Literary Orphans

Seep by AJ Atwater

Magdalena Roeseler-Inverted

It’s June? he asks.

It’s July, she says.

August?

Barely, she says.

That explains the blue patches, he says.

You’ve seen more? she asks.

Yes. There they are.

He scrambles to mix plaster. Drags his ladder across the living room. She watches him swipe plaster across a corner of the ceiling. I think you got them, she says. Good work.

Thank you. What’s for lunch?

Tuna from a foil pouch.

Again?

Yes, again.

I’ll see if I can eat some today.

She knows he’ll eat a few forkfuls then be back dragging his ladder across the living room. He reminds her they need more plaster for the next day’s blue patches and the day after.         50 pounds? she asks.

100 pounds, he says.

The next day she brings home the agreed upon 100 pounds of plaster. Oh, he says from his ladder. Oh, the plaster has arrived. Quick. Water. Water. Add water. I have seventeen, no, nineteen blue patches on the walls and ceiling. Give me the plaster. Hurry.

She thrusts a pan of plaster toward him. He dips in deeply with his trowel. Drags plaster across the ceiling, his shoulders splayed.

Buy another ladder tomorrow, he says. I’ll suspend a plank across them like Michelangelo did in the Sistine Chapel. I’ll lie on the plank and patch.

Why bother? she asks.

What?

Why bother getting rid of the blue patches, she says watching ceiling plaster sag dangerously.

Why bother?

The blue patches on the walls and ceiling are not real, she says.

They are real.

No, she says.

Yes, he says.

I’m not bringing more plaster into this house. You can go out and get it yourself, she says bravely, dodging a falling piece. A large splat hits his arm.

Blasphemy, he says.

No, she says. It’s the law of the universe. She yelps as another chunk just misses her head. Masses will fall if not properly attached, she says.

Properly attached? he asks. He’s standing on the floor now looking at her. Properly attached to what?

The plaster has to be properly attached to the ceiling and the walls or it will fall.

I’m not properly attached.

You?

Yes, me. He falls to his knees. Look, the ceiling is all blue, he says. I can no longer patch the ceiling.

You can no longer patch the ceiling because it isn’t necessary, she says.

They look around at mounds of fallen plaster.

Do we have a bucket? he asks.

Yes.

And a mop?

Yes, she says.

Let the clean-up begin, he says.

Not so fast. Come here, she says.

They look up.

Do you see blue patches?

No.

Are you sure? Do you see blue patches?

No. Well, a few.

No more blue patches, she says.

Never?

Never. No more patches. Let me make you lunch, she says. You weight all of 110 pounds.

SpaghettiOs bubble on the stove. She uses a spatula to swish some into a bowl in front of him.

What is it you want? she asks.

I want to be an RV owner.

An RV owner?

Yes, an RV owner.

A Pleasure-Way camper van?

No, a Winnebago Ultimate Freedom, he says. They have real wood trim. And three cup

holders near the driver’s seat. For our family.

Boy or girl? she asks.

Both.

Twins? We’ll need four cup holders then. And diapers. And a dog, she says. And a family cat.

A cat too? Won’t it smother the babies?

That’s an old wives’ tale, she says.

Imagine old wives with tails, he says.

What day is it? she asks suddenly.

Thursday? he answers.

Date?

The 18th?

Do we have a calendar? she asks.

No, he answers.

We’ll need a calendar, she says. Otherwise we won’t know dates for bringing up the twins. But first, let the clean-up begin.

Do I have to go out the front door and leave my ladder? he asks.

Yes, she says. You can do it. For the twins. Remember last month it was for the sake of our triplets.

Yes, he says. I remember.

Look. The tiniest blue patch, she says.

Where? he asks.

There, she points.

Get the ladder.

No, she says.

No? he asks.

We need more plaster first. 200 pounds, she says.

They want us, he says.

The blue patches want us, she says.

Make that 400 pounds of plaster, he says.

Yes, at the very least, she says. At the very, very least.

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AJ Atwater is a Minnesota/Manhattan abstract painter and literary fiction writer with stories forthcoming or published in PANK, Vestal Review, Crack the Spine, Heavy Feather Review, Cowboy Jamboree, Barely South Review, The Gravity of the Thing, 50-Word Stories, KYSO Flash and others. ajatwater.com.  

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–Art by Magdalena Roeseler