Saturday, July 23, 2011

... The Last Post...

A funny thing happened during the course of writing in this blog; its original purpose evolved in a way I didn't expect.

In the blog's early days, when I commented on the fact that I kept a blog, people asked what kind. 'For writing about myself,' I admitted. 'Oh,' they replied, 'Why?' 'To let my family and friends know how I'm doing,' I told them. 'Oh,' they replied again in a way that made me think I had six heads. There always followed a pause and a change of topic.

I changed the blog to cover different topics on different days. That went well for a while with my 'Sporting Rants and Raves' as well as the 'It's Personal' posts. I seemingly gave to all of you - my ten consistent readers - something that might pique your respective interests. But I realized that I wasn't writing what I wanted to write. I was writing what I perceived you wanted me to write. And I perceived you wanted to know about me and about what I thought.

And you did. But I didn't need to tell you about myself and my thoughts as explicitly as I did. The stories are, in a sense, too true. They have little of that spirit that makes stories good. Instead, I can tell you just as much about myself in a story about an old demented man who escapes confinement to meet his friends for hockey or in a story about a young man running for his life from someone seemingly intent on catching him.

In my first post, I declared that I would use the blog as a conduit for others to keep up with me. I proceeded to post about my political views, my partner, my current job, my dogs, and my past. Well, my political views have evolved. I am no longer with that partner. I am no longer at that job. I no longer have the dogs. And with a bad memory, even my past drifts further into obscurity every day.

In this, my last post in this blog, I promise nothing in the future except, perhaps, a few stories that might steal you away to places you do - and sometimes don't - want to go. That said, be on the lookout for some of my fiction - old and new - on a new site.

Until next I write...


Monday, June 27, 2011

Two Runs

It was the bottom of the fifth at the new Yankee Stadium. The boy of no more than six returned from the bathroom ahead of his lagging father. The boy scurried to his seat and picked up the magazine. He looked up at me and asked, ‘What happened?’

I replied, ‘A-Rod flied out to right. And Cano is on first.’

A bit confused, he looked back at me and inquired, ‘How did they get two runs? Did Swisher hit a homerun?’

I looked at him equally confused. ‘No, it’s still three to nothing.’

It was a friend’s birthday, and she had suggested a Yankees game to celebrate. The brunch she was having with friends proved a bit early, so we chose to meet at the stadium before the game. After a quick stroll around the new sports complex immediately adjacent to the stadium – and the location of the old Yankee Stadium – we met up with the crew and entered.

We climbed the stairs and proceeded to our seats among the Bleacher Creatures in section 201. Although we could not see left field from our seats, there were three large screen televisions to our right to aid us should any ball travel beyond our line of sight. In addition, we did not have the benefit of being able to see the giant scoreboard since we were directly beneath it. But there is an abbreviated horizontal scoreboard that extends across the front of the stadium, which gave us enough information about the current state of affairs.

In the bleachers sat an eclectic mix of young and old. Bud Light flowed like water into the cups of most fans. I decided to stick to water as I was saving the extensive alcohol intake for later in the day. In front of us sat an older gentleman and his five year old kid, who was fully garbed in Colorado Rockies attire. As a Yankees fan, I cannot help but feel disdain for anyone not wearing white, navy blue, or the barely acceptable ‘Away’ gray. But, I decided to make an exception as I immediately recognized a father-son outing replete with the father teaching the son how to score the game.

In the middle of the second inning, the father turned and asked if we would watch their stuff while they went to the bathroom. The kid, at that point, was not making eye contact. When they returned with a beer – presumably for the father – and a hot dog with ketchup (such a travesty), play had already resumed. The kid asked his father what had happened fully expecting him to know. I volunteered, ‘A-Rod got out on a five three.’ The father lit up, and aided his son in the correct scoring.

Over the next couple innings, we chatted briefly. They had traveled from Colorado to watch a few games at Yankees Stadium, and they just happened to come for Old Timer’s Day. In fact, the father told me about how they had run into Goose Gossage in the elevator of their hotel. When the kid very earnestly told Goose that he wanted the Rockies to win, Goose answered, ‘Well, I hope not.’

