Ridiculous: Fiction by Nate Waggoner

I get home and Kremplus is dumping rotten meat out the window and screaming. I tell him he has to get the fuck out right now and he punches me in the face. I pull a knife from out the kitchen draw. He says, You better put that knife away or I’ll sue you. I fling my arm around, slashing the air in front of him. I’m crazy. He puts his hands up. I tell him to get the fuck out of my apartment, he hasn’t paid rent in months and I don’t care even if he is my sister’s private mindfulness guru. He says, She’ll end her life. I put the knife down. We sit at the table.

I tell Kremplus I don’t appreciate the mental stranglehold he has on my kin. He tells me Shandy would be worse off without him, hopelessly devoted to some social media manager instead. All he does bad is throw old meat down that sometimes hits passersby, get kicked out of Met Food for stealing candy, and write threatening letters to Joe Biden. That and the aforementioned rent negligence.

I say, Why don’t you change your ways? He says, Why, so people like you will accept me? He makes the very valid points that I spend all day on the phone with my friend Chet talking loudly about savings, that I will often harass the yoga class Kremplus teaches here by trying to put ties on the students while they’re in Camel Pose, and that I leave horny comments on his mother’s Instagram like, Wish I could be those azaleas.

Shandy comes home and prepares dinner for us: scallops in a garlic, butter, and mint sauce on a bed of barley, with jicama and mango on the side. Kremplus tells her I pulled a knife on him. I tell her it was only after he punched me and threw rotten meat out the window. He counters that that was only before he kicked me in the shins, then kicks me in the shins under the table.

She says, Boys, we have to learn to live together because I can’t live without either of you. My life as a veterinarian doesn’t fulfill me emotionally. Only having two grown men fully dependent on me for survival can sate my needs.

I tell her that’s not love, that’s pity, and you can have your pity, I’ll move out.

Kremplus says, He’s right, I’m leaving too. Kremplus says now he and I will be the siblings, and we’ll sell our hair and live in the East River. We’ll be mermen. And Shandy will have nothing but financial security, which is all she deserves, after pulling the stunt of placing us under a mental stranglehold.

So that’s exactly what happens. Me and Kremplus sell our hair for forty dollars and live off rations of Spicy Sweet Chili Doritos until the time comes for us to live in the River, where we eat fish and human corpses. Every night we sleep and drift further from shore until we are creatures of the ocean. The struggle of life in the sea forces us to put aside our petty bickering forever.

We meet mermaids and eventually have merchildren with them. The mermaids are not really mermaids any more than we are mermen—they are simply women who had the same idea as us. Their names are Taylor and PJ and they used to work at H&M but got fed up with working in fast fashion retail. We are all of us bloated and green and haggard, with raw skin and hair coming out in clumps, making unsightly love to each other.

Shandy continues using the mindfulness techniques Kremplus taught her every day. She is married briefly but has no kids, afraid they’ll become dependent on her.

She forgets us, though. She lives another thousand years. The apartment is torn down. She finds herself capable of simply sitting silently on the concrete ground, without nourishment or stimulation of any kind. In her mind and heart only a gentle hum.

Nate Waggoner is the editor-in-chief of The-Tusk.com. His writing has appeared on the Barrelhouse blog, Electric Literature’s Okey-Panky, in The “Loose Lips” literary parody anthology from Grand Central Publishing, and elsewhere.

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