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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Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Buddha Thug - "Red eye" (Horrible Marriages Collection)

     The plane's tight: tight seats, thin air, narrow aisle, narrow folks, pinched faces and Bud. 
     Bud's wedged into row 21, seat B.
     It's an hour before midnight with little hope of finding Chicago through the squeeze of ice and wind without the wings flailing hard enough to make every soul on that jet pray they've done enough good to make a difference in the eyes of a wrathful God. Everyone's preparing. The silence says so. Everyone except for the woman in row 20, seat A. She's not worried. She's done with God, done with good, done with it all - she's all done. 
     "What!" She shrieks at her husband, "What is it! What! Tell me! What!?" Her voice is hateful. She's putting every ounce of done and nasty into each word, waiting for her husband to finally snap, spin around, break her neck. She wants him to end it, put his once loving hands around her throat - right there, near Detroit, before the plane has a chance to do it for him. 
     The man can't. 
     But Bud, he's thinking he might be able to lend the old couple a hand.  The foul woman's husband is in even worse shape than she is. He can't articulate his own horror.  He simply shakes his bony skull. A bit of tired white hair forgets where it belongs and so gives up trying, dangles air-born.
     "I asked you! What! You made a face! What was it? What is it!? What? Tell me!" It's toe curling. Bud's thinking he can reach through between the seats, get one arm around, if he can't reach her, he can at least reach him. cause Bud's thinking, 'if I get one of of'em I got both of'em'
      "Jesus Christ! It's my back! My back!"
     And the old man saying it is her reward. He's in pain. Good, her lips smack with joy. She sucks the last ice-cube from a soft-drink cup - bangs the upturned thing into her mouth - smacks the bottom of it with glee.  She looks over, leans in on the old man and whispers, "What! What was that? You just said something - I heard something !" But the old man simply turns away.
     The plane lands in Chicago just past midnight. The woman in 20A stands triumphantly, lips pursed, head bobbing, she stretches to show her husband what it's like.
     "What!? What was that face!?" It starts again.
     Bud wants to step on her foot, fix he breaks.  He's looking at their bags. One of them has a tag - if he gets a glimpse of the address... 
     "I need help with this bag." She says out-loud, to no one  and everyone. At this point Bud would have to get on line to garret the hag. The folks on the plane are tired, cramped and it's that moment before the cabin door is opened, the teeth-gnashing moment everyone feels will be the final moment of sanity before eternal chaos and confusion.
     Bud stands and smiles. Those nearby give him a dirty look. Is he crazy? A young man elbows Bud. A woman with a child in her arms shakes her head with disgust. 
     Bud's a big guy, six-two. He's over the woman, his large head suspended directly over her face. It looks like Bud may just clamp his mouth right over the small woman's head and have done with her. But no, his smile is his weapon. He's so close she can see the bubbles on each strand of saliva as his broad mouth widens. He reaches around the woman to get at the bag in the overhead storage compartment. As he does his body envelops the hateful woman, just for a moment. He doesn't take his eyes from hers. She doesn't flinch. There is no threat, no worse, no this or that or here or there or I and it for this creature. 
     When Bud puts the heavy bag in her hand, the woman says nothing. Her husband doesn't even watch the exchange. He has no hope left at all. Their misery is perfect. Transcendent. As the crowd ruts down the aisle a moment later, some folks are grumbling, snickering, yawning their way into the welcoming gusts of icy Chicago wind.
     Bud's still got a smile on his face. He'd met his match. He thought he's seen the worst of the worst: Killers, addicts, lunatics and mountains of self-righteous, self-doubting, self-hating sufferers clogged the city's and fouled the countryside, but this pair.... No. Bud caught that address on the travel bag, but he'd never visit. He owned that. Meddling in the old couples lives, or deaths, that would just pour bad karma on eternal misery. He, like everyone else that had the misfortune of running into that tragic pair, had to draw that horror in, hold it, feel it, and then either let it go or suffer the consequences. 
    The strength of their hatred for each other had eclipsed into a singularity, a black hole of undifferentiated fury. Nearness meant oneness. Oneness meant....
    Bud blanched at the thought of it, turned up his collar and steadied himself into the wind.

