Author’s Note: The first part of this story can be found here.
After the service, Ed stood outside the church, fidgeted in his clothes, and waited for Lewis and his lady friend. When they finally emerged, the happy couple looked as if they had just been wed. Ed grunted at that. He didn’t think Sontag was Lewis’ type at all. She was wound too tight, he thought, like a nightstand cuckoo set to blow her guts. She was an older woman, 60s like Ed and Lewis, and Ed believed she was the type that just couldn’t come to terms with the fact she was getting older by the day. She was too perky within the growing wrinkles, too sparkly within the fading of her soul. She painted herself in too much makeup and dyed her wayward locks blonde. She had fake intelligent breasts and a caboose shaped like a misguided pear. Lipstick on a piggie, Ed thought. Lipstick on a piggie. And when they came up to him, it was all fake. Her smile was fake, her kindness was fake, and he worried her affection for Lewis might be fake as well.
Sontag lightly touched him on the arm. “Did you enjoy the service today, Ed?”
“It was fine.”
“I thought it was a very inspiring message — very hopeful,” she said.
“Indeed, it was,” Ed said, feeling sick inside his guts.
“I do hope you decide to attend regularly,” she said, glancing at him with a look that really said: I hope you don’t.
Ed looked at Lewis. He was beaming to the point of bursting. “Well, I don’t get to town very often, but I’ll consider it,” Ed said.
“Fine. That’s just fine,” Sontag replied with an air of pretentiousness. “So, I suppose we can just meet over at my house. I hope you’re hungry, Ed. I’m quite the kitchen witch.”
“You’re a witch?” Ed wondered aloud.
Sontag chuckled in a very fake way. “No, silly. I’m not a real witch. It’s just an expression I came up with. Like, well,” she attempted to explain, tapping her overly ruby lips with the tip of a finger. “How I can really whip up a good pot of stew, if need be, you know, in a pinch. Almost like magic.”
Ed looked at her in disbelief and confusion.
“Okay,” was all he could manage to say, and he tossed an awkward glance in Lewis’ direction.
“Ed is always hungry,” Lewis said, trying to steer the conversation in a less odd direction. “Just look at the size of him.”
“That’s right. I have a huge appetite, mostly,” Ed said. “Take right now, for example. I could eat a big bowl of dog food and keep on going.”
Sontag chuckled and put her hand in front of her red mouth. “Oh my, I hope I’m a better cook than that.”
Lewis laughed along with her, but Ed was just like stone, and he felt like crumbling.
Sontag’s house was in the nicest part of town and when Ed Blackrose stepped inside it smelled like Thanksgiving and he liked that. The home was very neat and clean and organized. It almost looked as if no one even really lived in the place. It looked like something straight out of a television advertisement from another time, Ed thought. Perfect and pretentious and fake, yet oddly charming at the same time.
He grinned at her, moving his head around. “You have a beautiful home,” Ed said. “Very nice. Cozy.”
“It certainly is,” Lewis chimed in. “Sontag takes great pride in her home.”
Sontag slightly blushed in embarrassment. “Oh, come on you two. It’s easy to take care of a house when you’re the only one in it,” she responded. “Well, go ahead and have a seat wherever you like, Ed. Would you like something to drink?”
Ed backed up to a pinkish couch and carefully sat down. “I’ll have a beer if you have it.”
Sontag’s expression suddenly changed. “No. I’m sorry, Ed. There’s no alcohol in this house. I don’t allow devil juice within these walls.”
“Oh, well, how about a lemonade then?” Ed said, scratching at his head. “Got anything against lemons?”
Lewis glared at him from a paisley chair.
“I’ll see what I can find,” she said, and she twirled and disappeared toward the kitchen.
“Damn it, Ed. That was rude,” Lewis scolded. “I think you really hurt her feelings.”
“Does she have any feelings?” Ed wondered.
“I think you should go in there and apologize.”
“Oh, come on. This is ridiculous. I was just joking around.”
Lewis leaned in and whispered. “She’s a very sensitive gal, Ed. I really think you should go in there and apologize.”
“All right. All right. Jesus Christ this is silly,” Ed complained.
He huffed, stood up, and made his way into the kitchen where he saw her stirring a pitcher of lemonade. He scratched at his head and felt uneasy. “Hello,” he said.
“Hi. Do you want ice? I just put it together so it will probably be better with ice.”
She filled a tall glass with ice, poured in the lemonade, and turned to him. She was being snobby.
“Here you go. Hope it’s to your liking.”
“Hey, I’m sorry about that. I was just joking around, trying to lighten things up a bit.”
She turned away for a second and then looked back up at him over her shoulder.
“I thought it was mean,” she said as she turned back around. “And disrespectful.”
Her eyes were sea green, and he thought he saw a flicker of hellfire in them as she gazed up at him. Then she suddenly reached out her hand and groped his crotch. Ed froze. Lewis was humming some happy tune to himself in the other room as he ate nuts from an ornate glass bowl.
“Hey guys,” he called out. “I’m in the mood for some music. How about we play some records?”
Sontag didn’t move her hand away but instead massaged him even deeper. “Sure thing, honey,” she called out. “We’re on our way.”
