The oil in Kim’s hair spray is the same oil used at low quantities in roach motels and glue traps. It isn’t like it’s toxic or anything like that, but it does attract unwanted pests. The hair spray makes her hair shine like morning dew and keeps it firmly in place, otherwise I doubt she’d put up with the infestation. She orders the stuff online, in yuan. At parties, insects hiving around her head like some terrifying omen, my friends can’t resist asking, “What’s up with those insects and your girlfriend, bro?” “It makes her hair sparkle,” I say: a glib answer, but it seems to satisfy them. They nod and go off in search of more beer. I love her—I know that much—but wonder if I can marry her like this. Will our children grow up picking caterpillars out of their bangs? They’ll harass them on the playground, call them names: the cockroach kids, the lice losers, the bug boys (if they’re boys; if not, the gadfly girls—which, actually, is pretty close to my last name), etc. I love her shiny hair, but I’m tired of finding pill bugs in my ears at work, moths in my pockets like balled tissues. Ladybugs bear no good news. Rats scuttle in and out of cabinets and drawers. They outsmart our snares. We play Mouse Trap in the evenings for the sake of catharsis. Our house is a bustling metropolis, ideal for honeymoons and long weekends, field trips and reunions. Grasshoppers and fireflies lead vigils on our front porch. Crickets carol out of season. Spiders carry off hairs in perfect little assembly lines, to be consecrated in secret monuments. Worms wend their way through day-old bowls of mac and cheese. Centipedes swing from the chandelier, millipedes from the ceiling fan. At night, we make love on colonies of bedbugs. Pinch after pinch, and nothing is waking us.
Ravi Mangla lives in Fairport, NY. His short fiction has appeared both in print and online, recently in Sleepingfish, Hobart, Pindeldyboz, Johnny America, and McSweeney’s Internet Tendency. He is working on a collection of flash fiction.