A SHORT TALE OF DYSFUNCTION

            More fighting.  Always fighting.  It is the only appropriate verb to describe what is obscurely known as the “Relationship.”

            Fighting during the day, at night, before bed, often interrupting sleep.  More fighting upon waking.  Sometimes one is forced to wonder what else there is and usually one is hard-pressed to come up with anything else.           

This night, for example, filled with fighting, an endless stream of hurtful epithets hurled back and forth, things no rational, sane person should ever say, nor ever expect to take back once tempers have cooled.           

He is not a human being, thinks everything is a joke, has no genuine emotions.  She is narrow-minded, superficial, arrogant.             

 Yet, is it is through this surface version of “Making Up” that the true sickness lies all the buried resentments and murderous intent shuffled to the side in favor of making the day an easier one to handle.  Even this latest fight: A recurring one having to do with levels of commitment and building bridges to unknowable futures neither has any business or right discussing.           

 Marriage was the subject.  Rather, the lack thereof, which carries over into bedtime as rigid body language and exaggerated sighing permeate the bedroom with overwhelming presence.  An intentional lack of closeness tonight, body parts kept separate, quickly moved apart if any contact is made.  Together but each alone with his and her thoughts.          

  Both silently wishing the other would do what they cannot, and bring a final, not-so-crushing finale to this farce.             

 Instead, she concerns herself with ridiculous ponderings concerning his lack of willingness to pop the question:  Doesn’t he love me enough? Is there something wrong with me? Is there someone else he’d rather marry?

  His thoughts, consumed by rage and hostility, are not so dissimilar to hers.  But he thinks mostly of timing, and how things once set in motion can often not be stopped.  And how, sometimes, we tend to wait too long and no amount of perfect planning can ever compensate.

   Enough time has passed now that one of them, probably him, must follow the cue to apologize.  From that point, hugging and possible lovemaking follow.         

     Not tonight.           

      Tonight his mind is elsewhere, far enough away that such things don’t occur to him, though he wouldn’t choose to apologize even if it weren’t.           

      She sighs for the tenth time, bringing him back to this time and place. He sighs in return, conscious of his childish desire to not be undone.  A floorboard creaks in the hallway.  He quiets his breathing and listens, wonders if she heard it too.  But she rolls over and faces him.           

      He is reminded of the last great argument they had, when she insisted on purchasing a handgun for the house.  He gave in then, he does not plan to do so now.           

      “This obviously isn’t working out, Alex” she says.            

      He chuckles contemptuously.  “Ya think?”           

      She does the same.  “See?  That’s exactly what I mean.  You don’t give a damn about how I feel about anything!”           

     “What makes you say that?” he asks in that disinterested way he’s mastered since being with her.           

     She stares at him, her revulsion evident even in the pitch black. 

    “You inhuman son of a bitch…”           

    Just then the bedroom door flies open to reveal a man dressed in black, a revolver in his right hand.  She screams the names of God and Jesus over and over, but neither deity responds.           

    “Shut up, godammit,” the intruder yells.  “Both of you, outta the bed NOW!”   

   They comply, holding each other, getting on their knees next to the bed.           

   “Where’s the jewelry?” the intruder says.           

   Alex stammers something unintelligible, causing the intruder to literally kick his ass and send him flat to the floor.           

   “I won’t ask you again, man!”            

   “It’s on the dresser,” she screeches.           

    The intruder goes over and throws open the jewelry box, spilling its contents onto the dresser.  She positions herself onto the bed, hands on her pillow as Alex gets back to his knees.  He thanks God for the darkness so she cannot see his grin.           

    “OK, people, it’s been real,” the intruder says.  “Hate to run, but I can’t stay.”   

     “Please, just go,” Alex says.  “We won’t tell anyone what you look like.”           

     She gasps.  The intruder bends down, gun trained on the back of Alex’s head.  “What the hell did you just say?”           

     Between pants, Alex repeats his previous statement, fading a bit at the end as if hearing it for the first time.           

    “Well, looks like somebody just ordered a bullet to the back of his head,” the intruder says.  “Ain’t that a shame?”           

    “No!” she screams, crying hysterically.            

    “Shut up!” the intruder screams.  “Any last words, hero?”           

    Alex turns to her and opens his mouth.  What happens next is a testament to the theory that time is not linear, but a series of pockets of individual experience culminating in what we’ve crudely labeled a “moment.”  In reality, it is a fragment of collected occurrences.           

    Beginning the words, “Katherine, will you marry me.”          

    Not seeing her pull the handgun out from under her pillow.           

    The “intruder,” a friend from work named Jimmy who’s always down for a good joke, leaning forward.           

    The loud thunderclap of the handgun as a bullet exits its chamber and finds Jimmy’s third eye, forcing his head back into the wall as the room is sprayed by a red geyser.           

    And the moment concludes itself as Alex screams and tries wiping the blood, Jimmy’s blood, from his face.  Katherine, confused, drops the gun as if it is a foreign infection to be purged.  Alex explaining, through high-pitched, panic-stricken tones, what has just happened.           

   And the laughter, hysterical and filled with anguish, as the news is revealed.  It is difficult if not impossible to pinpoint the one who laughs or even if it is just one of them.           

  For the demented irony is not lost on them as sanity slips away, replaced by the unifying thought that this is the most complete moment of their lives.

christophernadeau

Author of the upcoming novel "Dreamers at Infinity's Core."

