Boyhood Heartbreak

I stood there stock still with my fists clenched so tight I thought that I would break my knuckles. It was my first real glimpse of her; something that a grown up would call an epiphany. The shock of what I was witnessing still turns me cold inside to this day. It was only a kiss and it could have been innocent, but it wasn’t. It was in her eyes; the look that told my heart everything that it would ever need to know about the woman that I loved without hesitation. I had never seen her smile that way before. It was an unguarded, unrehearsed contortion of her face seemed so foreign to someone like me.

The two of them sat across from each other in the diner downtown. They shared coffees and glances and even the untrained eye knew them to be in love. Mary Anne ran the place and she was present as well, just there behind the counter where I could find her just about any day of the week and bribe her into fetching me a frozen Coke from the treasure chest behind the counter. Now she sat with her back turned to them reading one those rags that piled up at the register at the IGA. She was ignorant of the pair of them and their mating ritual just feet from her, or so I thought anyway. The way the she treated me from that day on should have informed me of her pity.  I never had to bribe her for my frozen Coke again because she always just handed it to me from then on and with a nice kiss on the cheek no less.

I can remember how the light filtered into the window in the late afternoon. Mary Anne was a worse housekeeper than she was a waitress and the ancient dust clung on the glass like a fresh coat of paint. Someone of my same height had rubbed out a nice peephole and I couldn’t keep myself from using it.  I planned on going downtown  to spy on the ring of international agents that were bound to be populating the town’s only eatery. I was going to use my vantage point to get the drop on them. If I couldn’t find any agents within at least I could sneak up on some unsuspecting customer and give him a good fright. Scaring someone’s pants off in broad daylight would have been my crowning achievement to date. My two older brothers refused to join me in my adventure and decided to go down the block and join the other boys in a game of touch football. Since I was the youngest of most of them and being much smaller, I wasn’t interested in the least. Besides touch always became tackle which became Smear the Queer and I guess the other guys thought me queer since I always ended up being it. The spy game was a much safer occupation for me.

Daddy had gone down to Charlotte to pick up some parts for the Roadster and wouldn’t be back until late. I had this plastic Goody comb that I used as a combination gun-walkie talkie. I had wandered the couple of blocks that comprised downtown kicking an old tin can in front of me and humming as much as I knew of the Battle Hymn of the Republic, which wasn’t much at all. I had heard it at the concert given by the Chamber of Commerce every Saturday night at the bandstand down on the square and thought it pretty catchy. That was way before I got my first taste of rock n’ roll. The day was not so hot and sunny and I had about six pieces of Pal bubble gum in my mouth. Pal was the best since it only cost a fraction of a scent apiece and was always readily available at Pickwick’s sundry store. Sometimes if Daddy gave me a nickel I would splurge on Bazooka, but the pickings were slim so I had to make due.

I was working up a bubble the size of my head when I saw Tommy Martin crash his Schwinn right in to the side of the trashcan outside of the diner. I was laughing so hard I almost evacuated on myself. Tommy would later make me pay for it, but man was it worth it at the time. He was just killing me when he sprang back onto his feet after he wiped out like nothing had happened. He dusted off his ripped jeans and made sure his hair was set back in place. I offered him my gun to fix his hair but he just gave me a dirty look and turned to examine the damage to his bike. He had bent his front wheel pretty badly and had totaled the trash can. I was waiting for someone to come out of the diner and give him a good going over for damage to the bin, but to my disappointment no one bothered. The catastrophic indentation of the tire rim was just too much for him to bear and he threw the bike down in disgust, stomped over to the dusty window and sat down on the sidewalk. Although I could see no real abrasions of bruises to him personally the depression of his wrecked bike was just too much for him to bear and he started to cry.

I didn’t know what to do. So I did nothing; I just sat down next to him and offered him a piece of gum. He told me in his emotional, jerky voice how his dad would hide him once he got home for wrecking his bike again. He knew that it wasn’t the end of it either since he would be losing his allowance for as long as it took to replace the rim as well. To tell the truth he was depressing me so bad that I was about to start bawling myself. We sat there and kibitzed a while until he felt better and was getting up to leave. I told him that maybe we could talk Mary Anne in to fronting us enough for a soft drink or something and for him to see if she was working there first. It just happened that he was about the same height as me and he used my spy hole to see if she was inside.

“Hey, ain’t that your Ma in there,” Tommy asked.

“Move over and lemme see,” I said pushing him to one side so I could get a good look.

“That is her. Maybe you could go ask her for a nickel or somethin’ we could split on somethin’,” Tommy said hopefully.

I didn’t answer him. My eyes were glued on the pair of them and I couldn’t look away. His hand reached across and brushed hers gently, causing her to blush so hard that I could plainly see it from where I stood outside. I had never seen him before. He looked like a big city man to me, as if I actually knew what one of them looked like. It didn’t matter where he came from; I knew what his intentions were. I wasn’t as dumb as some people thought I was, heck I had even kissed Amy Pisgah behind the school in second grade and now my own mother was blushing like Amy did when I offered to walk her home.

To my later detriment the rubbed off circle was big enough for Tommy to watch through too, and to my horror he was now putting two and two together just like me. The truth finally dawned for him and he slowly turned around and stood with his back against the window, trying hard to forget what he had just witnessed. He would remember all too clearly later when he told everyone that would possibly listen that my mother was in the diner playing footsies with some city boy. I just wish that he hadn’t been so much tougher than me when I tried to make him shut his mouth later on. I still have the scar just below my left eye to this day.

