Tuesday, November 10, 2015

6, 7, 8 - Boomtown

6.
             
“You had better be fucking kidding me right now, Barry. This had better be your motherfucking entrance exam for fucking clown school.”
Barry didn’t say a goddamn thing, because of course he didn’t, because he was incompetent, he was blessed with incompetence, he was dripping with it, it was woven into him genetically, expressed epigenetically, the words Non Compos Mentis were carved in ornate script above his family crest, incompetence was celebrated at his family reunions, they played games where the goal was to drop the egg as soon as it hit your spoon, and then to fall down in the mess and soil yourself, and everyone always tied for first, and they gave each other incompetence for holidays and birthdays, loose steaming piles of incompetence dripping through gobs of mangled, randomly taped wrapping paper, wrapping paper that had been pulled from dollar store rejects bins because it all said things like “Hapy Birthday” and “Morry Chrostmas”. She could have killed Barry just for the carbon offset.
He said nothing, he stood, looking down, probably because his shoelace patterns were fucking fascinating, or he was just trying real hard not to drool on himself, or he was fantasizing about masturbating with name brand tissues for once, not that scratchy grocery store stuff he usually bought, but something like Puffs or honest-to-god Kleenex. To be fair, he was simultaneously breathing, standing, and not wetting himself, which was like a mental trifecta for him, a triumph, a personal miracle, and her question had probably burned out half the neurons in that Jell-o salad he called his brain, she could practically smell the pineapple and Cool Whip charring. She had a stapler on her desk, a heavy one, metal, and she could have picked it up, hefted it, wound up like a major league pitcher, and hurled it at his face, and it would bounce off, land on the ground, and there were would be no change in Barry. No reaction. None. She ached like hell to prove it out.
“Get Susan in here.”
That he heard. He scurried out, and she imagined him later, sobbing to himself in a stall in the men’s room, and going home early and having angry revenge sex with his own left hand, picturing her tied down on her desk and taking it rough in the ass. Whatever. It was the closest thing he’d ever have to real happiness.
Susan came in, and she hoped like hell she was having a good day. A-game Susan was a force, but catch her on an off day and she was worse than Barry, if that were even possible, because she was useless and needy, at least Barry knew enough not to try to connect with her like a human being, but Susan, when she was down, somehow tripped balls and thought she’d stumbled into the YaYa Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants or whatever the fuck, and she did not need that today. She did not fucking need it.
But no. The glint was there. Susan was on. She’d probably smelled Barry’s blood in the water, and Susan was cut, if not from the same cloth as she was, then from a passably decent designer knock-off. Susan had potential. Susan could Get Shit Done.
“What is this bullshit?” she asked, and she flung Barry’s stack of sweat-gummed incompetence straight at Susan’s feet, and Susan grinned. Fuck yes she did. They were on. Today was going to be a good Susan day.
Susan knelt down and picked up the papers and flung them into the recycling bin. She didn’t need to look at them.
“We’ve got calls out to the members of the town board right now. One we’ve got dead to rights. Hookers. Pictures and everything. The second one we’re working on, but it’ll be money. We’re just trying to feel out how much.”
“Spend it. Who’s the third?”
“A woman.”
Damn it.
“Widowed, two kids.”
Fucking Christ. “Scholarships?”
“We’re trying the usual angles. We’ll get her.”
She could have kissed Susan on the mouth. She could have kissed her on the mouth and let Barry watch. Instead she said “You’re having a good day, Susan. Keep having them.”
Susan nodded, her eyes bright enough to cut.
“Thank you, Wendy.”
She nodded. Susan left. They were going to get this. They were going to get it.
She jabbed into her intercom.
“Margo.”
“Ms. Miller?”
“Extend my spin class by an hour. I fucking deserve it.”


7.
 
              You have sinned.
You have sinned, but you shall be forgiven.
              Redemption is not beyond you. The Holy Father is mercy, He is love, He is compassion. He will welcome you into his flock if you open your heart to Him.
              The days of judgment have begun. The end times are upon us, but the path to heaven is not yet shut to you. Where there is faith, there can be redemption, and where there is redemption, there is everlasting peace, there is the unfathomable reward of God’s unending love and grace.
              The days are not easy. The trials set before us are a mighty test of faith, befitting the burdens placed before the very roots of mankind. Temptation. Destruction. War. Famine. But the Bible is filled with accounts of those who faced these same trials, these very same trials, and who now rejoice among the blessed host in the Kingdom of Heaven.
              The way is not shut to you. Though your heart may be heavy with loss and bewilderment, though your friends and loved ones have been called away ahead of you, though you find yourself alone in the darkest hour of your brief, fleeting time on the mortal plane, you are not alone. He is with you.
              But if you are called, and surely you are called, how can you respond? How can you submit yourself to His will, how can you place yourself firmly among those who will pass through the blessed gates into an eternity of everlasting joy and celebration?
              It begins with an act. A simple act of faith and devotion, a small token of your commitment to the one true path.
              Start with whatever you can afford. We don’t ask that you impoverish yourself, only that you take this first step with us, that you show us that your heart and your material world are committed to spreading His message.
              And, that single step will lead you to that blessed place on Earth, that one holy spot that has been spared from the devastation that has rained down on us these past few years, that has destroyed homes, wiped out cities, rent mother from son and brother from brother.
              Make your way toward this place, this small, humble hamlet in upstate New York, and join us as we prepare to make our way into the Kingdom of Heaven.


8.
               Terri had the dream again that night. She had it most nights.
              They were in an airport in the Dominican Republic, only all of the country was within it. The beaches, the slums, the city, the walled off, pristine little resort where they’d stayed.
              There was one plane, and everyone was trying to get on it. Everyone, with everything. People wrenching on lampposts and park benches, somehow pulling the very fabric of the shore behind them, throwing their useless weight against buildings and buses and homes.
              And she and Scott were swimming through it all, scrambling over people and ocean and statues and fountains, clawing their way toward the plane. And they weren’t going to make it, there was no way to make it, they were losing ground, and they begged and pleaded for help, but that just made everyone claw at them, pull them back harder, drag them down into the chaos.
              And then, they were on. They were on the plane, they were seated, the plane was taxiing, the airport speeding by was dark, it was suddenly night, and Scott squeezed her hand, and she knew what was coming next, they should never have gotten on the plane, they shouldn’t be there, and she wanted to tell him, she wanted to scream for help and get up and pull him up, away from the window, she wanted to drag him into the aisle and keep him there, safe, but she couldn’t, and the window shattered, and Scott shattered with it, and she woke up, already crying.
              She collected herself, quickly. She knew how. She’d had years of practice.
              She got up, and she checked on her boys. Cooper was buried under his blanket, his pillow perched on top of his head. She laid her hand on his back and felt him breathing. Spence was in his own bed, sprawled out like a skiing accident, snoring. She kissed his forehead.
              She stood, her eyes closed, sleep easing its way up her legs, into her back, her neck. Her head drooped. She ached to crawl into bed with them, to pick Spence up, curl up with him next to Cooper, and wake up with them in the morning. To keep them safe, she lied to herself. It wouldn’t have been for them. She stepped away.
              “Mommy?”
              She sat on the edge of Cooper’s bed, leaned down close to him.
              “Yes, sweetie?”
              “Will you sleep with me? I had a dream.”
              She slid into his bed next to him, feeling faintly disloyal to Spence, who was still sleeping, alone, in his own bed.
              “Can you tell me how to not dream?” Cooper asked, yawning.
              “No, sweetie. But I’ll be here if you have another one.”
              “Thanks.”
              He buried his head back under his pillow, and she lay down next to him, and she slept.

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