| Saturday, March 10, 2007
“Shut up, Brad. I don’t want to hear it.”
“I know you don’t. I mean, I know you’re really upset with me.”
“The girl, Kendra, she wasn’t… Well…. She was….”
Kendra was one hell of a fabulous lay. That’s what she was. But I couldn’t say that. And Carrie was still looking at me expectantly. Dark, angry eyes were flashing out from underneath the headpiece on her nun costume.
I was dressed as a priest. Carrie was dressed as a nun, an outfit that still showed her pregnancy. We’d been sitting outside the Henderson’s costume party ever since Carrie had casually picked up my cell phone from the floor of the car just as a text message came in.
Now the tears were starting. Carrie was hurt, so hurt, that Kendra had come on to me and I’d had my fun.
“Am I not enough?” she whimpered
“Honey, you are, it’s just…” How could I explain it? How could I make her understand? Did women get the sensation, the incredible excitement of something new? It wasn’t that Carrie was a bad wife. But she was only one woman. “I don’t know,” I said. “I didn’t mean to hurt you.”
“No,” Carrie said, “You didn’t. You just didn’t care.”
I was silent. I had cared. That was why I’d tried so hard to keep her from finding out. But Kendra was always with the “I love you” text messages. Fucking Kendra.
“Do you think you’re a sex addict?” Carrie asked.
“What? Are you crazy? No… I just want some adventure sometimes.”
Carrie looked like she wanted to list off all the adventurous things she’d tried to do to please me. She even opened her mouth. But then she closed it again.
“Let’s go to the party,” I said.
“Why not? Sitting in the car all night isn’t going to change anything. Let’s go to the party. We will have a good time. We’ll be Brad and Carrie, the couple that everyone loves. Later, we will go home and talk about this. I’ll dump Kendra. Hell, maybe I’ll go to sex addicts anonymous. Whatever you need. I just want you to be happy, babe.”
“Then I want your car.”
“What? You have a car.”
“The sexual revolution started because of cars. Suddenly couples had freedom and privacy. You’re not going to have either for a very long time.”
I had to marry a cultural anthropology major. “How will I get to work?” My voice was more of a whine than I wanted it to be.
“I’ll drive you sometimes. When I can’t, you can take the goddamn bus. You might like it, you’d meet a whole new class of trashy girl.”
“Don’t be a bitch.”
“You fuck some teenager and you’re telling me not to be a bitch?”
“Kendra was 23.”
“Give me your keys.” I dug through my pocket and handed them over. Carrie snatched them and shoved them deep into her habit. “Let’s go,” she said.
“Should I take my coat?” I asked.
“I wouldn’t,” Carrie said. “You know how coats disappear at parties sometimes.”
I shoved my gloves into the pockets of my coat and put the coat in the back seat. Carrie let me take her hand as we walked up the front steps.
The Hendersons were old college friends. They’d changed less than we had. While we’d gotten the power jobs and landed a huge house in the suburbs, Maura and Billy were professors and still lived in a modest townhouse, a modest townhouse that was crammed with people. Drunken, happy people. I couldn’t wait for a drink myself.
Maura and Billy were happy to see us. Maura, dressed as a hippie, took Carrie’s arm and pulled her away, saying something about some new African masks Carrie should see. Anthropologists. Who knows?
Cowboy Billy brought me a brewski. “All these girls here your friends, Billy?” I asked. A blonde in a butterfly costume scampered by, laughing. Definitely no bra on that one.
Billy laughed, “They’re mostly Maura’s grad students. But you’re not supposed to be looking at them. Carrie’s having a baby” Billy’s voice was all teasing mock innocence.
“It’s not a crime to look, my man.”
Billy was watching a redheaded woman in a Catwoman costume gyrate around the dance floor.
“Thank God for that.”
Three drinks later, the party had definitely improved. There was still no sign of Carrie. Billy was off talking football with some of the guys. I sat in the corner, just drinking and watching what I couldn’t have. Butterfly costume girl came bouncing up.
“Hello, Father,” she giggled.
“Good evening, my child,” I said. What was the fun of Halloween if you couldn’t be in character?
“I think I have some sins to confess,”
“Well, tell me about them and maybe I’ll grant you absolution.” Butterfly girl bounced up and down, giggling. Surely Carrie wouldn’t have any problem with a little conversation.
“Should we go someplace private so I can confess?”
“Oh, I think you should tell me right here,” I said.
Butterfly slipped onto my lap. “Well, my college roommate is a really sexy woman, and one night when we were both drunk, we ended up…”
My cock was already hard and I was dying to hear the end of the story.
But it wasn’t to be.
“Brad Miller!” My wife Carrie stood in front of us. I unceremoniously dumped Butterfly onto the floor, but it was too late.
“Find your own way home!”
