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  Table of contents Issue Seventeen SILENT TREATMENT



o, you giving me the silent treatment again?" She spat the words, exhaling cigarette smoke as she did, and then snuffed the butt in an overflowing ashtray on the small table next to her chair.

There was no sound from the bedroom. Well, there's my answer, she thought.

Her sister (God rest her soul) had always said Nathan was worthless, said it right up until the end, she did ... it was almost her dying words.

Him, a grown man, nearly fifty, and hadn't had anything like a real job in almost four years. Son-of-a-bitch will lay in bed till noon, like always. Then he'll get up, sit at the kitchen table and complain about his hangover, complain about all the other worthless sons-a-bitches he'd spent half the night with down at that piss-smelling shitty little excuse for a bar.

She shook her head at the thought of it.

The sound of traffic echoed into the alleyway and drifted up from three floors below, along with diesel exhaust and the saccharine tang of scented dryer sheets pumped from the basement laundry room. The kitten was on the counter by the sink again, inspecting last night's dishes. Tabby, the older cat, reclined on the windowsill in front of the air conditioner that hadn't worked since two summers before.

She wondered where Jaydeen was. It was nearly the end of the month, and her neighbor had yet to come across the hallway and ask to borrow a food-stamp. That girl was always so sweet when she wanted something.

She rose stiffly out of the chair, an overstuffed lounge with fabric on the arms worn through to the batting, and retrieved another cigarette from the nearly empty pack on the windowsill next to Tabby. The cat regarded her warily through half-closed eyes.

She lit the cigarette with a Bic lighter, and her hand shook. "You don't show me nothin', you know that?" she jeered, "Nothin'. What have you got? Nothin', that's what."

She walked back to the chair and plopped down, dropping the pack onto the table and picking up the TV remote from where it lay near the ashtray. She listened for a sound from the bedroom---a grunt, or a shut-up and leave me alone or something---but there was only silence. "Really tied one on last night, didn't ya? That's fine. You just keep sleepin'. That's all you're good for anyway."

Maybe Jaydeen was down in the basement doing laundry, she thought, tipping the remote sideways to knock cigarette ashes off it. She clicked on the TV and watched Al Roker telling the other people on the Today Show about one of his favorite restaurants. After a little while they went to a car commercial.

"And don't think I don't know what you're doing in there, stinking up the place," she shouted in the direction of the bedroom, her eyes never leaving the TV screen. That cheap beer he drank always gave him gas, and she was sure it smelled like an old latrine in there. Well, she'd slept right here in her chair last night, so she didn't have to experience it. It made her terribly stiff in the morning, but it was better than sleeping next to him, God forbid he try to reach inside her nightgown with those fumbling hands with the dirty nails he never bothered to cut. Although, he hadn't tried to do that in quite a while.

"You hear me? Damn right you do." The Today Show had come back from the commercial break. Matt Lauer droned on, and one of the female co-anchors laughed.

"You can't just ignore me, you know that? You're gonna listen to me," she shouted even louder. "And you ain't gonna say shit about it because you know I'm right!" She stabbed her fingers that held the cigarette in the direction of the bedroom door. Ash fell onto the carpet to keep company with the other stains.

She glanced over to the kitchen. The kitten had stopped licking dishes and was watching her. "And, damn it, where is my good skillet?" In a fury she lurched up from the chair and turned towards the bedroom door, dropping the remote so she could use both hands to point.

"You know what? Don't you dare ignore me! Don't you dare! You ain't shit, mister, you know that? You ain't worth a ten cent bowl of shit. And you show me nothin!"

From his perch on the window sill, Tabby stared at her, eyes wide. The kitten jumped down from the counter and skittered out of sight.

She strode forward to the bedroom, turning the knob with one hand and slapping the door open with the other. A shower of sparks cascaded down the front of her nightgown.

Nathan lay on the bed how she'd left him, on his side facing away from the door with his skull caved in. Bits of brain and congealed blood covered the pillow and speckled the sheets and the wall. His ruined ear lay in a blossom of pink tissue and shattered bone.

"Ah, there's my skillet," she said, walking over to where a waxy rivulet of crimson had flowed down the front of the nightstand and onto the carpet. She dropped the remains of her cigarette and picked up the large cast-iron pan. It stuck to the top of the nightstand, and she had to use both hands. It came loose with a wet, sucking sound.

The room reeked of feces and urine, the mattress soaked from where his bowels had let go.

"Son-of-a-bitch. I knew you were stinking up the place." She turned and left the room, closing the door behind her.

She walked to the kitchen, bending down to retrieve the TV remote as she went, and dropped the skillet into the sink. The kitten hopped back onto the counter to investigate.

She walked over to her chair. Tabby remained on the windowsill, indifferently licking his paws.

She sat down, lit a cigarette and changed the channel.




A retired firefighter from California, Daniel DeLong lives deep in the Santa Cruz Mountains with his wife and daughter, two dogs, three cats, a couple of pigs and an ever changing number of chickens, at last count 27. When he's not writing, he spends his time contemplating the potential collapse of the civilized world and driving his tractor around in the woods ... often doing both at the same time. His writing has been featured in numerous publications, including Fiction Vortex, Dead Walk Vol 2, and Road Kill Press's Rat Biker Magazine.

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