By: Lisa H. Owens
Sitting on the deck with a strong cup of coffee, lighting up that first smoke of the day; what more could a gal want? I stared off into space, then catching a glitch of movement, looked downward. I became engrossed as I watched a tiny pustule of slimeslug likeinching across the walkway toward the first step leading up to the covered patio. The term corpusculum (definition: a puny body) came to mind. I took a long drag on my cigarette, forming a circle with my lips, and huffed out the word cor-pus-cle in three perfect smoke rings. They hovered in the stillness of the morning, slowly widening then dissipating.
Corpuscle, a fitting name, was still at itinching along, stretching long then harrumphing his backside forward. Like an accordion. I thought about the hand-me-down accordion that Grandpa played at family get-togethers, his worn leather shoes shuffling and tapping in time to tunes from the old country, a different era. The unrelenting yee-yaw, yee-yaw was an atrocity to the ears. Out of tune and clacking on that one dead button.
I stared down at the strange blob. Filling my lungs. Blowing the smoke rings. Observing. The slimy mass was relentless in his journey. I hummed "Black Crow Polka," one of Grandpa's favoritesa real knee-slapperjauntily keeping time to the yee-yaw-in-and-out of Corpuscle's movements, urging him onward.
Slow as molasses in January, he approached the first step, then proceeded straight up the vertical riser. Pogo-sticking up then down. A vertical slinky. Three attempts and he sprung halfway up the riser, clinging on to rough concrete like a mountain climber. He squeeze-boxed himself in-and-out, moving upward until he was up and over the ridge, neatly landing on the tread. He was a real champion. He rested before the harrumphing movement started again. He inched forward, closing in on the second riser leading to the upper deck.
I flinched as the ash of my cigarette reached the filter, sparking my knuckle. That'll be a blister later, I thought, then tamped it out in the flowerpot overflowing with ashes and stale butts, currently used as an ashtray.
Yee-yaw, yee-yaw, I belted out, "There is a pink blob, climbing up a set of stairs. He is a racer, racing like nobody cares," to the tune of "Beer Barrel Polka," Grandpa's fourth favorite song to play. Creating situational lyrics was kind of my thing. As I sang, making up words on the fly, my makeshift tune (Pink Blob Polka) seemed to increase Corpuscle's speed. I crooned louder, nonsensical words, mimicking the in-and-out motion of a squeezebox in my empty arms, continuing the new lyrics:
"Just like a Slinky, he pumps his body about. Using one motion, in-and-out and out-and-in and in-and-out." It didn't make a lick of sense; but that was half the fun and the point of the on-the-fly song.
Then came the chorus: "He goes a creepin', squeezing in and out and in and out and in and out and in and out and-in-and-out-and-in..." increasing the tempo until it sounded like one unbearably long string of tuneless words.
Corpuscle was a blur as he kept time, scooping up and over the second riser, gracelessly bellyflopping on the etched surface of the patio. He side-scooted to align his body with his nose (if he had a nose), double-timing it in the general direction of the chair in which I lounged. " and-out." I stopped singing and he stopped on a dime, motionless. It reminded me of recess in elementary school, when we met just past the monkey bars to play a harmless game of Red LightGreen Light. I thought I might see if he was up for a friendly little game.
Faster still, I shouted, "In-and-out-and-in-and-out " His pace would have been blue ribbon worthy if corpuscles participated in such nonsense.
" and-in-and-out-AND " I stopped. He stopped, his body quivering like gelatin a few inches shy of the Ugg house-slipper on my right foot. I covered my eyes with my hands, a quasi-blindfold, and started again.
" in-and-OUT!" I abruptly tore my hands away on the last word, hoping to catch him moving. Wanting to send him back to his original start position. He was steady. An unmoving bump of tissue. A mussel in a steaming bowl of Mom's watery clam chowder, now perched on the edge of my slipper.
I lifted my foot leaning over to get a better look. He clung on, not wavering. Cute in a cartoon-slug kind of way. I could barely make out what appeared to be little derpy eyes in a pink fleshy face. Did he have a face?
I covered my eyes and began the ditty again, annunciating each word. Super slow-mo this time, "In (pause) and (pause) out (pause) and (pause) IN " I stopped and peeked through spread fingers. He rested on the top of my Ugg, seamlessly blending with the suede tan leather, unflinching.
Clenching my fingers back together, I decided on a lightning-fast tempo, continuing, " and-out-and-in-and-out-and-in-and " as the words came out at an auctioneer's pace, I felt prickly warmth on my bare ankle scampering like a rocket up and over my knee. I simultaneously uncovered my eyes and hollered, " OUT," then clamped my mouth shut in an attempt to trick him. Damn he was good. He was a statue stretched thin, his full-length spanning half of my kneecap, similar to the length of one of the butts in the flowerpot/ashtray.
I hunched forward until my nose nearly touched him. He was coated with patchy fuzz on a nearly transparent body that emitted a slight metallic odor. Trying to zoom in more, my eyes crossed but I was able to see he had an entire flattened face: two derpy eyes, a miniscule snout, and a tiny toothy mouth. His mouth was slightly parted in the grimace of a sprinter attempting to break a world record. My legs were long, ankle to knee probably the equivalent of a 200-meter dash for a human. I let him rest for a few seconds before starting the game again. It was only fair to offer Corpuscle a quick breather. On a corpuscle scale, he'd already covered a marathon.
Briefly, I considered how he might make a delicious chowder or stew for the neighborwho stole my newspaper one time a couple of years agoonce our game ended. I slowly lifted my hands to my eyes, peeking a little, and watched him as I opened my mouth for the final chorus. Quick as a flash, he disappeared under the hem of my white denim shorts. My words changed to an ear-piercing scream as I felt a red-hot poker of pain. A burst of spidery trails of crimson blossomed on the white denim before soaking through with the spray of an arterial bleed as Corpuscle tunneled deep into my femoral artery.