The Chemical and the Chemist

The Chemical gets a call from his wife, the Chemist.
How old were you when your grandmother spilled (what did she spill? Boiling water?) on your foot? 7 or 8?
Boiling oil. I was 12. 11 or 12. Although, maybe 10 or 11 come to think of it.
So just a year or two before she died?
The Chemist is researching family history. She knows more about the Chemical than the Chemical does. The Carboxyl family, the Hydroxyls, the rest.
So my brother was 8 or 9, he says.
And how old was he when he ate her thyroid pills?
Younger. 5?
And that was after the mental hospital?
I guess? I was a little kid.
So was her thyroid problem diagnosed after the mental hospital?
I don’t know.
Maybe the thing with Amino…
And Sulfhydryl…
Was enough stress to trigger a thyroid storm or some other crisis… and she was hospitalized and got the electroshocks… and eventually a thyroid diagnosis?
I don’t know the chronology. And anyone who knows is dead, except one or two who were directly involved in the whole scandal themselves so you can’t ask them, and their kids are all younger than I was so they probably don’t know either unless their parents told them later, which is entirely possible, everyone’s parents told them more than mine told me. Everything was a secret and now they’re dead.
Maybe ask Phosphate or Methyl, he says.
They finish their conversation and hang up.
The Chemical gazes out the window. It is a crisp fall day but warmish, the colors are bright (chlorophyll breaks down revealing yellows and oranges, any trapped sugars might turn into anthocyanins for the reds) and crows are arguing over the borders of their territories.
Mellow music is playing on his computer. The YouTube algorithm has decided to serve him mellow ambient music today, which irritatingly is just what he needs. He is wired, as if he had drunk a lot of coffee this morning, which he has but not that much, not any more than usual.
When he leaves the office in two hours he will walk to the subway, past various things including the attacking crow. He thought she had mellowed out, she stopped attacking him for a while, swooping only, but yesterday she whacked him in the head with her wing again.
Boiling fat, actually. His parents had a broiler pan in the oven, a flat pan to collect bacon drippings etc and when his grandmother forgot about it and it started to smoke, he drew her attention to it and stood there next to her and told her to use the oven mitts, so she wouldn’t burn herself. Careful, Grandma.
And she put on the mitts and took it by one end and as soon as it was free of the oven it tipped and emptied the boiling grease onto his right foot.
She felt terrible and he felt terrible that she felt terrible.
When he finished screaming every obscenity he knew, he tried to comfort her.
In the hospital where he got a skin graft he had rubber joke vomit and tricked a nurse with it, who then tricked another nurse with it.
Sometimes you’re awake and feel alive. Sometimes you’re tired and feel dead.
Anyone who thinks they understand this world raise your hand.

Well, whatever, never mind

They lay there on the flat rooftop in their yoga pants on their yoga mats. The slaughter had begun down in the streets, but they were too high up to hear the screams.

There are two sorts of people, she said, Here we are, now entertain us people, and here we are now, entertain us people.

There are two sorts of people, he said, people who dislocate their hips, and people who don’t.

There are two sorts of people, she said. People who are allergic to gluten, and people who are not allergic to gluten.

There are two sorts of people, he said. People who can do the Tree pose, and people who can’t.

He meant it as a self-deprecating joke, because a few minutes earlier he had looked like a guy… like a guy jumping around on one foot with his hands in the air.

They went on like this for a while.

There are four sorts of people, she said: a mulatto, an albino, a mosquito, a libido.

Oh, look at the time, she said. She pointed towards a big digital clock on a bank across the street. The clock was on fire, with flames six feet high. It told no time.

I should be getting home to my husband, she said.

Me too, he said. To my husbandry, I mean.

Yeah, yeah, she said.

The slaughter was all the fault of the Make a Wish Foundation. A sick little kid had wished to be the last person alive on Earth, so they were working on it.