The good-looking one, the one in need, the one that almost was
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William Lychack has a three-year-old son and a set of one-year-old twins, all of whom make sleep and showering feel like indulgent hobbies. He is the author of a novel, The Wasp Eater (Mariner Books), and a forthcoming collection of stories, The Architect of Flowers, and is a member of the MFA faculty at Lesley University in Massachusetts.
All you know is how sunny it was — so bright you could hardly see — and how the old man kept trying to tip you back into the stream, the water electric and cold, old Mr. Griswald saying not to worry, his hands on your shoulders, him standing in the water behind you, you this little kid, nine or ten years old, that voice of his strange and far above, saying not to worry, saying just lie back, saying he has you, he has you.
The wasps looked the same dead as alive: you could be fooled by their sci-fi armor into treating them more warily than they deserved. That was why, when you slipped one of them into your mouth and the wings and legs dissolved and you silently rolled the hard skeleton over your tongue, you were swallowing fear itself.
“One,” the monster counted, “two,” the licks it would take, “three,” to get to, “four,” the center, “CRUNCH! Four. Four licks, hmmm.” The monster nibbled down Marc’s legs, arms, and then the rest disappeared in a giant, uncomfortable gulp.