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Nancy Brewka-Clark
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Art by Steve Cartwright 2016

In for the Kale

Nancy Brewka-Clark


While I’m fumbling around in the sheets for the remote, this plug-ugly shrunken head fills the entire TV screen. How could this be?  I haven’t turned the set on yet.

          “Yo, sugar, how many of you’s in that bed anyway?”

My eyeballs feel like they’re going to pop out of my skull. “Artie?”

          “Yeah, baby, it’s me.” When my former agent gives me the same big old dirty grin, I see there’s something green stuck between his teeth. “Man, you look like something they’d find on a beach and try to shove back out to sea.”

Although it takes a lot of work, I manage to erect both middle fingers. “Take a hike, Artie. I don’t believe in ghosts.”

“Grim reaper, actually.”

I shut my eyes. “Uh-huh.” When I open them he’s still leering down at me. “Kind of fitting, you being a reaper and all. But I’m not your type. I’m white bread, with lots of butter. You go for the whole-grain gals.”

“Don’t matter how you slice it, I’m gonna get you,” he says in the low raspy voice that used to mean he was sniffing around for sex, “and get you good.”

          “I don’t think so. You’re toast.” I smack my lips a few times. “All this chit-chat’s making me drier than the PBS News Hour. Think I’ll ring for the aide now.”

“Well, I never thought I’d see this day. Poor little old you, can’t even get yourself a glass of water.” He shakes his head. “Ask me, you’d be better off dead.”

“The last time I asked you something, you dropped dead on me.” I pretend to think. “Oh, yeah, I remember now what it was. ‘Why don’t you drop dead?’ Yeah, that’s exactly what I asked, and you up and did.  So, thank you.”

“I didn’t mean to.” His voice wobbles. “I counted on you to help me out, take care of me. Big mistake.”

          “Oh, boo-hoo. Get over yourself.” My fingers itch to throw something hard and heavy at the screen. “It was just a matter of time before you did yourself in, scarfing down all that garbage.”

“Shows what you know.” He glares at me. “Look at you. Turns my stomach, seeing you wallowing there like some kind of big fat pig in a trough.”      

          “You’re just jealous.” I work up a smug smile. “Who’s got the body, you or me?”

          “If I had that body,” he says, “I’d kill myself. That is, if I wasn’t already dead.”

“You sure about that? I mean, how do I know you’re not in some little piss-ass TV studio somewhere, some crappy cable station with a five-digit channel number and some dork with a hand-held camera from, like, 1990, filming you while you trap me into confessing?”

          He pulls down his lower eyelid. “Do I look live?”

          “Ewwww.” It’s all gray in there instead of pinkish red with blood. “How about your eyeballs? Are they rotting, too?”

          Artie reaches up and plucks out his eyeball, just like that. It looks like a ball of frozen snot. He twirls it around in his palm, letting it rock into stillness with the brown iris and black pinpoint pupil facedown.

          “Well, I’ll be buggered. Say, what’s that little square thing there, on the back?”

          “It’s the opening,” he says, “for the battery.”

“They have battery-operated eyeballs in hell?”

          “Battery-operated everything,” he says, sticking his eyeball back into the socket. “You’ll love it.” His face looms so close I can see right up his nose. “So, let me tell you again why I’m here.”

          “Like I care.” My heart starts to jump around like a rat on bennies. “Just get out.”

          “Oh, now, don’t be looking at me that way, sweet buns.” Artie laughs. “Well, not buns exactly. More like loaves. No, sheet cakes.”

          “Hey, let me call for an aide here, so I can get rolled over. Then you can kiss them as much as you like.”

          “Man, you can’t even roll over by yourself? How do you, um, you know—” he pauses to purse his lips—“like, get out of bed?”

          “Hoyer lift.” I realize I’m hungry again because the little black hole of his mouth is looking more and more like a 70% cacao Godiva truffle.

          “Phew.” He puffs his cheeks out. “Should’ve never gotten into chocolate. I told you, didn’t I, that too much of that stuff and you’d be good as dead.”

          “Hah! I simply enjoy my food. To me, food is love, life, happiness.” I feel a head of steam building up just as powerful as the night I decided to do him in—no, to let him do himself in. “But you wouldn’t understand. To you, food was suffering. You went down to ninety pounds, all skin and bones like a cancer patient, but you were healthy, Artie. Healthy everywhere but in your head. You were like one of those starving teenage girls that sees fat when she looks in the mirror.”

          “Know what’s in your head? Fat. Fathead, that’s what you are.”

          “Very mature, Artie, very mature. You ate shit and bragged about it until it killed you.”

“Shit? Shit? It was all certified, Grade-A, home-harvested, organic, fat-free, salt-free, sugar-free, GMO-free food,” he says in that uppity tone I hate.

“Even the shrooms?”

          “What about them?” he says. “Psilocybin’s real brain food.”

          “Yeah, I can see that in your case. They grow them in shit. And you ate an entire basket raw. You remember that? I do. Enough bacteria to kill an army. I mean serious cooties.”

          “Guess you never heard of probiotics.”

It’s my turn to shake my head. Once. Slowly.  “B, C, D, E, vitamin K up the ying-yang, quinoa and spelt and kale, oh, my God, kale—and you still haven’t kicked it, have you, Artie?”

          His eyes blink fast in deep sockets. “When you have your health, you have everything.”

The remote’s pressing up against my thigh like a hard-on.  “Yeah, well then, I guess you’ve got it all.” Finally I push the right button. “Go to hell, Artie.” With a pop, the screen goes dead. “And next time, floss.”




Nancy Brewka-Clark’s short mysteries, horror stories, futuristic stories, and tales of the supernatural have been published in the Level Best Books crime anthology Quarry, Kings River Life Magazine, The Boston Globe Sunday Magazine, Mysterical-E, Orchard Press Mysteries, and two anthologies published by Adams Media, Rocking Chair Reader and Classic Christmas. Other publications include Haunted Encounters: Ghost Stories from Around the World and Haunted Encounters: Departed Family and Friends, both published by Atriad Press. She is a member of Sisters in Crime and The Short Mystery Fiction Society.

 In 2000 she developed a pioneer e-book of mysteries and tales of the supernatural for Roberts Publishing called Ghost Coast: Haunting Tales of Old Salem, which was used by the Salem, MA school system in its middle-school curriculum.

In Association with Fossil Publications