The end

Monday, June 27, 2016

Desperation Hill (Horrible Marriages Collection)

      "Ralph felt it first, the pull."
      "Yep, in the bathroom. I felt it in the bathroom."
      "What was that like? We're you frightened?"
    "Nah. I was checking to see if the hair treatment was working, you know - its been a while, nothing on top moving - and that's when It hit me!"
      "Was it a voice, a picture in your mind of this mountainous area or something like that?"
      "No, just a tugging feeling. At first it was awful, I thought I was going crazy. Like I needed something, I didn't know what, but whatever it was I needed it bad! Usually I'm watching the high school  varsity cheerleaders over the fence at Regional when I get that feeling!  Har-Har!! Well, The next thing I know, I'm in my car, up here on  Sunset Rock, waiting for the spaceship to arrive."
    "That's how I found him! Ha! He was in his car, no pants and shaving cream still on his chin!"
      "I didn't want to miss it."
      "Miss what?"
      "The ship."
      "We're all here for the ship!"
      "Actually, I don't know about them, I'm waiting for God."
      "Oh? They didn't tell me that was part of the story - God, you say? From, uh - up there?"
      "No, we'll, maybe. I can feel that he'll be inside the ship."
      "Wait, I thought the ship was going to take us to Sanctuary."
      "I don't know about him, I didn't feel no tugging  - I used a map! When Ralph called Eddie here, Eddie called me and told me where it was. I needed a map cause we just moved here from New Mexico after the plant shut down."
      Is the rest of your family going to join you?"
      "Not mine. They're not believers."
      "Who said God was com'in out of the ship? Ralph, did you say anything about that?"
      "Eddie said, 'I'm heading over to see Ralph but there's no more beer in the cooler. Would ya mind getting a case of two, is what he said. "
      "First thing will be I won't have a drinking problem no more either."
      "My wife won't be joining us until she sees its for real. That's what I said about couples therapy!! Haha! It'll teach her!! Couple this!"
      "How many of you are there up here, waiting for the ship, or God, or what-have-you?"
      Sixteen. Maybe twenty, unless - Edna! Anyone seen Edna? Huh? Maybe her kids might stay behind."
      "Any other kids?"
      "KJ and hers, but she told'em to shut up when they said they were scared, now we don't know where they are..."
      "Florence and Tammy are sixteen, maybe they're kids - Willy, your girls kids?"
      "Uh. No. That's why we're going you dumb-shit!"
      "Did Florence and Tammy feel the pull?"
      "Ha! You might say that!"
      "Knocked up - both of'em!"
      "Shouldn't they be in school?"
      "Yeah, and not knocked up and we should all be hanging up our firearms! Ha!"
      "What kind of arrangements have you made with your worldly possessions?"
      "You mean what we owe or what we got after the Sheriff auctions our belongings?"
     "Will you leave any kind of legacy?"
      "Dorothy wrote a nice letter and her husband - shhh.. He's a retard- he's going to chisel it into a rock and glue purple glitter to it so we will always be remembered."
     "Do you know exactly when the ship will arrive? and how long will you wait if it doesn't arrive at the expected time."
      "I say it's coming tonight, Eddie says before the beer runs out,  which is shortly, and Meg said she felt like it might be next Tuesday but she's not taking any chances."
    "I'm never going back, come ship, God, or if I'm just going to drop dead here from exposure."
      "Wow, that's some sense of dedication! And with that, I'm Darlene Overunster for DBJ news at ten, on Drake Hill overlooking Sam's Diner on Little Route Six, with a handful of would-be space travelers and die hard hopefuls who believe tomorrow may bring a brighter day! Good night!"

end of part 1

Lily -part 1 (Horrible Marriages Collection)

