Stories

The Chimps – Jack Ludkey

The heat has been giving me bad dreams.
        The temperature peaks around 4:00 PM and starts to settle to a manageable level around 4:00 AM. There isn’t much to do these days. I go to my fire escape and try to catch a breeze if there is any to catch. Heat increases the rate of rot tenfold, elevenfold even. 
        I’ve been rotting for a while now.
        The fungus growing on my skin is enveloping me but it doesn’t hurt so maybe it’s not that bad. I’m growing apart from the people I watch. They pass by me like every other day. They used to watch back. Now they avert their eyes.
        I can’t blame them really.
        I go on the fire escape at night when the heat is low and there isn’t anything to look at. Maybe a plane in the sky or the shadow of a skyscraper. They keep me company even though they are far away. I don’t smile at them because that would be overstepping.
        I am sorry plane. I am sorry skyscraper. 
        I order things to my house. Groceries with lots of liquids — Juice, fresh squeezed. And products that I learn too late will eat my skin away and make me age. The rotting groceries pile up in a big wet heap; the products stack up in a big cardboard tower.
        I watch the Doordashers hold their nose through their masks. I watch through the glass eye in the door as they give me another bag of food. I like to watch the food rot. They don’t knock anymore but I still find the men kind.
        When I crawl out of my window and onto the fire escape I can hear the cars. Underneath me is a courtyard. It is green and I hope someday to sit in it. 
        The food rots fast in the heat. The meat goes bad first, then the fruit, the juice is sealed tight but it goes bad too. The flies appear from somewhere and buzz in and out of the brown paper bags the nice men bring. The brown bags get wet at the base and start to crinkle in. It smells bad out there. I can smell it from my apartment.
        The smell leaks under the door where there is space. People slide me notes through the space. The notes are unkind. I don’t have time for them. I fold them and place them on the table. All of the notes and letters and things that people wish to give me. 
        I don’t want them. 
        I have learned the truth about my products. Now I use water. Lots of water. I splash my face with the water and look at the girl in the mirror. Her skin is perfect. Her skin is wet. 
        I bathe often. In the bath there is no rotting food and the buzz buzz of the flies is drowned by the trickle of the faucet.
        I hope to absorb the water’s minerals like a sponge. Sometimes the bath fills all the way up and I am barely able to move without splashing water onto the ground.  This is when I close my eyes and my wrinkled toe finds the stopper. And the water all goes away down the drain. If only I could follow it.
        I dry myself off with a thin white towel and place it on the hook to dry.

 

The heat has been giving me bad dreams.
        In my dreams a band of chimpanzees carries me through the street. Parading me like a great prize. Their hands are strong. And they pull me ever so slightly apart. They don’t mean to.
        I know they want me whole. 
        In the dream the streets are full of people. They gaze at me. They don’t seem to mind. I guess I don’t really either. The chimps seem to take me in a circle. All through the town, just a few feet above the ground. They howl and shriek. 
        And I swear. They try to be gentle.
        I wake up when the heat is just too much. The afternoon sun shines into my window, interrupting the chimps. Just when things start to get interesting. I want to know what happens at the end of the dream. I want to know what the chimps are up to.

I wasn’t surprised when the chimps came to the door. 
        I looked at them through the keyhole. 
        They squashed the brown paper bags like they were nothing, like water. The flies buzzed and the rotten fruit squished under their monkey feet. And there were no more bags. And no more food to rot. Just wet squish in the stairwell. 
        After the chimps had done their business they all stood in a circle plotting. 
        I was excited. 
        They knocked hard at first and then lost interest.
        I was going to find out what happened at the end of the dream. 
        I looked around the apartment that I hadn’t left in some time.
        It looked the same.
        The chimps were losing interest and I opened the door. 
        They picked me up graciously and carried me out through the rotten goop and down the stairs.
        I was going to finally finish my dream.