Thursday, December 18, 2014

Stupid Movie/Tragic Solution

As loathe as my social liberal persona is to admit it, Newt Gingrich is right.  North Korea's attack on SONY PICTURES amounted to cyber warfare and North Korea won that battle. SONY's unseemly - and pathetically rapid capitulation - amounted to an unconscionable act of cowardice.  Worse, bowing to external pressure - especially threats of violence - emboldens anyone with a disagreement, grudge, or self-serving point-of-view, making life more difficult for SONY and any other company that chooses to offer an opposing viewpoint, promote, support or simply depict a differing lifestyle or even offend, deliberately or unwittingly, some group, faction or petty despot.  Are we heading for a day when anyone with a peanut allergy can threaten to blow up peanut farms if Skippy refuses to withdraw peanut butter from the market? I am being glib and I hope my sarcasm offends SONY (though I mean absolutely no disrespect towards anyone living and suffering with a peanut allergy).

I have no interest in seeing "The Interview".  It did not make my list even before "The Interview" and cyber-terrorism were inexorably linked.  I do not believe I would watch even if SONY offered the film free of charge across cable and the internet but - since I do object to others being promised then prevented a chance to see the film (not to mention the whole giving in to bullies thing) - I would applaud such a grand gesture.  Besides, if they did it right, SONY might even manage to cover costs.

Was that cynical...?

Probably was...but it doesn't change the fact that SONY should make this right.

Saturday, November 22, 2014


[Author's Note:  This segment is part of a larger work-in-progress entitled I'M DEAD...WHAT CAN I SAY.  It is intended to be humorous.  Hopefully, despite the mayhem, that is true of this and the larger piece.]


I am in a car.  My car.  Alone.  Driving southbound well within the permissible 65 (plus ten) speed limit set by the State of New York.  I am in the center lane but remember moving left to pass a somewhat sluggish, seriously seasoned driver who doesn’t belong behind the wheel let alone behind the wheel in my center lane.  You know the type: gray and wizened, bespectacled turtle-head stretched forward over the steering wheel, over two skeletal hands permanently fused to the wheel at ten and two.  His whole body moves left and right whenever he turns the wheel. My speedometer clocks him at no more, and probably less, than 70 mph.
I do everything I am supposed to do.  Signal a turn.  Check my mirror and glance over my left shoulder.  Ease into the leftmost lane – the passing lane – and start moving forward.  I am pressing firmly on the accelerator – sixty-five plus ten doesn’t apply when passing sluggish octogenarians or over-sized vehicles (like mobile homes and cranes) – when a late model SUV, a really big, gas guzzling tank with heavily tinted windows, comes barreling out of one of those discreet, semi-concealed, patently sneaky turnarounds frequented by troopers who disagree with the plus ten rule...

(You would think they’d teach basic rules of the road at the Academy but that really has nothing to do with my current situation…)
The SUV skid-turns into the southbound passing lane, kicking up a good deal of dust and gravel and heads north at something like 65 mph plus twenty, plus ten or some other mathematical exponent I’ve never really understood.  He is going warp factor whatever and he is heading straight towards a head-on with me.  Our headlights are mere seconds from French kissing on the interstate. The logical maneuver is to glide gracefully back into the center lane and let Mad Max pass on my driver’s side but I haven’t quite finished passing grandpa; that lane is blocked.  My only move is a sudden merge onto the shoulder…

Don’t get ahead of yourself.  Or me.  I do not end up in a head-on collision with a man who, I believe,
was attempting suicide by proxy.  That would have been too easy.  Instead, I manage to pull my cute, completely restored, vintage AMC Gremlin, powered by reclaimed, reformulated, environmentally friendly French fry oil, onto the shoulder at a healthy seventy-five plus mph.  As you can imagine, I am pressing the pedal pretty good – my Gremlin isn’t happy; she isn’t/wasn’t known for sudden bursts of speed – but I manage to totally miss the SUV.  I actually feel Betsy shutter as it flies past…but I fly forward nonetheless.  It is a NASCAR miracle. And then – just as immediately – I feel my poor Gremlin pull to the left and dip slightly in the same direction.  I cannot stop my merge.  The shoulder at this particular stretch of the Northway is narrow and I lose asphalt under two tires.  My car bounces like a Baptist imbued with the spirit or a half-crazed hooker on an overbooked booze cruise and continues furiously to the left.  Before I can react, my car is sliding/skidding/careening towards the wire barrier that protects out of control drivers – me – from perilous drops off occasionally steep embankments.

