Ian Kappos was born and raised in Northern California. His short fiction has appeared or is forthcoming in a number of periodicals, most notably Neon, Specious Species, Bartleby Snopes, and Grim Corps Magazine. An art school dropout, he lives and attends community college in Sacramento, California.
We are in Josh’s room smoking heroin off of a sheet of tinfoil. Well, Josh is smoking heroin off of a sheet of tinfoil. I’ve been clean for a while.
“Can you check on Sandy?” Josh asks me after he exhales a thin gust of a smoke. He leans back and catches himself, readjusting the slice of tinfoil before the stream of black liquid can fall off the edge. I’m here for the family, I remind myself, but it doesn’t help much.
A rerun of Fantasy Island is on. Josh is evidently too invested in it to spare a moment for his sister.
“Yeah,” I say, and get up.
I leave his room, walk down the hall, open Sandy’s door. She sits on the edge of her bed, a thin strand of saliva descending from the corner of her mouth. Sandy is retarded. Well, that’s probably not right–Sandy has Down’s syndrome, of the more extreme variety.
“Sandy,” I say. “Everything all right in here?”
She’s watching a Muppets movie on VHS, I don’t know which one. She doesn’t answer me right away. So I ask again, “Sandy, everything all right in here? You doing okay?”
Sandy looks at me, dragging the thread of drool across her collar. “I’m good, Luke.”
On her TV, the Muppets are just breaking out into song. I look back at her and decide that I should make myself useful. I walk over to her and readjust her collar and wipe the saliva from her chin. She winces a bit at my touch, but her eyes stay locked to the television.
“Okay, Sandy,” I tell her as I walk back to the door. “If you need anything, just holler. I’ll be back soon to help you brush your teeth. Okay?”
She says nothing.
“Sandy, what did I just say?”
“You said holler, Luke. If I need any–”
A glob of bright gold oozes from her mouth. It plops onto her shirt, a modified Napoleon Dynamite shirt that proclaims “VOTE FOR SANDY.” A steady stream of it leaks from between her lips, thick as paint. She sputters.
“Jesus,” I say. I grab one of her mittens from the desk next to me and run over to her. I brush the liquid from her shirt and wipe at her mouth. The mitten comes away gilded. “Jesus, Sandy, what did you eat?”
“Cheesy potatoes,” she says.
The drip has stopped, whatever it is. Thankfully, from what I can tell, she’s breathing okay.
“Sandy,” I say. “I’ll be right back.”
When I get back into Josh’s room he is nearly on the nod. He’s looking at one of his many movie posters, an old James Bond one: The Man with the Golden Gun. Roger Moore stands in the foreground, golden gun in hand, a girl wrapped around his leg. In the background Christopher Lee as Scaramanga stands menacingly beside his dwarf manservant played by Hervé Villechaize. Josh has always had some odd fascination with Villechaize, I don’t know why. “It’s something about the way he asks questions, in his movies,” Josh once told me, but that didn’t really clarify much.
“Josh,” I say. He looks at me. One of his eyes tends to go lazy when he’s loaded; it’s never the same one. “What’s wrong with your sister, man?”
“Huh?” He rolls his head around until I’m presumably centered in his vision. “What do you mean, man?”
“She’s spewing or something, man.”
“Yeah, dude, I don’t know what to do.”
“Just wait,” he drawls, his head lolling back.
“Wait for what? Your mom?”
Josh’s head jerks upward. He looks around, his eyes lighting up for a moment, like someone bursting from the surface of a very cold pool. A bright fluid weeps from his ear, gold as liquid sunflower. He makes a sound, clutching an inert hand to his temple.
“Just wait,” he says, I think more than anything to check if he can hear his own voice.
I look back at the James Bond poster and gaze into Hervé’s black eyes. I don’t know if I see inquisitiveness there so much as I see something dull and crushed. I always preferred Moonraker, anyway.