Archive for December, 2010


The Gallows

by mdjb

It was a mistake to say yes, but say, “Yes,” he did when Maria suggested they move into her old family home after her mother’s passing. Tom was under pressure to please her in every way possible as she let his close friendship/almost-affair with his former secretary Anella slide into the background, only to be mentioned during the most caustic arguments, which he did not see subsiding entirely. He could not leave the accounting firm because times were so hard, but endured many more calls per day from his wife, which he minded but accepted as a penance, although he did enjoy their twice weekly lunches together.
That the white stucco finished WWII building had seen her formative years did not escape Tom’s observation, and he knew it would always be her home and not theirs.
“Can we not remove those gallows-like wooden things from the backyard,” he had asked the first weekend afternoon.
“I told you my brother Artie and I used to swing on them when we were children,” she said. “I could never take them down.”
He felt it pointless to remind her that young Arthur was long gone physically as he realized he would never quit her memory.
Maria was so taken up with moving back into the house that she did not seem to notice the raven haired beauty Lisette, who lived in the house down the street, nor did she remark on the twins, Tom came to think of privately as The Glitter Girls who lived two houses up, all of whom presented temptation staved only by their proximity to the Sampsons’ new/old quarters.
He had to push himself continually every time it came to completing yard chores to avoid distraction, and often sought things to do inside such as cleaning up the attic, more or less unused for anything other than storage. He had the vague notion of turning it into an office den for himself, but there was so much junk in it, it would become an ongoing project stymied by Maria’s need to keep precious objects. He came to feel he, too, was moving into the past, and not her past but that of her parents.
During his third go-round, he found a newspaper from October 1945 containing an article about the founding of the United Nations on the 24th and an advertisement for the sale of the first ballpoint pens for $12.50 each at Gimbels Department Store in New York City on the 29th.
In 1945, the minimum wage was 40c per hour, so one had to work 600 hours to earn the average annual salary of around $2,400 to $3,000 while a new house cost $4,500 to $10,000 to buy and around $60 a month to rent.  An automobile was $1,000 to $1,250 with gasoline at from 15c to 21c per gallon. A gallon of milk was 62c and a loaf of bread was 9c, while a new shirt cost $2.50, but you could post a letter to a friend for 3c. There did not appear to be much call for those expensive ballpoint pens, but with the peace that came after Japan’s surrender in August, the UN seemed like a much needed institution to try and keep things that way.
Oh, how Tom wished for a similar body to negotiate between the partners in a once-disturbed marriage as he considered his reparations excessive for a minor infraction.


The Truth

by mdjb

I didn’t want to know the truth. The truth is not something you can fit in your pocket and walk away feeling good about yourself for having taken hold of it. It brings too many consequences, and it is a hefty responsibility. A lie you can discard as just so much detritus when you leave the scene of the accident. Assign a number to it to maintain the storyline behind your falsified facts, but you are not beholden to it.
The plant was ablaze with light as I approached it that night. Warren would be there working late as usual. His job was his reason for living, and he was a tyrant to his underlings, one of whom I was until three days prior. He was, however, sweet on the ladies, specifically my wife, and the wives of my friends Will and Travis. A marriage ring was no obstacle to Warren Gresch.
When he told me he was seeing my Sylvie, I told him I had known of their affair for some time, and that he was welcome to relieve me of the heartache she caused. That was lie 12.
When he told me he would have to let me go because I was in the way, I said I was glad to go and had no cause for revenge. He was doing me a favor. That was lie 13. Now, some people consider 13 an unlucky number. I should not have allowed things to reach that point.
I plotted revenge the moment I left the place, nothing definite, mind you. I just wanted to see that pig sweat. And so I approached the plant three nights later, no weapon in hand, no plan in mind. I had downed half a bottle of brandy to stiffen my resolve, but as I came up with little more than foggy vision, I charged ahead empty handed, and looked for something with which to arm myself upon entering the stockyard.
I picked up a brick that was being used to prop up one of the Christmas trees employees had decorated at their own expense. The tree remained upright, but I had a momentary flash that Warren would soon not be so, and wouldn’t it be ironic to smash his brains in with a brick bearing the Gresch name?
I don’t remember much of anything after vomiting in the dumpster out back. I don’t remember going into the plant. There was after all a security guard sitting in the lobby, which was the reason I had walked around the building rather than bursting in like a madman. I do recall the rough feel of the brick in my hand and thinking there would soon be Gresch blood on it along with his imprinted name. But the brick was found out back by the dumpster, and Warren was found dead in his office the next day with his throat slit.
We soon learned there were more than three women in his seraglio of other men’s wives, and I was not strongly suspected as his murderer, but that did not stop Sylvie from leaving after telling me she had not loved me in a long time because I was just too ordinary. I told her she deserved better than me and that I thought she must do the right thing as she saw it.
That was lie 14. It would have bothered me to statically define my attitude with an unlucky number. As to all the lies that led me to that one, I don’t care to discuss those at this time. I don’t believe they are in the way of the situation that presently obtains.
As to Warren Gresch being murdered, I’m glad that swine is dead, and I hope they never find the person who did it. Sylvie deserved more out of life than a slob like him. That much I know is true.


Thomas Fever on the Outskirts of Oblivion

by mdjb

I can still hear the screaming, Thomas thought, as he walked through the high wild grass on the outskirts of Oblivion.
He spotted Janine, the runaway bride, the moment she stepped out of her white VW and began walking along the Exit road. His first thought, seeing she had left her lights on, was that she had stopped for only a moment experiencing wedding day jitters, but when she showed no intention of returning to her car, he assumed she was escaping, and imagined the crestfallen groom, his confusion turning to anger, standing excuseless among his own and Janine’s family on the steps of Royal Baptist.
Thomas, himself, was traipsing in the grass and mulling over what had gone wrong this gray afternoon between him and Althea. Why had she ranted like a lunatic over his absent-mindedness in the middle of lunch? “I’ll clip your wings yet, mister,” was one of the awful things she had hollered at him. What kind of nurse acted like that? She always demanded continence while he was barely holding on, and he was beginning to feel a small hatred sliding over him. He glanced at the flesh wound on his hand, knowing he would soon have yet another scar. Momentarily, he tossed around the idea of stepping over to Janine to try to console her in some way; tell her why he wasn’t allowed to attend her wedding, but he was hardly in a position to offer relationship advice, and besides, he was often tongue-tied in her presence.
He stubbed his toe on a large piece of charcoal and wondering how it came to be in the field, he had a vision of Superman squeezing coal to make diamonds. This must be one that didn’t work, he concluded. He wished he could finish the job and make a gift of it to Janine. Perhaps, if that were a possibility, they could both escape together, and he would find a way to speak his mind. What an easy solution, and one not likely to happen!
She was carrying some gray object. Was it a picnic basket? If he became visible, would she invite him to join her in her repast? As he could still hear the screaming, he knew he was imagining too much. Imagination was at the root of all his problems.
With no resolution in mind, he spread his wings and took flight. He believed as he observed her below Janine would never return to Oblivion, but would in fact keep walking in the same direction, and the object he had thought she carried was only a trick of the light, or perhaps it was a dog trailing along beside her.