Day of the Maggots
From the Novel
Do You Have a Marriageable Mother?
“Fated or Mated” – November First 2017
“Break-In to a Heart Break” – December First 2017
“Death By Fork” – December Fifteenth 2017
“Shut Out” – January First 2018
“Crisis Counseling” – February First 2018
“Chocolate Killer” – March First 2018
“Day of the Maggots” – March Fifteenth 2018
Coming Soon: “Suburban Fortress” – April First 2018
Coming Soon: “On-Spec Lingerie” – May First 2018
Bebe shivered in his den’s entrance, his brain buzzing. DEE-FENSE. Don’t stop moving, don’t quit, don’t die, and don’t let my teammates down. Make the missing foot stop tingling.
Bebe was a widower, aged fifty. Not doing well on the ‘getting better’ part of the prognosis. He should know how. He’d had practice—this was his second time around. He’d lost his first wife twenty years ago, and he’d hoped the pain would be tolerable this time.
Don’t look at the trophies. They’re staring at me—deer, elk, a bear, and add a marlin and a caribou. Especially the caribou. Bebe’d flown to an Aleutian island with his buddies and lots of beer. They’d cornered the small caribou herd against the rocks and the Bering Sea. The hunters executed the hunted as a team. He’d been too drunk to know if he’d killed a caribou, but he got the head for a trophy. God knew he needed another trophy.
Don’t look. Don’t get sick. They’re unforgiving. My head should join the trophy row.
Last night he’d tried suicide. Drunk, desolate, and driving through heavy rain, he’d attempted to crash his pickup into a concrete wall at his buddy Ryan’s chemical factory. He had help. The spirits of Holly and Louise, his living sisters-in-law had goaded him into ending his misery and bring joy to their lives. He’d failed all of them. Storm-driven water had collected in the dock’s basin. He’d hit the water—a couple inches that escalated to four feet—at seventy and it slowed him as softly as a foam mattress.
Truck trailers boxed him in to where he couldn’t open the pickup doors. He lowered the windows and water gushed in. He was trapped. The truck’s horn didn’t work under water. No help came. A dead raccoon floated through. So did a stream of used motor oil and a few dozen cigarette butts. He spent the night in his truck in cold water to his chin. Ghosts psychically pummeled him. Old one-night-stands besieged him with guilt. Long-gone teammates with their wives and girlfriends offered wild parties. Valerie’s weaselly sisters belabored his sins.
The sisters were among the living. They had no right to haunt him. The other beings haunting him might have rights, but he didn’t have a spook database to tell him yes, no, or hell-no.
Don’t look ghosts in the eyes—like snakes, they’ll strike.
Ryan rescued Bebe at daybreak. Ryan warmed him, fed him, and sent him home in his wet truck. Now he stood paralyzed in his den.
My head. How do I turn the stampede? Do I run the demons off a cliff? Can I feed them to a dragon?
He picked up a pen.
Stop moaning. It’s daylight. I’m safe. They only harass at night. Or when I’m drunk. So far.
He found a writing pad. What the hell? I tried to die last night and today I think a plan will help? A plan for what? Right. What do I plan after ‘get out of bed’? Except last night I didn’t see a bed.
Make a to-do list.
He wrote ‘to-do’.
Empty the brain. Kill the memories. Sure, sure, I will. That’s what booze is for. But I can’t do booze—the shadows come.
He threw the pad on the floor and jumped on it. He hurt his feet. And his back. And jolted his brain.
Put my problems on paper.
He rubbed his forehead with the pad.
All my problems on paper? What if somebody else sees them? I’m seeing living ghosts, fer gawd’s sake. LIVING!
Get busy. Empty the brain.
He tore off the top sheet and rewrote ‘to-do’ on the next.
I’m going in circles. Above all, DON’T THINK. Not-thinking should be easy—I live my life thoughtlessly. Consequences be damned.
Ideas surfaced, and he scribbled. Put a plan on paper but don’t deal with real issues. Instead of a five-year plan, how about five-hours? That will get me to sundown and another bottle.
That’s not a to-do—that’s a null action. Stop means I shouldn’t have drinking on the list.
Call the truck detailer.
Can I clean the mess myself? Maybe. But I parked it under water last night. What about the dead raccoon on the seat? Could I have the head mounted? Why not? Marcy isn’t here to say no. Neither’s Valerie. Is Valerie’s wicked twin sisters’ negativity the reason why I put up with them? Does their hostility ground me?
Install a sauna at the office. Like Ryan’s.
I could sweat concessions out of vendors. And boil away demons. And if I sat naked, no one would bother me. What’s wrong with me? NOTHING! A naked afternoon is something I just found out I needed.
