A. was leaning over the sink when he turned up to Alex with that I-have-something-to-say tautness to his shoulders. "How was the weekend?"
"Oh, it was fine. Just making it back now. Yours?"
"Yeah, fine, fine, it was fine. Listen though Alex, can we talk about something?This morning I came into the kitchen," A.'s face was already misshapen from the recounting of events. "And I thought to do some dishes, so I grab the rag from the ring of the sink right, and Alex, it felt disgusting. It was just so mooshy and had this gooey-gunk consistency." His recollection was paced slow more out of continued shock than thematic effect. "I know you weren't around the past few days, so I guess that's why I feel like I can tell you, you being removed from the whole thing. I don't want to be knocking on doors about something as crazy as this, asking them about baby batter on rags, but this seems kind of messed up I, I ... I got badminton in 30 minutes by the way so—"
Alex shifted his body away from A. He felt the pangs of conscience in his stomach elbowing his organs, wanting out, but he thought to hold out a little longer to see what he was going to sketch out. Beneath them lumpy linoleum latched to the balls of their feet and outdoors the sounds of Shriners megaphoning the morning from scooter's sidecars, screaming about free movie tickets and the children's hospital "What do you think it was—the rag, the stuff on it?"
"Alex, I think it was semen."
"Jesus Christ, Welnot, really?" with more annoyance than anything else.
"I know, right? But who—"
"—Are you sure it wasn't something else? Maybe like anything —"
"It had the consistency of it, I just don't know what else to think about it. I just—"
"—in this house would do that? That's really, really something far off the deep end. That's—"
"Probably someone who shouldn't be living here I fucking think! I mean..." A.'s head was filled with horrific kitchen-set scenes all of which he offered as possible explanations to Alex. Detailed, unlikely scenarios involving all the roommates: Leland and Will, Gertraud, Trevor, Sarah, in various pairings, solo and all together. Alex was torn between relief of being free from Welnot's suspicions and also fear of what damage A.'s postulating would do to the household.
"You don't think that it could just be—"
"Like what? Can you see it? Here, here, smell it, take it, here it's—"
"Jesus! Get that thing away from me."
"It really smells like it."
"It has a smell?"
"Yeah, like cleaner fluid, kind of." A stuffy kind of silence adhered itself against the dank interior walls and sopping countertops while both young men thought for a moment on how they could, with the most fluidity, turn away from the digression of the surprisingly not-so-fetid odour of their own personal private secretions.
"You don't think the disinfectant smell could just be from the cloth itself...The cloth, the cloth that sits in the sink, beside a bottle of disinfectant..."
"Oh no, I smelled that too. Definite disparity between the disinfectant and the semen."
"And not only that glob, but other samples previously, right?" Alex joked.
"Want to taste it then, Dupin? Also the I don't think any dish-soap would look like this, it's—"
"Can't we just drop this? And 'Dupin', what?"
"It is too dry to drip everywhere now—"
"No, I mean, this whole thing?"
"Drop it? No, man. I want to see this through. This is insane, I don't want anyone else to have to deal with this, and I don't want this making an appearance in my early AM routine some other morning either. What if someone went to scrub their hands real quick—"
"I just can't comprehend someone doing that. I really, really can't." And he really couldn't. Alex had totally lost his footing and had to get back on track. Alex was worried his apprehensiveness to believe A.'s absolutely batshit explanation for the goopy rag would lead A. to suspect that he was his culprit, and this worry about seeming noticeably worried of maybe falling under A.'s suspicion, then somehow being found guilty after some intensive verbal probing left him feeling like he had no choice but to concede to A.'s insane conjecture, for his own safety. His lower lip was bear-trapped between his teeth in such a way that it seemed to dam his admission. He pulled his thoughts together and sought the best way to put this matter to bed without disclosing the lengths of his own forenoon laziness. "What should we do?"
The new chapter of Half-heard is published in The Coast—newspaper version—every Thursday. One week later it is published here online. So it's easy to catch up online, but best to stay ahead in print.