Nobody in the family knew what to do about Carl. So, they fed him acid by the sheet. Now Carl plays pool and gets erections when the nurse’s assistant inserts the catheter into his bladder. He watches his roommate eat cigarette butts and laughs. Carl sounds like a pig with laryngitis when he laughs. Sometimes he asks his house manager if he could please have three dollars so he can go to Mary’s. Even Carl knows that Mary’s serves beer until one in the morning and the girls take all their clothes off, and if you get close enough, you can smell the mystery rubbed into their shiny skins. Every Thanksgiving, Carl puts on his favorite plaid shirt and paisley tie. He stands at the bathroom counter, coaxing his myriad cow-licks to lay flat. After he gives up, the hairs are still flailing, perma-tripped and defiant. Carl and his hair wander into the living room and freeze mid-stride in front of the forest-green leather couch. His arms are poised like a mannequin’s, bent at the elbow, leaning away from his trunk at awkward, unlifelike angles. The staff can hear him muttering under his breath angrily, but the words are mostly incoherent. Carl dedicates these rambling monologues to his hallucinogenic experiences. Sometimes Carl is pleased with his delusions, other times he is terrified of what he sees. When the glaze drips out of his eyes, Carl lowers himself onto the couch. Perched on the edge of the cushion, he glowers at the door. He is sure this will be the year his family comes for dinner.
Thanatos by Elly Portnoy