part I: swimmer

In her youth she’d been ruler and queen of celebrity crushes, and kissed the posters, and dabbed them with cologne and yearned and sighed. Now she was 27 and married to Pastor Marty and she was Pastor Cindy, and she spent her weeks in idle pursuits that she dressed up to look like charity in her congregation. Truth was she’d been having a kind of obsessive spell. It happened sometimes (celebrity crushes for example) and this one had started a few months ago. Mostly she’d been thinking about the party. How many laps she would need to swim to get her arms muscled the way she wanted them for the sleeveless top she wanted to wear. The shade she wanted her tan to be. How she’d do her makeup and who would cater. Even after every possible aspect had been settled, still in her mind she rehearsed how she’d come to each decision (color of the tablecloths, which champagnes to serve) and how she would explain it to her friends.

These were the thoughts that ground through her head repetitively as she swam her laps. And there was this other thing too: an imaginary lover, how thrilling and illicit! Only the strange thing was, he lived in the pool…maybe that started in a dream or something. It made sense, she loved her pool, so of course that’s where he’d live. And all her thoughts of him were love, love, and purest love; distilling all her best flashes of love, and making them wash over her body as she swam.

She wondered if all this was unfaithfulness? If all you did was imagine? But she sure didn’t feel like this with Pastor Marty: or hadn’t since the first few kisses anyway. With her swimmer-lover, it was all just delicious and transcendent. They didn’t talk much, in her mind; mostly they swam together. And she felt his presence exalting her most trivial thoughts. And again and again she rehearsed her plans for the party, and how she’d introduce him—and then she’d catch herself, and try to think of something else.

She had decided after some soul-searching to invite some friends and not just congregation. She’d called Shelley whom she hadn’t seen since college though they called and wrote each other sometimes. She had to write Shelley to get her new phone number. At least that made her hopeful Shelley might actually recognize her when she called. Half the time she had to tell Shelley her last name before it clicked. She sometimes wished she could find the strength not to call Shelley again. But she always did, eventually. Anyway Shelley said she’d come! And bring friends, so it all had to be perfect

part II: kobold

and it was, it was one of those nights Pastor Cindy felt people’s recognition for all she’d accomplished, which to be perfectly honest was not much more than marrying into a prestigious congregation and a fairly palatial home, and spending a great deal of money on an impressive party. Well, at least it was impressive, and she could sure bask in it tonight, and wasn’t it thrilling when Shelley arrived with three friends that Pastor Cindy knew right away to be way out of her league. It didn’t keep her from trying. And it didn’t turn out too bad after all. There were several very nice comments from the friend of Shelley’s who turned out to be the nice one. The tall one didn’t speak at all and the gaunt one only said “You’ve got a kobold living under your mattress” and then they all left to move on to another party and who could blame them. All the congregation there and

--OK. She was waking up now with quite the headache, that was it, that was what she could blame for dozing off during the sermon. Oh SHIT had she dozed off. She froze and blood surged into her face and the head throbbed. She took small quick glances at the congregation around her and at Pastor Marty. No. She was safe. There was no attention on her. She was glad that she was that type of person who knew, always knew the sum of attention being paid her vs. whoever else, and right now Pastor Marty had it, as he usually did, it was one of the reasons she married him. What was that about a kobold? She’d laughed and laughed over that once Shelley and her friends had gone. Oh no. She’d laughed and laughed a lot, she remembered, and felt sick and horrified to think she’d been so dumb last night. She’d made a big deal about it to some nearby congregation, and it made her want to barf to think of it.

Six elders of the church sat in attractive modern chairs in a semicircle behind Pastor Marty and made occasional notations in their Bibles when verses were referenced. The lights looked pleasing on her remarkably handsome husband. Twenty more congregation sat in front of the stage, cradling various instruments. Twenty rows of pews held two hundred more congregation.

That evening after church and fellowship were finally over, Pastor Cindy looked up kobold in the dictionary and then she wanted so bad to call Shelley and beg her for the gaunt friend’s number, because it was true, she had a kobold under her mattress, and what was worse, she had a crush on it.

part III: octopus

No lie. Here’s how it started. She and Pastor Marty had been married three months when the bedsheets started to rebel. Pastor Cindy knew it wasn’t her and she believed Pastor Marty when he said it wasn’t him and that left the sheets, which every night twisted themselves into ropes or wrapped the pastors in tight shrouds. There was the night they’d woken up bare and cold, and the sheets were wadded under the mattress. Completely underneath it! Explain that. Well then there were dreams too: nasty dreams but kind of sexy, and not exactly ones she wanted to forget; she’d linger over them during the day. Dark delicious lover under the mattress trying to pull her under there with him. Feeling like if she stuck her toes under the covers all the way down to the edge of the bed, his cool delightful fingers would sneak up and stroke her. And then in the daytime, in her pool, he’d materialize and wrap those arms around her and they’d twist or grind around a bit in the wetness. –Outside her dreams, too, and outside the pool, and then sort of all the time. More and more of the time until she caught herself holding long charming conversations with him in her head like a crazy woman. Wouldn’t you know it then there’d come a Sunday and she could lose herself thankfully in Pastor Marty’s pedestaled good looks and the mildly enraptured gazes of the female congregation who adored him. She could transfer some of the imaginary passion back onto her husband where it belonged, and push away some of her guilt at pretend-cheating on him. But really that was only during sermons. The rest of the time, she wanted her swimmer-kobold. He was the one who purely loved her. Who swam with her and listened. Who never shut himself in the study for weeks on end to grow a beard and read scriptures. Who crept under the mattress at night, and stole the sheets, and caressed her with his eight arms….oh his eight arms. His cold skin. His beaked mouth. His three hearts.

Originally written for a zine of the same title, masterminded by Nathalie Roland. I believe a crab malice is a tasty kind of cocktail.