In the fourth, the father asked me to take a picture of him and his boy. I took his iPhone and snapped what I considered to be a pretty good shot of them with the field extending behind them. After I handed the phone back to the father, the kid looked up at me for the first time and said, ‘What happened?’ I answered honestly, ‘I don’t know; I was taking your picture. But I know he got out.’ The boy harrumphed and went back to concentrating on the next batter.

In the middle of the fifth – just before play was to resume – the kid needed to use the bathroom again. Again, the father asked us to watch his stuff. And off they went. A-Rod flied out to right. Cano got a hit. That’s when the kid descended the stairs – with his father lagging behind – and snuck back to his book. He opened it hastily and looked up at me. ‘What happened?’ I told him. ‘How did they get two runs? Did Swisher hit a homerun?’

I made a concerted effort to understand where he had seen the two. The score at that point was three to nothing. The Rockies had five hits and the Yanks had one. The Rockies had no errors and the Yanks had one. I looked at every other number on the board, and there was no two. I looked at him and responded, ‘No, it’s still three to nothing. Swisher’s at the plate.’

As soon as I finished speaking, the crowd roared. Nick Swisher sent a ball hurtling into the right field seats; he and Cano both scored. Amazed, I glanced down at the kid, who was busy filling in the appropriate boxes on the score sheet. I tried to understand if the kid understood what he had just said. But Posada sent a ball to deep center that made the stadium erupt. By the time the roar had ceased, the time to analyze had passed. Instead, the occurrence passed into the realm of that abyss between the sublime and the mundane. I leave you to draw your own conclusions…

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

The Taste of Metal

He placed his hand on the grip and wrapped his index finger around the trigger. He wondered what this moment might feel like, this moment of both ultimate power and weakness. He lifted the dead weight and placed it square on his undeveloped chest. There was a moment of chilled discomfort which prompted him to adjust the piece slightly. Both arms hung lifelessly by his side.

He stared down the barrel wanting to feel happy or angry or at least impressed by the ingenuity that created such a weapon. His mind wandered to stories of wrist slitting and self-hanging. He admired those who could take their lives in such a noble way. But he couldn’t do it. He needed this gun.

A southpaw, he brought his left up to the gun and moved the now warm metal up to just below his chin. He formed an ‘o’ with his lips and stuck the gun in like a popsicle. The barrel struck his teeth causing him to flinch; the gun fell from his mouth onto his left arm and then onto the floor with a thud. A shiver ran down his spine. He spit onto the throw rug, trying to extract the metallic taste. For an instant, he had the urge to flee, if only because the metal on his teeth made him remember the multiple fillings he had endured.

He rolled over on the couch and reached for the gun; it was just out of his reach. ‘Shit,’ he said aloud as he rolled onto his back. His eyes closed; the smell of something rotten filled his nostrils.

He found himself in a dirt pit with sides as high as cliffs. Above him men and animals leapt across the chasm. He grasped a root that stuck out of the wall of dirt and yanked it, only to find that the tree to which it had been connected had died long ago. A yelp came from above; one of the animals hadn’t made the leap. Down it came tumbling against rock and dirt. ‘Nothing can survive that fall,’ he thought to himself. He pressed himself against the side hoping to avoid both the falling debris and the animal itself. He expected a thud, but heard instead an eloquent thump. He opened his eyes, and there before him stood a King Cobra, both beautiful and terrible. Fear washed over him. Not this way, he thought. Not by a snake in a pit. The snake smiled at him, his teeth a bright white with fangs longer than the mouth should be able to contain. Except it was a human smile. He looked into its eyes and saw not the eyes of a serpent but of a man, a pensive man who was considering his options for escape.

‘If we work together, we can essscape,’ the cobra lisped between his giant teeth.

He stared at the teeth and considered whether he should respond.

‘I will not bite you; I am not hungry,’ the snake admitted in an even tone. ‘If you wait, however, you will be consssumed.’

‘What do you mean?’ he asked, almost willing not to be scared.

‘I ate a man before I fell into this pit. I am no longer hungry.’


