The Cupboard of the Keeper of the Dead

1) In the Cupboard

        Johnny stood in his kitchen. There was a problem with that one little cupboard that would never open that had extremely unsettled Johnny to the point that there was no returning to his day. The problem: it had opened and there were things inside that had completely changed his perception of reality. Actually they more like obliterated it and then beat on it some more until there was nothing left but a mushy pulp. And then they ate it.
        He decided to call his neighbour.

        “Hi Spencer, it’s me, Johnny from number six. Listen, I just discovered this small cupboard beside the stove and was wondering if you would happen to have a similar cupboard. Or if you could come take a look.”
        “What the fuck?”
        “I know this sounds really odd. The reason I called you is because I always figured you were kind of into some strange shit.”
        “What? Sexually?”
        “No, I didn’t mean…”
        “You coming on to me, Motherfucker?”
        “Wait, now hold on…”
        “You want me to come over and look into your small little cupboard beside the stove and I’m the one that’s into some weird shit?”
        “You know what? Just forget it.”
        Nah, I’m just fucking with you. I’ll be right over.”

        Ten minutes later Spencer was banging impatiently at the door. Johnny let him in. Spencer looked like he’d spent the last few days on a bender and living in a trashcan. Johnny led him to the kitchen as Spencer mumbled on about some bitch stealing his wallet and all of his Canadian Tire money.

        Johnny bent down and opened the cupboard.

        On the upper shelf stood a dozen little men with heads shaped like crap and big, black eyes that were too large for their flat faces. They were all dressed in similar rags. They looked like claymation figures, which made the whole scenario just that much absurd. But they stunk; sweat glistened off their leathery faces and arms and darkened the fronts of their grimy half-torn shirts. They moved, gestured and wandered about like normal albeit horribly disfigured little people. Overall they seemed real enough to scare the shit out of Spencer when he first opened it and the leader at the front started talking, saying exactly what he said now:

        “Greetings! I am Gareth, keeper of the dead, and these are the legion of the dead. We have traveled far to spread the message of death to all living things all across the universe.”
        Behind him the collection of unspeakably morbid creatures began thrusting their fists up in unison while shouting,
        “Death to life! Death to life!”

        Spencer stumbled back. “Shit, I am way too hung-over for this. I’m not sure what to make of it right now…or ever. What are they, rats?”
        “They look pretty organized for rats…and rats don’t talk.”
        “Sure they do. Rats talk to me all the fucking time.”
        Johnny looked at Spencer wondering, ‘Jesus! What the Hell did I let into my apartment…again? Fuck it, why do I bother asking myself that anymore?’

        The leader, Gareth, held up a tiny chest over his warped head and proclaimed:
        “I have in this box every dead soul of everything that has ever lived throughout all of time and when I find the right place I will open it and all the dead will inherit the earth for the rest of eternity as it should be. Once this world has been cleansed of all foul life then will come the great nothing and only in nothingness can there be peace forever after.”
        The group standing behind him agreed by shouting:
        “We want nothing! Death to life!”
        Further fist-pumping ensued.

        “Christ! That doesn’t sound good!” Said Johnny.
        “It’s a scam! Dead things don’t come back to life or talk. Fuck, I learned that in grade seven!”
        “I don’t know, Man, what if he’s legit?”
        “He’s too small to do anything that matters. Look at the size of that tiny box! Whatever.”
        “What should I do then?”
        “Well, do you have to feed them?”
        “No. Um…I don’t think so. I mean, I’m pretty sure they’re dead.”
        “Okay, don’t worry about it then!” Spencer slammed the cupboard door and shrugged. “Just forget about it.”

        They were still chanting inside.

        Johnny sighed and scratched his head. “That’s pretty much how you deal with everything, isn’t it?”
        “Hey! It’s gotten me this far.” Spencer replied. The little that Johnny actually did know about Spencer was that he was thirty-seven and had no job, no car and no bank account. What he did have was a massive drinking problem and a recent string of unplanned pregnancies from the girls who all worked at the McDonald’s down the street.
        “What? You don’t owe them anything. They’re lucky you don’t make them pay rent. Come on, let’s go grab a drink.”
        “It’s noon, Man.”
        “We better hurry then! You’re buying!”