Wire rope guardrails are designed to stretch a little bit, grab the car and, over a long enough stretch, force the vehicle to stop.  Passengers tend to walk away from this type of accident even if the poor
vehicle looks like warm cheese forced through an angry cheese grater.  The wires tear into the exterior panels; I expect long metallic strips to be rudely wrenched from the Gremlin but I also expect to be able to bemoan the loss of a faithful friend on my own two feet.  I remember believing this completely until I notice incredibly bad luck or what has to be a really sick celestial gotcha – given the series of events I have already survived.  

The steel cable, wire guard rails that extend southward for miles and miles literally disappear directly in front of me.  Apparently, there was a previous car/truck accident and approximately 97 feet of guard rail was destroyed – flattened – at the exact spot where I need a safety net most.  A gaping, uninviting, terrifyingly hungry, monstrous maw opens in front of me at a point where all the trees and rocks disappear and a normally pleasant, albeit steep, embankment begins.  You could have put a giant “X” on it; that is where I am heading.  My steering wheel and the brake seem intent on jumping through that hole. Despite all my weight on the brake pedal – I slow to a measly 47 mph but can’t rewrite the laws of physics (with apologies to James Doohan) – my Gremlin takes flight.  We jump off the road and over the embankment with all four wheels in the air. I find myself spinning the steering wheel and working the pedals like Fred McMurray in the Absent-Minded Professor or Dick Van Dyke in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.
(I should add, in hindsight, that I was proud of myself – extremely proud – under the circumstances. I tried to drive my way out of my predicament and I performed brilliantly.  I even signaled a turn but I would have been proud if I managed to do all this without (1) screaming at a pitch that would make a bat’s ears bleed or (2) pissing myself.  It did neither.)

Two wheels touch down first, both on my side, and the car immediately begins to cartwheel, side over side…

(Let me jump in and say that I am fanatical about seat belt use.  Mine is attached and working perfectly.  It locks when it is supposed to lock and holds me firmly against the seatback.) 

…I turn in the air once…twice…three times before landing with a jarring but somewhat satisfying thud.  The experience is not unlike riding one of those steel roller coasters at the amusement park.  I land – believe it or not – on all four wheels, stopping in the center of the northbound passing lane.  I have just enough time to shout “Sweet Jeezus, Mary & Johseph!” – and maybe issue a well-deserved phew! – before looking up into the grill of an eighteen-wheeler hauling a double-load of the Adirondack's finest hardwood.  That poor bastard is in my latest/last lane of travel but I can’t blame him; he got there, undoubted by trying to pass his own sluggish, octogenarian road hog.  It just never occured to him to watch out for flying Gremlins.

Anyone waiting/expecting/praying for a little good karma should remember karma’s a pustulating whore.

The last word of any consequence is Peterbilt.  In my case it is Peterkilt.

I cannot tell you if the airbag deployed.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

A Modern Day Fairy Tale, True Life Formula for True Love…Sorta

ONCE UPON A TIME in a not too distant land, in the not too distant past, a young woman or, perhaps, a young man – you really can’t tell anymore – clicks some keys on a computer.  In a similarly not too distant land – if it isn’t the same land – a message arrives on the desk of a young woman who, this time, actually is both young and female.  The message makes her smile.
Selene, the young woman with the juvenile smile and the warm flush, clicks back.  A friendship is begun - begins with a few brief keystrokes.  The conversation, however, is anything but brief.  They exchange messages, exchange the details of their lives, in a steady, almost unending stream of clicks and clacks.  The ping of Selene’s computer becomes a constant accompaniment to the sound of crickets and the creaks and moans of the old farmhouse she calls home.
Selene gets very little sleep.  Her friendship is most intense at night – at all hours of the night – but sleep is of little consequence.  Selene senses a growing affection for the friend she knows only as Hera2014; she pines for the day they will meet.
Before any such meeting can be arranged, the fates intervene.
Hera2014’s dog is killed trying to cross the railroad tracks that run near her home.  She complains that Noodles, her beloved childhood pet, a dachshund who has enjoyed an extraordinarily long life, never made it over the northbound line, lamenting that only the front half of the unlucky wiener dog managed to cross the rails. When found, Noodles was poised for a run across the pasture that separated the rail line from their home; the rear half of the old dog was, unfortunately, still sitting patiently between the tracks waiting its turn.

