Larry

Larry

Larry

Larry

Grounded SF from
The Netherlands
and Flanders
no. 1

Grounded SF from
The Netherlands
and Flanders
no. 1

AUTHOR

Erik Nieuwenhuis

PITCH

A young couple agrees to take care of their neighbor’s cat for a few months. But the creature seems to grow bigger every night. Bigger and bigger.

Grounded SF

Translated by: Antoinette Fawcett

It could have been the perfect November night: a storm wind blowing, hail battering the bedroom window, the two of us safe and warm in our comfy bed.

It could have been the perfect November night: a storm wind blowing, hail battering the bedroom window, the two of us safe and warm in our comfy bed.

It could have been the perfect November night: a storm wind blowing, hail battering the bedroom window, the two of us safe and warm in our comfy bed.

It could have been the perfect November night: a storm wind blowing, hail battering the bedroom window, the two of us safe and warm in our comfy bed.

It could have been the perfect November night: a storm wind blowing, hail battering the bedroom window, the two of us safe and warm in our comfy bed.

Then a boiled egg and fresh orange juice for breakfast, with a latte for Mia and an espresso for me. All quite possible. Our marriage always has been a model of harmony. But nowadays we yell at each other almost daily, and it’s all because of that creature, Eliza’s pet.

Less than a year ago we thought we’d found the ideal neighbor. Someone who kept an eye on our koi carp when we were away and regularly took in deliveries for us if we both happened to be out at the same time. Eliza really was the proverbial good neighbor who deserved favors in return. Six months ago, she asked us if we could look after her kitten for a while. “I know it’s a lot to ask,” she said, “but I have to go to Boston for three months, and I have no idea at all who else on this street could help me. A regular healthy cat, well, anyone could look after that. But a delicate little creature with a sensitive little tummy, that’s a tiny bit more difficult. Then it has to be someone you can rely on, don’t you think?”

“Absolutely no problem,” we assured her. Just a few months previously we had decided that in this day and age it was no longer a responsible act to bring a baby into the world. And I still think that was a good, rational decision, but I must admit it made me feel empty for a while. I’d always assumed that our love hadn’t yet found its definitive form, that there was still something magnificent to come which we could dedicate ourselves to wholeheartedly. Our own Bed and Breakfast in Sardinia, for example, or some kind of good cause—blankets for the Ukraine, or a dog, perhaps, or a horse. But before we had a moment to think about it, Eliza came along and pushed us into this thing with Larry. Just three months old and so cute! If the word “cuddly” hadn’t existed, they would have had to invent it for this little ball of fur. How could we have refused?

She took us to her utility room and showed us her enormous fridge. It was filled to capacity with boxes of special cat food. “For growing cats with sensitive tummies.” Very expensive stuff, she told us, especially if you buy it in normal stores; fortunately, she had her own supplier. Oh, and could we check the mail for her and leave it on her staircase? She would be away three months. If she’d said three years we wouldn’t have minded, but she was very precise about that too. “Such a sweetie,” she said. “So easy to get attached to a darling like that. And although I hope you’ll get along, I do want you to give him back to me when I return.” I didn’t think it was exactly normal, though, when she then made us sign a thirteen-page contract. But our neighbors at number 31 have both studied law, and when I asked them about it, they said that a contract like this was nothing out of the ordinary for a lawyer. It might look like a big deal, they told me, but anyone with any knowledge of the law could draw up this kind of contract in a jiffy. And for someone like Eliza, who worked for an international patents firm, something like this was just run of the mill. Whether or not that is really true I don’t know. I haven’t studied law. But I do know that a good neighbor sticks to their word. That if you arrange for your pet to sleep elsewhere for three months, you don’t abandon it to its fate for more than six months without consultation.

---------------

The hail has stopped now. Apart from the gusts of wind, the only thing you can hear is some dripping in the flue and the soft snoring of Mia, who has dropped off to sleep in spite of everything. A restful sound. Almost hypnotic. Tick tock tick, breathe in, tock tick tock, breathe out. I can feel myself falling asleep now too. Images of a desert-like landscape, ochers and yellows. Somewhere in the depths a twisting rivulet, unnaturally blue. But before I definitely fall asleep, I jolt awake to the sound of a loud noise. Something like a dog whose tail has been stepped on.