“Hey, uh pal, I gotta get goin’. Pop’s gonna kill me as it is anyway,” he said stepping to where he had flung his bike. He picked it up and wheeled it down the street as fast as he could go, not once looking back at me. I watched him until he turned the corner at Pickwick’s and was lost to view.

I turned back and looked inside again. He talked. She smiled. She talked and he shook his head and cocked it to one side. They touched now and then, faking like they were going for the sugar or a napkin the wipe some unseen smudge off of the table. She was beaming like I had never seen her before, and she looked twenty years younger. She wasn’t an old woman or unattractive, but time and worry had worn her to a fraction of what she once was. No matter what life had thrown at her though she had no excuse to be sitting in broad daylight across from another man. The thought of someone besides my father touching her in that way made my blood boil. Besides she had treated us with contempt and aggression for most of our lives and she was sitting there coyly smiling and flushing pink for this interloper. He didn’t deserve the kindness that was owed to me.

I had just about enough of watching and I was bound to act. I plucked up my courage and pushed the big glass door open. The cool of the air conditioning tempered my anger a bit, and the fact that the two of them were staring right at me. Mary Anne saw me and retreated to the kitchen. I thought at first that she was going to fly off that fake leather chair and take my pants down right there in front of God and everybody. I would have been relieved if she had done so because it would have meant that she was her old self. Instead she turned her head and looked me square in the eye. She had the look that I had given her a thousand times when she caught me with my hand in the candy jar. It was a mixture of shame and fear that I knew all too well. In that second my heart broke in two.

“Charles, this is my youngest son Bennie. Bennie this is Mr. Charles Macon from Mount Airy. He is down here on business,” she stammered, her eyes now cast down to the table.

“Hello there Bennie, you’re a fine looking young man. I can see some of your momma’s good looks in you,” he said in a snake oil salesman’s voice. I almost vomited when he ruffled my hair with his greasy hand. What I remember most clearly was the gold pinky ring that he wore.

“Bennie, what are you doing down here all by your lonesome?” Momma asked me, not caring what kind of answer that I would give. She was already reaching for her purse for the payoff.

“I was just helping Tommy get his bike home after he had a wreck,” I lied, never taking my eyes off of her. She still thought something was intensely interesting about that diner table.

“Here take this nickel and go get yourself a soda pop or something. I will be home after a while to get supper for you boys,” she said. She held out a shiny buffalo nickel. As I picked it from her hand I could feel that they were cold and clammy. I also knew what Judas Iscariot must have felt like when he picked up his thirty pieces.

“Oh Thelma, that’s not enough for a boy his size to have any kind of fun with,” Mr. Snake Oil said as he handed me a gleaming quarter. I guess that’s how much he thought my momma was worth to me, and at the moment in my pain and hate, I would have taken a single red cent for her.

“No Mr. Macon that is just too much for a boy his age,” Momma interjected. It was a weak gesture made just to be polite. She had already sold herself for nothing.

I turned and made for the door. I caught the proprietress peering through the porthole in the swinging door where she stood curiously watching. The same look of shame and fear that I had witnessed not three minutes before was fixed on her horsy face. She had been caught with her hand in the candy jar too since she had been willing look the other way as a woman that she knew to be a wife and mother flaunted herself to another man. If Mister Caldwell the owner would have been there that day he would have tossed both of them out on their ears and promptly called my daddy.

I heard the bell above the door clang alarmingly as I opened it and stepped out into the brightness outside. I ran to the trashcan that Tommy Martin had wiped out and threw up in it. I was dizzy and disoriented. She hadn’t told that slime ball to hit the road and that she was going home. No, she was still in there with him and she had dismissed her own son with a payoff, and only a nickel no less. At least the other guy had enough decorum to offer more of a bribe.

I walked about half of the block and sat down on the bench outside of the barber shop. I felt cold and more alone that I ever had in my whole life. Then it hit me that maybe I had been wrong about what I had thought that I had seen. It was a possibility that I was just reading into things; I had been wrong before and would be wrong at least once almost every day of my life. I decided that I needed a little more solid proof and not just hunches to go on so I sat there on that bench and waited for them to come out. Surely she would exit alone and make for home. I realized that if she did I was a sitting duck on that bench, but I was willing to risk it.

I sat there for a good twenty minutes before I heard the faint ringing of the chimes from the diner. Since they were the only ones inside I knew that one or both of them was exiting. I dodged behind the car that was parked at the curb beside that bench and I hunkered down out of sight. I peeked up through the back window and saw that they had left in tandem and had turned away from me as they were walking down the street. I followed stealthily as they walked the block and half to the Crazy Eights Motel that stood on the corner. I stood transfixed just across the street as Mister Snake Oil went inside presumably for a room and my mother sat on the hard steel bench outside of the shabby office. I could see him yucking it up with Sandy Belles dad who owned the flea bag motel.

He came out of the office key in hand and she rose to greet him with a kiss. I began to sweat wildly as he returned it and led her by the hand up the flight of stairs just in front of them. They topped the stairs and entered the second door on the left.  The access was pitted and worn and bore a large 202 on it. They both disappeared inside.

