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The Plight of Murices
by KJ Hannah Greenberg




After I flushed and washed, I couldn’t fall back asleep. It was as though, outside of the greens and blues of my dreams, the night was filled with eyes and teeth. I tried to distract myself by counting clients, by tightening and then relaxing my muscles one at a time, beginning with the largest ones and working toward the smallest ones, and by guessing at the cause of the flickering light that was visible beneath my bedroom blinds.

Perhaps, that beam was coming from a chthonic being. Alternatively, it could have grown from the chemical reaction that occurred hours after I ate cold pizza, washed down with goat yoghurt and strawberry smoothie, and nearly a full carton of rocky road ice cream. Maybe the luminosity originated from any neurological sicknesses I was stewing from having to respond, all by myself, to twin toddlers.

Still guessing, I patted the space usually occupied by Ray. His half of the mattress was cold and would remain that way for the rest of the week. He was traveling once more, filling our phone calls with claims of exhaustion as well as with horrific tales about airport security. We needed his income, in addition to mine, if our kids were going to be able to afford college.

Yet, Chhatrapati Shivaji, Haneda, and Ivato were not as off-putting as were any of the USA airports and their TSA agents. It was bad enough that Ray got sent, without support, to troubleshoot, but it was worse that he was repeatedly subjected to backscatter screenings at Louis Armstrong and Thurgood Marshall and to pat-downs at LaGuardia and McCarran. Being strip searched again and again and having his lap top constantly confiscated due to the hue of his skin was degrading, demeaning, and likely illegal. Besides, after such incidents, he was a grouch. 

The light stopped strobing. Neither a cooling breeze nor unhappy sounds from the nursery materialized. The cat found her way to my pillow. I nudged her to make room for my face. No dogs barked outside. No drunks knocked over garbage cans. Our suburban cul-de-sac was quiet.

In the morning, I loaded up the double stroller with my two freshly diapered sweetums, tucked their lunch bags into the cart’s basket, and strapped my messenger-style briefcase over my shoulder. My heels rattled around in the backpack that I slung over the buggy’s handlebars. A plasticware container of green juice leaned out of the vehicle’s cupholder. When Ray was home, I didn’t have to drop off our daughters at daycare and, consequently, had enough time to breakfast on toast and eggs.

Later, after my third cup of coffee, but before lunch, Andrew sent me the latest slush pile. He and Julie were supposed to have separated the possibly publishable pieces from the rest, but as of late, there was an untidiness to the files they forwarded. Weeks later, I would be the only unsurprised person in the office when they announced their engagement.

Regardless, that morning, there was tosh and other assorted rubbish mixed in with the manuscripts that might, given a rewrite or ten, be printable. In addition to the palpably poorly submissions and to the probably salvageable ones was a tough-to-rubric piece about a murex. In that story about an escargatoire of predatory sea snails, the protagonist was an artsy young woman, who was fed up with the constraints of and poor remunerations handed down by big business. So, she decided to become a zookeeper.

After returning to school on a scholarship-that part of the plot was problematic since the main character’s first degree was a double major in finance and instrumental music, specifically oboe, and finishing a new baccalaureate in aquatic biology, she applied for an entry level job at the aquarium of her local zoo. Implausibly, she fell into the murices’ tank and was eaten alive.

The writer could receive kudos for creativity, but not for much else. His character development was even worse than his plot. His hero was a nerd, who was “misunderstood” by everyone and everything except for the peacock mantis shrimp that were unexpectedly suffocating in the aquarium’s Pacific Ocean tank. Additionally, the writer had failed at research; murices never eat prey as large as humans. Moreover, no profitable zoological board would kill man-eating critters. More likely, zoo administrators would sell such monsters to government labs. I filed that story in my “potted houseplants” folder.

The rest of the day proceeded accordingly. While mentally finalizing which stories would receive contracts for the next issue, I lost a heel on a piece of subway grating. I had forgotten to change back into my kicks when walking to reclaim my girls. No problem. Similarly, I didn’t fret that one of my daughters having pooped through all of her emergency outfits while at daycare. I have a washing machine.

At home, I heated up pasta, spooned applesauce into my children and poured myself a glass of Gewürztraminer. The wine was a little too fruity, but passable. After I bathed and bedded the kids, I checked my smart phone for messages from Ray. In one, he had sent a picture of my favorite flowers. In another, he had written that he was counting the days until he returned home. Regrettably, his meeting schedule, combined with the time difference between our locations didn’t allow us to Skype.

That night, for a second time, I had trouble sleeping. Maybe I shouldn’t have eaten the pizza that I hadn’t finished the day before. Maybe I had swilled too much thyme tea, a diuretic. Maybe, I was having nightmares about morphing into a murex that was being killed off by a well-meaning, utterly stupid, do-gooder. Fortunately, the cat came back to my pillow. She partially woke up when I lifted her off of my face. Nonetheless, she purred enough to sooth us both to sleep.




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