​​H E R M E N E U T I C   C H A O S   J O U R N A L

maria pinto

The Necessity of Decay

When Dennis opens the apartment door a crack, he is hit with the loamy smell of turned soil--a sweet, black odor. When he opens it fully, there is no “home,” just mud. The walls and furniture and windows and television are swimming in it. He swallows back adrenaline, instead trying to feel relief that it will soon be over.

Filth, says a little voice. Dirty clay, it reminds him.

Dennis looks for whatever’s to blame for this minor cataclysm and finds it crouched in the center of the room. It’s a slim black hill among his ruined things. And it has eyes. His wife’s eyes. 


“Shhhh,” says the hill in his wife’s voice, arms swinging sidewise like a pendulum, “Leila’s finally asleep.”

The hill moves to its feet, a bundle unmoving at its breast.

“She’s been fussy today. She gets so upset when we fight.” 

Sudden panic jabs Dennis in the gut: what has she done to Leila? Then, safe but filthy, the baby shifts in her sleep. His adrenaline backs away again.
“Put her in the crib,” he says, noting how peaceful baby seems. The hill nods and mutters, “Was just about to.” 

Dennis tours the mud; it sits at least half an inch thick upon all the concrete proof of his existence in the sinking world. 
And it is sinking, the world. Even now, ancient ice slouches towards the city to make more mud. He should have listened to his wife when she suggested the thaw might make animals unstable, too. 

He accounts for his junk the way one might account for things lost in a fire, without prior inventory. Who needs half-a-household, anyway?
The hill reappears, gentling the nursery door shut behind it. The gesture is so meek it makes Dennis’ heart whump hard enough to hurt.
“What is this?” he asks. He almost tells her (okay, yes, her!) not to step any closer, fearing contagion, but his teeth snap together when she drops to her knees and crawls toward him. 

The mud on her face is like the lace of an intricate veil. He wants to lift it. 
“What happened here?” he asks, tautly.  
“I can’t help it,” she croons, “I’m dirty. Made of dust and slime.” He feels it in his solar plexus, the same hot rush of blood he felt last night when she confessed. Her mouth is so close to where he’d want her to put it on any other day, before he learned about her mouth’s other life.
“I went out with Leila to stop her crying and the mud came after me, all of it, and I just kept thinking bury me, and everything you said last night is right. I am dirt. Forgive me.”

No, says a little voice, and he’s sure she hears it. Then the mud flares up like a wave, takes him, too, sinks him groundward. Their home dissolves around them and they put dirt to dirt while the future lies dormant in the next room.

Maria Pinto's recent work has appeared or will appear in Word Riot, The Butter, Bartleby Snopes, Literary Orphans, 100 Word Story, The Missing Slate, FLAPPERHOUSE, Small Po[r]tions, and elsewhere. She was the 2010 Ivan Gold Fellow at the Writers' Room of Boston, in the city where she lives and does Karaoke. Her debut novel is in search of a home. She's working on her second.