You can wipe off that frown; the silicone twins are here to entertain! Two bucks to wrestle and five for marrying - that's what they call an investment. Your teeth have never been so white. You've never slept like this before. You will have more energy and feel less lethargic throughout the day. You will cut your coffee consumption in half.
You will become a degenerate who never leaves the house. The neighbors will gossip about you. You will not be asked to attend PTA meetings, even if you're willing to pony up. No one wants your pony. Your pony is looking in the mirror and he can't even see himself.
You did that.
Step right up and donate an organ - I'm not a doctor; I'm just hungry. Side effects? Sure. Mild. You may sprout hair on your face. Your asshole might fall out. You might shit hot blood. You might wake up in a complete panic convinced that Jay Leno is trying to steal your chin.
He can never get enough!
Think about how fantastic and amazing and fulfilling your life could be. Think about tucking yourself into some non-sentient arms and motorboating the fuck out of the rubber tata blubber. You'll have the kind of erection you haven't had since middle school. The kind that won't go away and humiliates you in front of the class.
You don't want to miss this once in a lifetime opportunity. You'll spend the rest of your life hating yourself. Your dick will hate you because it can't get painfully erect. You may black out unexpectedly, but that will make you a hit at parties.
This is a call to action! This is an opportunity that is dwindling by fractions. Come on and get you some satisfaction. Unless you're poor. Then no one wants your business. Go watch TV. Leave the postmodern love infractions to those who are worthy.
Painful. Honest. And a sad, honest critique of contemporary life. Well written as always.ReplyDelete
Yep. Funny, sad, and honest in a creepy sort of way.Delete
I live with a demon, you know. Don’t look at me that way. I’m telling you the truth.ReplyDelete
There are days he won’t let me talk to anyone. Days he tortures me with the memories of every single failure. And there have been many.
Other days, he is quiet, but on those days, he knows he doesn’t have to do anything. Every minute he doesn’t act makes my anticipation, my fear, of his next vengeance grow stronger.
It’s like watching someone hold onto a rope that’s slowly fraying, and you know it will eventually break and there’s nothing you can do to stop it.
Except he’s holding a knife, and he’s right above me, and I know that when he falls, it will be me that dies.
Demons don’t die. Even when the human they haunt dies, they just move on to the next victim.
Sometimes, we talk. Almost like married folks. We’ve been together for so long. Sometimes at night, he’ll be solicitous. He’ll remind me that I’ve tried really hard, and that surely I deserve a reward for all that trying.
And when I’m almost convinced, he’ll turn the tables on me and remind me that there are so many failures, that I can’t afford whatever reward I considered.
He turns out the lights, especially at night. He says he likes the smell of my fear. I have been afraid of the dark since I was a child, since the demon came to me.
Sometimes he holds my head and forces me to look at things I shouldn’t, don’t want to look at. Bottles of pills. Guns. Knives. Cold lakes.
“You know, it’s only me that keeps you alive,” he whispers in my ear. “And I only keep you because you amuse me. Your struggles. Your failures. Your dashed hopes.”
“And one day, I shall grow weary. Is this that day?” And he laughs, but it’s not really a laugh. It’s a taunt.
On my good days, I can hold him at the door, plug my ears and not hear him.
This is not a good day.
I have only one defense left. To call him by his name. He hates when I do that, has instructed me not to do that.
But I cannot bear it any more. I shout it out, surprised at the volume of my voice, of the pain it carries: “Get thee behind me, Despair!”
There is silence.
And then he laughs.
This hits SUPER close to home, brother. And it's really well done - the pain is palpable. I love the fraying rope.Delete
Thanks! I appreciate that!Delete
“How do you do this?” Eugene lowered his aching body to a kitchen chair and leaned his cane against the wall. On the table sat banana bread that Trudy Maxwell had brought, warmed in his oven, and cut in thick, fragrant slabs. She’d also made coffee, wonderful strong coffee, which she was pouring into his favorite mug—where had she found it? He’d been looking for that mug for days.ReplyDelete
“Oh, it’s nothing, Eugene. You just wait until the bananas are almost black, and then—”
One side of his mouth twitched up. “No. I meant… Sixty years of work. Sixty years of canvases. How do I decide which is best to show, which tells the so-called story of my life to the fullest?”
“Well…maybe you don’t.”
He glanced up quickly, nearly spilling his coffee, then righted himself. The sudden movement roused Wyeth, who’d been curled on the soft rug near the door between the kitchen and the living room. Seeing no danger, he set his snout back onto his russet paws. “Now you’re saying I was right, and I shouldn’t have agreed to this insane idea?”
“No. I think it’s a wonderful insane idea.” She stirred sugar into her own coffee and sat daintily in the chair across from his. Where Ruth used to sit. “What I meant was that perhaps you’re not the best judge of the measure of your life.”
Eugene sat up a little taller. “I most certainly think I am.”
“Interesting,” she said, with a coy and slightly irritating smile. She was just lucky the banana bread was good and that she’d found his mug and that he was just about to take a break when she rang his doorbell. Or he would have seen her right out that door.
