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Ate A Bug -- Short Story

Ate A Bug -- Short Story

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Publicado porBryan Costales
A story about Tony returned home from an Amazon cruise mute from a bug bite.
A story about Tony returned home from an Amazon cruise mute from a bug bite.

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Published by: Bryan Costales on May 14, 2010
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Bug

Ate A Bug © 2009 Bryan Costales, All Rights Reserved

AteA

by Bryan Costales

Page 0

Ate A Bug by Bryan Costales

Sally crossed her arms and stared at Tony, just returned from his Amazon Cruise and mute. Normally Tony talked too much. Too much for his friends who claimed they were used to his endless babbling. And too much for Sally, his girlfriend. But here he was, returned from vacation still smelling of travel and sitting on their sofa with his mouth shut. “Was it something you ate?” Sally asked. She was dressed for bed wearing her usual sky blue pajamas and pink robe. Tony had come in late rolling his squeaky suitcase over their hardwood floor and woken her up. Tony shook his head. He looked at the ceiling, cute and boy-like as if he was thinking. He smiled and made a crawly movement with his tan hand and pantomimed swallowing it. “You ate a bug?” Tony smiled and nodded. His face was tanned too from his trip. His Amazon voyage made him appear healthy, trimmer, maybe even svelte. Even his thinning blond hair looked darker and more lush, and seemed to almost cover his bald spot.

Ate A Bug

© 2009 Bryan Costales, All Rights Reserved

Page 1

Tony appeared to think about her question and shrugged. He was wearing a cotton shirt he’d purchased on the trip. It looked like it had been made from a coffee bag with pale Spanish logos all over it. It hung loose and large on his frame. “You swallowed a bug but forgot what kind of bug it was?” She asked and watched him fumble for a pencil and paper. “How about using the computer, then you can draw too?” Tony paused with a yellow legal tablet in one hand and a pencil in the other. He frowned at her with that I-don’t-need-no-stinking-computer look. Then he slapped the tablet onto the glass-top coffee table with a satisfying flap and sat hunched over it. Sally got up and moved to sit on the sofa near Tony, but not too near. The hunter-green leather sofa was made for big people like Tony, not little people like Sally. Her feet hung over the edge like a child’s not meeting the ground. She peered at Tony’s tablet and tapped her heels together. But he wasn’t drawing, she noted, he was writing. “I woke up,” she read from the yellow pad as he wrote. “I swallowed a bug while I was sleeping and it woke me up. Something stunk the inside....” Sally laughed. Tony crossed out the “k” and wrote a “g.”

Ate A Bug

© 2009 Bryan Costales, All Rights Reserved

Page 2

“Something stung the inside of my throat,” Sally kept reading. “I woke up and swallowed it and felt something wiggling down when I swallowed.” Sally looked at him. “You swallowed the bug without seeing it!” Tony patted Sally on the back, like congratulations, but the gesture felt too weak to be sincere. Then he tried to kiss her on the cheek but she pulled away. Tony looked at her with doubt in his eyes. Tony tried to pantomime something that Sally didn’t get. He held his throat like he was trying to strangle himself. She pointed at the tablet on the coffee table. “Write it,” she said. Tony bent over, picked up the pencil and wrote again. Sally sniffed. The odor of sun screen and bug juice lingered on him. She wrinkled her nose and frowned. She watched Tony write. This time he was more careful and made softer scratching sounds with the pencil and corrected his mistakes before Sally could comment on them. She read along out loud, “The next morning I couldn’t swallow. It was like something swelled up inside my throat. I could breathe okay, just not swallow.” Sally looked at him again, “That must be why you look thinner. Because you couldn’t swallow, not because you’re tan like I thought.”