“What was that?” Mia whispers.

“Hmm,” I say. “I don’t know. It could be anything, of course. But if I had to guess, I’d say: Larry. What do you think?”

“Ha, ha,” Mia says. “Sarcasm. That’s your answer to everything these days.”

She doesn’t say anything else. Because, of course, she knows I’m right. And she has known it from the moment I hung up the phone after my short conversation with the vet. I did my best to avoid her gaze, but she kept looking at me so insistently that eventually I couldn’t avoid telling her what we’d been talking about.

“The DNA test,” I said.

She kept giving me that hard look.

“What DNA test?” she said.

“For Larry.”

“Larry? DNA test? Come on, Finn, we’ve already discussed this.”

“Yep. We’ve already discussed this. On the basis of half-baked facts and assumptions. I’d rather base our discussion on a proper scientific investigation: blood samples, saliva tests. Firm evidence for what you and I have long known: Larry is not a pussycat, Mia. Not even anything like a pussycat. Every day that passes, he looks less and less like a cat. His head’s too square. And he’s much too big.”

“Well, that’s like Maine Coons. They can grow to a really gigantic size. I showed you that. There are thousands of photos of them on the Internet.”

“Yes. But point one: none of those creatures was as big as Larry. And point two: Larry is not a cat.”

“And you know that because of the DNA test?”

“You don’t need a DNA test. It’s obvious even to a child.”

“OK. But the test definitely proved it’s some other kind of animal?”

“Not yet, I’m afraid. Something was wrong with the sample. Tainted, the vet said. He’ll have to be tested again.”

“Over my dead body.”

“Well, that wouldn’t surprise me at all if we keep giving that creature his way. Which will not be the case. I’ll go over to the vet’s for a new test kit.”

But that didn’t happen. When I went to get my coat, there was Larry standing opposite me in the hallway. I tried to push him aside but he kept blocking my route, breathing heavily through his nose.  A Maine Coon! No way. A Saint Bernard is more like it, in terms of size. Mia seemed to find all this quite normal still. She wriggled past me and stood next to Larry, lovingly stroking his profuse mane of hair.

“Daddy won’t bother you anymore now, kitty.”

He rubbed himself affectionately against Mia’s leg and made a sound that clearly meant he was happy with the situation. The kind of thing cats do when you tickle them under the chin. But this wasn’t purring. This was the kind of noise film directors use to portray a sleeping Tyrannosaurus. Or the good-humored grunting of a contented gorilla that you want to stay friends with at any price.

And now there’s a resounding belch coming from downstairs. The kind of belch belched out by someone who has let themselves completely go after ten pints of beer and a dozen haggis balls. I throw off the blankets and pull on my bathrobe.

“Do you think there’s something wrong?” she says. “Maybe he’s sick.”

“You saw him this afternoon,” I say. “Did he look sick to you? Attention seeking, that’s all. And yeah, he’s probably hungry, the greedy thing.”

Then a boiled egg and fresh orange juice for breakfast, with a latte for Mia and an espresso for me. All quite possible. Our marriage always has been a model of harmony. But nowadays we yell at each other almost daily, and it’s all because of that creature, Eliza’s pet.

Less than a year ago we thought we’d found the ideal neighbor. Someone who kept an eye on our koi carp when we were away and regularly took in deliveries for us if we both happened to be out at the same time. Eliza really was the proverbial good neighbor who deserved favors in return. Six months ago, she asked us if we could look after her kitten for a while. “I know it’s a lot to ask,” she said, “but I have to go to Boston for three months, and I have no idea at all who else on this street could help me. A regular healthy cat, well, anyone could look after that. But a delicate little creature with a sensitive little tummy, that’s a tiny bit more difficult. Then it has to be someone you can rely on, don’t you think?”

