• David Hann

Fiction: Tidy by David Hann

Photo Source: Deposit Photos

Bruce liked things neat. He liked them in their place. He felt that if you put something in its place, you can find it again. Things look neater, too, when they are put away.

His apartment was always tidy. His books were organized by genre, then by author, like his music. In his kitchen all the spices were grouped according to their use, hot, savory, all very logical. Identical jars, clearly labeled, made it even neater.

Bruce met Cecilla the way you normally meet a girlfriend, through a friend. He was quite taken with her when they first met. She had a great figure, a fascinating, outgoing personality, and an unruly mane of brown hair.

It didn't take long to become lovers. Soon, Cecilla was staying at his apartment three or four nights a week. He started to notice some things, however. She'd leave in the mornings, and there'd be things out of place. A tissue left on the table and not in the rubbish. A book taken from the bookcase and not put back, or worse, put back in the wrong place. He'd mention these to Cecilla when he saw her. A brief look of annoyance would cross her face, then she'd laugh, and flick her hair back the way he loved. He wanted to make it clear how much it annoyed him, but it seemed like water off a duck's back, and she'd move onto something else, and he'd let it go – one more time.

Then she started staying longer. All weekend, from Friday night to Monday morning. Saturday morning he'd be up and see empty packets on the table. It infuriated him. She'd still be sleeping, of course – she didn't get up till lunchtime in the weekends. When she got up his anger would have cooled. It was getting harder for him to ignore, though. It irked him. It ate at him. How could someone so nice, and so smart, not put things away? Did she think things just went away by themselves? Did she expect him to do all the work around here? Did she just not care?

Then came that Saturday. Cecilla told Bruce she was going to cook lunch for them. He tried to talk her out of it. He could see disaster coming. It wasn't a good idea. She disagreed. She called him silly. She said she'd keep the kitchen clean. Then she flicked her hair and gave him that smile. He had to agree, though he was trembling inside.

With a coquettish smile, she told him to stay out of the kitchen while she cooked. She promised to keep it tidy.

Bruce did his best. He tided the apartment, put her stuff away neatly, checked the bookcase. He did all the things that calmed him. He was still not calm. What if she spilled something? What if she put something back in the wrong place? What if his kitchen was untidy?

Then she came out of the kitchen with two plates. It smelled great. She took them to the table and Bruce had to admit he enjoyed a lovely meal, though he did have to wipe gravy off the side of a plate.

Cecilla said she'd do the dishes, and tidy up. Bruce relaxed somewhat. She was making sure the kitchen was okay. All would be well, and if there was some small item wrong, well, he could forgive her that minor transgression. She had made such a great meal. He sat, comfortable with the feeling of a satiated appetite and a general feeling of magnanimity.

Cecilla popped her head out of the kitchen. “All done.”

Still slightly worried, he went into the kitchen. A quick scan showed all the implements in their places, and all the cooking supplies too. No, wait, he put the white pepper back on the right hand side of the black pepper. He was amazed. He felt she had really understood him.

“Make us coffee?” Cecilla asked.

Well, he really had to, didn't he? After all it was the least he could do.

He started telling her what he felt, making coffee by feel as he did so. With everything in the right place he had no need to look. Two cups, one spoon. Coffee and creamer in both, sugar in his, she didn't take any. Then add hot water.

He passed her hers and they went back to the sofa. He was still talking about how great she was. She just smiled.

He took a long gulp of his coffee. Tasted a bit off, but no matter, he was happy.

He noticed his mind wandering, thinking about what might have happened if she'd made a mess. Might he have over-reacted? Might she make a mess in future? Could he cope?

Then the first convulsion hit. He doubled over as his stomach muscles spasmed. Then his neck and back arched and he was thrown off the sofa. Further spasms hit his muscles. He gasped, or tried to as his jaw seemed locked, and his breathing was becoming harder. He flopped around on the floor beside the sofa.

Cecilla's smile broadened. “In a bit of discomfort? Oh no. There's been a terrible accident. Someone put the rat poison jar where the sugar jar goes. So sad you didn't look. Or maybe you just killed yourself. After all, it's your fingerprints on the spoon and cup.”

He managed a gurgled, “Why?”

“I got so sick of you. You are so annoying. You think more about your house than me. So, bye-bye.” She stood and headed for the door. “I shouldn't be here when you die, might not look right.”

As she left Bruce could only stare at the ceiling as another painful spasm wracked his body. His chest muscles seemed barely able to manage his breathing now, and he was getting light-headed. He was scared. He didn't want to die. There was a bigger problem, though. His body would make the room so untidy.

David Hann is a freelance writer from southern New Zealand. While editing and ghostwriting pays the bills, he likes to see work published with his own name from time to time. He claims he tries to write happy stories, but that they just turn dark by themselves. His stories have recently featured in some magazines and on line publications including The Weird and Whatnot, The Fifth Dimension, and Sci-Fi Lampoon . He has recently completed a book of short stories co-written with H. J. Tidy.

If you would like to learn more about David, you can find his website here and his DeviantArt here.