“I’m not sure how fond I am of the inflection you gave that word.”
She leaned forward, hands pressed against the tabletop. “What I mean is perspective. You may be a little too close to the subject to have a clear picture of the whole.”
He sat back, absorbing the concept. Sometimes, the paintings he thought were utter tripe were the ones the galleries fawned over most. Sometimes he’d fall in love with a composition that others merely sniffed at. Miriam had saved from the trash a painting of Ruth that hadn’t turned out as well as he’d wanted. It now hung in her room and she wouldn’t hear of removing it.
So maybe what Trudy had said made sense after all. He rubbed his chin with a hand warmed by his coffee mug. “All right. Suppose I entertain this idea. You would perhaps recommend yourself for this task?”
“That depends.” Her eyes twinkled. “Are you asking me to help you?”
Then the ramifications rolled out in his mind. She’d be over here every day, pawing through his work. Always wanting the story. She loved stories. Why this subject, why this light, how old was her James when he painted this, why doesn’t Miriam wear her hair like that anymore when it’s so becoming…
He could hear his daughter now: “Dad. We’re all here to help each other. You don’t have to do every damn thing alone.”
“Yes.” When did his voice start sounding so small?
She fluttered her painted lashes, grinned at him, cupping a hand around her ear. “I’m sorry. I didn’t quite catch that.”
“Yes,” he groaned. “You…can help me.” Then thought, and may God help all of us. Especially me.
I love these characters, but you knew that already. And I love the tension in this scene, and its release. Looking forward to more of the painter and Wyeth and Trudy.Delete
Sometimes I feel like I write novels like a short story writer. And sometimes I feel like you write short pieces like a novelist. I'm staggered by how many rich worlds live in your head!Delete
Part 1 - I heard the wail outside my bedroom window and knew what I’d see if I pulled aside the curtain. Under the full moon, a flash of escaped sundown would be speeding across the yard, heading from the thicket between my property and the woods where she kept her home.ReplyDelete
A while ago, I would have nudged Karen and asked if she heard it--which she probably did. Karen heard everything, including things that weren't there. That's why I was sleeping alone now. She'd taken off back to her mom's after she’d heard I was seeing someone on the side. I wasn’t then, but I had about a year ago. Biggest mistake of my life.
I kicked off the covers and crept to the window anyway.
I thought I might as well get a gander while I still have a house where I can see and hear it. I parted the curtains and peered out back. There was the metallic sheen of the fox, some fuzzy small-plate entree hanging from her teeth.
It was Karen's idea to move out here, get away from the city, from her mother.
"Let's get our own place, Billy," she said one night in our old apartment, my old apartment, the one she moved into when we first got together. It was the same place that was our honeymoon love nest after she got pregnant and we married.
After little Will was born, we both knew the place was too small, too "male." She needed her own nest. Something not her mom's and something certainly not mine. So we moved into a townhouse butting up against the woods and fields I've since come to like.
It wasn't easy, what with the baby and all. The first night, or what still felt like night, the robins woke me. They went off pre-dawn, like feathered versions of the trash trucks in the city. Only louder and more persistent. Another time I had to shut the window to the screams of some unknown animal in the jaws of a nocturnal predator or maybe in the paws of furry rapture.
It happened again the next night. I decided to see what the hell it was. That was the first time I saw the fox. Karen was less than impressed.
"Shut that damn window," she whispered. "I swear, Billy, if those birds or that whatever-it-is wakes Will, I'll kill YOU. Why do you have to sleep with the goddamn window open anyway?"
"I kind of like the sounds to fall asleep to."
"Shut. The. Window," she said, her voice carrying a short-fuse tone I'd heard her mother use on her father.
But before I closed it, I looked outside. There she was. I'm assuming she was a she. The only other time I'd seen that color on a male was that actor, David Caruso. He was forgettable. She wasn't She was as I'll always remember, gleaming, moving like nothing I'd seen before.
Karen never got the hang of suburban living. I'm not sure she got the hang of the wife-and-mother thing either. When Will was about six months old, I fell from grace and had a one-week fling with an attorney from the firm down the hall from my office. It was my stupid over-reaction to postpartum depression and--in legal parlance—Karen’s “withholding of affections.”
"I'm tired, Billy, please..." she said whenever I’d touch her in bed.
"Karen, it's been months..."
"Billy, you don't have to take care of a little one all day. It's exhausting and I'm very, very tired. Maybe this weekend," she said and rolled over to face away from me.
One weekend Karen's sister told her she saw me in a joint downtown with the attorney chick after work. I was wrong, I know. I felt incredibly contrite. I loved Karen and adore Will. Together they made life so much fuller.
And then I had to get impatient and greedy.
The first time we had sex after our counselor set up our "working agreement,” as Karen called it, I could tell her heart wasn't in it. Blind horny as I was, I could tell.
The frogs chimed and the breeze was whooshed the maples, making it seem sort of Adam-and-Eve sweet. Then came the howl.
