by Geoffrey Graves
Note: “Larry” first appeared in the 2019/20 Winter issue of Calliope Literary Magazine, U.S.
A brownish bug, genus unknown, appeared on the kitchen counter backsplash presenting a spiritual conundrum for me. A believer in ahimsa, I revere all life, yet might the bug be a carrier of dangerous diseases? This I was contemplating when I turned to find my roommate readying to obliterate the insect with a dishtowel’s snap. Only my lightning quick whap to Carlton’s wrist saved the day.
True, I could have gently scooped up little Larry and freed him outside, but who was I to change the course he had chosen for his personal life’s journey? Should his fate not be in his own hands, or feelers, or pinchers, or whatever those thingamajigs are called, just as mine is? And, yes, I named my bug Larry because I wanted to imbue him with the makings of a personality that I word-painted for Carlton so he could understand how important every living being is on this planet. After all, who is to say bugs do not have unique individual personalities? And, not to boast, but given the complexity of all things known and un, and the keen Sherlockian cogitations for which I am oft praised, was it not within the realm of possibilities that I had accurately divined Larry’s personality? To answer my own question, yes it was.
Next morning: Larry still hadn’t moved vexing Carlton mightily, but I explained some bugs are like bears in hibernation, and if our little new friend Larry hadn’t scooted along by same time tomorrow, I would respectfully transfer him to the flowerpot on our landing.
“Fine. One more day. But if he’s not gone, I’m squishing him,” Carlton threatened with a menacing dishtowel twirl. Clearly, he wasn’t buying my Larry personality profile I’d so carefully crafted which included parents, possible life partner, recreational activities and so on.
Returning from work that evening, I discovered Larry missing and called out Carlton’s name with admitted temper-laced vehemence. He stumbled lackadaisically from his bedroom he’d named The Bunker per the inexpertly-whittled plaque on the door, sporting an ensemble of chartreuse fuzzy slippers and orange boxer shorts featuring Ken and Barbie demonstrating several of the more athletically demanding Kamasutra positions.
“I was taking a nap. What?”
I have learned when upset to linger a moment or two to collect myself before speaking. “You know what,” I said evenly.
“Oh. You mean Larry?” he yawned largely, extending his arms with a slow windmill of a stretch in an uncaring display of languid impudence, one armpit shaved, one not for some uninteresting reason. He was really testing my imperturbability for which I am known and admired in certain discerning circles.
“Yes! Of course, I mean Larry!” I exclaimed, my emotions unbridling themselves beyond my usual ability to expertly regulate their magnitudes. “We had an agreement. One more day. It hasn’t even been twelve hours! This is a betrayal of the first order, Carlton. You have spit in the eye of my spiritual beliefs! Dammit, man, don’t you understand? As a living creature, if Larry had followed a worthy path he could have come back as a much higher life form!”
“Like a cockroach?”
“Yes. Or a llama!”
“Llama, huh?” He looked up at the ceiling while scratching his backside a little longer than one would have wanted. “I didn’t do it,” he said.
“You didn’t…you mean he left? Of his own volition?” A ray of hope! I’d misunderstood my roommate.
“Nah. Carmen came over today,” he said, now scratching the opposing cheek with the same vigorous simian thoroughness. Carmen is Carlton’s lady friend. Their relationship is of the break up, make up, break up, make up variety.
“What’s that have to do with…Carmen killed Larry?” I sharply in took my breath. “But didn’t you explain to her about my beliefs?”
“Yeah, I told her about that reintarnation thing you buy into.”
“ReinCARnation!” I said at significant volume impressive to me as well as the inhabitant of the apartment above our heads who started jumping up and down on his floor/our ceiling. I took a calming moment to recenter and continued. “And did you tell her the part about Larry’s family and his life adventures and everything?”
“Yeah, I told her all that stuff.” Carlton walked over to the trash bin and pulled out a balled-up paper towel he uncrumpled and upon which Larry laid, motionless, his mortal coil shuffled off.
I turned my head away and raised my hand. “I don’t want to see him,” I said, but given all the emotional loving energy I’d invested in Larry, I couldn’t help myself. I took a deeper measured cleansing breath, then looked back to stare down at the brown stain that was the remains of my teensy amigo with whom I will admit I identified as a compatriot child of the universe, a fellow stranger in a strange land. Indeed, I groked Larry, to borrow Mr. Heinlein’s term. At the sight of the departed, I crossed myself for I have taken what I believe to be the best parts of all religions and rolled them into my own personal brand of spirituality. I call it Buddhastentism. I used to call it Prostetudha, but got some negative feedback on that one.
“Did you know Carmen has twenty-twenty vision?” Carlton asked.
“What’s that got to do with anything?” I erupted vociferously, thoroughly disgusted with my roommate’s failure to hold up his end of our agreement.
Stomp, stomp, stomp (ceiling).
“Larry’s a coffee ground,” Carlton said, “and we both need glasses.”
My ophthalmology appointment’s Tuesday.
Geoffrey K. Graves’ work has been published and/or recognized in numerous national and international literary competitions including: First Honorable Mention (2nd place winner) 2022 Periscope Literary/Word Press (UK), Short-Listed 2021 Bath Flash Fiction Award (Ireland), Honorable Mentions: New Millennium 2022, Gemini Magazine 2022, First Prize in Writer’s Digest Short Short Story (2023), Longlisted – Disquiet Prize (Portugal-2023), and elsewhere.