The Fall of Sybil

Photo by Brooke Lark on Unsplash

Corn syrup is filling each grout-line of the salmon, tiled table; the fizz is subsiding as the room bubbles up. Amy and I wait for it to pop as my sharp eyes meet hers and drift over the spill. The napkin under my full tang blade is soaked and useless.

Sybil is holding a thin rag between her bulging knuckles. The white duck prints turn brown as she lays them out swiftly like a tablecloth. I reflect on what is left of her teeth grinding to dust. Her stiff arms hinge in and out like a praying mantis as she balls up another towel and scrubs. Her hair falls loose around her face.

Amy has a bite of burger hanging out of her mouth. There is a half of bun and meat, I cut, in her dangling hand. Her Chihuahua, Tiny, laps at the ketchup drips. Amy’s eyes dilate to marbles and swell from their sockets. I try to compute the licks Amy will get. I can almost hear the clink of calculator keys in Sybil’s head, adding up the cents surrounding ten ounces of soda. Dr. Thunder is cheap. That is good for Amy. Still, Sprite would not have stained the ducks brown.

I am looking up at Sybil computing with her mute lips—a dollar nineteen for each rag, bleach at least six cents worth, and wasted if it can’t lift the stains.

The math in Sybil’s head is perfect logic, constricted. Amy is never a factor. I see the second rag is sopping too. She will need another and another and another to wash off all the residue.

Sybil still isn’t speaking, but her narrow eyes say everything. Her aggressive hands say it all.

Amy is a statue as Tiny snags what’s left of the burger from her limp hand. I am relieved that Sybil doesn’t see—sixty cents are eaten. Amy reacts.

“IT’S NOT FUNNY!” Sybil screams.

I am the first to break the silence, sharp from laughing, as I slice. The corners of Amy’s lips rise, and Sybil bursts open like a sore, the pus of her splatters across the drapes and walls. It won’t cost her anything.

Tiny is the first to run from the red kitchen, leaving a trail of footprints that will need more bleach and rags. His nails clink over tile, anticipating brown stains. Amy is second and last because I’m the long and hungry point that falls from her hand to the floor after Sybil.

  • Kaci Skiles Laws is a closet cat-lady and creative writer living in Dallas—Fort Worth. She is an editor at Open Arts Forum, and her writing has been featured in The Letters Page, Bewildering Stories, The American Journal of Poetry, Pif Magazine, Rough Cut Press, The Blue Nib, Necro Magazine, and Ten Million Flies, among others. Her published work and blog can be viewed at the link below.

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