The Commons: A Four-Way Imagining.

Part I - Emily


Emily approached the podium to a cacophony of shuttering cameras and flashing bulbs; reporters understood there would be a brief statement followed by questions. Rumors milled about throughout the gaggle, whispers of the threat of war loomed heavily over everyone in the room. In a moment, the official word would be given directly from the woman whose finger hovered over The Button.

"Thank you," she said, speaking clearly and directly, without the usual humor and charm of her previous press conferences; the cameras slowly desisted to a sporadic smattering of clicks, like the last few kernals blossoming in a pot of popcorn. Emily took a sip of water from a glass on the table below before she continued.

"We live in a dangerous new age. Guerilla battle tactics, wanton acts of savage terrorism, unspeakable torturous deeds being enacted on a daily, neverending basis. Real people, decent, hard-working citizens are being affected. This goes beyond theological debate, political principles, or foreign policy; this affects the everyday lives of our society.

"Up until now, I've tried to keep relations with our foreign neighbors in good standing; but we cannot suffer these reckless attacks any longer. For too long, I've tried turning a blind eye towards the sinister element among their kind. No longer. These bites I will not stand! The bedbugs must be dealt with swiftly, with extreme prejudice!

"We'll smoke 'em out of their caves! We won't rest until every last bedbug has been destroyed! I personally will don the proper fatigues and put myself on the front lines. We shall expend every resource available until we achieve our goal: the complete and total eradication of each and every last bedbug."

I've Seen The Bedbug and The Damage Done

Emily punctuated her point with a gentle pounding on the podium. Then, she invited questions from the gathered reporters.

"Emily, Bosco Ralphson, New York Tribune-Examiner-Times. What do you say to those reports coming out today that accuse your regime of using this alleged bedbug threat to cover up for past efforts that were bungled within the administration; most notably the Great Fireant Scare of 2005?"

"First, let me answer by reassuring all of you here today and everyone watching in their homes that the bedbug problem is real. They represent a third of what I have dubbed the Axis of Infestation, along with cockroaches and Unpublished Unemployed Writer - we call him Steven and he lives on our futon. While we've done all that we can with the cockroaches, we still have another trick or two up our sleeves that I am unable to disclose at this juncture for National Security reasons. As for Steven, believe me, we're monitoring that situation daily, and should he show any signs of posing a real and definite threat, I and my security team will be swift in taking him out.

"And as for the Great Fireant Scare, I've commissioned a thorough investigation; the Fireant Report should be available in the coming months. I am confident my administration will be vindicated in our efforts to expell this nation of its fireant scourge. Next question please."

"Nancy Dolores Foster, New Jersey Sun-Sentinal-Weekly. With the national deficit in the condition it's in today, how do you propose to deliver sufficient funds for what sounds like a full-scale war?"

"Well, I'll tell ya, things are fairly tight, but I've got my Secretary of Defense Against Deer Attacks, Jenny Fitzsimmons tweaking the budget as we speak. As I say that, I can feel your skepticism as to why I would employ the Secretary of DADA in such an endeavor as this. I assure you, Ms. Fitzsimmons is more than qualified and all of that should take care of itself. Next? Yes, you," Emily said, pointing to the man with the thick glasses and pointy hat.

"Chuck Domingus, Celebz Weekly. Please, ma'am, give us your reaction to last week's television interview of Ricardo Hernandez, your dismissed intern who's accused you of sexual harassment in the workplace." As Chuck said this, the throng of reporters murmured uncomfortably; Emily's spokesperson tried to interject as he continued, "Ricardo said, quote, 'Emily pinch bottom. Emily love pinch bottom. I no know what to do; Emily always ... pinch bottom'."

Emily's spokesperson leaned across the podium, into the bouquet of microphones, "Chuck, I already told you that Emily will only be answering questions related to the topic of bedbugs! One more outburst like that and Emily will have to take her leave of you all! Please, stay on the topic of bedbugs and bedbug-related issues, thank you."

"Frank Lloyd Thomas, Chicago News-Post-Reporter. Considering this is unlike conventional warfare, which involves one country attacking another, how do you propose to achieve total victory?"

"Well, Frank, you're right. This isn't like war of the past. War of the future will be fought in an entirely different way. But, I'm determined to stay the course until we smoke each and every bedbug out of their caves!"

Frank said, "But ... that doesn't really answer my-"

"I'm sorry, we only have time for one more question," Emily's spokesperson said.

"Shari Boberry, The New Yorker. Do you have a statement for critics of this new policy; to those who claim the bedbug threat isn't there at all?"

"Like I said, Miss Boberry, the threat is real. We have satellite photos pinpointing the locations of their underground labs where it is believed that they are reproducing. I can't go into any more detail than that without giving away our battle plans, but rest assured, the truth is out there. Thank you, thank you," Emily said, walking off the stage. Before leaving, she posed for pictures in front of the national flag, then shook the hands of the people who set up the press conference.


