Michael Credico

Animals

Three months into marriage, my wife has stopped sleeping. She won’t even try to come to bed. I lie there alone like the Vitruvian Man. She stays in the living room watching the television blink from commercial to commercial.
One day, I say, “Is it the coffee?” I say, “Is it nerves? Are you worried about something?”
She says, “It feels like one day. It won’t end. This day.”
I ask what she did while I was at work.
“I sat in the bathroom touching my face to the tile,” she says.
I ask if that made her feel better. She says the bathroom is too clean. I tell her I’m sorry.
She says, “When I was young the bathroom was always dirty. Now it smells like an island.”
I tell her I chose that scented plugin. That she should choose the next.
She tells me she is old.
I tell her it’s not true. “If you’re old, I’m old,” I say. “Look at me and be honest.”
She says, “This morning, you forgot to turn off the stove. I smelled gas all day.”
“I still smell gas,” I say.
“I thought it would put me to sleep.”
“This isn’t working.”
“I have a match.”
“What should I do?”
“You’re the inventor.”
That’s not right. “Inventory analysis,” I say.
She says, “What does it mean when I look at my fingers and all I can think is multiplication?”
She shows me her hands. They are shaking. I tell her to make a fist. She does.
“Now I feel like an animal,” she says.
I take her paws into mine.
“Any ideas?”
I tell I’ll do everything I can.
After I turn off the stove, and open all the windows, I set about doing just that.
A few days later, it’s finished.
I call her into the bedroom. I put my arms around her. Whisper into her ear: “Look up.”
She screams. “How could you?”
I’ve constructed a mobile out of animals I caught in the backyard. Each one hangs from wires that are tied to the blades of the ceiling fan above the bed. “They’re not dead,” I say. I tranquilized them with cough syrup. “Relax,” I say. “Look how relaxed the animals look.”
She points to one wire. “There’s nothing on that one.”
“Look closer,” I say.
“An ant?” she says.
A deer was too heavy. After I caught the hawk, the squirrel, the rabbit, and chipmunk, I got desperate.
“It’s still moving,” she says.
“That’s okay,” I say. “Lie down.”
I put the fan on its slowest setting. I twist the key to a music box. It begins to play. I lie down next to her, and tell her to watch the animals. They pass over us like slouching angels. I can hardly keep my eyes open. “Are you getting sleepy?” I say. I don’t get an answer because I’m out like a broken light.
When I wake the next morning, I’m on my stomach with my head buried in the pillows. I flip over. I look up. I’m still groggy so it takes me a moment to realize the wires have been cut. I reach for my wife. All I get is mattress. The blankets are empty, and she is gone. The animals are gone.


Michael Credico Photo (1)
Michael Credico’s fiction has appeared or is forthcoming in The Black Warrior Review, Diagram, MonkeyBicycle, Necessary Fiction, The Newer York, Word Riot, and others. He lives in Cleveland, Ohio, where he edits Whiskey Island.