The Cold Inside
By AL BRUNO III
Thursday November 24, 1994
The fishtank was empty, the fish long dead. Newspapers and magazines were piled high in the corner closest to the door. The curtains were drawn closed. Everything seemed to have a layer of dust. Phil sat on the couch watching a holiday movie on the television and eating cold pizza. Not a very good Thanksgiving and not a very good pizza, but he had never learned how to cook for himself so he lived on fast food and cold cuts now.
Zara had been the cook of the family; and the seamstress, and the housekeeper and a dozen other things that Phil had taken for granted. He wished now he had been a little more appreciative of her, he wished he had told her all the things he had always felt were best left unsaid. Most of all he wished that he had been the one to have a stroke not her.
He wished that last part for a lot of reasons.
In the darkened kitchen the old washing machine chugged away on spin cycle. A fluffy black cat bolted from beneath the kitchen table and skidded into the parlor. “Hey Junior.” Phil smiled.
Junior meowed and sniffed at the edges of the pizza box. The cat was his only company these days. He'd gotten the cat for Zara- a welcome home present for when the Carvale Home finally let her go. Unfortunately a second stroke a few weeks ago had turned her transient stay into an indefinite term. By then of course he'd become attached to the oversized ball of fur.
Stroking the cat's head he asked, “So what are you up for Junior? Wanna watch some football?”
Junior blinked and cocked his head.
The cat was a Persian and looked to be a pure breed, he sometimes wondered if it had been a pet that had wandered away. Some rich young numbskulls probably bought the animal, gave it a fag name like Fauntleroy or Midnight and then lost interest in it. They probably put you out at night because you were a bother. If so it was their loss, anyone fool enough to let their pets go wandering the streets deserved what they got.
“You're darn lucky you ran into me and not my old friend John, he'd a gut you like a fish just for wandering into his yard.” Phil cooed.
Thoughts of John made him frown again. Sig you utter prick. I relied on you, I trusted you, and I let you live. But you abandoned me. Where are you now? Are you happy? Was it worth it?
With John Sig gone, decades of planning went out the window and suddenly Phil found himself cornered. He couldn’t run, not with Zara in her fragile state and he couldn't fight, he wasn't strong enough or smart enough. He'd always gotten by with being sneaky and mean. Sneaky and mean wasn't going to be enough this time.
But Tristam Bloom could change everything. He was strong, so strong it almost didn’t make sense.
Phil opened a beer and drank a toast in honor of his new apprentice.
I promised her we'd be in Heaven before the devil knew we were dead.
Phillip Adorskil meant to keep that promise.