Crua, Crua by Monika Rossa Wheatley

Yes, I am drunk.

Pero no tanto. Only a little bit, only enough to untie my tongue and tell, finally tell.

First of all, that tongue that I have to untie is quite a tongue. Let me tell you. I keep it behind my teeth, sometimes even behind a smile, but it costs me a bunch. It feels like a croaking frog and moves inside my mouth just like one. If one could feel a sound, I would say that I could feel the ribbit, ribbit, everywhere inside my head. Once in a while it jumps and then it touches my palette in such a way that I have to go to the bathroom, and fast! Once inside, I immediately turn on the fan switch. I keep the content of my stomach to myself until the sound of the fan comes on, and then, there I go, voila, the breakfast if I had any, lunch, certainly not yesterday’s dinner although I still would say that it has a dash of yesterday’s beer. Or something of that sort.

I don’t know how other people do it, really. Do they all have frogs in their mouths? And if yes, then what do they do with them when they go to sleep?

I can tell you that my frog quietly presses itself against my molars and becomes that thing that normally is called a tongue.

But this is me, a normal guy. I am curious though about the others, so I asked Luis. I trust Luis.

“Una rana? Que te pasa amigo, no, que va,” he said and he laughed his happy laughter, the one that makes his belly jump up and down. Maybe he has that frog in his belly. I didn’t see any problem with a frog accommodating itself in somebody’s stomach. Luis’s stomach of course is better than any other that I know of. They would be jumping together, the frog and the stomach when Luis would laugh. Yes, Luis’s stomach looked like a happy place whereas my mouth, no matter how much it would be smiling, it’s still a jail, a prison, a fucking death row. Behind my crooked teeth, with their used and elongated shapes, the frog only thinks it can jump out. I would fix my crooked teeth and keep the frog safe, but with what money? So I just am trying to keep the frog inside using other methods.

I would smile.

I hate my job. I know, don’t we all, I was once told, but no, look at Luis.

He doesn’t hate his job. Every morning he drives up the parking lot in his big Mexican style truck, I mean, the one that looks like it was purchased with a suitcase full of coke. That’s how it looks. Black, bold with high tires and that silver grill in front. Luis doesn’t blast his music as much anymore as he drives into the parking lot. He knows Mr. Kurzecki doesn’t like it, and Luis knows how to please the boss. So he turns off the music when he turns onto our street, but I know that he had it blasting all the way he was driving to work. I can see it on his face.

Luis is a happy man. He doesn’t have any frogs, I know that now. He told me personally, ranillas, no. Para que? He most probably thought that people have a choice, so he asked what he could have used the frogs for. I already know about choices. There are no choices at least I didn’t have any, unless I missed something. I do have a frog and Luis doesn’t. He doesn’t even hear mine when it makes its crua, crua sounds that I would think could wake up the dead man.

My frog wants to jump out of my mouth almost every time when I want to say something, especially at work. Only early in the morning when I wake up, it doesn’t move. I think it’s still cuddling with my molars, that’s all. I feel it sometimes as if it wanted to go back to the precipice of my throat. This is actually how I usually wake up. With this piece of meat in my throat, that I prefer to call the frog, and others call a tongue.

What am I saying? Es una rana. Basta.

I am not really drunk, though I wish I was. I think it would still feel better than to be sober and throwing up in the bathroom at work only because it’s impossible to make Mr. Kurzecki happy.

It’s impossible to have all of my work done on time. I only start working on a project, spreading the paperwork in front of me and reading the instructions. I ask Luis to help me to bring down the sheets of material y el tarda mucho because he’s doing something else. This already makes me nervous. I can feel the frog starting to move and this is very unpleasant. I already know she will make me vomit un poco mas tarde, but even though I know it, I still hope that she won’t. All this thinking happens while I am watching Luis carefully lifting the big wooden palette with plastic sheets on it. The sheets are huge. One could build a small carport with just a few of them, and fit a Mazda Miata inside. The sheets are heavy, too. Luis helps me to lift one and put it on the table saw. I read the dimensions otra vez y una vez mas. Never enough of reading the dimensions. I have made enough mistakes and now I am afraid that Mr. Kurzecki would finally make me pay for the material if I screwed up. Tengo miedo.

