Sunday, 11 June 2017

A Very Small Problem by Richard Manly Heiman

(c) Caters News Agency


When the green bug with a lion-girl face perched on the dean’s wine glass, fluttering its diaphanous wings, I stopped listening to chatter about next year’s Physical Sciences budget and the new chemistry fellowship. I could only hear that whirring sound. Then I saw the dean was just about to take a sip of her chardonnay. I stammered incoherently and she just missed swallowing the thing. When it levitated like a dragonfly and bee-lined straight for my face I shooed it away, violently. 

“You all right, Professor?” asked a grad student. Everyone in our cluster stared at me.

“Umm…fine. Did you see that?”

The only response was a bit of throat clearing and raised eyebrows. The dean turned away and struck up a conversation with a post-doc. Apparently not. I mumbled something about being tired and left shortly after.

A week later insect-girl popped from the showerhead, buzzed around squeaking obscenities, then disappeared out the bathroom window. I dropped the soap, slipped and almost cracked my head on the porcelain tub side.

Another day, snoozing by the pool, something wet hit my face. I bolted upright; nothing but mocking laughter trailing into the bushes…and a green slime ball on my cheek. Next came plaintive cries from the kitchen sink. I turned on the garbage disposal, but only faint giggling echoed up—no screams. Another time—well, you get the idea.

Simultaneously, our chair decided against retirement the week before his party. Nobody advanced, no raises, nada. Then peer review savaged my meticulously researched book. Three years of research for nothing. And just when I hoped to get out from under alimony, the ex-wife canceled her nuptials with the surgeon. Coincidence? That these things happen every time that mini-monstrosity appears?

But how to kill what shouldn’t exist in the first place? My brilliant water bucket trap mysteriously collapsed—more derision from it. Filling the birdbath with Karo failed, though I snagged every fly and moth in town. The cherry bomb down the bathtub drain? Bad call, big repair bill. If I could just lure the hellion into the microwave...

Then finally – a brainstorm. Meet Bilbo, my quasi-legal ocelot and Sadie, my peregrine. And if they can’t get the job done, well, I’ve got a recipe for mustard gas.

*****

Richard Manly Heiman lives in the pines on the slope of the Sierra Nevada. He works as a substitute teacher and writes when the kids are at recess. Richard's work has appeared or will in Rattle, Into the Void, Bop Dead City and elsewhere. He is a two time 2016 Pushcart Prize nominee. His URL is poetrick.com.

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