I was in a panic; I didn’t know what I should do. Although I knew about kissing and things of that nature, I wasn’t positive what they were doing in there. My brothers had told me the disgusting things that parents did when they were alone, but I was sure that they were lying to me just like they always did.  My curiosity was always my downfall. I slunk across the street and hooked the stairs on the opposite end of the building from where the office was so that Mister Belle wouldn’t see me. Each step seemed to take an hour as I traversed the stairs. Every step seemed an eternity as my wobbly legs led me past the numbered doors on my right.

I stopped directly in front of 202 and tried to look into the window. The heavy curtains were drawn tight and I couldn’t see anything. I could hear the muffled sounds of laughter from within. I knew that voice even through the dampening of the window. She was in there with him having a better time than I had ever remembered her having before. I was burning with the desire to know what was going on behind that door. I got brave and tried the door knob and to my great surprise it was turning slowly in my hand. I swallowed hard and flung it open with one good push.

Momma never came home again. I expected her to be there making dinner when I got back from wandering around town. Daddy came home from Charlotte about nine o’clock that night and questioned all of us about her, but I wasn’t telling and my brothers knew nothing. He waited a few days and called in Doc Sheffield the town marshal for help, but nothing ever came of it. They figured that some drifter had taken her from the house and done away with her in the woods somewhere, but I know better. Every now and again I think that I see her around town, but it isn’t her. I am always glad that it isn’t. I wouldn’t know how to act or what to say to her if it was her. My fool heart was broken on the day when I saw what I saw in room 202 of the Crazy Eights Motel and it will never be the same again.

The Unrequited Melissa Lovemark

The morning was glorious. It was one of those spirit lifting spring days that comes along just a few times in a long year. Life was springing up everywhere as new born shoots climbed longingly toward the resurrected sun. A merry band of daffodils and buttercups languidly waltzed together as obese bees, barely able lift their bulk to the next stamen, buzzed doggedly with the exertion. The full spectrum of birds flitted and floated in the gently swaying tree tops. A fat coney sat grazing easily in an inviting furrow of the newly mown lawn, chewing his cud like a downy miniature bovine. A brace of grey squirrels practiced their acrobatic routines as they chased potential lovers from the ground below to the dizzying heights above.  All was bliss for Melissa as she sat alone there on the wrought iron bench, the cool metal supporting her delicate backside. She held a steaming mug of her favorite morning constitutional in her perfect fingers and she sipped daintily at the contents as she drank in her surroundings hungrily.

She wore little more than the satisfied look upon her face and the form fitting silk negligee that she had been too lazy to amend as yet. The slanting rays caught her as she rose to return to the palace that she had been sitting with her back to. Her alabaster form had been sculpted by unseen hands to perfection, and every one of her voluptuous curves invited the eye of both genders and fairly screamed to be touched.  Even in its unkempt state, her delicious auburn hair cascaded down upon her slight shoulders in a river of honey scented locks. The natural blush of her cheeks and cherry red curls of her lips appeared naturally, as did her disarming smile.

She strutted sensually into the delicate French doors that led to her boudoir. She passed gracefully through the room and into the water closet just off of her lavish bed chamber. The smooth material slipped easily from her form and she reached absently into the intimate stall that housed her shower. She entered quickly, her goose flesh rising into miniscule bumps over her supple skin. It was soon calmed with the cascading warmth that caressed her eagerly as gentle jets of water massaged her happily.  Acquiring a bar of slightly scented soap she began to reacquaint her fingertips with each crevice of her exterior. She closed her eyes tight as she squeezed out a silver dollar sized dollop of sweet smelling shampoo and rubbed it thoroughly into her hair; letting it sit and nourish her inundated mane as she counted sixty seconds.  After a full minute, her tresses had eaten their fill and she ran her long fingers through it repeatedly to extricate any stray suds that had been hiding there in.

She raised one arm over head and felt for the grooming tool that she knew was on a small shelf there in front of her. The safety razor pulled slightly at the stubble that had reestablished itself under her arm pit and now needed to be harvested. She then switched the shaver to the other hand and repeated the process. She skillfully gave her coltish legs the same treatment as she supported one then the other on a short chair that had been placed there for that purpose. Content that her grooming ritual had been completed, she turned the faucet off and stepped back out into the steamy room. She fetched a downy towel and wrapped herself in it; its terry cloth appendages hugging her tightly.

She applied her base coat of color as she sat before the massive mirror that stood conspicuously in the corner of her dressing room. With the skill of a native warrior she applied the various shades of her accoutrements; each perfect feature becoming more inviting with her skillful utilization of the colorful composition. Her real talent was in transforming her natural beauty into an utterly ethereal appearance. She lined and relined, applied and reapplied, brushed and pushed and patted until her façade radiated its youthful glow sufficiently. She silently pronounced her perfection, then rose and opened a pair of doors that housed her extensive wardrobe. She knew exactly the outfit that would complete her look as she freed the towel from her. It complained with a plop as it hit the floor, its million fingers straining to regain their once glorious foothold. She kicked it heartlessly toward the hamper that housed the other divorced serviettes that had enjoyed the same intimacy.

She stood there openly as she fetched her lacy undergarments and pulled them and snapped them in place. A billowy flower dress was selected as the focal point of her ensemble and she stepped gingerly into its gaping mouth, slipping it lightly about her. She pulled her ochre knee socks up to their required height as she sat daintily on her dressing chair. She then returned to her dressing table and gripped the carved ivory handle of her hairbrush and swept it repeatedly through her reddish brown coiffure. It shown lusciously as the light danced madly with it.