My pregnant nun turned and stormed out of the house. Everyone was looking at me. Maura looked like the angriest hippie since Nixon was pardoned. Even Billy was rolling his eyes at me. Yeah, yeah. I know. I was the bad guy and no jury would convict my wife for leaving me forever. I did the only thing I could do, which was follow her.
Carrie was pretty fast on her feet for a pregnant woman. She was out and in the driver’s seat before I could get down the steps.
“Can we talk about it?”
She drove off.
Son of a bitch. Son of a filthy whore.
I was stuck in the city outside a party where I wasn’t welcome, with no coat, no phone and no way to get home.
It actually wasn’t that cold and as I walked, I started to calm down a bit. The moon was out, lighting the liquor stores and porn shops I passed. I thought of stopping into the Condom Shack for a magazine, but I figured the priest get-up would freak them out.
I did stop at the window for just a moment, and looking in, I saw myself. Middle-aged guys just looking for some big tits to ogle while they yanked their dicks. I could spin all the crap I wanted about my own sexual liberation, but the truth is I was one of these guys and it was really sort of pathetic. Truth be told, Carrie really did have a point. I was a rat bastard when it came to my relations with the opposite sex. And it must be very scary to be pregnant and wonder if your husband’s about to run off with a 23-year-old.
There were red and blue lights in the distance. Yeah, Carrie, I thought. I get where you’re coming from. It’s a dangerous world. What if I gave you or the baby a disease?
As I got closer to the lights, I saw what looked like a bad accident. Somebody, either the Volvo or the SUV, had run the light and there were pieces of car all over the intersection. A cop came running up.
“Father!” He said. “We have an old woman here, we don’t think she’s going to make it. She’s crying out for a priest.”
“Please, Father, I don’t think she will make it until someone else arrives.”
Why not? I was going to hell anyway, and at least I could make one woman feel better tonight. I’d seen enough cop shops with Catholic murder victims. I knew how it went.
“Of course, my child,” I said, following the policeman onto the accident scene. I knelt by the woman on the gurney. She was small and frail. The EMTs had done a bit to clean her up, but she didn’t look good.
“Father, I think I’m bleeding to death inside.”
Lady, a lot of us are.
“Can I hold your hand?” I said. I turned to the cop next to me. “Get me some bread.”
“Please,” she moaned. I took her hand. “I’ve lived a good life, Father, but I’ve always envied those who had what I didn’t. Please forgive me.”
“God will forgive you,” I said. “Now, let’s say the apostles creed.”
“I believe in God, the Father Almighty, the Creator of heaven and earth…” She croaked it out slowly, giving every word a subtle reverence. When she was finished, I squeezed her hand and recited the Lord’s prayer.
The cop came back, triumphantly carrying a bag from the Italian restaurant across the street. I tore it open and put a piece of bread into the woman’s gnarled hand.
“This is the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. Happy are those who are called to his supper." I looked deep into the woman’s eyes and I felt like she was looking into me. Irrationally, I felt like this woman might know I was a fake and not care. Perhaps I also was being forgiven tonight.
The woman smiled. "Lord I am not worthy to receive you, but only say the word and I shall be healed," she murmured.
"The Body of Christ," I said, watching the woman chew the bread. She swallowed.
I squeezed her hand again. "May the Lord Jesus protect you and lead you to eternal life," I said. “Let us pray.”
She died in the middle of the prayer.
The walk home was the longest of my life. I thought over and over about the woman, about what a precious gift life was and about our duty to one another. I thought back over my life and I couldn’t believe the way I’d been acting. Carrie and I had a baby on the way! A new life! I couldn’t wait to get home and make love to Carrie. I knew the urges for other women would come back at some point, but well, if I could pass for a priest, I could pass for a faithful husband. Just because I had self-indulgent urges didn’t mean I had to act on them, after all. Hell, maybe it was a sex addiction. I was ready to talk to somebody, get myself cured.
Maybe I’d talk to a priest.
I took the steps up to the house two at a time and swung open the door, running inside to look for Carrie
Kendra’s bleeding body was lying on the living room floor. There was a gun lying a few feet away as if it had been discarded hastily. My coat and gloves were next to the gun.
Carrie walked in, the picture of innocence in a simple blue dress. She started to scream, “My God! My God! Brad! What have you done! I thought when I dropped you off after the party and drove around for awhile, you would have time to think...But... you've! Oh my God! I think you've KILLED her!” Her cries were so loud the neighbors could hear. “I have to call 911!” Carrie bolted into the kitchen and picked up the phone. I could hear her crying as she told the 911 operator that she had come home to find that her husband had just shot his mistress and now she feared for her life.
