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“It’s funny,” he said, sprawled out on my couch.
“Hmm,” I considered the orange slice floating in my beer.
I don’t drink beer and when I do it does not have fruit floating in it; it was that sort of day.
“Cusper,” he said, drawing his long and limp frame together so that he could raise his head, “I said it’s funny…don’t you think it’s funny?”
“What’s funny, Simon?” I asked absently, counting the bubbles that were rising from the orange.
For reasons of perverse inclination or equally perverse association, I found myself considering that my beer could have served as an exhibit in a Mapplethorpe installation.
“That my marriage and practice are failing and your consultancy is failing,” he sputtered, then subsided into a heavy sigh.
“Funny,” I said, setting aside the beer with an orange that could well be a cross and reviewed the conversation, “I suppose it is funny, in a way. Like a train wreck with a car full of clowns.”
Simon laughed, “That’s it exactly,” he gasped and laughed some more. The laughter, that was like a bark , rose and fell with a pained wheeze that finally subsided, “we are the clowns.”
“Yes,” I said and went over to the sideboard and found my humidor.
“I didn’t feel like a clown,” Simon sighed, “not until she told me.”
“Do you want some more brandy?” I asked, scrounging about for a lighter.
“Please,” he called back.
I pocketed one of my utility butane lighters and retrieved the decanter. “Let’s take this out to the verandah,” I said, and unbolted the front door.
“But I’m comfortable,” Simon whined from the couch.
“I’m not and the brandy will be on the verandah,” I announced, stepping out the door.
“Damn it, Cusper,” Simon complained and started to struggle to his feet.
I was clipping my cigar when I heard the skittering noise followed by a persistent whining at the door.
Opening the door I was greeted by the sight of the small, toothless and badly aging dog, Gertrude. I picked him up and set him on the wicker lounger; yes, I said him. Gertrude settled in with a contented sigh. It then occurred to me that Simon still had not made it to the door. Looking in, I found he was lying across the ottoman and staring at the ceiling.
“Simon,” I called in to him.
“Cusper, do you realize that you have popcorn on your ceiling?” he called back. “At least that’s what I think it is. Or maybe it is moldy cottage cheese.”
“I have never heard of a cottage cheese ceiling before,” I replied, walking over to help up the drunk and distressed physician.
“It should be called that,” he said, “It looks nothing like popcorn. Cottage cheese. It’s exactly what it looks like. White, lumpy and repulsive.”
While I will grant that my home is far from aesthetically appealing, I had never surveyed it from the perspective of its palatability as a snack or a side dish.
“You live in a partially empty cottage cheese container,” Simon insisted as I helped him up.
“Simon, what’s say we take you to the guest room and tuck you in,” I suggested and walked toward the hall.
“No,” Simon stiffened, straining my neck with the weight of his arm, and then he twisted away from me. “I want another brandy.”
I shrugged. I had dealt with my share of depressed drunks – more than my share in the last week – and as I enjoyed the advantage of being stone cold sober, I acquiesced to his demand.
Simon grabbed the decanter, spun wildly and fell back into the wicker chair. I believe he was reliving some dance move from his high school days as he opened his mouth as if to let out a single musical note. Instead there was silence.
I lit my cigar and stared out at the waxing moon that was partially obscured by the Spanish moss that hung from the large branches of the oak tree that are rotting and dying in the southern manner in my front yard. There are still parts of Florida that are truly the south. The tree is a picturesque decay and death upon which reptiles, squirrels, raccoons and a myriad species of birds pass their lives seemingly oblivious to its decline. I sent a stream of smoke out into the night sky and listened to my companion struggle with the decanter.
“Pull and twist,” I suggest as I look into the upper branches to see the familiar bandit markings of the large raccoon that prowls the tree’s upper limbs at night.
“It’s over, you know that don’t you,” Simon asks, as he pours himself a generous measure of the brandy.
