Saturday, July 16, 2016

Revenge of the Family Idiot - part 1 (Horrible Marriages Collection)

        There were Stacy, Tracy, Lacey, Casey and Lola, in that order, from first to last. Lola because Lou, the father of the five girls, had prayed this was the last one, and as such, wanted to have a say in naming the closer. He loved the catchy tune on the radio, never realizing what it was about, or who the Lola in the song had been.
        Stacy senior, Lou’s wife and mother of five girls, was too tired to argue. Lola it was.
        It was Lola who started the trouble. Stacy, Tracey and Lacey had already been married to various local men for a number of years and Casey was dating Luke, a plumber from two towns over, when Lola introduced Grant to the family.
        “Oh, he's a handsome one! You’re a handsome one!” Stacy senior passed the looks and the smirks like a card dealer passes bad hands around a card  table.
        “Mom, stop it, your embarrassing him,” said Lola, quietly.
        “Oh no, that's ok,” said Grant, scanning the dining table and the family of young women. “I'm flattered.”
        “Casey,” scolded Lacey, “stop staring like that! Jesus, your not twelve! And anyhow, how's Luke? He still your boyfriend?”
        Casey rolled her eyes and licked her fork and looked at Lola and then looked at Grant long enough to make anyone who was watching uncomfortable.
        It took Grant one week to find his way into Casey’s bed. It took him an extra week to convince Lacey that sex was meaningless and married or not just didn't matter.
        “Bowling, shopping, sex, really – if you look at it - what's the difference?”
It didn't have to make sense. Lacey had long been jealous of Lola for being so different, so young, so unbound and so damned nice.
        Grant and Lacey didn't even speak. They didn't even really enjoy it. Her husband left the house, Grant came in, they undressed, got busy and then got dressed again and he left. Not a single word. By the time Grant left, Lacey was pregnant.
 End of part 1

Thursday, July 14, 2016

The Hit (Horrible Marriages Collection)

        “It's not that I never liked him – I liked  him enough -  if it mattered anyhow, which it doesn't,” she hissed.
        “I want him dead. I want it to hurt. I want him dead and then bring him back so you can kill him again, right away, right now…”
The hit-man squinted. “That's twice the cash, even if I could… I'm no expert, but even if I could, it ain't right...”
She smiled and the words sliced through clenched teeth, “You have no problem killing him once but..,” she said and shook her head.
        Stupidity. Killers. Assholes. Dropouts – they make it look like something in the movies.  A hit man is a losers loser: Bad breath, bad manners, dirty, filthy, stupid third-grade dropouts.
“Listen to me! Every week goes by I have to pay that schmuck to live, to breath, to exist in this world just to bust my ass and remind me of what a god damned fool I was in the very first god-damned place. Every check, every dollar in every check - every single cent in every dollar makes universes of hatred explode in my head! No more! Can you kill him with a pretzel? That would hurt! Do it!  No! Wait! I have a crow bar in the trunk – drive over there now,” she exhaled, spun sideways, took one deep breath and continued.
“If he calls me again, if he texts me again, if he sends me one more email about how I have to pay for one more god damned piece of dental work or asshole-doctor bill or lawyers bill – His lawyer is psychopath!! How can it happen? A lying, cheating, monster who should never have been allowed to survive birth!  - I'll pay you triple to kill his attorney! If you kill them together – make them watch each other die - I'll give you six million dollars….” The blood had flushed out and up darkening her face, a web of hate in veins emerged across her forehead.
The hit-man licked his lips. It was adding up.
“Lady, if I kill them both, together…” He smiled and she saw the missing teeth in the back, “And I do’em twice! How much is that?”
She was losing her grasp. “A hundred and sixty-six million! You could get new teeth! I have the cash in the trunk next to the crow bar! Believe it! One more threatening letter about how I'm a day late with the payment! Mother of God, he hasn't worked in eleven years and for that I have to pay? Because he can't pay for himself? What in Gods miserable plan is that?”
“Sounds fishy to me…” said the hit man, uncomfortably.
“I'm a woman!! It's supposed to be the other way around! I'm suppose to screw him silly! Not the other way around! Even the judge said it wasn't right – but the law is the law, is the law - and he wants to be a stay at home dad and I agree and now I have to pay for that? It's not even his kid! Did you know that! Because he's a good for nothing, mooching, low-life son of a bitch who tricked me, stole from me, lied and lied and cheated me and broke the law and lied again and used me and…”       She burst into tears.
“You’re a mess, lady.”
She wiped a line of tears from her face with a quick swipe.
“I'm a mess? Me? I'm a mess?” She stood and knocked the chair back and over. It bounced a few times on the tiled floor. The folks in the diner all turned their heads.
  “He  smiles at me in court! Did you know that? The same pretend smile he used when we were dating! Norwegian fisherman - my ass! The same pretend smile he used for the shrink when we were in therapy. The same smile he used to talk me and everyone else and himself into thinking he wasn't anything but human! HE’S NOT HUMAN!”
The words roared out of her mouth. She leaned back and the echo of the words blended into the words themselves and caused a horrible sound -  all of eternity - the sound of the pain and destruction of hope and peace and the collision of stars and…
        She fell backward, and collapsed across the overturned chair.
        The hit-man leaned over the table and watched the starburst blossoms of pink and red and blue grow beneath the thin flesh of the woman's forehead. She was dead. He stood, rolled a toothpick into his stupid mouth and grabbed the keys to her car from the table.
        “Yep,” he thought, “that's a hundred and sixty something million for me – and nothing for you!