Part 2 - "Will you shut that fucking window," Karen said, tensing up and waking the Will. And that was that for our sex life.ReplyDelete
One afternoon, I took Will out back and put him in his playpen, while I started grilling some steaks. Karen watched through the patio doors, on the phone with her mom. They talked a lot more those days.
I heard her scream, "Will!"
Out the corner of my eye I saw this flash of reddish orange bounding across the yard. The setting sun made her shine like an arrogant alloy of cat and dog. I was transfixed by the sheer beauty and audacity of her appearance during daylight in a space occupied by humans.
Karen came screaming outside to grab Will as I waved my arms and shooed the fox toward the woods. As soon as it entered the shadows, it stopped, turned and looked at me. This disembodied face hanging in the dark, tauntingly smiling like: ”What are you gonna do, man?"
Karen screamed for another hour. She went from fear to outrage at me for not paying attention to Will and for being such a shit husband. The steaks weren't the only things burned that evening. Some bridges, too.
Next afternoon I was walking Will in his stroller when I ran into our neighbor, Old Man Gage. I told him about the fox.
"She feared nothing, man. Not even me."
"That's because she doesn't perceive any rival for her territory, not even those damn coyotes," he said. "You notice we ain't seen so many rabbits and chipmunks lately?"
"Umm.. I guess you're right," I said.
"Foxes been cleaning up. Now they gotta move a little farther afield for their food," Gage said. "Fox won't bother you less it's rabid. And we ain't seen rabies since that skunk thing two years ago. It'll be pretty quiet over the winter. Come spring, kits on the way, it'll pick up again."
"Uh huh," I said. Will began to get a little fractious, so we headed back to the house. Karen was on the phone with her mom.
In March she told me she was leaving me to go back to her mom. The divorce papers said she was requesting full custody of Will. An attorney friend--not the woman who had smashed the champagne bottle across the bow of this sunken ship of a marriage--said it would take a lot of dough and a better lawyer than him to fight it.
I also heard she was pregnant. So much for regaining a joyous foothold in our marital bed.
Now here I was, alone in the suburbs, missing my boy, angry, defeated, feeling picked clean. Then I heard the fox, saw her headed for the woods. She stirred visceral need in me. Wasn't sure what it was until yesterday.
On my morning run along the County Road, an oncoming car veered across the yellow line toward me. It whizzed by, sucking the air after it, leaving behind a taste of exhaust and despair.
As I turned back to my run, I caught a glint of copper across the road thirty yards ahead. A chill ran through me because I knew what I’d just seen and I didn't want to see more. But my way home took me past the spot where she lay, still in harm's way.
I crossed the road and saw her, victim of a rival she never expected, her eyes vacant and glassy. I then saw another four-wheeled predator headed toward where we were on the road.
I'm not sure what possessed me. She was well-past saving and it being a bigger deal that I get back to the house and shower for another soulless commute. But I grasped her forepaws and dragged her to the weeds off the shoulder, as the next car and another blew past in oblivious whoosh-whoosh succession.
It was then I noticed it, the rolling, almost bubbling shift of the skin of her taut round belly. I left her there and walked, outright weeping, all the way home.
What was I to do? I called in sick and found a new attorney.
This wasn't the most striking memory I'll own of her, though it still shares space in my nightmares. No, I want to remember her as when we met. Gleaming, moving, free.
She’d been The Bride for a whole season. The photos from her wedding portfolio had graced the covers of all the industry magazines. She’d been photographed in stately homes, in down-at-heel Soho bars, and one time underwater, the chlorine’s chemical taint impregnating her hair and her body. Denise had told her it’d changed the flavour of her skin, a base note which had refused to be hidden.ReplyDelete
Summer ‘18 had been her Honeymoon season. Her agency had thought it an inspired twist – the follow-through from the ‘wedding’ – a startling torrent of photos shot in Cantabria. This season featured swimsuits and beaches, dresses in bold colours set against crumbling ruins, but it had also included a sub-theme of ‘after-hours’ images. It’d almost been like sitting for boudoir sessions, the only difference being a shadowy man who appeared in almost every photo. He was a feature which added verisimilitude to the shoot – a faceless, nameless man who’d become known as The Groom – the agency thinking his resemblance to a certain footballer would stimulate further interest.
It had worked.
That was the season she’d become famous. She’d become a mononym, the agency dropping her surname from her promotional material. There’d been more photo-shoots than ever, her travels taking her to Hong-Kong and Singapore, then Japan. She was hardly ever at home, only seeing Denise in video-form, their hands reaching out for one another, but only touching their phones’ screens, the coldness of the glass a poor substitute for a body’s heat.
And now she was shooting her Widow season. Although she might as well be dead, for all the joy it was bringing her. Denise was now no more; she’d needed the passions of a woman she could touch, someone who could lay alongside her in her bed, mess-up her hair and her makeup. Somebody who was normal who could satiate the needs she had.
Norma was a celebrity now. She’d become an icon. The Widow was far beyond the reach of lowly mortals.