First Published 2017
All rights reserved.
Copyright © Chassis Albuquerque
The right of Chassis Albuquerque to be identified as author of this work has been asserted. No part of this publication
may be reproduced or sexually transmitted in any form by any means electronic, mechanical, photocopied, recorded, or
otherwise without the prior permission of the author’s mother.
Any person who commits any unauthorized act in relation to this publication should make a note of it and may
be liable to a very, very severe admonishing; if you’re in the 3rd world, definitely some form of
supervised corporal punishment, at the very least, wherever you are, a fine of sorts.
COHABITATION, a short story involving the vagaries of couples living together. You know,
unmarried people doing stuff, various things such as dishes and making even bigger decisions, maybe even making babies. Actual marriage comes with obligation and is the most surreal thing you’ll ever see – so don’t get married, live together, fuck a little, why you all still can.
(This is a work of fiction and does not necessarily reflect the actual views of the author. His advice on the matter: “Never marry – wives are the definition of never-ending need and expense and, most costly of all, heartache.”)
And out of a cloud
Walks with a limp and a cane.
“My God,” he mumbles, looking around.
“Jesus Christ…!” he asks the world, “What have I done?”
He sees a girl: “Of faith – what are ye, eh, girl?”
And the girl replies with evident scepticism: “What, you mean you don’t know?”
And God’s embarrassed.
Looking around, he’s never been so embarrassed!
“It sounds just like you,” Katja Olsten over by the dresser said, doodling, brandishing the poem when he’d finally emerged from the shower; he’s been in there many days it seems and his skin has paled and turned the soft colours of a black and white photo – what does he do in there?
“The girl, huh?” Costas says, a vision of himself as the smart-assed girl: At a low ebb with the world, street-smart, she watches God cockily.
But Katja surprises him.
“No, this fellow `God,’” she said. “Old, a limp and a cane. Alone, confused – caught up in the past and an idea of what the world should be like instead of what it really is.”
“But you like it?” he insisted. “What don’t you like about it?”
“I guess I do,” Katja admitted; she hadn’t meant to be so personal.
“Did anyone know that the Pill was discovered by accident? A chemist and a gynaecologist originally devised the Pill to help women conceive children, not prevent them,” he says and, in a moment of premeditated wit to spark Katja’s curiosity, he says: “Knock-knock!”
“Who’s there?’” Katja says, doodling away.
“The Pill who?” she says.
“The Pill don’t work, Pa, so now I’m here!”
She looked at him, a look that said she’d wished they’d had some decent contraceptives around the time he’d been conceived. His reasons unfathomable at this point he says nothing. She was hoping he’d say it was research for this great novel everyone was waiting for, a Gatsby or a Salinger.
“Amazing,” Katja said and went on doodling.
“I don’t know which is worse, the Arabs and their poor camels or the Germans,” Costas said.
“Camels?” Katja said, looking up from her doodle before she could stop herself and immediately wished she hadn’t said anything at all. She wished she were a mute. Oh! Costas was so terrible the way he played on peoples unwholesome curiosity, how he taunted their vices for depravity.
Oh! What terrible thing curiosity!
“How did they know what that first stone would do? They must have been doing it for some time before they caught on, right?” he said and Katja stiffened at the dresser, even stopped her doodling wondering what terrible thing his imagination was going to allow him to say.
“What did they do to the camels?” she asked, her hand hovering over her doodle listlessly; the other gripped the dresser tightly as she braced herself.
“What did they do to the camels? A lot of time out there in the desert, not much to do but think and mess with the camels,” Costas said. “When they weren’t fucking the camels they were torturing them, Arabs crossing the deserts pushed stones up into the stomachs of all their female camels, pushed a stone up some poor unfortunate camel’s kunt to prevent them falling pregnant!”
She knew by the tone of his voice this wasn’t the end, there was still more to come, that this semi-conclusion was just a tactic of Costas’s story-telling, that the real conclusion was still coming. It struck her, his stories were all like one giant knock-knock joke, that even though she probably knew all the knock-knock jokes ever in the world she still wanted to know who was at the door this time and what had happened to the poor camels and what they had to do with contraception. She wanted him to stop with the story, to just end it all as quickly as possible, but knew she’d have to continue with it in order to get to the end.
