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"Critters" by Michael D. Brown

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Six six-sentence stories by Michael D. Brown.

Text of "Critters" by Michael D. Brown

  • CrittersSix Sixes by Michael D. Brown

  • Butterflies

    When I went for my fifteen-minute break, a madness of small black butterflies made it nearly impossible to smoke in the ever-shrinking designated area behind the building. I found it difficult to enjoy my cigarette in any case since Beth, down on me for my lack of attention to details, was not speaking to me, and hanging over me was the awareness I would have to return to the testing room to face her silence and occasional glare for another seventy-five minutes. I was fairly certain she would not offer a lift afterward to the bus stop, so we would not have a chance to discuss her upcoming vacation and my duties in her absence. The cigarette was stale and the butterflies were indeed maddening as they seemed to be growing in number, but the sun was high on what might have been considered a beautiful Saturday morning, too beautiful

  • for undergoing a test. I wondered if Beth ever planned to tell me she was pregnant, and if she still would be when she returned to school in two weeks. Feeling at fifty-seven, a bit scared to face up to fatherhood, but willing if called upon, I figured if it werent mentioned, it might not occur.

  • Moths

    With Beth up in the States for two weeks, and never having learned to drive, I had to take an expensive taxi to Lucias birthday party in the boondocks, although, truthfully, I didnt feel like going to a party alone. Beth, technically my boss, and I were not engaged, but the other teachers knew we had sort of been seeing each other, yet Lucia told me, if you want to continue working here, this is one party youd better attend, amigo; its not every day a girl turns fifty. She promised women aplenty to take my mind off my MIA, but the four single teachers in attendance were clustered around Jeff, the recently arrived extranjero from San Diego, who seemed to be lapping up their notice, putting on funny hats and posing for photos with each of them, and laughing through responses to intrusive questions theyd already grown

  • tired of asking me. I wondered how many hearts he would break by semesters end when he ran back to California with tales of wild and wooly Mexico, where the ambiance is freely bolstered by the tequila, as is a mans attitude by the women, like moths to a flame, and I knew he would never admit to any of his gringo friends that that whole fantasy was just good PR put forth by the Mexican tourist board to get native speaking English teachers down here in the hopes that paradise wouldnt disappear before their savings did. What a self-centered individual, I thought, knowing I was like that once, only older when I started, and didnt run home after going broke. I was nursing a plastic tumbler of mescal and ruminating over what my own gringa might have in mind to take care of on this latest so-called business-trip/vacation, and why she seemed to have almost manufactured a situation to leave on a bad note, when Lucia sidled up to me, and said, ven a mi cuarto, love, and let me show you something Ive been saving for you.

  • Crickets

    When I woke up with la cruda from the mescal, in a bed that wasnt my own, my first thought was I had betrayed Beth, who wasnt actually my fiance, with a mutual friend, who had acted in an overly friendly manner after showing me some brincadores, Mexican jumping beans, brought by a cousin visiting from Sinaloa, and the rush of details made my head throb, so that all I wanted to do was roll around as gently as the infant moths inside those beans might to stop the room from spinning. It took all the energy I could muster to rise half an hour after waking, and make my way to the kitchen where Lucia was heating up some consomm de pollo, a traditional hangover remedy when eaten with limon and boiled eggs. Was I awful last night, I asked as she set a huge bowl of soup in front of me, and when did I decide to

  • stay? You just had a little too much to drink, so obviously you dont remember Beth calling me and suggesting I let you sleep in my spare room, she said, smiling, as she set down a plate of lime wedges, and I hope the crickets didnt bother you through the night. No, I guess they couldnt have in the condition you were in, and she laughed. As I was greedily devouring her cure all, she said she was going to get dressed for la missa, then turned in the doorway, and said, by the way, congratulations pap.

  • Bumblebee

    She didnt actually tell me when she was expecting, Lucia said, just that she wanted to see her own doctor at home to take care of things, and that she was experiencing some morning sickness, and, of course, she asked me to put you up for the night if I didnt think you were in a condition to make it back to town on your own. You are aware that all the other women know something of this, arent you, I mean, you must have noticed the slight chill coming in your direction since you are no longer quite so eligible for any of them, pinche viejas, but you and I will always be good friends, no? Lucias incessant buzzing was ironically soothing as she pulled up behind the bus I would have to move quickly to board, and I believed her idea was to disallow my questioning for details in her conversation with Beth. She touched my elbow when she

  • added, you can warm those beans with your hands if you want them to dance a bit, but keep them under the right conditions and the larvae inside will live for months. In the spring, each moth will force its way out through a little round doorway and live for only a few days. Ah, but not to worry as that is natures way, and you get to keep the bean casings as souvenirs.

  • Grasshopper

    At first she resorted to camouflage, telling me her doctor said she would be ill-advised to carry the pregnancy to term because of her age and pre-existing conditions though whether it was her heart or stress or something else that she meant by that, she didnt make it clear. Then she externalized, saying we had come together for all the wrong reasons, and had no business making babies together, and that we would later have teenagers with doddering, aged parents, who would in no way be able to cope with the vicissitudes of rebellious youth. I tried to argue that we were teachers for chrissakes, and knew full well how to deal with young people, but I had to admit I was less than efficient in making my case with irresponsible adults, being one myself. As she leaped from excuse to excuse, I wanted to tell her I shared her trepidation;

  • wanted to quiet her fears and promise that we could see this through together, and that it would be a good thing if we truly wanted it to be, but what stung me the most, like an ice-cold needle to my brain, was when she added, Im not pregnant anymore. Though I had originally seen this possibility as an escape, I was unaware at that time how much it would hurt in the realization after turning the potentialities round in my head. Rather than soothing my pride, Beth drove that icy needle in further, when she asked, wont you consider this a learning experience after Ive flown?

  • Caterpillars

    At the terminal diner, as she looked at me over her coffee cup, her eyes telling me she knew I was ready, that she had provided a catalyst to my metamorphosis, in an odd way, it felt as if she saw herself as some kind of craftsperson and could now sit back and admire her handiwork. For just a moment, I absolutely despised her, but then that enervating sensation passed, leaving me feeling defeated. None of the old ways would serve; our similar interests leading to minor accomplishments, the sense of being kindred spirits in a foreign land, our fractious intimacy, all had evaporated through her betrayal, proffered as some kind of cockamamie growth experience. I was eviscerated. Like a caterpillar in a cocoon, I felt safe here, not wanting to leave, to face the world outside this diner, for the world outside was something

  • different, the improvident beginning of a new life for which I was physically prepared, but mentally had been set back decades. She, on the other hand, appeared all set to try out her new wings, and fly away, unencumbered by the weight of dutifulness to memories.

  • Michael D. Brown, originally from New York City, feels he has finally settled into life in southern Mexico where he often blogs his experiences at Outside-In and weekly posts the work of terrific writers at MuDJoB.

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