The end.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Sweet Little Things - Part 2 (Horrible Marriages Collection)

Part 2

        I braced myself for the attack. It was a ritual.
       “King of the mountain! King of the mountain!”
  I am the mountain. No one ever won that contest. The mountain tumbled every time.
        They'd gotten as far as they could before I scooped them up and rolled them, elbows over giggles onto the soft, Persian  rug.
        “Your getting slow, Lurch!” Squealed Simone.
        “You're getting heavy!” I replied, honestly.
        I was Lurch; from the Adams family. They found that unlikely association hilarious. Especially when I tried the voice.
        After nuggies, a belch contest, and silly how-do-you-do, the girls composed themselves. I received a years worth of catch-up in a six-minute, stereophonic, high speed summary, which ended with four handed vote that my hairline had receded, and it was a sad state of affairs for my nonexistent love-life. They then slowly gravitated  to the photo wall.
Annette and Simon  reviewed their achievements without blinking or snickering or shrugging. It was what it was.
        “Balmoral is up,” said Simone, gently to Annette.
        “I see it,” replied Annette.
        The children were blameless. I'd known them as infants. Born hand in hand with identical physical  and emotional features; they entered the world well meaning, soft and wide-eyed.
        “What a doozie,” said Annette.
        “You could say that again,” replied Simone flatly.
        “What a doozie,” said Annette, sincerely and without a trace of sarcasm.
           Nothing in those small bone bags  betrayed the ongoing wake of destruction pointing to their next adventure.
“Way too many candles.”
“Don't you think Felicia might have…”
“Ladies!” My friend interrupted, “It's Mom, not Felicia – and don't you even think about blaming her for that one!”
“Where is your mother by the way?”
“Felic… I mean,” said Simone, “Mom is showing the guys with the  trucks how to get around the Glass-House.”
“The greenhouse,” corrected Annette.”
“We don't have a greenhouse..,” said my friend.
The girls giggled and blinked knowingly.
“…we have a greenhouse?” He asked..
The girls laughed again and turned away..
“Hey! Hey wait! What's the truck about?”
Annette and Simone had flung open a pair of French doors that lead to some vast field studded with statuary and fountains. They made for the field.
“Ladies!” He exclaimed.
They halted.
“The truck?” He repeated.
“Bullfrogs stuck in the waste-line,” said Annette evenly  to her feet.
“We’re not sure,” continued Simone, clearly mimicking something she'd heard, “but there seem to be other drama-fixations.”
My good friend put a palm to his forehead. “Ramifications?”
“Oh yes, that's it!”
I couldn't help myself.
“Simone,” I asked, “you didn't say truck, you said trucks. Like, more than one?”
“Three. Three trucks, one with a thingamajig on the front, and one with that basket gizmo on top.”
“And,” Annette added, “one regular one.”
And then no one said anything.
The silence was nearly frightening. Off in the distance bullfrogs could be heard echoing over various hillsides. The long afternoon shadows stretched the statues and fountains into exclamation points against the sloping fields. Cicadas called the evening closer.
After the girls had left, my friend looked up at me and said nothing again.
I had a few more questions but thought better than to break the silence.

 End of part 2

Friday, July 8, 2016

Sweet Little Things - part 1 (Horrible Marriages Collection)

