Monday, September 26, 2011

155/365 -- Playlist Story -- inspired by "Osmose" by Etienne Charry

Robert, a man of six feet three inches, stood in front of his living room window, dressed in blue sweatpants and a matching sweatshirt that were a size too big for him, which is the way he liked his clothes. He wore one loose sock, and the other foot was bare. He emitted a high-pitched humming noise and rocked gently back and forth as he tapped his forehead with his fists. The other side of the window was covered with the dead little bodies of thousands of blue butterflies.

The room was dark, even though it was midday.

"Mom!" shouted Robert. He stopped rocking in order to listen better. The house was silent except for the constant pitter of little impacts on the window. "Mom!" he repeated. He turned around and shuffled to the doorway that led to the kitchen. He gazed tearfully around that room. It was at it always was, clean but a little cluttered, accented with a slight aroma of cinnamon, with the kitchen tap dripping slightly. "Mom," he whispered. He turned slowly back to look at the darkening window. He leaned against the doorframe, clutching it so that his fingernails etched the paint, digging into the drywall, and he started to sob violently.

"What did she say?" he asked himself suddenly. He straightened his posture and rubbed his eyes. "What did she say? Mom said 'stay in the house Robert. Stay in the house.' 'Where are you going?' 'I'm going outside to see what's wrong,' that's what mom said. That's what she said. She said to stay inside and not go out because she was going out to fix the butterflies. No, she didn't say fix. You said, 'Will you fix the butterflies? Why are they dying?' and mom said nothing. Mom went out the door and closed it behind her. And I can't follow her because I don't have a key so I can't get back in if I go out, so I have to stay inside. Mom said to stay inside, and I want her to fix the butterflies."

Robert breathed heavily and shuffled back to the window. He put his hand on the glass and tapped his fingers.

"Fly away butterflies, I'm fixing you now. I'm fixing you. Fly away."

Robert tapped for a minute, then slowly dropped his hand to his side.

"Mom said not to go outside."

Robert looked at the front door.

"Mom said not to go outside."

He looked at the door, then the doorknob, then the deadlock, then the potted plant next to the door.

"Mom said not to go outside. Mom didn't say she would fix the butterflies. Mom closed the door and didn't come back."

Robert put his index finger in his mouth and started rocking again. He sucked on his finger and closed his eyes and started to cry again.

"Where's mom?" he sobbed. "Where's mom?"

With his other arm he pulled his finger out of his mouth.

"Mom, is outside," he said with confidence. He shuffled to the front door and carefully grasped the doorknob. He turned it with a lurch and the door popped open a crack. The blue creatures swarmed in and Robert batted them away from his face. He pulled the door open farther and dragged the potted plant over to prop open the door. He looked out, and on the stoop laid his mother, covered in the creatures, their three wings slowly beating.

"Mom!" screamed Robert in a high pitch. He hugged his chest waiting for a response, but she didn't move.

The creatures started landing on him, biting.

"Ow! Stop that, butterflies! Stop that! It itches!" Robert smacked them where they landed, pulling away a stinging blue goo. He looked at his hands and started hyperventilating. "I'm sorry! I'm sorry! I don't mean to kill you! Stop touching me!"

Robert started to pull the door shut again but stopped when he saw his mother's body. He let go of the door and kneeled down beside her covered face. He brushed the creatures away from her face and saw her familiar features.

"You don't touch my mom!" he screamed.

He took her left arm and scraped off the creatures, then pulled her limp body over the doorframe and into the living room, then ran back, pulled away the potted plant, and slammed the door shut. He ran back to his mother, and started scraping her whole body free of the creatures. Other creatures still flying around the house descended on the bare skin that he exposed.

"Stop that! I'm angry now. Why won't you behave? Why aren't you being nice? I'm killing you and I'm not sorry."

Robert worked steadily to clear his mother's body completely, and after a half hour there were no more creatures alive in the house. Robert sat back and watched his mother's face.

"Mom!" he yelled. He watched her. "Wake up!" he commanded.

She did not move. He got up and walked to the kitchen, and pulled a roll of paper towel free of it's dispenser. He returned to his mother and sopped up as much of the blue goop as he could, then piled the used paper into the fireplace.

"That's not where that goes. Bad Robert. Don't burn things. Mom would be mad. I'm not going to burn it."

He pulled the paper from the fireplace and stuffed it behind the sofa, then went into the kitchen to wash his hands. He used three pumps of soap as he usually did, and held his hands under the water for two minutes, timing himself by the clock on the microwave, as he usually did. He turned off the tap and stared at the remaining water swirling down the drain.

He shuffled back to the living room and held his index in his finger, sucking. Suddenly he ran to the bathroom and looked intently at the bathtub.

"No Robert, no hot water. Don't turn on the hot water."

He reached down and turned on the cold water tap. He watched the water swirl out for several seconds before putting the plug in. Then he watched the water fill the entire bathtub to the rim. He turned off the water. Robert shuffled back to the living room, bent down, and picked up his mother under the armpits. He dragged her into the bathroom and pulled her into the bath, displacing water all over the floor. She was half in, face first, when he started screaming.

"Bad Robert! Bad! You've got water all over the floor! You're going slip and kill yourself and mold is going to grow everywhere! Bad Robert!"

His mother started twitching. She exhaled large bubbles into the tub, and slid the rest of the way in.

"Mom!" screamed Robert. He rapidly tapped his fists against his head. "Mom! I'm sorry about the water! I don't know where it came from. Mom? Mom?"

He reached in and pulled her head up by the hair, twisting her around so he could see her face. She gasped and coughed up water.

"Hold me up!" she slurred.

"Okay mom," he said. "I'm sorry about the water on the floor."

She smiled weakly.

"It's okay, baby," she said, beginning to shiver violently.

"What's wrong, mom?"

"I'm cold," she said, "but leave me in the water. It's helping. I can't feel my body very well. I'm all pins and needles."


"You saved me. You saved my life. My baby boy. My lovely baby boy."

"You were outside and you didn't come back in."

"I know. And you went out there and got me. And they couldn't hurt you. Do you know why?"

"Because I'm special?"

"Because you're special. Because you're mine and I love you and you're special."

Robert blushed and looked at the sodden floor.


"Yes, baby?"

"Are you going to be okay?"

She looked up at the darkened bathroom window, then to Robert.

"I think so. For now."

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