My wife and I love watching House Hunters, especially the international version of the show. It’s been a thing for us for a long, long time. We love to yell at the people for making stupid choices.
Now, we know a lot of the show is fake and from what I read the people have already made the choice of what house they want even before they are filmed “house hunting.” I also read that sometimes the show utilizes younger actors to play the buyers who in reality may be old, ugly, and boring. Something like that. But even with all that in mind, it really grinds my gears when I see people who make a living as “social media trendsetters” or “lifestyle enthusiasts” or “product ambassadors for an international marketing start up” or “nomadic online fashion consultants” and they have a budget of like 2 million dollars and I’m just like “WTF!”
Just once, I’d like to see a guy who vacuums for a living and makes 13 bucks an hour trying to buy a house. Now that’s putting reality in Reality TV.
My wife understandably gets frustrated with my House Hunters frustration. I just can’t help it, though. I’m an edgy individual. Take last night for example. The buyers were two guys — 23 and 24 years old, respectively, who were friends and business partners — who earn a living by making YouTube videos about video games or something like that. It was never made totally clear. But nonetheless, they supposedly have 2 million subscribers to whatever they do and in turn must make a shitload of money because they were looking at houses priced around $1.3 million. I just sit there and shake my head and I truly don’t understand it. How!?
Am I envious? Yes! Am I bitter? Yes! Why? Because (with the exception of the last two years of my semi-retirement and “working” as a struggling writer) I have worked my ass off my entire life at jobs that were killing me emotionally… And for what? I never got ahead. I never got noticed. I barely squeaked by. And in the end, I got kicked to the curb like a bag of trash because of some corporate algorithm. I bang my head against the wall and holler to the heavens, “What am I doing wrong! I just want to live, not suffer to live!”
It seems so damn easy for so many others and some days I struggle just to get up, make coffee, and do the laundry. Sigh.
But then I look over at the corner of my desk and I see a pile of notes from my wife. She leaves me a love note on my desk every morning before she leaves for work. Even if I have been an ass. I’m usually still sleeping. But reading her note is pretty much the first thing I do in the morning. They are a daily reminder of all that we have, together, in this life. She’s my Reality TV.
I know I bitch and moan about life plenty, but she is always reminding me of what truly matters. And when I stop and really think about it, instead of getting caught up in the charade of societal guidelines, it doesn’t matter I don’t have 2 million followers or a million-dollar house. I have our simple sweet life together, and though it’s not always easy and often fraught with worry, fear, problems, and so on. The love we have is the richest in the world.
Well, that ended completely different than I thought it would. But she’s good at getting me to turn things around when I need it most.
Aaron Echoes August
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My mother got up to answer the door, cradling Maine, and touched at her hair with one hand to set it in proper place before going out of the room. She always had to look proper, no matter what. It was the outside that mattered to her, rarely the inside of a person. I guess that’s why I failed her so much — I wasn’t proper on either side.
I stood back in the swallowing shadows of the big house biting my nails as my mother opened the door. Emily and Frost began to step in and then suddenly stopped when they saw her holding the baby.
“Mom?” Emily asked, her face scrunched in confusion. “Are you babysitting for someone? Whose kid?”
“We’ll talk about it, dear. Please come in. Hello there, Frost.”
Their voices were distant to me, like in a dream. I saw Frost lean in and give my mother a fake kiss on the cheek. Then their voices bloomed and became an uncomfortable gathering upon me.
“Oh, hello Everett,” Frost said when he noticed me lurking as he shed his fancy coat and placed it over one arm. “It’s a surprise seeing you here. We had no idea. Are you planning to stay for the weekend as well?”
“I don’t know,” I said, and I moved forward to shake his perfect hand. His grip was cold, crushing. His cold blue eyes drilled into me. He had a look of winter about him, and so his name fit him perfectly — Frost. Frost Bennington of the Benningtons. Prick.
Then I looked over at my sister, the dear Emily. My older sibling. Intelligent and oh so intelligently cool, cold, frosty like her lover. She acted uncomfortable and brushed wispy blonde hairs out of her face, her evergreen eyes avoiding me.
“Hello Emily,” I said, and I awkwardly hugged her. It was a short-lived embrace that she quickly pulled away from.
