The Eradication of a Loser
by Terri Fleming
My father gave his knuckles a hearty crack. “The world is over-populated with worthless losers using up good air.” His eyes were cold, like that of a dead man, and fixed on me. “And, for the most part, losers don’t think they’re losers.”
Mom shuffled into the room with a platter of fanned crackers; Dad gave her a warm smile, and retreated to his workshop down in the bowels of the house. I’m surprised he didn’t make her do a curtsey while serving. Who knows? Maybe she agrees that women belong in their small little place and men are the ruling gender.
My name’s Toby — which sounds more like a dog’s name than a man’s. My uncle Toby would kick me square in the ass if he heard me say that, though. Although my uncle is a weird character, I like him; he’s good to me.
And I like dogs for that matter; big, dopey-looking dogs in particular. Folks can be neatly packaged into three categories: dog lovers, cat lovers and dog-and-cat haters; that’s it. We really are simple people. As my Dad said, “Half the people on the planet are useless and the rest of us are stuck living with ’em.” Whenever he said “the rest of us,” he really meant only himself and maybe Mother.
I told the anorexic yet busty attendant at the 7-Eleven about the remarkable thing that happened to my sister. The clerk was nice to me, never failing to inquire if I needed a bag for my purchase, and I was hoping maybe she had friend potential. But after I’d told her the story, her eyes squished up, and she backed away as though I was greasy hamburger.
I smiled and said I was just kidding, but someone had pressed her pause button. I held a plastic smile for what felt like three days. I must’ve had a stitch of food in my teeth because her stomach growled.
She quickly slid my receipt across the counter and nodded me off. I didn’t tell anyone else after that, but the attendant did; I heard her whispering about me when I visited the following week. I frequent the store in Woodbury now.
My sister Tamara and I were best friends. I told her she was crazy when she was going through a rough time. I guess that wasn’t the right thing for a brother to say. I thought her story was funny, but it was wrong to laugh.
I think about Tamara a lot. I often replay the Christmas dinner scene in my head; sometimes I dream about it...
I had a giant mouthful of turkey, and Mom was piling mountains of mashed potatoes on any plate that showed a quarter-inch of white ceramic.
“Something happened to me,” my sister Tamara said. But no one other than our mother stopped shoveling in food. The convenience store clerk would’ve fallen over dead at the sight of our gluttony.
“What happened, honey?” Mom asked.
“Remember when I went to the city to see Beauty and the Beast? And afterwards we went over to Central Park? There was something in the park. Something...” Her eyes welled up.
“Well, it obviously wasn’t me,” I said, but no one even gave me a token sigh or even looked at me, for that matter.
Mom scanned our plates again, looking for more white space. Potatoes must have been on sale.
Dad cleared his throat before addressing our mother. “I heard on the radio about this guy, Ben Swanston or Swanson — just a regular old working guy who starved to death. That man — Ben — gave his lazy unemployed kids his paycheck. They were probably better off. He was gonna lose his house... in Levittown, I think. Yeah, they said he had a Levitt-house.”
My mouth turned to desert, and I waved off Mom’s offer of another helping of turkey.
“It... they... got into me,” Tamara said and then covered her mouth to stifle her lip-quake.
Dad lifted another forkful of mashed potatoes.
“Honey, are you sick?” Mom asked with a well-practiced expression of concern.
“In a way, I guess. I’m... oh god, I’m infected.”
“Oh, Mother of Mary! It’s AIDS, isn’t it?”
“Not AIDS... Aliens.”
Dad stood, grunted, unbuttoned his slacks and retreated to the living room while Mom shook her head and sailed into the kitchen on her gravy boat.
I had nowhere to go.
Tamara went on. “They entered through here,” she said and lifted her hand to display a semi-healed cut. “It didn’t hurt, but it did feel creepy.”
“Yeah, like, well, like aliens slithering under my skin.”
I don’t remember my response to that, but it was certainly something profound like “oh” or “wow.”
Later, at my apartment, my sister and I cracked open a bottle of tequila and talked some more.
She leaned into me and I hugged her and rubbed at her back. I wished I could pluck the delusion right out of her head. I guess because I was thinking along those lines, I began massaging the back of her head.
