Tyranny of Boredom

The roach walked across the beige metal landscape, ignoring the various crumbs. He headed towards the boiling pot of macaroni. His front legs reached for the black monolith promising a feast, and they curled back in smoldering chunks from the burner. He backed up with his rear legs, ignoring the useless limbs, and took a leap. What he had for a brain bubbled mucus-green.

The smell of the macaroni did little to mask the fetid, almost fecal, smell of the kitchen. The connecting bathroom smelled like European flowers in comparison. Brian was there, draining the dozen caffeinated beverages he’d drank earlier that day.

Jason had been staring at the roaches for a while. “Dude, your parents have to do something about the roaches. I can see like thirty right now.”

The toilet struggled to flush, and took to gurgling instead. Brian fought the door out of its frame and started looking through the cupboards for dishes. The sink held many, but they were covered with spilled burrito beans, spaghetti sauce, and chocolate pudding. The roaches enjoyed their short lives.

Jason stepped past Brain and looked out the slider window, which lead to a non-existent deck. The hundreds of trees were bare, and a trace of snow was on the backyard. “Where are your parents anyway?”

“Aunt Janine’s.” Brian pulled out a couple plates with only a few unrecognizable stains.

Jason turned to face Brian. “Why?”

“My uncle Roger’s trial is this week, they’re trying to figure out if they have to testify or not.” Brian stared at the faded linoleum, the tiny pits filled with tiny roach appendages and crumbs.

“Oh, right.” Jason looked outside again, spotting a cardinal flapping past.

Brian checked to see if the macaroni had the proper tenderness, strained it, and mixed it with the milk and powdered cheese. Then he piled it on the two plates, and handed one to Jason. Brian said, “Let’s eat downstairs.”

Brian took the stairs first, and slowly stepped, balancing his plate in his hands and his feet on the thin boards pretending to be stairs. On the main floor, the left side of the stairway was open, exposing piles of things: clothes, a bike, a coffee machine, and bread makers. After they both succeeded in surviving the staircase, Brian opened the door to his room, allowing Jason to step in.

Faded and slightly ripped blankets covered the windows, and a space heater offered some resemblance of warmth. A mouse shot under Brian’s king-size bed. Shiela sat on the bed watching TV.

Brian said “Shiela, get out. Now.”

She stuck her tongue out. “Mom said I can watch TV in here if I want.”

Brian was about to retort, when Jason tapped his shoulder. “Is there anything to watch on a freaking Saturday afternoon anyway?”

After letting out a guttural sigh, Brian said “Fine. We’ll watch whatever you’re watching.”


The macaroni and cheese grumbled in Jason’s stomach. The TV was shouting something about a robo maid for only ten dollars.

“Do we have any homework due for fifth hour Monday?” Brian asked.

“Biology? No, I don’t think so.”


Jason stepped off the bed. “There’s nothing to do.”

“You could go home.”

Jason flinched. “No. I want to stay here, I just want to do something.”


“Eh, no, I’m tired of it.”

Shiela perked up. “You could catch Mr. Fuddles.”

Jason turned to Brian. “What?”

“The rat. She calls it Mr. Fuddles” said Brian.

Shiela frowned. “He’s not a rat, he’s a nice cuddly mouse.”

Brian said “Whatever.”

Jason had knelt down next to the bed, and poked his head under the draping covers. “I’m going to need a flashlight.”

“Drawer.” Jason climbed out and went to the computer desk. He opened the drawer, and threw out two dozen instruction manuals before finding the red-tinted metal light.

Shiela was standing on the bed. “Make sure you be nice to Mr. Fuddles. I’m gonna get a cage.” She hopped off the bed and went for the door. “Thank you, Jason.” The door slammed.

Jason was back under the bed, flashlight piercing through the darkness.

Brian stood to his side. “Why are you doing this, man?”

“I’m bored.”

“You know my parents will never let her keep it.”

“I know.”

“Then why get it?”

Brian stood, waiting for an answer, and tapped his fingers lightly against the side of his calves. The TV started playing another Linkin Park music video of questionable construction, but Brian found himself enveloped in the benign visuals.

Jason continued climbing under the bed, flashlight in his left hand, shoving stacks of old magazines featuring impossibly bosomed women out from under the bed. While crawling, his hand pushed into something small and squishy. He ignored it, and continued thrashing around. Then a stiff expression fell over his face, and he stood still, eyes darting back and forth in the faded light, looking for the slightest trace in movement.

The rat crawled out from behind a sweater slashed with dirt, and began wandering towards a shoebox of old baseball cards two feet in front of Jason. He stopped breathing. The rat stopped at the box, just out of reach, and wiggled its nose at the corner. It took a step forward, smelling cheese, and came up to Jason’s face. It pressed its nose against his chin and nibbled at a cheesy smear.

Jason grasped at the rat with his left hand, holding on to it. “Gotcha.”

Brian snapped out of the trance, and spoke to Jason shuffling out from under the bed: “What? No way.”

Jason got out, and stood up, holding the rat in his left hand, its head unable to bite or gnaw. It started to defecate.

Brian said “So now what? We’re just going to put it in whatever crappy cage Shiela finds?”

Jason shook his head, and stared at the rat’s eyes. “Not exactly.” They both heard the snap of the rat’s neck break.

“What the fuck. Why’d you do that?”

“It shit on the floor. Your parents won’t allow you to keep it.”

“We could have put it outside or something.”

“And let it freeze to death after being pampered to high-heaven in this dump? Yeah.”

Shiela opened the door, carrying a corroded fish tank. She gasped. “You found Mr. Fuddles?”

“Yeah.” He threw the rat at her, bouncing it off her flat chest into the fish tank.

Shiela was ecstatic at first, muttering unintelligible baby-talk to her new pet. She set down the fish tank and started to pet the rat, but she started sobbing.

Jason was at the door already. “I’m taking off, see you guys later.” He left the door open.

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