Needless to say, Hera2014 is overcome by grief.  She is devastated by the abrupt loss of her most constant and familiar companion.  Selene is deeply moved by her friend’s grief and begs to visit.  All she wants is to hug and console her friend, to hold her close and take away some of the pain, but her offer is rebuffed.  Hera2014 is not ready for company.  She needs some alone time with her memories – and a bejeweled collar she now wears as a bracelet.  Their visit, their first meeting, will have to wait for better times.
Better times should take about a week.
They both agree.
The week passes with tedious pauses in the conversation.  Slowly, Hera2014 starts texting again and soon she seems to be back to her vigorous, near persistent, self.  The messages fill the night once more and Selene grows excited and anxious; their meeting is finally getting closer.  She has been packed since Tuesday.
On Friday, Hera2014 attends a frat party at the local college.  She is not a student but friends are going and she decides to tag along.  It is not – by any measure – a good decision.  A frat brother, a guy famous for smashing empty beer cans against his ample forehead, takes advantage of her in the living room…over the back of a sofa…in front of everyone.  She is too drunk or too drugged to do more than mutter the occasional “Wee!” and maybe – possibly – puke on the back of some anonymous guy kissing her breast.  She remembers puking, anyway.
Needless to say, Hera2014 is an emotional train wreck (no pun intended).  She is embarrassed…mortified…humiliated…shamed…and disgraced – plus one or two other words listed in the thesaurus on her desk.  She locks herself in her room.  Sitting on the bed, clutching her knees beneath the homemade quilt she got when her grandmother died, Hera2014 texts that she will never go out again.  She will spend what is left of her life alone.
Once again, Selene asks to console her inconsolable friend.
Once again, she is rebuffed.
Questions are asked.
Have you told your family?
My stepfather would kill me.
What about the police?
Are you crazy? My friends would never speak to me again.  Those boys are THEIR friends.
“I’ll talk to you,” Selena texts.
“Thanks,” Hera2014 replies, following that text with, “I know”.
Another week later, Hera2014 gets thirsty.  There is nothing in the house except milk and water.  Tap water.  Yuck!  Hera2014 walks to the grocery store down the block and across the street.  She is promptly struck by a speeding pickup that is literally falling apart; the driver doesn’t stop but the police find a cracked mirror, bits and pieces of rust and some mud smudges on the street.    Hera2014 is thrown a record fifty-seven feet through the air landing with a coma inducing thud!
Selene doesn’t hear about the accident from Hera2014.  She doesn’t hear much of anything for days – and days of texting – until a different voice messages her back from Hera2014’s computer.
The new voice is detailed but brusque.  It is Hera2014’s sister but there is nothing warm about her.  Nothing like Hera2014.  The information is more like reading a newspaper.  At times it is harsh.  After a while, the messages get even harsher.  All the warmth, all the affection she came to love and to need is missing from the computer.  It is like a file has been deleted, a file Selene cannot bear to lose.
Selene tells her brother what has happened.  She wants to commiserate, to share her pain with someone close to her but he is amused.  He says it sounds like a country song.  She gets mad when he laughs and slams her door.  She stays locked away in her room connected to the outside by nothing but her recalcitrant computer.

The news continues to get worse.
The family is thinking of pulling the plug.
She wouldn’t want to live like this.
“Can I see her,” Selena begs.  Privately she cries and when the ping comes back to her, she cries harder.
That would not be a good idea right now.
In time, the messages no longer matter.  Hera2014 is dead.
Her account is silenced.
Selena tries to express her condolences…
I am sorry…
I don’t know what to say…
She was my best friend…
…but the computer remains silent.
As Selena sits on her bed scratching her wrist with the tip of the X-Acto knife she uses for art class, she tries one last message.
I can’t tell you how much I miss her…
She waits…
Makes a second scratch…
And waits some more.

