Saturday, February 28, 2015

"They All Matter Just The Same" a short story by Rahiem Whisgary

What an ignoble way to die, I think to myself. A slow surrender rather than a fight. The teaspoon dangles from my fingers, a single drop lingering on the tip, swelling, biding time. When it finally falls, the ants scatter. Some do not escape. I splay my fingers, admiring the dry, reptilian webs in between. My hands, though grey, are plump. My palms scratch when I rub them together. I imagine that, like a fly, my hands carry diseases – dysentery, typhoid fever, poliomyelitis. Disease comes with dirt, age and idleness. For as long as I can remember, my hands have always been a handsome pair: my fingers long and my nails square. Though big, they are delicately veined. There is a distinct womanly elegance to them. Everything is covered in dust. When I look at the shaft of light streaming through the window, I see flecks suspended in air, like stewed tea. There’s no milk. Ants float in dark, oily puddles, their bloated carcasses swept towards the edge of the table. After a few minutes, the pool of damp is absorbed by the cloth. Time passes in waves: I am engulfed by moments of rumination, my body stock-still, before being overtaken by bouts of fidgeting. I am a private, insignificant person. My life is one long, lugubrious moment – an extended period of post-coital lethargy. The trail of ants stretches from an unsealed seam between the wall and the kitchen cabinet, along the floor and up one of the legs of the table. I grip the handle of the cup. My fingers furl so tightly that they turn white. As white as a shroud. The handle snaps. Hundreds of ants drown in the tepid liquid. The warmth and wetness accentuate my furrows: my hands, the unwilling conspirators to my killing, are unsexed and old. The trail doesn’t stop, despite the flood, hankering as ants do after invisible crumbs. It moves onwards, without fear of the future. Or perhaps its mission has changed. Perhaps they’re now coming to collect their dead. I pick out carcasses from spilled tea. My fingers work gingerly. No one ant is distinguishable from the next, and they all matter just the same, which is not much at all. I get up and make another cup of tea.

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