Psychos. The whole town was full of them.
All Mark had to do was look out the window and he could spot them everywhere. And yet Joan had the nerve to call him crazy. So he had a bit of an anger problem—who didn’t? Joan told him he lacked patience. But just because he got a little agitated while waiting in the checkout line at the market didn’t necessarily mean he had a problem. So what if he blared his horn at an old lady who was driving ten miles under the speed limit? Maybe someone needed to wake her up. No, he wasn’t crazy, just tired of other people’s BS.
But Joan wore the pants in the family, so he relented and sought the counseling she’d requested he seek. The doctor explained that Mark needed to relax, to see the beauty in things, and not focus so much on the negative. But after two months of Freudian psychobabble and failed hypnosis, he didn’t feel any different, except in the wallet, which was now two hundred dollars lighter. So he cancelled his next appointment, telling Joan he was “cured” and didn’t see the sense in wasting any more money. The doctor had warned him that cutting his treatment short could cause him problems. He threw out words to describe the possible side-effects, words like “dangerous” and “unpredictable,” but Mark knew that was just the doctor’s way of scaring him, to keep his lecherous fingers in Mark’s bank account. The whole thing was a joke.
But to make Joan happy, he pretended to be better, pretended to have more patience. It wasn’t easy biting his tongue every time some jerk cut him off, but it was better than paying alimony.
He and Joan were on their way to dinner to celebrate his “recovery,” when the pick-up truck in front of them stopped abruptly. Mark slammed on the brakes, but the car plowed into the truck’s rear end, caving the tailgate in.
Mark’s first impulse was to pound the steering wheel and curse the jerk in front of them. For a split second, he considered the implications: Losing control would prove that he wasn’t “cured” of his “condition” and he’d have to return to counseling. But it would be worth it to ream this guy good. Mark had a lot of pent-up anger, and this was the perfect opportunity to blow off some steam.
But as the door of the truck swung open and the big, burly driver climbed out, an inexplicable calm came over Mark. Suddenly everything was perfect—the sky was blue, the sun was out, and it was great to be alive. Despite his initial fury, Mark couldn’t help but smile, even as the truck’s driver reached over the damaged tailgate and grabbed an aluminum baseball bat.
“Mark!” Joan said. “Back up! This guy’s nuts!”
But Mark made no attempt to disengage his front end from the truck’s rear bumper. Something about their union was suddenly so right, so natural.
“Mark!” Joan screamed, grabbing his shirt sleeve. “Put the car in reverse! GO!”
The bat came down against the windshield, crushing it inward, but Mark didn’t flinch. The spider-web pattern in front of him was just too pretty to look away from. The second strike hit the passenger window, spraying Joan with broken glass. Mark watched it tumble across the car’s interior… glimmering like diamonds.
The man with the bat reached through the window and grabbed a fistful of Joan’s hair. She yelped and kicked as he yanked her out of the car and slammed her to the pavement. Mark watched without emotion as the man brought the bat down once, twice, again, again. Blood and brain matter flew up and splattered the man’s face and neck, speckled his white T-shirt. He looked just like a painting, more striking than a Rembrandt.
A small crowd had gathered, their wide eyes and gasping mouths reminiscent of that masterpiece by Edvard Munch. The doctor had been right—everywhere Mark looked there was beauty, and it was time he slowed down to enjoy it.
Mark closed his eyes and listened as sirens sang in the distance like sweet music.
Copyright: © 2010 Chris Reed
Copyright: © 2010 Chris Reed
Chris Reed lives in Davison , MI , with his wife and two children. His fiction and poetry have appeared in a variety of small press publications including Black Ink Horror, Aberrant Dreams, and Killer-Works.com. Aside from writing, Chris enjoys frozen pizza, Seinfeld reruns, and hockey fights. He is also the artist/writer/creator of Used Addictions, a comic book about a cigarette butt, an empty wine bottle, and a used condom. Visit his website: http://www.chrisreedfiction.com/.