“Absolutely no problem,” we assured her. Just a few months previously we had decided that in this day and age it was no longer a responsible act to bring a baby into the world. And I still think that was a good, rational decision, but I must admit it made me feel empty for a while. I’d always assumed that our love hadn’t yet found its definitive form, that there was still something magnificent to come which we could dedicate ourselves to wholeheartedly. Our own Bed and Breakfast in Sardinia, for example, or some kind of good cause—blankets for the Ukraine, or a dog, perhaps, or a horse. But before we had a moment to think about it, Eliza came along and pushed us into this thing with Larry. Just three months old and so cute! If the word “cuddly” hadn’t existed, they would have had to invent it for this little ball of fur. How could we have refused?

She took us to her utility room and showed us her enormous fridge. It was filled to capacity with boxes of special cat food. “For growing cats with sensitive tummies.” Very expensive stuff, she told us, especially if you buy it in normal stores; fortunately, she had her own supplier. Oh, and could we check the mail for her and leave it on her staircase? She would be away three months. If she’d said three years we wouldn’t have minded, but she was very precise about that too. “Such a sweetie,” she said. “So easy to get attached to a darling like that. And although I hope you’ll get along, I do want you to give him back to me when I return.” I didn’t think it was exactly normal, though, when she then made us sign a thirteen-page contract. But our neighbors at number 31 have both studied law, and when I asked them about it, they said that a contract like this was nothing out of the ordinary for a lawyer. It might look like a big deal, they told me, but anyone with any knowledge of the law could draw up this kind of contract in a jiffy. And for someone like Eliza, who worked for an international patents firm, something like this was just run of the mill. Whether or not that is really true I don’t know. I haven’t studied law. But I do know that a good neighbor sticks to their word. That if you arrange for your pet to sleep elsewhere for three months, you don’t abandon it to its fate for more than six months without consultation.

---------------

The hail has stopped now. Apart from the gusts of wind, the only thing you can hear is some dripping in the flue and the soft snoring of Mia, who has dropped off to sleep in spite of everything. A restful sound. Almost hypnotic. Tick tock tick, breathe in, tock tick tock, breathe out. I can feel myself falling asleep now too. Images of a desert-like landscape, ochers and yellows. Somewhere in the depths a twisting rivulet, unnaturally blue. But before I definitely fall asleep, I jolt awake to the sound of a loud noise. Something like a dog whose tail has been stepped on.

“What was that?” Mia whispers.

“Hmm,” I say. “I don’t know. It could be anything, of course. But if I had to guess, I’d say: Larry. What do you think?”

“Ha, ha,” Mia says. “Sarcasm. That’s your answer to everything these days.”

She doesn’t say anything else. Because, of course, she knows I’m right. And she has known it from the moment I hung up the phone after my short conversation with the vet. I did my best to avoid her gaze, but she kept looking at me so insistently that eventually I couldn’t avoid telling her what we’d been talking about.

“The DNA test,” I said.

She kept giving me that hard look.

“What DNA test?” she said.

“For Larry.”

“Larry? DNA test? Come on, Finn, we’ve already discussed this.”

“Yep. We’ve already discussed this. On the basis of half-baked facts and assumptions. I’d rather base our discussion on a proper scientific investigation: blood samples, saliva tests. Firm evidence for what you and I have long known: Larry is not a pussycat, Mia. Not even anything like a pussycat. Every day that passes, he looks less and less like a cat. His head’s too square. And he’s much too big.”

“Well, that’s like Maine Coons. They can grow to a really gigantic size. I showed you that. There are thousands of photos of them on the Internet.”

“Yes. But point one: none of those creatures was as big as Larry. And point two: Larry is not a cat.”

“And you know that because of the DNA test?”

“You don’t need a DNA test. It’s obvious even to a child.”

“OK. But the test definitely proved it’s some other kind of animal?”

“Not yet, I’m afraid. Something was wrong with the sample. Tainted, the vet said. He’ll have to be tested again.”

“Over my dead body.”

“Well, that wouldn’t surprise me at all if we keep giving that creature his way. Which will not be the case. I’ll go over to the vet’s for a new test kit.”

But that didn’t happen. When I went to get my coat, there was Larry standing opposite me in the hallway. I tried to push him aside but he kept blocking my route, breathing heavily through his nose.  A Maine Coon! No way. A Saint Bernard is more like it, in terms of size. Mia seemed to find all this quite normal still. She wriggled past me and stood next to Larry, lovingly stroking his profuse mane of hair.