And here I would like to tell you, that this is when the frog in my mouth becomes very active, and I have to keep it secured inside my smiling jail. I think only how not to let it out, but then these thoughts bring the other thoughts that follow, and the fundamental question, why? Why do this? Then the answer follows and I repeat the thinking process as I travel through the well-used trails of thoughts. Dinero. How would I ever be able to pay my boss back with the money he pays me? I would have to become su esclavo, I would have to become his dog and wiggle my tail at the sight of the chewed up bones that he would throw me at his liking. Money.

Sometimes I would look at Luis who would be working happily on his saw, and I would think, how does he do it? Why is he smiling? There was a time that I thought that his paycheck was simply bigger than mine. I asked him but he said no. I still didn’t believe him. Not that I thought that he’s a liar or something, but I thought that he might not want to hurt my feelings. But no. I looked at the check, I only peeked, lo suero, really quickly, pretending that I mistook Luis’s check for mine.

Usually boss’s wife gives us checks, and she always makes sure that there aren’t any mix-ups. That day she had to leave early and I saw the opportunity, because somebody called the boss and he was a few yards away, talking on the phone and looking somewhere else. And my check and the one of Luis were next to each other, on the table, face down. Our initials were marked on the backs. This was in my favor because my first name starts with and L, just like Luis’s. So very well I could have made a mistake, right? Claro que si. I lifted the check up and I looked at the amount. I put it back as quickly as I lifted it, all this time watching the boss, only moving my eyes for this very second to see if Luis’s check was bigger.

It wasn’t. Luis should have the frog in his mouth just like me. I don’t know why no la tiene. He doesn’t have one and I fucking don’t know why. My check some day I think I could stick it in my mierda just for the sake of it, just to make fun. Or I could burn it together with that whole fucking place, and watch the smoke from far away because I would have to be on the run by then. Luis doesn’t feel like that. He’s a happy man.

Luis doesn’t have a frog and I don’t know what is his secret. He would cut his material slowly, ear headphones hanging out of his ears, so not only he would cut the material right but at the same time he would listen to his music, not the fucking table saw that is screaming in my ears. It seems to yell at me too. Guardate, it’s yelling and screeching, and when I would finally turn it off, with the last whistles the saw manages to whisper, hoy tuviste suerte, tienes todos los dedos. I would look at my fingers and I knew I wouldn’t have to count them. Yes, it was my lucky day, I had had them all.

Luis never needs to count his fingers. He doesn’t even think about it. I can’t listen to the music. I am too much afraid. Not only that I would cut my fingers off, but also that I might make a mistake, size wise. I already made too many mistakes. I think I already have said that, but see, never enough of saying the truth or a good thing.

Sometimes it makes me very angry. On the way back from work I would stop at the Corner Mart and pick up a six-pack. I am trying no to do it every day, primero because I can’t afford it, segundo because even though I hate it all I wouldn’t want to lose my job altogether.

The third thing is, well, I didn’t want to talk about it because I didn’t know how. I could mess it all up.

Well, I know I am drunk and maybe only a little bit, but I have to say that I like Mrs. Kurzecki, the wife of the boss. I like her very much. I already mentioned that she’s the one that hands out the paychecks, and it’s true. But now, after all these bottles that I can see, empty bottles neatly lined up along the countertop, I can say that I more than like Mrs. Kurzecki. I look at her when she walks along our tables, how her cheeks are moving under the stretchy skirt, uno, dos, uno, dos, arriba, abajo, and the other way around, and this view alone makes my frog anxious. It makes it come out from under the molars and make itself a way out, but of course, not quite. Smile, and smile one more time. And wider. I like to say her name, Mrs. Kurzecki, even though it’s her husband’s name too, and I despise him. There is an insidious and hidden pleasure in liking her name and hating his, although they are pronounced exactly the same way. With Mrs. Kurzecki I can sit down during my break and practice out loud how to say it.