Maybe I’m not paying attention. I already listed my new no-drinking policy. Booze won’t bring her back. Or maybe it will. Ryan’s wife’s ghost talks to him whether he’s drunk or sober. Have I tried hard enough? Booze dulls pain. It kills expectations. No one expects anything from a drunk. But they should. Booze brings ghosts. Spooks. Or does it?
Call Ryan for a dinner date.
Ryan might offer me Michelle’s diet plan. He has caring family. But Ryan resents help. He sees Janet’s ghost. Ryan and I are pain-mates.
What to do first? Obvious—do what requires no thought. Take a shower and wash away the hangover. Shave and massage lotion into the stump. Muck out the refrigerator and take out the garbage. Test the blood sugar. Take the blood pressure. Plan to be alive in five hours. A planned afternoon of indolence might be followed by a night of peace.
Plan my time. Overplan. Don’t plan for thinking-time.
Bebe started toward his kitchen an hour later wrapped in a beach towel. The shower had relaxed his shoulders and killed the pain in his missing toes. A hot bowl of soup might satisfy other cravings. He’d eat lunch in his towel—should he clean the refrigerator the same way? Why get dressed? Why breathe? He was above ground when he had planned to join Valerie. Was last night on MY plan or the twins’?
To hell with everything. Move before the shadows find me.
He stopped in the kitchen entry, panicked. A creature had invaded his galley. White, with brown specs, the beast covered the entire floor and a few inches up the cabinetry. Bebe thought the covering to be a living entity because it was moving—not in one concerted motion or direction, but in hundreds—thousands? —of little circles. The pieces looked like rice.
What would cause such a thing? How did they get the rice to move?
Move? Rice shouldn’t move.
Bebe put his face to the floor and watched the animals crawl across the tile. He smelled foulness. Countless forms covered the kitchen and were invading the hall. He retreated to his den, found his magnifying glass, and hobbled back to examine the march of doom.
What am I looking for? Why am I trying? I can’t solve this. I played football. Now I sell beer. When I’m not trying to kill myself. I need a biologist. Or a psychiatrist. Or a night’s sleep.
From his hands and knees, Bebe identified a legion of white, mobile worms. Maggots? They covered the floor and had started up the cabinetry. Should he kill them and suck up their bodies with a vacuum? Should he smear bacon fat up the hall and out the back door and pray they liked grease? He should get off his duff and do his own form of catch and release.
Maggots, you are early. Wait until I’m dead. Stop the Great Wheel a moment! Were maggots really a problem after you die? He’d ask Ryan to ask his wife’s ghost, Janet.
He intended to scrape a path to the storage under the sink and remove the garbage can most likely hosting the infestation’s mother. A trip to the laundry room rewarded him with a wide dustpan, and he bent and scraped. The maggots struck back. The gases close to the floor fogged his hangover-affected brain, and he fell face-forward in a semi-stupor, neither asleep nor awake.
So, this is hell. I’ve arrived eaten alive by maggots.
“One can only hope.” Holly, speaking from above and behind him.
“We wanted you to die last night, Bebe. Are you too dumb to follow simple directions?” Holly’s sister Louise badgered him the same as always.
God-damn-it, I can beat them. I will beat them.
One eye open, Bebe watched the minute hand on the wall clock make a complete circuit. His body became one monster itch. Feathery touches flowed over his back and down his butt cheeks. They tickled his anus and scrotum, those places here-to-fore sacred from intrusion. He gathered strength as he recovered his senses. The itch might be saving him.
“Don’t get yer hopes up, Bebe. You’re worthless. Give up. Get a new bottle and chug, CHUG!” One of the twins—he couldn’t see which.
He sat up, and maggots dripped off him as if he was a horror film’s disintegrating body. Well, wasn’t he really a body breaking apart in slow motion?
Don’t go down that trail.
He refused to deal with the critters until he reached the sink. He walked on them in his bare feet. Neuropathy limited what he felt. The squished maggots made a slippery floor. So what? Let them crawl. Eat their hearts out. He’d find a way to beat them along with the sisters. Were they in cahoots? No matter. What did he need for the maggots—a flame thrower? Poison gas? An anteater? Feed them an iron supplement and pull them up with a super magnet?
Should he torch the house and move? No! Brute force! Brute force! Always works.
He opened the door under the sink and discovered a writhing mass, inches deep. The smell could rot iron. Bebe stared into the waste can, now confirmed as the invasion’s center.
Okay, stay simple: grab the can by the ears and drive for the yard—there’s no interference. Dump the little can in the big can and don’t think about being cannibalized.
A fog streamed through his head in a long sinuous line, bringing dizziness and memories of drunken fits from decades past. A ghost that resembled Valerie but wasn’t followed and cauterized the pain. He reached for her and his arms closed on nothing but white smoke. Waffling between extremes, Bebe stood and hugged the trashcan along with fistfuls of crawlies. Something tickled his knees. Get moving. The enemy had captured his knees and was marching toward his nuts. Forget about your gonads—you don’t need them—she died.