“Daddy won’t bother you anymore now, kitty.”

He rubbed himself affectionately against Mia’s leg and made a sound that clearly meant he was happy with the situation. The kind of thing cats do when you tickle them under the chin. But this wasn’t purring. This was the kind of noise film directors use to portray a sleeping Tyrannosaurus. Or the good-humored grunting of a contented gorilla that you want to stay friends with at any price.

And now there’s a resounding belch coming from downstairs. The kind of belch belched out by someone who has let themselves completely go after ten pints of beer and a dozen haggis balls. I throw off the blankets and pull on my bathrobe.

“Do you think there’s something wrong?” she says. “Maybe he’s sick.”

“You saw him this afternoon,” I say. “Did he look sick to you? Attention seeking, that’s all. And yeah, he’s probably hungry, the greedy thing.”

He rubbed himself affectionately against Mia’s leg and made a sound that clearly meant he was happy with the situation. The kind of thing cats do when you tickle them under the chin.

He rubbed himself affectionately against Mia’s leg and made a sound that clearly meant he was happy with the situation. The kind of thing cats do when you tickle them under the chin.

He rubbed himself affectionately against Mia’s leg and made a sound that clearly meant he was happy with the situation. The kind of thing cats do when you tickle them under the chin.

He rubbed himself affectionately against Mia’s leg and made a sound that clearly meant he was happy with the situation. The kind of thing cats do when you tickle them under the chin.

He rubbed himself affectionately against Mia’s leg and made a sound that clearly meant he was happy with the situation. The kind of thing cats do when you tickle them under the chin.

I can see Mia is trying to say something, but her words are lost in an outburst of yelping from somewhere downstairs. And now there’s banging and glasses chinking and a sound like the laughter of a crazy villain in a film. A bad film.

“I’m worried, Finn,” Mia says. “I’m afraid he’s going to die.”

That would be one solution certainly, I think, although there’s probably something about that in the contract.

“Rubbish,” I say. “That creature lacks for nothing. But he’ll be out in a flash if he doesn’t quickly learn to keep to our rules. In this house, we sleep at night. We eat at set times during the day. Three meals a day and healthy, moderate portions. From now on we’re going to tackle this differently.”

There’s more of that chinking sound, and then a bang.

“So…,” I say.

“So what?” Mia asks.

“So a cat, right? Just a rather large cat?”

“Yes, Finn, just a cat. What else could it…”

“Cats don’t belch, Mia. Cats are elegant little creatures who carefully wash themselves after every meal. A lick of the paw, a rub on the snout. And then a little snooze on the sofa. This is not a pussycat; this is the onset of a natural disaster. If it were up to me, I’d have him put to sleep tonight. But that would only lead to trouble with Eliza. Behavioral conditioning. That’s the answer. Someone has to teach that creature what the boundaries are as far as we’re concerned. I’ve had enough.”

On the landing I get my tennis racket out of the hall closet and go downstairs, clutching it in my hand. I’m still hoping for a peaceful solution, but at the slightest, most minimal sign of threat I’ll smash his skull to pieces. I’m done with this.

“You’re not going to scare him, are you?” Mia yells after me. “They’re really sociable animals. And very sensitive to negative emotions.”

I don’t say a word.

There’s a terrible stink in the hallway—the smell of raw barbecue meat at the end of a hot summer evening. The remains of some kind of animal lie across the living room threshold. What it is exactly isn’t easy to make out anymore. And how Larry has managed to drag it in is a mystery to me as well. I switch on the hall light and kneel down beside the corpse. It looks like the kind of hunk of flesh you see in a zoo near the lions or big birds of prey. In the living room there’s another dead animal. Or the other half of the hunk of flesh in the hall. Who’s going to clear this all up? I enter the kitchen, tennis racket at the ready. The damage isn’t too bad. The spice rack is on the floor. Most of the jars are intact, as far as I can tell. The rail for the chorizo isn’t where it should be, but the meat is otherwise untouched. Only when I take a careful step forward do I see that the kitchen door is open.