Ku-rzec-ki, she would say and smile and I would smile too, and I can’t say it no matter what. She would move her chair a little closer to mine. That’s because we would sit in her office. She would invite me and that tells me something. She never invited Luis. I know that she must like me, and this is just the beginning of my revenge.

When I would do an awful job at pronouncing her name, Mrs. Kurzecki would laugh her perlish laughter and move her chair a little closer to mine. She would pull out a piece of paper and with a pen that has a plastic flower on its top, she would slowly spell her name. Letter by letter, one after another. I would look at the letters and I would bend slightly too. Not too much, just enough to see her cleavage a little better and a tiny golden cross that somehow gets stuck in that tight crack between her breasts. When she would laugh, the golden chain moves on her skin and sometimes it hangs itself on the one mole that sticks out a little below Mrs. Kurzecki’s neck. I even caught myself thinking that I would like to hang that chain there, help it a little if it doesn’t do it by itself.

I saw the pattern. Every time when Mr. Kurzecki would be angry with his wife, she would invite me to her office later that day. Just to practice how to pronounce her name, but also to talk about the new projects that I would have to work on. Of course, we spend more time in practicing spelling her name. I know that Mr. Kurzecki doesn’t like it but she’s his third wife and he’s used to it. I don’t want to make Mr. Kurzecki too angry because I don’t want to lose this job like that. Por nada.

If I am going to lose this job, I am going to do with style. Con estilo.

This is going to be my last bottle. At least I think it would be unless I would find one more in the extra fridge in the back. I think that Luis left a couple of beers there that last time he was visiting.

I think it was on Wednesday; Mr. Kurzecki called his wife through the intercom to the warehouse where all the plastic sheets are stored. She was taking a while to come, and this put Mr. Kurzecki con mala sangre. Mrs. Kurzecki finally came out of the office, fixing her hair with one hand. I love it when she’s fixing her hair like that, I can only look at her then. Mrs. Kurzecki is a little plump so she had to make an effort in squeezing herself between the racks with a bunch of pipes and the vertically stored sheets that were propped against the wall. Mr. Kurzecki was standing at the end of this tunnel, pointing at something above the first shelf.

“I told you to make the proper labels. And what did you do?”

“The labels,” was her reply.

The saws were off and Mrs. Kurzecki’s voice clear. Luis was out to lunch, so I quickly turned on the compressor, just to make some noise. Now I couldn’t hear anything and I was pretending that I didn’t see what happened. De veraz, I didn’t see. I only saw Mrs. Kurzecki coming out, pulling her belly in and squeezing her butt together. She was crying and I knew that soon I would be invited to practice her name otra vez.

That day the frog was jumping mucho. I learned earlier that if the frog jumps a lot in my mouth, it just means that I am very unhappy and stressed out and that I would not be able to hold my lunch or breakfast in. So when it started jumping I thought I would just go to the bathroom, turn on the fan and do the usual, but something told me that this was not going to be enough. I felt like going outside and decided to go to the nearby park where there was a restroom, too. I forgot to punchar, I thought, but I was already walking and I didn’t feel like texting Luis and asking him to punch out on the time clock for me. I felt semi safe because Mr. Kurzecki’s car was gone. I knew he was supposed to be out on sales calls. I saw Mrs. Kurzecki having lunch under a tree. She was sitting on a bench and eating her sandwich. Mrs. Kurzecki smiled to me and she patted a place on a bench right next to her, obviously inviting me to sit down. I did and I looked at her naked knees, at the bent of the bench. The color on her toenails was green. The frog in my mouth moved again but in a slightly different way. I sat up and now my face was right up to Mrs. Kurzecki’s face.

“I punched out for you,” she said.

I couldn’t hold it in any longer. Mrs. Kurzecki’s lips pressed mine, and this is when I let the frog out. I felt Mrs. Kurzecki sucking on it, and let me tell you, the frog liked it.

 

I was going down in style.

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAMonika Rossa Wheatley is a writer. She is working on a novel. She writes short stories to clear the window of imagination. Monika Rossa is also an artist and she spends a lot of time in her studio in Tucson, Arizona.