Amy Shearn
New Prose From the USA
      Once we had hundreds of chairs. Chairs were everywhere, filling the house, reaching in stacks. Literally hundreds: kitchen chairs, dining room chairs, armchairs soft as mothers, designer chairs sleek as spoons. There they were, cupped like hands, waiting.
      On a Wednesday, we eat boiled eggs, standing on one leg each in the kitchen. He dips the solid white into a pillar of salt. I drop pieces of shell thin as paper around my feet. “Listen,” I finally say, “do the animals make you nervous?”
      Roger looks around. There they are, eye-glittering, hunched. They are watching us eat, licking their chops. They gather in the corners like piles of dust. “Yes,” Roger agrees, “they make me a little nervous.”
      It started off with one or two of them, ordinary animals, animals with names and sweaters like little children. They liked to do cute, harmless things, they liked to stand on back legs to watch out the window, or sleep with their heads on Roger’s neck. But something started to happen, it was when we left town for the weekend, I think, sometime when we weren’t paying attention. Maybe we were a little tired. Maybe we let things slip a little. Now there seem to be animals everywhere. I count seventeen, but it is hard, because they are moving. Roger counts twelve. Their tense furred bodies coil and snap.
      We finish the boiled eggs and immediately start to feel sick. “You didn’t boil them long enough!” Roger cries, pointing his finger.
     “Me?” I say. “Not me.”
      Still, we both feel sick. That much is as irreversible as water ending a frying pan’s heat. Roger leans against an oak chair, its legs spread like sea-worthy sailor. Some sort of long, tubular animal with precise and tiny paws dashes under an arrangement of lawn chairs which rattle their plastic seat-straps in response. “Well, this turning out to be a really great day,” I say sarcastically. I say this sarcastically because I don’t really mean it. I actually find the day to be bad, almost atrocious.
      Roger feels sorry for me. He offers to take me out for pizza, since we are both still hungry. I say I think that might alright. At the restaurant we lean together in a sparkling vinyl booth and hold hands and pretend we are in love. We do it to fool the waitresses.
      But when we get home, all the rooms are empty. No animals, no chairs. The refrigerator cools nothing but pools of beastly saliva. Roger slaps his forehead with his hand and slides to the floor. “All of our chairs!” he says.
      Only now do we finally sit.