There was a larva on the table from our mud pie or from the pounds and pounds of potatoes mom had left there to rot. We called it our pet and named it Tim. We told dad about him but were told to stop telling lies. We worried about what to feed a pet larva. We decided the pounds and pounds of rotten potatoes were a good place to start. We took him outside once each day. We were responsible pet owners.
Dad didn’t notice the potato peels in the kitchen sink. He didn’t ask about the cage we’d built from pine twigs and kept on a shelf in the pantry. Mom hadn’t been back for days and the dishes were starting to pile up, the garbage to smell. Tim liked it so we stopped worrying and just kept feeding him potatoes. We kept peeling them over the sink. We kept leaving the peels there. We kept being careful with the knife.
We thought about becoming professionals. You drew a sign. “Responsible Pet Owners for Hire,” it said. “Experienced in Larva Care.”
I was going to draw a dozen more just like it and hang them around the neighborhood. But then dad threw it out. We made ourselves a fresh mud pie and pretended not to care.
Once, you told me you thought you loved Tim. I care for him, I told you, but I don’t love him. There’s a difference. Also Tim is getting fat, I said, and I’m not sure I love fat things or fat people. When I said that part you looked mean. You said, fat or skinny, I still love him. I don’t care.
Soon Tim stopped eating our potatoes which was ok because they were almost gone and besides they had gotten slimy. Our shirts were too thin for the weather but dad didn’t bring down our winter sweaters and we didn’t know what the boxes looked like from the outside or else we would have grabbed them ourselves.
Tim started cocooning himself up in silver threads. This looked nice so we played Tim Cocoon too. We took turns wrapping each other up in blankets, wishing we could spin yarn from the spit inside our mouths like Tim could. Whenever I was inside our cocoon it reminded me of mom, which was weird because I couldn’t even see or hear anything in there.
We’d think about Tim coming out and what he’d look like. We were going to draw pictures of him. Tim as a butterfly or Tim as a fairy. But by then the magic markers were dried out. Do you miss him now since he went inside there, I asked you from the living room. What if he never comes out. What if he comes out but can’t remember who we are. You said nothing. You couldn’t hear me under all those layers.
One night you stepped on a broken piece of glass in the kitchen with your bare feet. I wrapped your toe up tight with a sock like a band-aid so it would stop bleeding. Still, you woke with blood all over the sheets and the sock was missing. That morning, Tim started to come out. We saw it while fake-eating mud pies.
Come on Tim, you said, be a butterfly.
Come on Tim, I prayed, be a fairy.
(If Tim were a fairy then the front door would open up and mom would come in. If one of these things happened, they both would. Otherwise, neither one would ever come true.)
I could hear dad snoring in the other room. My T-shirt was so thin I shivered all over my body. I thought about wrapping myself in a Tim Cocoon but decided against it. Come on Tim. All of a sudden, the mud pie tasted terrible. I shivered again. All of a sudden I thought of maggots crawling up and down my spine. And I shivered. Come on Tim.
Come on Tim, you kept saying. Come on.