Fiction

Cardboard Heart

By: Clay Hunt

Maxine slammed her black backpack on my desk. She was a fan of horror and spooky movies. Her long black hair was glued to her puffier-than-normal cheeks. I never cried during these times. I felt like there was no spirit in me for that sort of thing. I googled sociopaths, but I wasn’t sure if I completely fit the criteria.

            “I can’t do this anymore, Van,” she cried.

            “Why?”

 I thought things were fine. I looked at Nigel, my white chested Tabby, as he rested on his back with his front legs splayed. He turned on his side and looked at me. His mouth opened and silently meowed at me.

Maxine paced around the room, kicking little pieces of trash that were in her way. She took her right hand and scratched the top of her left one, and clenched her jaw.

            “You don’t make the full jump in this relationship! I wish I had a boyfriend who wanted to live with me.”

            I wanted to live with her. I did. There were just a lot of complications she probably didn’t consider. I wasn’t sure if I could handle a family unit in the position of a father, I had no money to drop on a nicer place, and I just felt reality slip away every day, lifted from me finger by finger. If she moved in with me, she’d be moving in with a giant black hole of negativity, and she would hate me for it.

 I walked to the fridge to grab a Pellegrino. I stepped outside on the porch and lit a Spirit. I left the door open so I could hear her. The streetlights flickered a bit as a man walked by. I wondered if that man cared about the small problems of his life, or if he was just running into the darkness.

            “Why would I want to live with you anyway? Your fucking house is filthy. Why can’t you pick up that cardboard and trash on your stupid counter.”

            My counter wasn’t stupid. I knew she was mad. I wished I was a little mad. That way I could try and empathize with how she feels.

            “Well, I would clean up if we lived together.”

            Nigel sat up near the foot of the bed. He jumped down and the floor and sat like a gargoyle perched on a statue. He stared under the bed.

 I smashed my Spirit and sat on the bed and looked at Maxine. The fridge began to roar like a wounded hyena; the high-pitched frequency concerned me, but Maxine didn’t seem to notice.

            “What is that noise?” I asked. “It usually doesn’t do that.”

            “Stop avoiding this conversation! I don’t hear anything, are you fucking crazy?” Her foot stomped again.

 Nigel’s head lifted.

            That wasn’t true. I tried to listen.

            Maxine began stuffing her make up bag, her blankets, and her snacks into her backpack. I asked if she wanted help. That probably wasn’t the smartest thing.

            The fridge’s noise began to roar louder. I looked down at Nigel and heard a powerful hiss. A hiss that didn’t sound like an earthling. Nigel cried a high meow and it appeared as though he had been thrown across the room like a pigskin.

“Nigel!” I shouted. “Are you okay, buddy?”

 He darted under the bed. I scratched my arms and my breathing increased.

            Maxine’s crying slowed a little. She looked at me. Her hand cupped her lips. 

            The fridge roared and Nigel was silent under the bed. I rested my knees and hands on the floor and lowered my head to see Nigel. His large light filled eyes glared back at me, his fangs flashed, yet I tried to pet his head but his claws spread from his paws and swatted at me.

He cut the side of my hand and blood dripped on the ground.

“Ow, Fuck!” I cupped my hand over the bleeding.

 I heard rustling by the counter. I looked over and saw the piece of cardboard slide slowly across it. I paled. My legs started trembling. I glanced at Maxine. She looked at me, her lips tensed. I didn’t know what to do. I wasn’t sure what I was seeing. I gulped down some dry spit, and sat down. I didn’t want to be alone.

            I walked over to the fridge and opened the freezer. It hissed and exhaled frosty breath towards me. A bag of frozen green beans fell to the ground. I slammed the door shut and ran to my bed.

            “What the fuck is going on?” Maxine asked. She lifted a strap to her backpack and headed to the front door.

            “Hey, where are you going?” I asked.

            “Van, I’m scared. I don’t feel like you’re here with me. You never listen to me, and now you think the damn house is haunted. I can’t fucking do this with you.”

            “Please don’t go,” I stretched my hand to her.

            She swatted it away, and fled, slamming the door.

            I ran to the bathroom to look at the mirror. I slid my rough fingers across my cheeks and ran the faucet. I thought about that man in the darkness. If I could have just slipped in the nothingness like he did, I could make sense of everything. I don’t know if Earth provides enough darkness for me to live in. I hated that studio. I felt like I could not care about anything. I felt her go. I didn’t want her to, yet I showed her the door.

I slapped my cheeks to reassure that I was here with her. I didn’t feel anything. I looked down and closed my eyes. I turned off the light and walked back to main room. I was still bleeding.

            Maxine was gone. The door was locked. I ran to the porch to see if her car was there. It wasn’t. Another thing gone from my life. Nigel exited the darkness and jumped to the foot of the bed. He meowed at me. I pet him and sat down.  The piece of cardboard fell to the ground. The fridge was silent. I couldn’t even hear Nigel breath. I wrapped myself in blankets and wondered if I was there with anyone.

Categories: Fiction

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