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Issue #5: Fiction

Jim Meirose

Casket & Sunnyside Vs. Vanity Fair

 

He’s reading Casket and Sunnyside; she’s reading Vanity Fair.
     It’s quiet; the cats sleep on newspapers on the floor.
     She lowers her magazine and speaks to him sharply.
     I don’t like having that in the house.
     What? he says, looking up.
     That magazine—Casket and Sunshine—whatever it’s called.
     The tabby cat raises its head at her sharp voice.
     It’s Sunnyside, not Sunshine. Why don’t you want it in the house? It’s an antique—it’s worth something—
     What’s that big stain on the cover?
     The tabby cat rises, yawns, and stretches, bristling.  The black cat wakens and raises its head.
     He flips back to the grey cover of his magazine and raises a hand.
     Who knows? This is from 1932—something that old—you know—
     What?
     Something that old gets stains.
     The tabby cat sits. The larger black cat rises and stretches full length.
     You got that magazine off eBay right?
     Yes—you know that—
     She slaps her Vanity Fair onto her lap.
     Listen—God knows where it’s been—it might have been on a chair in the embalming room at a funeral parlor, and the undertaker might have got crap on his hands and made that stain.
     What kind of crap on his hands?
     She waves a hand and shakes her head.
     I don’t know—blood? Embalming fluid? Anyway it’s probably full of germs. I want it out of the house. Get rid of it. It gives me the creeps.
     He reopens his magazine and waves his hand over it as he speaks.
     It’s old—it’s from 1932—whatever germs might ever have got on it are long gone now—
     She folds her arms before her.
     I don’t care, she says.
     The cats sit across the room from each other washing their faces.
     He points to the Vanity Fair.  A large face is on the cover.
     What about that crap you’re reading? he says—where’s it been? Where’d you get it?
     She waves the multicolored brand-new magazine at him.
     In the mail—you know I have a subscription to Vanity Fair.
     He sits back.
     How do you know it didn’t rub up against something filthy in the mail truck—something like samples—yeah—people send in stool samples by mail—
     What? she says, lowering the magazine and rolling her eyes.
     Right—they give you these little kits where every day you’re supposed to smear a little of your shit onto a sample card, then after four days you put it in an envelope and drop it in the mail? How do you know your magazine didn’t rub up against something like that?
     That’s stupid, she says, again shaking her head.
     The tabby cat rises and walks toward the steps to the downstairs room.
     Well—it’s no more stupid than what you’re saying about my magazine.
     Her hand spreads out on the Vanity Fair cover, obscuring the face.
     There’s no stool samples in the mail trucks, she says—God.
     He sits straight and jabs a finger toward her. The nail is long; clawlike.
     Oh yes there are, he snaps—and just think—since, unlike you, I am no genius, and don’t know everything, there might be even more such filthy things in the mail truck that your magazine is rubbing up against that I don’t know about. At least I know my magazine is clean—
     The black cat rises and follows the tabby cat.
     Wasn’t it sent in the same God damned mail truck? she says, eyebrows raised.
     He lays a fist on his Casket and Sunnyside.
     Yes, but it was packed in a thick cardboard box with plenty of sealing tape, that’s out in the garbage now—not contaminating the house—
     My magazine came in a plastic envelope—
     You mean that one laying right over there?
     She fumes visibly. The tabby cat goes down the stairs.
     Yes, she says—that one over there.
     Again he points.
     Well that’s in the God damned house—and it could have rubbed up against anything—why the hell didn’t you throw it away? It’s contaminating the house!
     The black cat follows the tabby.
     I don’t want to talk about this anymore, she says with a sneer.
     Okay! Me either! he snaps.
     It’s quiet; in the downstairs room, the cats stare each other down, preparing to fight.
     He’s reading Casket and Sunnyside; she’s reading Vanity Fair.

 

 

 

Jim Meirose’s work has appeared in numerous journals, including The Fiddlehead, Witness, Alaska Quarterly Review, and Xavier Review, and has been nominated for several awards. Two collections of his short work have been published and his novels, Claire and Monkey, are available from Amazon.

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