by Marcelina Vizcarra
“Off, Fifi,” she said. The cat protested, sliding sideways in the wake of Marianne’s arm.
The books Marianne slid under the head of the mattress hadn’t stopped the acid reflux from reaching the back of her throat. She chugged ginger ale from the bottle on the nightstand.
They were all still there, the smiling man drawling out the day’s forecast: humid, sixty percent chance of rain; the woman with starched hair and Visine eyes admiring Marianne as she stumbled through the living room to the kitchen, the yappy chef on her counter extolling the virtue of chicken. She cooked herself an egg sandwich, slathering mayonnaise across the toast.
“We’ll have Chicken Oscar tonight,” she told Fifi. The cat watched her fix lunch, hurrying over when she opened the fridge for a beer. “I’ve got to get some Bernaise though. Don’t let me forget: Bernaise and diet cat food.”
In the living room, two televisions argued, both stacked on a third, a floor model that’d been on the fritz. She muted the televisions in turns. When all three channels in front of her went to commercial—which happened more often that you’d think—she muted them all to listen to the set in the bedroom. She arranged her remote controls on the TV tray. To Marianne, the house was full of ghosts she channeled on demand with the touch of a button.
“We better get to town before Bradley comes home,” she told the cat, “or he’ll think we slept in all day again.” The cat stared at her as if about to speak, then startled when the floor console crackled to life. “Hey, hey. Back in business.”
Marianne tucked into the sandwich. Globs of mayo slid towards her wrists. Fifi, drawn to the smell, approached with her tail up. Perhaps the cat, in rising from the carpet, carried a static charge. Perhaps the atmosphere had been saturated with electricity from leaking outlets. Perhaps the overloaded cathode ray tube bugged big-time.
The television reception blinked and turned to snow. Before Marianne could stomp her foot to make it behave, all the televisions winked off. The room throbbed with silence. She noticed a scorch mark in the carpet.
Marianne felt a heat in her belly. Her throat burned, and she belched. Smoke came out. She looked down her décolletage to see more smoke. Her eyes rolled back in her head, and she fell. Fifi bolted behind the sofa.
Marianne burned through the chair cushion, then the hessian underneath, dumping ash through the springs to the floor. Tallow melted over the chair arms, dripped and hardened into greasy stalactites. Two puddles of wax flanked the chair. The fire smoked and snuffed out.
The television reception ghosted, resumed. Canned laughter filled the room. Fifi crossed the ash blizzard to the ceramic shards beside the chair. Her nose found its target, curdled mayonnaise, and she lapped it in.