THIS IS A SHORT STORY ABOUT TWO GENTLEMEN, ONE WOMAN, AND AN APOCALYPTIC WAR 4.6.17

Two gentlemen. One woman. And an apocalyptic war. 


4.6.17

The third bomb dropped as I lit my cigar. The gentleman knocked at the door.

“Come in.”

The gentleman sauntered in, like a boat skimming water, classily dressed with a new kerchief around his neck.

“New?” I asked.

“My father’s.”

“Ah, it’s wonderful.”

“Silk,” he said, stroking his mustache. “Dyed the color of our family shield.”

“Sit, sit,” I said. “Don’t get carried away. Drink?”

“Scotch if you have it.”

“I don’t.”

“Then cognac.”

“I have whiskey.”

“Then water.”

“I don’t have water.”

“Then whiskey.”

I poured him whiskey and even gave him a cigar. Through difficult times, it seems, my hospitality, of all things, has remained intact.

“It’s pouring out there,” he said.

“Three I’ve counted so far.” Boom. “Ah, four.”

“That was a big one!” he said, steadying his trembling cup.

“Yes, yes, they seem to be getting larger.”

“We won’t have much time,” he said.

“I suppose not. To business?”

“To business.”

“First, the matter of your debt,” I said.

“How much is it?”

“Last I checked we’d reached near 9,000, and that’s being charitable on my part.”

“9,000 it is. Check or cash?”

“9,500 cash. Interest for three years compounded, which, at 500 is criminally charitable on my end.”

“9,300.”

“9,500.”

“Fine, done. Next.”

Boom.

“Oh my,” he said.

“Oh my is right,” I said. “Now that was a big one.”

“Is that chandelier alright?”

“I don’t know,” I said. “I’m not an expert in hanging light fixtures.”

“It looks like it’s going to fall.”

“Then it probably will.”

“Next,” he said.

“Yes, I meant, on personal note, to pay my condolences for your father.”

He leaned in, shook my hand firmly, gave an approving look only a man, a real man, can give.

“That’s kind of you,” he said. “He was fond of you.”

“And I him. How did he go? Mortar?”

“Nothing so spectacular. When the first bombs started weeks ago he died from a heart attack after one of the blasts frightened him.”

“Well, at least he went peaceably.”

“Not particularly. He was screaming and nearly clawed his eyes out. But that’s a different matter. We need to get down to the meat of our–”

Boom. Boom. Boom.

“Oh my,” he said. “Are they doing triplets now?”

I pulled aside the curtain. Outside, in the near distance, visible in a variegated cloud of color, combusting as if contained within it a lightening storm, was the awesome residue from the bomb drops, the shock, the fog of destruction.

“Things are really picking up out there,” I said.

“Shall we, then?”

“We shall,” I said. “It’s your floor.”

“I love your wife.”

“I know.”

“I can’t breathe without her. I would cut off my own arm to be with her.”

“Would you?”

“If it came to that.”

“What do you love about her?” I said.

“Everything,” he said. “Even the things you don’t know or notice about her.”

“How long has this been happening?”

“Since I first saw her, three, or was it four? years ago at the Westerhasie’s.”

“Fine night.”

“Splendid fun.”

“And you’ve loved her all this time?”

“I have.”

“Behind my back?”

“I apologize. For that, I apologize.”

“What am I supposed to do?”

“Do you love her?”

“I’m sure I do.”

“But do you love her like I love her?” he said.

“I don’t know,” I said. “I’m not in your head.”

“You don’t,” he said. “Believe me.”

Boom. Boom. Boom. Boom. Boom.

“Oh my,” he said. His cigar fell out of his mouth. He picked it up and resumed smoking.

“You propose? what? that I just give her to you?”

“Yes.”

“She’s not a lamp,” I said. “You understand that, don’t you? She’s not a sofa. I can’t just give her to you.”

“Of course, of course,” he said.

“I propose we call her out here, ask her to choose. If she chooses me, this is over, and I’ll never hear about this again, and you’ll leave her alone, and you’ll renounce your love for her, and you’ll return to your wife and children, and that will be that.”

“And if she chooses me?”

“Then she is no longer my business. Agreed?”

“Agreed.”

“Honey?” I said. “Sweetheart. Would you mind coming out here.”

She emerged.

“Ah,” I said. “Sweetheart, we’ve got a question for you.”

Boom. Boom. Boom.

“It’s pouring out there,” she said. “Goodness.”

“Yes, we don’t have much time. Look, we need you to choose.”

“Choose what?”

“Me,” I said. “Or this fine gentleman here.”

“To be with, you mean?”

“Yes sweetheart,” I said. “To be with.”

“To love, you mean? To love and marry and spend the rest of my life with, you mean? And to maybe have children with and share a home and a bed with, you mean?”

“Precisely,” I said.

“I love you,” the gentleman said.

“I know,” she said. “And,” she said, looking at me. “Do you?”

Boom. Boom. Boom. Boom.

“Oh my,” he said.

“Goodness,” she said.

“I’m afraid I do,” I said. “At this moment, at least. I think I do.”

“And you,” she said, turning to the gentleman. “You love me now or always?”

“Always,” he said. “Always always, never a moment off, always, love, always.”

“Alright,” she said. “I’ll go with him, then.”

She extended her hand out to the gentleman. They both looked at me.

“Congratulations,” I said.

He kissed her hand and then shook mine.

“You’re a gentleman,” he said. “You’re a class act.”

“As are you,” I said. “And you, darling. I will…I will miss you.” She kissed me on the lips one final time and it felt like someone had taken a car battery to my tongue, O!

“And,” the gentleman added, while nearly out the door with the woman who used to be my wife, “that whiskey was splendid.”

I sat there for a while, a long while, technically an eternity, with my cigar and my whiskey, watching the beautiful neon orbs of fire and smoke drop from the sky like heaven’s tears and erupt so violently that each one shook the hairs on my chin.

It was something to be alone. It was entirely something else to be alone and witnessing destruction on such a dazzling scale. It felt good, for once, to know that things were ending.


Written at 10:46 at night, in my office, in Agoura Hills CA, while chewing on the hood of my hoodie sweater and contemplating whether to take a shower before bed. 

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