“Hello Everett,” she said, her words nervously stumbling out. “It is quite a surprise to see you here. If we knew you were coming… I suppose you could have ridden with us from the city, but I guess neither of us knew.”
“No. I hadn’t planned on it.”
“So,” Frost broke in, “Where’s Edward? I brought him a bottle of some fine brandy.” He held up a surely expensive bottle to show it off.
“I think he went off to his study,” my mother said. “Why don’t you go and say hello? I’d like to speak with Emily in private. Everett, go wash yourself up, you look like you could use a long, hot shower, and I think it would be best if you stayed the night. You can sleep in your old room. There are some clean linens in the closet upstairs. Well, you know where it all is. Go on now.”
Evelyn led Emily to the quiet of the obscene chef’s kitchen in the back of the house. She spoke to the house maiden who was busy polishing glasses with a white cloth. “Eliza, please take this baby into a quiet room and soothe him while we talk.”
The house maiden smiled. Her light brown skin brightened. “Oh, he’s something,” she said as she came closer. She took him into her arms and immediately fell in love.
“Yes, well, don’t get too attached, Eliza. He may not be with us long,” Evelyn said to her like a cold breeze.
“Yes, mam,” Eliza said, the brightness of her face turning to night again. “I will be in the sitting room.”
Evelyn nodded to her and she turned to look out the big windows into the large, perfectly kept yard bleached with winter.
“Mother?” Emily began. “What’s going on? Whose baby is that?”
“Oh, my dear daughter. We have trouble in this house today. I think your brother has totally gone mad. He just showed up with that baby in a pillowcase. He says it belongs to some tramp he met in the city and she up and left. Just took off is what he said and just left the child behind. I just don’t know what to do about Everett anymore. I’m just sick about it. But that child. That poor, innocent child stuck in the middle of all this.” Flustered, she stepped away from the window and frantically started going through cabinets. “And I don’t have anything for a baby to eat…”
“Mother,” Emily said, trying to slow her down and make her pay attention. “Stop and listen to me. I have great concern for Everett. I don’t think he’s well, I mean, mentally.”
A clock on the mantle above an unlit fireplace in another room chimed four times before Evelyn spoke again.
“What’s wrong?” she asked. “Did something happen to him in the city?”
Emily shifted her eyes. “Everett came over to our place, it was back before Christmas. He said you had visited him that same day and he started talking very strangely to me about when we were young and living here in the house. He seemed very confused and troubled.”
“Yes. I did go see him. I had met some friends for brunch.” She sighed. “He was sitting there all alone in that awful apartment. It was so dark. Dirty. Sad really. Very sad. I thought maybe stopping by with a bag of leftovers might cheer him up. I gave him some money, too. But despite the typical grayness of his life when I saw him that day, he seemed fine. Is there something else I should know about?”
“Like I said, when he was at our place. Frost was off doing something important most likely and so we were alone, Everett and I, in the kitchen. Just trying to talk. You know how awkward that can be.”
“What are you trying to tell me?”
“He kissed me.”
Evelyn froze for a moment, and her eyes began to quake with nervous twitches behind her glamorous glasses. “What’s wrong with a brother kissing his own sister?”
“It wasn’t that kind of a kiss, mom,” Emily softly spoke. “He kissed me, you know, a real kiss… He forced himself on me.”
Evelyn stepped back, coughed, and adjusted the same glamorous glasses. “Oh please, Emily! Such talk. You must have completely misread his intentions.”
“No. I didn’t.”
“He must have been drinking then,” Evelyn strongly suggested.
“No, mother. He wasn’t drinking. He knew what he was doing… Or he didn’t. I don’t really know,” she said, hands in the air as she paced the polished floor.
“My God, Emily,” Evelyn moaned. “Why would he do that? What on earth would possess him to do that?” She scoffed in frustration and embarrassment almost. She waved a hand in the air. “I don’t believe it. I refuse to believe such a story.”
“I think he needs a doctor,” Emily stressed to her mother. “A good doctor. A psychiatrist. He may even need to go to a place that specializes in whatever is wrong with him. Frost and I know some people who may be able to help.”
Evelyn bit at her mouth with worry. “This is all too much,” she moaned. “But how are you? He didn’t hurt you, did he?”