She makes six new scratches before the computer finally sings again.
Sometimes the wrong person dies, don’t you think?
As Selene presses harder on the blade, Hera2014’s messages disappear.  All of them.
Hera2014 no longer exists.
It could just as easily have gone black…and does.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Dan O'Brien's "Mobsters, Monsters & Nazis"

Well, the time has come to announce Dan O’Brien’s latest project: Mobsters, Monsters & Nazis: a collaboration between Dan O’Brien and Steve Ferchaud, who illustrated Conspirators of the Lost Sock Army and the Loose Change Collection Agency. What I am revealing today is the sketches for some of the interior illustrations (which will be black and white) of the first issue. It will be released as six issues (eBooks) starting on Halloween. It is influenced by film noir, pulp comics, and an abiding love of Lovecraft. It is now available for pre-order and Dan will be promoting it heavily starting in the month of October. He would love to hear what you think of it so far! Visit him at: or on Twitter, @AuthorDanOBrien

Friday, August 29, 2014


Marty stands in the kitchen staring at the stove.  He hadn't thought about dinner, not when he put that bullet in Edith's head.  There were a lot of things he didn't think about.  Eating certainly topped the list.  Underwear came next.  Realizing that Edith wouldn't be doing laundry anytime soon, the idea of dirty boxers piling up - how many did he have, anyway? - caused an unpleasant itch in an area where boxers are generally most comfortable.
It is not that Marty misses Edith.  He clearly doesn't miss the sound of her.  Her voice.  All of those insipid questions.  He is glad to be done with all that but he might miss the convenience of  a wife.  She was good for thing or two.  She was especially good at two but he is sure that won't present a long-term  problem.  Some skills are more easily replaced than others.

He has time, at least, to think about what to do next.  He needs to plan.  It might have been interesting to leave the ex-Mrs. Santore sitting in his chair staring at the lake she always found so fascinating.  It was a good joke.  Thinking about it, he feels himself smile. Edith Santore staring blankly at ducks and sailboats. Not seeing shit.  He never understood all that natural wondercrap she blabbered about every time she looked out that damn window.  The only time anything interesting happened out there - if anyone asked Marty, that is - his neighbors decided to go skinny dipping and ended up getting some exercise au naturel on that rock ledge that sticks out over the water.  The one that kids jump off during the season but it was only springtime when they decided to frolic in the dirt and do all that outdoor shit;  Marty figures they didn't know anyone was around.  The guy certainly didn't but his wife...there was at least half a chance she looked his way while she was polishing the pine.  He really should find out what's up with that.  Always meant to, but...

He could now, of course.  No questions asked.

It is still the off season (fall this time) and that is a plus.  He could keep her where she is for the moment but it wasn't the best idea to leave a moldering corpse in the living room for more than a couple of days. She was a stanky bitch on a good day; Marty suspected she would raise more than a little stink if he let her.  Someone might notice.  Even off season. Eventually, anyway.

Marty is sure he doesn't want to drag her to the car and drive somewhere.  Even in November, there were risks.  Besides, the ex let herself go a little bit the last couple of years.  Dead weight had a bit more heft to it than - let's say - once upon a time.  He always waited too long to do what's necessary.  

The camp has a dirt floor in the basement.  That might present the best option.  How hard could it be to dig a hole?  

Marty doesn't get much further than that.  He doesn't get into thinking about the Adirondacks or about digging holes in the mountains.  Rocks.  Boulders.  Roots.  Big mother roots as thick as his arm.  None of that steps forward.  Not when the back door opens.  Not when a new and different problem decides to upend his day.  Seems like there's something new everyday.

Ginger, his daughter - their one and only child - walks in innocent as you please.  Ginger is a stupid name. The wife, his ex-wife, liked it before they were at the fuck no stage in their relationship but it never made much sense.  Ginger is not a ginger.  She was born with light blond hair that went a lifeless, dirty blond by the time she was four.  Only trouble is today she is definitely not any kind of blond.  Today she is purple.  Electric purple!

Marty's mind sees purple - that fucking electric purple with one hot pink strip down the right side of her head - and burns red.  He has gotten used to the hooker cut-offs and the band-aid bathing suits her mother let her buy, but this...this...NO FUCKING WAY...people will think she's some kinda hippie and if she's a hippie what does that make him.

He hears NO FUCKING WAY in his head and sort of feels a click.  He sees a third eye appear in the center of her forehead.  It must be some sort of genetic thing.  Her face looks almost like her mother's. Same forehead, anyway.

Marty is amazed that she doesn't fall.  Just stares at him with that gap-mouthed, empty expression that always drives him  nuts.  FUCKIN' NUTS.  But this time he just wants to laugh.  He thinks about the cartoons he used to watch as a kid.  Thinks if he went over an poked her in that third eye - like Moe in The Three Stooges - she'd just fall over.  Thinks he might just do that when Ginger finally gets the message and falls down on her own.

She was always a little slow!

