Meet Miss Scarlet

Scarlet O’Hansen had just sat down to pee when she noticed a fruit fly hovering around the bathroom. This was not good. She had a rather strong aversion to small things that fly or crawl. The fruit fly didn’t bother her as much as if it had been, say, a fat caterpillar doing that thing that caterpillars do, and that she especially hated. But it bothered her nevertheless. What bothered her was that it was inside, and what that might mean. Because now she remembered that she had forgotten to take out the bag of rubbish next to the stove. It hadn’t been there for that long, two days at the most. But if there was a fruit fly inside, the rubbish must be … better outside.

The idea of having to go out again also irritated her, because she had already prepared herself for not having to do that until morning. She had a dvd in the machine (a little indie film she was rather looking forward to), a bowl of popcorn on the table, alongside water (always water), tobacco, rizlas, lighter, ashtray, remotes in easy reach, cell phone close enough, and a little stool for her feet. The pee was the last thing to do before she could settle down to the goodies. But now there was a damn fruit fly and she’d have to find some shoes, unlock the door and go down to the black bins with the rubbish. She’d have to break the spell.

While she was thinking all this she could hear, from the lounge, the voice of a local DJ who was on TV with the debut program of some silly new game show. She hadn’t been paying much attention to what it was all about, but she kept hearing the refrain: “You’rrrrre Toast!” This type of lameness also irritated her. But she wanted to get on with the evening, so she wiped herself and got up and got out there with the rubbish.

After she had dumped the bag and was walking towards the steps leading up to her flat, she became aware of a sound. At first she thought it was coming from the flat she was just passing, but when she stopped to listen, she realised that it was coming from all around her. This was not the homely racket of some Mediterranean courtyard, with women chattering above laundry lines while children break windows with flying balls. No. This is one sound, or rather, the same sound, coming from all the flats around her. She couldn’t believe it. But yes, there it was: “You’rrrrre Toast!”