October 22nd
The Rot
by nicholas guastella

Daddy thought it was just snot. That’s why Daddy didn’t go to the doctor, “because it’s just snot, Rudy.”

Daddy would always just sit there towards the end. Fatty and wet like cheap steak. At first I liked that.

I was certain it was the Rot, but I’m a silly idiot. A big dumb thing. I’m loved, but not believed.

“More time with you, you big dumb idiot,” Daddy’d say, calling out of work again.

I’m the big dumb idiot, so I grin. I am happy. I loved him back.

“I’m not going to waste money and time on snot. Isn’t that right Ru-dee?” but then he’d leak a little more.

He would share salami and change the subject. Daddy knows I’m a sucker for these kinds of food-based gestures. The more pathetic and obvious, the better.

More leaking. I’d sift through the garbage and see the copper mess of the Rot in his tissues. Daddy’d yell at me for sifting through the garbage.

“I’m okay, bubba,” and then he’d spank my ass and bring me in close. I could never tell if he was talking to himself or to me, even in moments like these. I can say now that drove me mad.

See, I know I’m not that much better than Daddy. I think that’s clear now, picking him from my teeth. I sat there, scratching myself, too. I’d whine about his leaking, but I still relished in my witnessing it. My head in his lap, looking up into the infected pink of his nose, finally spending time together.

“Why do you love giving me kisses?” Daddy’d ask, dying. His head was salty with sweat, the Rot was sizzling out of him.

I was still grateful for Daddy. He gave me a home. Where I was before, you didn’t get to know anybody because they’d feed them Rot and take them away before you could.

I only lived because I’m beautiful. I only lived because Daddy thought I was worth spending money on. Rudy, the big dumb idiot.

Daddy was silly and I liked it. I truly loved sharing a home with him. He’d have company over and I love people. I loved when they came through the front door all chatty, so you got to know them. I loved when they came from Daddy’s door in little pieces. I could tell Daddy loved these people, too.

Fuck, with Daddy, we’d eat and eat and I’d kiss his mouth because I was so grateful. People are so nice to meet, and Daddy was so kind to share them with me once he was done with them.

Daddy would watch me eat every last bit. It was important. It was my job.

Our life was like this. For years. Our little ritual.

The Rot stopped the little ritual. Now when we ate it was under the harsh white of our cheap bulbs. We’d eat different bullshit from bowls. Whatever. After a while our time together just felt like time. Too much time.

I could tell he was falling apart, literally. He’d frozen into a bend that I suppose must’ve helped the last bit of the leak fall out of him.

I grew hungrier for the way things used to be.

He couldn’t deny the Rot any longer. And I felt bad for Daddy, I did. It was sad to watch him go through it alone, knowing that anyone he had ever loved (besides me) we had already eaten, and that no more company would come before he Rotted away forever.

“Rudy, you idiot. You stayed,” I heard love in that croak, made through his final breaths.

Of course I stayed, that’s what I do.

I did once try to escape. Daddy got sick from drinking and tied me up. He pushed his finished cigarettes, still hot, into my back, one by one until the pack was empty. I think they left forever marks, but I can never know for sure.

“Stop your whining. It’s a little experiment, Ru-dee, I brought you into this world and I’ll take you out of it!”

At the end of the night he untied me. He slumped over, asleep as soon as he hit the pillow. I made a point not to get in bed with him and instead went to the front door, that only he had permission to open. I swear, I scratched at that lock trying to break free for so long that I began to bleed. Daddy found me crying on the floor and wrapped me up. He even cried, too.

I didn’t expect that. Tears. I never thought to leave again.

And now I’ll never leave. The door is closed and I can’t imagine someone ever opening it from the other side. And so I got more impatient and hungry. And there was Daddy, crooked and finished and alone.

I wanted to do him one last big favor. I wanted to do our little ritual. I wanted Daddy to go the same way everyone he ever loved did. Eaten - albeit in less finely cut pieces - by Rudy, the big dumb idiot, his tail wagging.

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