Centipede of the Year
To the centipede I tried to kick down my drain but refused to go. I see you there. Being better than eighty-two percent of the men I’ve dated.
You creepy-crawled out of the drain. I screamed like an old-fashioned actress. High-pitched and startling. Then, I toed you back down. Steam blossomed over the bathroom, a ghostly mushroom cloud. I could barely see you. But you returned covered in a nest of dark hair. Most wouldn’t come back. Most would get the hell out. Like Stan Prince circa ’98. That was a bad year.
You know, it was a shower beer kind of night. You probably watched as I poured myself into the tub, half-drunk, bad-breakup-battered. The water spray felt like bullets, and for a second, I wished they were. You saw that. Still, you came. You stayed.
I knelt down and picked you up in the palm of my hand. Your hundred little legs danced a tune in my palm. You were happy. I wasn’t. We could do great things together, you said.
If great included finishing my shower beer, then I was all ears.
With one arm, you beckoned that I come closer. That arm was bedecked in a glitzy bangle. The other arm, to your right and thirty arms back, laid inert. It sported a masculine wristwatch. Shower centipedes are not conformed to the laws of gender-specific fashion.
“Are you my little love bug?” I whispered. I giggled because it was nuts. There I was, naked, my hair like soupy udon noodle waves, talking to a bug. I’ve done worst things. Here’s looking at you, Dennis Booth and the ten-inch dildo we dubbed Ripper.
“I am,” you replied. “Now let’s go teach men to get this bad love off your chest.”
I dressed, grabbed my shower beer, and we were gone into the night.
It’s fun to pretend we took a race car but really we were on my Huffy 10 speed. The bike was an extra-special birthday gift after I caught my mother swapping spit with Uncle Patrick. I never sold it. That memory meant I had some kind of power. I mean, if power back-in-the-day meant wielding braces and training bras and crippling secrets, then power it was.
I stepped up, to porches, to patios, to rickety trailer park screen doors. I knocked. I thought I was going to be sick. Then, all my exes answered, fear and doubt in their eyes, worried I came to rage. You perched on my shoulder. A one-hundred-armed angel in my ear. To propel me forward, to confess to men I gave blue balls, to men who gave me black eyes, to men I’ve pretended to love and men who’ve played with my heart like a teething necklace.
There, I raised the shower beer. All night long, I toasted truth to boys with green eyes and men with bikini girl bicep tattoos. My tongue went numb. The words tumbled like dice. I didn’t make sense; I made sense. I watched their bodies wilt, and felt my own lengthen.
Finally finished, done, kaput, wiped out like that song with the manic babbling voice, I
stumbled away to the curb. My chest as empty as a shower beer. I sat in the ditch and watched the spokes of the Huffy glitter in the moonlight. But what was moonlight without a beer? I hefted the can in my palm. It was still full, but I felt lighter for its weight. Like a train wreck with no crash. Under a gold-gilded streetlight, I closed my eyes, whispered, thank you. And then you were there. Beckoning me to follow. The comfort of your one hundred little legs further on up the road.
Jules Archer is the author of the chapbook, All the Ghosts We’ve Always Had (Thirty West Publishing, 2018), and the short story collection, Little Feasts (Thirty West Publishing, 2020). Her writing has appeared in various journals, including SmokeLong Quarterly, Pank, Okay Donkey, New World Writing, Maudlin House, and elsewhere. Her story “From the Slumbarave Hotel on Broadway” will appear in Best Microfiction 2020. Find her at @julesjustwrite or email at julesarcherwrites.com.
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