News from Eureka Springs, Arkansas

Friday, December 7, 2012

A Free Gift For Christmas

From me to my readers, here is a short story for Christmas entertainment. It's not the warm fuzzy Hallmark Channel lurkers are used to, in fact, there's irony here and a little taste of "gotcha," but it has a happy ending.
It's an experiment in Interior Monologue, which means only one voice, one point of view. His name is George, and he's not a happy camper. Enjoy!

Marilyn Doesn’t Live Here Anymore

               By Joyce  Zeller

I've lost my mind.  I'm standing in a puddle of slush on the sidewalk, in Downtown Chicago, waiting for my ride and shivering my ass off, because I've been sucked into to another Christmas cocktail party. Hell, I just came from an office party. 
I’m a push-over that’s what. I hate these things. The food is lousy, alcohol gives me a headache, and I stand around trying to look like I'm having fun, but nobody wants to talk to me. Bud wants me to meet this woman he's gone ape over--the broad he's going to marry if he can talk her into it, and, OK, I owe him. He’s new in the office and the only one who’s tried to be friendly in a while. The rest of those losers all took Marilyn’s side in the divorce and now they just ignore me. Learned a lesson there.  Four years of marriage is more than enough. Shit, if the guy wants me to go to this party to meet this woman, well, what the hell. 
It’s starting to snow—again. God, I hate Chicago in the winter—the damn wind blowing salt from the street in my face, the sidewalks piled with dirty, greasy snow left from the last storm.
       Holidays are the worst. The place goes crazy with gaudy Christmas decorations, the obligatory, glitzy tree in every office, and those damn, clanging bells in the hands of the ersatz Salvation Army Santas, driving a man crazy.      
       “Hey, George! Over here!” 
       Well, yeah, Bud, yell loud enough for the whole world to hear, hanging out the window of that cab, waving his hands, just like a little kid.  I’m not going to live through this evening if he keeps up with this holiday cheer.
Well, it ‘s too late now to back out. I might as well get this over with.
      “Hey, good Buddy. You been waiting long? Here, let me move these bags. I stopped to get some wine. Melody likes this special wine they sell at Stop &Shop.”
     So smile as if you mean it, stupid. Melody Lowe! What the hell kind of a name is that? A woman with a name like that is up to no good.
     “Hey, cheer up, George.  You’ll enjoy yourself. Wait until you meet her!”
     Brace yourself. Here it comes.  When Bud starts about Melody it‘s like a dam breaking. To hear him tell it, the lady is the most dynamic, dazzling, beautiful, et cetera, woman to come down the pike this century.
     “She’s so confident! She knows where she’s going and how to get there.”
     What the hell is that supposed to mean?
     “She makes her own clothes out of material she paints. She weaves stuff on the loom she has in her living room.”
     George sighed. “Marilyn used to have ideas like that. We’d fight about it and then, she’d finally give it up.”
     Hell, I’m talking about my ex-wife! I never talk about her, ever, except to mother. Damn, there shouldn’t be this pain in the gut. I should be glad to be rid of her.
     Bud was looking at him, waiting.
     “Marilyn is my ex-wife.”
     It wasn’t enough. Bud still waited. What the hell! Maybe it was the goofy look on his face when he talked about Melody, or his general dumbness when it came to women. Whatever, George suddenly felt like talking about his marriage. He was an expert on the devious ways of women. Maybe he could enlighten Bud about the pitfalls and keep him from making a stupid mistake.
     “Marilyn had all these ideas about decorating. She wanted to fill the living room with wild colors and buy a purple rug. We had a big fight about it. Mother explain to her that most dirt was shades of brown, so it was smarter to stick to those colors so the dirt wouldn’t show.”
Bud was looking at him oddly. It was plain that he didn’t understand and it was important to George that he did.
      “It took some doing but she finally saw it our, ah, my way.  We ended up with a nice brown tweed sofa and a brown carpet. Good stuff. Cost a bundle. Here’s women for ya’. When it was delivered Marilyn refused to go in there -- only to dust once in awhile.”
     Plainly, Bud wasn’t listening, looking down at his hands, obviously waiting so he could talk about Melody. His temper started to flare. His friend reminded of a dog he’d once owned, briefly. Damn thing didn’t want to listen to him, either.
      “Melody’s about our age. I met her when I was taking a night class at college. She’s an Interior Decorator. She makes a lot of money. Wait until you see her place. She’s got these acrylic tables she made in art class, and there’s a purple rug on the floor. 
     One of those hippie types. “Marilyn wanted to go back to school.  She started taking a couple of night courses, but it didn’t work out. I mean, what kind of life did I have if she had her nose in a book all the time? Dinner was never ready because she was late getting out of class. Breakfast too, because she stayed up late studying. We didn’t have anything to talk about anymore.“
      “Melody and I spend hours talking. She has a fine mind. You know, the next day is easier after I’ve spent an evening with Melody. I know she’s there, waiting for me to phone and I don’t feel alone anymore.” He looked to George for understanding.
     Well, hell. “Yeah, Buddy, I know what you mean.” Regret seared through him, making his gut ache. “Loneliness is the one thing about divorce that’s hard to live with. There’s nobody to talk to unless you go out looking, and then you wonder if anybody will like you enough to spend an evening with you, and then wonder what else they’ll expect, and if you’ll disappoint them.
The moment of quiet brought on by his confession should have been peaceful, but it embarrassed him. Thankfully, Bud broke the silence.
      “I’m going to ask Melody to marry me again, tonight. The one thing I have going for me is that I want kids and so does she.  Did you ever have kids?”
     The fight about kids ended his marriage. “No. Marilyn wanted kids and we argued about it, but Mother warned me. Marilyn was adopted and if you didn’t know the blood, you couldn’t be sure of what you’d get, so I didn’t want to have kids.”
     The expression of pure disgust on Bud’s face shocked him.  He heard his laugh echoing uncertainly.
     “You know, Melody once told me one of the things that appealed to her about me was that I didn’t have a mother. I thought that was a strange thing to say, but maybe not.”
      They pulled up at Melody’s apartment. Bud paid the cab and George got out to follow him to the entrance of an obviously high-end apartment complex. The lobby gleamed with polished wood and elegant furnishings and lush Christmas decorations, obviously the work of a professional. The bronze elevator doors and plush carpeting added to the impression of wealth. George looked around, envious, wondering what it'd cost to live here. Reluctantly he followed George, walking down the hall, inhaling the electronically freshened air. The sounds of gaiety beckoned them.
     The door was open. George saw Melody Lowe standing there, wearing some long, flowing thing of many colors, and laughing with the crowd of people surrounding her. She had pulled her long, dark hair on top her head with tendrils of curls caressing her exquisitely long neck. Pain twisted in his gut. He had never seen a more desirable woman. When she looked up and saw George, her face stilled. Slowly, deliberately, she walked toward him, He stood, rooted to the floor, impaled by the expression in her eyes as she approached, placing one foot in front of the other, like a cat stalking its prey. 
     She was up to him now, looking coldly into his white face.
     “Hi, Marilyn, long time no see.”
                                                             The End