Thursday, August 30, 2018

Walls


dontravis.com blog post #300

Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons
The Lovely Pines was released this past Tuesday, August 28. It’s always a good feeling when a fellow has a book published, and this one’s no exception. I do hope you’ll get a copy and read it.

After plugging my book last week, today we’ll return to some short fiction. It’s long for a blog—1,000 words—but stick with it to the end. It might surprise you. Here we go.

*****
WALLS

          I loved Leah from the first moment I saw her. That’s not right. She was just pretty the first time. The second time, she was smart and interesting. The third time I fell for her… hard. She later told me it took three months before she reached that conclusion about me.
          “Lyle,” she said. “I wasn’t even sure I liked you the first time we met.”
          That had been at a neighbor’s backyard barbecue party. I tried to be charming and overdid the thing, most likely. She was a thirtyish widow at the time, and I was coming off a torrid, two-year affair with Jacob Flynch.
          In retrospect, I suppose the walls were there from the beginning, but we were too involved in getting to know each other and setting up a household to realize it. Jacob, still a friend, was in my life, but Harold was absent. She instinctively disliked my Jake, and I didn’t know her Harold. It was natural that I was reluctant to talk much about a guy I’d shared a long gay relationship with, but she was just as loath to reveal her dead husband to me.
          A year of enjoying what we had together allowed us to establish the boundaries of what we would and what we would not discuss. Even so, the first symptoms of the malaise racing towards our marriage took shape when she skipped some events attended by Jake and his wife, both of whom remained in our circle of friends.
          Perhaps in retaliation, I asked about her dead spouse, a subject always touchy. When I had listened instead of indulged in talking at social gatherings, a few rumors permeated my consciousness. Overbearing. Violent? If that was all, why couldn’t she talk about it with me? After all, I was an open book to her… except about Jake, of course. Which meant the last two years of my life were off limits.
          “How come you don’t talk about him,” I asked bluntly one day. “Whenever I ask, a wall goes up. Invisible, but as substantial as brick and mortar.”
          “And why won’t you talk about Jacob Flynch?”
          “You don’t like him, that’s why.”
          “Well, you wouldn’t have liked Harold, either.”
          “How do I know? I don’t know who he was.”
          “I did. So take my word for it.”
          Except for the walls around these two subjects, our life was nice… comfortable. I made a good living as an architect; she contributed considerably as an artist. There were years she made more than I did, but those were rare. Gradually, the walls lowered but never disappeared. Anytime I broached the subject of her first husband, they returned, substantial and insurmountable. Whenever I spoke of Harold, she raised Jake.
          “I’ve heard things, you know,” I said one day after a verbal skirmish.
          She stopped me cold with a raised eyebrow and the words “so have I.”
          It’s hard to pursue a legitimate line of inquiry when you have a corker like mine riding your shoulder.
          Everything came to a head the evening of our fifth anniversary. Leah was in a fury as we came home from a party Jake had thrown for us. She slammed out of the car and marched up the stairs to our second-floor bedroom with a spine so stiff it would have done a Marine honor. I’d turned everything upside down with my toast to her. And to this minute, I didn’t know exactly why I’d done it.
          I’d raised my glass and gazed into her eyes as I said, “My most fervent wish, my darling, is that I were your first husband.”
         That sounded terribly romantic—at least to me—until I heard Jake mutter under his breath, “You mean dead?”
          Leah turned to ice right in front of me and everyone else. The party broke up shortly after that. Now I followed her rigid frame up the stairway.
          “What was wrong with my toast?”
          She whirled in the middle of our bedroom. Rage turned her ugly. Her nose and ears flared a dark pink. The splotches on her cheeks were something akin to magenta. Not a good combination beneath her makeup. Anger did something to her perfume, rendering it rancid. “What was wrong with it? You brought him to our anniversary!”
          I wasn’t certain if she meant Harold or Jake.”
          “You’re so set on learning about him?” she snarled. “Well, I’ll tell you about him. He beat me. Not just struck me. He beat me. You want to know why we don’t have children? Because he… he injured me down there. You—”
          “I’m so sorry, Leah. I didn’t—”
          “Don’t ‘I didn’t know’ me. The whole room knew. Ask your boyfriend about him. He knows, and if he does, so do you. And you told them all you’d like to be Harold.”
          “That’s not what I meant. And everyone knows it… except you. Honey, you don’t have to—”
          I dodged a pillow. “Get out! Go downstairs. Go anywhere. Go to your lover boy, for all I care,” she shrieked.
          “Leah, that was over—”
          “Then why is he in our life? You’ve flaunted Jacob Flynch in front of me for five years. Well, I’m sick of it. Go back to him. I don’t care. Go back to him!”
          I’d like to say she was crying at this point, but she wasn’t. Pure spite shone in her eyes. Her carefully pinned and sprayed hair hung limp over one ear.
          I collected my dignity and took the higher road. “I’ll sleep in the downstairs bedroom tonight, and we’ll discuss this rationally in the morning.”
          I turned and walked out of the room. At the head of the stairs, I paused to think. How had Harold died?
          “That’s right,” Leah said. “He fell down the stairs and broke his neck.”
          I whirled. She was right behind me.

*****
Well, what do you think? Should she be called Lethal Leah or Tragic Leah. Or are they mutually exclusive. I know what I think happened and would be pleased to know the conclusion you draw.

Now my mantra: Keep on reading. Keep on writing. You have something to say… so say it.

If you would like to drop me a line, my personal links follow:

Facebook: www.facebook.com/donald.travis.982
Twitter: @dontravis3

Here are some buy links to the Lovely Pines, which (as noted) was released on August 28:



Abaddon’s Locusts is scheduled for release on January 22, 2019. I’m still only 70 percent of the way through the first draft of The Voxlightner Scandal. Had some setbacks.

See you next week.

Don

New Posts are published at 6:00 a.m. each Thursday.


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