2) Out of the Cupboard

        Johnny had met Carmella while out for drinks with Spencer trying to forget about what, he just wasn’t sure anymore. That was two days ago. Fucking Mescal. Now she was lying across him half-naked talking about who-the-fuck-cared as Johnny was just starting to sober up.
        “I’ve had a lot of guys fuck me around before so I’m really self-conscious about the whole relationship thing. I know we have this thing going on so before we go any further I want to clear the air between us and get a full understanding of what our expectations are.”
        “We need to be completely honest with each other, no holds barred. I don’t want anything hidden or any lies or any false pretenses lingering over us. I want us to be able to read each other’s mind and finish each other’s sentences. That’s the kind of relationship I’m looking for and once we can get past that then you will find me a very giving and accepting person.”
        “Sounds good. Let’s fuck.”

        Hours into early morning Carmella was awoken by a stirring on the night table beside her. She opened her eyes and could see enough of the shapes moving about to alarm her into turning on the night table to find a strange gray hamster dressed in rags blinking up at her.
        “Greetings!” It said, “I am Gareth, keeper of the dead, and these are the legion of the dead. We have traveled far to spread the message of death to all living things all across the universe.”
        There was around a dozen other hamsters all pumping their fists in the air and shouting: “Death to life! Death to life!”
         Carmella was startled enough from her slumber to start screaming Spencer’s name while tugging at the blankets.
        “What the fuck?”
        “The hamsters are hungry!”
        “Fuck! I forgot about them.”
        “You neglected your pets?”
        “No! They were already dead.”
        “You killed your hamsters?!”
        “No…Wow! This is going nowhere really fast.”
        “I’m getting out of here. You know, I really thought you were a stand-up guy but now I can plainly see that you can’t even handle taking care of animals much less another person. Don’t call me…ever!”
        “They’re not…I mean…sure, whatever. Try not to fuck a fence post on your way out.”

        Johnny sat up on the bed and rubbed his eyes. Gareth stood there, still with the tiny box in his tiny hands, gazing up at Spencer with a puzzled expression.
        “What?!” Gareth barked defiantly.
        “That’s it.” Johnny shook his finger at the whole lot as he tried to figure out what to do. “I know. I’m going to flush you fuckers down the toilet.”
        Johnny arose from the bed and began looking around the room for something he could pick them up with while thinking about the last crazy couple of days, Carmella and the apartment.
        No wonder rent was so low.
        Gareth interrupted him by saying, “Well then, I suppose this is as good a place as any.”
        “For what?” Johnny looked back and realized what was about to happen. “No, no , NO!” Johnny shouted. “Don’t do that!”

        Gareth was kneeling with the box before him. He simply shrugged in response, leaned over…

        and opened it.

Come on then, let’s have it
you’re here for a reason
aren’t you?
or did you just show up
expecting something
hoping for the best
going through the minimal motions
to meet the minimal requirements
and I have met you
everywhere I’ve been
In fact
you are most that I’ve met
and unfortunately
this fire
that makes me crazy
I cannot give to you
I would not give to you
you’re just going to have to come
and fucking take it
and even then
you wouldn’t know what to do with it

-this constant burn
this bottomless surge of
every waking moment

this blatant inability to grasp
that I cannot fly.


6 thoughts on “The Cupboard of the Keeper of the Dead

  1. DFL

    Hey Hernan

    Your cupboard story reminds me of a story I read in Granta – I think it was called “The Doll House” – it was about an English man who was vacationing in Germany and bought a doll’s house. When he got back home he had a nightmare that he shrunk to that size and half decayed rats showed up singing the Horst Wessel song and raped him. I think perhaps that this was residual from the British army being the first into Belsen concentration camp. I think that left an indelible impression on the British psyche of that generation. The Sex Pistols had a song “Belsen was a Gas” – of course calculated to enrage the previous generation.

    Your writing is very good – I sincerely hope you will keep even and deliver such good comments on things.

    Your friend,




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