Thank you to the fine folks at The Horror Tree for publishing my story “Bar Fight” in Trembling with Fear. I am happy to be included!
Maddie thinks she can change me. She puts her hand on my shoulder and spouts tripe. “The past is gone,” she says. “You can be whatever you choose to be.” Vapid life preservers that junkies toss about in twelve-step meetings or disillusioned young mothers post on Pinterest boards so they don’t slit their wrists in the tub.
I don’t resent her for it: she still thinks there’s some reason. It makes me smile but, when I do, nobody smiles with me. They avert their eyes and scatter.
The fact is, people don’t want to face reality, not really. They say they resent fakers and posers and frauds but they are, every one of them, a faker, a poser, a fraud. None of them considers that we’re nothing more than teeming insects on a spinning ball in space, a faint glowing coal that will soon smolder out and go cold.
Ashes to ashes and dust mites to dust.
“I was put on this Earth to write,” Maddie says, “and, by God, I’m going to do it!” She doesn’t regard the millions dead from starvation or disease or being blown to pieces by war.
“Weren’t they put on this Earth to do something?” I want to ask. “Is this what they chose to be?”
Maddie thinks she can change me and I let her live the lie. As for me, I’ve given up trying to change. In the end, only the full moon can make me into something I’m not and tonight, when it rises over the trees, I’ll become the wolf again.
And I’ll feast on her innocence.
Now try this: Ward’s Worthless Ward
The first time I went to Angela’s was four Saturdays ago. At work the day before, she had told Phil that she was going to stay home all weekend but she lied. She went out and got drunk.
I waited outside her building smoking cigarettes in my truck and it wasn’t until 7:13 the next morning when she finally stumbled up the block with those two sluts from Accounts Receivable. They were loud and senseless with their arms wrapped around each other laughing and talking gibberish. None of them cared that they were waking the whole neighborhood.
Angela fumbled around in her purse and they helped her unlock the door with her key card. I watched them through the glass as they walked up the stairs and that was when I knew she lived on the second floor.
“Did you forget to stay home this weekend?” I wanted to ask her that Monday morning. “Did you have a good time drinking with your whore friends?”
Instead I said, “Good morning, Angela.”
She said, “Hey Jeff,” and walked right past my desk smelling of shampoo and fabric softener. Her scent hung in the air for a few minutes. I just sat there with my eyes closed.
That morning, I couldn’t get any work done. I sat at my desk tearing little pieces of Scotch tape out of the dispenser. The goal is to rip them as small as possible but it’s tough to get them really tiny because the cutting edge on the dispenser rips into your thumb and the next thing you know, your hand is bloody.
She walked by six more times that day. Three times to use the restroom, once to go the break room, once to water the plants, and again at the end of the day when she left to go home.
“Have a good night, Angela,” I said but she didn’t hear me.
The next Friday I visited her house again. It didn’t take long to determine which window was her bedroom. By the light of the television, she sat brushing her hair in long slow strokes in baggy sweatpants and a Led Zeppelin tee shirt. At 11:46 the lights went out and she didn’t leave until the next morning.
The following night though, this would have been three Saturdays ago, she went out again. Some testosterone-fueled douche picked her up in a shiny red Acura that had “lease“ written all over it. I followed them to an upscale, trendy restaurant. He held the door for her and she looked delighted as though he was the most chivalrous guy on Earth. Like every jock in the city wouldn’t hold the door for a woman like her.
I drove back to her apartment.
You’d be surprised how easy it is to get past a security door. I just tapped on the glass to a lady in the lobby and pointed at the lock. She glanced up from her phone for all of half a second while she let me in. She probably never even saw my face.
The apartment was locked so I stood there in the hallway looking at her door. It had a gold 24 on it. There was a peep hole and an entry mat that said Turn off your curling iron!
The next Tuesday I got her key card.
She had left her purse on her chair when she made her rounds watering the plants and I could see her billfold lying on top. Without thinking, I grabbed it and found the card. My heart was beating like wildfire but nobody saw me. I’m pretty good at not being noticed.
That Friday after work, I followed her across town. She pulled into the driveway of a nice two-story home in a cul-de-sac and the name on the mailbox said “Carlson” so I figured it was her parents’. I could hear them on the back deck laughing and talking and drinking wine. At 10:24 she drove home and she didn’t leave her apartment again that night.
She was already gone Saturday when I dropped by and she didn’t come home until Sunday afternoon when the muscle head with the Acura dropped her off. She kissed him and went into the building. She must have gotten a new key card.
I considered following him home but, in the end, I decided it would be better to stay and keep an eye on her in case he decided to come back.
The following Monday we received a group email that reminded everyone that the entire accounting department would be going to a mandatory seminar in LaCrosse Thursday and Friday and that the rest of us would be left to fend for ourselves. If we had anything pressing, we were to contact Cindy who would be handling urgent matters in their absence.
Later that day, the two bimbos from Receivable were chattering with Angela in the break room. They were thrilled that they were all going to LaCrosse together and wasn’t it going to be fun? They would all be staying through the weekend and not driving home until Sunday afternoon, just like a mini vacation!
“Jordan” would be driving Angela down and she would finally get the chance to introduce them!
I stopped listening and went back to my tape dispenser.
Last Friday night, with everyone in LaCrosse, I let myself in the apartment. It smelled of hair products and cookies or maybe muffins. She had photos hanging on the walls and standing in frames scattered around the apartment. There was one of her in a graduation cap and gown. There was one where she posed with her friends at a wedding, all of them in matching dresses. In one picture, she was wearing a baseball cap and holding a fish by a lake. I scanned every photo and looked at all the different faces but there wasn’t one of Jordan. There were even a couple of the Receivable skanks but not a single picture of him.
Her bathroom was small and messy with brushes and combs and hair products strewn everywhere. The trash basket was overflowing.
On her bed there was a basket of laundry with a crumpled dryer sheet laying on top. The bed was unmade and there were dirty clothes lying in wads on the floor.
Her sheets were silk or maybe satin. They were a deep, blood red and when I first saw them, my heart skipped. Rummaging through the laundry basket, I found a pair of lime green panties. They were some sort of silk or nylon mesh and they had a little bow on the front. I stood rubbing them on my cheek, not in a perverted way, just because they were soft and reminded me of her.
They tore a little when I put them on.
I moved the laundry basket to the floor and crawled into her bed and pulled the sheets over my head so it was pitch black. That heavy darkness and the satin, it was just like I was lying in a coffin. I stayed really still on my back like a corpse and, with her underwear on, it was like she was with me, both of us lying in the same grave. Both of us deathly still and quiet.
When I awoke, it was 5 am and dark out. I put my clothes back on over the panties and pulled the covers over just the way they were and hoisted the basket back up on the bed. I lingered around her room a while and carefully selected a few silky brown hairs from the brush on the night stand and put them in my wallet for safekeeping.
Then I went home.
This Friday I’m going to visit her again. I’ll wait until she’s sleeping and let myself in. I’ll tiptoe to her room and watch her sleep for a while and then I’ll crawl into bed with her.
She’ll be startled at first but I’ll lay on top of her and reassure her. I’ll put my hand over her mouth and whisper and soothe her until all the fear and trembling goes away. And when she’s finally at peace, I’ll dry her tears and tell her all about the visits and show her the panties and she’ll have no doubts then my love is real.
Then I’ll swallow the pills and we’ll sleep side-by-side in that silken casket.
Mom makes me shave my ears.