“No. He didn’t hurt me at all. I was just shocked, and I pushed him off and told him to never do it again, that it was inappropriate… But then what about this baby now? This definitely proves there is something seriously wrong with him.”
“It’s very odd indeed. I think the child is sickly and I’m not surprised. That fool boy knows nothing about taking care of a baby. And that girl who dumped him, I can just imagine what a piece of work she is. I just don’t understand why Everett can’t find a nice girl. He’s not a bad looking young man, he’s just …”
Emily finished her mother’s sentence, “Incredibly strange.”
“Why don’t you help him out and introduce him to some of your friends? You know plenty of well-educated people. Good, decent people too. He needs to be kept away from common street trash — like that poor child’s mother.”
“I would, mother, but I don’t think Frost would have it. You know how particular he is about everything. And it’s no secret that he doesn’t like Everett.”
“Does he know what happened?”
“Yes. I told him, and he wasn’t happy about it at all. No surprise. He went ballistic. It took everything in me to calm him down enough to even come this weekend… And then pow, Everett is here, unbeknownst to us. I could almost hear Frost’s perfect teeth grinding to dust.”
“Yes, I suppose he would be upset. I can’t blame him. He’s a fine young man, very driven, bred from fine stock, and well positioned to take care of you financially. That’s very important. So even if things go sour between you two, always consider that. And another very important thing is the fact your father is more than fond of him.”
“I find it strange that daddy takes him on like that and then treats Everett like he’s not even his son.”
“Well, your father has always been drawn to highly successful people. I’m afraid Everett has greatly disappointed him.”
“That’s sad,” Emily said. “It shouldn’t be like that. You should love and support your kids no matter who they are and what they do. That’s the way I want to be.”
“You’ll be a fine mother some day,” Evelyn assured her daughter as she gently tapped the back of her hand. “As far as Maine is concerned, I’m going to convince your father to let me keep him here — just for a day or two until we can figure this all out,” she said. “In the meantime, I want us to have a nice family gathering this weekend. Cozy and warm and perfect. Will you help Eliza with dinner?”
“Of course,” Emily said.
“And do you think Frost would mind running Everett over to the store to get some things. For the baby. Diapers and such. I’ll make a list.”
Emily made a face. “Well, he may not like it, but he’ll do it for you.”
Evelyn smiled. “Good. I like it when he does things for me.”
The day after New Year’s I stepped onto a smelly bus with the kid in a pillowcase and slung over my shoulder like a hobo pack. I had carefully cut holes in the pillowcase so that the baby could breathe when I walked around with him. I found a spot near the back and set Maine down on the seat beside me. He started to cry and some blue-haired, old salty sea hag across the aisle gave me a dirty look.
“That’s no way to carry around a baby,” she scowled with a hoarse voice, her cigarette wrinkles squishing together as her jaw moved. “You should be arrested for that. Hell, if I was a cop, I’d smash you over the head with a club right now.”
I turned to look at her as I dug around in my backpack for a baby bottle full of root beer.
“If it’s all the same to you, mam, I’d appreciate it if you would just mind your own damn stinkin’ business!” I snapped, slightly rising up in my seat in a threatening way maybe like Adam Sandler would. “I’ve got enough problems dealing with this kid dumped on me by some orgy queen. I’m doing the best I can and plan to remedy the situation today. That’s for sure. So, if you don’t mind… I think he’s hungry now.”
I turned away and proceeded to stick the rubbery nipple of the baby bottle into Maine’s mouth. Even though it was bubbly root beer, he sucked at it eagerly like it was his own momma’s milky teat.
The old sea hag’s mouth dropped open and when I glanced back in her direction, I noticed she had dirty teeth and a cracked tongue the color of old, moldy bacon.
“What on earth are you feeding that poor child? Is that… It looks like soda pop!”
“Yes mam, it is soda pop. Root beer to be exact. I think it’s his favorite.”
“Are you stupid or something? Do you want his stomach to explode!?”
“Actually mam, I don’t think I’d mind too much if his stomach exploded right about now. I’m tired of this shit.”
The old sea hag leaned further across the aisle and her breath smelled like warm deli salami as she spoke in an aggravated tone.
“Young man,” she began. “I strongly suggest that once you get to wherever you’re going that you take this child to the nearest hospital before you end up killing him. You’re lucky I don’t go up there right now and have the driver report you.”
