tarantulaThe Dregs

by Ryan Dempsey

Uncle Bob has a tarantula. He feeds it baby mice, and I like to watch them squirm helplessly, pink and blind, while Gus stalks up to them. It never takes long. Next thing you know the baby mouse is motionless. Sometimes Gus just leaves it there, never hungry, however, overwhelmed by instinct. After a few days the baby mouse swells like a little pink balloon. Uncle Bob likes to take Gus out of his tank and let him run across his hands. He never bites him.

Sometimes there’s a woman in the other room when I come over. I’ve mostly only heard her. Uncle Bob always offers but I always decline, like how he tries to shove SoCo under my nose and down my throat. I want the first time to be something special, with someone I know.

He laughs. But then it gets too late and all you have are the dregs—2 AM girls, you know what I’m saying? I don’t, but I figure one of those types of women is in his bedroom. I only got the guts once to peek in while Uncle Bob went to the bathroom. There was no blanket, bare mattress, late morning light through the window and she was on her belly snoring, feet facing the door, legs open. She turned her head to see me, and in response to my backing away she smiled and opened her legs even more. She was missing a tooth.

I never tell mom why I go to Uncle Bob’s. The truth would kill her. I’m still just a boy, she tells me. I don’t want to tell her that eventually instinct will take over. Hopefully, it doesn’t get to this, but eventually, against my better judgment, something might happen, and I don’t want to miss it.


Ryan Dempsey currently resides with his wife and daughter in Pittsburgh, PA. His stories, long and short, have been published on-line and on-paper in such places as The Portland Review, Toasted Cheese, and Gravel among others.   He pays the bills pushing paper for his local government. 
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