Steven hadn't been in the city long, a few weeks maybe, but there were a couple things already synonymous with his tenure in The Commons: cumbersome debt due to the absence of income and renegade sloth due to the abundance of apathy towards anything involving ass-removal from futon quarry. And yet, something compelled him to rise at the appallingly early hour of ten to join Jenny for Breakfast, already in progress.

Steven and Jenny sat at the kitchen table, sipping cups of tea. Jenny just felt beat up all to hell after the drinking extravaganza from the night before with her newly acquainted friend. Neither said a word for the longest time before they stopped reading their respective magazines, Teen Beat and Celebz Weekly, when the subject of Emily and the bedbugs came up out of the blue. "I think this whole bedbug thing is really starting to get to her," Jenny said.

"Yeah, I know what you mean," Steven said. "Last night, all the way from my room, I heard her conducting some kind of a fake press conference in her room. Later, when she finally passed out, I poked my head in and saw that the size of her collection of stuffed animals has exploded. And one of them - a little bear with glasses and a pointy hat - had its head ripped off. Very strange."

"Really? Oh man, I didn't know it was that bad. We gotta do something, this behavior just isn't healthy."

"Well, we better do it soon," Steven said. "I think she's about to do something really drastic." Steven paused for a moment, wondering if he should say anything, then decided it was for the best. "Sometimes, at night, I can hear her talking to the bedbugs. Like, sometimes it's really friendly, and sometimes it's like, 'I'm going to kill you!' I don't know what to do."

"OK, let me think about it. Have you seen Liz around?"

"Not since, I guess yesterday. Is she in her room?"

"I don't know," Jenny said, unconcerned. "Maybe. We should get her in on this too; if we just talk to Emily, maybe we can convince her to seek treatment or something."


Emily laid in her bed, after the Bedbug Intervention put on by her flatmates. She was sleeping soundly until the deep-throated growl of a bedbug snapped her awake with a timeworn and ravaged, "Wake up, Emily."

She sat up immediately, frantically searching the room for the source of the voice from the bowels of hell. Then, she saw Tornado, the King Bedbug, waddling on her pillow - fat from his most recent feast upon her left thigh - mere inches from where her face had just rested. "Oh, it's you."

"You seem upset, Emily. Care for a smoke?" Tornado offered her a cigarette, which she politely declined. "Mind if I then?" She shook her head. Tornado lit up and took a long, relaxed drag. "What's on your mind, Emily?"

"My roommates tell me you're not real."

"You want I should dispense with my, how you say, unique brand of justice? I can make them wish they'd never closed their eyes for slumber."

"No, no, that's okay. Thanks though. No, they said that I shouldn't be talking to you. They say that bedbugs don't talk."

Tornado angrily flicked his ashes over the side of the pillow. "This displeases me, Emily. To not be recognized by sovereign nations as a viable communicative entity ... I'm afraid vengeance will have to be sought."

"Oh no, Tornado, not that!"


As Steven slept - dreaming of the recurring scenario where he's having a naked tea party with the creators of the Gilmore Girls, discussing particularly riveting plot twists and dialogue strands - there was no way for him to notice the cold, red-eyed stare of Emily standing over him, hair akimbo, holding high over her head a rolled up copy of his latest issue of Celebz Weekly. Without meaning to, Emily bumped into the futon, jolting Steven awake. He rolled over onto his back and groggily opened his eyes only to see Emily murderously staring down at him. He croaked, "Emily?" before she let out a shrill cry - much like a karate master might unleash before pounding her fist through eight blocks of cement - and brought the magazine down repeatedly upon Steven's face like it was her own personal Whack-A-Mole game. He thrashed, covering his face first with his arms and then with the blanket, finally managing to flip around and crawl out of the foot of the bed. Emily jumped on top of the futon, chasing Steven around, continually yelling. Every so often, she'd incorporate the chanting of, "Die! Die! Die!"

Steven circled his room once, ending up at the door to Jenny's room. He took more of a beating once the magazine flew out of Emily's hands and she resorted to using fists, but he finally made it out of the room, holding the door closed with her on the other side. Jenny stood outside of her screens, eyes as wide as ... dinner plates ... asking what the hell was going on.

"I think Emily's finally lost it," Steven said, struggling to hold the door closed against Emily's repeated jerking on the knob. "Either that, or the daily exposure to walking through my room has finally taken its toll."

"Naw, don't worry about it," Jenny said, realizing. "It just has something to do with the bedbugs."

"Bedbugs?" Steven said, nearly losing his balance against Emily's overpowering newfound upper body strength. "What does that have to do with that beating she put on me?"

"I don't know. Maybe she thought you were a bedbug."

"Me ... I'm not a bedbug!"