All was right with the world. He would be but minutes from her and she would see him again for the first time in such a long time. Her adoration washed over her as she completed her adornments, retrieved a billowy umbrella that matched her cheerful dress, and stepped back outside. She found a seat there beside the garden that afforded a view of the lane that would bring him to her. With unquenchable anticipation she waited. He never came. She finally slunk inside, tossed her withered raiment to the floor, and crawled into her forlorn bed.

A storm was coming in, you could smell it. The swirling air was ripe with rain and even the slightest provocation would send it cascading to earth. The massive pines hissed and bellowed like a sail on a ship. Thunder was murmuring off to the west and soon would be roaring in on top of her hulking monstrosity of a house. It stood lonely atop a crest of a barren hill, the countryside about battle scarred and weary. Stunted, prickly plants clung desperately to life as the angry wind buffeted them. The dwelling itself was exceedingly tall and spindly. Its morose high windows and doors reached above to the peaks of the rooftops that resembled an abandoned spider’s web.

Forks of malevolent lightning snapped to earth outside. Melissa was alone, her coal black hair hung down unkempt about her as she lay in a bed that stood half her height from the ground. The wrought ebony posts stood like sentinels watching her toss and turn in her agony. Impenetrable drapery was hung all about the scaffolding that surrounded her, blocking out even the most insignificant ray of light. Her skin was drawn and sallow and her bedclothes hung off of her like a scarecrow. The air in the room outside of her cocoon was dank and dangerous. She would not be rising to meet the day.

She was positive that he would keep his appointment last evening, but her girlish gaiety had been dashed to pieces anew each minute that he had tarried. The world outside had clouded over and the woodland creatures had disappeared. The vibrancy of her world grew dim and the once healthful fauna withered and died; the thorns and thistles snapping to life in their place. Her palace had grown cold and uninviting, its comely form twisting into angular shapes and gothic rooftops as the lonely day wore on. Her furnishing in her room began a similar transformation and now they stood apart from each other, untouched and unloved by her.

Now the tempest struck like an invading army. Thundering artillery assaulted the rooftops and offensive flashes of fire quivered to the earth. The threatening deluge was unleashed and it lashed the defenseless mansion mercilessly. The walls simply shook in fear at the maelstrom, and they threatened to give way. A barrage of hail slithered to earth, pummeling everything in its path into submission. Everything was chaos.

Melissa pushed the curtain back from her bed chamber and slid down onto the freezing floor below. Her exceedingly tall and emaciated figure collapsed into a blood red chair that stood at the extremity of her divan. She sat there in the gloom, her mood swirling about her like the whirlwind outside. She regained her feet and paced slowly to the stained glass door and opened it. The world exploded toward her as she stepped out into the murky afternoon. The tongues of wind lashed her wildly and the stinging rain soaked her to the bone. The jeering ice cut her as it fell to earth. There she stood for the longest time, her eyes fixed on the road that would have brought him to her. His figure was excruciatingly absent.

Shivering with cold, as well as disillusionment, she returned inside. As she wept bitterly she peeled off her nightgown and let it fall to the muddy ground about her feet. Naked, her once ashen body now blushing from the beating the elements had administered to her flesh, she returned to her shelter and pushed the gargantuan door to behind her. Still dripping wet, she returned to her place, parted the Red Sea of material, slid beneath her coverings, and drifted into fitful sleep.

It was barely past the first cock crow when she snapped awake. Her room had transformed from its former darkness as the morning sun streaming murderously in through the antebellum windows that had grown overnight. The interior was already sweltering this early, and the oppressiveness threatened to intensify as the day wore on. Melissa pushed the single silk sheet that had been her cover back and quickly left her slumber behind her.

She hit the floor, her womanly form streaking toward the bathroom before her. She found the tub and employed the cold water faucet full blast. It hissed angrily as it filled the massive ceramic container beneath it. Melissa stood there in front of the mirror admiring her perfect form. She preened like a peacock in front of her nude reflection, tossing her flaxen, shoulder length hair about her freely. Her devil may care smile delighted her as she stared deeply into the emerald eyes that shined back at her. She slipped into the overflowing water and its cooling waters tempered the anger that had been growing steadily in her. She cleaned herself thoroughly, making sure to expunge him from her every fissure. If he would not come to her, she would find another. There were plenty of wolves in the woods and she would simply replace him.

She rose from her baptism resurrected. She fairly skipped to her closet and fetched out her most lacy and obscene lingerie. She reveled in its sensual touch as it caressed her softly. She poured herself into a form fitting dress and climbed into black stiletto heels. Her makeup was profound and obvious. She strode across her sweltering room, her shoulders back and her ample bust pointing the way out of doors. The sunshine blistered the tropical plants that had replaced the more scant adornments of the day before. An inviting rotunda stood at the end of a cinder path where the former garden had been and Melissa waited under its ample shade. She sat and appreciated the long columns and balconies that dominated her pre Civil War structure. She fanned the flies away as they buzzed lazily about her.

She had called for a car and it would be here shortly to take her away from here. Perhaps he would find his way back to her sometime this afternoon when she was absent and then he would feel as she had. Let him waste away here while she had a lark without him. With her considerable assets she would have no trouble attracting another of his caliber. That thought lit a fire beneath her and she soon was pacing back and forward, checking her nonexistent watch and wondering when her ride would arrive. Hour upon devilish hour passed and no such conveyance appeared. Her hopes of escape were dashed and she soon found herself slinking back indoors as the malicious sun began to set. Not only had she failed in her attempt to be free of his memory, he had also had not appeared again.

