Captain was a nickname whose origins were stranded beneath an assembly of memories. For like any hoarder Captain discovered use in everything whether it was a memory of kicking an abandoned soda can or collecting the soda can afterwards for nothing more than the memory. He established his essence through clutter, momentary considerations, a true minute man foraging for seconds. But once the cancer reached his lungs his collection of junk entombed his sickly body. After it reached his brain whatever meaning an empty soda can contained became as empty as the soda can itself. When his children came to visit, towards the end, stress curled their toes as they entered his home and diluted their pupils as they stared at the amassed crap that crowded the hallways and rooms. They had conversations about who would clean which room. Dividing obligations based off absurd measurements.
“Well. I wiped his ass yesterday,” his son Todd mentioned in a heated disagreement.
“Yeah. So?” His sister Marie retorted.
“So that should exclude me from cleaning his bedroom!”
Thus the bargaining went between the children. Diplomacy finessed through chore and circumstance.
On one such visit his youngest, Claire, was organizing the bedroom while monitoring her father’s vitals as he lay motionless on the bed. When a hollow box began trembling, she crept towards it while her reflection widened in the blank television screens stacked one atop the other positioned beside the hollow box. With each step the box’s corners tore and its girth plumped until it burst like a spider’s egg sack. A collection of rats with tails intertwined divulged from the ripped cardboard.
“A rat-king!” Claire enunciated both frightened and intrigued.
The vermin scattered pulling themselves in every direction, their tiny claws scratching the wood paneling that compiled the floor. It appeared the rats couldn’t agree on a single direction then their focus drew solely on Claire. They charged towards her like a platoon which caused Claire to jump on the bed with her father. Her convulsions and screams awakened him enough to initiate his reflexes. He stretched his leg and placed his barefoot on Claire’s chest and kicked her off the bed. She tumbled onto the rat-king; their tails swiped her elbows and the backs of her forearms.
“Oh my GOD! It feels like Band-Aids!” She screamed. Before leaping to her feet and sprinting out of the bedroom, navigating through the maze of clutter in the hallway and dashing out the front door. She never returned until his death day. In fact that was the last time all his children were in the same room.
They stood around his bed watching his chest augment with strained gasps. He inhaled one last time and his chest remained inflated like a full bladder. Then. He stopped moving altogether. The children looked across the bed at each other.
“What do we do now?” Todd asked.
“I think we call 911.” Marie replied.
Claire peered down at her father then made eye contact with her siblings.
“I am still not cleaning his bedroom,” she said.