Jenny rolled her eyes. "Obviously, but it's like we said before, Emily's slowly starting to lose her mind. Give it some time, she'll tire herself out." As Jenny said that, Emily's attempts at getting into the room ceased. Although, it was replaced by more howling and some nasty assault sounds upon Steven's bed.

"Jesus Maryann Joseph! What's she doing now," Steven said, afraid to peek in his own room.

"I dunno, but it looks like you'll be sleeping on the couch tonight. Care for some wine?"

"It's five am," Steven said.

"I know. I'm expecting company," Jenny poured herself a glass and sat at the Smoking Window with a paperback.

"No, that's okay. I think Emily stopped. I'm gonna go check out the damage." Steven opened the door to find his room in a state of bedlam, with the matress nowhere in sight. He opened the front door to the apartment and saw torn pieces of material leading up to the shredded matress at the bottom of the stairs in front of the super's apartment. Steven tested the futon frame for comfort, then folded it up and went back to sleep, this time on a pile of clothes on the floor.


Emily spent the subsequent 47 hours with a magnifying glass, inspecting every inch of her bedroom, from floor to ceiling, looking for clues as to the bedbugs' main whereabouts. Just as she was about to collapse from fatigue - both sleep and food deprived - that familiar grumble from Tornado's coarse vocal chords returned to Emily's ears. "What are you doing, Emily?" he inquired in a disappointed tone.

"Show yourself, Bedbug King! We have unfinished business!" Emily stood tall and true, arms at her side, refusing the impulse to turn her neck in an attempt to look for the source of the voice. She faced her closet, standing two feet away, with her back to the bulk of the room, waiting for Tornado to come out into the open.

"Emily ... you don't want this."

"Oh, I do! Bring it, bitch!"

All of a sudden, Emily heard an unfamiliar hum she didn't recognize: in the room, right behind her. She turned and saw the most frightening spectacle imaginable. Scores of bedbugs, on her floor, in a tight formation, standing behind Tornado, waiting for the word to attack like troops on a battlefield. Tornado stood with an unlit cigarette in his mouth, smirking. Emily lost consciousness shortly thereafter.

Emily awoke minutes later to the sound of her roommates pounding on her doors with concern in their voices. All of Emily's possessions had been moved to block the doors, and the doors themselves had been caulked shut. None of this Emily could remember doing herself. She thought for a moment that she heard the faraway sounds of a lute, but that brief moment of tranquility was shattered by Tornado's gruff, startling greeting from behind her on the floor.

"Don't let them in, Emily," he said.

"But ... I have to go. I have ... things to do."

"You can't leave, Emily. You can never leave."

Emily tossed the barricaded items in Tornado's direction behind her, then tried futilely to open the doors. The caulk proved to be an impenetrable force. "Let me out!" she screamed.

"It's like I told you, you can't leave," Tornado said, advancing.

Part II - Liz


Liz, a fellow transplant to the city of New York, considered her bedroom to be the ultimate place for sanctuary against this madcap landscape. This wasn't just your ordinary two-door bedroom in a railroad-style apartment, though. Liz's room, once the doors were securely fastened, magically transformed itself into an alternate universe. From its average 12 by 9 foot frame, Liz's room - christened by Liz as La Mierda de Alcahuete - expanded into an endless serene wilderness, with avacado fields, burning orange incense trees, and the wind blowing the soothing sounds of the lute throughout, but not to a maddening degree. As far as Liz could discern, it was the only room of its kind in the entire world, so she was reluctant to speak of it, lest she risk La Mierda de Alcahuete losing its mystical healing powers of relaxation.

More and more of late, with the apartment surrounding La Mierda de Alcahuete decomposing in a fit of bugs and leaks and random acts of potential craziness, Liz found herself utilizing her haven. With its powers keeping her in a perpetual state of dream-like consciousness, the longer she locked herself away, the less real the outside world became. Knowing this, upon exiting, Liz refused to let her room take over completely. After this afternoon, though, due to what she'd witnessed, Liz found her only means to cope involved complete seclusion.

Have You Ever Been (To La Mierda de Alcahuete) ...

The frigid winter air had finally returned to the city of New York, though not unexpectedly to those who'd been here all their lives. Couple that with the impending holiday season - trying times for many a lonely soul meandering throughout the city - and Liz could sense a collective shift in overall temperament toward the negative side of the pendulum. The faces of all the silent subway riders betrayed this very fact with hard gazes and crumpled gaits. Except for one particular fellow of the shaggy-haired variety, who walked with an extra kick to his step not seen 'round these parts since the optimistic days of spring. Liz wondered, as he passed her on the left, hoofing it on up to the front of the platform for the next available L-Train to take them into Brooklyn, what his secret was to keep such a chipper disposition in these dreary times. She decided to walk up to him and strike up this very line of dialogue on the train ride back.