The winter wind slipped through the cracks of the floorboards that creaked beneath her. The shack barely stood around her and groaned with the incessant cold that assaulted it. The shrinking clapboards were pried away easily by the fingers of breeze that whispered easily into its gaps. Melissa lay on a ramshackle pallet on the dirty floor, her scant coverings barely hiding her unclothed extremities. Icicles threatened her from above as she turned on to her back and stared up at them. She could see her breath floating ethereally before her as she exhaled absently.

She creaked to her feet, her withered skin flexing hard against her geriatric bones. She held out her wrinkled hands in front of her and gasped. She ran her bony fingers gingerly across her drawn features in wonder. She looked in vain for her mirror that had hung just there not so long ago. She loped to the cobbled together door and pushed it open. The world outside was a white out. Snow and frost dominate everything, choking the life from it. Grey, uninviting clouds release their salvo of individual snowflakes upon her head. Her scraggly hair matched their hue.

Melissa fell helplessly to her knees, the tears flowing freely down her bedraggled face. Her soul was sorrow and her life was anguish. There was nothing left for her. Without him this was her fate. She would wither as the flowers in her garden had so many times before. She would make her bed here in the blanket of snow and curl up into it until death took her mercifully from there.

She was drifting into its loving embrace when a knock at the door awoke her. She shook herself and sat up. The room about her was antiseptic looking block and a single small window stood across from a metal clad cot; it was framed with metal bars. She had been dozing in a large overstuffed chair that dominated the corner to her right and a door hung open that housed her bathing facilities to the left.

She finally registered the hollow thump upon her door. It must be him, he had come at last. They would fall into each other’s arms and he would sweep her off of her feet into his manly embrace. Her kisses would be passionate and long and she would forgive him with every fiber of her soul. Before she could rise to greet him, a wide, unfamiliar face appeared at the entry.

“Ms. Lovemark, it is time for your evening meal and your medication,” the head orderly said politely as he carried in a plastic tray and sat it down on the television tray that had been placed there earlier.

“Davey, oh my Davey, you have come back to me,” she moaned, holding her arms out before her in a gesture of wanting.

“No, Ms. Lovemark, it’s me Darren. I brought your supper. I will see you in the morning,” he assured her as he dodged her embrace. She sat back in her chair and looked intently onto the grounds below her.

“Poor lady, all she ever does is look out of that window. I wonder what she sees out there,” he said to the nurse that was helping him delivery the inmate’s food.

“Carol told me that she got a look at her file. She found her boyfriend with another woman and murdered him,” she replied.

“Wow, who would have thought that? I guess you never know about people. They can change just like that,” he said as he shrugged and pushed his cart down the hall.





Writers and Postpartum Depression

Is it possible for a man to have postpartum depression? Because I think that I have it now that my third novel is done. I found some causes of real postpartum and I have simply taken out the word baby and replaced it with book, and the word mother with the word writer.

  • Tired after delivery
  • Tired from a lack of sleep or broken sleep
  • Overwhelmed with a new book
  • Doubts about your ability to be a good writer
  • Stress from changes in work and home routines
  • An unrealistic need to be a perfect writer
  • Loss of who you were before writing the book
  • Less attractive
  • A lack of free time

Add in the atrocious butt stink from sitting in the same chair night after night for a month and the fear of wearing pants again and you have what I have now. All of the rest of the symptoms are pretty much spot on, especially the second to last one. They say it goes away in time and with professional help, but since I haven’t sold anything I don’t have the money for a shrink. Hopefully once I start another pregnancy I will get over the last one.

Mumbo Jumbo

Linwood Martin and his wife Betty met in college. Linwood was incredibly bright, as was Betty. They were the top in their class in a school where over achieving was the rule, not the exception. As young couples often do, they met, dated for fun at first and then for marriage. To say that their courtship was not a movie script would be an incredible understatement. It consisted of long bouts of intense study sessions capped off by a trip to the theatre or out to dinner, Dutch treat of course. Compatibility and mutual interests were of much higher importance than the more mundane ideas like love and attraction. On the day of their nuptials Linwood’s dumber, but way more fun, brother Jackie remarked that they might as well be married in a test tube. Their union was as cold and bucolic as their calculations.

Both continued their battle to the top of their respective fields; Betty being absorbed in sub atomic theory and Linwood totally engrossed in molecular biology. As is the case in those disciplines, the eventual destination is to teach others what it is that you have tried so hard to understand yourself. Thus both became professors at their alma mater.

Most that knew them agreed that it must have been at the yearly faculty mixer that Howard Hoffman Osgood Martin was conceived, well if not at the function itself then shortly after. Both of the straight laced educators consumed twice the alcoholic volume that their blood could handle, thus sending them into behavior as foreign to them as hygiene is to a Frenchman. Betty became what she had always secretly dreamed of being; a femme fatale. She unbuttoned her frumpy blouse and teased out her customary bun into a hairstyle that the most brazen pole dancer would have been envious of. She laughed wildly and hung at the necks of one terrified victim after another, her sickly sweet breath blowing dangerously in their shocked faces. Martin also morphed into the man that he had always longed to become as well: he was actually interesting. He spoke warmly and at length about subjects that dazzled his listeners. Those that knew him without the social lubricant found him an utter bore and were befuddled by the gargantuan change that had come over the normally subdued stiff. His only fault was that he prefaced each conversation with the molecular biological zinger, “These two amoebas walk into a bar.”