I looked around the room. Carrie was a careful woman. I assumed that she wore my coat and gloves when she shot Kendra, so that’s where the gun shot residue would be. Actually, in Kendra’s little plaid skirt, she looked like she had been dressed as a Catholic schoolgirl. I wondered if there would be a text message from my phone to Kendra’s sent right after I left the party offering Kendra a night of kinky Catholic fun. Probably. Carrie was smart. It was one of the things I loved about her.
Carrie walked back into the room.
“Carrie…honey. I’m sorry”
“You will be,” she said.
In the distance, there were sirens.
Labels: mystery noir
|posted by Chalicechick @ 9:24 AM
Chalice Chick, I must admit that I come from a different school of thought than yours. I am primarily a poet of the vignette school and though I appreciate mysteries I tend to avoid them in my own writing.
But that being said, I do have a few suggestions. Please take these all as constructive criticism.
1. I find it courageous that you, being a woman, have placed your protagonist in the form of a man. That's something I have a hard time doing. I tend to make my protagonist asexual at best to avoid that problem and there have been only a few times in which I've written in the character of a female. If I write in the character of a female, I write in the character of a bisexual/lesbian female. That's how I compensate.
2. The strength of the piece is the interaction between the cheating husband and the pregnant wife.
3. Your observation of the similarities between men and women as regards to interpersonal relationships and sex are good. You've made a lot of progress in these areas.
THE CONSTRUCTIVE CRITICISM
1. Some of your dialogue is quite good, but some of it comes across as stilted and contrived. As a poet, we focus on showing rather than telling. Much of what each character says can be much better emphasized if we, the audience, can draw our own conclusions.
2. I get the feeling that I don't really KNOW your protagonist, nor do I know his suffering wife. I think it best for you to pull back, give some sort of anecdote that makes us care about these characters. Some personal thing that fleshes them out beyond the static.
As it stands right now, all your characters are like mentions in a newspaper. Brief, minimal, and highly unspecific. Your protagonist comes to a conclusion that he is inherently flawed and potentially a sex addict, but what about his past would make him this way? Perhaps you can show us, the audience, why he developed this personality disorder.
Right now, we the audience know more about the protagonist than his foil, the pregnant, trusting wife.
3. In my humble opinion, you've resorted to one of the oldest cliches in the book at the end of the story. The woman who, not being able to take any more of her cheating significant other, kills herself. There's nothing inherently wrong with it--it's just that it's expected. If you intend to go in this direction, you need to muddy the waters and perhaps give us the audience a choice of scenarios as to what really happened.
4. If you finish the story as originally written, I would leave off everything after the point at which the man realizes that maybe he has some inherent goodness after all.
That's the natural ending point of the story. Everything else smacks of pulp literature and cheap theatrics.
But again, make us CARE about these characters. Make us know them. How did they meet? How do they feel about things? What is their background?
The idea of redemption is good and you have an excellent framework, but I think the story needs to be twice as long.
Again, take these comments as merely my own suggestions and with however many grains of salt as you would wish.
She doesn't kill him.
She kills his mistress and frames him for the crime.
But other than that, your comments do reflect much of what my writing group said.
The story works for me till he walks in the door and finds Kendra and the gun, etc. I teach creative writing, and I have often told my students that a gun is a cheap way to end a story. I was deeply involved till the ending, really watching your male character grow; the conclusion makes me (a) hate Carrie, (b) sympathize with the narrator, and (c) distrust the author. I'm with your writing group. Cut that ending. End the story with him bounding up the stairs, and let us use our own intelligence to imagine what happens next. That's my humble opinion; of course you can take it or leave it.
After I finished the story, I got the impression that you thought it would a neat/edgy ending if you had some woman shooting her husbands mistress and framing him for the crime... so you started the story right after you put that ending at the end, and then filled in the rest of the details ("How do I get Carrie the car keys?", "How does she storm out of the party?") and ended up creating a sympathetic protagonist who really didn't deserve to be framed by his wife.
Thus there is this outrageous karmic imbalance. I would understand him opening the door and her tearfully admitting the kid isn't his or catching her shtuping his best friend... but this seems like the ending for another story tacked on to this one.
The other story would either be 3rd person or from the point of view of Carrie, because everyone is going to want to know what is going through her head rather than some scoundrel husband.
Actually, this one started from the image of the guy coming home from a costume party dressed as a priest giving someone their last rights and grew out from there.
As for the protaginist, he's only really sympathetic because you're veiwing the actions from his point of view.
In short, he knows he's really hurting his wife, but on some level he doesn't care.
That said, this is the most controversial of my stories and you may like the other ones better...
I am poring over and enjoying the other things between comments.
I also greatly enjoyed this story until the "ha HA, now shes framing him for MURDAR!!" ending. It's this story's sore thumb, it's zit, while it was explained and corroborated it was not foreshadowed.
There is giving a twist ending, and then there is snapping the reader's neck :).
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