Paper Cuts Make Good Bait

He broke the clear sticker stealing the envelope containing Fredrick’s Complete Divorce Packet with Bonus Instructional CD and Free Internet Access to Digital Forms. Sure, he hated paperwork, but only slightly less than he hated Karen. He studied the CD, marked Instructions For Use: Open First, across the kitchen. It bounced off the wallpaper, ricocheted against the rim of the trashcan and hit the floor, rolling back towards Wally. A spoon specked with dried-on food hung from his mouth. A pint of off-brand Moosetracks melted on the table leaving an expanding ring of condensation on Karen’s mother’s oak table. Fatty Joe stalked the ice cream, rubbing against Wally’s socks and meowing.

The three ply non-carbon copy paper was covered in boxes with tiny print. Boxes like the ones he’d filled out on their Application for/Report of Marriage form thirteen years ago. Boxes that made him feel trapped in a maze of bad choices when all he wanted to do was get free. Go all Thelma and Louise with Fatty Joe in his GMC Sierra. The black Bic shook in his fingers as he held it over the box reading Husband’s Last Name. He flipped through the packet, hoping to find an easier question. It wasn’t until he noticed a bloody thumbprint atop Wife’s SSN that he realized he’d gotten a paper cut.

Getting a band-aid was as good an excuse as any to avoid the form for a few minutes longer. After jamming the spoon into the ice cream, he put down his pen, padded across the linoleum to their grumbling old Whirlpool refrigerator, and felt around its top for their first-aid kit. He was peeling the wrapper off an ancient fabric band-aid when Fatty Joe started hissing like he did when the neighbor’s tom walked past the porch’s sliding door. Wally turned around to see his black-and-white fur-covered-ball-of-lard perched on his chair, front paws on the table, growling at the melting ice cream.

Wally chucked the box of band-aids at the cat. “No table, F.J. No table! Down! Down!”

Fatty Joe managed a plaintive, angry yowl while jumping down.

“Freaking cat.” The words got stuck in the back of his mouth as a tiny pinkish-orange man peered out from behind the ice cream. Steam curled around his feet as the condensation evaporated.

“Freaking cat, indeed,” the man replied, brushing off his shoulders as though there was invisible dust on an invisible shirt. He was bald and naked, except for a black belt with a shining gold buckle digging into his pudgy middle. His eyes were like black sesame seeds nestled into a wrinkled brow, above a bulbous nose and fat lips. He walked bow-legged as though he spent his days riding a toy horse. “More of my colleagues get killed by cats than dogs, you know. Hazardous monsters.”

Wally nodded dumbly as the little man kicked over the pepper shaker and sat down on it. “You ready to talk business, Walter?”

He fell into his seat as he watched the little man scrape his toes against a little spot of char his foot left in the tabletop. “Business?” Wally asked.

“Yeah, business. The skinny. The down-low. The dirty. The deal.” He frowned at the black spot burnt into the wood. “Sorry about that. You should really use a table cloth if you don’t want your furniture ruined.”

“That’s what Karen says.” He said it automatically, like saying “bless you” when someone sneezes or “go fuck yourself” when Jehovah Witnesses knock on the door.

The little man squinted at the form, his eyes almost disappearing into his head as he read the top of it upside down. “Oh, divorce. Right. So, you want her dead?”

“Do I want her–?” Wally trailed off. He’d thought about her dying so many times. Not killing her, but simple, sweet death. The kind of death that would make his in-laws not hate him, her friends not bad mouth him. Something with a pay out from her employer-provided life insurance policy.

Of course, he’d thought of himself dying even more frequently. Cancer with lots of morphine at the end. A heart attack while stuffing fries in his face in a fast food parking lot. A patch of black ice late at night, a friendly electric pole, a swift end.

Sadly, the two of them just kept on living and hating each other.

The chair across the table groaned as Fatty Joe clawed his way onto its seat, the tips of his black ears barely clearing the table top. The orange man took a step closer to Wally.

