the TV decides for him that he should have everything. and then suddenly there he is, crashed through the glass front of a fast-casual american restaurant, concussed, and bleeding from the nose. he’s fallen into a ball pit. the balls stick to his clothes. he removes his clothes. he can’t remove his skin. he feels them like overgrown pustules. the small hand of a boy smelling like the lake reaches in, pulls him out.

***

the man opens his mouth to speak. the boy speaks for him: “who are you?” and the boy says back, “i know what all that you want.” he slices a sandwich bun in half, arranges the two halves outside so that the entire premises is between them. he goes to the cash register, rings the order up, screams, “everything!” over loud, manic typing. the receipt is several feet long, covered in ellipses. “are you sure?” the boy says. the man crumples the receipt into a ball, swallows it.

***

he consumes the stores of meat, sides, condiments, and cooking grease, sucks soda syrup from what looks like blood bags, sniffs the salt, pepper and red pepper flakes. he points to the boy, opens his mouth. “turn the TVs on,” the boy speaks for him. the TVs scream at each other.

***

the man feels them screaming at him. “i am the heaviest feeling man on the planet,” the boy speaks for him. the man sobs over a stack of napkins, which he then consumes in soggy wedges like pancakes, along with the rest of the paperware, plasticware, and cleaning products.

***

and the dirt on the floor and the little bugs in the corners and in the cupboards and the undersides of the shelves and the fruit flies and their nests in the drains and the drain clog remover and the insulation in the walls and the doorknobs and the doors and the window and the blood in his mouth after eating all that glass and the ball pit balls after a good rinsing and then the rinse water, the toilet water, the puddle of condensation next to the walk-in freezer.

***

and a napkin with a note written in lipstick: we’ll discuss this when we get home.

***

and then a hush falls over the restaurant. the TVs display a waving flag, screens buzzing. a burst of horns. the man and the boy stand up, their hands over each other’s hearts. it is a commercial for something, though they miss for what, busy wiping their welled-up eyes.

***

and the snot from their noses with their hands and then the man licks his hands and the boy’s hands clean and the TVs are screaming again.

***

the boy is holding a very large fish across his chest. he asks, “when’s the last time you went fishing?”

“yes,” the boy speaks for the man. “when. i don’t like pinching the worms in half with my fingers when they’re still alive.”

***

the fish is dead. the man kneels before it, salivating.

***

several flashes of light.

***

a crowd is gathered outside. passersby, reporters, photographers. a woman on a gurney covered in a sheet. “who is she?” the boy speaks for the man. the boy says nothing back.

***

the fish is empty on the inside, lying on the floor, stinking.

***

the boy says he is going out for a smoke and is gone.

***

one of the reporters asks the man to say something but of course he can’t. he just opens his mouth. and another reporter breaches the sandwich buns, puts a camera too close to the man’s face. the man bites his ear off, then into the reporter’s neck until it sprays blood all over the crowd. they disperse, screaming.

***

the man is on the TVs baring his teeth, covered in blood. the crawl says: breaking: you can’t stop.

***

the woman on the gurney is next to him. she lifts the sheet off her body with her teeth. there is no body. she is a head, is all. she tells the man to finish what she couldn’t. she says, “finish me.” and the man says:

***

and the woman says, “look! there!” she points to the TVs with her tongue. the flag. the horns. the man consumes the TVs. his insides crackle, pop. smoke coming out of his ears.

***

and the burger king is there too. he holds the woman in his hands. “where has your gambol gone?” he says and he laughs and she laughs.

***

and the man takes the ® hovering over the burger king’s left shoulder and eats it.

***

and the boy is there again.

“the fishmonger!” the burger king rages, dropping the woman to the ground.

***

the burger king lunges for the boy. the boy leaps out of reach and onto the woman’s gurney. he fashions the sheet into a sail and is off! off! off! the man opens his mouth. the boy speaks for him, “the bun! the bun!” the boy is waving one of the halves in the air. the man tries to chase after him but is too full to keep up. the distance between them grows wider. and everything needing consumed becomes even more.

Michael Credico

Michael Credico

Michael Credico's fiction has appeared or is forthcoming in Black Warrior Review, Denver Quarterly, Diagram, Hobart, New Ohio Review, NOÖ Journal, Quarterly West, and others. He lives in Cleveland, Ohio.
Michael Credico

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