“It isn’t what the Arabs did with their camels, it’s what the Germans did,” Costas said. “The Germans saw it as a natural progression to experiment with the same idea on women and stick countless IUD’s into the uterus of countless women.”
Over by the dresser Katja thought she could easily sympathise with the poor camels. Costas rambles on, about how there were complications, complications that resulted in “serious fainting”.
“As opposed to frivolous, fun fainting?” he wonders. “A light-hearted collapse, maybe?” he joked. “There was severe slowing of the heart, epileptic seizures – my god!” he said suddenly and Katja flinched leaving a heavy line across her doodle. “What about the camels! Can you imagine? Did they collapse from serious, unfrivolous fainting? No wonder you won’t use it,” he said to her.
“Yes, isn’t it?” she’d said, not looking up. She’d obviously reached an intricate point in her doodle, because she gave all her concentration to it, leaning her head down to get a better view, wiping something out of the way or maybe shading something with a smudge. But Katja was actually wondering how Costas could be so worried about having a baby that he’d “research” it but didn’t seem to mind the sex all that much. “I wish I had one of those stones right now,” she told Costas, doodling away. “I know how’d I’d use it…” she said doodling and doodling.
Luckily enough they’re distracted by a noise before he can offer an answer. It is a regular noise amongst the other everyday noises their lives create; however it makes it no easier to bare. This noise made hair stand on end. It sounded like a baby was being steamrollered to death outside and was busy disappearing under the heavy roller; at least, if this was to happen, that is what he imagined it to sound like.
Katja had always hated the analogy.
“Imagine it were your baby!” she’d say, grabbing for her parka, pulling on her snow boots, jamming her knitted sherpa snow hat over her head and earmuffs over her ears and running for the back-door.
It’s just cats, though.
Cats are terrible with frogs. The cats cleverly stalked the frogs, then they’d pounce but they don’t kill the frogs, oh no, not immediately. Why end the fun so soon? What entertainment it is for the cats to maim and torture! Cats don’t need diversions and doodles and Intra Uterine Devices or satellite TV or the internet when nature has provided for them. What do people think cats did before things like TV were invented anyhow? They do the same thing with birds and mice, toy with the little fuckers.
If there are two cats, it’s worse. They’d toss the poor frog between them, only let it think it can escape.
“Crawl under the shrub while they lick at their paws!” she’d want to shout at the stupid frog. “Head for the water, you moron!” if the shock of the attack hadn’t made them forget that they are amphibians, that they can swim!
Katja would grab the dumbass cat with the frog in its mouth (the frog screeching shrilly, berserk with pain) and yank its goddamn tail so hard Costas thinks one day she’ll pull it right out. Gamely, the cats always hang on, as if endearingly this torture was all a part of their vicious game.
“You took your time, lady!” the cats seem to wonder at her with an air of cat nonchalance. But then she’d grab its ears violently, one hand on each, and twist! Now you could see the cat’s thinking pretty quickly, the pain hurriedly bringing it up to speed with the new rules and finally it would release the frog and strut off, perhaps in some pain but generally maintaining its dignity looking unruffled.
Katja would reappear in the house cradling a frog mutilated by the fearsome neighbourhood cats, her parka off one shoulder, her snow cap pulled askew and earmuffs missing.
“Those damn cats!” she’d say, attempting to stick the poor fucking frog’s dangling leg back into its thigh-socket. An eye would often have disappeared, too. The sight of the dying frogs was a pretty gory sight, a steamrollered baby would look a lot better after seen those frogs.
But Katja’s never perturbed by this carnage and nurtures the frog until it hops off on its three (or sometimes two) remaining legs, with its one eye or until it would die (which was more often the case, luckily for the frog).
Outside a frog howls in terror, some frivolous, fun fainting.
“Those fucking cats!” Katja said and ran to stare out the window at the agony occurring outside. In her anger she’s forgotten her towel and is naked, she just pulls her snow boots on, her snow-cap with earflaps over her head. When Costas walks over to notices he sees she’s doodled nothing but scribbles, just wriggles and squiggles of all kinds all over the poem he’d written. There’s nothing definite – it is a mess of crazy, meaningless shapes.
