Home Stories Poems Site Reviews Writing Tips Charlie Fish
FICTION on the WEB short stories by Charlie Fish

Bug Infestation
by Ian Duncan Smith

View or add comments on this story

I did a visual check of the Christmas tree to see if there were any bug infestations hanging off the branches, ready to leap out and spread themselves around the house. He wouldn't thank me for bringing a colony of bugs into his house.

There weren't any that I could see, so I grasped the trunk in one hand, and lifted it into the house like he'd asked me to. All the time I was worrying about a dog. There had to be a dog. Not that I was scared of dogs, I just didn't want to meet his dog.

He was sitting upright on cushions, like the king of Siam, but with the look of someone about to slip onto the floor, a human waterfall.

He said he was comfortable, but I knew he wasn't.

"Here's your Christmas tree."

"It's firly good."

I wondered if he had any more bad jokes.

"It's a living tree with roots," he said. "So it has to go outside all year, or the heating cooks it dry. You could put it over there for me."

He pointed to a space on top of a gold dinner service trolley. I placed the tree on the old towel he'd put there. The tree looked bare, like I'd served it up without caring how it looked.

"I'll help you decorate it," I offered.

"I'll decorate it myself, thank you."

"Okay, well, I'll tidy up a bit for you anyway. Sorry about the mess."

"No need to be sorry about the mess. I don't mind the mess."

But all the same I went into the kitchen to get some damp paper towels to clean the sides of the tub where the rain had splashed mud.

The kitchen looked better than I thought it would. No piles of unwashed plates. No food in the sink. No dog. The kitchen was okay. I went back into the TV room, and wiped around the tub. He was looking forward to seeing the tree cleaned up.

"Did you check for mites?"

I was onto the mites.

"If you checked for mites, why can I see mites?"

He couldn't see mites because there weren't any mites, but all the same, I went back into the kitchen, and found a bug spray under the sink. I sprayed all round the tree because it had been outside for a year getting scented by cats, and catching the sun in the gap between the houses. I folded the dirty cloth.

"Is there anything else I can do before I go?"

"No, I don't believe there is... But, come to think of it... If you don't mind, there's a light bulb out in the bathroom. I just can't reach it."

I went into the kitchen again, and found a forty-watt light bulb under the sink. Then I went to look for the bathroom worrying about the dog. It had to be there somewhere. I could smell it.

"It's been out for a week, but no one went past. I can't reach it from the chair. I'm glad you were passing. You ever tried to change a light bulb from one of these?"

I hadn't. Then I found his dog. It didn't move. It was in a glass case. It was a small terrier, stuffed solid, and looking dusty in its case.

"How's your tree coming along?" I asked.

There was no answer.

I found the bathroom. No light bulb meant he'd not seen what he'd been doing for a week.

"You need to let it dry out in here," I said.

I fixed the light bulb, and left the door open to get some air in. I went back into the hall. I walked towards the front room, and opened the door. He wasn't moving any more. He looked sad about the tree. There was nothing decorating it, just bugs driven out by the spray.

View or add comments on this story

Back to top
Back to list of stories

Web www.fictionontheweb.co.uk


Home Stories Poems Site Reviews Writing Tips Charlie Fish