When we moved into our new apartment, we didn't know there was this praying guy in residence there. I wanted to kick him out, but Marion said "Oh no don't! He's so pathetic." Well he was very skinny, with beat-up sandals and a long shabby robe. He never spoke to us and ate very little, I'll say that for him. Just pointed to the floor by the kitchen table, so that's where we fed him his scraps. He'd keep mumbling his prayers in some strange language and stay on his knees, even while he was crawling from room to room. We got used to his mumbles, sort of like the traffic outside. We weren't religious but he seemed like some kind of a monk. He slept in his coffin in our small den. This was no problem, since we never had guests in.
Well I don't know if there was any connection, but shortly after we moved in, I got a better job, and Marion was finally able to tell off her bitchy boss and go into mail-order cosmetic sales from home. She made a pile. Then I got a promotion. We offered to share some of our profits with him, but he frowned and shook his head and kept on praying.
Months went by. I made supervisor and her sales kept zooming. We bought a Mercedes and vacationed in Hawaii. Then we found this beautiful house, 5000 square feet, on a hilltop outside town, and told him he should join us there and have his own wing. But he looked shocked and took to his coffin early and slept until his early morning prayers.
For the next few days he seemed to be praying harder. He frowned and mumbled louder. I made junior vice president and Marion sold first-refusal rights to Nieman-Marcus. So we waited a week, and then one night when he was asleep, we hired moving men to lift him in his coffin, along with all our furniture, into the new place.
Well it didn't work out. He was praying harder but looked miserable, desperate. A couple weeks later I got fired. Then Marion lost Nieman-Marcus. We had to sell the car and put another mortgage on the house. Then, tired out from one more useless day of job-hunting, I came home early and found him and Marion fucking. Right in his coffin! And sure enough, the sonofabitch was still on his knees, just mumbling louder than usual.
Before I could throw them both out, he picked up his coffin—I was surprised he was so strong—and walked out. Marion followed him, though right away she asked to come back because he wouldn't take her along. I said never.
And I lost the house, everything. Now, sitting in my furnished room going through the want-ads, I don't know how I feel about him. But as for Marion, I'll never take her back, not even if she asked me again.
Richard Pearse's Private Drives: Selected Poems 1969-2001 came out from Rattapallax Press. His poems and stories have appeared in over thirty magazines, including The Paris Review, New York Quarterly, Prairie Schooner, and Rattapallax. Recently he has been concentrating on microfiction, which has been published or accepted in Fiction, Carolina Quarterly, Many Mountains Moving, As Is, and QuickFiction, and anthologized in Sudden Stories. He lives in New York City.