HomeFictionTopic Tag Tuesday

Inhospitable

For the fifth day in a row, Lisa woke Barney up at three in the morning by sighing loudly and rolling over in the covers until they came right off him.

“You awake?” she asked suddenly.

“I am now,” he grumbled, pulling some of the covers back. “What’s going on?”

“I’m hungry.”

He rubbed his eye, sat up, turned on the light.

“Fried goat again?” he asked.

“No,” she said. “That’ll make me ill.”

“Then what?” he grumbled, finding his slippers. He misjudged the distance and planted his foot on the frigid ground, and pulled himself back into the bed to regroup.

“Raw onions,” she said. “Raw onions covered in chocolate.”

“Well now I feel ill,” he said. “Seriously, if you want something like that, make it yourself.”

“But it’s all the way in the kitchen!” she moaned.

“You go there all the time during the day—”

“But I only have the one leg!”

“You’ve always only had the one leg.”

She pouted at him, rubbed her swollen belly and made a big, sad puppy-dog eye. It made him hungry.

“I might fall and hurt the baby,” she said. “There’s ice on the floor in the hall.”

You wanted to live in Antarctica,” he said, turning away. “Don’t blame me.”

March of the Penguins made me hungry. Who knew they were so gamey. But I still want my onions. Please…

She pulled the covers off and he put his slippers on, trudged down the hall, around the pool of ice, and found an onion in the basket by the counter. He was just bringing the chocolate to a simmer when Lisa hopped up next to him. She smelled the sweetness in the air, smiled happily.

“That smells delicious,” she said.

“I thought you were scared of slipping,” he grumbled.

“I walked on the whats-it-called instead. The copper mould.”

“Verdigris,” he said, plopping an onion into the chocolate and watching it bob around. “I’ve gotta clean that up. Remind me in the morning.”

“It is the morning.”

“Not in my world,” he said, stabbing the onion with a skewer and pulling it out. He turned it around until the dripping stopped, and handed it over to Lisa.

“It’s still hot,” she said.

“Blow on it.”

“You’re a lousy waiter.”

“You’re a worse customer. I’m going back to bed.”

He was walking around the ice in the hall when the whole apartment shook, and he lost his balance and landed on his back on the verdigris, sliding back onto the ice.

“What was that?” he gasped, getting back to his feet as Lisa hopped around the corner.

“It’s the neighbours,” she said. “They’re having one of their all-night parties again.”

“My home is not a theme park,” he growled, grabbing his coat from the rack and storming out the door. He walked across the snowy field, made a heavy fist and beat against their door five times. Ten minutes later, a tiny human in a parka opened the metal latches and the door swung open.

“What the hell are you doing in there?” Barney boomed. “It’s three in the fucking morning!”

“Sorry,” said the human, looking oh-so tasty, “we had an accident with the boiler and…”

Barney grabbed the little man and ducked down so he could fit into their hut. He stormed down the hall into the main living area, which was full of smoke and cries of agony.

“My wife’s pregnant, you know,” Barney roared. “She needs her sleep! I don’t care how much fun you think it is in Antarctica, you can’t go partying at all hours!”

“But Mr Cyclops, sir…” said the man in his hand, and he shook him around to shut him up.

“What in the hell is that?” Barney said, pointing down to a bloody mess on the floor. It had a jumpsuit on part of it.

“That’s Lucy!” sobbed another of the men, his face bloody itself. “She… she was right next to the boiler when it—”

Barney dropped the little man, clapped his hands together.

“All right,” he said, trying to regain a sense of diplomacy in the midst of all the chaos. “Looks like you have your hands full here. Just keep it down, and we won’t have any problems. Got it?”

“Yes sir,” said the two men. A woman wailed in the back room, and they ran off to help. Barney excused himself, trudged back to his apartment and shut the door against the wind.

“What was it?” asked Lisa, finishing off the onion. “Another party?”

“No, some kind of explosion,” said Barney, taking off his jacket. “Almost excusable, given the mess they’re going to have to clean up.”

“Oh dear. Should we help?”

“You’ve only got one leg, and I’m not in the mood.”

She nodded, licked off her fingers.

“I got you something, though,” said Barney with a smile, reaching into his pocket. He presented her with the wrecked corpse of the woman from next door.

Lisa’s face went pale.

“Oh my god, Barney… is that Lucy?

“You know their names?”

“She cleans our kitchen every afternoon! She’s here every day!”

Barney glanced at the meat, squinted his eye.

“Oh yeah, I thought she looked familiar.”

“You can’t expect me to eat that…”

“Well no, not raw. But we have some chocolate left over, so—”

“Barney Goldstone Paradopolous! You make me sick!”

She hopped furiously down the hall, back to the bedroom, and slammed the door behind her. Spoken or not, it was clear Barney was sleeping on the couch again tonight.

He dropped Lucy into the compost bin, poured himself a tall glass of scotch, and settled himself in front of the television, flipping through channels until he came to some familiar footage of a penguin in a snowstorm.

“This is the most inhospitable terrain on Earth,” said the narrator.

“Amen,” said Barney, and poured himself another.


With wonderful suggestions by @janoda ("the impossible cravings of a one-legged cyclops living on antartica"), @tenaciousN ("raw onions, verdigris"), @kdnewton ("theme park") and @quillsandzebras ("CHOCOLATE!"). You guys are insane.

All content released under a Creative Commons BY-NC license except the contents of "TV" section, which belong to their respective owners.