Where the Old Mouth used to be

Where the Old Mouth used to be

This short story was originally sent to paid Hell World subscribers. It does not appear in my book A Creature Wanting Form but it could have! Subscribe now to get every issue of Hell World in your email and access to all of the archives. Here's a nice discount.

I was trying to get this toddler to like me mostly because no one else here seemed to thus far and so it was sort of a last call at the bar scenario in terms of human connection. Besides it was a much lower barrier for entry in the first place. How children are stupid. All of which amounted to kicking a little beach ball back and forth with him. Honestly the kid fucking sucked at kicking the ball but you can’t berate them for being bad at sports because that is their father’s job so you just gotta go good job buddy and then do the half ass jog across the yard to retrieve the ball they shanked into the brush. You can’t talk to them anymore like my father talked to me and his father talked to him and so forth stretching back as far as the history of fathers and kicking balls has been recorded. Just kick the ball right you want to say. Just stop being alcoholic you want to say as a sidebar. At a lovely beach house on the south shore of Massachusetts near where my lawyer lives and with in-laws of in-laws piling on top of one another which is a largely unremarked upon branch of the extended family tree. What is the husband of your wife’s sister’s sister in-law to you besides some guy? It always feels to me like when they first introduced interleague play. These people should not be on the field together. Or when they used to have them all wear their distinctive uniforms on the field for the all-star game. Which was cool actually so never mind that’s a bad analogy.

No wait now that I think of it that guy is not just some guy. Some guy is simple and easy. Some guy has no frame of reference. How when you’re at a barbecue or a wedding as a better example and you’re standing there and some guy is standing there too and you go well I better talk to this guy or else it’s weird and you go oh hey man how do you know the couple and he goes I don’t actually I just got called up from the minors this is my first at bat. I’m trying to fuck some lady a lot more times so here I am at this.

Not that but essentially. You go uh so what do you man hoping he won’t ask the same of you.

Meanwhile at the beach house there’s a squirrel posed on the one large tree clinging upside down like Spider-Man and barking and barking. Staring daggers at something in the near distance. Do squirrels usually bark? This one is doing it anyway without looking like its mouth is even moving like the bark is undulating from out of the center of its body. Squirrel bark not tree bark. The tail thumping and sort of poorly keeping time like an addict drummer. I have seen so many squirrels but I have never heard one of them make a sound like this. Like it was trying to speak German. Or like a cat trying to speak dog actually. Growling and hissing atonally. Or how it sounds when you’ve got a guy from another country tied up and he’s begging for his life spitting out teeth and blood before the even meaner translator arrives.

This squirrel would not stop looking at one specific point not far away and he was carrying on so much I thought there must be a larger than normal snake or a coyote or what have you just over there in the dunes and I finally got up and walked over to inspect the situation with a fearlessness that was short lived and then got a little nervous in a way that embarrassed me. What if it really was a monster of some kind stalking us for his supper and this squirrel was doing us a service the entire time? A Lassie type of deal.

I typed into my phone why ofes the sqsquirrels barking like tayhat and someone replied that he must have seen the thing that made the preacher lay his bible down. It wasn’t that though because squirrels don’t believe in god. As far as I know.

Then the kid kicked the ball at my head and I was like haha wow good one and the door to the house opened and out spilled an entire column of children all going mee mee maaa maaa with no earthly idea that there might be a bear or a rabid dog or whatever you please in the vicinity and now I was outnumbered by them and I had this thought that when I grow sick I want you and the doctor and everyone to lie to me. To tell me I have way more time than I actually do. All the time in the world in fact. To tell me the results came in and the lab guy said it was basically no big deal at all and that I am free to go. A wrongly incarcerated man released and breathing in fresh air for the first time in a decade. The newspaper coming down to take a photo.

And then when it’s your turn I’ll do likewise.

Nobody wants to see it coming.

Sensing it circling you and barking out helplessly like that from a place you thought was safe. From your tree.