Cuckold’s Comeuppance

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“The day was non-descript and far from special when I found out you’d been cheating on me. The depth of sorrow I felt—a grief deeper than a well that led to the bowels of the earth—erased the bright sun and wispy puffs of clouds against a beautiful blue sky. My thought process was replaced with pain and all that beauty melted away to a dark reality.

“You thought you’d break me, didn’t you? I mean, the fact that you cheated on me with her—a woman who was nowhere near as pretty as I was before I’d begun pushing out your pups. Though you’d dug an emotional grave for me, that’s not how this is going to play out.

“No, don’t snivel! It’s unbecoming of the man you once were; the one I trusted in and with whom I’d exchanged vows. Now you sit here, gagged, hyperventilating, and utterly helpless, wondering what will happen next.

“I want to keep you guessing.

“Did you know that a woman comes closest to death when she’s bringing life into the world? Did you realize that I was your legitimate shot at immortality? That’s right. Your DNA strand will live on in the children you fathered with me, long before your lies.

“You hurt me in a way I never thought I could hurt. And, though through therapy I’m just about over it, there’s still some bitterness left that has to be dealt with.

“That’s why I’m holding this in my hand. Scary, isn’t it? I was always the one afraid of guns. But this is the only time I intend to ever shoot one. I picked a revolver because it won’t jam. Semiautomatics tend to do that if you use cheap ammunition or hold them wrong. Yeah, I did my research.

“I purchased the .357 Magnum because of its option to use smaller .38 Special rounds. However, for this occasion, I chose to use the larger load to make this as quick and painless as possible. Plus, I wanted to spare no expense in giving you nothing but the best.

“You’re shuddering and sniveling again, tossing your head to and fro. As if I’d miss at this close range. You look ridiculous with snot curving over that nasty mustache and over your top lip. I’ll bet I could take a sample of that hair and find some of her dried essence still in there, couldn’t I?

“And to think, you’d probably kissed me with those tainted lips after making a meal of her. Had me practicing in lesbianism without my knowing. Shit, I may have experimented that way in a threesome, if you’d asked me.

“But you never did.

“You just took matters into your own hands… And used those same hands to spread another woman’s legs.

“You thought your indiscretion and repeated unfaithfulness would be the end of me. But oh, how the tables have turned.

“Remember, in the old comic books, how the good guy would often hold the villain’s life in his hands, then relent at the last moment? He’d typically say something corny like, ‘You’re not even worth it,’ and heroically save his archenemy in the end.

“Well, I’m no superhero. I’m just a woman. And you, my dear, the love of my life, are very much worth it. Now stop all that crying and hold still. This will be over before you know it.”

© Don Miskel, 2014.

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A Nightmare in Orange (Part 1)

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Spooky Apartment (Obtained from Fazinphoto.com)

The entire apartment building was haunted—I could feel it in my bones. We stood there, staring up at the looming tower, which seemed to be the last dying thing against a backdrop of urban decay. Even the moon, which I could’ve sworn had been full and bright before we’d ventured into that part of town, refused to glow. Like a coward, it hid behind cloud cover, and I halfway couldn’t blame the heavenly body for doing so.

“Will ya look at that,” Marq said, holding his cap to his head as a warm gust of wind sucked the breath from his broad chest.

Lisa tilted her head back cautiously, as if the boogeyman was going to suddenly pop out and scare her out of her skin.

“Yeah, it’s a focal point of spiritual activity,” I informed them, “which is another way to say it’s haunted.”

“How do you know,” she asked, mesmerized by the five-story pile of bricks.

“I just do.”

“You sure we have to go in,” Marq asked. Though he was the largest of us—the highest curl of his head standing above mine a good two inches, his athletic frame draped in a football jersey—he was the most easily spooked.

“You big wuss,” Lisa ribbed. She was rarely kind to her on-again-off-again boyfriend. For the moment, they were on the outs. I suspected she was pretty enough behind thick, pop-bottle glasses, but would never take them off for confirmation. Kissing her would be like kissing my kid sister—at least, that’s what I kept telling myself. She probably would’ve belted me if I’d tried. Despite wanting to push her aside, there was something about her plaited, sun-bleached hair and cocoa skin that sent electricity up my spine.

“Yeah,” I sighed, answering my best bud. “My uncle lives in there. And, as Lisa said, you are a big wuss! In fact, that should be your new nickname!”

Marquez shot me a frown, his café au lait face sprinkled with bits of coffee that were a major turn-on for Lisa. She loved the freckles on and green eyes set in his olive-toned face, while I silently pined for her. And Marq, well, let’s just say he was enamored with the reflection in every mirror he encountered. We were all children of Caribbean parents; Marquez’s folks hailed from Puerto Rico, Lisa’s from Jamaica, and me, a second-generation Haitian. We made for an odd trio but this was my crew.