‘Shall we essscape?’ The snake moved its head toward him.

Suddenly, he felt no fear for the cobra but for what existed outside the pit. ‘I don’t know if I want to.’

‘You would rather remain here with me then? We can wait. They will sssave me; I am rare. You are not.’

He felt indignation at the snake’s claim. ‘I’m a man. They would save me.’

‘You are worthlessssss,’ the cobra spat.

‘And you are a killer. They will kill you.’

‘Yesss. If I kill too many men. But I will not. I will kill enough to sssate my thirssst. And no one will know the differenssse.’

‘They will know if you eat me.’

‘They will think it ssself defenssse,’ the snake slurred.

He considered the snake’s stance for a moment and realized he had no defense. ‘And if I do want to escape?’ he inquired. ‘What makes me think I can believe that you would be true to your word?’

‘I have not given my word, my friend. You have little choissse in the matter.’

‘There’s always a choice.’

‘Yesss, between the frying pan and the fire. Which will it be?’

He considered his position. ‘I’d rather neither if I have the choice.’

Something akin to a laugh escaped from behind the snake’s forked tongue. ‘But you don’t.’

‘If I were to agree, what must I do?’

‘Trussst me.’ The snake smiled.

‘Fine. What do I need to do?’

‘You mussst kill a man.’

‘I am a pacifist.’

The snake laughed again. ‘You are a liar.’

‘I am not. I’ve never hurt anyone. I’ve never so much as got into a fight.’

‘You’ve never had the desssire to hurt anyone? Ever?’ the snake asked mockingly. ‘I think you have.’ The words lingered in the pit; they caused a recurring echo that grew louder in his ears.

‘Stop! Stop, please! I’ll do whatever you want.’

‘Even kill sssomeone?’

‘Yes, if I must,’ he whimpered.

‘You mussst.’

A stone hurtled down and struck the dirt beside him. Another came soon after. ‘What’s going on?’ he questioned the snake.

‘It’sss your opportunity. Take it while you can.’ The snake spoke while trying to avoid the falling rocks.

‘What do you mean?’

The snake looked up. And suddenly a rope descended with a single man attached to its end. The man immediately saw the snake but did not see the other inhabitant of the pit. He struck at the snake with some kind of tool meant to paralyze it.

He knew it was his chance. In an instant the tool struck the snake leaving it unconscious. The snake tamer extracted a burlap bag and stuffed the snake inside. Still, he did not see the other man in the pit. He was about to give a tug when the other man revealed himself.

‘Please help me. I need to get out of this pit,’ were the first words from his mouth.

Startled, the man wielded the snake paralyzer and struck at the other man, who barely avoided the strike. He then grabbed the rope and attempted to tug. Meanwhile, the trapped man leapt from the ground and tackled the snake charmer.

‘Look,’ he said,’ I just want to get out of here.’

The snake charmer elbowed the trapped man squarely in the jaw dislodging him for a moment. He yanked the rope with his next moment and waited impatiently for the rope to ascend. But the trapped man was on him again, pulling at his clothing and hair.

‘You have to help me,’ he screamed. ‘You can’t leave me down here.’

The snake charmer pulled a small knife from his belt and swiped cutting open the trapped man’s leg. Blood gushed from the wound. But the adrenaline rush kept the trapped man focused on his goal. He grabbed for the snake charmer’s hand with his left hand and punched him in the mouth with his right. The snake charmer dropped the knife. The trapped man snatched the knife and in one moment stabbed at the snake charmer’s abdomen. It was a fatal strike. The snake charmer struggled with what little strength he had but it was not enough. The trapped man extracted the knife and cut the rope. He then grabbed the bag with the snake and pulled hard on the rope. In an instant, he was ascending from the pit.

While ascending, the snake somehow slithered from the bag onto his arm and wrapped itself securely around his midsection. ‘Are you ready?’ asked the snake.

At the moment he looked down, the snake buried its fangs into his stomach. The venom spread almost instantly throughout his body. He felt the life drain from the body he had inhabited. Except, he didn’t feel as though he was dying. Of course, he had never actually died – or at least he had never recalled dying in the past – so he couldn’t be certain that this wasn’t dying. But something in his consciousness told him that he wasn’t.