I get a flashlight out of the drawer, wriggle into my running shoes, and go out into the garden. Eliza’s patio light is shining through the conifer hedge onto our lawn. I squeeze through the branches and into her garden. On the broad path by her bike shed, there is a torn-open cardboard box. And there are at least ten small white cartons strewn around it. When I scan the garden looking for more traces of Larry, I trap a hedgehog in the beam of my torch. A few slugs are crawling all over the large box. Not the kinds of creatures you’d expect at this time of year.

I shine the flashlight onto the back of Eliza’s house. One of the patio doors is broken. As I enter the house through the smashed window, slivers of glass crunch beneath my feet. Once inside, I spot a long trail of blood going from the living room to the kitchen. A little bit of blood doesn’t normally bother me, but this does make me feel faint for a moment. I pull out a dining table chair and sit down. On the table there’s an envelope from UNICEF on top of a Handbook for Patent Law and 1000 Places to See Before You Die. And there’s a glossy magazine with a furry kitten on its cover. In the past I would have found this endearing.

I grasp the tennis racket firmly in my hand again. Stamping my feet as loudly as possible, so as not to surprise Larry, I follow the trail into the dark utility room. The large refrigerator is shut. There’s a narrow strip of light coming from the fridge-freezer beside it. I cautiously open the door. A fat piece of meat falls out, agonizingly slowly, as if the fridge is sticking its tongue out at me. Behind where the tongue of meat was, I can see a couple of bulging white cartons with blue labels. Medicine cartons. The same little boxes I saw a moment ago in the garden. As I bend down to pick them up, I hear a noise behind me.

If you meet a bear in a forest, I read somewhere, you should walk backwards, talking quietly until the bear loses interest in you. But this isn’t a bear and there’s not much point in walking backwards in such a cramped space. The beast takes a step towards me. In the light of the fridge, I can see a thin drool of saliva dripping from his jaws onto the floor. Just as my muscles tense up to give him a bash between the eyes, Mia comes in. Larry growls, but Mia knows how to calm him down.

“Sshh,” she says. “Quiet now. Daddy won’t hurt you.” And then to me, “Christ, man. What a bloody awful mess you’ve made. Window smashed. Meat all over the floor. Why do you always have to create such havoc everywhere?”

“Always?” I say. “Everywhere? Me?!”

I can see Mia is trying to say something, but her words are lost in an outburst of yelping from somewhere downstairs. And now there’s banging and glasses chinking and a sound like the laughter of a crazy villain in a film. A bad film.

“I’m worried, Finn,” Mia says. “I’m afraid he’s going to die.”

That would be one solution certainly, I think, although there’s probably something about that in the contract.

“Rubbish,” I say. “That creature lacks for nothing. But he’ll be out in a flash if he doesn’t quickly learn to keep to our rules. In this house, we sleep at night. We eat at set times during the day. Three meals a day and healthy, moderate portions. From now on we’re going to tackle this differently.”

There’s more of that chinking sound, and then a bang.

“So…,” I say.

“So what?” Mia asks.

“So a cat, right? Just a rather large cat?”

“Yes, Finn, just a cat. What else could it…”

“Cats don’t belch, Mia. Cats are elegant little creatures who carefully wash themselves after every meal. A lick of the paw, a rub on the snout. And then a little snooze on the sofa. This is not a pussycat; this is the onset of a natural disaster. If it were up to me, I’d have him put to sleep tonight. But that would only lead to trouble with Eliza. Behavioral conditioning. That’s the answer. Someone has to teach that creature what the boundaries are as far as we’re concerned. I’ve had enough.”

On the landing I get my tennis racket out of the hall closet and go downstairs, clutching it in my hand. I’m still hoping for a peaceful solution, but at the slightest, most minimal sign of threat I’ll smash his skull to pieces. I’m done with this.

“You’re not going to scare him, are you?” Mia yells after me. “They’re really sociable animals. And very sensitive to negative emotions.”

I don’t say a word.