Ate A Bug

© 2009 Bryan Costales, All Rights Reserved

Page 3

Tony tried to pat her back again, but Sally scooted away. “Just write,” she said. Tony wrote, “Simone, the guide, tried ice packs on my neck, but that only made it worse. The cruise boat pulled into a town and brought a doctor aboard. He thought it was a spider bite and recommended I gargle with salt water. Nothing helped. Stupid third world doctor. I would have been better off with a witch doctor.” Sally tapped his arm to interrupt and remembered the feel of his strength. “Should I call Kaiser for you?” Tony shook his head and pointed at their communal computer on the table they used as a desk in the corner. The table had been a gift from Sally’s dad. The computer, a wide-screen model, had been a joint purchase. Sally understood, “Oh. You already made an appointment on-line.” Tony smiled, clearly pleased she had understood. Sally looked around the room. What other things might belong to both of them? Some books, sure. And the DVDs of course. One painting, and oh yes the other painting in the bedroom, the one over the bed. They’d gone in 50/50 on that one at the Sausalito Art Festival, an oil painting of a tree set in a colorful mythical forest, its fruit diamonds. Tony tapped the yellow paper with his pencil —an impatient sounding beat.

Ate A Bug

© 2009 Bryan Costales, All Rights Reserved

Page 4

Sally looked. He’d written more: “What are you looking at?” Sally looked at Tony. “Just this big old apartment I came home to every night while you were cruising the Amazon. Come home to alone and bored. Come home from a job that wouldn’t give me the vacation time. That’s all.” Tony spread his arms as if to say, “Not my fault.” “You may have lost your voice,” Sally said. “But you can still be a jerk.” Tony sat up straight and glared at her. Sally glared back. He hadn’t lost all that much weight after all, she realized. He still had a paunch. “You know,” Sally said. “If you had your voice, I might be packing right now instead of listening to you. But the news from Jack and your other travel buddies gave me hope. A Tony who couldn’t talk. What an odd and special thought. Something to be witnessed to be appreciated.” Tony used both hands to pantomime his heart beating. “I know you love me. Or say you do. But you never seem to listen to yourself. Never listen to how much you yack. And not good yacks either, mostly complaints and rumors and unflattering news about friends.” Tony picked up the tablet and wrote so hard he ripped the paper in one corner. He shifted so she couldn’t see, and continued to write.

Ate A Bug

© 2009 Bryan Costales, All Rights Reserved

Page 5

“There,” Sally said and pointed at the tablet. “That’s just what I mean. You hear something you don’t like and you want to rant about it. I mean look at that pencil move! You’re dying to say something.” Tony turned the tablet to face her. He’d written one sentence and surrounded it with a hundred or so tiny hearts. Sally read the one sentence, “I can change!” She looked at him, at his usual crooked smile. “Can you really change?” Tony crossed his heart with one finger. “And hope to die.” Tony nodded. He looked guilty. Sally scooted closer to him. “When’s your appointment?” Tony held up one finger. “One day? Oh, you mean tomorrow?” Tony nodded again. Then he looked up in thought. He picked up the tablet again. Sally scooted closer, this time snug next to him. She read as he wrote, “Two days. First I have to get the cure.” “Which cure?” Sally laughed. “The cure for your gift of gab or the cure for your throat?”

Ate A Bug

© 2009 Bryan Costales, All Rights Reserved

Page 6

Tony wrote, “Both.” Then he smiled and wrote, “Kaiser and you.” “We’ll see,” Sally kissed him on his cheek still scratchy with stubble from the trip. “Two days isn’t all that long in the whole scope of things. I mean the world population will grow by half a million in two days. Sure. And we’ll be two days closer to the end of the Mayan calendar. But Rome wasn’t built in two days was it?” Sally felt Tony’s hand on her leg. She stopped rambling. She looked at Tony and he looked back. She said, “This talking stuff is contagious isn’t it?” Tony kissed her face-first on her lips. Sally wondered if she should ask him to shower. Then he kissed her again this time with warm passion, his arm sliding up her back. After that they didn’t talk much again until the next morning. END

Ate A Bug

© 2009 Bryan Costales, All Rights Reserved

Page 7

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