Long story short, the gestation period for a reasonably healthy human woman is roughly nine months. Betty, a few weeks after her drunken flirtations and the subsequent apologies began to feel rather odd. Changes were racking her normally rugged Bavarian frame and the bathroom just off of the faculty lounge would never be the same. A trip to the doctor’s office, filling a cup, getting the inevitable news, and passing out from it, followed in that order. Nature jumped up into the driver’s seat and several foot swelling, banana and pickle sandwich eating months later the aforementioned Howard Hoffman Osgood Martin pried his way from his sedated mother’s womb.

If I may take just a moment to explain the unfortunate Howard Hoffman Osgood Martin’s name I will do so now. His father, having agonized for many nights and most weekends had received a bolt of lightning from the sky one evening as he toiled mightily with an experiment using distilled vapors. He saw it there on the table and the sheer magnitude of its brilliance came to him. He thudded his head heavily with his hands, wondering why he hadn’t thought of it before then. After all it was his favorite chemical formula and it just happened to be the basis of all life on earth. Since his wife and he had begun the life giving process themselves, it was only fitting that his first son be named for it. You see, sitting on that fateful table was a bottle of liquid that contained the simple combination of two parts hydrogen and one part oxygen. We know it as water, but science is acquainted with it as H2O.

For Betty the birth was reasonably simple, the gigantic needle that had been shoved into her spinal cord had seen to that.  The bevy of post partum narcotics kept her in much the same state that she had been in on the night of his conception. The father however, was an absolute mess and needed finally to be removed from the birthing room for his own good and the sanity of the attending physician.

Things were good for the small family at first. Betty took a short leave of absence to sober up and Linwood moved his laboratory to the garage out back in order to be there if any emergency should arrive. Their most organic creation to date consumed them as it does most first time parents and their universe began to revolve around the upstairs nursery. Surprisingly, both were excellent parents, attentive and supportive, if not a bit neurotic. H2O’s development was text book. As a matter of fact his cognitive growth appeared to be off the charts. The child psychologist that his parents took him to at six months confirmed that fact.

They appeared to have made another highly intelligent being with their accidental coupling. H2O excelled in puzzles and games. He was far ahead of other babies his age when it came to matters of the mind. It was about the age of one that things began to take a turn though. When other children are beginning to walk and talk, young H2O was doing neither. He scooted around the floor on all fours for much longer than was normal, it being close to his second birthday when he took his first step. To the disappointed parents, that wasn’t the worst part. He still was outpacing all of the other toddlers at the preschool that had agreed to admit him even though he was way younger than their other charges. He was doing math that a second grader tackled when he was two and a half. He was writing in cursive letters soon after. He played the piano that his mother and father had bought him brilliantly already. He even was a reasonably skilled artist and painter.

The one thing that caused his parents much grief was when they spoke to him. Instead of answering them as the other less gifted children did their parents, H2O would run off a string of gibberish that was unintelligible. He had begun that pattern around ten months of age and he had continued it. He had not improved at all in his mastery of the English language, If anything he had gotten worse. He even wrote his crazy language in perfect cursive, but no one was able to understand it in the least.

The years that followed were a never ending search for the key to young H20’s communication issues. His concerned parents saw one speech therapist after another. Each of them assured them that he would be cured with a minimal amount of time and expense being involved. After a rather large outlay of both they could do nothing but admit defeat. After each successive failure poor Betty would retreat deep into a pitiable cocoon of shame. She refused to accept her son as he was. His father on the other hand, had learned his rudimentary verbal communication and could speak the queer language quite fluently. Secretly he didn’t care if he and his son ever shared a conversation with in his native tongue; he actually enjoyed the gibberish more.

On or about the boy’s tenth birthday, after another terrible failure by an infallible therapist, Betty called it quits. There would be no more money and effort spent on teaching their son what he would not learn. She was convinced that he knew how to speak to them all along but he just refused to do so. H20’s father held no such grudge against his son and had endeavored to accept him as he was. Besides, there were much more important things in life besides talking someone’s ear off all of the time. Silence and brevity were commodities in short supply in the information age.

It was when his parents had settled in to their own way of dealing with their son’s eccentricity when an amazing thing happened. Professor N’golo Nobutu, visiting fellow from the far away island of Mac’boing’boing came to teach for the summer at the college that employed the elder Martins. He was a gifted field biologist and teacher. He and his wife were settling in nicely to their new academic mission when Professor Martin thought it the hospitable thing to do and invited them to dinner one Saturday evening. Betty was informed, and after much grumbling, the meal had been prepared and the family waited eagerly for their guests to arrive. At precisely the agreed upon time the doorbell chimed thrice. H20 was enlisted as doorman and he politely showed the way in and took their coats and hats from them.

“Professor, we are so pleased that you and your lovely wife could join us for dinner. It is not often that we get such good company. Betty and I are always excited to meet those of a culture so different than our own,” Doctor Martin said as he shook the big man’s hand firmly.

“It is our pleasure Doctor Martin. We thank you from the tips of our skirts for your hospitality. May your blood run true in the veins of your progeny forever. That may seem a bit odd to you but it sounds much better in our own language,” the affable teacher laughed.

