Saturday, June 11, 2011

The Day Before (Part 1)

5:30 a.m.:

The day before Mike Guiteau dies, he is very busy. He looks at his calendar, marking off things for the day ahead. It’s still early in the morning. It is just before dawn, and the snow falling heavily over the airless street looks beautiful in the yellow shop lights.

Mike watches the snow briefly until his eyes adjust, and then he gets to work. He feels vaguely smug, waking up this early, and he wants to tell someone about it. But that would be too much. At any rate, he’s got a lot to do.

There are three things he’s been worrying about, and they top the list. They are:
1. Appointment with Doctor. Biopsy results.
2. Letter Never Sent.
3. Software for project.

He adds another thing to the list, and then one more. He adds too much, and already he can tell he’s not going to do it all. Take it off? Leave it for tomorrow? Or leave it on, and try? He always gets giddy and feels himself slipping when he tries to get his jobs in order. He thinks this might be the way it happens.

It’s funny. Today he can already feel the press of time on him, but yesterday there was nothing -- maybe a little sullenness, thinking about the fact that he had jobs to do. But they were the same jobs he needed to do today as yesterday. Today though was when he decided to think about it. By the end of the day he knows he will feel better, even if this stuff isn’t that important -- and some days, usually on weekends, he knows he lies in bed and considers how little difference there is whether he does his jobs or not.

He looks at the clock next to the window, and sees but doesn’t notice a form passing. This is a middle-aged woman who will die a few years after Mike. Though she doesn’t know it now -- and Mike will never know it -- she will wake up one morning and decide to hang herself in her garage.

She is walking her dog, a yippy, half-blind terrier. This woman will tie her dog up in the kitchen where it’s sure to be found, and then loop a rope over a rafter the way she has seen in movies. She will knot it around her neck, and stand up on a step stool, a little out of breath. She will not be sad, not depressed that she has very few friends or that her family is distant. She will feel the strange sensation of getting everything finally order, as if she were cleaning up a very messy room after many days of putting it off -- it is a feeling Guiteau has right this moment, just as clean and small and refreshing in a slight way.

Her mother will not cry at the funeral. She’ll be slightly panicked that she can’t bring up much sadness. She’ll kneel down to say an Our Father in front of the casket; she’ll be horribly fascinated with the slightly garish makeup, the hint of a reconstructed neck, and she’ll want this to make her cry. She will stare a bit too long and people will notice.

She will however, tell herself that her grief is different, that she will “crack” one day, like she’s seen in movies, and break down crying and calling her daughters name. But really, she isn’t particularly sad, just a little grim and tired and strangely refreshed in the same way her daughter was, at something finally sewn up neatly. She will think of her daughter, not dead -- but completed, and out of harm’s way.

The one other surviving family member, the brother, will be different. He will shake with sobbing because he has convinced himself he’s unhappy in such a subtle way as to be undetectable. He will remember this day, and tell the story to people he has just met when he wants to get their sympathy. Someday he will tell this story to a woman while on a date.
She will fall in love with him. They will get married soon after and have a relatively long, fairly satisfying, reasonably honest life together until he dies at 59 from an emergent strain of virus he contracts from a 13-year old girl in Thailand. His wife will live childless, miss him, and never remarry.

The hanged woman will not be found for a week after she dies, because no one checks up on her. By then the dog will be dead too, which might be just as well. It’s not likely it would ever be adopted again. It’s a very annoying dog.

But today, the woman feels as though her life has become better. She thinks she might be “getting somewhere,” a phrase she uses when she talks to people on the telephone. She walks on as Mike gets up and begins to tie his tie. Within minutes the woman is home, her dog is running around her feet, and she is drinking coffee. After a few minutes more, Mike’s light has gone out, and he is at the bus station. And minutes after this, the bus has come and gone.

(Photo by "GK tramrunner229" downloaded from Wikimedia Commons under Creative Commons/GNU Free Documentation license. Details here.)

"Viral" -- A Chilling Short From Fewdio

On the Youtube site a commentator named TonyStark106422 said: "All you need is an unshakable image and a masterful use of sound, and you can make one's imagination do all the work." Couldn't agree more.

What's great about this is that usually Fewdio shorts rely on some kind of reversal of identity that pops in a dramatic way, and they don't really do that here. The surprise is more subtle, and its impact comes from the ugliness of the audio. It's good, disturbing horror.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Daddy Was Just Screaming At Someone He Knew 20 Years Ago.

It's alright. It's alright. I'm sorry honey. Daddy wasn't getting angry at you -- honest. It's a long drive to grandma's, and when I'm in the car for awhile it gives me time to think. And that's not always good. I was just mad about something, and I didn't even know it until I started thinking those angry thoughts, and I was talking out loud without realizing it.

I do that from time to time. I know. I don't think Daddy's does that often, but still. I know what you're saying. I can see that it upsets you, and I don't want to do it. I'll try really hard, okay? Okay? Let's see a smile. C'mon! There we go! I didn't mean any of it. It's just that I imagine something someone said to me -- something I didn't like -- and it gets me so worked up I start saying all the things to them that I wanted to say at the time, but didn't. It's like they're here in the front seat with me while I'm driving, and the talk we have just replays over and over. Remember that time we scratched the Blue's Clues DVD, and it made the guy freeze up and repeat that dance he did? Remember how funny it was? Dad's brain is just like that. Things freeze up, or repeat themselves again and again, and he can't stop it. He tries and tries to say the perfect thing to that person from 20 years ago, because he was really, really mad, and nothing works, and before he realizes it he's talking out loud -- maybe even shouting -- because he forgets that it's over, and he can't get the opportunity back no matter how hard he tries.

It was an old boss of Daddy's. Back from when he lived in New York. Maybe it's because we just passed that sign for the New York exit. I think that's what made me remember it. His name was Frank, and he was my boss at a newspaper. And he yelled at me all the time. It was humiliating.

That's a big word, isn't it? HU-MIL-EE-ATING. It means he made me feel bad about myself. So bad that I'm still thinking about it even now. A lot of bad things happened to me in New York, and I find myself thinking about them, and I get kind of lost sometimes. It's hard to explain. Maybe you'll understand when you're older. Actually, I hope you don't... but it's not always up to Daddy. What happens.

Hey, I know. Who wants to stop at Dairy Queen?!
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