Too exhausted to fight, I pleaded with her.
“Please, mam, don’t do that. I’ve never spent much time around babies, and I don’t always know what the hell I’m doing, but I’m heading to my mom’s and dad’s right now and they’ll know. They’ll know what to do.”
The old hag sighed heavily, and her salami breath spewed out like dragon fire, and it nearly made me puke. She looked at me with lost, ebony eyes — shaking a crinkly, yellowed finger like a witch.
“All right. But you give your word that you give this child over to someone who can handle him properly, and if I find out you ain’t did it, well, I’m a witness and I’ll tell the police all about it when they show your picture in the newspaper or on the television. I’ll come forward for sure. Don’t you think I won’t.”
Maine began to choke a bit and I pulled the bottle from his little mouth with a nearly inaudible pop. I set him up on my shoulder and gently patted his back. When the baby belched, the old sea hag rolled her eyes and returned to the proper bus-riding position in her own seat.
“Soda pop for a baby,” she mumbled under her breath as she snapped open a glamour magazine. “Geez, now I’ve seen it all.”
I grew sleepy and my head bobbed as the bus rolled down some pastoral highway in the Upstate heading for a fancy little town called Burgundy Falls. I began to wonder what my old ma and pa would do when I showed up at the house carrying a bastard baby in a pillowcase. They would most likely have me committed. Why not? They had the money. Wouldn’t bother them a bit to lock me up and throw away the key. I figured that would be right satisfactory to them. They’d be happy if I rotted. The thought of it all ruined my appetite for sweet home cooking and made my stomach hurt. No, this burden in the bag had caused me nothing but trouble ever since ol’ promiscuous Helen Corvair had decided to run off for breakfast and not come back. My nervous and immune systems were shot. I had bags under my eyes from lack of sleep. I thought I might be coming down with a bad case of schizophrenia and possibly a cold. I even had to quit my job as a toy clerk at the five-story department store in the city because they wouldn’t let me bring the kid to work with me. They said my employee locker was no place to keep a baby while I performed my job duties. Pfffft to that. Damn you golden Helen Corvair. Damn you and all your gritty intoxication to hell.
The nerves really began to jingle like sleigh bells, and it felt like reindeer were tugging on my balls when the bus pulled into the station at Burgundy Falls. I sat there for a long time watching the other passengers gather their things and get off. The old salty sea hag who bitched at me turned out to be quite stout and I watched as she struggled to get out of her seat. Once she was out and up, she bumped her fat rear right into me as she gathered her things. It was obnoxious and horrible, and I wanted to scream. She turned to me one last time and growled to me in a voice most likely being violently raped by throat cancer.
“Now don’t you forget what I said. You take care of that baby first thing, or I’ll be sure they hang you by the nuts.”
“Thanks. Have a fine day,” I called after her as she waddled down the aisle bumping her big rump against all the seats.
When I was the last one left, I remained in my seat, frightened and unsure, until the driver finally came down the aisle and looked at me like I was stupid.
“This is Burgundy Falls,” he said. “Isn’t this your stop, sir?”
I looked up at him and wanted to suddenly cry from all the pain of life that seemed to be eating me alive at that moment.
“I guess it is. Sorry.”
I gathered up Maine and my things and got off the bus. I ordered up a cab to take me to the house. When we got there, I ordered him to park a ways down the street because I was scared. I looked at the old place from a distance as the grimy cabbie reminded me the meter was still running.
“I don’t care,” I said. “Just a few minutes.”
It was a fine old house. Probably the best fine old house in the best neighborhood of Burgundy Falls. It was painted a cool baby blue color and had sparkling white trim all around. There was a big, wooden-planked porch that jutted out from a wide, white door like a pier, and it spread and wrapped around the whole of the front and side parts of the house. The long, wooden porch swing sat idle in the cold. My mother usually had hanging pots full of stinky red geraniums and multicolored marigolds all over the place, but they were now put away for the winter. The upper part of the house was supported by slick wooden columns that looked like uncurled elephant tusks and there were a lot of shiny windows, each with curtains perfectly parted at equal distance. Finely manicured shrubbery still strung with Christmas lights lined the front of the house, and there was a large yard all around dotted with beautiful tall trees and covered in a thin veil of undisturbed snow.