            Roger sat silently in the dark kitchen with the shotgun resting over one knee.
He was perfectly still in the hot, black air. The sweat dripped ticklish down his neck but he didn't flinch, didn't take the barrel of the gun off his mark, and kept his index finger so gently against the smooth black steel tab that he could feel the blood pulsing in his fingertip.
The kitchen got hot in late June. By early July it was nearly unbearable.
The air conditioners were still in the basement, where they'd been the day the signed the papers on the house. As far as he knew, they worked, but he hadn't bothered.
She'd warned him. He'd ignored her.
He hadn't bothered; hadn't bothered much of a job either, or kids for that matter. He hadn't bothered with a paint job for the kitchen, which needed it badly. Eight years of high-gloss banana yellow. It peeled about an inch each July, from the top down. He'd measured it once. Beneath the yellow was something lime-green possibly paisley, maybe mold - it didn't make a difference - during the day it made an uncaring man wince.
She'd warned him. Enough was enough.
"Earl, you're deaf to reason. I can't ask you again, if I ask you again, you're on your own."
In the dark he allowed himself a grin. She'd called him Earl from the day they had met. "Your parents were fools to name you Roger.  There's not a speck of Roger in you."
He called her Angel. That was the front and back of his romantic side. He hung onto the pet name more out of laziness than anything else. Her name was Lily. At thirty-five, Lily suited her as well as Angel. Tall, strong, smooth-skinned and topped with a wild mop of flame colored hair; he had no defense against such a creature. They'd arm wrestled during their courtship. If he was drunk enough she'd beat him. If she was drunk enough she'd let him wrestle her into the bedroom.
No one was there for the wedding at the county clerks office. The secretary was the witness. It was a hot day in June when they tied the knot.
She'd warned him. And now he sat with a finger on a smooth tab of black steel, waiting for revenge, a last resort, the result of laziness more than lack of caring.

End of part 1

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Flying Dreams ("Horrible Marriages" Collection)

"I keep having dreams about beautiful things; flying, finding love, visiting mysterious and beautiful cities..."
"Maybe you ate something..."
"Childhood crushes come back, grown women, large eyed, asking about me. Don't you have dreams like that?" 
"Never. Mostly I'm eating peanuts in a bar, and the bartender can't find me. He's got my beer and I'm dry mouthed and really need that beer."
"That sounds like some kind of lacking too."
"Sometimes I have dreams about wrestling alligators. I think they're alligators. They could be crocodiles. I'm not sure it matters."
"I've never wrestled any kind of animal in my dreams."
"I wrestle them about three times a week."
"How does it turn out?"
"The other night I woke up as a big one was about to chew my face off. I went to punch it in the snout. I woke up just in time to see my fist heading for Gloria. I was laughing when I punched her in the head."
"Oh dear."
"She wasn't happy being punched out in her sleep. She saw me smiling too. I tried to explain it."
"How'd that go?"
"Not so well."
"Sometimes I'm flying around naked, just over the tops of the trees. It feels wonderful, natural -except for the 'I'm-flying' part, I suppose - but then I'm aware that people might see me. For some reason it seems awful and wrong that people might see me flying around in the sky naked."
"Your a stranger guy."
"Birds fly in the sky naked. Whales float in the ocean naked all day long, for their entire lives. They float and look up at the stars and eat a bit here and there."
"Yeah, how's Samantha and the kids?"
"The kids are good. Good."
"We kill each other two or three times a day. When we're not killing each other, we're trying to convince each other to commit suicide."
"But the kids are good."
"How long you guys been married?"
"Two hundred and fifty six years, this coming June."
"That's a long time."
"Sometimes I fly up over the coast, touching the clouds - I pick up speed - and before I know it I'm in another country, pleasant places, open air markets, cities of tunnels, giant, impossible buildings..."
"You’re still naked?"
"No, no. But I get fearful, I can't find my way, or I've realized I had my children with me and now they're gone. I panic."
"Can't you just enjoy it?"
"Doesn't seem to be an option... There are no choices - sometimes there are trains. I have to get on one, make a decision, but then it's too late. Too damned late."
"That's pretty awful."
"What's more awful is waking up and not being able to blame any of it on Sam."
"That might be funny if it wasn't so lame."
"Yeah, that about sums it up. Anyhow, how's Gloria now?"
"Not bad, not bad. The black eye is clearing up. The swelling... She's talking to me again."
"Glad to hear it."

