Opening Scene of a Story Tentatively Titled “Stevie Buys Some Fudgsicles”

by Jay HOLLEY
 

Stevie emptied his pockets again. He transfered scraps of paper, change, and a pair of needle-nose pliers to the concrete step he was sitting on. The key was still not in his pocket. He fiddled with the light bulb again: loosening, tightening, unscrewing, tapping the eggshell glass in hopes of diagnosing the filament. Another electric problem the landlord won’t fix, he told himself. He unfolded the book he was carrying and scooped his effects in to the makeshift tray, between pages 221 and 222. Stevie fished a lighter from the mess. He could mouse the spare key by touch and memory, he knew–it was dangling from a bent finish nailed tacked into one of the joists of the low entryway’s ceiling–but the spider’s whose bite was still red on his palmflesh had also left a mark in his brain. He wiggled the key into the lock and rolled it ‘til the lock pins clicked.

“Hey ho, puss,” said Stevie to the gray-brown burden as he closed the apartment door with his heel. He’d caught her scouting the top of the Frigidaire, batting at a bag of chocolate chip cookies.

“Where’s your momma?” he quizzed, tugging on the feline’s tail. She recoiled, bared her teeth, then retreated behind a barricade of cereal boxes.

The kitchen was a mess. Stevie moved the stock pot and frying pan and griddle into the sink. The green camping pot still exceeded his standard of cleanliness. He drew an inch of water from the cooler and set the pot back on the stove top to boil.

“Puss, puss,” Stevie cooed, “why so mean to your uncle, you pretty vomiting naughty cat?” He rapped on a cardboard tube of potato chips with the metal head of his lighter and heard another hiss.

Stevie popped open the freezer door with his elbow and reached for a fudgescile. He frisked each cardboard wall of the empty carton but found his treasure robbed.

“Goddammit, Eliza,” he yelled toward his sister’s room, “milk, butter, bread! My fucking dessert…” He strode across the tiny kitchen and pounded at her door. “Milk, butter—that’s communal,” he hollered, “but this is…”

He pressed his ear against her door. Stevie knew from experience that his sister was prone to mumbling retorts. He could definitely hear—she’s in there, he was certain—what—what did she just say? He winced when he deciphered moaning and maneuvering.

Stevie dipped his finger into the soup water as he passed toward his room, but it was barely luke-warm. He paused at the refrigerator.“Well, girl, it’s just you and me and the T.V. tonight.” She offered no response.

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