Story Thirty – Bundle of Joy


He seems to be getting more and more messed up in the head as the challenge concludes. Frankly, I’m frightened to be a part of his imagination.

“No, Darling, you can barely tell you’ve gained any weight at all.”

Against his eyes’ better judgment, Ron assured Anna that she was as beautiful as always. He wasn’t the best at complimenting anyone. He’d nearly been fired from his best job after he insisted his Boss’s hairplugs looked more natural than the missing strands had in their youth. Of course, when the idea hit him to run his own business, he left anyway.

Anna had been gorgeous. Their relationship was so physical it would exhaust him. She didn’t feel truly loved unless it was beneath the sheets. That was before the incident. Since then there hadn’t been much playing around in the bedroom or any of their other favorite carnal spots. He hadn’t seen her naked since she brought home the news.

“You’re lying. I’m a cow. I’m a pig in a dress. Worse, I’m sweating. Pigs don’t sweat. I’m a goddamn sweating cow-pig in a stupid Kmart sundress going to see my goddamn queen of a fucking mother-fucking mother.”

Anna was fretting over the pregnancy. She had come home from the appointment with her doctor, always going it alone because of Ron’s work schedule, with a wide eyed stare. They thought she might have had an issue with her bladder or a stomach flu but nothing of the magnitude she brought with her that evening. Instead of telling Ron, she walked past the dinner table and dropped a pamphlet in his lap. It was titled ‘Your baby and you’.

Expecting parents have a lot on their minds; breastfeeding or formula; cloth or disposable diapers; should they go through a public school or a private one, or even go so far as teaching the child themselves? Roy and Anna had something far more important to worry over. Her mother was a bitch.

This wasn’t just Roy’s opinion. They didn’t hate Betty Denoffria, they couldn’t afford to. His business was having trouble and Anna chose to not work, being raised as a proper lady. Her mother was the sole executor of a large inheritance from her seventh husband and the six before him. She was a human and had her faults, the most prevalent of which was being an insufferable windbag. This did not overshadow the monetary benefits of keeping her in their lives.

The woman knew it and used that to her advantage. She hated Roy. There was an artistry in her loathing of him that left Anna in awe. A specific Christmas a few years into the marriage, ended with Roy storming out of the house, covered in dog manure which had been carefully placed in an exploding trick box wrapped as a present. It had said ‘From Betty’. She was, of course, adamant that someone else must have planned the cruel joke. Though it took her several tries to stifle the laughter in order to speak.

Anna knew it had been her. It was obvious. In fact, it seemed that Mrs. Denoffria’s sole purpose on earth was tormenting her poor, victimized husband; she could have funded a medium sized charity with the resources wasted on exploding gags, laxative laced foods and dogs almost indefinitely trained to snap at his crotch. Of course, she made some of the money back with the sponsored website she populated with video of the ‘harmless practical jokes’ taken from the ridiculous amount of security cameras proliferated through her property. That was a fun discovery one of Roy’s employees made. He had to block the address on all the computers in the office. Anna really didn’t think it was funny. If it was anyone else, maybe there would have been a chuckle but it was her husband. Her name was attached and that was aggravating.

And there they were, on their way to give her the big news of her first grandchild. The argument as to whether they should tell her lasted hours. It subsided only when they both realized that they weren’t opposing each other. They were split down the middle within themselves, between reason and practicality, two sides that, in this case, turned out to be mutually exclusive. While pragmatic thought was normally thought to be reasonable, the practical thing to do was to keep her happy and make sure that beyond the doctors and themselves, she would be the first to know. They knew, however, that she would not, could not be grateful or appreciative of this. She would be unreasonable and explode. She would rant and rave and, most probably, try to kill Roy. She’d attempted it before, at their wedding. Practicality won out. They were accustomed to living a certain way. As long as they respected her and as long as Roy didn’t dodge too many of her proverbial and sometimes very literal and real bullets, she would provide.

Roy stopped the car and turned off the lights. The gravel still popped, protesting the weight of the mid-size sedan. He turned to Anna.

“We could drive away now. We could. We could just leave and start things over in Mexico or Guatemala or–”

Anna flicked his nose to silence his mouth. It was a sign of affection any other day but her fingers hit too hard.

“Or some other shit-hole city where we can’t eat the water or drink the food? Do you know what the life expectancy is there? Do you know the percentages for healthy births where both the mother and child live?”

She paused, giving Roy a chance to open his mouth, then continued scolding him in the sweetest way she could. In her mind she was crooning, to his ears it was more like a slow rise to boiling.

“I like our house, Sweety. I like having money. And even though I enjoyed the vacation at the little resort on the gulf, I wouldn’t want to fucking work there.”

Roy was defeated. His halfhearted attempt at escape was meant as a joke. He was losing the last grip he had on the tread of reachable safety belonging to his life, his wife, and his future. He smiled, accepting the pregnancy hormones as the cause for the outbursts.

“Sorry, I was only joking really. Come on, let’s go in.”

