Vacancy
By: Dawn DeBraal

Whenever I look into Larry's face, all I see are vacant eyes. They don't follow me around the room anymore, they just stare forward. I think I miss his eye contact the most. The eyes are the window to a person's soul, they say.

Larry once was my soul mate. At least I thought he was, until Greta. He claimed he didn't love her, just that he was curious, he'd only been with me until then. It still hurts.

"You know curiosity killed the cat," I told him. He felt terrible for his wandering, but that did not make me feel any better. I started putting tranquilizers in his coffee. For once, he didn't get flustered, he was patient and kind, just like it says in the Bible. Love is patient; love is kind. Larry was all those things. Then he started to gain weight. I looked it up on the world wide web discovering that tranquilizers could cause weight gain. So, I began adding a diet pill to his daily coffee. He turned down breakfasts and lunches and was starting to look a little thinner and back to his old self, only less happy.

We have been together for three years now, or should I say it's been three years since Larry's infidelity with Greta. He is not curious anymore. He is happy to stay home and take care of the cat. I got a fulltime job after he lost his job, sometime after Greta died a horrible death. He couldn't take it. Nervous breakdown, his doctor said.

I think Larry's nervous breakdown was most likely caused by watching Greta's demise. I asked him for a cigarette and a lighter. Larry handed them over to me, even though I don't smoke. Greta was in her apartment, tied to her bed. Larry was too zonked out to understand what it was I was going to do. Greta begged me not to. When I lit the cigarette, I touched it to the blanket. Whoosh. The lighter fluid caught, and I dragged Larry with me out of the apartment.

"Wait!" he said but couldn't remember what it was he wanted to say. A cat ran out the door. We call the cat Samantha, and she lives with us now. I am not a total monster. I don't kill pets, only women who steal other women's boyfriends. Larry holds Samantha all day. Some days he cries about the fire. He gave up smoking after he gave up Greta so he wouldn't see the flame of the cigarette lighter anymore.

His mother got quite overbearing. I left the oven on without a pilot light. The explosion not only blew his parents out of the side windows, but it also enveloped the building where they lived.

I love fire. Its powerful and dangerous, and can be controlled until it can't anymore, and by then it's too late, it is controlling you.

Larry was going to go to the police and tell them about me after his parents. He'd had enough, but I tripped and accidentally pushed him in front of a city bus. The driver swore to the whole thing about seeing me trip into Larry. Larry was in the hospital for months. He was in a full-body cast. Then his insurance ran out. I told them I could take care of him. I brought him home weeks ago where he sat in the corner, with Samantha on his lap.

The light went out of his eyes about a week or so ago. Sometimes I wonder if he is even alive anymore because he is starting to smell sour. Samantha won't sit on his lap anymore. I think I've forgotten something. Maybe Larry couldn't feed himself? I just thought he did all his eating when I was at work.

Larry promised to love me forever. That was before Greta, before everything that happened. Yes, I miss the look he used to have in his eyes when he looked at me.

I start the oven, blowing out the pilot light, grab Samantha and ask her if she'd like to go for a walk. We get out on the street; the cat carrier is quite heavy. I am a block away when the explosion happens. I am relieved. Larry is out of pain now. He doesn't need anything anymore, especially diaper changes or sponge baths.

I look at Samantha, but now I wonder where I will get another apartment that takes cats? I open her carrier, and I set her free. There are plenty of strays in the city, and Samantha can join them. I never liked that cat. She was Greta's. Greta, the cheater, along with Larry. They will never hurt me again.

I take fifty cents out of my wallet and buy a newspaper at the stand. I need to search the want ads for a new apartment, perhaps during my lunch break, I head for work, tucking the newspaper under my arm. The fire trucks race by me with blaring sirens and strobing lights, as they head toward my old apartment building. Such a shame, I want to watch it. I love fire, but I will be late for work.

The End

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