Victor held his breath as he got near her frail body. He slammed an old dirty sock in his mother’s mouth, tired of all the screaming and violent coughing that came from the basement, from inside his head. Her shrill voice drilled deep down inside him, filling him with her fungus, with her sickness. He walked back upstairs and exhaled hard. He grasped the railing at the top of the stairs as stars swam in his vision, still only in his tight, white underwear stained with sticky cough syrup and grease. Victor knocked on the railing three times in a row in sets of three. He did this three more times because it had to be three sets of three done perfectly or he had to start all over again. It took a minute before his heart slowed to normal and the red stars in his vision cleared to reveal a room deep in clutter and filth. He was relieved that he hadn’t breathed in any of her sickness.

He closed the basement door and stopped in the kitchen to pour a drink on his way to the living room, where he turned up the Scarlatti record to mute the voices in the pipes, in the rusty wall heater. Dusty old dolls watched him sit heavily in an antique armchair that faced a wall littered with old family photos, yellowed and spotted with mold. There were images of his mom, Strega, sunbathing on the Amalfi coast, and his late father, Salvatore, skiing in the Dolomites. He looked at a picture of one of his dead uncles, Mario, in his bowler hat drinking vino, and images of aunts, uncles, cousins, everybody, some dead, some still barely alive, sucking on static and fumes.

He raised the glass of scotch to his lips and took a deep, long drink that seared his throat. As he stared straight ahead, he moved the moldy flap of his underwear aside and gripped his thin little pecker. His slow-moving hands brought it to half-mast. He continued staring ahead as shadows slid deeper across the silent picture frames, while his hand repeatedly caressed his prick. He shook violently as he finally came all over the filthy, Oriental rug. His relatives stared back at him with frozen smiles.

He sat very still and quiet now. “What’ll Mommy think when she sees what I’ve done on the rug?” he said aloud. “What kind of sixty-five-year-old man does such a thing? Doesn’t he love his dear mother?”

You just sit here all day in my house, you have no friends, no job, you’re just full of excuses and deadly sin, Victor!

He shuddered at the memory of her screaming voice. It was a black, festering fungus that was always in his head, even now.

Mamma, don’t be ashamed—“PLEASE, MOM, STOP YELLING AT ME!”

Victor sprang violently from the chair and stared at the wall, grinding his yellow teeth and breathing heavily. He put his hand to his heart, afraid he was having a heart attack. The scotch fell from his hand and shards of glass erupted across the floor, like roaches scurrying from the light.

His hands shot out and knocked photos from the wall. Smiling faces fell to the floor.

Shut the fuck up, Mom, SHUT THE FUCK UP, MOM!” he screamed.

Don’t use that language with me, Victor! Mio Dio, stizitto idiota! Signor Gesu, mio figlio e un idiota! amo mio Victorino, who loved his mama, now look at him, damaged and drained and refilled with deplorable sins!

He dug his crusted nails into his scalp and rocked back and forth over and over again as her voice got louder and louder in his head. He gritted his teeth and slammed his fists against the wall; streaks of blood dripped from the torn wallpaper that slid down the walls, like slow, oozing pus. He stomped over to the Scarlatti record and turned it up even louder. LOUDER. The Decameron fell and split open; screams of torture sprung out from the pages like a bear trap; the house shuttered as he slammed the door and headed outside.


wo hours before midnight, Victor started to gather his mother’s most prized possessions from around the house. She was still in the basement with the dirty, saliva-soaked sock in her mouth, her body frozen with pain. His eyes swept over the living room. There were lots of things gathered up over the years: antique clocks, dishes, a box of ID cards, evil little dolls watching with their judgmental eyes, silver cutlery now tarnished black,  petrified books with brittle spines. Shit everywhere, mom.

“SHIT EVERYWHERE, STREGA, I CAN’T BREATHE ANYMORE WITH ALL THIS SHIT!” he screamed at all the filth and clutter around him.

Don’t you dare call me by my first name! It’s disrespectful, I’m your mother, Victor! I raised you! Idiota!