For a while there, Liz just sat across from him in the mostly-empty train car, pretending to look at herself in the window as she carefully, but unostentatiously observed, not saying a word. Now that she got a better look, Liz realized that this guy had no real reason to be so upbeat; he kept himself in rather poor shape, with blemishes that would make an all-world dermatologist blush and dive right into the bottle shuddering, "The horror ... the horror!" Plus, this guy had a nose upturned ever-so-slightly, rendering him with a piggish endowment, not to mention an odor that could be smelled days in advance. From the size of the pit-stains on his once-white t-shirt, this gent didn't particularly mind any of these aesthetic imperfections. Not that she'd hold these features against him personally, but it only served to further fuel her curiosity as to why he retained his toothy grin - albeit yellowed and suffering from decay - when nothing around him appeared to be whatsoever uplifting.

All of a sudden, he started to hum quietly to himself. Then, he sung lyrics under his breath. After the oncoming passengers from the Lorimer stop sat down, Liz finally summoned up the courage to ask him what he was singing. He ceased abruptly and embarrassedly, unaware that anyone was listening, growing red in the face. Then, he looked to the ground as he said, like a child fessing up to a crime, "'Baby One More Time', by Britney Spears."

"Yeah, I thought so," Liz said pleasantly. "That's one of my favorites."

He looked up with glee and adoration, "Really?"

"Oh yeah! But, for me, it doesn't get any better than 'I'm Not A Girl Not Yet A Woman'. I really cherish that song."

"I totally agree, but that song's got nothing on 'Ooops-"

Liz had to interrupt, "What's your name?"

He appeared to be thinking this one over, which struck her as odd. Finally, he said, like he was second-guessing an impulse purchase, "I don't know. I probably shouldn't tell you my name."

"Why not?" Liz said, now more baffled than ever.

"Well, to tell you the truth, I don't have much longer to live. I don't think it would be fair to you."

Liz stared at him as if he'd just sprouted cherry blossoms on his forehead. "But ... you look so happy and ... well, surely I understand the impulse to sing Britney Spears songs, I mean, if I knew I was dying, that's what I'd be doing too ... but ... why are you so happy?"

He looked towards the ceiling above her head for a moment, thinking about her question as he picked at the inside of his mouth. He then brought his finger back out, inspected what he'd unearthed, then stuck it back in and licked clean whatever white soggy lump of food had just sat there. Finally, he looked her in the eyes and said, "I don't know. But, it's probably the happiest I've felt in a long time to tell you the truth."

Liz wanted nothing more than to get to the bottom of why this was so, but more pressing at this poing was, "Well, how much longer do you have?" He looked up towards the ceiling again, checked his watch, then back at her, shrugging his shoulders. "What does that mean? What did the doctors say?"

"No doctors." He shook his head a couple times after the fact, as if she'd suggested unsavory cough medicine to a toddler.

"You don't ... you haven't ... then how do you know?"

"What do you mean?" he asked, squinting his eyes as if she'd made that query about the Earth being round or something. "It won't be much longer now, that's all I know. You want me to give you a time?"

"No, but, well, what are you dying from?"

"Old age," he said with a snicker.

"Stop it, you're not that old."

"Old enough to know I'm gonna die."

They both sat in idle silence for a few more stops. Finally, approaching the Myrtle/Wycoff stop, he stood up and walked towards one of the doors. Liz turned her head towards him and said, "You never really did answer my question, you know."

"Which one?" The doors opened. He smiled and said, "Kyle Showalter." Then, he ran out, across the platform, and leapt in front of an oncoming Manhattan-bound L-Train as it entered fast from the east, timing it perfectly. Liz spun around in her seat when she saw him take off; she screamed when she saw him hit.


Liz found herself rousing this morning on a human-sized lily pad, body sunk below the surface of the water just enough for the warm pond to envelop her like a blanket, with her head resting on a jellyfish pillow. It had been the best sleep she'd endured in weeks and she didn't want this feeling to end. It was exactly what she needed; Liz couldn't even remember why she'd been so stressed out the night before.

Sometime in the afternoon - Liz could only discern from the position of the sun in the sky, as in La Mierda de Alcahuete, there are no clocks - she heard a thunderous pounding coming from somewhere in the distance. Over ... over by the hills made of whipped cream, near the grenadine falls, she heard a familiar male voice. "Liz? You in there?"

It took a moment, then she realized it was just Steven knocking on her door. She snapped to and called through the wall, "Yes?"

"Hey, can I come in?" he said, simultaneously while starting to turn the knob.

Liz jumped to her feet and yelled out, "No! I'm ... uhh, I'm changing."

Red-faced, Steven jumped away from the door, "Oh, sorry!"

"It's OK," Liz said. "What's up?"

"Well, Jenny and I were talking this morning, and we're kinda worried about Emily. We think the bedbugs are starting to ... bug her."

"Of course! They've been bugging me too! Have you seen the new bites on my arm?" Liz made no attempt to open her door and actually show them to her flatmate, figuring he'd take her word for it.

