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Kevin O'Keefe's been invaded: waterbugs, those ugly, scuttling creatures that look as if they'd inspired Hieronymous Bosch. He doesn't see the first one, he hears it. A roach trap, the kind with stickum on the inside, has been left on the sink. He hears a scratching noise while he's standing there and picks up the trap, thinking a mouse has run into it while dashing across the drainboard. It's no mouse. One of those prehistoric beasties is inside, or what's left of him. He drops the trap with a yelp.

Damned wimp.

Meditation On A Lesion : Jack FitzGearailt
Still, when he gets down on his hands and knees to take another look, he prods the box with a fork until he gets it angled up so he can see inside. There it is. Several of its legs, and even its antennae, stuck on the gooey strip inside the little box. He cranes his neck and cocks his head to try for a better look without actually getting any nearer. In its thrashing around the creature's pulled a couple of his little legs right off.

Well, too bad about that.

Kevin drops the whole business into a paper bag and folds it closed so the insect can't escape. He's that freaked by them. No matter about St. Patrick, snakes are okay by him, but any insect that makes noise when it walks should be extinct. He throws the bag into the fireplace and puts a match to it, there's some more thrashing and then a little pop.

This is the vanguard -- an outrider, no doubt -- scouting ahead of the black scuttling hordes that'll arrive in the middle of the night and surround him.

That night he thinks he sees another one. It's later, he only has a candle burning. After jerking off Kevin kicks back the covers to go to the john and wash up. He sees it then on his right foot, huge and dark. He shouts and shakes his foot to fling it off. But it doesn't go. The fucking thing won't let go. Then he realizes what it is, it's a part of himself. It's one of his sarcomas, the cancer that began as a pimple, soft and brownish-purple, on his foot; spread through his skin to his lymph nodes and from there into his viscera. On a relentless itinerary, it's making a charnel house of his body -- laying tumors in the linings of his internal organs: the rosy coils of intestines, the pink stomach, the deep blue-maroon liver -- until reaching his billowing lungs, it will weight their sails with lesions and still their ceaseless sighing.

Once there'd been just a single one of these dark creatures too.

One was a visitation, two is an invasion he'd learned. Hellish little creatures are everywhere in his life -- not just inside him, but running loose now too -- creepy-crawly things come to suck his life away as he lies on the bed spent from a night of toking joints and self-abuse.

Oh shit. What if the Angel of Death cuts him down then in mid-stroke? That's even more serious than his mother's craziness about being carted off to the hospital after some bloody accident only to be discovered in dirty underwear. Jesus, how much worse to be rigor mortified while laying violent hands on yourself. How do you explain that to Saint Peter? Suddenly there you are, standing before the Pearly Gates, having a whack at yourself. Sorry, Your Saintliness, I was never very good at the old Latinity, you know, memento mori and all the etceteras. Or, how about: If I'd known I was coming I'd have washed my hands. No, too fucking smart-alecky for a graduate of Blessed Sacrament parochial school. For sure the old cod would tell him to be gone with the goats. Off to the left-hand side! Down to the Prince of Darkness with his imps and dragons and nasty things that crawl in you and on you.

Will the devil come now in the dead of night to revenge himself? Mightn't he be a bit testy about Kevin burning that thing in the paper bag? But if Old Nick looks like that number tempting Jesus in the picture in Sister Consolata's catechism class, Kevin would go down for the count and glad of it.

What had undermined his morals, he's certain, was The Church. The bad guys in religious art always had the great bodies. His little First Communion prayer book had illustrations of the Stations of the Cross; even now he can close his eyes and see that one Roman soldier who'd thrown his eight-year-old libido into a swivet. The same with the Stations on the church wall. Ah, those centurions. That's what religion had been all about.

Everything in church conspired to arouse him, even his mother sitting by his side at mass had been a party to its sensuality. She'd stared with rapt attention toward the altar, while her tarnished, gold-washed beads swung against the pew in front of them, their clicking as mesmerizing as the buzz of Latin that drifted over him. Together these sounds dulled his attention, and the scent of incense, preserved in the very dust of the air, made him stuporous until he gazed at the Roman soldier in his book or the centurions on the stations with mystified longing.

Sursum corda, lift up your hearts, the priest would intone loudly, signaling the people to stand. His mother, seeing him deaf in adoration, would ruffle his hair and draw him to her side, swirling him in the scent of her lavender. Then Kevin would stand, grasping the pew in front with both hands, pushing his pelvis hard against it while warmth radiated from his groin. Throughout the Preface prayer he stood with eyes closed tightly, waiting for the hand-bells to jingle excitedly three times as the priest intoned: Sanctus, sanctus, sanctus. At this he would sink to his knees beside his mother, enveloped in fragrance again. With head bowed prayerfully against his clasped hands and eyes closed once more, he fanned the images of nearly-naked soldiers smoldering in his mind and brought them to life.

Hoc est enim corpus meum, the priest would say, and like Kevin he too would kneel in adoration before a body that he had conjured.



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