‘How do you like thisss essscape?’ he heard the snake’s voice say.

He opened his eyes and immediately noticed a change. ‘I’m a snake,’ he thought to himself.

‘But you aren’t, my friend. I am the ssssnake. You are my unfortunate guesssst.’ The slurring wracked his mind. ‘I look forward to your sssstay…’

His eyes opened. The sweat glistened on his brow. He listened to his breath. In and out. In and out. In and out. As he breathed, the memory of his dream faded. There was dirt. And falling stones. No way out. Nothing he could do. And there was someone. Or something. There was fear. He breathed. In and out. He tried to remember. The memory teetered on the edge of an abyss. He closed his eyes again and focused. He felt himself losing consciousness; he had never been able to revisit a dream. But this one was important. He knew it. He had to go back. He felt the weightlessness of sleep. ‘Ssssam…’

‘Sam!’ The exclamation yanked him from the gray matter of sleep. ‘What are you doing?’ His sister’s frantic voice lingered in his ears.

He shook his head. ‘Hi, sis. What’s up?’

‘What’s with the gun?’ She kept her distance from both him and the gun.

‘Jeff left it here,’ he lied.

‘Jeff? Why did he leave a gun here? What were you doing?’

‘Sleeping. I just woke up.’

‘Don’t lie to me, Sam. Don’t lie. Don’t be like dad. Let me help. Let me help you. Why is this gun here?’ she yelled.

‘You want to know?’ he yelled back. ‘Do you?’ He grabbed the gun with his right hand and put his left index finger on the trigger. He leaned the gun back until the barrel was under his chin. ‘I don’t care anymore. What’s the point? I’m tired. I’m young. I’m stupid. Things aren’t fair. What’s the point? Really.’

His sudden movement paralyzed her. She simply watched; there were no words.

The moment passed. He loosened his grip with his right hand and let the barrel fall forward. His left index finger flinched. There was a shot.

He heard a voice, ‘Even kill sssomeone…’ The hissing laughter lingered for what seemed an eternity.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Outta Time 6

Please see Outta Time for the first part of the story.

Please see Outta Time 2 for the second part of the story.

Please see Outta Time 3 for the third part of the story.

Please see Outta Time 4 for the fourth part of the story.

Please see Outta Time 5 for the fifth part of the story.

The sirens were getting closer. But he couldn’t leave without understanding what had happened.

His eyes went immediately to the perfectly made bed. And it wasn’t the perfection of a good housewife, but rather it was that of a hotel maid. Or of a new cadet recently graduated from boot camp. He surveyed the bureau and spotted Ella’s untouched purse. A stack of neatly folded clothes sat on a nearby end table.

‘Ella?’ It was a whisper. He cleared his throat. ‘Ella?’ This time it came out as something of a scream except an octave higher than his normal voice.

Something was very wrong with the picture. He walked to the window beside the bed and looked out at a few of the local buildings as he had when he lived there. Then he glanced down at the street below and noticed a commotion. He also noticed at that moment that the sirens had ceased. He opened the window and stuck his head out the screenless window. Below, he saw what looked to be a large quilt covering something on the sidewalk.

He backed away from the window catching his left foot on the edge of the throw rug. He fell with a thud. The precious seconds quickly ticked away, limiting his potential options. Still, he felt the paralysis of indecision. He could try to make a run for apartment H and ‘sit on the couch’ as he was told. He could try to get out of the building, which was less and less promising every moment he waited. Of course, he could just wait to be caught and try to explain the strange events that had been happening. He had the DVD after all. But the DVD wasn’t much; in fact, it was nothing more than a cut-rate production that made no reference to any person specifically.

‘Okay, gotta go,’ he said out loud. ‘The apartment seems as good a choice as any.’

He stepped back into the hallway and grabbed the fungo. He moved past the kitchen and glanced down at the floor. On the floor laid Bruce face down in a pool of blood; there were two gunshot exit wounds in his back. Darren froze. For whatever reason, he couldn’t move. He just stared at the expired body.