Clouds of moths, gnats, and mosquitos danced around the pale streetlamps. With the exception of the lights on the top floor, the building looked abandoned. That was where my father’s youngest brother, Georges resided. He’d called me and I came running to his rescue. I never asked why he couldn’t simply leave on his own. I put on the spectral specs I’d fashioned and didn’t have to question his logic—the place was overrun with ghosts like a Chicago apartment with a cockroach infestation. I had a deep disdain for cockroaches. They (the ghosts, not the bugs) swam in and out of the windows, most of which were broken, the jagged edges of glass having no effect on their ethereal movements.

“Whaddaya see,” Marq asked nervously.

“Yes, John-Henry,” Lisa joined in. “Don’t keep us in thrall!”

I grinned. Dead leg on a crooked love triangle or not, I was the de facto leader; the brains of the outfit, if you will. Oh, you’re probably wondering about my name. Well, let’s just say my mom and dad wanted to pay homage to an American folk hero while appeasing their desire for a strong Haitian moniker. I’d taken it upon myself to anglicize Jean-Henri so I’d be able to fit in. But fitting in was awkward for a gangly, 6’1” kid with the complexion of a black grape, an oversized head, and large extremities. I could palm a basketball and wore shoes large enough for a pro athlete, but alas, couldn’t dribble to save my life. What I did have in spades was smarts and a rather velvety voice at such a young age. Even then, I figured I might have a future in radio.

My maternal grandfather, who was reputed to have been a witch doctor of sorts, told me in broken Creole that I had a shine to me. That meant I could see spirits. The glasses I’d created helped to take their blurry figures and put them more in focus. He was a strange guy, my Gran-Pere, always mumbling stuff with a chew stick in the corner of his mouth. Most was in his brand of French, with snippets of English here and there. I was amazed by his creepy stories of zombies and magic and…

“Hey,” Marq yelled, giving me a light punch in my left arm. A light punch from that behemoth meant I slid to the right about a foot, and part of the earth knocked out of alignment just as much. The dude was strong as an ox, which was a benefit to him being my best bud. “Pull your head out your butt and let’s get to work, man!”

Lisa peered at me and smiled, her teeth beaming like beacons on the darkened landscape. I didn’t want to like her as much as I did and I feared what could happen if I’d stepped out of line with Marq. It didn’t matter that he didn’t want her half the time…

“You’re always daydreaming,” she said.

“He’s living the dream,” the jock chimed, making reference to my head perpetually floating in the clouds.

“Nah, bro. I’m dreaming to live!”

Marq paused and blinked, not understanding my brand of humor. “Whatever, man. Let’s get this over with.” He shook his head with a smirk and began trudging toward the building entrance, Lisa in tow.

Well, I thought I’d said something clever that would make them take notice. Guess not. I pulled a flashlight from my bag and followed suit.

The foyer leading to the staircase was black as a starless rip in the night sky. There was the spirit of an old doorman frozen in a long bygone era, when the neighborhood hadn’t looked like it’d been through a WWII air raid. In his dapper blue coat with gold trim and his hat placed perfectly, he stood proud. It was a warm summer evening and, as sharp as his outfit was, no living person in his right mind would wear such a heavy coat in this weather. But the dead were always dressed as they had been at the point of their transitions, their see-through bodies having no sense of hot or cold.

Typical of the deceased, his eye sockets were hollowed out. This was a fact that used to scare the cornbread stuffing out of me when I was little, but was nothing to be afraid of once I’d gotten used to it. The problem was encountering a spiritual entity with eyes—something that made me cringe and my skin crawl with invisible spiders. But the doorman was nothing more than a harmless, interactive recording. And he was friendly, too.

“Evening, sir,” I said with a nod of my head, to which he smiled.

“Who the heck are you talking to,” Marq asked, the doorman completely invisible to him. We’d done this half a dozen times but it was hard to retrain a troglodyte. “You do this every time.”

And you figured Marq would’ve finally gotten used to the fact that I could see ghosts and they could see me, too. That was part of the shine Gran-Pere recognized. I often saw my grandfather, too, whenever his spirit would wander into my room and stand guard over my bed.

“You already know the deal,” Lisa said, shaking her head and stifling a laugh. She couldn’t see spirits, either, but she was an empath who could feel them.

“Yeah,” my lug nut of a friend complained, “Doesn’t mean I’ll ever get used to it. John-Henry, you give me the heebie-jeebies!”

