Monday, October 10, 2011

FICTION: “Thirty-Three” By P. Keith Boran


Slumped over and confused, Richard looked up in time to see her foot coming. It landed just beneath his chin; yelping in pain, he bit his tongue. She giggled. He crawled. “Leaving so soon, darling?” she asked, “we’ve only just begun!” She punctuated her response with a kick, striking Richard’s stomach, forcing him to the floor. “To live,” she sang. “Vivian,” he muttered, “I. . .” Turning him over to face her, she looks into his eyes. “You what?” she asked. He laid still a moment, catching his breath, biding his time.

“I love you!” he yelled, taking a swing at her chest. Laughing, she blocked it. “Really?” she asked, using the moment to land a headbutt. And in his state of confusion, she continued her jabs, bouncing his head against the tiled floor. After he lost consciousness, she fetched the knife, using it to inflict several gashes along her torso. She placed it in his hand for a moment, applying pressure to his digits. She waited, for she was debating whether to finish what she’d begun.


Tired and irritated, she struck again. She floated from one foot to the other, moving swiftly, swinging accurately, making the punching bag pay for picking the fight. “Keep it up,” she told herself, “you have too.” She kept moving, kept swinging, waiting for her knuckles to crack and bleed. And when she was exhausting, unable to swing and stand any more, she gave it another ten minutes before crashing to the floor. In the shower, she watched the water, doused in blood and pain, drip and swivel down the drain.


The steam from the bath made her skin sticky with sweat. She held the knife in her hand, turning it, observing its every inch. “So, this is it,” she whispered, “my time to die.” Afraid to face him, she began to cry. “I know him,” she sobbed, “he’ll never stop, he’ll never leave, and he won’t listen to reason.” She pulled herself together once more, allowing her tight grip to guide the knife’s tip to her arm. And as it punctured her skin, she felt a sensation long forgotten, one she needed to feel again. The water, still and clear, was now tainted, as crimson drops turned it shades of pink and red. Holding the knife before her, she laughed, for she had a crazy idea, one that brought tears for her to cry.


Carefully tacked to the door, she found his note waiting for her return home. “Anytime,” it began, “I might just kill you.” She continued to read. It professed his love for her, and his devotion, and his dedication too. It claimed her as his object, threatening her life should she choose to resist their destiny, one they had enjoyed while married. But before she could finish it, she felt his arms circle her, forcing her inside. “Oh, Vivian,” he said, throwing her to the floor, “how I’ve missed you.” She tried to get up, but he grabbed her by the hair. She screamed as he threw her through the glass coffee table. “Oops,” he said, laughing as she cried out, “one must be careful.”

“Richard,” she whispered, “please don’t.” He knelt over her, taking a quick moment to feel her breasts. “Don’t what?” he asked. “I’m your husband,” he yelled, “why can’t you just accept that?” She leaned up, placing her face to his. “Because,” she whispered, “I wasn’t young enough for your equipment to work.” She spat in his face. “Go on then,” she said, “go on and do it.” Laughing, he wiped the spit from his face. “No,” he replied, “I think we’ll just have some fun first.” She tried to struggle, but after several blows to her face, everything went black.


At thirty-three, Vivian’s hips were not what they used to be. “It’s wear and tear,” she’d tell herself, years spent with a self-centered man, one that never put down the toilet seat, the television remote, or his incessant need to be pampered. “But what about what I want,” he’d say with such fake conviction, a line Vivian was sure he’d heard in some day-time television soap and thought clever, useful, manipulative – the perfect adjectives to describe Richard. And the affairs he kept with other women, usually dense and borderline bulimic, were rationalized by his inability to stay sexually attracted to her.

And he never hid his infidelity, often bringing his new “friends” home. But when Richard brought the neighbor’s teenage daughter over, Vivian just couldn’t ignore it. “Richard,” she hissed, “what do you think you’re doing?” He smiled. “I’m playing, Vivian,” he whispered back, “now run along.” And with a squeeze of Vivian’s butt, he wandered away. “Now,” he said, “where were we?”

Richard poured his young friend a drink, leaving Vivian with an excuse to make a call. In the next room, she dialed the police, telling them her husband was billigerent, violent, and drunk. But it was too late, for Vivian heard them performing in the next room. And although Vivian had dealt with the abuse, the affairs, and the loneliness for many years, something in her had finally snapped. She tip-toed back, grabbing some tacky vase, one Richard had insisted on buying, and broke it over his head.

The young girl’s reaction was most odd, for she didn’t seem to notice or care. She was just barely conscious. Vivian wrapped her in a blanket, helping her stay calm until the police arrived. And when they discovered perscription pills in Richard’s pocket, Vivian knew she was free at last, free from a ten year stretch, free from a marriage made in hell. Now, her life would look different, better.


Although Vivian had two exams the following day, she couldn’t shake the excitement of her impending date. She knew Richard was a good man, from a good family, and that he would take such good care of her. “He’s so dreamy,” she’d tell herself, reading the many notes he’d tack to her dorm room door, all professing his love for her. And after their first date, one that had been so splendid – for Richard was most considerate, most thoughtful – Vivian just knew he was the one.


Vivian sat atop Richard, clutching the knife that ended her life of fear. She held it, recalling their past, their history. Her mind made, she wanted to remember it completely. “Richard,” she whispered, “I did love you.” She jabbed the knife into his throat. “Once,” she finished. She twisted the knife before she removed it, letting it fall to the floor. She took a moment to get control of herself, getting herself into character. Covered in blood, she dialed the old familiar number. “Yes,” she asked, “is this the police?” She sat back, letting the fear and terror she’d experienced before come back again. “IT’S MY EX-HUSBAND,” she yelled, “HE’S TRYING TO KILL ME!”

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