With a hearty swig, he finished the bottle of scotch and threw it against the wall. Shards of glass cut his bare feet. He stumbled around the house, gathering up everything in violent, quick thrusts. His shaking fingers slammed and shoved things in boxes. One by one, he took them outside through the faded and peeling front door and set them all down by the curb. The moon was bloated in the sky now, casting a heavy glow over the street. Next, he went to the garage and dug through moldy cardboard boxes stained with rat shit and covered in cobwebs. He uncovered three long, rickety tables and a chair which he set up at the curb. He took all the items out of the boxes and arranged them on the tables, checking the space between each item and its neighbor to make sure they were all exactly even.

As Victor worked, the crickets died down and the wind became silent. He went back into the house to see if there was anything else she fucking treasured that he had missed. He heard a rustle from downstairs. Shut up, Mom, shut up Mom, please, please…he said to himself quietly, quietly. He froze mid-step by the door and knocked three times in a row in sets of three. He did this three more times because it had to be three sets of three done perfectly or he had to start all over again. Cuckoo, cuckoo, cuckoo, cuckoo, cuckoo, cuckoo, cuckoo, cuckoo, cuckoo, cuckoo, cuckoo, cuckoo. All twelve clocks went off. It was midnight, midnight, he said to himself.

He went back to the living room and reset the needle on the Scarlatti record. He stopped for a few minutes and held on the wall as a roach crawled down his hand. Doubled over and dizzy, he tried to release the barbs imbedded deep down, like yanking hard on-a rusted rake tangled in barbed wire. As the red stars disappeared and his strength returned, he started the record over. It scratched and then boomed to life. It was the same damn record he listened to every night, restarted every night at midnight. Opera screaming and pulsating in the darkness. All of a sudden, a thought occurred to him.

“I’ll need change.”

He went to his mother’s old bedroom, the one she used to use before he moved her to the basement. This was his room now, but the furniture remained unchanged. He never even changed the stained sheets; the stench was overpowering, drowning you, like a respirator filled with dog shit. Spotted black mold grew and spread in the cracks that crawled up the wall. He opened the top drawer of the dresser and rifled through old, unwashed nylon panties and stained bras. His trembling hands found the money and counted out three times in a row; $47, three times in a row. $47: the rest in change.

He went outside and took his place behind the middle table. He laid the money on the table in front of him; bills to the left and coins to the right. He arranged them perfectly to match up with the edge of the table. He knocked three times in a row in sets of three. He did this three more times because it had to be three sets of three done perfectly or he had to start all over again. Victor felt the scotch and the adrenaline starting to wear off. He shivered in the cold air that gathered around his semi-naked body. He was still only in his filthy stained underwear; tucked underneath, barely visible, was a slit of lace that rubbed like steel wool. Goosebumps spread all over his frail, pale body as his teeth chattered. A violent cough wrenched his spine and slashed red stars across his eyes. He put his hands under his ass to keep warm.

Victor looked across the street and thought of his neighbors. Their windows were dark, and their cocker spaniel, Lulu, was quiet. The next nearest house was dark, too. After sitting in a rhythmic trance for three hours in the cold night air, Victor wondered if he should go knock on his neighbor’s door and ask them if they would like to buy anything. He was worried; no one had shown up yet. He knocked on the table three times in a row in sets of three. He did this three more times because it had to be three sets of three done perfectly or he had to start all over again. It suddenly dawned on him that his neighbors might be busy in their backyard and not know he was having a sale in front of his mother’s house.

Why were they not coming to his garage sale? Did they not see him? Suddenly, he saw a faint movement behind one of his neighbor’s curtains. A light went on in another home. Small slits of lights slashed at the shadows. Were they waiting for him to invite them over? Maybe he should go knock on their door? Maybe his items were not good enough for them? To think of it, they never said hello or waved to him when he took out the trash. These fucking people must think they are better than him. This made him angry. His blood began to boil and he felt a familiar rage brewing inside him. The same rage as when Strega disappeared one night ten years ago and left him alone.

You never show initiative, Victor; you are so weak and pathetic. You let everyone walk all over you. Disgraziato, idiota!

“I’LL SHOW YOU, MAMMA!” he thought.

He would go make sure they all knew he was having a garage sale.

As the faint sound of the Scarlatti record seeped through the thin walls, Victor slowly raised himself up off his numb hands, grabbed a small box, and stepped into the street in the direction of the nearest home.