The kitchen is alit.
The package the grey meat comes in is glossy and mainly beige
in colour; the bright white fonts outlined in black are decked
out in front of a red-meat coloured square. Catullus holds
it up to the overhead kitchen light. He hasn't taken off his
‘The square on the package is a delicious and inviting red,'
‘So? What's wrong with that?' Nelson takes out a can of corn
from the bag.
‘Inside, however, grey shambles.' Catullus declares, flapping
the package in the air. He
opens the package and holds the flimsy meat up to the light,
in between its fingers, resembling a section of an outstretched
‘From what animal Nelson?'
‘I'm not sure. Rhinoceros, maybe a timber wolf?'
Catullus stands over the toaster, not able to figure out
why. The tips of the white bread peer out of the left and
right metal slots. Cold and foreign, they don't budge. The
greyish sandwich meat sways lifeless in his sausage hands.
His gold rings tap the counter where the unplugged toaster
sleeps. He plays with the grey meat, flapping it in the still
He has had a lot to learn. With a stuttering flinch Nelson
steps in, almost manfully.
‘You push down the black things and it cooks the bread.'
‘How does it know?'
Catullus hands him a napkin filled with clumps of sandwich
goo; things he wants to add to the toast; a colourful amalgamation
of digestive refuse.
Nelson shifts Catullus over to one side to access the garbage
under the sink. A mop tips over. Crumbs scatter across the
floor. Nelson sweeps them up into a dustpan. Catullus observes
the domestic patterns, each crumb and dust bunny, each bit
of lint with legs…He had come a broken man, chewed clothes.
He came… something about a dead brother, and a lover so recycled
he portrayed her in his fever, so unclean, and foul that the
first bath Nelson drew was almost instant. The sound of undigested
reality tears muted as he cleaned the tub; a bath of pity
foaming over simple limbs.
Remembering the ring afterwards; the tide of dirt splashing
Catullus eats some of the toast, and begins to walk back
upstairs. “Are you done?” Catullus is nodding up the stairs,
never looking back.
Looking at the uneaten toast, barely able to stop itching,
a few crumbs remain on his cuticles. Nelson eats the remainder.
He rinses the plate, puts on his coat and closes his bedroom
door, scuttles down the stairs, and steps into boots and crosses
* * *
That first night, he poured clean clothes over Catullus,
spooning him a cup of hot lemon drink, and finally a long
undisturbed sleep. By the nightstand Nelson arranged notebooks,
pencils, crayons, glue and scissors, as well, a colouring
book of ocean creatures and local advertisements that Catullus
pawed at, unsure.
He sits up in Nelson's bed, says nothing. The room is unlit,
sparsely furnished, nothing beyond the bed, a dresser, and
nightstand, a folding chair, a shelf of videotapes. The closet
has a double-hinged door, when closed it resembles a part
of the large white wall. Out in the hallway, a crossroad of
bedroom doors, the bathroom, and the beige broadloom stairwell
Catullus paws objects in the dark, and stands up.
When he returns from his errand Nelson will drag his feet
up the stairs and head to the bathroom. This new roommate,
he will notice, takes up half the bed.
Nathaniel G. Moore