Marty is in the middle of a debate between two holes or one large one when just a hint of movement catches his eye.  Mrs. MacGregor is standing on his lawn - with her little rat-dog doing  business she won't bother to collect - staring through his window.  Her eyes are wide and her hand is over her mouth but Marty knows those ancient, dried up, crone fingers won't hold back a scream for long. The gun is still in his hand feeling light and oh so natural; it comes up in one fluid movement.  The bullet punches a nice neat eye hole in the glass and a second later MacGregor goes down - but not before it tears a chunk of stupid, old-lady-blue-hair from her head.  Marty can't help laughing; he remembers all those divots he threw up at the golf course last Saturday.  That was a truly bad day.


Maybe I should rent a backhoe!

Marty is conflicted.  He doesn't know if he should drag the old lady into the backyard or shoot her fucking dog.  The damn thing won't stop yipping in that mind-ripping little dog voice.  Shooting it would be a service.  People should have real dogs.  When they bark it means something...

Some decisions have to wait.  Marty is standing over the body when a copmobile pulls up with a Hollywood screech and slide.  The cop looks at Marty sort of drop-jawed.  He is surprised by the gun - this is not that type of neighborhood - but manages to get out of the vehicle quickly his own gun drawn.

Marty thinks how many bullets does this thing hold and fires.

No third eye.

Not clod of turf spraying skyward.

A thin scratch appears on the officer's cheek.  Maybe a bit of ear lobe explodes.  A tiny rivulet of blood drips down his neck.  A kid on a bicycle peddling by watching the drama falls to the asphalt. He is not hit but his bike suffers a critical injury.

The cop will live to retire, in the very near future, on a work related, hearing disability but his close encounter with a bullet pulls his attention from Marty for a split second.  Long enough for Marty to retreat into the backyard.  The stockade fence gate swings closed with a loud clank.  The latch drops into place securing a barrier between Marty and a very pissed off cop.

Since they both hold guns and Marty has demonstrated a willingness to use his, the officer is forced to act prudently.  He wants to plow through that fence like a champion bull with a scorpion on his nuts, pistol whip the sonovabitch that scarred his near-perfect face then shove his entire clip right up the fucker's ass but the thought of a second bullet hiding just out of sight makes the patrolman think twice about waiting for backup.  All he can do is crouch and vent; the cop squats behind a shrub throwing threats and invectives over the fence.

"What the fuck is wrong with you, shooting at a cop?  You think you can get away with that. You think I'm gonna let that go? You are done.  I'm gonna take that gun away from you and kick your sorry balls until they pop out your mouth.  Then I'm gonna shoot ya.  I'm gonna shoot you with every fuckin' bullet I got.  Maybe I'll borrow some more from the other cops - when they get here - and shoot you again and no one is gonna say a word.  You are dead. You understand me.  You hang onto that gun and you're dead.  Period.  You wanna live - I'm still gonna kick your ass - you throw that gun over this fence...

"I'm sorry."  Marty's voice comes from the blind side of the fence.

"Not good enough," the cop shouts back, "Throw away the gun."

"I made a mistake."

"You fucking did make a mistake! Throw the gun away!"

"I hate mistakes."

"I don't give a SHIT..."

The explosion blows a ragged hole through the fence about a foot above the patrolman's head forcing him to dive face-first into the dirt.  Sonovabitch tried to kill me, the officer thinks.  The words shout in his head.  He listened to my voice! He tried to aim!  The cops hands are still over his head offering whatever protection he can find; the truth is still on the other side of the wall.

Marty sits with his back to the stockade fence.  He is dead.  The bullet has left a neat, proper hole in the center of his forehead.  The back of his skull is not as nice.  Gelatinous brain goo (and maybe a few bone fragments) follow a rain of pine splinters through the hole in the fence.  The officer's uniform will definitely be bagged as evidence.  

Marty's last moment was an act of utter certainty.  He held the gun to his head and simply pulled the trigger. He did not blubber, argue or debate.  There wasn't any doubt.  It had to be done.  Period. There was little need for conversation.  He muttered two words, his epitaph...

I missed

...and he was gone.  

If he had a final thought it was at least I don't have to dig a hole.

Monday, August 4, 2014


Edith Santore climbs into the front seat of her husband's Hummer and hands over a double scoop waffle cone.  Dark, rich chocolate.  Her husband's favorite.  