“Go on now cabbie,” I said. “You can pull up.”
As he steered the car into the circular drive, I saw my mother busily cleaning the inside of the big parlor window right there at the front. She energetically wiped in wide circles making sure there wasn’t a single streak or smudge anywhere. Then I noticed her motions slowed and then stopped completely when she was aware of the taxi being there. I watched with bubbling fear as she rubbed her hands on the cleaning cloth and looked out the obnoxiously clean window with curiosity. She suddenly turned away and I knew she was moving rapidly toward the front door.
“Everett? Everett? What are you doing here?” my mother said in a frantic panic after yanking the door wide open. “Everett, are you all right? What is it you have moving around in that pillowcase?”
“It’s a baby, mom.”
“A baby!?” she wailed, and she nearly fainted.
I held the pillowcase open, and she peered in. Her eyes grew wide, and her painted mouth popped open. I backed away in case she slapped me.
“My God, Everett! What on Earth are you doing with a baby!? Edward! Edward get out here! Your crazy son has a baby in a pillowcase! Give me that poor thing.”
She reached in, pulled out Maine and looked him over.
“Everett, this baby doesn’t look well. Come inside right now and explain yourself.”
It was then my father appeared in the doorway grumbling and growling and scratching at his balls.
“What the hell is all this yelling about!? Oh, hello Everett.”
“Come on, inside, both of you. I don’t want the neighbors to hear all this fuss,” my mother ordered.
“Where the hell did that baby come from?” my dad asked as he closed the door. “Did you knock some poor girl up, huh Everett?” and then he slapped at my head as we walked through the house.
“Would you both just settle down and let me explain!?” I pleaded. “Jesus H. Christ!”
“Oh, you’ve got some explaining to do that’s for damn sure,” my father said. “Now just what the hell is this all about?”
We went into the parlor and sat down on fine furniture around a fine coffee table, and I looked out a finely cleaned window wishing everything at that moment would just end up being a bad dream. But it wasn’t. It was real and it was horrible.
“Everett?” my mother asked with disturbed suspicion. “Did you kidnap this child?”
My dad snorted, “Well, that’s a fine thing to add to your already sparkling resume — kidnapper.”
Frustrated, I stood up and threw my hands in the air.
“I didn’t kidnap the kid! Some girl I met… She walked out and left him. She never came back. It’s her kid, not mine.”
“I knew you were running with a bad crowd. I think you should move out of the city and come back home for a while so I can keep an eye on you.”
“No mom …”
My father interrupted, “Hell son, why didn’t you just call the police? Any normal idiot would have done that.”
“I thought she would come back. I didn’t want to get her in trouble.”
“Trouble?” my mother said, shaking her head. “Everett, look at the trouble she’s caused you. Can’t you see how ridiculous all this is? You’re not fit to care for a child like this. Oh goodness.”
I ran my fingers through my hair and sighed.
“I didn’t know what else to do. That’s why I came here. I’m sorry. I was hoping you could help me.”
My ma and pa looked at each other with troubled faces and then glanced back at me. My father suddenly stood up and poured himself a Scotch. He looked inside the glass and swirled the liquid around slowly as he thought. He took a big gulp and smacked his mouth.
“Well, I’m going to call the sheriff’s office and see what they can do about this,” he said. “This is downright asinine, Everett. I just don’t understand what gets in your head sometimes. This no way to live your life. You’re reckless and ignorant and at times I’m downright embarrassed to have you as a son.”
“Edward, please. The boy has feelings you know,” my mother said in my defense.
“I don’t give a rat’s ass about his feelings! It’s time he grows up, wise up, and make something of his life.”
He poured himself another drink and swallowed it hard. I noticed he was slightly shaking.
“Where did you meet this hussy anyways?” he asked me.
“Outside a coffee shop in the city. There was a fight on the sidewalk, and we just got to talking. Her name is Helen, and she looks like Simka Gravas.”
“Who?” my dad barked.
“Latka’s wife from that television show TAXI.”
“Oh, for crying out loud, Everett! When are you going to start living in the real world!?”
My father slammed another two fingers of Scotch and went for the phone.