“Well then, if you don’t mind, why don’t you say it in Mac’boing’boingese?” his host suggested.

“Gooby do ruto do goomba dada sloomba. Go rumba doodabi doo dinko,” his guest replied in perfect Mac’boing’boingese.

“Su tomba do leeki day dunki so lunkee so mungee,” Howard Hoffman Osgood Martin replied clearly to the salutation, to the great surprise of the Nobutus.

To the much greater shock of his parents the three of them began to prattle on back and forth for a good while. They laughed and joked and were having a most engaging conversation in a language that both of them up until then had thought was gibberish. H20 never learned to speak English, but he never had to. On his eighteenth birthday, the day that he received his first PhD in particle physics he moved to the island of Mac’boing,boing. He later became a father twelve times over and spends most of his days fishing. Indeed his blood ran true in the veins of his progeny. His parents have since learned his language fluently and became deans of their respective school at the university of Mac’boing’boing. He is still best friends with Professor N’golo Nobutu to this day.

Angel of Death teaser..

Alex had been waiting for hours.  Clad all in black, he was invisible.  The curtains rustled slightly from a breeze that had interrupted the stillness of the night beyond the second story window where he now sat.  There was a storm coming in. The room would have been festive in the day light; toys and books were spread willy nilly from one end to the other.  Posters of several different cartoon princesses preened in their designated spots on the brightly colored walls. At the moment though, all was as black as pitch.  Even the tiny light bulb that usually served as the last defense against a monster attack had been disabled by the brooding man that sat silently, a toothpick jutting at an angle from his lips.  The room smelled faintly of cinnamon.

Alex could wait.  Like every other big game hunter, a good portion of his life was spent waiting.  He chewed absently on his toothpick, his mind never wandering for a moment from the task at hand.  He matched the rhythmic breathing of the little girl who lay asleep across the room from him.  He hoped that there would be no incident. He didn’t like incidents; he would have to scrub for an extra half hour later if things had to get messy.

He glanced quickly at the luminescent dial of his wrist watch; it read three thirty. Last call had been announced at the Lamplighter by now and Bill Marcum would be on his way home.  He wasn’t sure why he had gotten here so early since he knew Mr. Marcum’s movements as well as he knew his own.  Bill would be stumbling in any minute, drunk as the proverbial pole cat.  He would come directly to this room, shuffle to his daughter’s bed and wake her.  He would whisper his whiskey laden speech to her, the sickly sweet stench of his excess pouring from his body. She would lay still and nod.  Then he would touch her and her skin would go cold and prickly.  Then she would switch off and run to somewhere in her twelve year old mind; somewhere sweet and lovely where the princesses took her gently by the hand.  He would invade her and terrorize her, but she would never know it.

Alex glanced again at his standard issue watch; it read three thirty five. At that instant a key fumbled in the lock of the front door, was eventually placed, and Bill Marcum shambled into his home.  He stomped to the kitchen, opened then closed the refrigerator.  Alex heard the tell tale sigh of a fresh beer being uncorked.  Alex’s fingers crept to the twin nine millimeter pistols that were slung at his sides, his arms crossing as he gripped the smooth rubber handles. Bill was now slowly traversing the stairs, uttering a quiet curse as he tripped on every third one. Soon the door of the child’s room swung open and Alex could smell his quarry.

The drunken man flipped the light switch by the door several times before giving up. He was now kneeling by the girl’s bed, his arms outstretched, feeling for the helpless child.  Her steady breathing was unabated.

“She really is a beautiful girl,” Alex began, his voice like the crack of a rifle to the utterly surprised man who now stared wildly into the darkness.  The drunk’s gut was twisting into sour dough as lightning strikes of fear gripped him. He felt that he would reverse his night’s intake at any moment.

“I sincerely wish that I didn’t have to be here this evening.  Unfortunately, your actions have put the wheels in motion. A complaint was lodged with us on March the third of last month, and a thorough investigation into your conduct has been finalized. Your offenses have been recorded and are now being acted upon. Thusly I must now advise you of your rights,” Alex continued, trying his best to keep his emotions under control.  There was a part of him that wanted to rip the spine from this abomination that was now frozen to the child’s bedside.  Bill Marcum would receive his due process though, the law must be served.

“As a duly appointed officer of the United States government, I hereby advise you that your life will be terminated this night, in accordance with statute 123-12b of the Marital Enforcement Act.  Your wonton disregard of said act has placed you in this jeopardy.  Signed affidavits by Mrs. William Marcum, as well as conduct witnessed by myself have been duly sworn to the Council of Marital Affairs.  This governing body has issued the writ of your termination this third day of April two thousand twenty three,” Alex knew this speech by heart.  He need only remember which name to put upon the dotted line of the documents that were tucked neatly inside his vest pocket.

“Now, my duty has been done. If you will accompany me down stairs I will need your signature on some forms before we can proceed,” Alex said, then slowly rose to his feet.  His arms were still crossed, his hands in contact with the gun butts. Bill Marcum’s liquor soaked brain now began to understand what the voice in the dark had been saying. This was always the most dangerous time; the moment when the mind tells the body to fight or flee.

“Mr. Marcum, I advise you to cooperate,” Alex said between gritted teeth, “I can finish this without your signature, but I would rather not have your grey matter sprayed all over this lovely girl’s duvet cover.  The extraction team gets so upset when they have to clean up brains, and I would rather not have them up here this evening.”

