By Kyle Perdue
Artwork by Alexa Gaffaney
The clock struck three. I knew the clock struck three because the oven went off. This meant that Ritchie boy had gotten home and set the oven to four twenty-five to make his afternoon salmon. I glanced at the oven through the little window leading to the kitchen. Yep, four twenty-five. Then I saw Ritchie boy walking through the kitchen like a madman; his hair was trying to escape from his head, going upward and sideways in all sorts of directions. He had his light blue scrubs on and they contrasted his dark Filipino skin. He didn’t know anybody was home. I saw him pull out a cigarette and light it in the kitchen. He then went over to a smoke detector and fiddled with it. “Not today.” He said aloud with the cigarette in his mouth and the smoke creating a cloud that encompassed his face. He threw the salmon on a tray and put it in the oven. “A treat fo you, and then a treat fo me.” He said to the oven. He went over and opened a window and sat on the dryer and smoked his cigarette. I saw him take a drag. “Fuck,” he said aloud as he exhaled. I was about to scare him when the washing machine came on magically. “What the hell?” He said, looking down at it from atop the drier. He took another drag as he leapt off the dryer and analyzed the washing machine. He tried pressing stop, but it wouldn’t obey. He tried opening the thing, but it wouldn’t budge. He stood there stupefied, looking around the machine like it was a foreign object. He looked through the little glass window. “There’s nothing even in there.” He said. He shrugged, then plopped back up on the drier and perched there for another minute, exhaling plumes of blue smoke that rose to the kitchen ceiling. (Our washing machine and dryer were in our kitchen). A subtle noise came from the washing machine, and the door swung gently open. “Dee-doo-do-da.” It sang. “What the fuck?” Asked Ritchie boy. He hopped back down and peered inside. He put his head all the way inside the machine. I could barely hear him say: “What is that?” Then he was pulled inside. All of him. The last thing I saw was the tip of his Vans slip on shoe and the bam! The window of the washing machine slammed shut. I was yelling all sorts of jargon and racing over there, holding up my britches with both hands because I’d lost my belt a few days prior. I tripped and slipped and fumbled my way over to the machine and I tugged at the door with all my might. It wouldn’t budge. I looked into the little window. It was empty. I kept pulling at it, cursing and screaming and panicking. I went into the garage and got a baseball bat. I came back and smashed the little window. Glass went everywhere. I felt my hands around the insides of the machine. Nothing. I sank down onto the kitchen floor and sat on the many shards of glass. I looked over and noticed his cigarette on the floor. It still had a few tokes left in it. I picked it up and stuck the butt in my mouth. Inhale. Exhale. “Ritchie boy, what in the fuck?” I said through the smoke. I looked in the washer. Nothing but emptiness.
Hours went by. I paced back and forth outside on the front lawn thinking about my next move. Another friend/roommate got home: Wolfgang. He bounced on his toes and came up to me quickly. He smiled and gave me a high-five hug. “Hey bud, how’s it?” He asked. I rustled up some quick and nonchalant phrases, something like: “Oh good, just hanging out.” Or “Hey man, hey.” Something so he couldn’t tell that I was off my rocker, losing it, beginning a downward spiral of madness. Then he went inside. I followed. I watched him go into the kitchen. I stared at his face. When is he going to see the glass? The scene that had just went down? What’s he going to do? He will have some good ideas, he always does. He went to the fridge and got a beer. Then he walked over by the washing machine and I watched his face carefully. Other than the smile on his face every time he would look at the beer can before a sip, his face was utterly indifferent. He seemed not to care. But what about the glass, Wolfgang?! I screamed in my head. I ran around the counter and into the kitchen to attack him. To berate him. To get his help. But there was no glass. The washing machine was good as new. He sipped on his beer and looked in the pantry. “Yo do we got any onions? . . .” He looked at me. I was looking at the washer, with my mouth hung open. “Ritchie . . .” I whispered with wet eyes. Wolfgang found an onion. “Oh, here’s one.” He tossed it into the air and caught it again. “You okay bud?” . . .