My mother stopped him, “Wait. Maybe Everett can track her down. Find her. I can watch the baby until then.”
“Oh, hell no!” my father bellowed as he turned. “I know what you’re up to lady. I know how you’re always nagging about having another baby, and then here comes Everett out of the clouds holding one and he plops it right into your lap. No mam, we’re not taking on someone else’s baby. No way. I won’t have it. Not in my house.”
“Edward, don’t you think we should at least try to help our son? This is too much for him to handle alone.”
My father looked at me like he wanted to drag me out back, kill me, and leave me to rot in the woods.
“I already tried to find her,” I said. “She just vanished. She could be in California for all I know.”
“Well, what about the dad? Where the hell is he in all this mess?” my father asked.
“There is no dad,” I replied.
“There’s always a dad,” my mother pointed out as she held the baby up and smiled. “Does the baby have a name?”
“Like the state?”
“That’s nice,” my mother said.
“She probably screwed a sailor before he went off to England,” my father groaned, and then he walked off to another part of the house.
The doorbell rang and I craned my neck to look out the window and I saw my someday brother-in-law’s BMW pull into the drive. He’s a pretentious asshole by the way.
“Oh sugar!” my mother said, “I forgot all about Emily and Frost coming for a visit. I swear, Everett, you have the worst timing when it comes to your problems.”
TO BE CONTINUED
Aaron Echoes August
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The man’s name was Gore Volcano and he sat alone in a booth at a diner in a big city and he was shaking salt onto his hash browns. The booth had a large square window, and he could look out and see the bark of the bustle, feel the vibrations, hear the mixture of life in motion.
Peering out that big window as he ate his breakfast, Gore Volcano saw a sidewalk with people, a street with cars, a park with trees, tall buildings with glass, an ocean with water, an exosphere with stars stirred in darkness by a comet, Mars with its milkmen leaving glass bottles on celestial porches.
He forked some scrambled eggs into his mouth and chewed while he glanced at the front page of the newspaper bent at the fold in front of him. It was nothing but the same — another disease, another war, another asshole politician, another mass shooting at a playground. He opened the paper to the weather page and went for his coffee. He sipped and read with over-bulbous, tired eyes. It was nothing but the same — a murderous tornado, a worrisome hurricane, out of control wildfires, a deadly pileup due to fog. Gore Volcano shook his round, bald head and pushed the newspaper aside in disgust. He snapped his fat fingers at a whirling, hustling waiter. “More coffee,” he commanded.
The young, thin man nodded, and in barely any time at all returned with a pot and was pouring. “Looks like a cold rain is coming,” the waiter said, motioning with his head out the window and toward the sky, an oddly cheerful look on his face.
Gore Volcano turned his thick neck and looked up at him. “What we need is a monsoon… To wash all this filth away.”
The waiter looked back at the sour, round man wearing an opened rain coat the color of Egypt. “Can I get you anything else?”
“How about a ticket to Mars.”
Gore Volcano waved him off with a scoff. “Just bring me my bill.”
Once on the street, Gore Volcano tightened the Egyptian-colored raincoat around him. It was a blustery day, and the sky was graying over. He stood still in front of the café, his back pressed against the wall of the building as all the people moved like frantic ants — this way and that way, legs chopping at the sidewalk, arms swinging, mouths stretching and screaming in muddied conversations. He forced himself forward and into the humming human flow and reluctantly moved with it.
When Gore Volcano got to his fancy building at Ambiance and 69th, he breathed a brief sigh of relief. He went in and walked toward the elevator. The lobby was strangely quiet, the only sound being his fancy shoes clapping against the polished tiled floor. He pressed a circular button, there was a gentle whirring sound, and then the doors slid open. He got in the empty elevator and pressed a glowing disc marked 27. He moved up toward the sky.
He opened the door to his voluptuous home and stopped at the small antique table to flip through yesterday’s mail pile. He grunted and unwrapped himself from the heavy Egyptian-colored raincoat and hung it on a fancy wooden rack. He walked toward the kitchen and then turned his head to the left. There were noises. He saw his wife doing it with the doorman on the grossly expensive living room couch. They were completely naked, and he was behind her, holding her by the hips and thrusting into her. He could hear flesh slapping against flesh. He could hear her breathy grunts. She looked at her husband across the ornate distance of the apartment. Her face was flushed like a hot day sunset, and it seemed like she was in pain, but Gore Volcano knew it wasn’t pain. He said nothing, turned away, and went into the vast and gleaming kitchen for a glass of perfect water poured by an unobtrusive butler who had just been reading a magazine and eating an organic apple while sitting on a stool.
