UNDERGROUND VOICES: FICTION

J. MICHAEL NIOTTA

living with hitler & fleas

         I was 21, livin with my woman, who was more a girl really — 19 & a worrier — obsessed with the notion of marryin me,

CZM
a man who got kicked outta his last place & who done cheated on her...the man she fought with every damn day. & I’d been there juss a month & already the walls spoke of my presence... thick plaster walls all decorated with frustrated knuckles. Yeah...& for some strange reason she wanted to get married. But I couldn’t figure it.

         She come in from the market one night with a box fulla kittens—4 of em!—scratchin, rambunctious things—calicos—& I loved em instantly...one in particular...a proud beast, all orange & white & male with a small fleck of black under his nose.

         “Look, Babe!" I told her, "He’s got one a them Hitler stashes! Juss look at it!”

         & sure enough that become his name—Little Hitler—primarily cuz it revolted my woman so.

         The one drawback come about with the new addition to our home—them kittens—was they carried fleas. Insects fuckin, fuckin...spawnin & fuckin! & God fuck!...there musta been a million burrowin-bite-machines infestin the apartment by week’s end. Man, they took over! Crossin from kitchen to couch in a pair of tube socks I’d plop down & count the mass of black dots all litterin the cotton. 7, 13, 22. Jeezus-God-Mary!

         & I spoke up about it, sayin “Babe...Babe we gotta do somethin bout them fleas now!...they done gone fuggin eatin the shit outta me!”

         & I caught back “Well that’s a big task...you bein so full of it an all!” in the ear for my troubles.

         But she could tell I meant it. & I did.

         “Well we can’t use them fogger dealies,” she warned me, sayin “I’m 'lergic to them fogger dealies, y'hear!”

         'Lergic? 'Lergic?! A word she no doubt got offa that hybro-condruh bitchofa H-M-O ma of hers! 'Lergic! Hmmph!

         “Well whaddabout them powders then, Babe?...for the carpet, y'know...that powder shit,” I tried explain. & for that one I got: “No, no!” “No, no!” she’d answer, “vacuum’s busted, 'member?...An how we 'spossed ta get it all up?!”

         I’d just hit zero shellin out on a new windshield after I done smashed a fist through the last one on accounta my bad temper n' all. & I didn’t have no cash for a vacuum repair shop or even a 2nd hand model to whirl up the carcasses. & course payday did me in with a little distant wave cuz it was near two weeks off. So...we suffered.

         At night the lil bastards feasted, waitin till we slept defenseless. Got so bad I took to coverin every inch of skin with clothin...even hidin up my face with a beanie. Two pairs of socks, right up there ta the knee...& long sleeved shirts too, with a jacket & pants protectin the rest. But them fuggers still got at me!!!

         & they bugged me while I ate too!!!...more than anything they loved to get at me while I ate in front of the tube. I even took to eatin Indian style on top the kitchen counter just to escape em. & every meal I’d be up there, all Indian style, hoverin with my food. & she’d come in, arms all fulla groceries, & she’d see me planted up there & ask, “Well whatareya dooooin up there, Man of mine!? Well, whatareya dooooin?!” & I’d tell her.

         I never blamed them kittens cuz I figure they musta hated them lil fuckers even more'n me. & they tore away at Little Hitler too! Devourin his calico brothers. Nope, never did blame them kittens but I sure did blame her.

         “Whaddabout the collars! The collars!” I mouthed out next. “Can we get em the collars or what?!”

         “No, no,” the excuse came…“they’re too young for the collars. It’s not good for em.”

         “& the fleas are!?” I reasoned back, with a smart-alecky “Fine, fine! They’re too young. I’m old! I’ll wear one!”

         Shit got worse. The counter stopped bein a safe spot, with bouncin-black-biters leapin onto the white of plates & into the glub of the glasses, climbin into mouth & ears & nostrils even...eatin everything.

         “I’ma sleep in my car, goddamnit woman!! I’ma fuckin do it!”

* * * *

        Been near a decade since I moved outta that place, since I seen her & held her. & I only think of it now as I sit with a cigar on this coffee house patio cuz I’m lookin up at that tall tall water-tower stands next to our old apartment & well... She moved & married...has kids I hear.

         Yeah, been near a decade now...& I still miss that cat.








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