“So you have said,” I find I am now in a staring contest with the raccoon that is a good twenty feet above me and looking down intently.
“Well, it is,” Simon snaps. “Over, completely, absolutely and utterly over.”
The raccoon breaks eye contact and resumes foraging in a nest. I am elated as I have now added raccoons to the list of animals that I can outstare.
“Simon, did she actually say ‘I want a divorce?’” I asked, nursing the red ember at the end of my CAO Gold Torpedo Maduro.
“Of course she…” Simon suddenly lapsed into silence.
“Well?” I looked at him and saw that he was struggling to remember the encounter.
“Just a moment,” he said irritably.
“Fine,” I returned my attention to the humid night and the waxing moon.
After several minutes Simon took a pull at his brandy then continued, “’This isn’t working…..it’s over.’ I am certain that is what she said.”
“Hmmm,” I responded, considering this.
Over the last few months there had been a fair few friends, men and women, whom had been over to inform me of the demise or imminent demise of their relationships. There had, of course, been the common thread. So I decided to see if I could pull at it.
“But she did not say the actual words ‘I want a divorce’,” I queried.
“No, why….is it some sort of magic thing they have to say?” Simon said depressively.
“Not magical, just something that is normal…” I began.
“Normal?!? What the hell is normal anymore?!?” Simon cut me off, rising from his alcohol induced torpor.
“That is my point, Simon. Nothing is normal anymore. Think back to when the conversation occurred,” I suggested.
“I told you that already,” He said peevishly, “this afternoon.”
“Yes, but what had happened prior to that?” I asked calmly.
“Nothing really. We had been to our nieces ‘graduation party,” he said.
“This is your brother-in-law from Venezuela’s daughter?” I asked.
“Yes, Hector. I told you about him. His asylum application was denied so they switched him to a different visa type. His daughter Veronica graduated high school; she was valedictorian and was accepted to FSU,” Simon began to subside.
“And was she born in the US?” I asked, seeing another thread.
“No, she was born in Venezuela; she was four when they came over here,” Simon said, “Why?”
“Just a guess,” I said, seeing that there may not have been a request for a divorce, but there might soon be one.
Simon poured himself out another glass of brandy and swirled it about, “Other than that, its all been out of the blue. She just hit me with ’This isn’t working…..it’s over.’ I stopped dead, then left her there and came here,” he said.
“After having a few drinks on the way,” I observed.
“I didn’t want anything to happen,” Simon said and stretched out in the chair.
“You remember Dr. Gilroy?” Simon said softly.
“That was in your neighborhood?” I recalled.
“Two blocks down. I didn’t know him well. But we would see his wife and kids at the grocery store and school” Simon became more somber.
Dr. Gilroy had been one of the early ones, back when the crash first hit. He had lost everything. Then he had lost it. It was two days before the police found them in the house.
“So you were afraid you would do something?” I said, surprised by the implication that Simon might be that close to the edge.
“Me? No! Its Maria I am worried about. I was afraid of what she would do,” Simon protested.
“So you left her home….with the kids?” the entire idea was ludicrous.
“The kids stayed over at Hector’s …..and no, I don’t believe she would hurt the kids. I just had a feeling she was….raging and that it wouldn’t be safe to be around her,” Simon said.
“Did you drink at all at the party?” I suggested.
“I might have had a glass or two of wine,” Simon conceded.
I mulled this over. “Any problems at the party?”
“No,” Simon said languidly, “She had a good party. Liked all her gifts and seemed really happy to have all the family there.”
“Ah, so a big gathering, then a summer off, and then college in the fall?”
“Nope,” Simon shook his head.
“I thought you said she was accepted at FSU,” I replied.
“She was, but at international student tuition rates,” he said, then sipped his brandy.
“International…..is that different from out-of-state rates?” I mused.
“No idea. Just know Hector doesn’t have the money, Maria doesn’t have the money and I sure as hell don’t have the money,” Simon said darkly.
