Always learn to question your realities, for many they contain dual meanings.

This was the message I'd found carved in my beloved wife's stomach in the year of 1985. I woke up early that morning to take a hot, tranquil piss and I was in extraordinarily high spirits until I noticed a man--a goddamn Frenchman, of all people!--with this malnourished looking pencil-thin mustache of his and victorian-era sideburns carving words into my wife Beth's stomach.

I cursed the sonofabitch like any good, straight shooting American would and took a swing for the frog bastard's throat but he'd been too quick for me--dodging, then kicking me in the nuts and then diving off the goddamn balcony on to this weird little pink-colored communist-style moe pad vehicle he had semi-hidden in the half-shaded alley of my soul/heart/mind.

"Goddamn Frenchman!" I yelled indignantly out the window, shaking my right-hand fist.

Beth did not die outright. She asked me How could you? I said "Dear--how could I what?" She said you must really be going crazy honey--you used my stomach as a goddamn flesh-chalkboard.

"'Flesh Chalkboard,'" I repeated her.

And then I laughed at her whimsy.

"Hahaha--babe, you're all right!"

And then she gurgled some--it was a funny noise, like similar to what you might hear gargling Listerine in the morning or at night.

And then she died.

"Hey kids, come in here!" I yelled merrily toward Trish ad Robbie's rooms. "Your mother has just expired--bring me the goddamn polaroid!"

In walked Trish.

"Dad," she says, eyeing her mother's corpse, the dark crimson writing deep in her flesh. Unimpressed. She said, "That's cool, really."

I was hurt. She stabbed me, figuratively speaking, deeper than that deranged Frenchman had carved Beth. But at least he had been kind enough to have stabbed her fatally, and have her put out of her misery... My daughter's words will haunt me the rest of my life.

"You really dislike it, Trish? T-R-I-S-H."

I show her my pearly-whites as I verbally spell out her name. "That's not very nice! The Frenchman had gone through an awful lot of goddamn trouble for you!"

Trish stared at me mundanely, uninterested. I was going to rebuke her some more for her terrible, barnlike manners when I heard a moe pad outside. I was thoroughly well-prepared for the Frenchman. But it was not he. No. This time around it was the goddamn Matthews boy.

Trish said, while dabbing makeup on to her face "It's okay--daddy. It is only my date."

"Date?" I said. "Why, it's morning time!

On my day we'd go on dates at nigh--"

"Sorry, daddy, gotta run." Trish had cut me off, kissing my cheek. Again, you have got to understand: this was 1985. Not 2010.

My heart was beginning to sink like the goddamn Titanic, boy, let me tell you! And all those unfortunate victims--you see, like Beth, they were put out of their miseries. So it wasn't as cruel. The glacier, just like the Frenchman, was no killer. Merely the cataylst.

Trish was by no means a stupid girl. She knew I had intended this gruesome scene to be a heart-warming family moment. (When life gives you tomoatoes, make pizza.) But she did not appreciate it. Arrogant bitch...

I'd started to slink away toward Robbie's room. But after only a few steps Trish said something to me. The second she said "Daddy" I had started to feel important again.

"Yes, honey?"

"Don't you think you should call the coroner and the police? Mom's gonna start to stink and decay before we know it. And the Frenchman is still at large.

Don't you think he should be stopped before perpetrating more evil like this on our country and society?"

"Yes, Kitten, of course," I assured her as I kissed her sweet-smelling forehead. "Go anywhere you want. Just be back before midnight."

I peered out the balcony window. And I saw my beautiful fourteen-year-old daughter mount the purple moe pad, her hands tightly clutching the Matthews boy's stomach.

Off they sped.

They reminded me of Beth and I.  Two decades ago.

I dialed 9-11 and told the operator the whole story--about the Frenchman killing the wife, then kicking me in the balls, and then leaping out my balcony window and landing deftly on to his little communist contraption.

Before the police's arrival I had myself a good cry... And a damn good martini. For good measure, I put some of Beth's blood in it. "For old time's sake," I'd said out loud. I then sagged to the carpet-floor.

What is the meaning to this, I thought--the Frenchman was trying to tell me something. His methods were a bit drastic, yes, but at least we were communicating. Or at least trying to. At least the Frenchman tried to communicate with me, unlike my children. But. What. Was. The. Meaning?

Dear God--I can still hear Robbie snoring. After all that commotion. That boy could sleep through a trainwreck if he wanted to, I thought bitterly. I hope to hell he doesn't, after waking and seeing the Frenchman's handiwork feel the need to criticize it. The Frenchman hates criticism. The sister, I suspect, has bruised his ego severely enough today. But the boy better not follow suit. If he does, the Frenchman might have a twelve-gauge waiting for him as a response...

The cops' arrival was ten minutes later. I offered them each a cup of coffee but they declined, saying, "No thank you, Mr. Brakenridge. We have enough energy. Really, we do."

Those words hit me like music. And I thought we'd get along fine. For years.

Sergeant Martinez and his deputy pushed me to the floor. Martinez had this goddamn shiny thirty-eight pistol trained at my head. His face: really red. And pale. Irish or Scottish extraction, definitely. But not Mexican. Not even remotely Spanish...

I asked him, as they were handcuffing me if he had been adopted.

That question was the only thing that mattered to me, at the time.

"Sergeant Martinez--Sergeant Martinez!"

But he acted like he couldn't hear me. Or worse, like the bastard wouldn't even dignify my question with an acknowledgement.

"Mr. Brakenridge. You are under arrest... You have the right to remain silent.  Anything you say will be--"
"For what," I talked over his voice, repeating the question three times in a row.

But he kept reading me the goddamn Miranda.

Until he finally answered my question.

"For pretending to be a goddam Frenchman."


Copyright: © 2010 Jack Bristow


Jack Bristow graduated Long Ridge Writer's Group in 2009. He lives in New Mexico. His next short story, "Our Bus Driver, Fred" can be read in the upcoming issue Thirteen of Cantaraville: An International PDF Literary Quarterly.

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