She says, as if realising for the first time what she’s been doodling, “You know what it is? All your drivel, all your shit and squalor! That’s all it is, word for word, what were you expecting?” she wondered as she moved for the back-door. She looks over her shoulder and sees him thinking about steamrollered babies. “Don’t say it!” she warned him dangerously as she heads outside. “Please, just don’t say it…!”
Costas looks out the window into the yard but couldn’t see the cats, on the trail of a new victim already no doubt. He saw a little bird sneak cautiously across the porch behind Katja’s back and under the shrubs where the small lawn of snow began in earnest. Why the hell hadn’t it flown away? he wondered.
The bird had had been waiting for the cats to finish the frog off.
My God! he thought. It’s too afraid to fly, it thinks the cats can fly, too! Even the damn frog was smarter than the bird! He prefers the birds for practical reasons: At least birds and mice are a lot quieter when they die. Really, you’d never believe frogs could produce such a horrifying noise – a baby being steamrollered!
Katja finally finds the frog on the far side of the porch he’d cleared of snow the day before; she crouches like a child and picks up the mutilated frog and brings the casualty inside. When she veers dangerously close Costas’s way and he glances at the frog in her hand he can’t but think: That’s no casualty, that’s a fatality!
Katja is stoical – she grew up on a farm after all.
“It’s dead,” she announced, holding the frog in her bare hand.
Lucky him! Costas thinks, looking at what’s left of the frog.
“It’s probably a good thing. Imagine it were still alive, Jesus!” he says, trying to console her.
Katja’s forlorn brand of farm-instilled stoicism at work: “Cats should stick to mice, it’s natural for cats, I guess,” she says and throws the dead frog in the bin. She washes her hands under the tap in the sink, as if washing all trace of the affair down to the drain. She’s still naked, snow boots and earflaps flapping messing around with the taps, keeping the stoical line. She turns (flaunting a confidence he’s in envy of), not looking in the least vulnerable. “You know where I wish we were?” she says. He’d no idea. A place with no cats perhaps? Another myth, a place where mice, cats, birds and frogs lived in harmony? “That wouldn’t be natural, though, that would be unnatural,” she said. “Just some place else,” she says. The tap was still running; absently she put the plug in. She didn’t look happy, she didn’t look particularly sad plonking dishes, plates, forks, knives and cups in the sink, cleaning and rinsing as if she’s already forgotten the episode with the frog. However, this respite is short-lived and she says, “Do you think it had a wife, a girlfriend? A child, maybe…?” She looks at him again, her mind wondering further. “Do you think it was a father?”
But Costas’s already moving to the big plastic bin outside, the one that warns moronically DO NOT THROW HOT ASH IN! to chuck the bag containing the frog and other rubbish in it, the thought of the dead frog torn apart a fresh murder in his mind.
“Don’t touch it,” Katja said coolly.
“The bag?” Costas called.
“Don’t touch it, leave it!” she hisses her voice laden with such heavy, sad vehemence, just like a cat and slams a freshly rinsed dish smack-bang between the channels of the plastic dish-rack, her accuracy and dexterity astounding staring out the window for cats and other stalkers that might attack out in the wilderness of their lawn. Katja gives little clue and Costas observes another dish slam home loudly in the dish-rack, but unharmed. Digressing later that night they’d explored the geography of the bed and mapped out most of the room in the process…
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Apart from referring to himself in the 3rd person, Chassis Albuquerque suffered from a speech defect
as a child – when he spoke, he continuously lied and to counter this habit was given a typewriter
by his parents and began to write.
“My life’s full of them, outrageous exaggerations, I write because no one believes what I say.”
Chassis Albuquerque currently lives in London with his wife and baby daughter. He is on a diet
(Low Carb) and learning Polish – this is unrelated to anything literary, he just thought to mention
COHABITATION, a short story involving the vagaries of couples living together. You know, unmarried people doing stuff, various things such as dishes and making even bigger decisions, maybe even making babies. Actual marriage comes with obligation and is the most surreal thing you'll ever see - so don't get married, live together, fuck a little, why you all still can. (This is a work of fiction and does not necessarily reflect the actual views of the author. His advice on the matter: "Never marry – wives are the definition of never-ending need and expense and, most costly of all, heartache.")