[about the author]
i actually like speaking in front of large crowds. freakish,
i work crossword puzzles in ink.
i am the american nigella lawson. or maybe the american eddie
izzard. can't decide, really.
i would be a really good mom, but i'm cool with being a really
i am sometimes more perceptive than i would like to be.
i am fiercely loyal. sometimes, stupidly so.
i never play dumb. never.
i am way too hard on myself.
i am a change agent.
i sometimes cross that fine line between assertive and aggressive.
i am not afraid to tell people that i love them.
i am militantly pro-choice.
i am pro-adoption.
i know a little bit about alot of things.
i typically enjoy the company of men more than women.
i am capable of being really mean and nasty, but i fight it.
i am a lifelong cubs fan. do not laugh.
i have been known to hold a grudge.
i have hips.
i am not my sister.
i am lousy at forgiving myself.
i am an indoor kind of gal.
i am a bargain shopper. to the point of obsession.
i am 32 flavors. and then some.
absolutely the best cinco de quatro ever
recently, i took a much-needed break and headed to the sandy florida shores with a bunch of folks far cooler than i, all of whom i came to know via blogging.
the whole "people i met online" thing is a really tough situation to explain to people who aren't familiar. you say, "yeah, i started reading her blog, and then i commented a couple of times and sent her an email and we started im'ing and now we're going to hang out at the beach for four days." and, even though i get it myself, i have to admit that while i'm typing that i can see how people think it's crazy. or weird. or a violation of some sort of stalker law.
but in a lot of ways, the internet is just a big subdivision. and the blogs you read are the neighbors you go borrow a cup of sugar from, or go drink coffee with. although, in some ways, i think it's even better now because, really, the only reason my mom ever went to bobbi dean caldwell's house to borrow sugar and spend some time chatting was because bobbi dean caldwell happened to buy a house across the street from us. it's not like mom had much in common with bobbi dean. i think she might have actually been a wee bit afraid of her. understandably so, really, but that's a story for another time.
but with the internet, i don't go hang out at the beach with erin and cory just because. i go hang out with them -- and with cait and scott and michelle and mark and leslie and natalie and julie and even mia -- because i genuinely like them. except mia. that girl is clearly trouble. i mean, i tried, like, 85 times to have a simple conversation with her about site statistics and she would barely even look at me. so what if she's four. or eight. or whatever. and she doesn't have a blog. i don't see the relevance.
the reason i choose to spend time with them is that i connect with them. i think they're funny. or smart. or funny and smart. or just because i think they're hot [shout out to snowy and leo -- we missed you, pumpkins!]. so, in some ways, yes, maybe it is weird to have "online friends" who somehow end up squarely in your "real" life. but in some ways it's soooo much better than just spending time with people out of convenience or proximity.
so, we packed up enough alcohol to float a small cargo ship and hit the shore. the house was beautiful, the bunk beds surprisingly comfortable, and the guitar hero action was fast and furious. and even a small ebola outbreak at the end of the trip couldn't drown out the wonderful memories of lava flows for breakfast, margarita shooters in the pool for lunch and lots of flavored vodka for dinner. plus, we invented a totally new holiday that, as i am best able to piece things together, involves nothing more taxing than drinking while standing in a pool. and maybe eating. maybe.
i decided to be all clever and take advantage of the fact that we had so many smart, funny, talented writers gathered under one roof. i told everyone that i was starting a story and that everyone needed to take a turn adding to it. i'm pretty sure that when i announced that i got little more than the whir of a blender and the thwang of matthew sweet's girlfriend via guitar hero in response. because, you know, what everyone wants to do is be given a creative writing homework assignment while they're trying to get [more] drunk.
but, everyone was a good sport and each took their turn in time. i have to admit that when i wrote the opening i deliberately left what i thought were more than a few doors open through which we might go. but, uh...you know what happens when you sort-of-but-not-really make an assumption.
so, to my friends [formerly online, now squarely real life], i say: happy cinco de quatro, people. hope to see you soon.
and now, the fruits of too much alcohol and quentin tarantino movies*.