     A  friend of mine tells me he's up to ‘here’ with his kids.
     “They spent the morning filling the washing machine with bullfrogs from the pond.  Felt bad for them,  all that dirty pond water…”
     We stood in his yard and looked first at the well manicured pond in the distance, and then back to the house where, from all appearances, there was peace and order and prosperity.
     He chewed his bottom lip and winced. “After the first rinse…” he gurgled, looked away and managed to squeak out,  “I have ha hard time talking about it…”
     “You have a washing machine?”
     “I didn't know it either, until…” His eyes glazed up.
     “Filled?” I made like measuring with my hands.
     “Up,” he said, through fist full of knuckles.
      I was going to ask another question – there were a few – but he shook his fist out of his mouth and headed for the house.
     This friend of mine, a white linen and straw hat in the summer guy, met his wife – a floppy sun hat over face covering sun shades in the summer gal – while traveling the islands by yacht to visit his offshore wealth.
     The twins arrived in Provence . They were christened in Florence, and had their tiny, pale-pink ears pierced in Shanghai by a well know monk who did those sorts of things for pale-pink people.
     “Girls. You figure less problems.”
     I laughed.
     “They've cost me,” he offered.
     He rifled off properties by location, “Bonnieux, Taiyuan, Balmoral… dear sweet lord, I watched that one slide down the beach and  slip in flames into the sea.”
     “They're what, eight? Nine?” I asked.
     “Three au-pairs, two assistants, one manager, and Felicia. The au-pairs know karate. Did you know that?”
     I didn't.
     “Yep. They also speak seven languages between them. They can drive blindfolded – some C.I.A trick they picked up in their training… you’d figure…”
     “Balmoral Beach - They all thought it would be a nice surprise for me. All of them! Filled the terrace with birthday candles – front to back, top to bottom. It never occurred to them…”
     We passed through the library annex to the reading room.
     “Have you been in here?” He nodded to a row of photos framed in silver leaf on a wall of plush red velvet with brown trim.
     The images were all black and white and mostly grey; smoke, splinters, crowds of people – mostly fleeing - animals in various states of discordant repose…
      “I've hired consultants to assist them with touchy issues: how to best feed the pets without collateral damage; which beach toys are least likely to produce deadly results; how to enter and exit a wildlife preserve without loss of life or property…”
     I stroked the edge of one of frames. The evidence of some growing malignant failure was on display without rancor or malicious intent. It wasn't the wall of shame. The photos were not a punishment or complaint; they were the family vacation pictures, unedited, objective, and direct.
     I hadn't been in the annex, hadn't seen the images or heard about half the stories behind them. A few more questions bubbled up in my brain.
     “Here they are! Simone, Annette, look who's here!”

End of part 1

Friday, July 1, 2016

Hogtied & Swearing (Horrible Marriages Collection)

“Nardo, what am I looking at here?”
“Couple, married. He's hogtied to a dining chair and dangling from the roof over here, on this side – and she, well, I don't think I have to explain it, Sir – but she's dangling from the roof off the other end of the rope on that side.”
And she was. Tied and bound to a children's wooden hobbyhorse, calico, with hearts and something that looked like red bursts of flowers… she was mostly naked except for the charred remains of Bo-Peep Halloween costume.
“It's her blood, sir. Oh wait, they're at it again.”
“You son of a bitth!” She lisped over the second story aluminum gutter, getting her chin up over it, lifting herself, ass-skyward, with her neck and enough hatred to do such a thing.
“He needed braces! You moaned about the braces – I got your God damned braces!”
The second engine company arrived as the fire flared up around the tightly knit hedges surrounding most of the house.
“Sir, The first engine company was nearly completely  incapacitated when the garage exploded – oh, here comes...”
“I'll kill you! And Irene, when we get down, I'll kill the both of you, all three of you!”
“He's talking about the in-laws, apparently they don't see eye to eye on many issues. The children are a sticking point.”
“Let her be! She had a baby! Let her be, she's depressed! Let her be, she's having a – Christ on a stake! Some-one of you schmucks pull a gun and just shoot me in the head! For the love of Christ!”
“Sir, I can do that for him.”
“Put that strap back on your holster, Sergeant..”
“Are we leaning something here?”
The words skidded over the rooftop, echoed into the early morning sky. “ We should be learning something!! Growing somehow! Try something new! What a jackass!”
She replied, “None of this is me! This is all you! I am none of this! All yours! Where the hell is Gary! Why haven't you assholes gotten us down yet! I can't feel my fingers, and the blood is running up into my eyes and my head…”
“Sweet Jesus! Do you hear it, complaining! Even now! Like this, with her panties on fire! Hanging from the roof! Never a space, never a god damned space for even a second!”
“Nardo, who’s Gary, and why haven't we cut them down yet?”
But the answer to the second question came as two Channel Six News vans pulled up and large cash transactions were immediately conducted.  Equipment rocketed into tripod ready action on the street in front of the now flaming home.
“Yeah, that's not right.”
“Oh! Oh yeah! Here she goes!”
“That's it, turn it all around! Go ahead! Like anyone – ANYONE - will believe you! Just shut up! SHUT your pie-hole!”
“Oh god, I'm losing blood! Get me down! I think I'm gonna pass out!”
“Ok, that's enough – get them both down.”
But no one moved.
“You hear that? Me? Always the same! ME!” It came with tears over blood.
The flames took to the white painted siding. They warn you not to paint it… Pink flames, almost quaint against the white siding and the green lawn.
The neighbors had been barricaded at a safe distance, children sent off with the more sensitive adults to avoid having to carry this burden, question this horror and its coming to be.
Barry was in the crowd. He didn't have the guts to step up there, step into that… whatever that was, and claim ownership as their couples therapist. Nope, not a chance. He found himself blending into the crowd.
The crowd.
 They turned their heads up to the scene and then away as waves of nausea danced over waves of delight and despair. Delight because everyone in the neighborhood hated those folks, and despair because each and every one of them had the same thought – there but for the grace of God…..