I chuckled and took that as a compliment. Without another word, we took to the stairs.

(Image obtained from Fazinphoto.com)

Halfway Down

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Brendan Fudge was as determined as he was creative. As he saw it, the reason for a botched suicide was piss poor planning. He’d succeeded in life with attention to detail and that would serve him well while mapping out his demise.

The trick to it was to have a backup to the primary plan. There was no reason to unnecessarily inflict pain—after all, he didn’t hate himself, only his life. Going out by making an incision in his gut, then nailing his intestines to ledge before jumping made for a rather painful and shocking end. He imagined his chitlins trailing behind (he snickered grimly at the thought of his entrails trailing him) like a bungee cord, only to rip loose when they’d pulled taut…

“Damn,” he said at the concept. Sometimes he could even scare himself. Perish the thought. He considered another means to exit stage left.

One of the keys to success as the CFO had been formulation, random audits, and close review, weighing out all options and possibilities before proceeding. Fucking facts and figures. It was time consuming and tended to get on most of his coworkers’ nerves, but it had always worked.

Well, not always. Violet’s decision to leave coincided badly with an investigation into misplaced funds—money he’d pilfered in tiny, seeming undetectable increments (a few thousand here, a few tens of thousands there), to keep her draped in furs and sparkling in jewels. She was neither impressed nor was the board of directors going to be lenient. The timing was all messed up and he could have dealt with either the investigation or her exodus, not both happening simultaneously. He found himself feigning heartbreak, groveling on his knees, begging her to stay. He’d even pushed out tears and wanted to make himself believe he actually loved her, though nothing could be further from the truth. He enjoyed the look of a trophy wife to some of those high-level events that required elbow rubbing with others who breathed rarified air. Besides her making great arm candy, especially with her newly-enlarged breasts, her facelift, and the great conversation piece the name of Violet Fudge made, he didn’t have much use for her. No matter the lavished gifts, she could always see though his jive ass like glass.

Which brought him back to his dilemma of how to end it all. Mr. Fudge wanted to simply disappear, which was easier said than done. All the worker bees would know is that he wouldn’t show up. Calls from that diamond-hogging heifer and her overinflated divorce attorney would go unanswered for a day or two before anyone suspected something. By that time, he’d be long gone, leaving the cares of this world behind.

He considered what he had at his disposal and his attention went to his boat—not the semi-extravagant yacht his wife had demanded, but the other one. It was little more than a fishing dingy, actually, but it had an outboard motor that could easily get him out past the shallows and beyond the reef to deep water. That’s where his salvation lay…as a secondary plan, anyway.

He cleared his mind and set it to task. A couple hours later, he was in open water, the lights of the coastal condos and resort hotels shining in the dark like jewels. It was a gilded prison to which he’d gladly never return. He puttered out to his chosen location—a spot where the undertow would sweep his remains further out to sea to be food for the sharks and fish and whatever else lay beneath the surf.

Brendan patted his pocket, the cold, blue steel of the .357 sitting against his thigh like an old friend. It was a fact that revolvers, unlike semiautomatic pistols, did not jam, so that mitigated a possible mishap. The rounds were also jacketed in watertight casings, so the powder wouldn’t get wet. Fucking facts and figures. He wanted nothing that would stop him from blowing his brains out as the anchor took hold and pulled him to the bottom of the Atlantic. He’d hedged all bets. The worst thing was to be eaten alive by sharks, which, now that the area was at full nightfall, were in their feeding phase. It was suppertime and, after he’d sunk low enough and the trigger was pulled, the mental marinara would sound the dinner bell so they could enjoy what was left of him.

The night was one he would’ve enjoyed from the patio of his rather posh condo that overlooked the shore. He’d only moved there at the half-drunk whore’s behest, but it’d had its benefits. One of them was the ability to enjoy the warm, salty air coming off the water on a pleasant night. That said, he’d picked a great evening to get this done.

He’d left no suicide note, as there was nothing more to say. Of course, he’d changed his will, leaving all his material possessions to some inane charity he neither knew nor cared anything about. The investigation coming to its conclusion, he was looking at a stiff prison sentence of 1 to 5. Though it would likely be meted out in a minimum security facility for white collar types, the shame it would bring, coupled by the empty feeling he’d gotten when Violet announced that she was leaving, didn’t allow for a comeback. The situation was not going to change and he was opting out. Besides, worse than his fear of drowning or being devoured by the denizens of the deep was what would happen in prison showers. He’d get his butt busted for sure and wind up as some troglodyte’s bitch, being violated on a whim, and forced to sit down when he peed. Yeah, he’d seen the documentaries before.