"No, I mean, I think she's kinda losing it, you know, mentally."

"Oh," Liz said, not knowing how to take that.

"Jenny and I wanted to, sort of, stage a little Intervention thing tomorrow maybe?"

Before he could request her presence, Liz said, "Hey, uhh, yeah I don't know. See, I'm going to be really busy this weekend. Lots of ... school ... stuff," she said weakly.

"Oh, OK. Well, if you change your mind, we'll probably have it in the kitchen or something, around dinnertime."

"OK, thanks!" Liz called out, sinking quickly into her fantasy realm once again.


With everyone else in The Commons distracted, Liz became the forgotten member, wiling away her time in the serenity of La Mierda de Alcahuete. The time spent in seclusion felt like eons for Liz, who was beginning to forget what life was like before, in the real world. Everything she could ever want or need Liz found in her Eden; she found herself in a perpetual state of half-eyed dozing bliss, floating from giant mushroom to giant strawberry to giant pile of grapes, lounging and eating and sleeping at hypnotic will. Weeks passed like this, maybe months. Time ceased to become an issue for Liz as it stretched out over eternity after eternity.

As Liz stood, clapping at the Unicorn Parade - complete with bunny rabbit marching band and teddy bear gymnasts - she heard one of those deafening poundings again, though she was hard-pressed to recognize its source this time. This one, unlike the one - weeks, perhaps even months prior - was far louder and more eardrum rattling. An all-encompassing, deep-throated, "Liz?" tore through her world like a jet would the sound barrier.

The unicorns and bunny rabbits scattered in all different directions while the teddy bear gymnasts backflipped in unison two-by-two into the distance. Liz, jolted to her seat, stared into the sky with fright. "Who is that?"

"It's me, Liz. Can I come in?"

Mind blown, Liz said as if stoned, "Is that ... you God?"

Steven looked away from the door for a moment, whatever he was going to say stuck in his throat, then said, "Noooo, this is Steven."

"Who?" Liz said.

"Look, I just wanted to let you know that we'll be starting in the kitchen soon if you're interested." Steven left his room to go retrieve Emily from hers, not waiting for a response.

Liz stared dumbfounded at the sky, then shrugged it off, flying over the landscape to see if she could find the Dream Horses hurtling across the praries.


Liz didn't hear any of the ruckus that went on in the early morning hours; how could she? She was thousands of miles away. And again, just like before, the commotion of other nonsensical events precluded anyone from taking any notice that Liz hadn't left her room once since Friday.

At this point, Liz couldn't leave her room on her own if she tried. The very notion of "reality" or "the world as we know it" was foreign and irrational and therefore unnecessary. Which would've suited her like a dandy piece of candy had her current fantasy environment maintained its status quo of complete and utter absurdity. Liz's heartrate and cause for alarm started to rise with the first Kyle Showalter sightings.

"Who the hell are you?" Liz demanded. "And what the hell are you doing here?"

Kyle poked about, hands in his sweatpants pockets, checking things out like a dopey customer would in a used car lot. "Pretty nice place you got here."

"Thanks," Liz said, plucking an avacado from the ground. "Want a sandwich?"

"No, I ate on the train. So, what do you call this place?" Kyle stopped and gawked at the giant gingerbread house. "Isn't that from a fairy tale? Hansel and Gretel or something?"

"Probably," Liz said nonchalantly. "It's La Mierda de Alcahuete, anything can happen."

Kyle snorted a chuckle. "The Pimp Shit. I like it."

"You never answered my question you know!"

"Which one?"

"I dunno, you choose."

Kyle thought about it for a moment. "You know, I have no idea how I got here."

"Well, I hate to be an impolite hostess, but I'm gonna have to ask you to leave."

"Why?" Kyle sounded offended. "This place is plenty big enough for the both of us!"

"I know, but it's mine. I come here to think and I can't think properly unless I'm alone."

Kyle sighed in frustration. "Fine. I'll go somewhere else." He stepped into a tall field of sunflowers and vanished.

Liz thought that was the end of it with the funny-looking stranger, until he showed up a few hours later, again not remembering how he'd gotten there.


By her fifth day, Liz's presence, or lack thereof, became a concern for Steven once again. Strangely, though, her door was locked - seemingly jammed shut - and nothing he heard from her mouth through the barrier made any sense.

In La Mierda de Alcahuete, Liz was having it out again with Kyle.

"Why won't you just leave me the fuck alone?"

"Would you feel better if I sang for you?" he said.

"I'd feel better if you weren't here. But, since you are, I guess I'll have to leave. I hope you're happy."

"Oh Liz, I'm not. I'm really not."

"How'd you know my name?"

"You shouldn't go, though. It'll be okay. See, I'll just sit over here. I won't bother you one bit."