A loud knock came at the front door, startling Darren. His time to contemplate had ended.

‘Darren Brahm, we know you’re in there,’ came the voice of a young man. ‘Surrender yourself.’

Darren considered his remaining options. He wasn’t going to bring a fungo to a knife fight; that much was certain. He turned and ran back into the bedroom. He looked out the open window at the crowd below. Then he looked from side to side. The wall was sheer.

‘This is your last warning,’ spoke the muffled voice.

Darren threw the bat onto the bed and seized the wooden trunk in front of it. With all his might, he lifted the trunk by its two handles and carried it into the hallway. He placed the trunk gently in front of the front door.

Then, he called out as non-chalantly as he could muster, ‘I’ll let you in in just a moment officer.’

‘I’d advise that you open the door now, Mr. Brahm!’

It was just the time he needed. Darren backed away from the door, extracted the DVD from his jacket, and put it into the DVD player. He hit the red power button to turn the television on.

The first thud upon the front door followed, but the door itself held. ‘This is for your own good, Darren!’

He wasn’t listening. The screen came to life showing the destruction of the U.S.S. Enterprise.

He heard gunshots. The officers were shooting out the locks. Somehow, the deadbolt and the trunk held the door shut.

The screen went black. The voice exclaimed, ‘There are no escapes this time.’ Playing softly in the background was End of the Line by the Traveling Wilburys.

Darren sighed. There came another volley of shots to take out the deadlock.

He had two options. He could wait for them to enter. Or he could decide to allow gravity seal his fate. The latter seemed more enticing at that moment.

The television cut suddenly to one of the closing scenes from Star Wars III. A droid presented each of the twins to Padme to be named. The voice spoke, ‘I wouldn’t choose gravity if I were you because Ella wasn’t completely honest with you about the abortion.’ The DVD ended.

An explosion came from the front door, and two men – rather boys – entered.

Darren dashed into the bedroom and grabbed the bat. The two boys stood in the doorway. The short, stocky white one had a pistol. The taller black kid – whom he recognized as the one from the street – had his hands in his jacket pockets.

The white one spoke, ‘We can do this the easy way or the hard way.’

Darren grabbed the bat and decided that he’d try to bring the bat to a gun fight after all. He stood and, with all his might, flung the bat at the gun-toting kid. The white kid stepped back. The black kid rolled forward and bounced to his feet. In the next moment, the black kid extracted a small device and aimed it square at Darren’s chest. ‘The easy way,’ he said through a smirk. He pressed the button and tased Darren until he rendered him a limp body on the apartment floor.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Do Over

She sat on a coffee-colored leather sofa in the split ranch waiting for her husband to come home. She felt no real desire to see him. She couldn’t yet admit to herself that her lack of desire was, in fact, disdain bordering on disgust. But she justified the relationship because this one had to work. After three failed marriages, there wasn’t much of a choice. She reached for the wine glass but miscalculated sending the Cabernet tumbling to the floor. The stain blossomed on the carpet. She leaned back into the couch and stared at the empty images spewing from the television. Her eyes closed; she wished – not for the first time – that she could do the whole thing over.

The glass had fallen out of her sight. She reached her slender fingers down over the couch and felt the foot of the glass. Her hand slid up the stem until she felt the round bottom of the bowl. She slid the stem between her ring and middle fingers and squeezed. She perceived the jagged edge of the glass on her index finger not as pain but as discomfort, a textural abomination. The libation dulled her reaction. Instead of flinching and dropping the broken chalice to the ground, she pulled it up to her face and watched as blood dripped rhythmically onto her indigo bathrobe. With the bleeding hand, she placed the glass delicately on the coffee table and then pulled back her bloodied finger to her mouth. The thick liquid had a familiar metallic taste, like milky unfiltered tap water. She leaned her head against the couch, waiting for the white blood cells to do their work.