Marty Santore watched her on the line, impatiently tapping perfectly manicured nails on the window. Edith always picked the wrong line.  Always took too long.  Her line was always the one with mechanical problems or staff problems or idiot customer problems.  If some inconsiderate jerk wasn't ordering sundaes for an entire busload of chunky, pimply-faced campers - make sure that one doesn't have nuts...little Timmy has allergies - some old fart with no reason to still be living was paying for a baby cone with nickles and pennies, counting them out one at a time.  The line was long enough without the bullshit that followed Edith - normally Marty wouldn't have put up with the wait - but it was hot and he had a thing for chocolate.
Edith is all smiles while she watches Marty lick deep into his cone. Her man is going to enjoy this.  He has been talking about ice cream all afternoon - they drove here especially for their hard pack, homemade chocolate ice cream - but her smile doesn't last.  Two strokes of his tongue is all it took for the good feelings that came with anticipation to evaporate.

"What is this?" he demands, pointing the open end of the cone at his wife.  Edith thinks he might push it onto her nose.

"Cho...colate...wa...ffle cone," Edith answers, desperate not to stammer.  Marty hates it when she stammers.  While she struggles to control her voice, she feels herself burrow into the seat back, to put some distance between herself and her husband.  Marty hates that, too.

"This is not goddamn chocolate," he snarls, his voice going up as his eyes harden.  They always went silver-grey when he got angry.

"It's Death by Chocolate.  They have a lot of different chocolates.  The man said if you like chocolate, this was the best..."  Edith blurts the words in one breath.

The man said...

The man said...

The words explode like kernels of popcorn in his brain.  

"Do they have "chocolate" on that menu board?  That's a question: Do they?  I can see it from here.  Look, dammit!  I asked for CHOCOLATE.  C-H-O-C-O-L-A-T-E..."

He points at each letter through the car windshield.

"Seems pretty simple to me.  That's what I asked for.  I did not ask for chocolate fudge, chocolate mocha, chocolate swirl, triple chocolate or fucking Death by Fucking Chocolate.  I did not...I do not...want nuts and chunks of mystery shit in my ice cream. I did not ask you to milk the fucking cow. I asked for chocolate. Why...please tell me...why was that so hard."

Marty is getting loud.  People will start to listen, to watch them.  That would be bad.  Marty hates people staring.  

You wanna take a picture!  

Edith watches his fist start to tighten around the waffle cone.  Soon the ice cream will tumble onto the seat. That would be very bad.  The Hummer is HIS car.  It would be her fault.  That would be worse.

"The man said it was the best. I wanted you to have the best.   I was trying to do something nice...for you...I'm sorry."

I'm sorry changes everything.  A switch flips and Marty stops.  Everything stops.  Edith can feel it. The heat stops.  The anger stops.  The tension stops.  She sees it; it leaves her husband in a long breath, a breath that just sort of leaks out of him.  Whatever was going to happen, wherever his anger was taking him, simply dissolves.  Even his eyes change.  They are blue again.  That pretty, endearing blue.  The blue that got her to marry him in the first place.

"It's only ice cream," he shrugs as he lowers his window and lets his Death by Chocolate waffle cone flop onto the blacktop.

"Counterboy can clean that up."

Marty's tone is very matter-of-fact. He slips the Hummer into gear and pulls out of the parking lot, turning left.  North.  Home is south.

Edith knows exactly where they are going. She doesn't ask why.  She is just happy the storm has passed and passed easily.  Sometimes, when Marty gets angry he goes a little crazy.  Nothing she says will matter.  Nothing she says will make it stop.  It stops when Marty says it should stop. Period.

Route 9 becomes Lakeshore Drive and Lakeshore becomes Coolidge Hill...  

They are going to the lake.

They haven't been to the lake in a while.  Not since last year.  The house is cool and a little damp from the winter thaw.  She can smell just a bit of mold; he will want her to bleach everything.

"Take the big chair..."

His chair!

"...I'll be right back," he adds, smiling and nodding in her direction before disappearing  into his study.  It is the one room in the house that she does not have to clean.  It is his man cave, his sanctum sanctorum.  His escape.  Edith has never been in the study.

"It has the better view.  We can share."

Edith settles into the big recliner.  It is old and threadbare - it smells of cigars and beer and something else she doesn't recognize - but it holds sentimental value for her husband.  It  was his grandfather's. Marty sat on the old man's lap to watch the Mets games.  When Pops died, Marty took the chair before anyone could throw it out.  It has followed him from his grandfather's house to his mother's, to his first apartment and then, finally, to the lake house.  