"No ... no, see, it's the fact that you're here, when ... you shouldn't be." Liz looked around; nothing about her sanctuary felt comfortable or familiar anymore. She hadn't noticed any animals in a while, the food seemed to ... not be dying, but definitely spoiled. And even though she could clearly see the sun in the blue sky, everything had a shady tint to it. "No, I'm gonna get outta here I think."

"But Liz, where are you gonna go?"

Liz thought about it, then turned slowly around in a circle, realizing the lack of proper evacuation opportunities.

Part III - Jenny


Another day, another dollar; and another stupid fucking policy announced by Jenny's boss for all underlings to heed unquestioned or face inane blathering about the importance of professionalism in the workplace. When she walked into the apartment and saw Steven mindlessly rocking back and forth in front of his laptop with headphones on, Jenny considered relaying her tales of workplace woe in order to receive due sympathy for such unnecessary hardships. In the end, though, she walked right past him, into her own room, and closed the door for the night.

For on this night, wine would be Jenny's confidant.

Only, she didn't stop at the innocent cupful or two. Jenny'd just completed yet another mindless week on the job, this was cause for prolonged drinking. A second bottle would be opened before all was said and done.

Somewhere in that second or third hour - which saw Jenny sitting by the window drinking and reading yet another underdeveloped manuscript brought home from work - she was startled by the sight of a male deer, standing about 5-feet tall with another foot or so worth of antlers in a tangled, bony mass. Jenny was more surprised by the fact that the stag had made it into her room without Steven or anyone else noticing more than the fact that there was an actual real-life deer in her company. Jenny cocked her head to the side in squinting wonderment, trying to decide if she was hallucinating or not. Then, the deer let out a bellowing, "Maaaaaa!" Steven, with his headphones roaring, heard not a thing.

Deer Truckin' ... yeah yeah yeah!

Jenny stood up and approached the deer, getting close enough to pet the top of his head around the antlers. "I suppose it would be stupid of me to ask your name," Jenny said. "So, I'll call you Skimpton Quarles III. But, just between you and me, you'll be known as Skimpy." He mawed his enthusiastic approval.

Finally, Jenny found a male presence within the apartment who'd not only willingly listen, but actively participate in adult conversation. Finally, she had her chance to tell someone about her day. "So, Maureen sent out this memo in the morning. In it she said, get this, 'In an effort to save time, I want you to type everything without using any vowels.' Only, it actually looked like this," Jenny took out a piece of paper and wrote: "n n ffrt t sv tm, wnt y t typ vrythng wtht sng ny vwls."

Jenny shook her head in amazed incredulity. "I mean, are you serious? For all the time that was saved by eradicating a-e-i-o-and-u from just that one memo alone, dozens of minutes were wasted trying to decipher this crap! This is insane! I tried doing it today - I had an e-mail to write to a perspective author saying that we weren't going to take them on - and it took me longer than it would've normally, because I kept having to go back and correct my so-called mistakes. Can you believe this?"

Skimpy mawed his displeasure, while stamping his hoof on the ground twice. Jenny continued, "I mean, we're in the publishing business! People are going to think we're nuts! I told Maureen this, and - get this - she said, 'It's unprofessional to waste space and use unnecessary letters when writing'." Jenny shook her head in frustrated incredulity. "So, I asked her where she came up with this shit and she said, 'Well, this is the way it's gonna be, so deal with it'."

Jenny finished the final swallow of her cup and refilled. Skimpy, in an effort to be nice, regurgitated some cud and placed a gooey ball of it upon the table, pushing it towards Jenny with his nose. At first, Jenny was appalled, but then she noticed how much Skimpy was enjoying his, and she was never one to not at least give something a try, so ...

Pleasantly surprised, Jenny smiled at Skimpy and gnawed emphatically. The remainder of the evening was spent with the two enjoying conversation about hunting laws, the federal deficit, and the latest Hollywood breakups. Jenny passed out, nestled in Skimpy's embrace, on her bed.


Jenny woke up alone, put two and three together, and decided the only way for Skimpy to return would be for the mass consumption of wine. But, since Steven was in the room for breakfast and she didn't feel particularly like nipping from the hair of the dog quite yet, she started off with a cup of tea and a fistful of aspirin.

In the afternoon, though, once the details had been hashed out on Emily's intervention, Jenny took a bottle of wine into her bed area, enclosed herself with the screens, and waited for the magic to happen. She finished the bottle a couple hours later, went to piss, and when she got out, Skimpy was standing in front of the window looking out.

"You're back!" Jenny said, embracing the deer's rump. "Good, I'm glad. Stay right there, I've prepared something for you." Jenny crawled back onto her bed, grabbing a basket. She brought it over to the table, with a white cloth covering its innards. "Close your eyes," she said. Skimpy obliged, then Jenny dramatically jerked the cloth off and Skimpy opened them again. In the basket, Jenny'd prepared a large smattering of fresh leaves, grass, shoots, twigs, and wild fungus. Jenny pulled up a chair and they both enjoyed their indoor picnic.