“I love you, Toby. I know you don’t believe, but Tobe, it’s true, and I don’t think there’s a damn thing I can do about it. I feel ’em. They’re in me, I can feel them under my skin. I think it’ll get worse, maybe soon I won’t even be myself anymore. They’re here,” she said and grabbed my hand, planting it on her right shoulder.
I didn’t feel anything but regular skin. Her skin was smooth, not bumpy with invading aliens.
“Just wait,” she said, “give it a minute.” She guided my hand close to her breast, and moved her face close to me. “They’re hiding.”
Her voice was so damned low I had to move a scant four inches from her. It didn’t help that her words were slurred.
She understood and put her lips on my cheek so I could ‘feel’ her words. “They don’t want anyone to believe me. Just wait.” Then her lips were on mine. She tasted like tequila and turkey. Her lips moved again. “Believe me,” she said and when I moved my mouth to say something, no sound came, and I found my lips pressing harder to hers.
Her tongue poked into my mouth. My hand skimmed her body and I felt only the warm silkiness of it — nothing horrible — nothing dirty or alien at all. We stood together, our tongues still rolling, and moved to the sofa, our bodies never more than inches from one another.
Beads of sweat dripped from my forehead onto hers. Her eyes looked into mine; there was no judgment in her gaze. We moved in perfect harmony. Her moans came from a place low in her stomach. I splayed my fingers to cover as much of her body as I could. Her skin felt electric.
She held my face in her hands. “I love you so much, Toby,” she whispered and arched her back to climax. It was all too much for me... her eyes, the silkiness of her body, and my love for her... I exploded.
I wouldn’t have let her do it, but I was half in the bag and part of me thought she might’ve been playing a gag on me. She’d been mean like that before. I laughed when she spoke about the aliens again. She explained how they could come marching right out of her like school kids walking single file.
“You just wait, Toby.”
“Like ants,” I said and the thought of that tickled me so much that I busted out laughing. The tequila surely didn’t help censor my responses.
Tamara didn’t laugh though. Instead her eyes were boring into mine, as though we were kids again. She always won; I am the world loser when it comes to staring contests. I’m sorry that the ant thing tickled me.
“Don’t let them get into you,” she warned.
I nodded, grabbed the bottle and took another swallow of tequila.
“I think there may be a lot of them, or maybe they’ll just pop out and die; I don’t know what’ll exactly happen.”
She traveled somewhere far away... and dark... by the look in her eyes. I nudged her shoulder and offered up one of my goofy smiles. She always liked how stupid I can make myself look.
Part of me wanted to see. Stranger things have happened. I didn’t think she would make the bullet hole in her head though.
Half of her face was gone in an instant. Then it was just me... My other half was obliterated.
I went to see my mother and father that weekend. I was as shaky as a drug addict. I rang the doorbell as I always had. Dad hated when we just barged right in. It was his house, he’d said, not anybody else’s.
“Coming,” mother shouted, surely from the kitchen. Dad was not the type of man to eat quick meals.
“Okay,” I said, quietly, as Tamara used to, and smashed my lips together.
Mom nearly dropped her paisley oven mitt (a Christmas gift from my father) when she saw me. “Mother of Mary! What did you do?”
I tried to hug her but she wiggled out of my arms and called for my father.
“Aw, Christ,” he said and threw his arms in the air.
Mom reached out and touched my hair. “Why?”
Dad grunted. “Never planning on getting a job are ya? Not looking like that. You look like some kind of freak.”
“I have a job,” I said, “Got it this morning.”
“Jesus,” Dad said and looked to heaven while shaking his head.
“No, really, I do, working online.”
“My God,” Mom said softly while her eyes roamed my body. “Why are you talking so deep like that? Oh Mother of Mary! What did you do... you... Oh, my word, you look like a boy.”
“Tamara’s dead, Mom. She killed herself. It’s only me now. It’s only me, Toby.”
“Toby?” she questioned and turned to Father. “What’s she saying?”
“Jesus Christ, Tamara. What’s this getup all about?” Dad said, shaking his head.
Then Mom said it again, but this time more to herself than to me. “You look like a boy.”
“Stop calling me Tamara. She’s gone. Dead. The loser has been eradicated.”
Copyright © 2010 by Terri Fleming