The end

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Lily - part 2 (Horrible Marriages Collection)

     Lily lay in bed and cursed herself for the habit of wearing socks to sleep. It worked in the winter, but in July the kitchen sent up hot drafts of midnight air through the floorboards.  It was a long-reach or a pretzel-twist; she went for the twist and sent the socks into the air with enough verve to never have to see them again.
     “Cmon Earl!”
      Not a sound.
     “I can hear you down there, Earl! Hell, I can smell you down there, Earl!”
     She loved the smell of him. She'd told him when they'd met, and reminded him frequently. He reminded her that she also loved the smell of buffalo manure.  And turpentine. And car exhaust..,
      “Earl, your not making things better here! Your making them worse! You know what I'm like when I don't get sleep!”
     Lily knew Earl. She’d seen the results of his efforts in just about every arena. It was all bleak, except for his lovemaking. He excelled in that area, or maybe he didn't -  she'd had nothing to compare it to - but she liked to believe he did. She pushed her pillow against some of the possible outcomes of her cajoling, the threats, the looks, and began to regret the sudden lapse in what had been endless patience with her man.
     “Put down the shotgun and come on up here before you hurt yourself!”
     Nothing on top of  exhausted nothing. It would end badly. She thought it but was too drunk and tired and worn out to do much more than roll over into the heat.

End of part 2

Lights Out (Horrible Marriages Collection)

(A story originally created as a submission to "The Big Ugly Review", for which I never received a receipt notification. It seems my little story might have simply been the last ugly straw for a seven-issue flash, but who knows - maybe they were just hiding from me. It's a Horrible Marriage story. -
Here it is so I don't feel like I totally wasted a handful of small words.)

“We were robbed.” 
She pushed the words forward against the carpet as she crawled.
“We what?”
Rusty wiggled around on hands and knees, nicked his chin on the edge of a side table and hissed, “This is what I’m talking about, Mare. This kind of thing, it’ll ruin us!”
He pulled the black mask up to his nose, felt the damage and eyed his wife angrily. 
In the unfamiliar room, soft moonlight crisscrossed with sharp shadows over her black bodysuit. Her full, pouting lips struck through the hole in her mask – those bright blue eyes - Mary filled the image of everything he loved about her in that very moment: the daring, the sexy innocence, the romantic thrill-seeker. She’s killing me, he thought, but…
“I’m sorry,” she said, “I just feel like we’ve been robbed here.”
And the moment was over.
Rusty yanked his mask down and hissed through the mouth-hole, “You and me, we’re robbing this house and you say, ‘We were robbed.’ He trembled. “That’s what’s costing us! That’s why we’re in therapy! That’s why we’re robbing this house to pay for that therapy!
Mary rolled gently onto her back in the plush carpet, held up the empty black sack and waved it theatrically. “Does this look familiar, Rusty? It’s our take tonight. Empty! Looks like most other nights!” 
Saying it brought tears of regret to her eyes, a mad torrent of haphazard regrets.
“Mare! Mare! Hang on now! Shhhh!” he ‘shushed’ her, didn’t want to. Her crying was so important - he’d learned in therapy without really understanding why – but he had to ‘shush’ her because of the headlights arcing, bouncing, filling the whole room, accompanied by the sound of an engine cutting off and…
“Mare! Mare! You can cry later, I promise you – I know it’s important to you, I swear it! but we gotta go! Now!
Rusty tried cool for Mary but instead stumbled over the hardwood floor off the living room and skinned his forehead on the dining room breakfront. 
Mary kept one eye on her husband’s enthusiasm and another on the front door as she effortlessly rolled through the darkened house.
They’d made it to the rear door of the house, stood on its threshold when they heard the keys, the lock, and the nauseating sound of light-hearted conversation. Lights went on in adjacent rooms.
Mary held Rusty tightly against the back door in the half-lighted kitchen. “Did you mean it?”
“Mean what? Let me go! C’mon Mare, let’s get out of here!”
“Mean what you said about letting me cry?” She felt Rusty’s fear building.
“Whatever it takes Mare! I’ll do whatever it takes!”
That could have meant many things, but Mary put it where she wanted it and that was enough for her.
A husband walked into his kitchen, turned on the light. The back door was open and an empty black sack draped the threshold.
He turned to his wife and said, “We were robbed.”

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