Later, Skimpy tried to teach Jenny how to speak his native tongue.


Having failed in his attempt to tempt Liz from her bedroom, Steven cajoled Emily out of hers and into the kitchen. Waiting for her there at the table was Steven's pad of paper with notes he'd written for the occasion and a visibly haggard Jenny hunched over some tea. They invited Emily to sit in the chair on the other side of the table, facing the door, so it wouldn't be easy for her to run out of the room.

"Uhh, what's going on guys?" Emily sounded brutally fatigued, as she'd slept little and cleaned lots in recent weeks.

"Well Emily," Steven said. "We've been noticing you've been having problems lately and we were wondering if you'd like to talk about it."

Emily shrugged. "Nope. No problems here."

"What about the bedbugs?" Jenny said.

"Oh that. Yes, I've taken care of that." Emily clasped her hands together between her legs, bowing ever so slightly over the table.

"Have you?" Steven said, doing his best to lead a discussion he was uncomfortable even being a part of. "Because there has been some behavior lately that would lead me to believe," Steven read liberally from his prepared sheet of notes and did a poor job disguising this fact, "that perhaps this situation has taken its toll on your nerves a little bit."

Emily's face turned very dark and hateful. "Yes, well, I'd have to say your nerves would be a little shaken too if you had bedbugs waking you up in the middle of the night and early in the morning."

"Oh, so they've been biting you a lot?" Jenny said.

"Yeah! And playing loud music and throwing hip-hop parties and engaging in loud shouting matches!" Emily grew more agitated as she thought about it all.

"Uhh, Emily, I think you're thinking of the super downstairs. He's been playing loud music and yelling a lot and -" Jenny was cut off.

"No! I'm telling you! It's the bedbugs! They take over my room and they use it for their orgy parties. I try to tell them I need to sleep, and then they verbally terrorize me!"

"Verbally ... how do they do that?" Steven tried to be patient, but exhasperation was cracking through.

"I think ... I think they think that this apartment is, um, the world I guess? And I'm, like, the leader or something? I dunno, all I know is that Tornado keeps saying he's going to 'Take over the world' and there's nothing I can do to stop him. Well, that's where he's wrong, see-"

"Emily," Jenny said. "Do you realize what you're saying? You're telling us that a bedbug is talking to you!"

"Not just ah bedbug, the Bedbug King!" Emily looked at Jenny, then pleadingly over to Steven, and back again. "He does!"

"Emily, that doesn't make any sense," Jenny said.

"What're you saying? That I'm crazy?"

"If you're hearing voices from things that shouldn't have them, then yes. There's a good chance you need some help," Jenny said.

"So, what's gonna happen? Are you going to commit me?"

"No," Jenny said. "Not yet anyway. But you need to start getting some sleep. Maybe try to think about something else. I know someone you can talk to if you really need-"

"That's okay. I'll take care of it," Emily stood up, scuttling around the table.

Steven stood to stop her, but made only a half-assed attempt as she brushed past him.


After the Emily Attack, Steven tried to get back to sleep, but his head wouldn't abide it. Every time he got close to sleep, he'd hear something and jerk his entire body upward in defense of the nothing that was there. By 9 or 10am, he got dressed and decided he'd get out of the apartment for the day. Maybe go somewhere and get seriously tanked.

As he passed through Jenny's room on the way to the bathroom, he noticed she'd gotten herself good and sauced after starting her own wine binge at five that morning. Skimpton Quarles III hadn't shown his face yet, but as soon as Steven left the apartment, Jenny heard a rapping on the window behind her. There he was, rubbing his antlers on the glass while standing precariously on the fire escape. Jenny opened the window as wide as she could and helped him squeeze through.

That's when the lovin' started.

It's a little known fact that deer can hold out for hours. And then, when they finally have an orgasm - deer semen everywhere! A Miracle Whip factory explosion has nothing on deer cum. When all was done, the fridge had been knocked over, dishes and planks from the dining room table littered the floor, the bathroom door rested off its hinges against the counter, the toilet had somehow been propelled through the ceiling, and Jenny managed to lose eight pounds. In spite of her losing consciousness three times, Skimpy continued to ride Jenny around the room. She never did find her missing teeth, but was resolute in the belief that her time with Skimpy had been the greatest sexual excursion of her life.

Until later that night when they did it again. This time, Skimpy didn't sneak out in the morning.


Unable to hold it anymore, Steven barged into Jenny's room. What he saw was worse than any national disaster he'd ever seen on television. He found Jenny on the floor, scrubbing with a sponge and bucket, but the shattered furniture, broken door, knocked-over fridge all remained. Steven questioned nothing at this point. He gingerly tip-toed into the bathroom, noticed the toilet nonfunctional, and peed in the bathtub drain. Then, he walked back through the kitchen, over to the window, pulled out a cigarette and flicked ashes onto the broken glass shards lying on the fire escape.