*and, uh, just like any good tarantino movie, there's some...uh...language. and...uh...violence.
The heat of the morning sun was intense and the reflection on her laptop screen made it all but impossible to do any work. She resigned herself to the notion that she would have to spend the day actually doing nothing – a skill she had never truly mastered.
The sliding glass door dragged along the track behind her. She counted in her head, waiting to hear his voice, dreading the beginning of yet another day of dealing with him. His banality. His ragged cuticles.
One Mississippi…two Mississippi….
“Wow! One more perfect day, huh?”
She was glad her back was to him so she didn’t have to exert any effort to not roll her eyes. He was so predictable. So fucking predictable.
“So…what should we do today?”
“My plan is to do nothing. I’m officially on vacation,” she said, closing the laptop in front of her and reaching for her second bloody mary of the day.
“Well, I was thinking about biking today. Maybe find a trail somewhere along the way. Do a little hiking. Snap some shots. What do you think?”
She sat staring at the water, waiting just long enough to make it clear to him that this was, in fact, an awkward silence.
“Sounds like you’re going to have a great day. I’ll see you when you get back.”
The sound came from inside the house. To someone who was hearing it for the first time, it would be difficult to figure out exactly what it was. If pressed to guess, the uninitiated might speculate that someone was running shards of glass through a disposal.
She jumped up from her chair and turned to face him. He knew the vitriol to come. She didn’t even need to open her mouth – the accusation was written all over her face. She was so predictable. So fucking predictable.
“Of course. I guess I have to do everything myself. I should have known, right? Should have fucking known.”
He smiled at her. “Hey, why don’t you go fuck yourself? You’re so goddamn self-righteous. Like you ever do one fucking thing….”
“That wasn’t the agreement. You know that was never the agreement. This wasn’t my stupid fucking plan.”
The noise was louder now. Definitely louder.
Two boys playing on the beach stopped their game of catch, their faces turned toward the house inquisitively. An elderly couple setting up their beach umbrella paused, the man looking toward the sky.
“Fix it. Take care of it. Do whatever you need to do. Just do it now. The last thing we need is attention.”
“Then hand me that,” he said, pointing to the bag on the ground next to her, “and go park your fucking miserable ass by the pool.”
“I don’t think so. This bag isn’t community property. It’s mine, you fuck,” she growled.
“But you…you just said to do whatever I need to do! We have a problem. I need the bag to fix it. You’re infuriating for the sake of being infuriating, you know that? Why don’t you stop being a cunt for five minutes and think about the endgame? Is that possible?”
She dropped to a knee, kicked the other leg out and spun. He saw the arc of her foot, was transfixed by it. She was like an ocean wave, rolling and violent, yet smooth. He didn’t see her hand as it thrust into the bag and grabbed the leather wrapped hilt of the sword. But he didn’t need to see. She was predictable, after all. He knew this was coming.
The blade sliced the tendons on the back of both of his knees. Shlip-shlip. He heard the sound and felt his calves and ankles warm with blood.
“Here’s your endgame, you cocksucker,” she said, standing.
He was face down on the ground now, pushing himself to an elbow.
“Fucking cunt,” he spat through clenched teeth.
“Oh, now, that is really unnecessary. Name calling can lead to domestic violence. Let’s not let this escalate to something we’ll regret.”
He flipped to his back and grabbed at her wildly.
“I don’t have time to play slap and tickle with you right now. I’ve got to deal with our little problem in the other room before someone decides that something’s amiss at the Franklin place,” she sighed, turning to the staircase.
“You’ll never make it without me,” he yelled as her foot hit the first stair.
“Oh, is that right? You’ve been the glue, have you? You’ve been the architect? The mastermind?”
She turned back to him.
“I’m smart enough to have hidden the package from you,” he said evenly.