There’s a terrible stink in the hallway—the smell of raw barbecue meat at the end of a hot summer evening. The remains of some kind of animal lie across the living room threshold. What it is exactly isn’t easy to make out anymore. And how Larry has managed to drag it in is a mystery to me as well. I switch on the hall light and kneel down beside the corpse. It looks like the kind of hunk of flesh you see in a zoo near the lions or big birds of prey. In the living room there’s another dead animal. Or the other half of the hunk of flesh in the hall. Who’s going to clear this all up? I enter the kitchen, tennis racket at the ready. The damage isn’t too bad. The spice rack is on the floor. Most of the jars are intact, as far as I can tell. The rail for the chorizo isn’t where it should be, but the meat is otherwise untouched. Only when I take a careful step forward do I see that the kitchen door is open.

I get a flashlight out of the drawer, wriggle into my running shoes, and go out into the garden. Eliza’s patio light is shining through the conifer hedge onto our lawn. I squeeze through the branches and into her garden. On the broad path by her bike shed, there is a torn-open cardboard box. And there are at least ten small white cartons strewn around it. When I scan the garden looking for more traces of Larry, I trap a hedgehog in the beam of my torch. A few slugs are crawling all over the large box. Not the kinds of creatures you’d expect at this time of year.

I shine the flashlight onto the back of Eliza’s house. One of the patio doors is broken. As I enter the house through the smashed window, slivers of glass crunch beneath my feet. Once inside, I spot a long trail of blood going from the living room to the kitchen. A little bit of blood doesn’t normally bother me, but this does make me feel faint for a moment. I pull out a dining table chair and sit down. On the table there’s an envelope from UNICEF on top of a Handbook for Patent Law and 1000 Places to See Before You Die. And there’s a glossy magazine with a furry kitten on its cover. In the past I would have found this endearing.

I grasp the tennis racket firmly in my hand again. Stamping my feet as loudly as possible, so as not to surprise Larry, I follow the trail into the dark utility room. The large refrigerator is shut. There’s a narrow strip of light coming from the fridge-freezer beside it. I cautiously open the door. A fat piece of meat falls out, agonizingly slowly, as if the fridge is sticking its tongue out at me. Behind where the tongue of meat was, I can see a couple of bulging white cartons with blue labels. Medicine cartons. The same little boxes I saw a moment ago in the garden. As I bend down to pick them up, I hear a noise behind me.

If you meet a bear in a forest, I read somewhere, you should walk backwards, talking quietly until the bear loses interest in you. But this isn’t a bear and there’s not much point in walking backwards in such a cramped space. The beast takes a step towards me. In the light of the fridge, I can see a thin drool of saliva dripping from his jaws onto the floor. Just as my muscles tense up to give him a bash between the eyes, Mia comes in. Larry growls, but Mia knows how to calm him down.

“Sshh,” she says. “Quiet now. Daddy won’t hurt you.” And then to me, “Christ, man. What a bloody awful mess you’ve made. Window smashed. Meat all over the floor. Why do you always have to create such havoc everywhere?”

“Always?” I say. “Everywhere? Me?!”

Christ, man. What a bloody awful mess you’ve made. Window smashed. Meat all over the floor. Why do you always have to create such havoc everywhere?

Christ, man. What a bloody awful mess you’ve made. Window smashed. Meat all over the floor. Why do you always have to create such havoc everywhere?

Christ, man. What a bloody awful mess you’ve made. Window smashed. Meat all over the floor. Why do you always have to create such havoc everywhere?

Christ, man. What a bloody awful mess you’ve made. Window smashed. Meat all over the floor. Why do you always have to create such havoc everywhere?

Christ, man. What a bloody awful mess you’ve made. Window smashed. Meat all over the floor. Why do you always have to create such havoc everywhere?

“Who else then?”

I want to scream something back at her, but I’m scared Larry might still attack me.

“The door was already broken,” I whisper, “and I don’t know if you saw it, but there’s a dead animal in our house, in the hall.”

She looks mockingly at me.

“So? Cats bring things into the house sometimes, you know. Birds or mice. That’s just their nature.  Why would Larry be an exception to the rule? Why do you always have to make such a drama about everything? And don’t worry. I’ll get rid of the mouse corpse tomorrow, if you’re feeling too squeamish. Now, if you clean up the fridge, I’ll tape the window.”