She released her grip, said nothing, and walked into the other room. Ed was stunned, but at the same time excited. It had been years since a woman had touched him in any sort of way. His hand shook as he raised the glass of lemonade to his mouth. He closed his eyes and gulped it down until his brain froze.
“Are you feeling better?” she asked.
“I am. Thank you.”
When Ed came into the other room, Lewis and Sontag were sitting across from each other, her on one end of the couch and Lewis still in the paisley chair, and they were looking through her record albums atop a coffee table. Ed took a seat on the opposite end of the couch and watched them. Sontag glanced over at him and smiled.
“What kind of music do you like, Ed?” Sontag asked.
“Oh, I don’t know. I really don’t get into that sort of thing.”
“He likes Johnny Cash,” Lewis said.
Sontag bit at her bottom lip as she carefully looked through the albums until she found one by Johnny Cash. “Here’s one. I like him, too.”
She stood up and set the record on the player. She gently set the needle down on the revolving vinyl and Ring of Fire hauntingly began to play, and it filled the room with an eerie, crazy feeling. Ed suddenly stood up and they looked at him.
“Is everything okay, Ed?” Lewis asked.
“I’m fine,” Ed answered. “But I’m afraid I’m having some… Digestive issues.” He looked at Sontag. “Could I use your bathroom?”
She was turned off by his remark, but what could she say? “Of course. It’s down the hall on the left.”
Cash’s gritty, dark voice followed Ed all the way to the bathroom, and even when he shut himself inside, the music made its way in. He quickly tore his pants down and sat on the seat. He violently went and grimaced from the pain in his guts. “My god, she’s poisoned me,” he groaned to himself. He flushed, and then flushed again. Then there was a light tapping on the door.
“It’s Sontag. Are you okay in there?”
“Yes, I’m fine. I’m just going to the bathroom, Jesus!”
“I’d really appreciate it if you didn’t take the Lord’s name in vain,” Sontag said. “Especially when you are in the bathroom doing, well, whatever you are doing. Not in my house.”
He didn’t respond. She jiggled the knob and put her face close to the door. “Ed. Do you need me to come in and help you?”
“No. Please. Let me just finish.”
“Are you sure?”
“I wouldn’t mind,” she said in a sultry voice.
“Please, lady. This is personal stuff going on in here,” Ed said. “I’ll be out in a little while.”
She sighed. “Okay. I’m going to go put dinner on the table now. Make sure you wash your patties.”
“My patties?” Ed wondered aloud.
Ed cleaned himself, washed his hands, and splashed cold water on his face. He dried his face with a plush towel and looked at himself in the mirror.
“This is really weird,” he mumbled. “Why did I ever agree to such a nightmare?”
Then he looked to the side where there were high cabinets with crawling vines of blue roses painted on the doors. He opened them and looked inside. There was a sweet aroma amongst the towels and the soaps and the lotions and the sprays. He started fumbling through her things. He slid his hands underneath the stacks of towels to see if there was anything hidden. He found an envelope and pulled it out. Inside there was money. He counted it — $1,690. He pulled out three twenties and stuck them in his pocket before returning the envelope to where he found it. She’ll never miss it, he thought.
He searched some more and found an adult magazine. The cover had a photo of two naked guys showing off their ding-a-lings. Ed made a face and quickly stuffed it away. He grew more curious and opened the doors to the lower cabinets. It was full of bathroom tissue. Rolls upon rolls of bathroom tissue. Ed counted and multiplied in his head. There were nearly 300 rolls. My god, she must have problems, he thought. Then there was another knock on the door. It was Lewis this time.
“Ed? What the hell are you doing in there? Dinner is on the table. We’re waiting for you.”
“All right,” he said, closing the cabinet doors. “I’m on my way out now.”
He opened the door and Lewis stepped back as Ed stepped out.
“Damn it, Ed. Could you at least use some spray? You’re really embarrassing me.”
Ed grew cold and pressed Lewis against the opposite wall and stared down at him.
“I told you I didn’t want to come. You pressured me and suddenly you’re all pissed off because I’m supposedly embarrassing you. To hell with that! You and your lady friend can fake it, but I won’t.”
Ed gave Lewis another shove for good measure, pushed his hair back with his fingers, and walked to the dining room. Sontag was waiting there, looking sad. The table was covered with food and dishes and glasses. She even had a couple of tall, white candles burning. Gospel music was playing on the stereo in the other room now. Ed straightened himself out and sat down.
“Sorry about that. I wasn’t feeling too good.”
“Better now?” she asked.
Lewis appeared and sat down without saying a word.
“Ed, would you like to say grace?” Sontag asked.
“Oh. I don’t think I’d be very comfortable with that if it’s all the same to you.”
“Just say what you feel, Ed,” she said. “That’s all praying really is, saying what you feel.”
Ed cleared his throat, folded his hands, and closed his eyes. “Dear Lord, up there, thank you for this wonderful meal our dear Sontag here has prepared for us. Your bountiful blessings amaze us, and we are ever so grateful for your everlasting love and mercy.”
Ed opened one eye and looked at Sontag. “Is that enough?”
“Yes, Ed. God doesn’t count the words, he just hears them.”
“Okay then. Amen!”
TO BE CONTINUED
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