afternoon-bright kitchen window and pluck a fat housefly doped-up on January from the glass, deposit the buzzing cretin in a plastic sandwich baggie and fold it into the freezer. Because obviously that’s where one keeps a filthy bug. Just pork chunks and ice cubes and a baggie full of fly. While we were waiting, Ro and I’d sneak up to our weird plaid couch the color of old meat in the den and extract a single straightened hair from the crown of our post-work-napping mother’s head, and in some ways, that was the best part: giving Mom a sharp zing while she was so sweetly helpless and asleep. But mostly it was how we’d be trying our best not to laugh that made it so damn funny, you know, snorting and choking our giggles behind our palms. She’d wince but never wake up. Like a couple Pink Panthers we’d tiptoe backwards from the den and by then, our fly’d be frozen. Filthy black Rice Krispie with legs. We’d shake it out from its plastic baggie onto the kitchen table, then noose the stolen hair around its tiny neck, careful not to cinch too tightly lest we pop off its puny bug head. I mean, it didn’t need its head. It just looked weird without one. After that, we’d usually have to wait a bit more—just two patient boys with the scent of cellar and wood in our hair—while above and behind us, Mom’s favorite poster of John Cougar Mellencamp made his mouth real hard-looking in silvery black and white and tiredly looked away, embodying too perfectly the silent disappointment of working men everywhere. The Lonesome Jubilee. Not even really that bad of a record, to be honest. But what I think Mum liked best was how the man looked in a white T. Anyway. In a minute, the fly’d thaw out—sometimes with the assistance of some hot, basking breaths—and in another minute, it’d fly, droning in pissed-off orbits at the end of a seven-inch tether of hair. Usually with its head still on. But not always. With Mom snoring loudly and our stepdad who-gives-a-shit-where, Ro and I would watch the fly turn and turn, we each taking turns holding its hair, and neither one of us’d say a word.
Douglas W. Milliken is the author of the novel To Sleep as Animals and several chapbooks, most recently One Thousand Owls Behind Your Chest. His stories have been honored by the Maine Literary Awards, the Pushcart Prize, and Glimmer Train, as well as published in dozens of journals, including Slice, the Collagist, and the Believer, among others.