“You piece of shit, fucking motherf-“
“I’m smart enough to know that your goddamn temper won’t allow you to focus on what’s best for us both.” He snarled against the pain.
“Where is it, I swear to Christ, I’ll…”
Again the crash, from upstairs.
The enormous mastiff next door was up from his nap now, zero to a hundred, barking in protest.
“So what’s your plan, Maria? You going to mastermind some shit of your own?”
“One more word outta you and I’m gonna cut off your goddamn head.”
She spun and continued up the stairs, half-sprinting. Greg’s stepsons had gotten themselves untied again. Maria had left the bag downstairs, next to Greg’s flailing body, but nothing in there would do him any good. Besides, she had the sword.
At the top of the stairs, Maria realized the sound had stopped. Silence. She swung her head side to side, looking for the danger that was sure to come. The hallway in both directions was empty, the door in front of her closed. She crouched down and waited for a clue. And then she heard a voice. It was Peter, the oldest.
“You’re gonna pay for what you did, bitch,” he snarled down the hallway to her left. “And not what you did to our dad. Just give us what we came for and you might live.”
Maria turned her body toward the voice, ready to spring into action, sword forward.
“I know what you’re up to, Peter, you little shit. You won’t do it. You won’t finish the job.” Maria focused on the door that was ajar at the end of the hall. She knew he didn’t have a gun, but he’d be ready with something. She was sure of it.
Again there was an unsettling silence, punctuated with Greg’s violent shouts from outside. Just as Maria was about to launch herself forward, she heard a subtle crack behind her. She swiveled her head just in time to see Paul, smiling menacingly, crossbow in hand.
“Oh, a crossbow? Seriously?” Maria stopped short and snorted. “What is this, 1794?” The look of resigned indignation never had a chance to fully register on Paul’s face before he found himself face down on the carpet with significantly less small intestine.
“Peter? Where you at?” she called. “Bring your fucking bow staff with you when you come, okay?” She could hardly scream unveiled threats, she was laughing so hard. “Put your chainmail on and bring your cannon. Idiot.” Somewhere in the house Peter slithered to a standstill.
Okay, think. Think, think, think! Maria had to find the package before shit really started falling down. She clamped her hands down over her ears to block out the sound. The ceiling fan collapsed into the family room. Something in Paul’s torso gurgled. If she were Greg, where would she hide the package? Think! Suddenly Maria’s eyes snapped open. She smirked. And strode back out onto the patio.
“So yeah,” she announced, satisfied, blocking Greg’s messy yet tenacious crawl. “For half a second there I forgot that you’re a gaping, trembling vagina-pants? And you don’t have the sack to actually hide shit.”
With the arm he wasn’t using to support his body weight Greg threw Maria the bird. And bit her on the calf. She kicked him in the skull on her way back inside to the vault. Did she say “idiot” already? Because goddamn.
“I’m disappointed in you as a person!” Pretty Disgusting By Now Greg was barely audible over the Capital M “Mess” in the basement. Maria kept walking. The FBI was going to be there any second. And not in a good way.
“Hey! HEY!” Greg screamed, lifting himself as far as possible off the ground. Maria paused. “Did you know they’re making a sitcom about those cavemen from the Geico commercial?”
Maria turned. “Seriously? About what? About car insurance?”
“I’m not sure.” Greg propped his triangular-ish head up on one arm. Casual. “I read something in People.” His left leg tapped its toes involuntarily. Like thirteen feet away.
Maria crossed her arms. Shifted her weight. Puzzled. “So are they going to have that cartoon lizard thing in it, too? How are they going to fill a whole half-hour with insurance cavemen?”
Greg pushed a soft lock of sunkissed auburn hair out of his fucked up face. Cas-u-al. “I don’t know, Baby. I just read an article, Jesus. It was People for Christ’s sake. And I really like those cavemen,” he added, taking shit to a whole new level. “It’s such a brilliant example of how post-post-modernism is answering our stereotypical notions of human and humanoid identity, and how the theory of material culture plays into and reacts to modern day ‘language’.” He had to prop his jagged torso against the porch railing to make the finger quote thing happen for “language” and it hurt like a motherfucker.