Yes, she died. She DIED. Admit it and go on.
The phone rang. He stared at the orange device on the wall. Now what? He was busy. Habit demanded he answer the damn thing. He put the can down. The phone rang again, commanding.
Always something. Always interfering. Don’t try for brilliance—tell the caller I can’t talk.
He stood over the trash and the grub civilization and inhaled its intoxicants. He reached for the receiver with a hand covered with white worms. They’ve got me. Why bother?
“We’ve gotcha if ya don’t answer the phone.” Louise was dressed like a fifty-year-old cheerleader with wrinkled throat, knees, and hands.
“Mr. Whatcom? My name is Stewart Baker. I’m an attorney.”
The crawlies have my jewels. Screw the world. Get rid of this jerk.
Bebe brushed maggots off his face. “So?”
“I represent your late wife’s sisters. They have retained my services to recover the dishes you stole.”
“Stolen dishes, my missing foot. I inherited them from my wife.”
Brilliant! That oughta plug their problem.
“Your sisters-in-law disagree.”
“Tell them to take a hike. Ya hear me? Away from me!”
Wahoo! War, at last!
Bebe slammed down the phone and charged out of the house with the trash. Maggots roamed from his head to his butt to his foot. He lost his towel to a bush. Cold rain added to the ambiance of a crippled, naked man covered with white worms staggering through waist-high grass. He left a trail of soft worms—easily identified by the birds harvesting them. Bebe found the big trash can and slammed the small one inside.
Birds attacked the trash before he could replace the lid. The first pecks at his leg hurt to beat hell. Blood ran. So did Bebe, backtracking to the front of the house. This is real, and I can deal with reality, can’t I?
“Are you sure? A test is on the way.” Louise, hidden in the grass.
“Now what?” Would he never be rid of them?
Holly formed out of smoke, semi-visible, semi-transparent, and totally malevolent in her version of Louise’s cheerleader costume—incorporating white leather and brass studs. “We haven’t given up, Bebe. We will never give up. You’re always only one drink away from eternity.”
Wrinkles, Gawd, is that woman wrinkled. This must be ‘Spiritual Louise.’ The one I know uses face cream.
He opened the yard hose faucet. Birds formed a cyclone around him and dive-bombed white grubs as he followed the garden hose through the grass. Finally, he heard running water. He had to scrub off the vermin, and anyone who watched could post him on Facebook. He didn’t care.
Twelve hours ago, I was drunk and near death. Demanding death. What changed?
He showered in his driveway with cold water. The grubs sloughed off in sheets and floated in a stream down the asphalt strip to the street. Holding the hose over his head, he closed his eyes and brushed his hair, face, ears, and neck. Satisfied he could safely open his eyes, he did, and discovered Holly and Louise parked in front of him in their Cadillac. Holly sat behind the wheel.
The flesh and blood women posed dressed in black in the front. Bebe guessed the black attire honored their sainted late sister—to whom they barely spoke when she was alive. Was their distance a result of Valerie’s new prosperity?
He’d think about the why later—he had another problem. No longer cheerleaders, the women’s spiritual counterparts sat in the back seat looking as prim as their mother in church. ‘Spiritual Holly’ gave him the finger.
I see what changed. These money-grubbers have hired a lawyer. Yippee! War!
‘Real Louise’ lowered her window and eyeballed his crotch.
This is like football. The best way to deal with them is to charge their quarterback—a frontal assault on their dignity.
Bebe swaggered two steps to greet them, taking his time, scrubbing his shoulders. White crawlies drifted down the driveway like rudderless boats to the ocean. Birds continued feeding.
What’s wrong, Louise? Do I own your first cold dinky covered with self-propelled white rice? Give me a quarter and you can coax them off. Your sister can watch for free.
“Ladies, thank you for stopping by. May I invite you for tea? I’d be honored to serve with your mother’s china.”
‘Spiritual Holly’ pounded the skull of ‘Real Holly.’ Her hand passed through ‘Real Holly’s’ head unnoticed. “Grow a spine, jellyfish. Drive over him.”
‘Spiritual Louise’ poked ‘Spiritual Holly’, who flinched. ‘Spiritual Louise’ replied with counter-orders. “Don’t kill him, you stupid cow. His bastards will inherit our dishes.”
‘Real Louise’ closed the window, and ‘Real Holly’ burned rubber in reverse to the street. Their paranormal versions sat in the back, bound and gagged by their living egos, and frozen in their hatred for Bebe and each other.
Naked and shivering, Bebe strutted in triumph to his house to reclaim his kitchen from the grubs. All the way he reveled.
Gawd, what a great day.