The Things You Do for Love

The following piece was presented at Jersey City Writers’ genre event – The Horror of Love. Please enjoy.

Her name was Maura Fitzgerald, and when I saw her in a bookstore, she was my wife, although I didn’t know it at the time.  One of those dark Irish beauties with black hair and pale skin, easily transposed onto a Spanish landscape.   I was sitting at a table reading Circus Freaks by Milo Pinter, and she walked over with an Andy Warhol, opened it up to Orange Car Crash, and sat on my lap.

Naturally, I was surprised, “This never happened to me before!”

“Not even with a beautiful woman?”

The only words that came out of my mouth were, “I’m so ugly.”

“Can’t argue with that.” She said, tossing aside our books,  “And you look uncomfortable.”   

“It’s in the wrong position!”   

“I can make an adjustment.” And she started to unzip my pants.

“Not here!”

Maura seemed lighter than you would expect for a thin woman with medium sized breasts: a C cup.   I always inspect a woman’s brassiere for size.  But obviously, you can’t do that in a bookstore, and not when she was so animated, bouncing up and down on my lap.  

“Let’s have an adventure!”  She cried.

Other people started looking at us, “As long as it doesn’t get me in trouble.”  I said.

“That’s the only kind.  Ever been on a killing spree?”

“No!”   I told her.

“Of course you have.  Take me out to dinner!”  

 

That didn’t sound like my idea of a killing spree, unless you count killing chickens.  We went to the Cock’s Crow, a popular restaurant in downtown Los Angeles.    The place should’ve been shut down by the health department, but most likely bribes were involved.   Walls stacked with chicken coops, and the clucking so loud it would drown out conversation.  The chicken was really fresh, with a menu that went something like this:

            chicken tetrazzini
            chicken enchiladas
            chicken gumbo
            teriyaki chicken
            fried chicken
            coq au vin

When we ordered, the waiter would come out with live ones, and we got to cut their heads off at the table, blood and feathers flying everywhere.

 

She wasn’t eating.

“I thought you wanted dinner.”  I said.

 “Don’t eat much of anything since—”  

 “Since what?”

 “Nothing.”   She told me.

 “Can I drive you home?”

 She said, “I live with you!”

 “But, we only met this afternoon.”

 

Maura walked in the front door and started to remove her clothes.  She was a C cup, as I suspected, and had an enormous scar running in a jagged line from her shoulder on the left side, to the hipbone on her right.  

“The stitches haven’t been removed.  How do you expect to—”  I asked.

“I’ll be fine.”  

“What happened?”

She said, “An accident.  The steering wheel went through me.”

“Ouch!  How long ago?”  

“2 years, 6 months, 11 days.”  

 I told her, “They should’ve been removed by now!”  

 “Yeah. I heal at a less than glacial speed.  At least nowadays.”

 We began to have sex, and while I was panting and puffing away like someone riding a bicycle up a hill at a 30° gradient, with her indifference she could’ve been knitting a doily or painting her toenails blue.  

“You’re bleeding!”  I said.

“It’s nothing.  Got torn up.”

“In an accident, too!”

“I know.”  She told me.

“How?”

“You grabbed the steering wheel and turned our stolen vehicle into a ditch.  Smashed your head into the windshield, but you got home and left me there to die.  We were informally married, so they couldn’t trace the car to you, and I was in the morgue a few months until they cremated me.”  

“I don’t remember.”  I said, not wanting to argue.  It spoils things when you’re having sex with your dead wife’s reconstituted ashes.

She continued, “There was Daisy Yardsley who plied her wares on Sunset Blvd.,  and Marchetta Pallon on Skid Row.  You’d take them back to the house.  As things were getting on, I’d strangle the girl from behind, and we’d dump the bodies in the brush by the side of a road.   By number 14, you were uncomfortable.  Had to provide encouragement.  I would say, ‘You must get to a number equal to your age.  Can’t stop now.’ That’s when you turned the car into a ditch. Thought you could end it, by forgetting.  Smashing your head into a window.  But, I am persistent, and you’re thirty-two, which means you owe me 18 more, at least until your next birthday.”

Just as I was reaching a crescendo, Maura wasn’t there.  She disappeared right before I let myself go on the sheets.

“I guess I have to learn to do it without you.”    I said, speaking to no one.  Later I went down to the morgue to collect her ashes.  Even painted my wife’s face on the jar, so she is able to watch and keep count of numbers.   

Just the other night, I picked up Marigold, number 15, at the Drive Thru, a local watering hole and quickie joint on the corner of 5th and South Los Angeles.  Only $10.  I couldn’t turn down the offer, and took her back to my place.

“Who’s that?”  She asked, pointing to the jar on the coffee table.

“My wife, and her ashes.”

“I’m sorry.”

“Drove the car into a ditch.  Might’ve survived, but I left her there.”

“Oh.”  Marigold said, nervously.

“We’ve managed to patch things up.  You might even say I’m in love.”

“With a jar of ashes?”

“Maura likes to watch.   You’re number 15.”  

By the time she knew what that meant, it was too late, as the ligature (in this case, a shoulder strap from Marigold’s brassiere…double D) went around her throat and she was going to die, real soon.   

With her face turning blue, she found it increasingly difficult to hear me, but I like to talk, “To be honest, I wanna stop, but the wife demands it, and I have to please her.  Oh well, the things you do for love.”

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