“Okey dokey,” he said, his voice lost in the breeze. After securing the anchor to his feet with a knot that could not be easily untied—especially in the inky blackness of the ocean at night—he took a final gander at the stars. They, like the coastal condominiums, twinkled invitingly. If the rumor was right, he’d be amongst those very same stars in the next few minutes. He couldn’t afford to consider the possibility of eternal damnation (an impossibly horrific slice of hell in which hammerheads ripped off his arms and legs, leaving him defenseless while incarcerated savages took advantage of what was left), so he deleted it from his cognitive vocabulary.

The water was surprisingly, even refreshingly cool. He couldn’t think of a better exit and was neither scared nor hesitant. He tossed the anchor over the side and felt the tug around his legs when the chain reached its limit. Cool like the ocean water off of West Palm Beach is how he’d feel as he made his way to the afterlife. The shot to the roof of his mouth would be a snap. Before his mind could register that it’d been blown out the back of his skull, he’d be gone. Sinking into the depths would galvanize his demise and then the sea creatures would join in nature’s recycling effort.

“Here goes nothing,” Mr. Fudge said rather sarcastically. As he wiggled closer to the edge of the boat, it suddenly dipped low, took on water, and toppled. The timing couldn’t have been worse, since he’d just put the barrel of the gun into his mouth. Off balance, he reflexively jerked the trigger. The bullet tore through his left cheek, ripping off half his jaw, exploding in a burst of red chunks from the side of his face.

The agony was horrendous and, in his haste to staunch the sanguine profusion, he fumbled and dropped the gun, which sunk into the inky black water quicker than he did. There would be no second chance and his scream registered in a cloud of muted bubbles that rose quickly to the surface as he plummeted like a stone.

The muffled yell and thrashing about registered in the nerve receptors of a great white that was making its rounds, in search of a midsummer night’s meal two miles out. But that wasn’t what focused its attention, causing its black, soulless eyes to glimmer and its jagged, razor-sharp tooth-filled mouth to drool. (The concept of drooling sea predators was something that had eluded scientists. After all, how could saliva be noticed when there was water all around?) With a smile on its menacing mug, it canted its sleek, 20-foot frame and turned in the direction of the call to chow.

Several makos and bull sharks picked up on the same scent and signal, which came across like music to their antagonistic ears. So, a feeding frenzy in an orgy of guts it would be.

But Brendan was too preoccupied, cursing while feeling the burning of the salty water instinctively sucked up into his nose as he fought to breathe. He plunged deeper still, the pressure mounting as his splayed fingers clawed desperately to find the .357 that had probably landed on the reef. He’d never find it and his death would be one brought on by the pain in his lungs. Damned evolutionary theory ensured he couldn’t breathe liquid after being expelled his mother’s womb over 50 years before. Whether Darwin was wrong or right, a review of his current situation stated that drowning would be his demise.

Or so he thought.

That’s when he felt the bump of the blunt, hydrodynamic monster. Then another of the same sideswiped his left thigh, exposing the capillaries beneath his skin, drawing more blood into the water. That caused even more pain than his gaping, misshapen maw. He shouted a cloud of water, as that medium had claimed all the air from his lungs before he’d even made it halfway down. Gripped with terror, the formerly cool-headed executive shat himself, adding gravy to the tomato soup.

Crushing-sharp-jagged-serrated knives grabbed hold of his bloody leg and with a single application of thousands of foot pounds of pressure, Brendan had one less limb. Somehow, through the mind-numbing anguish, something deep in his mental process recalled an amusing anecdote about being busier than a…

Before he could imagine that kicking contest, he was out of the running—quite literally. A second bite caught him at the hip on his opposite side, ripping the other leg free and liberating his viscera. Part of that appendage, still charged with electricity and jerked out of time with the cloudy spurts issuing it from it. His bottom half—the part that hadn’t been greedily gobbled as an appetizer–succumbed to gravity as the anchor took it all the way to the bottom.

But he would never get to reach that depth. Though he could no longer register pain, he felt the pressure of the chomping and ripping as his worst fear had come to what was left of his life. The sharks—oh, how they celebrated, painting the reef red in their delight.

And Brendan Fudge, a man who’d been too smart for his own good, had only his hard head (and a bit of his neck, minus much of his mandible, of course) left. In its final, incredibly cognizant instant, his brain audited the experience of his disconnected dome floating peacefully toward the sandy corral below. There his noggin would hold a reunion with one chain-wrapped foot and that wily, if not elusive revolver.

The one that Violet had given him for his final birthday.

Fuckin’ figures.