She doesn’t want to speak them but they are bothering her so much.
“Is something bothering you?” says Kurt. “Or can I keep eating my fudge fancies?”
It’s true. He’s eating fudge fancies while sitting on the couch. He has a row – five fudge fancies long – on his thigh. All day Kurt takes courses on project management so he can become a project manager. No one knows what this means. He imagines himself managing projects for absurd amounts of money. He will own a driveway. And at night he will eat fudge fancies.
“It’s something you said,” says Kelly. “Actually, two things.”
“Uh huh,” he says, eating a fudge fancy.
She says, “Yesterday you saw a cartoon, on a bus ad, and thought of me. And this morning, after I got out of the shower, you said that if I got any thinner I won’t be able to walk. And I want to know, what kind of person says things like this to someone they love?”
“Good question,” says Kurt. “Walk to the kitchen and come back. Then I’ll know.”
Outside their neighbor is smoking and their window fan is pulling smoke into their apartment again. On television a man is punching another man and everyone in attendance is happy. It feels impossible that there could be whales and jellyfish living in the ocean.
The kitchen is down the hall, which is dark, but Kelly walks down it and into the kitchen anyway. In the cabinet closest to where she now stands are fudge fancies. Under the sink? Fudge fancies. In the freezer? Fudge fancies individually wrapped in plastic wrap. Kurt has fudge fancies hidden all around the apartment and Kelly knows the places. Whenever Kelly gets really upset she takes a fudge fancy and flushes it down the toilet. It’s a way for her to be alone and to punish him, although once she had to call the landlord and say the toilet was clogged, which was embarrassing and time consuming. Still, it felt good to flush Kurt’s fudge fancies down the toilet.
“Now come back,” says Kurt.
Kelly walks back to the living room. She stands in front of him.
“Now move your legs,” he says. “Then I will have my answer.”
Kelly stares at him. Once, she and Kurt appeared on the cover of their college newspaper for a Ramen Noodle Festival. They wore mesh shorts colored orange. Kurt’s mother had the cover laminated. She used a three-hole-punch and with colored yarn tied the article pages to the laminated cover. She keeps it on her crock pot shelf with her crock pots.
“Like this,” says Kurt. He stands and shakes his legs like his knees are going to hit but they don’t hit. His legs blur they move so fast. It’s something else. “Be leg wobble man,” Kurt says. “Come on. Have fun with me.”
“I’m serious,” says Kelly. “I want an answer.”
For a while Kurt is leg wobble man. Then, he sits back on the couch with one fudge fancy. Nothing around him, absolutely nothing, is enjoyable.
The neighbor runs by the window with a gardening hose. Some part of his house is on fire. He left his ham-melt in his toaster-oven too long. He will lose everything. His ex-wife and daughter live 700 miles away in Cincinnati.
Kelly feels like crying and shoving all of Kurt’s fudge fancies into the toilet.
Kurt takes a deep breath. “Everything is a cartoon,” he says, not exactly pleased with the answer, but it’s at least an answer. He knows that somewhere there really is a beach with hermit crabs, pink seashells, an ocean clear blue with morning and some funny shadows from the clouds above. “I’m a cartoon,” he says. “And you’re a cartoon too.” He turns the channel to football which he neither likes nor dislikes but will watch for hours.
She watches him eat his last fudge fancy but he’s not a cartoon. He’s the past version of himself and she’s there too, dreaming.
Shane Jones is the author of the novels Light Boxes (Penguin 2010), Daniel Fights a Hurricane (Penguin 2012) and most recently, Crystal Eaters (Two Dollar Radio 2014). His work has appeared online in BOMB, The Paris Review, The Believer, VICE, Quarterly West and DIAGRAM. He lives in upstate New York.