White marble pillars flanked them as he lifted the heavy gold knocker. His fingers touched the metal…

He woke up a few minutes later, smelling a barbecue of Roy. Betty’s laughter was unmistakable. It haunted his dreams. He rolled over and forced his still seizing muscles to work. Electrocution, ironically, takes all the energy out of someone. Roy knew the feeling.

“Emilio, help the idiot to his feet.”

The young, handsome, well built butler with too few skills in English and too many in bed brought Roy up from the floor. He never disliked Emilio specifically. The dark skinned beauty was Betty’s boytoy. So many times Roy had dreamed of emasculating him. It would be unfair to the newly-made eunuch but Betty’s reaction would be priceless. In his fantasies, Roy always had a camera handy.

He faced his nemesis. Anna was hiding herself, her ‘affliction’ as she called it, behind the sitting room table. The glasses and bottles helped to keep her secret safe. She liked the room, they both did, it was the only one out of the bounds of surveillance. Roy could barely contain his joy that the discussions were to be held there. It meant less of a chance for him to be embarrassed. There were fewer shenanigans when Betty couldn’t keep them for posterity’s sake

Betty was standing between them. As usual, she was dressed to put royalty to shame. She stood like a Greek statue and had the medically induced figure to boot. She looked like a seventy year old woman with the body of a sickly thirty year old porn star. It wasn’t such a lovely sight but Roy had no choice, he smiled, trying to slather on some of the charm that had won her daughter. He took her hand and gave it a proper kiss.

“Beautiful as always, Betty.”

Anna bit her lip and glared. Roy was an excellent liar. Though she hadn’t known it in the beginning, it was what sent her falling in love with him. He posed as an artistic writer sitting in that coffee shop when they were each barely past a quarter of a century. He told her his laptop contained the workings of a manuscript, poetry that would change the world. In reality, he had been fiddling around on the internet while procrastination degraded the quality of a poorly thought out business plan. He had seen her first. He saw that she was reading. He saw that she was always reading. She was a Literature major. He didn’t go to college, though he said he’d already graduated. It wasn’t too far from the truth. Roy was associated with writers and artists and others with the creative flair. He was trying to start a small publishing company. With his knack for discourse, he’d been able to weasel a few young hopefuls out of their hard-crafted intellectual properties. He was sitting on a goldmine of creation. He did have multiple manuscripts on his hard drive. The only problem was ownership. None of them were actually his.

She found all this out after their marriage. He never knew, neither did her mother. That would have created an even bigger quagmire of animosity. By then she had certainly found other reasons to stay by his side. He was truly a sweet man. He didn’t care about her indiscretions and he never strayed on his own. She hadn’t either, until she discovered everything about the man she married had been made up on the fly. She kept it all bottled up inside. She tried to at least. Sometimes she just couldn’t hold in the seams.

Their drinks had already been laid on the table where Anna found herself fuming. This would normally be a coffee ritual but Betty hated the thought of drinking bean water. She’d loved coffee as a younger woman until learning of where it came from, the same with chocolate. One thing she loved was Vodka; she never had an issue with potatoes.

Roy sat cautiously on the seat, spreading his weight slowly and evenly, ready to spring up at the first sign of a cut leg or a trap floor. He stared at the table, noting the knives near the loaf of specialty sweetbread. Everything was a deathtrap to him here. Betty glided in and placed her barely-there bottom down without any worry. She laughed at Roy’s careful movements.

“Don’t be an imbecile, Ron. You called me last night. I didn’t have any time to prepare something as elaborate as a fall-away chair.”

Anna scratched her nails into the shining table.

“Then what do you call the damn door knocker?”

Betty rolled her eyes, she was anticipating this conversation.

“Oh, that. We’ve had a problem with Jehovah’s Witnesses. I call it my bug zapper. I sometimes forget to turn it off when company’s coming.”

Mother and daughter locked stares. Anna was livid.

“That could have been me. I could have been electrocuted. Don’t you even care about that?”

Betty scoffed. The idea was ridiculous.

“Don’t be silly, dear. I taught you better than that. You make the dick do all the work. That’s all they’re good for.”

Emilio passed the room. She leaned over, watching him walk away. It forced her to append her statement.

“Well, that’s all yours is good for, at least. Besides, you look like a few shocks could do you some good. On second thought, maybe you should start doing a few things for yourself. Perhaps then you wouldn’t be so fat.”

Silence is one thing but what fell over the room at that instant was a wolf hiding in silence’s clothing. It was a feeling of impending doom. Anna’s eyes could have shot fire and Betty’s words may have been cold enough to extinguish it. Even through the tension, Betty had been able to finish the vodka and replace it twice over. Roy shrunk in his chair, sipping the brandy on the unceremonious coffee mug marked ‘moron’. She strictly enforced the rule that animals and those with mental handicaps don’t use her good versions of anything. Roy, in her mind, was a retarded horse in need of a good putting down.

