Chapter Nineteen

Monty's Tale


I should start by telling you, Monty said, that I am not a boy. I've been dead for almost two centuries.


Let me tell you about the basement of this apartment complex, a place few of have ever gone. Its darkness understandably strains with fear, enough that residents forego all the free storage available there, storage your leases stipulate, should you find the patience to read the documents you've signed. 


You might remember the one-legged master carpenter and repairman most often wearing a red hat. That's right, your hermit-like custodian; most of you know him as Skip. His real name is Alfonse Macchiato DiPietri, and he tended so often to your stairwells and doorways, tightened so many screws and employed so many ounces of WD-40 to squeaks offensive to your ears. Indeed, his eloquent and romantic name was defiled to "Skip" by American shitheads whose upbringing and ill-education left them with bricks for tongues. May they be bent over urine-drenched secondhand sofas and fucked, all of them. But I digress.


While you know Skip as the master repairman, to you a quiet and reclusive sort, prior to your birth, Skip was known---I will, henceforth, name him Alfonse---around this neighborhood as a kind of trickster, his shenanigans discussed in every watering hole and church social for blocks around. He would spend hours in his basement sculpting false wooden legs for himself, prostheses fixed with capsules of food coloring. When drilled at the right angle, they produced explosions of scarlet fluid.


Alfonse would then walk about our parks and playgrounds to find children engaged in nothing more than sandbox innocence.  Alfonse Macchiato would yell at these urchins in language so vulgar that the Prince of Darkness forbade its repetition even in the sixth plane of hell. Profane to the core, his soul chained to the sewage pipes of the abyss, Alfonse would corner your neighborhood babes, exclaim his vulgarities and drill his leg. Combined with the vile words, the crimson expositions of self-mutilation scarred the munchkins so profoundly that they became a legion of terrors damned forever to remain exactly 8 years old and starving.


I see your curiosity has been piqued. Yes...yes, indeed, the disappearance of our complex's birds can be attributed these little ones. They eat them, you see. They devour them raw, sometimes on the roof, other times in the alley, always in secret, always invisible to you, for your brains have built within them a mechanism to shut all perception down when faced with true terror. It's exactly why no one can ever remember or understand what the fuck Donald Trump is talking about. But I digress.


Alfonse---you know, let's call him Skip, why not---despite a sinister core, soon saw his health failing. Your neighbor once discovered a lung lying in the middle of the sidewalk. That lung was Skip's; he had coughed it out while mowing the lawn. The urchins ate it, so sick is your time.


Ashamed of his ill health, Skip withdrew to spend most of his hours in the basement shop. It is, if you would visit it, actually an apartment complete with all the necessary comforts. The place is, in fact, more comfortable than any apartment in the complex, warmed naturally by the immortal fires of darkness; unlike the rest of us, Skip has not paid one cent to Nicor in his life.


The apartment features a wrought iron and quite ornate kitchen table. There sit Skip's gossiping and ranting elderly aunts, six chain-smoking grannies torn from Ivan Albright paintings. They loathe nearly everything, have not once in their lives uttered a polite word, and no person living or dead has been spared being a target of their inexhaustible bag session. Their words, when uttered about the dead, passing through ghosts of cigarette smoke, instantly become human-faced birds, fluttering for a while against the floor or walls until they gather their bearings to exit out windows left open along the ceiling.


Skip keeps these aunts fueled, their diet consisting of Jameson whiskey and Jewel angel cake, so that the starving urchins would not run out of food. At present, with Skip's health failing evermore, the supply of birds meets the urchins' needs so accurately that virtually no spare birds can ever be found. Those of you desiring interaction with human-faced mourning doves, cardinals, blue jays or swallows are left befuddled.


Yes, I was one of them. I managed to escape the urchins' jaws, finding my way to the very top of an elm, where I nearly froze from winter winds, but soon found myself metamorphosed back to my resurrected human self, and crashed through branches to land in a carp pond. I should estimate that a bird who survives five or six days without falling prey to the urchins will experience a similar metamorphosis. I have the body of a child. Others here...who knows.


They might be anything. 



By Gint Aras


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