20 thoughts on “A SHORT TALE OF DYSFUNCTION

  1. no sorry, for one it was too short and I didn’t care about either of these characters, it’s hard to like crazy people, you didn’t make me like either of them, I only felt sorry for the friend who like a good friend is always up for a practical joke. If the friend would have shot the man and the woman that would have been cool…putting the man out of his misery and stifling the woman for all of eternity…now thats poetic justice 🙂

  2. I didn’t want you to like them. I often don’t want readers to like the poeple I write about.

  3. Yeah, I agree… it’s not about liking these characters.

    I felt like this has two parts. Before Jimmy comes in, and after Jimmy comes in. I think in the first part, you give a commentary on an argument between a couple who apparently is used to arguing. You lean heavily to his side. I think that if I didn’t already know you were a man, I could definitely tell by the way you write each person in their thoughts. You take examples from her thoughts, and they make me think of thoughts I had in high school. Where you explain his thoughts in broad general terms giving insight to his thoughts. Which to me is interesting. It almost says to me his thoughts were justified where hers weren’t. Even the satirical way he treats her when she finally says something implicates he doesn’t think her thoughts are justified either. Even though they had been lumped together and treated equally prior, giving a sense that they were both guilty for the situation at hand.

    It’s funny how I took so much more away from their interaction before the crisis than during or after.

    As for the crisis itself… who plays that kind of practical joke?!?! LOL But I wouldn’t put anything past anyone anymore. And the joke was on him apparently. His dialog actually cracked me up… which probably should have been my first clue that this wasn’t a true robbery.

    Yeah, this part: ” “I won’t ask you again, man!” ”

    I think it was him using the word “man,” It screamed to me that he didn’t mean to be threatening in the way that I picture robbers or thieves to be. (but then I’ve never been a victim either)

    Then Alex spits out he wants to marry her. There’s no weight to it. No significance. He says it because either one or both of their lives are over and he can say it without the consequences. Even if she wasn’t pulling a gun out from under her pillow I’m not sure she would have reacted at all.

    The end gets a bit hazy for me. We the reader find out the identity of the intruder at a different point in time than the couple. I would think that it might be more effective, or to really pack a punch for the reader to reveal to EVERYONE at the same time that the intruder is actually a friend and it was a big misunderstanding.

    As far as that moment being “the most complete moment of their lives”… is it complete in the fact that the weight of the moment is so heavy and so consequential that it will carry with them, probably for as long as they live? I can only see this being complete in comparison to all the moments of their relationship where each individual argument or each individual make up were merely pieces in a much larger picture that stays with them. If it is … then it would seem that complete moments very rarely happen in our lives. And maybe that’s interesting.

    Okay… I’m done with my thesis. LOL I didn’t mean to go in depth… but I just had thoughts that wouldn’t stop. I hope this helped, maybe you’re wondering if I had a little too much Bailey’s in my coffee this morning. Either way, I’ll come back and see what else you got. If I’m still invited. 😉

  4. If I don’t like a character, why the hell would I want to read a story about them or care about them?

    It’s all about liking the characters. Atleast someone in the story should be worth me caring about and wanting to read more. Duh.

  5. Actually, Autumn’s comments are spot-on. This was a peek inside the mind of a screwed up guy in a terrible relationship with a woman who is probably equally screwed up. The reason it’s so short is because you’re not going to stick with unlikable charcaters for very long but you just might want to know where it’s all going if it doesn’t take too long to get there. I can’t speak for anyone else, but I read stories and novels filled with unlikable characters all the time. In fact, most people I know prefer that because they are tired of artificiality with respect to shoe-horning likable people into situations that don’t call for them.

  6. lol okaaaay 🙂 I’m dying laughing right now at the pretentiousness of your comment Nads 🙂 “Most people I know”….lmao 🙂

  7. I fail to see how it’s “pretentious” to mention that most of the people you know prefer edgey stories/movies etc. featuring screwed up characters that are often unlikable, but I guess you just felt the need for a cheap shot or something.

  8. It’s not a cheap shot, and its pretentious for this reason, first you disagree that “likeable” characters are necessary to most people that you know, then you state the following:

    “The reason it’s so short is because you’re not going to stick with unlikable charcaters for very long but you just might want to know where it’s all going if it doesn’t take too long to get there”

    Basically agreeing with what I said in the first place. If most people are just loving unlikeable characters, why wouldn’t they want to stick with them for very long?

    I don’t make cheap shots, well sometimes I do. But here I didn’t. You asked for people to read your posts here, and to comment. Thats what I did. You should on occassion want the opinion of someone who actually knows what they are talking about. But if you don’t thats fine too.

  9. “If most people are just loving unlikeable characters, why wouldn’t they want to stick with them for very long?”

    Can I take a stab?

    He said “The reason it’s so short is because you’re not going to stick with unlikable characters for very long but you just might want to know where it’s all going if it doesn’t take too long to get there.” I think he means most people (in general) aren’t going to stick with unlikable characters. I think the reason he makes it short is not to write to an audience of people he knows, (who wouldn’t mind the much longer piece on unlikable characters) but trying to write to a much broader audience.

    The big audiences get you the most money from what I hear. 😉

    But that’s just my humble understanding.

  10. Autumn, Almost!! Except Christopher also said:

    “I didn’t want you to like them. I often don’t want readers to like the poeple I write about.”

    Readers, being “most people (in general)” and not “most people that I know”.

    I’ll take a stab and say that despite asking for constructive criticism, Christopher really doesn’t want it, maybe what he really wants is a head nodding mindless fan club. some nice sheeple to give him a round of applause everytime he puts some words together. And if so thats fine, we all have needs after all.

  11. Hmm. That must be why I’m personally submitting my novel to two book critics. after all, they’re well known for telling writers what they want to hear…good call.

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