Slowly, very slowly as his mind was occupied by the humorous sport commentator overlay he was placing on the scene, he realized the danger he had put himself in. He looked at his mug. The dark liquid inside had been poured before he even entered the house. He hadn’t seen the cup before it was filled nor did he know exactly what was served. In any other home, that would be fine. But not there. In fear and a display of his particular rationale, he threw the cup down and screamed. Brandy spilled everywhere, splashing on both Anna and Betty. The mother stood. She was speechless for the first time since Roy met her. He was not. He was done.

“Goddammit, Betty. I’ve had enough! I can’t even drink without fearing for my safety. What’d you put in it this time? Is it your old three day shit-fest again or did you find something new? What, am I going to be farting soap bubbles for the next week? WHAT IS IT?”

Betty leaned back in her seat. She was past speechless. She was breathless. Anna stood, pounding her fists in the table.

“Seriously, Roy? You wait until tonight to grow a pair? All these years and now is the moment you decide to be a man and stand up to someone who’s half your fucking size and more than twice your age?”

Betty grabbed for the table cloth. She opened her mouth but nothing came out. Roy looked at his wife. He gritted his teeth.

“I was holding back for you, Anna. You always told me how much you hated poverty, you always told me how much you hated needing to worry about bills and taxes and all the shit that goes with living on your own.”

The old woman tossed her glass at the wall, trying to get anyone’s attention. Anna threw a finger in her face, the universal sign for ‘shut up and let me finish’. The spouses leaned closer, ready to spring forward and attack with teeth.

“Bullshit. You did it for yourself. I have told you more than once that if it meant getting away from her, I’d be more than happy to live in a dump. You are the one that’s so accustomed to this life. You’re the one who can’t live without it.”

Confusion bruised Roy’s face and left it disfigured with amazement.

“What? You’re not serious are you? I JUST said we should leave. If you’d have listened to me, my chest hair wouldn’t still be smoldering! You said you didn’t want to work. You said you like the house and the money! I don’t get you!”

Anna hit him over the head with the sweetbread, breaking it in half and causing little more than furthered befuddlement.

“It was the only way I could get you in here, you moron. If I used any other reasoning, you would have talked yourself into the South American Dream. We needed to come here. This needs to happen!”

He lifted his hand and pointed his finger in her face.

“I’ll tell you what needs to fucking happen…”

Betty’s head hit the table. The force of her fall sent cups jingling and the others’ attentions to her. Dyed blonde hair seeped up the red fluid bubbling from her motionless mouth.

Anna and Roy stared at each other. She jerked her neck in the direction of her mother. Body language urged Roy to check for any sign of life. Roy shook his head, refusing. Anna rolled her eyes.

She grabbed the bread knife, pushed her mother’s lifeless corpse back in the chair and gashed the old woman’s throat. She wept and screamed, all while staring her husband in the face. She stabbed the body again and again, running the extent of the blade through papery skin and calcium-leeched bones.

“No, Roy, stop! What are you doing? Don’t hurt my mother!”

Roy went to stop her but was grabbed around the waste by large foreign hands. He turned back, raising his arms and struggling against Emilio’s grasp. Roy belted out one animal-like scream of anger and surprise and frustration before Emilio squeezed the air out of him.

Anna took the knife and sent it through Roy’s chest. She grabbed his chin and made him look her in the eye. Her mouth was wide as she screamed as loud as she could.

“Get back Roy, don’t make me do this! Don’t do it, Roy! NO!”

Emilio dropped the squirming Roy on the floor. He went to embrace Anna but she held her hands up to stop him. He was covered in blood. She hadn’t spent all that time dodging spurts and jets from her mother and husband just to be covered by transfer from her lover.

She reached under her dress and unstrapped the heavy pregnancy simulator. She gave it to Emilio for disposal. He went without a word. It was his job to make sure things were right in the house. She went to the phone, working up the tears to call.

Three days. She would give herself three days until declaring her small house too filled with the memories of a happy marriage before using the last of her stored money to buy a small bit of land in Mexico, next to Emilio’s family’s farm. She didn’t need those funds for long. Her inheritance would come once the paperwork was through. Even if she burnt through that, she had just become the single individual in charge of all the titles Roy’s company handled.

She already had Roy as an example of what not to do. She was sure she could make them work where he failed to do so.

She stifled a laugh and brought the phone to her face.

9

1

1

She pressed the numbers slowly. There was an idea in her head, too many people played out the panicked victim. She wanted to go a different route. So many books and papers and portrayals on TV and in movies showed how a sufferer of shock would behave. She spoke slowly, distantly with a hushed calm in her voice, broken every so often by a well placed sob.

“There’s been a murder…”

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About Aaron Shively

I have been working as a freelance writer and artist for the last decade. In that time, I've done everything from ghostwriting to toy design and everything in between. I am currently working on a novel series called 'Myth' which has held my attention for the past sixteen years. I have spent my time developing the world, character and story and am now ready to funnel all the preliminary material into the manuscript of the first installment, 'of Men and Monsters' Bookmark & Share

Posted on 05/31/2011, in Short Stories and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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