Edith rubs her finger aimlessly over a small tear she repaired three summers ago.  You can barely see the stitches.  It was a good job.

The lake, beyond their window, is calm.  A sheet of blue-grey glass.  She is watching a blue heron glide above the water when Marty steps in front of her, blocking her view.  He is very casual and relaxed.  Calm.  Smiling.

"I'm sorry about the chocolate..." she starts to stay but he stops her.

"It was only ice cream," Marty counters, flashing a large, ingratiating smile. "It was a mistake..."

Edith wants to say sorry - or thank you for understanding - but she doesn't get the chance.  The bullet stops her.  One shot.  One hole.  In the middle of her forehead.  A third eye oozing a small rivulet of blood that drips off the tip of her nose.

"I hate mistakes."

A flock of geese fly past the window following whatever course they normally follow.  

The Hummer backs out of the driveway.

Outside the window, a canoe glides by. The sun begins to set and bats take flight. Edith continues to stare blankly through the glass.  She looks bewildered.

If Marty thought of it, he would say she always looked that way...

[to be continued]

Wednesday, July 23, 2014


The scenario goes something like this:

A couple, who have been dating for - let's say - two years, break up.  Let's also say that he is the breakee. She has accused him of sleeping around, stealing money from her purse for drugs and alcohol and just being one mean, unreliable son of a fuck-face.  Fuck-face is her word.  He tells her in a text that he's done.  He can't take the accusations. He can't take her voice and all the yelling.  He can't take her mouth.  Well, he likes her mouth but he doesn't like the way she uses it.  He just can't take it anymore.
Within minutes, the status messages start to fly.  She tells the world that he is a two-timing lowlife.  Her case is bolstered by any number of colorful and explicit adjectives.  He tells the same world that she is a paranoid, overbearing, dominating succubus. He does not use the word succubus (he can't spell it) but uses a shorter word that isn't technically allowed on social media.  The closest he comes to succubus is cu...

One day in, he changes his relationship status. To Single! She is furious. Devastated.  Hurt.  Embarrassed.  Bereft of self-worth, even.  Is that all their relationship meant to him? One day. She could have changed her relationship status first - lots of guys would have liked her new status - but she thought maybe there was still hope for them.  Her ire - and, of course, her grief - spawns near endless messages dripping with despair and newfound fury.  Likes positively ding off the hook - to resurrect an arcane image; the latest adjectives are more colorful and more anatomically impossible than before.

Within two days the tone of the rhetoric changes.  He admits to some extracurricular sex but it, the sex, wasn't his fault.  The woman was nuts.  A certified and certifiable paranoid schizophrenic, a schizoid.  He was afraid to say  no.  You know those never know what they will do.  She scared the shit out of him.  He was thinking of her - the girlfriend, that is - of what would happen if he said "no".  The police might have to be called (which would be bad - there was a lot of weed in his backpack); she might have to identify his body.  He was only thinking of her.

She cries.

He cries.

More messages find a voice.  The woman who fell ever so deliberately on her unwilling boyfriend's undulating (though unwilling) member is vilified and threatened with the worst kind of violence. Mention is made of her kid brother's new baseball bat and the alleged sluts patently unclean body parts.  Boyfriend and girlfriend are reunited without further mention of money, drugs or a somewhat lengthy history as a fuck-face...

This is not, I should mention a Lifetime movie.  No one will ultimately be murdered.  There won't be a lengthy trial (with a patently ridiculous verdict) to kill some time.  This drama is playing out on social media and I am on the computer because there is nothing left to watch.  Vikings is in hiatus.  I am up to date with Salem and I've managed to watch every episode of The Misfits (in just three days) and I cannot bring myself to watch one more re-run of Law and Order SVU.  What's left?

I do not understand why I keep reading these things.

I don't know why people keep posting them.

I should shut off the computer.  Maybe read a book.  I have two pages left to one of Dean Koontz's Odd books.  I have had two pages left for three weeks.

Do you really want to leave this page?

They always ask that.  Am I making a mistake?

Magnus Rex 321 is complaining about the bathroom at Starbucks.  He should try the stalls at Walmart but...but wait...which Starbucks?

This is stupid.

I should click yes.

Just one click.

This is really hard.

I'll get a cup of tea first. 

He got a vasectomy without telling her.  What if she wanted children?