I never told you about my cousin, the bug-catcher? A very strange man, my cousin. He was even strange as a boy. He was really into collecting butterflies. Disgusting hobby. But he loved it. Running around the backyard with a net, all day running around. My cousin was a very nervous boy. He was always moving. Walking, pacing, shaking, he just couldn’t stand still. I think it was all those bugs. Bugs are no good for you.
He liked to keep the butterflies in a glass jar. He would catch one and put it inside the jar. And he had just the one jar. The bottom of it was filled with dead butterflies so, whenever he got a new one, he locked it in the jar to fly over the corpses of the other butterflies. It was wrong. One time I even told my aunt about it, you know, I snitched. I just couldn’t see him do that anymore.
“You leave your cousin be, you know how he is” she said.
And that was it.
When the jar was full of dead butterflies he changed to crickets. Another jar full of dead bugs.
That was when he was a kid. My cousin, I mean. That’s what he liked to do. I stopped seeing him a short time after he started with the whole cricket thing. He creeped me out. My ma wasn’t so fond of him either so she didn’t mind when I stopped going over to his house.
“That boy is danger. There’s nothing wrong with staying away. You don’t invite danger into your home” she said whenever we mentioned my cousin.
Just now, as I was coming over to see you I heard someone calling my name. A short man with long greasy hair came up to me all smiling.
“Come on, don’t tell me you forgot your own cousin.”
He looked like he hadn’t had a decent meal in the last five years. I tried to give him money. I know it’s not the polite thing to do but you didn’t see him. He looked three days away from start chewing his own foot. But he didn’t take it.
“Don’t you worry about me. I’m eating just fine.”
So he gets real close to me and takes something out of his pocket. I got scared. I don’t really know him. And what little I do know of him is that when he was younger he used to lock bugs inside a jar with other dead bugs. I got scared and I don’t mind saying it. He showed me his hand and he had these little mushrooms. The cap was red with white dots. He smiled and told me to touch one of the mushrooms.
Of course I didn’t touch it.
“These are good for hunting, cousin. They love these sweet little things, they eat them up like candy.”
I asked him just what the hell he was talking about.
“I’m surprised you don’t know” he said. “Well, I guess it’s a secret then. But I’ll still tell you, we are family, cousin. They have some small animals around the city, not like any animal you’ve seen before. They’re short and have square heads and thick skin. And they’ve also got a sweet tooth. These mushrooms taste sweeter than sugar to them, they can’t get enough. Don’t you remember that thing grandma used to say? You’ll catch more flies with honey than with vinegar, that’s what she’d say. Well, she sure was right. I set the trap, put the mushroom in and wait a little bit. I’m catching twenty, thirty a day, cousin. Tasty little things, salty and sweet. Like pork but even sweeter. That’s from the mushrooms, that’s where it comes from. It gives them a better taste. Sweeter.”
What do you say to something like that?
I put some money in his pocket when he wasn’t looking and I left. He must be out there somewhere now, hands full of mushrooms, hunting for those things he started eating, God knows what they are. Don’t look at me like that, I did what I could. What more was there to do? Ma was right, he is danger. You don’t invite danger into your home. You just don’t do that.
Written for Grammar Ghoul Press Mutant 750 #44
And it won first place!!
Raúl feels 44 should be my new lucky number.
It’s under consideration.