Peanut Butter Shoggoth

Every night, I made a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Every day that followed, I left it on the stack of its fellows in the locker and the oily brown thing between the walls ate them, in their turn, days later, sandwiches later, when they’d aged to its liking. It also ate the bags.

Every night, I made a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and left it in the refrigerator overnight, so it wouldn’t spoil. Peanut butter, raspberry jam, the wheat bread with the metallic tang that comes in the yellow bag, you know the brand, even if you don’t know the taste. I never ate them the next day, because I didn’t like what spending the night in the fridge did to the bread. I never liked the feel of it in my mouth. I never made the sandwiches in the morning, always the night before.

Sometimes, I checked the peanut butter and an eye, black and rainbow film, would open in the jar. I put it aside. There was always a fresh jar in the cupboard, a foil-hymened virgin jar. I don’t remember where I read it, but the first carve into a jar of new peanut butter was the first thing I ever learned of fetishes. The old jar always got off to somewhere while I made the sandwich and wondered if that fetish was one of mine.

Every night, I made a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Every day that followed, so it followed. You think of these things years later and wonder why you never noticed. The stack of the blue and black and hard old sandwiches fetched up to 3 feet one time. I feared my responsibility was off the sandwiches; that it had gotten off to somewhere. Turns out, it wasn’t always hungry. I had to throw out the ones that were past their due.

If you have a secret, then you have a responsibility. You keep a secret. I kept mine in the wall behind the locker with the peanut butter and jelly sandwiches I made every night. I don’t think my secret was always so discriminating about what it ate; the sandwiches were my own stroke of fortune. At night, sometimes, I would dream of passing through the narrow threshold of that blue steel locker, caught on the first try, caught on the second try, turned sideways and pulled through to where the oily brown thing lived. Turned sideways, so I could see the door closing after me. The sandwich sat in the bag in the fridge, the bread taking on that consistency.

I never liked the way the bread felt in my mouth. Not even when it was fresh. The first bag, I bought because it was the cheapest and I didn’t know better.

Every night, I made a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Every day, I dropped it on the stack in my locker. When I had the cash to spare, I bought a paper bowl of the pasta with homeopathic quantities of meat and cheese. Ritual starts as a successful formula and a fear of further experimentation. Removed from the source of the fear, you can strip it all to its essentials, but on the other side of that little door was the sound of the breathing from greasy spiracles the size of my fist, the quivering of a maw created on the spur of the moment for a single instance of use, and then forgotten.

I’ve never forgotten my mouth.

Ω

Erik Amundsen  Erik Amundsen's website , taken broadly, has had an interesting life; he’s been a baker, an itinerant schoolteacher, worked for two governments and gotten in bar fights overseas. He now lives at the foot of a cemetery in central Connecticut where he writes nasty little stories and poems that shuffle around in the night when he’s not looking. Or at least he hopes it’s them; something’s got to be making those noises and it’s not the furnace.

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