“Simon, I am just speculating here. But it seems to me that you may have misread what your wife was saying,” I suggested.
“How can you misread ’This isn’t working…..it’s over’?” Simon said defensively.
“I’m not sure about that part. But it seems to me that there was an in-between bit that you missed. Possibly driving back from your brother-in-law’s house,” I said cautiously.
“Really?” Simon seemed surprised by this.
“As I say I am speculating. But I think that there may have been some key thing that you missed in that conversation.”
“I don’t see how. Maria was talking about Veronica’s situation and I was agreeing with her,” Simon said.
“When you say ‘agreeing with her’ do you mean you were saying things like ‘Yes, that’s terrible. I wish there was something we could do,’ or ‘You’re absolutely right honey, this is terrible’ ?”
“Sort of,” Simon sipped his brandy.
“Well for one thing Maria does not like to be called ‘Honey’”
“Okay,” I agreed taking that information on-board. “So no ‘Honey’, but in general you vigorously agreed with her?”
“In full and complete sentences that indicated you were participating in the conversation and giving it your full attention?” I asked.
“Well,” Simon hedged.
“Short succinct responses?”
“Well, I believe I was being succinct.”
“Such as ‘Yes’ or ‘Yes, dear’? “ I groaned internally knowing both to be woefully inadequate under the best of circumstances.
I shook my head, “You didn’t say ‘yeah’ or ‘un huh’?”
Simon sat quiet for a long moment, “That isn’t bad….is it?”
I let out a ring of smoke, “Let’s just say, your decision to leave the house at that moment probably did save your life.”
“Well, good then. So I am going to be divorced and you are going to lose your consultancy,” he said with forced optimism.
“No. You can patch it up with her tomorrow. When you explain to her that you have had your head so far buried up in your own troubles you didn’t realize that it had become lodged in your own ass,” I offered.
“Will that help?” he asked, sliding back into his stupor.
“If you can manage to say it before she brains you with a baseball bat, maybe,” I looked over at Gertrude, who was ignoring the conversation and laying on his back dozing.
“Well, if you do lose your consultancy, you can always become an analyst,” he suggested.
“I don’t do psychiatry of psychotherapy,” I rejoined, “I just try to keep people from killing themselves in my home or office.”
“Or keep them from getting killed at home,” he observed.
“In your case that’s far from established,” I retorted.
“That she wanted to kill me?”
“No, that she won’t kill you tomorrow.”
“Oh, that…” he waved the notion away, “I am sure we can patch things up the way you said.”
I looked at Simon, he was at least an affable drunk.
“Seriously Cusper, what are you going to do? The way things are going you won’t have any clients left by January,” he continued.
“I have been working on contingencies,” I said beatifically.
“You aren’t going to the dark side are you?” He asked with genuine concern.
“Lobbyist or work for the insurance companies? Gods no!”
“Good,” he drained his glass and cast a lethargic hand out for the decanter. “Better poor, starving or dead than working for those bastards.”
“Uh huh,” I acknowledged his observation.
He couldn’t manage to get hold of the decanter and within a few seconds gave up the battle. Settling back into his chair he looked out at the waxing moon, now nearly entirely obscured by the Spanish moss covered tree branches. Within moments I could hear the gentle thrum of his snoring as his chin came to lay upon his chest.
With Gertrude and Simon now both dozing quietly on the verandah, I could smoke my cigar in peace. Simon had not realized that I had avoided his question about the dark side. I had only acknowledged two of the evil overlords I would not serve. I did not mention the third. The darkest of the dark side, the most reviled. Because I was fairly certain that was what I would be forced to do soon, and had I done so it would have shocked Simon into a violent sobriety.
A birds nest tumbled from the tree above. The raccoon leapt onto the roof of my house, and I was certain that this somehow was a sign that my journey to that part of the dark side would happen soon. I would be a consultant for motivational speakers.
Text Copyright 2012 Cusper Lynn
Text Copyright 2012 Hellbent Press
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