"Wild night?" Steven said, cigarette hand shaking uncontrollably, nerves shot.

"You know it," Jenny said calmly.

"I couldn't help noticing ... did I hear deer noises coming from in here?"

"That you did," Jenny said, continuing to scrub.

"Ahh." Steven dragged long and deep. He didn't even want to know what went on in here. "Well, I think we've got a problem. Liz and Emily have gone and locked themselves away."

"We should call the cops, this is getting out of hand," Jenny said, turning around and standing. "I mean, if they won't come out willingly, we'll need to get someone in here to break the doors down."

"Hey, wait a sec," Steven said. "Can I just ..."

"What?" Jenny said.

"Can I just try to kick the doors down? I've always wanted to do that." With reluctance, she agreed to let him try before they called the cops. Steven walked into his room and sized up Liz's door. Even though it opened into his room, Steven thought he could still kick it in. This proved to be a spectacular failure, seeing him land on his ass repeatedly, with hardly a scratch to the door's name. He followed this poor showing by attempting entrance into Emily's room through similar means. Her room had been silent for a couple hours now, after the flurry of activity before. Steven walked through the hallway, got a little running start, and threw a heel on the door, near the knob. He thought he felt it give a little, but the effect was negligible. He tried again, this time with a running start from the middle stairs leading up and away from the door, and heard a crack. The third time, he started running from the third floor, and succeeded in knocking through, falling on his posterior in the process. Jenny quickly ran over to join in on the mystifying sight.

Part IV - Steven


From the minute he stepped out of the apartment on Monday - and right across the street to the grocery to buy a paper bag and a 40 - Steven imbibed a nonstop stream of alcohol. Being unemployed and living off credit, he'd reserved himself when it came to his lust for the drink, but considering what appeared to be going on in the apartment, now felt like as good a time as any to get totally trashed.

In Manhattan, Steven hopped to a new bar only after his ass started to go numb from sitting at the old one. He drank from noon Monday to 4am Tuesday nearly non-stop, with a short rest to consume food that he recalled and a long rest to consume semen that he did not recall. Steven was kicked awake by some grocery owner at six in the morning, so he stumbled around some more, still intoxicated beyond recollection.

Somehow, after a bevy of twists and turns, missing stop after stop, ending up in Queens twice, then finally pulling it all together enough to find the L-train, Steven made it home. He collapsed, leaving the front door open, on his little pile of clothes and passed out.

Only to be blasted awake by the sound of wrecking-ball humping against his bedroom door, coming from Jenny's side. At first, in his complete state of disorientation, Steven thought he was experiencing the end of the world. Then, he thought the Hassidic Jews had finally caught wind of his anti-semetic sleep-talking and were enacting vengeance. The banging against the door continued though, and he thought he heard Jenny rambling something like, "Maaaa! Maaa-o-waaaa-o-waaaa!" Once he realized that's exactly what he was hearing, Steven settled painfully in for a long day. He retreated back to the great outdoors, drinking beer on the stoop with the super until the wee hours, listening to excessively loud hip-hop music with the bass turned up all the way.


Don't You Know I'm Loco

"So, that's when they said I should see you, doctor." Steven sat in a white robe on a fancy leather ottoman. He looked around the room, noticing the many psychology degrees hanging on the walls. "Apparently - according to my roommates - my behavior has become erratic and out of control. The thing is, yeah, OK, so I've been drinking. Like, a lot!"

"Why do you think that is?" she said in a voice that sounded slightly distorted to his ears.

"It's something to do! I got no job, I got no skills, I got nothing to do but sit around in my room all day, flicking around on the fucking computer. It wears on you, doc. It wears on your nerves. There's something about that place; The Commons. Don't get me wrong, the idea of The Commons is top-notch. I mean, we're talking an artist's community, fostering creativity, all that good stuff. But, the physical building, the actual apartment. Man, I gotta tell ya, something ain't quite right."

"Well, let me ask you this. You say you're in the creativity field; have you noticed any of your works coming out particularly ... deranged? Warped? Like, somehow, the apartment's affecting how you think?"

"Naw, I doubt it. The shit I write now's the same shit I've been writing all my life. It's not meant to be taken too seriously. I mean, I'm serious about it, but, you know. It's fluff! I vomit out my fingers and what you get is-was-and-always-will-be complete insanity."

"I think that's as good a point as any to stop for the day. I think we're making real progress here, Steven. I want to see you again tomorrow. How's 3pm for you?"

Steven focused his attention on the large oval figure standing up in front of him, holding the clipboard full of notes. "3pm's fine," he said, smiling in blissful wonderment. And just like that, the human-sized manifestation of Britney Spears' loose-lipped panty-free vagina dissolved into mist.