He started to smell. Remember that stinky odor of three-day broccoli someone left in the office and you called maintenance thinking the toilet was stopped up? Or the piece of pot roast hidden behind the cake in the back of the fridge that smelled like your flatulent Labrador after eating a dead squirrel? That was the pungency rising from Milt in his burgundy La-Z-Boy and glued to whatever golf tournament was on that week. Even the tame calico cat with her olfactory common sense became nervous, hissing and running outside.
Still mobile, Milt trudged to the bathroom and back, to the kitchen and back, groaning and howling with each clumsy move. Like animated tree trunks, he stepped with a thud echoing through the house. His skin turned a deathly pallor with hints of green and gray. His eyes receded until they were sinkholes, cavities formed when any underlying insight eroded.
An accountant by profession, he was a good earner, a competent lover, and an excellent dancer. But he’d always been unemotional, never cried when our first house burned down, claiming it was a fault in the electrical wiring. In fact he stood behind the car with his coffee (three sugars please) and watched it fall under flames until nothing could be saved. So being a man without heart who wouldn’t sing and hoped for the dancers to stumble at the ballet, he turned away his elderly mother and father, calling them frivolous freeloaders.
I was accustomed to him—a putridity that exuded from every pore and formed a canopy of stench. Even the fibers of his chair reeked with his offal. For whatever shortcomings of my own, be it extreme self-loathing from being raised in a family where I was nothing more than a Saturday night mistake, I endured his belligerent, often monstrous behavior. Until he came for me.
The Thursday after I noticed his growing smell, he followed me to the bedroom. He pushed me onto the bed, his body pinning mine to the quilt. There was no noise, no moaning. Instead, with both his hands, he lifted my right arm, holding it midair. His eyes suddenly lit up as if they’d found a treasure, a glow emanated from a deeper place. With his hands he seesawed my arm, as if balancing the hand and the elbow. In that moment I knew his perception of me had meandered. The deadpan husband indifferent to my screams had become the active undead, literally hungry for my flesh.
Chella Courington is a writer/teacher whose poetry and fiction appear in numerous anthologies and journals including SmokeLong Quarterly, Gingerbread House, and Potato Soup Journal. Her novella, Adele and Tom: The Portrait of a Marriage (Breaking Rules Publishing), is featured at Vancouver Flash Fiction. Courington lives in California.