“Can’t you ask him again?” the wife queried.
“I’m telling you, he’s implacable. He won’t come off the line.”
“Not at all?”
“He’s unwavering. And he’s stolid.”
That was telling. The wife had hoped the creature in the backyard would at least be emotional about its decision. His decision. Gosh she hated pronouns sometimes.
She went to the back window, coffee in hand. He was still bivouacked out there, sure enough. His tent had that ring of fire around it. She could see one of the creature’s fangs poking out the tent flap.
“Are you sure he heard you?” she asked, her mind locking in on that flaming circle.
“Oh yeah, he heard me,” her husband answered. “I shouted, just in case. But eh. You could be whispering with that guy, and he’d hear you. Besides, the ring of fire doesn’t make that rushing sound when you’re up close to it. Chilling, really, how quiet it gets.”
She tried to think what they could do. She was always thinking about what they could do. Offer. Barter with. Trade. She was so frustrated.
“He just strips you raw, doesn’t he?”
“He does at that,” her husband agreed.
“We can’t offer up any of the neighbors.”
“As if,” her husband seconded.
He remembered the time the creature had laughed in his face, went so far as to flip over on its back laughing, when he asked if it could eat up the neighbors instead and direct its consumptive energies there.
“And you know what he said to me when he finally stopped laughing? You won’t believe this guy,” the husband had come back and reported.
“He said, ‘that’s rich.’”
The nerve, the wife had thought. Couldn’t even use the neighbors as a smokescreen. They were all dead now. The creature had eaten all the invented lives, those empty thought bubbles of projected happiness that the husband and wife used to talk about so that they could talk less about themselves. Like snack cakes. He made her so mad, that creature did, with his fang and his tent. Somehow even the latter looked smug and happy in the backyard.
“We could throw him a bone,” the husband broke in on her thoughts.
“Real or proverbial?” the wife asked, sadly, knowing that it didn’t matter, and that her husband knew it, too.
“Don’t be stupid,” he replied.
“You could feed him your anger. My mother used to always say…”
Her voice painted the walls of the room with blah blah blahs. Made sculptures and statues of blah blah blahs as well. The husband thought about hanging a swing off the arm of one of the sculptures and playing like he did when he was a kid. He’d dismount the same as when he’d been six, seven, alighting on the grass and turning his landing into a forward roll in one sweet, smooth motion. “I call that Bowling Green,” he used to say to a pal of his. This wasn’t productive.
“What about our failings as parents in creating blah blah blah humans?” he suggested, trying to spitball. “That could be sumptuous. Be a good faith gesture, a nudge, to move on.”
There was a whiff of something coming in from the backyard, at the edges of the door leading out of the rear of the house, carried on the autumn air, but it wasn’t mephitic. The creature was making cocoa again. It really loved cocoa as a post-prandial treat.
But the creature had already feasted on those proposed failings. In fact, it feasted so much that it threw up all over the backyard, which wasn’t that big an issue from the creature’s point of view as the ring of fire was self-cleaning, and the mess was removed like it had never happened, only it had.