A whole working day had passed. I didn’t even know the clock struck three. The oven hadn’t gone off. There was no salmon to be made, and no Ritchie boy to be making it. I walked over to the washer. I stared into its soul. Evil fucking thing, I thought to myself. I noticed its worn out buttons, the scratches on its white exterior, the way the window bulged out like an eyeball. I loathed its every detail. Wretched and haunted. I kicked it as hard as I could and broke three of my toes: all but the big one and the toe next to it. “Ah!” I yelled, holding my foot and hopping on one leg. I sat down and began taking off my shoe. I threw the shoe to one side and looked at the bent toes. Just then the machine made another subtle noise, singing its song. “Dee-doo-do-da.” I shot up. “Ritchie!” I yelled. I stuck my head in, excited to see my friend again. To have that Filipino nurse-child in back in the real world. The tangible, somewhat-explainable realm of thoughts and ideas we call Earth. Then some kind of force took hold of my soul. I was no longer aware of what was around me. I was falling. I was falling somewhere and all I could make out was a blur of shapes and colors that danced together. Blue took green by the hand and they performed a waltz like nothing you’d ever seen. A red circle salsa danced with the number eleven and well they must have taken classes because they were damn good. There was a sunset somewhere. I watched it as I fell. It fell like me. To somewhere unknown. A dog’s face whirled around me. “I’m a cat.” It said. “No you’re a dog.” I tried saying but I was paralyzed. My tongue was numb. I couldn’t move. “You pathetic little human.” It said. Dear God, I thought, where is Ritchie? And then I saw a small circle. It was my kitchen! Wolfgang’s face was right there in front of it. It spun and spun and grew smaller. He looked at me. I waved my arms. He shrugged, took a sip of beer, and shut the little window.
I awoke. I was in a cave. It was dark. The ground was shaking. It stopped . . . I still only had one shoe. The soil was purple. I followed the light until I got to the cave entrance. The ground started shaking again. Something big was walking my way. I hid behind a rock. Then I saw it. There in front of an orange and red sky, walking on purple sod, was a cigarette with a face. It was three times the size of any human and had arms, legs, and an attitude. It curled its lips and let out a snide sigh. Then it pulled a little human from its pocket, put it to its mouth, and lit their hair on fire. “Ah!” They screamed. The cigarette kept on. I noticed a small horizontal tear where its filter met the white. I waited till it was far off in the distance.
I walked through a valley of lindt and noticed a forest of coins, receipts, mints, and used toothpicks off in the distance. A castle jutted high above the treetops of the forest. That’s gotta be where Ritchie boy is, I thought. I was walking through the valley of lindt and my one foot with no shoe was gently massaged. I saw something moving out of my right eye. It was off in the distance. I carefully made my way toward it. I got close enough to see: it was a wad of clothes swirling in the air, moving about gracefully over the valley floor. I walked up to it. Hey! That’s Wolfgang’s sock. I peeled it from the rest. It was wet and soapy. And that’s his shirt! All of his shirts were white. He liked white. Then I was sent flying onto my back, landing softly on the lindt. The thing had spoken. That swirl of clothes had said something. “Your friend.” It said as some pants fluttered below a sock-mustache. “He’s in the castle.” I looked closer. It had two little coin-eyes. One penny and one nickel. Six cents. “But beware.” It continued. “These are treacherous parts. The Valley of Lindt is a place of peace, but the Forest of Coin is not.” I was still on my back, propping myself up with my elbows when I asked it: “Where are we?” It laughed. “Well dear boy, this is hell.” It replied. I looked around. “Really?” I asked. It smiled. “No but it might as well be.” And with that it floated off in the direction I had come.
I picked myself up and tied my one shoe. I walked toward the castle. I noticed a little cottage in the Valley of Lindt. Well, I thought, if the Valley of Lindt is a place of peace then whatever is inside has gotta be nice, right? The cottage was lovely. It had a garden of bright blue lindt flowers– lilacs. They danced and fluttered in the breeze. A trail led from the door down to a small pond that sat quietly, flickering under that orange and red sky. I peered into a window. Two bottles of laundry detergent held each other in bed. “But honey,” one said, “it doesn’t matter if it’s a softener or a bleach, we’re still going to love it with all our heart.” They kissed, looking at a sonogram. I decided not to bother them.
Ah, the Forest of Coin. I was one step from entering. The ground shook. I hid. Another cigarette with a little person in its mouth. The person screamed in agony. I noticed another small, horizontal tear. I looked at a tree of pennies. The pennies were about the size of a frisbee. I snapped my fingers in delight. An idea. I took a penny and chucked it hard right at the tear in the cigarette. It sliced through the fucker like a knife through butter. The white toppled down and rolled a few feet away, just before the orange fell over. I ran and looked for the little person with the singed hair. He was underneath some of the debris. He got up and brushed himself off. He was as tall as my knees. “Close call!” He said in a high-pitched voice. The ground started shaking again. “Gotta run!” He jetted off toward the Valley. “Wait!” I called out to him. It was too late. He was gone. I hid and waited for whatever it was to pass . . .
