3| Chapter 1:
The cans are stacked from floor to ceiling in a tight perimeter around my bed. Cans of chicken noodle, cans of cream of mushroom, cans of beef barley, cans of tomato. Cans of concentrated soup bought at the CanCan Sale. Mother’s CanCan Sale, her crowning achievement. Her lifeblood, drained from her veins and packed into cans, stocked on the shelves, and purchased by the masses like Christians drinking communion wine. The cans are her life’s greatest work, Mother’s magnum opus.
Mine is The 2020 Event, all parts included.
The Sideshows are done Hunner, I finished your book for you. Do you still hear me when I talk to you? Have you shut the fuck up yet to listen when I’m taking to you? Are you there, Hunner?
My breathing is labored, like my tortured writing process. The cans all rattle with each filling of my lungs, and on the empty? Stillness.
A sick stillness.
A mocking stillness.
The cans know I’m next, I’ll be the next canned good stacked within my dwelling space. In my attic. In Mother’s attic.
She never sleeps, it’s early. So early. The cans. I can move through them. A canbender, I’m the world’s first canbender. I need to be free. I’ll tunnel through the cans and get to my doorway. Yes Hunter Owens Wallace, good idea my little frumpet, tunnel through to the door. Take a swim in that mighty sea of cans and see if you don’t get lost. If you don’t get stranded. If you don’t get dragged under by a riptide of cream of broccoli and castaway on an island of beef barley, no palmed olive but all the savory fixins.
Yes Hunter Owens Wallace, dive into the cans. Swim to your door, climb down your attic. Wake Mother from her kitch’. Have her chase you through the house, have her swipe at you with her mighty arthritic claws. You’ll only come back to the cans.
The cans are stacked all around. Stacked on the side of my bed. Stacked at the foot. Stacked on all the carpet in my bedroom from the bed that’s blocking the crawlhatch to the window outside my closets to the window next to the bed to the door to the back of my desk but not to my desk, not on the plywood, only the carpet, my stinky stink carpet, my yucky smelly carpet that I ruined for everyone in the house. The cans, the cherished cans, the holy cans don’t dare stack on the plywood. They don’t dare touch my desk anywhere but the back of the thing. Don’t dare stack up the airspace of my study. My books, my holy books. My chair. My folders. My notebooks. My computer and my writing career.
My books that Mother won’t read.
My books that Mother hates me for.
My life’s work. My greatest creations.
She stacks the cans to keep me from it. From my writing. My purpose, my life’s calling. She keeps me here from it, stacking the cans day in and day out until she needs to stack no more, for then the cans are stacked high and tall and true indeed.
The cans are keeping me from my notebooks.
The cans are keeping me from my study.
The cans are keeping me from my Cannabis.
The cans are keeping me from my salvation.
The cans have encapsulated my life.
I need to escape.
Can’t escape, will tossle Mother. Will be brained with her cooking arms. Her long cooking arms with the stainless surface to steal my soul.
Need to reach the Cannabis. She will know. She is my savior, and I must go to Her.
But the cans.
The cans stacked so tall. I’ll break out of the house then. It’s the only way.
My right leg bends, pitching the mightiest tent of all time, then slides off the edge of my bed in a bid to kick open the crawlspace access hatch next to where I sleep. The MDF door slides open easy enough, no song to be sung. The cedar shim slides out from under it and I won’t be able to close it.
I know I won’t be able to close it.
Mother’s grasp is tighter than the lock of Pandora’s box, and once that box is opened?
I slide into the door legs-first, feeding my body into the hole like a check stub to a paper shredder. Feet, legs, ass, torso, arms, good, yes, the arms, now my head. It won’t fit. I turn it to the right and it won’t fit I turn it to the left and it won’t fit I turn it straight – won’t fit I turn it gay – won’t fit it won’t fit it won’t fit I don’t fit.
I crawl back onto the bed. The suited man looks up at me from inside the crawlspace, the crawlspace where I found the computer.
No, that’s the reflection of the crossbow’s greased rail. The last way out, if all else comes to fail. The mighty crossbow.
I must escape. The cans stack so tall, so mighty. I must go through them. I must burrow through them until I’ve bored through to the other side.
To the study.
To my study, with the CD collection and the bookshelf with all my funny books and my chair with the dinosaurs, DinoMania, and my old desk, my desk with my computer, my desk with my computer where I write all my pretty books. My lovely books. My children. My offspring. The desk where I keep my Cannabis.
She calls to me, this whole time. It was her all along. My Cannabis, Hunner, she’s the one been calling me home.
I sit up straight and cross my legs. A cool draft travels up the back of my shirt from the crawl space. Uninsulated ceilings make for chilly crawlrooms, I know it well and true. The suited man will be coming, and the Cannabis will have me ready.
I grip a can, tomato chunky, and peel it from the top of the stack. It comes down without turmoil, and many others follow. Three. Ten. Fifty. Rows and columns of cans unstack and fall to the sheets of my bed. Fall to the darkness of the crawlspace. Clank against the metal rail of my crossbow, my one secret way out.
The cans soon outnumber me on the bed, so I do what I must do. I continue the ritual.
I climb unto la cavitas I’ve dug into the cans. As I tunnel through, the cans swallow me and pass me through the mass.
I am the Dirt Eater Mk I, and I eat the cans as my dirt. Until I’m lodged in the gullet of the canstand, I shall eat these cans as my dirty dirt.
Only fourteen stories left for the write.