Chapter 45

Dustin nodded. He welcomed the chance to leave the hallway and get another sandwich. He’d allowed too much of a confession in the strange twisting conversation that he’d just had with the artist. Suddenly he felt like his amputated past had reattached itself to his body, festering and gangrenous.

"Don’t trust Sylvia." James said hunching his back as he pronounced her name. "She lies all the time."

Dustin turned and walked down the stairs in search of Sylvia. The house was almost completely dark now but still he was able to find the woman almost by sound alone. She was in the kitchen preparing food.

As he approached the open doorway to the room he could see her frantically tossing fruits from the refrigerator into a large wooden bowl. Occasionally she’d stop to inspect one under the beam a flashlight that she had lying on the floor. Seeing a bruise or any trace of decolorization she’d quickly throw the offending produce into a large trash bag nearby.

"I supposed to get a sandwich." He said, standing just outside.

Sylvia looked up, startled. "It thought you were upstairs." She said rising to her feet and pushing her hair back. "How’s John? Did you tell him that were weren’t having an affair? I hate this. I hate throwing out all this food. It seems so wasteful. I wish he believed me. Our daughter never calls anymore."

Dustin shrugged. "I told him." He said with resignation. "I’m not sure that anyone heard me when I said that it was my phone."

The old woman moved to the tiled countertop and grabbed a knife. Quickly she began cutting up a head of lettuce that was sitting nearby. "Oh they wouldn’t." She said with a bitter laugh. "They never listen once they’ve made up their minds. I’ve never slept around in my entire life. I wouldn’t know how. That woman up there who’s married to the artist though…"

Dustin watched as she pointed up at the ceiling using the tip of the knife.

"…she’s the one who sleeps around!" Shaking her head she turned back to the lettuce. "I wouldn’t call her a whore though. That’s too mean. She’s confused and she’s young. She comes out here all the time to check on that aquarium of theirs, sleeps with all the construction workers. Everyone just pretends that it doesn’t happen because she brow beats them all about Jesus all the time. She knows what’s moral. Her mom’s a preacher."

Dustin cocked his head. "Are you saying that Alexis is still having affairs?"

Sylvia shook her head. "No way buddy." She said giving the lettuce one final whack before raking it onto a huge loaf of bread. "You didn’t hear that from me. She’s a saint in their eyes. It doesn’t even matter that the child she’s having doesn’t actually belong to her husband. He’s living in denial. I don’t like his art work. It’s cold and steel and all judgmental and stuff. I hate crap like that. It beats you over the head with its heavy handedness and crazy symbolism. He should wake up and smell the roses. He doesn’t seem like such a bad guy. Maybe he’s one of those people who can’t physically have sex so he lets his wife do whatever she pleases. Lots of artist are like that."

Dustin watched as she rapidly started throwing the contents of a sandwich onto the bread. There were tomatoes pulled from baggies, olives from jars, and meat from Tupperware containers. "What makes you think that it’s not his child?" He asked.

"She’s building an aquarium." The woman answered with a careless gesture. "I can’t even get John to buy me a new mixer for my breads but her? She’s getting an aquarium built for her. Everyone around here runs around talking about how it’s for Jesus but the truth is that it’s for sex. I know. Girls don’t get aquariums built for them unless they’re using their open legs as a weapon. I hate the term vagina. It sounds so clinical. Women can do a lot with their brains. They can get aquariums built easier though if they’re willing to sleep around."

"What?" Dustin asked.

"You know what fish do?" She said picking up the knife and jabbing it in his direction. "The woman fish lays eggs all over the damned place and then a bunch of male fish gather around and ejaculate all over it. It’s like some kind of immaculate conception. There’s no penetration! No exchange of bodily fluids! She just lays her eggs and then the men fish gather round and have a party over them."

"I don’t understand." Dustin said.

Sylvia turned back around and began using the knife to cut the bread into fourths. "That woman is crazy about fish." She said shaking her head. "Sometimes I think that she thinks that she can live like a fish, underwater, below us all, unseen. She doesn’t talk much and when she does she never really says anything. I don’t hate her. Really I don’t. She’s young. My husband John can be very sweet too. You just never know what’s going to set him off into one of his moods. It could be a beam falling on him or I could take too long at the grocery store. You never know! We live out here in the boondocks and it takes a while. Our only friends that visit are those two and I’ve told her husband. I’ve told him what she does behind his back but you know, why should he trust me? Why should anyone believe anything that I say? I take pills and John thinks that I cheat. I’m unreliable. I hate fish. They smell bad. I’m pretty sure that John has slept with her. I’ve got no proof but she’s out here all the time. He stays at the house all alone and I go to the gym just to get out. I’ve got to get out sometimes! I don’t care what happens when I’m away, the thing is that I’m away! There’s only me and the mirrors at the gym. I wonder if we have any fish that might spoil."

Dustin watched her as she slammed down the knife and went over to the freezer throwing open the door. She looked inside it sadly. Her features were soft and indescribably beautiful. The glow shining up from the flashlight on the floor seemed to make her eyes larger than they should have been. "I’m supposed to get a sandwich." He said again.

"Take one of those." She said gesturing back at the carved loaf of bread. "I’ll take the other three to the ambulance drives and your friend outside."

Dustin stopped. "My friend?" He asked.

"Yeah." Sylvia said taking a package from the freezer and holding it up to her nose. "He drove up about ten minutes ago in his truck. Nice guy. Says he wants a sandwich."

"Has he been looking for me?"

"He knows you’re in here." She said tossing the package into the trash bag. "He’s out there now talking to the paramedics? I love paramedics!"

Dustin groaned. Once he’d woken up and discovered that they’d gotten off the main road he honestly didn’t expect for Steve to be able to find them. Immediately he began debating whether or not escape was an option anymore.

"Do you think they have families?" The old woman said, taking another package out of the freezer and turning it over in her hands.


"The paramedics!" She answered. "Do you think that other paramedics are rescuing their families right now; other teams of ambulance drivers digging out their loved ones from the rubble of their homes? I don’t know how they do it. They must be able to completely forget about everything in their lives while they’re at work. I wouldn’t be able to do that. How do you just stop worrying about things and focus on what needs to be done? Can you imagine blocking out everything in your life to save another person? How can they just ignore the arguments that they must have with their wives? Surely their kids make bad grades! They don’t think about it though! They just tie bandages around people who’ve been shot on the street at night while buying a coke from a vending machine? How can they do that?"

Dustin reached over to the counter and took a sandwich. "I don’t know." He admitted. "I guess that they just get wrapped up in the drama of saving peoples lives."

"I wish I could get shot." Sylvia said, turning to him with a smile.

Dustin held up the sandwich. "I also need a saw." He replied.

The End

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