“I don’t want her dead,” he said defensively, as though someone other than a four inch tall imp sitting at his kitchen table had suggested it.

“It’s okay,” the little man said. He’d begun to sink down into the pepper shaker as his butt melted the plastic. “No need to act all righteous in front of me. Even people who love each other want to kill one another sometimes. Nothing to be ashamed of.”

“I don’t want her dead,” Wally said. “I just want her gone.”

The imp rubbed the furrow in the middle of his brow. “Look, it’s a lot easier to kill someone than to make them not exist.”

Wally tapped the packet of forms. “I want this to be over with. I want to be a year from now when everything is resolved. I don’t want to have to deal with it.”

“Look, I can’t alter time. I can’t make people disappear. I just kill them, okay?” The imp stood up and pushed the pepper shaker away, a little line of pepper spilling out from a hole he’d melted into it.

“Well, I don’t want her killed.”

“You hate her?”

Wally looked across the room to the picture of them standing at the Grand Canyon on their honeymoon, slipped into a magnetic frame. “I think I do.”

“Then what’s the problem?” The imp clapped his hands together. “Bang! Pow! Dead!”

“I don’t think you’re supposed to kill your wife.” Wally picked up the pen and pressed the nib hard into the divorce form, writing out his name.

“Aw, jeez. You’re going to fill out the fucking form?” The imp wandered over, watching him work. “One word from you and I can make her dead.” He snapped his fingers.

Wally kept working until he got to the bloody block for Karen’s Social Security Number. He couldn’t remember it.

“Dead,” the imp whispered.

Wally tapped his pen against his chin, thinking. “I don’t want her dead. I want her to go make some other loser miserable and leave me alone.”

The little man sighed. “I’m going to be honest with you, Walter. I’m not trained for this job. I usually work road rage cases. Jump out of the glove box and give my offer, buy Kyanthia asked me to cover her shift for the evening so she could go see her kid’s ball game. She gets the night off. I get next Friday off. It seemed like a good trade, but this whole divorce thing isn’t really in my wheelhouse. Heavy emotional shit and all that. You’re going to have to cut me a little slack.”

The corner of the form began to blacken and smoke under the imp’s foot. Wally licked his thumb and snuffed it out. “Not interested. Go kill someone else’s wife.”

“You were the one who called me, buddy.”

“Did not.”

“Did so.” The imp wandered over to the bloody thumbprint over the Wife’s SSN box and tapped it with his pointer finger, no thicker than a toothpick.

“I cut myself,” Wally said.

“You summoned me,” the imp said, tapping his foot. “It’s in the instructions on the CD.”

“I didn’t load the CD,” Wally said while filling out their address.

“It says Instructions For Use: Open First.”

Wally shrugged.

“I think I know why you’re wife hates you.”

He shrugged again.

Growling, the imp launched himself towards Wally’s pen, grabbing onto it and kicking at Wally’s hand with his scorching feet. “Lemme kill your wife!”

“Hey!” Wally shook his hand, scribbling across the page while trying to free it.

“Lemme kill your wife! Just say the word!”

“No! Let go!” He grabbed the imp with his free hand, pinching his shoulder between his thumb and forefinger, and tossed him. “Get off!”

The little man skidded across the table, grabbing for purchase on the oak’s grain. He finally slowed near the edge. “Asshole! Lemme kill your–”

Fatty Joe’s paw swiped over the tabletop, batting the imp to the ground.

Wally jumped up in time to see the cat grab the imp in both his front paws and bite down on his head, gnawing on it gingerly like the time he’d tried to eat a jalapeno popper. The imps screams were soon replaced with the sound of crunching bones.

Wally sat back down with a sigh and returned to his paperwork.

One thought on “Paper Cuts Make Good Bait

  1. This is fantastic. I can see it all so clearly, especially the imp. Having the cat eat him made me laugh. Accidentally summoning a mini-demon because you’d kinda like to kill your ex just as much as you’d kinda still like them to live made me wince.

    Liked by 1 person

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