“Diatomaceous Earth” is from Schaff’s short story collection, Say Something Nice About Me, our prose selection for 2016 which we will publish this fall.
Like much of Schaff’s prose, “Diatomaceous Earth” is a haunting, naturalistic tale, heavy on dialogue, showcasing the many forms intimacy between two people can take.
After combing through online chat rooms devoted to households plagued by indoor ants, Ella, Stephen, and I finally settled on a remedy that sounded feasible and only mildly dangerous: diatomaceous earth, a powdery, porous substance that occurs naturally, is safe near food preparation, but illegal to sell in Ann Arbor. I purchased a bottle online.
When it arrived, days after my afternoon with Ella and Stephen, Gerry was downstairs with me. He thought we should celebrate me being done with all my papers. Also, he felt hopeful about getting the job in Dearborn. “The interview went great. They responded well to my enthusiasm.”
Gerry’s enthusiasm. My secret, gloomy future. I guess that’s why he and I had ended up in bed again, which is where we were when I heard the mail delivered. I put on a robe to go outside, and when I returned to the bedroom, I held out the package to Gerry. “I’m being proactive about my ant problem, see?”
Together, we laid the trail of diatomaceous earth: behind the toaster, leading from and to the hole Ella had spotted. “That’s where they’re coming from,” I told Gerry. “They’ll come out, gather the powder on their little bodies, and without realizing it, take it back with them to their nest.”
I shuddered, in spite of my new conviction. “Eventually, they all dry out, become little husks of their former selves.”
Sara Schaff’s fiction has appeared in FiveChapters, Southern Indiana Review, Carve Magazine, and elsewhere. A graduate of Brown University and the MFA program at the University of Michigan, she has taught in China, Colombia, and Northern Ireland, where she also studied storytelling. Sara is a visiting assistant professor of creative writing at Oberlin College. Find links to her work at saraschaff.com.
More of Sara Schaff: