Fried Women by Laurie Canciani, author of The Insomnia Museum, is the next addition to the Wales Arts Review Flash Fiction Week series.
She told me she has these blackbirds in her head and the only way to get them to stop squawking is to snort codeine, whey protein powder from the other fucker’s leftover stuff, and a little fabric softener to make it all smell good. Different. Like those flowers she remembers from her father’s garden.
She tells me a lot more now than she used to. I moved in upstairs when she was worried about paying the rent and she started working at that Chinese restaurant she hates. The one that opens its doors up to all kinds of tall parasites, toothless masturbators with wandering hands, and semi-legal women working long hours for hardly nothing just to come out of the place smelling like fried pork and that silky red sauce they pour right over the chicken.
I think I’m a racist because she’s black and I noticed. I think I’m a creep because I love the smell of that fried pork on her fingers and I look at her when she doesn’t know and I watch her while she brushes her teeth and when she snorts that stuff all the time. She cries for a while and holds a picture of her dead father whose name I can’t remember but I know it sounds like some sort of meat.
She sings TV show theme tunes because she knows I’m listening and when she’s done singing the other fucker comes back again to pick up his protein and some other shit he left behind. I hear them argue and then I hear the crash and scream. I can’t stay away anymore so I go down there and I take the pipe she’s struggling to lift and I raise it up and I smash the fucker right over the head with it. She says nothing. Then I smash him again over and over until I hear the crack and see the blood run like that red Chinese sauce and I hit him again until his head cracks open and all his rotten blackbirds fly out all at once.
We sit together, both of us holding the pipe, and we look at the dead man for a long time. Out of nowhere she starts to laugh long and hard and licks her split lip and out of nowhere she starts to cry. I put my hand out but she doesn’t take it. She stands in silence and gets the codeine and the fabric softener and the protein and grinds it all up on the table. I say no but she doesn’t listen. She snorts it all and sits back in a chair, bending her body to the warmth and bright fire and good thoughts springing fast from the blackbirds of her youth. I disappear once again upstairs. Into the throbbing dark. Right inside her head with the rest of the squawking animals clawing at her mind to be brought into real life. I’m disappointed. I thought we were closer than that.
Fried Women by Laurie Canciani is part of a Wales Arts Review series publishing original flash fiction pieces by some of Wales’ top authors in a celebration of the unique literary genre and National Flash Fiction Day.