The heavy car door slammed shut outside. The key twisted in the lock. He kicked off his shoes and threw his backpack onto the ground. ‘Honey, I’m home,’ he called with mock sincerity. ‘As if that really mattered anyway.’ He didn’t climb the eight short steps but instead descended into his man cave to drink his limeless Corona and catch the back-to-back reruns of Seinfeld. The door closed with a thud.

She opened her eyes and focused on the television. A news anchor with bad hair described the beating of an elderly man in broad daylight. She grabbed the remote control and pressed the power button. The screen went blank.

She slowly took her finger out of her mouth and felt the tears come one after the other until her cheeks were wet. Her drunkenness diminished, she set her foot down into the spot where she spilled her wine. Red liquid bubbled onto her toes and stained her nails. She looked at her feet and smiled. The smile gave way to a giggle. As she did when she was a little girl, she retrieved the nail polish and set to work on painting her toenails.

She sat squarely in the middle of the queen-sized bed and set the bottle of nail polish on a book of art by Kandinsky that one of her more artistic friends purchased for her. The book had never been opened. She dipped the small brush into the viscous liquid and transferred the color to her pale, yellow nails. Back and forth she stroked the brush on each nail until they were neon pink. She smiled at the sight.

The door flew open; the knob thwacked the already indented drywall. Startled, she jumped knocking the polish onto the book causing Kandinsky’s Yellow-Red-Blue to sport more pink than the artist originally intended although Vassily might have been well pleased with the conical shape that extended from the mouth of the bottle to the corner of the book cover.

‘What the hell are you doing?’ he slurred.

She ignored him. She stared at her toes.

‘Are you gonna make some food? Or are we doing pizza again?’

She wrapped her arms around her knees and began to rock slightly.

‘You’d think by now that you could handle your liquor. But you’re just a lightweight.’

The last word struck a nerve. Since high school, that was the one word no one could rightfully use to describe her. ‘Shut up and get out of my room.’

‘Ah, so she speaks,’ he mocked. ‘You gonna make me?’

Her guile receded. She continued rocking.

‘I thought not. I’m gonna order some pizza.’ He walked back into the living room.

She listened to him as he ordered. ‘Pepperoni and olives. Yeah, extra cheese. And I’m gonna pay by credit card.’ He read the number. After a pause, she heard, ‘Oh yeah, I forgot. Can you try this one?’ He read the 16 digits from another card. After a moment, he replied, ‘Sorry, the economy’s not been good to us. Can you wait just a moment?’ He yelled out sweetly, ‘Honey, where’s the Visa?’ She didn’t reply. ‘I’m sorry, she must be downstairs. I’ll call back in a bit.’ The phone beeped, indicating the end of the call. He stomped back into the room.

‘Didn’t you hear me calling, honey?’ he emphasized the final word not so sweetly. ‘Why are you being such a bitch?’

Her rocking became more pronounced.

He crossed the room and grabbed the purse on her dresser. He rummaged through until he found the wallet. ‘I’m guessing you won’t mind that I use your card to order some pizza.’ He looked back at her. ‘It doesn’t look like you mind.’ He noticed the blood on her bathrobe. ‘That time of the month, huh? Oh wait, I think you’re done having kids. When was the last time they called you, by the way? Never? Thought so.’

She could smell the gin each time he exhaled. She stared at her toes and tried to take comfort in the neon pink color. Meanwhile, the polish continued to drip on the bed.

He walked out and called the pizza place back. ‘Yeah, we’re trying to consolidate some debt,’ he lied. ‘This one should work.’ He read the number. ‘Yeah, I’d like a large pepperoni and olive. Extra cheese.’

She didn’t eat meat, hated olives, and was lactose intolerant.

‘Nope, that’s it,’ he crooned. ‘Thank you so very much.’ She heard the beep to indicate the end of the call.

He walked back down the hallway and stopped at the door. He flicked the card at her and hit her in the back. ‘Thanks for the pie, dear.’ He slammed the door shut.

She hadn’t noticed the tears streaming down her face until the door slammed. She began to sob.