So while Maria no doubt thought that the four-and-a-quarter seconds it then took her to immediately rip Greg’s fleshy head from his fleshier body was the best spent increment of time she’d ever had the pleasure of experiencing, she had no way of knowing that Peter was behind her. Bow staff in his hand, cannon on his back. Cannonball in front of him where he’d rolled it into the room because holy shit, cannonballs are heavy.
The phone rings. Maria and Peter looked at one another: Maria’s hand on the hilt of her sword, ready to draw, Peter holding one of those long red grill lighters pointed at the fuse on the cannon on his back.
The phone rings again. “You know when that canon goes off, it’s going to fucking destroy you, right?”“At least I’ll take you down with me.”
Maria pauses to consider this. “Fuck’s sake, Peter. Standby.”
She picks up the cell phone with her left hand and awkwardly flips it open. Her right hand sits on the sword hilt, still vigilantly watching Pete. His fingertips twitch on the safety for the grill lighter. “Hello?” She mouths, Don’t fucking think about it, at him. “Oh hey. Yeah… Um, yeah. You know what Mom, I’m gonna have to get back to you about Thanksgiving. We’ve got a little bit of a situation going on here---No, no, it’s nothing serious, it’s just, you know. These kids,” and she gives Peter a squinty hateful glare, “These kids are driving me over the edge today. Yeah. It’ll be fine. I’m just gonna have to call you back, Ma. Thanks. K, love you too. Bye.”
Peter shifts under the weight of the cannon, dropping his bow staff to readjust the load on his back. Maria seizes her opportunity and flicks her wrist and cuts the tendon in Peter’s grill-lighter wrist. “Goddamnit, you whore!!” Peter drops to the ground, dropping the cannon behind him and grasping his right wrist with his left hand to stop the blood.
“Peter, I swear to god. I told your dad when I got involved with him that I didn’t like kids. Fuck’s sake.”
She sets the sword down behind her, out of Pete’s reach, and takes her belt off. Wrenches his hands behind his back and cinches them behind him to his feet, hog-tying him with the belt, which is now covered in Peter’s sticky blood. “Fuck, kid. You’re a mess.”
Maria stands up and looks at her hands, covered in blood. She looks down at her pants, and then wipes both her hands on the front of Pete’s shirt. “Gross. There goes my manicure.”
Maria picks her sword back up and straightens her blouse and turns, headed, Peter assumes, for the vault.
"That dog! That GOD, DAMNED, DOG! What will it take to get that son of a bitch to shut the fuck up?!"
Clearly Maria was a little more than agitated at this point. She was almost spent—the love-gone relationship, the go-nowhere sex, the pills, the bills, hormones… and now, “that fucking sunburn” is almost more than she can handle.
Taken individually-- these “issues” were facts of life and completely manageable. Not today. Today she’s losing it.
Control has always been Maria’s best asset, but: the welling hate, the anger, the smell of blood, as well as all these other factors have combined into her slipping over the edge of sanity.
The dog’s incessant bark will be that final push.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
"I live at 1110 East Gulf."
"My name is Graham."
"My pedigree is Mastiff."
"Bull Mastiff to be exact."
"Not sure where the 'Bull' part of that comes from."
"I’ve been stuck in this room all day."
"I’ve been trying to get your attention."
"Since this morning."
"To take me."
"For a walk."
"Maybe a jog."
"Can you hear me?"
"I can hear."
"I’ll be a good."
Graham’s persistence would pay off, he just knew it. If only he could keep up his seemingly futile conversation with the silent abyss. He knew in his big, oversized heart of hearts his fortune would change.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
The last bleating yelp from the neighbor’s dog caused Maria’s right eye to twitch in a way that made Peter realize she had just broken from reality.
And then a giant robot came out of nowhere and blew up the house with a ray gun.
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