Under Larry’s watchful eye I manage, with some difficulty, to get the now warmish tongue of meat back into the fridge. Meanwhile the living room floor has been cleared of glass. Mia is using duct tape to stick the last flapping piece of garbage bag over the broken window.  ‘So,” she says in the tone of voice of someone who has just tidied a work surface, “we’ll head for home now, OK Larry?”

When we’re in our own house again, I point out the meat in the hallway.

“Hmm,” Mia says, “that isn’t a birdie, you’re right. Must be something he dragged out of a dumpster. Yuck! Bad puss!”

Larry isn’t listening. He’s already upstairs. When we enter the bedroom after clearing up the remains of the meat, we can see him by the light of the street light, stretched out on my half of the bed, licking his balls. “Look at him! Isn’t he sweet?” Mia says. In the meantime she has flung her bathrobe over the chair, and she now goes and lies down on her side of the bed, next to Larry. He lays a paw across her waist.  

“Finn,” she says, cuddling up even closer to the creature, “be a darling. Why don’t you sleep downstairs for once? It’s been a very stressful night for Larry. Traumatic even, with all that broken glass and everything. And he’s missing Eliza too, I think, poor thing.”

I sleep fitfully the rest of the night, under a blanket on the sofa. When I wake up, the sun has clearly been shining for some time. I listen intently for sounds in and around the house. I’m hoping to hear the whiz of the juicer, or Mia’s voice singing along to the radio. The aroma of coffee would also go a long way to putting things right. But because there’s nothing going on at all, after a minute or so I decide to sort things out myself. In a minute, I’ll open all the doors and give the house a good airing  because it still stinks inside. I grind the coffee and foam some milk. When I turn round to put the milk back in the fridge, Larry is just poking his head around the door. In the clear light of day, he seems even more enormous than last night. Those claws! That gigantic head! Really not normal at all. Utterly weird, man.

“Who else then?”

I want to scream something back at her, but I’m scared Larry might still attack me.

“The door was already broken,” I whisper, “and I don’t know if you saw it, but there’s a dead animal in our house, in the hall.”

She looks mockingly at me.

“So? Cats bring things into the house sometimes, you know. Birds or mice. That’s just their nature.  Why would Larry be an exception to the rule? Why do you always have to make such a drama about everything? And don’t worry. I’ll get rid of the mouse corpse tomorrow, if you’re feeling too squeamish. Now, if you clean up the fridge, I’ll tape the window.”

Under Larry’s watchful eye I manage, with some difficulty, to get the now warmish tongue of meat back into the fridge. Meanwhile the living room floor has been cleared of glass. Mia is using duct tape to stick the last flapping piece of garbage bag over the broken window.  ‘So,” she says in the tone of voice of someone who has just tidied a work surface, “we’ll head for home now, OK Larry?”

When we’re in our own house again, I point out the meat in the hallway.

“Hmm,” Mia says, “that isn’t a birdie, you’re right. Must be something he dragged out of a dumpster. Yuck! Bad puss!”

Larry isn’t listening. He’s already upstairs. When we enter the bedroom after clearing up the remains of the meat, we can see him by the light of the street light, stretched out on my half of the bed, licking his balls. “Look at him! Isn’t he sweet?” Mia says. In the meantime she has flung her bathrobe over the chair, and she now goes and lies down on her side of the bed, next to Larry. He lays a paw across her waist.  

“Finn,” she says, cuddling up even closer to the creature, “be a darling. Why don’t you sleep downstairs for once? It’s been a very stressful night for Larry. Traumatic even, with all that broken glass and everything. And he’s missing Eliza too, I think, poor thing.”

I sleep fitfully the rest of the night, under a blanket on the sofa. When I wake up, the sun has clearly been shining for some time. I listen intently for sounds in and around the house. I’m hoping to hear the whiz of the juicer, or Mia’s voice singing along to the radio. The aroma of coffee would also go a long way to putting things right. But because there’s nothing going on at all, after a minute or so I decide to sort things out myself. In a minute, I’ll open all the doors and give the house a good airing  because it still stinks inside. I grind the coffee and foam some milk. When I turn round to put the milk back in the fridge, Larry is just poking his head around the door. In the clear light of day, he seems even more enormous than last night. Those claws! That gigantic head! Really not normal at all. Utterly weird, man.