It had large gleaming eyes and shiny, pink scales. It had big lips and little fins and sucked at the air in front of it. It was a walking salmon that was twice as big as the walking cigarettes. It swung a smoke alarm by its wires. It swung it around like it was a nun chuck. I waited until the ground grew calm. Then I moseyed further into the Forest. There were coins everywhere. They made up the trees, bushes, rocks, just about everything. There were also receipts and used toothpicks and mints and candy that riddled the floors and foliage. There were large ovens like caves that were sewn into the coin-rocks. Streams of soapy water trickled there way through the Forest here and there. And all seemed to be quiet. Sometimes the ground would tremor and I would hide then it would cease. And I would move onward. This kept happening. Then the ground was really shaking and I found myself pinned against the wall of an oven-cave. The damn walking salmon saw me instantly. He swung his smoke alarm left and right as he walked my way. His big lips sucked at the air in satisfaction. His scales sparkled in excitement. Then his walk turned to a full sprint. He was still swinging that smoke alarm around. I waited till the last second and I dodged his attack. I somersaulted through his legs, jumped onto a coin-rock, and hurled myself toward the oven door. I barely made it. I hung with both hands from the lever of the oven door and slammed it shut with my body weight. I punched four twenty-five and that salmon was a cookin’. It smelled good. I waited on a nearby quarter and thirty minutes later I feasted.
I had made it to the castle. The little man with the singed hair frightened me from behind with his high pitched voice. “Hey hey! Take this!” He handed me a blow dryer. Little embers flew from his singed head. “Gotta run!” Boy could he run. “Wait!” I yelled. It was too late.
The castle was tall and pointy. Its marbly white tips speared the sky. I approached the doors and they opened for me . . . A few pods of laundry detergent came at me with used toothpicks. I pointed the blow dryer square at them and blasted. They popped and oozed, spilling their multicolored guts all over the place. Damn right pods, maybe next time. I rose and rose within the castle, calling Ritchie boy’s name all the while.
I got to a large room with a long checkered black and white floor and a red rug with gold trim that led to a King’s throne. Ritchie boy sat on his knees tied up in socks before something sitting in the throne. He was still in his scrubs. What is that, sitting there? I couldn’t make it out. I was too far. I walked toward them. A bunch of floating swirls of clothes came from behind some white pillars. They wielded used toothpicks. I blasted them. Onto the floor they went, sputtering and seizing in their own demise. Then I saw it. It was a piece of gum, still in its packaging. All wet and moist. It sat in the throne. “Ah, Ritchie boy’s friend. Come to join the party?” It said. It pulled a little human from a small packet of humans and popped it into his mouth. It chewed. Then I was hit in the back of the head. Everything went black . . .
I awoke tied up in socks. Some swirls of clothing surrounded us. They had toothpicks to both of our necks. I looked at Ritchie boy. “Well, this is it buddy. Never thought we’d go like this. Love you with all my heart.” Ritchie spoke some words but there were socks in his mouth, so I couldn’t really understand what he said. I think he asked if I had any orange juice. They readied their toothpicks. Then Wolfgang walked in. He held a beer. “What the fuck is going on?” He asked. He sipped. The swirls smiled. They went after him. He spit in their direction. “Ah, germs!” They screamed and ran out of there. “Damn it.” Said the King, that stick of gum. Wolfgang walked up and grabbed the gum by its throat. He held it up, killed his beer, and then stuck the gum in his mouth. He chewed. Then he spit it out. “Ah that’s disgusting!” He yelled. He untied Ritchie boy and I. “What is this place?” Asked Wolfgang. “And how do we get outta here?” Ritchie boy and I looked at each other. “I don’t know.” I said. “But there is a bar in the lobby of the castle. Drink?” Wolfgang and Ritchie boy smiled. “Hell yeah.”
We went down there and ordered a pint. The little singed-hair man gave us the drinks. We sipped and grew unconscious. Everything went black.
We awoke in our living room. The clock struck three. The oven beeped to four twenty-five. Ritchie boy walked over to the kitchen. He was putting some salmon into the oven. Then he was pulled in and the oven door slammed shut. Wolfgang and I looked at each other. “God damnit.”