This contrived speech was enough to resign the sobering man to his fate.  He inched his way back toward the hall and slowly made his way down the stairs into the kitchen.  Alex followed, still wary, but now his hands swung freely at his sides. He motioned for the man to sit at the table.  Alex took a seat across from him.  It was now time for the confession; Alex knew the signs of acceptance all too well.  Soon there would be tears and begging, and Alex would throw him one final chance at redemption. To his surprise, the man just sat there picking absentmindedly at the fruit bowl in front of him. Alex couldn’t tell if he was deep in thought or just too inebriated to care.

“I deserve this,” Marcum said, “I knew it was wrong, everything that I done I knew was wrong. I could blame it on the drink or the way I was raised, but that’s a cop out.”

This was not the normal beginning for the confession, but a good start none the less.  Alex sat still waiting for the man to continue.  He was now father confessor, as there was not a real priest handy, and he would be the last person that Bill Marcum would ever talk to.  It was time now for Alex’s standard gesture; he slipped his guns from their shoulder holsters and placed them gently on the table.  He wasn’t sure why he always did that.  Perhaps it was to show them that he was disarmed and they could continue with what they had to say.  Maybe it was to remind them to get it all out because their time was up. Either way, Bill took the hint.

“I knew that it would come to this, but I’m just so weak. I remember the times when I would hate myself for doing what I did, and I would swear that I would never step foot back in this house to keep them safe from me.  But I just kept on. Tina should have turned me in a long time ago,” he paused after blaming his wife, a hint of bitterness in his voice, “No, she didn’t do anything wrong. She took my foolishness for way too long.  I just hope that they can forgive me someday.”

The doomed man now trailed off into a fit of tears.  Alex knew that they were as much for himself as for his deplorable actions to the innocents now asleep upstairs.  He slipped an official looking document from his vest pocket, and spread it out on the table. He fished a black box from the opposite pocket and laid it beside the paper.  It had a small screen that blinked “Signature” and bore a dotted line with an X at the beginning.

“Now Mr. Marcum if you would please sign the pad there and initial next to the highlighted areas on the document,” Alex continued, now resuming his business-like manner.  He pressed a shiny stylus into the man’s trembling hands. Bill did as he was instructed.

“Mr. Marcum I am going to offer you something that I have done personally.  My office knows nothing of this, as it is not standard protocol.  I have here letters that have been written in your handwriting.  One will be left on the lamp stand next to your wife; the other in your daughter’s room.  They both will express how sorry you are for the pain that you have caused them, and will explain why you have left them and will not be returning. They will only be aware of your absence and will never know of your termination,” Alex continued, now unfolding the two letters and handing them to the puzzled man across from him.  He took them and read over both of them slowly, his head nodding slightly as he agreed with what was written.  Upon finishing, he signed both of them at the bottom and handed them gingerly back to Alex.

“Thank you for that, officer. I couldn’t have said it better myself” he said, now a peaceful smile spreading across his face. “Just one thing though, can I at least know your name before you do me in?”

“My name is Igor Bagdonovich,” Alex lied, staring the man squarely in the eyes.

“Bill, you know you deserve an agonizing death for the harm that you have caused, don’t you?” Alex asked, still holding the man in his gaze. Bill slowly nodded his head, as his fear now rose steadily in him.

“But since you admitted you were wrong and were willing to try to make amends, I will kill you as quickly and painlessly as I can,” Alex said, his voice pitched in an almost sorrowful tone. He gathered up the papers and returned them to his pocket.  He reached inside his vest and pulled a large hypodermic from the lining.

“I only reserve this certain chemical to those that I deem truly deserve it.  You will feel warmth, then drowsiness, and then you will fall to sleep.  I have no delight in taking your life, I hope you understand that,” Alex finished.  He uncapped the large needle, held it erect, and tapped all of the air out of the syringe, expelling it in a with a tiny stream  of the liquid from the needle’s tip.  He motioned for Bill to extend his arm with a slight beckoning of his finger tips.  The doomed man complied.

Alex, as he always did, sat there in silence as Bill Marcum breathed his last.  He replaced the needle, as well as his guns, checked the dead man’s jugular for any sign of life, and then slowly walked toward the door.  The extraction team would be along shortly.

He climbed the stairs once more and entered the master bedroom, leaving Tina Marcum’s note on the bed side table.  He then quietly crossed the hall to the girl’s room.  He placed her father’s last correspondence to her beside her on the bed. He gently bent over and stroked her silky brown hair, then softly kissed her on the cheek.

“I’m sorry for what I have taken from you,” he whispered in her ear.  He knew that she would not hear him, since the sleeping gas would not wear off from her or her mother for hours. With tears in his eyes, Alex turned and left the girl purring in her sleep.


I wrote this poem after reading about Green Day’s bass player and his birth mothers battle with heroin. He never met her until shortly before she died.

My mother died there on the floor

And we met just the day before.

Had we loved, would I have known

I had her there for all my own.

But time befalls the strongest clown

And burns their houses to the ground

Left alone, nothing more to be

Questioned the blood inside of me

That sanguine mass, the life giving force

It guides me reckless through my course

And shapes me strong and weak each day

And sends me moaning on my way

The needles prick brought her more joy

Than the newfound voice of her baby boy

Then all was lost to time and toil

To lovers claimed by my turmoil.

My life became a quest of proof

To see myself became aloof

Until the day forever more

That I saw her lying on the floor.