A while later Gore Volcano was in his study with its dark wood and shelves of books and large desk topped with broken family photos in hobbled frames. Soft, classical music was leaking invisible from the walls. He was standing before a large window that looked out upon the famous park of New York. He sipped fancy liquor from an iced glass, the cubes clinking together when he raised it. There was a knock on the door, and he turned. “Come in,” he said with business-like authority. It was the doorman.
“Well, how was it this time?” Gore Volcano asked the young, disheveled man standing there as he moved to sit at his big, important desk.
“It was hot,” the doorman said, trying to fix the tuck of his shirt.
“Did you make her…?”
“Did she like it?”
“Definitely seemed that way.”
“Did she call out my name?”
“Did you spill your seed inside her?”
“Couldn’t help it.”
Gore Volcano nodded his head in understanding, opened a drawer, and pulled out a white envelope. He tossed it onto the top of the desk. It landed with a thud. The doorman quickly snatched it up and looked inside. He counted the money. “This is a lot more than usual,” he said, a big grin growing on his dumb, perfect, collegiate face.
“Because it’s the last time,” Gore Volcano said. “I’m taking her away. I don’t want you to ever see her again. What do you think of that?”
He shrugged. “Not a problem now,” the young doorman said, clutching the envelope even tighter. “I was planning on going to Colorado anyway… Smoke a little weed. Do some skiing.”
Gore Volcano looked at him and smiled a scornful and resentful smile. “Good luck to you. Don’t break your leg… Or do. I really don’t care.”
Mr. and Mrs. Gore Volcano sat in comfortable lounge chairs on a pristine beach of paradise on Earth. They were sipping on fruity drinks and listening to the waves gently curving and falling onto the shore. They were surrounded by white sand, palm trees, blue water, a clean sky full of fresh air. There were no other people besides the servants that took care of their every need.
Gore Volcano looked over at his wife in her bathing suit, her fake yet intelligent breasts punishing the fabric, her hair wild around her, a floppy faux cowboy hat atop her head, dark sunglasses strapped to her eyes, her speckled face glistening with tropical oil. She sensed he was staring at her and turned. “I can’t believe you bought an island, but I love it, and the house is fantastic. What a sweet surprise.”
He smiled at her. “Maybe later we can take the boat out for a sunset cruise.”
“That sounds lovely.”
He hesitated. “Never mind.”
She smiled, raised her eyebrows. “You know,” she began. “All those people that say ‘money doesn’t buy happiness’. Well, they’re just full of shit now aren’t they.” She laughed to herself. “It buys a lot of happiness.”
He nodded to her in agreement. “You know, darling. They only say that to make themselves feel better about not having any money and being stuck in pathetic lives. It’s all bullshit. Have you ever seen a big smile on the face of a dirty homeless person?”
They wildly laughed at that together. Then a thin servant in a white suit and with contrasting dark skin appeared. He was carrying a round tray with more drinks. He set them down on the table between them, smiled, bowed politely.
Joan Volcano smiled back at him. “Good job… But have you cleaned the master bathroom yet?” She glanced over to her husband and smirked. “I had a wicked blowout in there this morning.”
Her husband turned away with a sick look on his face. “Oh, Joan. Must you?”
“Must I what?”
“Be so… Gross.”
She scoffed at her husband’s remark and waved her hand at the servant. “Go on now. Shoo. Scrub. Scrub. Scrub.”
They reclined there in silence for a while, a Milky Way star bathing them in warm life, the sound of the waves a dreamy lullaby. It was clean peace and the universe in perfect order.
“You know, Joan,” Gore Volcano began, breaking the pace of the quiet run between them. “I don’t love you… Not at all.”
She removed her sunglasses and looked at him intently for a moment, a sincere smile formed upon her manufactured lips of earthy clay. “It’s okay… I don’t love you either.”
Aaron Echoes August
An online journal of fiction, essays, and social commentary.