Erik-Nieuwenhuis

ERIK NIEUWENHUIS 

Erik Nieuwenhuis is the author of three novels, a novella, and three essay collections. He has won two major literary prizes – the Hendrik de Vries Award (1996) and the Belcampo Award (2017) – and was shortlisted for the Academica Literature Prize in 2011. Nieuwenhuis’s latest novel, Ben (2016), is typical of his recent focus on the fragile relationship between human beings and technology. It is about a man who dies in an absurd accident but whose spirit comes to life again in a hospital server. It reveals the dark side of our unthinking interaction with digital technology.

Photo: Alfred Oosterman


Published twice a year by Lebowski Publishers
© Lebowski Publishers  |  Amsterdam

For international rights please contact:
Oscar van GelderenTracy Fisher, Jill Gillett or Sylvie Rabineau

This literary magazine for Grounded SF
from The Netherlands and Flanders is
published twice a year by Lebowski Publishers.
© Lebowski Publishers  |  Amsterdam

For international rights please contact:
Oscar van GelderenTracy Fisher , Jill Gillet or Sylvie Rabineau

This literary magazine for Grounded SF from The Netherlands and Flanders is published twice a year by Lebowski Publishers.


For international rights please contact: Oscar van GelderenTracy Fisher, Jill Gillet or Sylvie Rabineau

© 2018 Hanna Bervoets, Willem Bosch, Rob van Essen, Jerry Goossens, Erik Nieuwenhuis, PJ Pancras, Joost Vandecasteele

© TRANSLATIONS Antoinette Fawcett, Kristen Gehrman, Thijs van Nimwegen, Jonathan Reeder, Sarah Welling, Joni Zwart

© 2018 Hanna Bervoets, Willem Bosch, Rob van Essen, Jerry Goossens, Erik Nieuwenhuis, PJ Pancras, Joost Vandecasteele

© TRANSLATIONS Antoinette Fawcett, Kristen Gehrman, Thijs van Nimwegen, Jonathan Reeder, Sarah Welling, Joni Zwart

© 2018 Hanna Bervoets, Willem Bosch, Rob van Essen, Jerry Goossens, Erik Nieuwenhuis, PJ Pancras, Joost Vandecasteele

© TRANSLATIONS Antoinette Fawcett, Kristen Gehrman, Thijs van Nimwegen, Jonathan Reeder, Sarah Welling, Joni Zwart

© 2018 Hanna Bervoets, Willem Bosch, Rob van Essen, Jerry Goossens,
Erik Nieuwenhuis, PJ Pancras, Joost Vandecasteele

© TRANSLATIONS Antoinette Fawcett, Kristen Gehrman, Thijs van Nimwegen, Jonathan Reeder, Sarah Welling, Joni Zwart

© 2018 Hanna Bervoets, Willem Bosch, Rob van Essen, Jerry Goossens,Erik Nieuwenhuis, PJ Pancras, Joost Vandecasteele

© TRANSLATIONS Antoinette Fawcett, Kristen Gehrman, Thijs van Nimwegen, Jonathan Reeder, Sarah Welling, Joni Zwart

EDITORS Oscar van Gelderen, 
Jasper Henderson, Maaike Pleging

DESIGN 
Bart Heideman  |  uncanny.design

EDITORS Oscar van Gelderen, 
Jasper Henderson, Maaike Pleging



DESIGN
 
Bart Heideman  |  uncanny.design

EDITORS 
Oscar van Gelderen, 
Jasper Henderson, 
Maaike Pleging

DESIGN 
Bart Heideman
uncanny.design

EDITORS 
Oscar van Gelderen, 
Jasper Henderson,
Maaike Pleging

DESIGN 
Bart Heideman  |  uncanny.design

EDITORS 
Oscar van Gelderen, Jasper Henderson, Maaike Pleging

DESIGN 
Bart Heideman  |  uncanny.design