Mom and HerBoyfriendChip say we got this house real cheap because something bad happened here. Before we go in, us kids ask if it’s haunted, and Mom says even if chairs stack themselves and walls bleed, we’re better off living here than in that catpiss apartment with the Lopers who used to chase us with steak knives and way, way better off than in HerBoyfriendChip’s van with the rusted out floorboards that ate our flip flops then shat them along the highway as we drove. Plus, the doorbell chimes “Deep in the Heart of Texas” – who wouldn’t want to live in a house with a dinger like that. She’d ring it now, but the electricity ain’t hooked up yet. The door opens, and us kids scatter like roaches, all scream-hoot-and-holler. Mom and HerBoyfriendChip lock themselves in the big bedroom, start moaning like ghosts, so we play hide-and-seek and tag, laugh at the old-timey porn mags we find in the bathroom, plan how we’re gonna fill this house with bamboo and wicker, bearskins and lava lamps, maybe even one of those egg chairs we’ve seen on Mork and Mindy. Soon enough the sun goes down, this house goes dark. We’re scared thinking about the something bad happened here, also that big, bloody-looking stain we saw in the basement. For a long minute, there’s nothing to hear except our empty stomachs groaning like zombies, till one of us kids yells, “Fuck you, Lopers!” loud enough to wake the dead.
I’ve long admired Meg’s humor. On blustery days I think of these lines and chuckle: “Olive says the winds were bad—really bad. Hot dogs blew out of the buns that day” (“Here One Comes”). But I’m also struck by Meg’s dark humor, the way she fearlessly tackles the taboo (“Fish Families Falling,” I’m looking at you). Most of all, I’m awed by how effortless Meg makes it all appear, as though the words tumbled out of her creative mind in one shot, unhindered, flawless, perfect.
I was inspired by “The Bug Man” (first published at Tin House Flash Fridays). Thanks, Meg!
Audra Kerr Brown lives on a dirt road in Iowa. Her fiction has appeared in Best Small Fictions, Wigleaf’s Top 50 (Very) Short Fictions list, X-R-A-Y, People Holding, Flashback Fiction, Outlook Springs, and more. She is a Fiction Editor at New Flash Fiction Review.