Imaginary Company by Laura Theis

Imaginary Company

Della is not a good person. 
She is in fact not a person at all, but if she were one, she would not be a good one.

She would take too many selfies & steal other people’s jokes without crediting them & lie about the times she messed up, trying to shift the blame.

Della would have a pet bird, but not a nice one. An angry grey parrot who hates everyone & shits everywhere. (Can you tell I am very lonely? Can you tell I am slowly going insane? If I invented Della, why does she have to be like this?)

Della would live in my house but refuse to pay rent. Della would not believe in the concept of doing the dishes & she’d leave her shit everywhere. Just like her stinky horrible bird.

If I asked Della if she would like a sandwich when I’m making myself a sandwich she would say no but once I had finished making mine she would swoop in and eat three quarters of it (sometimes even three thirds).

Della is never sorry. Della and I have almost nothing in common except an aversion to cleaning but hers is stronger so I always crack first.

Della doesn’t do cuddles or hugs. Della sometimes reminds me of my mother when she does the disapproving eyebrows but at least my mother was beautiful.

Della’s face is boring to look at. Her mouth is so snarly. Della does not have any useful hobbies or curious opinions. Why is she here? In my house, in my mind? Why isn’t she sexy or inspiring?

Life was so much better before Della started appearing everywhere. I loved living in a home free of bird shit though I guess I never appreciated it at the time.

I loved my solitude. What a treasure. Staring into nothing in the mornings in the kitchen. Sometimes dancing, or reading. Without attracting a judgemental scowl.

I know that I could kill her & it would be much easier than killing a real human. I could do it with just my mind. There would be no body to dispose of. It would not, technically, count as a crime. Just a thought crime perhaps. No one knows about those.

I could even let her beg for mercy right before I did it. Della really brings out the worst in me. Of course I’m never going to do it. I just know if I did that parrot would stick around looking at me accusingly all hours of the day, stopping me sleeping at night.

Della seems to have read my thoughts. She catches my eye & shrugs. I have not seen her so thoughtful before.

I think the point of me is this: When I move out, she says, you’ll hate the things you hate about your life right now just a tiny little bit less. 

I agree it’s something to look forward to in this uncertain future.
(She hasn’t made any effort to leave as of yet.)

Laura Theis grew up in Germany and writes songs, fiction, and poetry in her second language. A Forward Prize nominee and AM Heath Prize recipient, as well as the winner of the Oxford Brookes Poetry Prize, the Mogford Short Story Prize, and the Hammond House International Literary Award, she was runner-up for both of the 2021 Mairtin Crawford Awards, shortlisted for the Alpine Fellowship Writing Prize, and a finalist for several other awards including the BBC Short Story Award and the UK National Poetry Competition. Her debut collection ‘how to extricate yourself’ won the Brian Dempsey Memorial Prize, was nominated for an Elgin Award and selected as an Oxford Poetry Library Book of the Month. Her work has been widely anthologised, appears in places like POETRY, Mslexia, Rattle, Strange Horizons, AE SciFi, Asimov’s (forthcoming) and Aesthetica, and was published in the UK, Ireland, Belgium, Germany, Canada and the U.S. She lives in Oxford with her partner, a neuroscientist, and her dog, a lunatic. 


Art: Angelo Jank Public Domain ALT A woman holding a fruit beneath a green parrot


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