It isn’t true that death is the only moment that a person’s life flashes before her eyes. It happens also during those potential life changing moments when all seems lost. She saw her dead father grinning at her with his cleanly teeth. She saw her first boyfriend lean in for a kiss. She saw each of her past husbands as she spoke her vows to them, in the Catholic church, on the beach, and in the court clerk’s office. She saw herself trip over her elder son and fall down the steps in her first home. She saw herself search desperately for her younger son. She remembered the Christmas when neither son called her.

The sadness welled inside her, flooding her heart with despair. She stopped crying only because there were no more tears. For the second time that night, she wished she could do the whole thing over. But there were no do-overs. There were too many memories to forgive and forget those around her, not to mention herself.

She grabbed her red Samsung and searched the names. She called Bryan first, but there was no answer. Then she tried her younger son, Nicholas. He picked up on the third ring.

‘Hi mom.’

‘Hi Nick. How are you?’ She tried not to sound drunk.

‘Okay. Long day. What’s up?’ he asked. He wasn’t accustomed to answering calls from his mother.

‘I miss you.’ She felt her throat close.

‘Yeah. Well, we miss you too, mom. How are things?’ he asked casually.

‘Nick, I’m going to be honest. You and your brother are the best choices I ever made.’

There was a pause.

‘Thanks, mom. Are you okay?’ Nick had always been the more blunt of the two boys.

‘Not really. I’m so sorry.’ She slurred each ‘s’.

‘Well, I have to go change Bella. Are you coming up any time soon?’

‘I hope so. I think I have to.’

‘Okay, great. Let us know. We’d love to see you.’

‘Okay. I love you, Nick.’

‘Love you too, mom. Talk to you later.’

The line went dead.

The doorbell rang. It was the pizza, and it was her chance to act. She grabbed the credit card on the bed and tossed it into her purse. She paused for a moment to consider what else to bring with her. She grabbed the small bag that rested by the bureau and packed a few shirts, a few pairs of jeans, and underwear. The Kandinsky book followed. She heard the front door close, followed by footsteps down the stairs. She opened the bedroom door quietly, her purse on her shoulder and the small bag in her hand. She crept down the hallway and used the stairs to the back door. She heard nothing. Once out the door, she walked through the wet grass around the house and found her Rav 4. She clicked the button on her keychain. The doors unlocked quietly. She threw her belongings into the backseat and shut the door as quietly as she was able. She then moved into the driver’s seat.

She put the key into the ignition. And then she sat. She looked at the house she had purchased. It had been the first house she had purchased alone. She didn’t turn the key. Instead, she considered the situation. In her head, a voice spoke. ‘Four failed marriages.’ Then she heard her father’s voice, ‘Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me.’

And then another voice spoke. ‘Where will you go? What will you do? You have no plan. You have no course of action. You have only a bag and a credit card. You are leaving your house. You will have four failed marriages. You will have been defeated in every aspect of your life.’

She considered her situation. She felt the migraine begin to creep into her skull. And then she saw the garage door open. She knew it was now or never. She turned the key and heard the SUV roar to life. Her husband ran out to the driver’s side and knocked on the window.

She wanted to put the car in reverse and be rid of him. She wanted to find a hotel and plan the next steps of her life. Instead, she lowered the window.


‘Where are you going?’

‘Away from here, from you,’ she replied.

‘What about me,’ he asked in as desperate a voice as he could muster.

He heard that cry from each of her former husbands. And she still didn’t know the answer.

‘I’m sorry. I had a bad day at work. I’ll do better.’

‘How many times have you said that?’ she asked. How many times had all her husbands said that?

‘I know what I did. I shouldn’t have taken it out on you. I’m sorry.’

And how often can people say they’re sorry without being contrite?

‘Come back inside. I’ll get a pizza you want with my own money. I just got paid today.’

‘Four failed marriages,’ spoke a faraway voice.

‘C’mon, Lizzy,’ he showed his sad, brown eyes.

‘You can’t treat me like this,’ she cried. ‘I can’t do this anymore.’

‘I know,’ he replied. ‘I know. I’m sorry.’ He opened the door and put his right arm around her back. ‘Come inside.’

She climbed out of the SUV and followed him into the house.

The key dangled in the ignition.