Busy Monsters

By WILLIAM GIRALDI  |  July 20, 2011

There was Marvin, lounged back in an armchair, looking at me with yawning eyes. The gray cat was arched on his shoulder, licking the bullet hole nestled in the side of his skull. I aimed the flashlight at the carpet near the chair and spotted the handgun. On the baby-blue curtains behind him, his blood was splattered better than a Jackson Pollock.

I had to instruct myself to breathe and then to breathe some more; my ribs groaned and creaked around a ghoulish heart. Marvin sat bare-chested, Gillian's name tattooed across his pecs. Except now the word forever was blazoned on his mushy abdomen, and as I stepped closer I saw that he had recently carved it there himself with a razor or steak knife. And then I knew: the roses we had received the day before with the message Death were not meant for Gillian or me, but for Marvin himself.

Witness, all ye nonbelievers, the thunderous power of my lover.

"Marvin," I said, giddy. "You shouldn't have."

The place, in fact, was a paragon of filth, stained clothes dropped on the carpet, crusty dishes in every room, crooked framed photos of Gillian grinning from the walls. Outside, I paused there in his dirt driveway to weep.

"Goodbye, Marvin," I said through my tears — I cry when I can — "and thank you."

Then I remembered the cat. I couldn't just leave it there to mope and starve, so I retrieved it from behind the door, saying, as you know I did, "Here kitty kitty," and it was delighted to come with me, no doubt having had its share of one Marvin Gluck. On my lap it sat with love, made cat sounds. At a pay phone in the parking lot of the strip mall, I fanned through the tethered directory for the closest animal shelter, and when I got there twenty minutes later, I said to the T-shirted teenage girl at the front desk, her mouth a mutiny of metal, "Find this feline a loving home. And remember always the difference between s-o-r-e and s-o-a-r."

My next stop was the giant squid exhibit off the highway. Yes, it would be a mere twenty feet long and made clumsily of rubber, suspended from the rafters of some lonely farmer's barn. But he would take a Polaroid photo of me in front of it, and I would smile wide for the camera, and have this photo to give to Gillian upon my return. And I would make a pledge to her, now that we were unencumbered, that I would soon dive to the bottom of the sea and drag back her beloved squid, kicking and screaming, so that she could hold it, and smell it, and measure its abundance, all the days of her life.

Copyright © 2011 by W. W. Norton & Company. For more information on Busy Monsters, visit busymonsters.com.

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