APRIL 2009


By Stefan Kiesbye, Feb 20, 2009

There are only American cars parked along our streets, which tells you right away how shitty this neighborhood is. It’s close to Vermont and the bus stop and that’s it. I moved in with Deb since I didn’t have the money to pay for an apartment and had lost my job at Hollywood Video, and my screenplays died unread in my drawer. I hadn’t worked out in porn and I hadn’t worked out in serious auditions and I’m thirty-seven now, look twenty-four, with a thirty-inch waist and yellow teeth. Deb calls me her ghost.

Deb seemed nice and clean and I moved in with two suitcases, into the den, which was once part of the kitchen, but has a window. Deb has the only real room and I have to cross it to get to the bathroom. She doesn’t mind, she has told me. I’ve bought a suit in the fashion district, for ninety-nine bucks—shoes, shirt, tie, all included—and I go to marketing firms who need people to collect rejections. Deb says, “You’re so handsome in a suit.” She snores at night when I walk across her room to pee. We don’t flush at night not to wake the other, and in the morning the water in the bowl looks almost red.

“I like your toes,” she says. “They’re like a frog’s—bigger at the tip, you know. Your feet smell.” She paints my nails, each one many different colors, like a flowerbed. Hers are done the same way. She likes to paint things. That's how she gets by—she makes small brooches, pins, and barrettes and sells them to boutiques on Melrose. That and welfare. She’s twenty-nine.

Deb has painted doorknobs and the dials on our stove. It was a nice touch when I moved in. Her face still seems to have baby-fat and she’s snaggle-toothed and her hair is dark and long and without any shine, and there’s tons of it in the tub after she’s done showering.

She also paints animals. The neighbors below have two of these black rat-dogs and Deb paints their nails, and those of Hogan’s cat, which is one-eyed. Deb keeps a clear plastic box the size of a small stereo for her cockroach collection. There are twelve or fifteen big motherfuckers in there, huge. She pours in flour and the rest of the rotisserie chicken from Ralph’s we splurged on yesterday. “They like that,” she says, observing the many-legged scramble to the bones.

She’s painted Gladiator all pink, Thelma in red with yellow dots, Louise yellow with red dots. There are Freddie, the second-largest, and Saw, and Buzz, and Nemo. She’s tired of the current crop. “I’m tired of them,” she sighs. “I’ve known them for so long.” She has slightly pudgy hands, though she’s not big. Her figure you could call lazy, I guess, slack, comfortable. “I need new canvases.” She pours water into the only pot we have, an old aluminum one, and brings it to a boil. Then she looks curiously as the bodies grow still, still twirling in the bubbling water. “Goodbye,” she waves.

Stefan Kiesbye is the author of the novel Next Door Lived a Girl (Low Fidelity Press) and the upcoming story collection The Devil’s Moor (Dzanc Books). His work has appeared/is coming forth in Hobart, The St. Petersburg Review, and Quick Fiction. He lives in Los Angeles with his wife Sanaz. skiesbye.com