The end 

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Hotel Houdini - (Horrible Marriages Collection)

"This is it. This is our weekend to make it work."
"Make what work?"
"Make what work? Did you really say that?"
"Is this an argument? If this is an argument, I need to know."
"It's not an argument, I'm trying to reach you. I can't reach you."
"Here, take a bag. Can you reach this?"
"What's that?"
"I bought you a little something."
"For what?"
"For our weekend, I mean, for you."
"You haven't bought me a real gift in sixteen years. That's one small part of why we're here."
"You never asked."
"People don't ask for gifts... That's what it means to receive a - Oh, you just don't understand."
"I'm just kidding."
"About what."
"It's for me..." 
"It is not!"
"No, really, it's for me... Are you crying now? We haven't even unpacked the car."
"This was a mistake. There's no magic weekend. This stupid hotel!"
"Hoho! I wouldn't call it stupid. They have mirrored ceilings."
"Don't be an idiot."
"What's that? Was that a smile?"
"No! I'm holding back the tears of twenty years of a failed marriage!"
"Funny, it looked like you we're about to laugh."
"Don't try to change the subject. If that's not a gift for me I'm finished. And if it's more sexy underwear for me to put on and humiliate myself for your pleasure, I'm still finished. After four kids, I'm not feeling like a sexpot, I'm just feeling like a mannequin for your fantasies. You should know it; I shouldn't have to say it.”
"You look like a sexpot to me."
"Oh god, it is.... Isn't it?"
"Oh yeah. I got us some sexy underwear!"
"I wouldn't doubt it. I'm not surprised."
"You will be!"
“Why, there's some kind of kinky twist I haven't seen after twenty years of birthday and Christmas and Valentine's Day gifts?"
"Oh yes!"
"Dear lord. If you bought me a toaster, I'd be happy with a toaster."
"Oh yeah? What did you get me for our magic weekend?"
"Me? I bough you another chance to work this thing out.; I love you... I think I still love you. I haven't seen you in years, it's hard to tell."
"And you think Hotel-Kinky here will make me less invisible?"
"Hotel Houdini! Houdini! It's supposed to be magic for relationships! Right now we need some magic."
"You want magic, open this!"
"If it's for you, open it yourself."
"Ok, right here? In the parking lot?"
"Yes. Right here, so I didn't have to waste my time waking into the hotel before walking out again."
"What is that? I can't tell what that is."
"It's sexy underwear!"
"You think I'm going to put that on my....."
"No, it's for me."
"That's for you?"
"Yes. It's my gift to you."
"You're giving me you in sexy underwear?"
"Right here - Yes."
"So maybe you can see me again."
"Oh yeah..."
"What are you doing - what are you doing...!"
"You just said, right here! Can you see me yet?"
"Stop that! We'll get arrested!"
"I suppose I owe you this..."
"Really! What are you doing?!"
"Maybe I'll like it, maybe I won't - but I suppose I owe you this."
"You’re falling! Your...."
"I'll pick the gravel out of my ass when we're inside."
"Inside?! "
"Now you’re laughing!"
"How can you do this? How can you..."
"Ok! What do you think?!"
"Oh dear lord.... It's, it's..."
"Oh God, your crying again?"
"This... This whatever you call this..."
"Don't say anything as we check in."
"You can't be serious!"
"Ok, I haven't seen that smile in a long time."
"Your beer belly kinda hangs over that metal buckle."
"Maybe they'll appreciate that at the desk."
"Well, I'm not standing out here with you like that now, so let's go, Romeo."
"I got the bags..."
 "Can I tell you what you look like, with those bags, at least put on your shoes!"
"Here we go. You’re still smiling..."
"Okay, okay - I'll ring the bell, you just stand there with the bags...."
"Got it."
"So, they have mirrors on the ceiling?"
"You betcha!"

The End