Made for Each Other (Fiction)

1/2015

Marisol stared at the dirty plate and single set of flatware in the sink. Yesterday had been Jerry and her first anniversary, one year married after a whirlwind six month romance. Her friends said they made a perfect couple, no doubt secretly cattily dismayed by the brevity of the courtship. Her mother was ecstatic, no doubt secretly relieved of the fear of having her only daughter turn into a lonely old spinster because she was too busy wasting her youth on a pesky career to find a man. Marisol was happy.

Yet while she couldn’t exactly say the honeymoon was over, that plate grated on her nerves. She had made Jerry an elaborate and romantic dinner the evening before, complete with candles and a cheap bottle of wine she’d picked up on a last minute’s inspiration, from the convenience store down the street. Jerry hadn’t drunk any of it, but he seemed pleased enough with his meal, and afterward, she had cleaned up, done the dishes, and they cuddled on the sofa for a bit. Then a quickie, and off to bed. Thank you, ma’am.

Tonight Jerry was in the den, in the recliner watching TV, and the dirty plate in the sink was mocking her. She had already made dinner and washed all the dinner dishes, along with Jerry’s breakfast dishes. Today had been particularly busy at work; Marisol was a paralegal for their town’s most prominent lawyer. Her boss was the closest thing to a local celebrity the town had, and though Marisol never divulged much, even to Jerry, she found out much juicy town gossip working in that office. Who was divorcing whom for cheating, who was on probation for drinking and driving. Who had a TRO for domestic assault or was being sued for back child support.

And though Marisol was aching to sit down and maybe have a glass of that cheap wine from the night before, she had done all the accumulated laundry, made dinner, and even had time to run the vacuum through the small ranch style home. She’d hopped in the shower and finished up just in time to greet Jerry with his meal. She’d felt satisfied, as if she’d had a fairly productive day, and she was ready to relax.

But that dish rankled her. It was a wart marring the face of her immaculate kitchen, but more than that, it represented more work to her. And Jerry was on the couch watching TV.

Of course he deserves a break too. He just got off a work, Marisol told herself.

So did I, but I made dinner and then I did all the dinner dishes. Why can’t he wash his own damn dessert plate, instead of leaving it for me to do? she answered herself, in what she had come to think of as her Other voice. This was the voice she heard more often now, although she tried to quell it. That voice was trouble. It was an argument waiting to happen, and Marisol hated arguments, though she and Jerry had never actually had a significant one to speak of.

It’s not a big deal, she told herself, not worth nagging over. Marisol didn’t want to be one of those wives that nagged. She wanted that even less than she wanted to argue.

But the Other voice persisted. It’s not a big deal. Not by itself. Unless you consider all of the other ways he takes you for granted too.

It’s a not a big deal, she repeated patiently.

No, but if you bottle it up, these things add up until it is a big deal.

She had nothing to say to the Other. She just stared at those dishes, dismayed in the recognition of the first tiny seeds of resentment. Her lip curled unconsciously at the chocolate drying to a blackish crust on the tines of the fork.

Just then Jerry came into the kitchen behind her. He was heading to the cabinets, no doubt to rummage for another snack, and only seemed to notice she wasn’t actually doing anything, when he had to walk around her idle form.

“What are you doing?” He sounded slightly annoyed; why that should be she didn’t know. He’d been sort of sour ever since he had gotten home from work.

That note of annoyance in his voice sparked her own. She opened her mouth and a bit of the Other came out. Yet even that was tempered by her desire to keep the peace. When Marisol heard herself speak, she was irritated at the supplicating tone of her words. “Nothing. It’s just, well, I finished all the dishes, and it would be nice if you could wash your own dessert plate so I don’t have to later.”

Pain exploded in her face in a white hot flash, and when it subsided and she could see again, she was sitting on the cold linoleum. Through watering eyes, see could see Jerry looming over her, his face calm but hard.

Don’t tell me what to do, Marisol.”

Her mouth hung open and she sat immobilized, vaguely wondering what would happen next.  Jerry stared at her a moment longer before wordlessly helping her to her feet and then walking out of the kitchen.

Marisol raised a hand gingerly to the her lips, which were already swelling. Still, when she withdrew her hand, she stared at the blood on her fingers a moment before the full realization of what had happened descended upon her like a black wave. She felt a creeping numbness spreading up from her feet and down from her neck, so that her bruised face was the only feeling of which she was aware. The voice of the Other was whispering ceaselessly in her ear, but she couldn’t make out the words. Marisol went to the sink and retrieved the dirty plate. From the dish drainer, she took cast iron pan in which she had cooked that night’s meal. A few beads of water still clung to it, shining like black eyes on the matte surface of the pan.  Her mind felt strangely blank and she stared at those tiny black eyes and walked calmly to the den. She did not expect Jerry to beg forgiveness, and he did not. He didn’t even look away from the TV. She brought the pan up, and with as much strength as she could muster with one hand, swung a vicious arc at his head. The sound of the pan hitting home was like nothing she had ever heard, a hollow and unforgiving sound. Marisol dropped the dirty plate on his still chest. She turned back to the kitchen and, on legs that felt as numb as her mind, she went to the phone on the wall, picked up the receiver, and called her boss at home.

Note: this story started out as a single moment in my mind, along with a question; “What would it feel like in that moment (of complete shock) when a woman is hit by her abuser for the first time?” Somehow, though, the story morphed and took on and even darker tone. I blame Stephen King. Darn his subversive influence.

“Excuse me, sir, but your stupid is showing”

2/9/2015

Ah, Mr. King, you’ve done it again. I have been waiting to get my hands on some of your most recent novels, but, poor as I am, have had to be content with staring longingly at the book section of Walmart. Last week, I finally got my copy of Mr. Mercedes. As usual, I find in your writing a refreshing blend of humor, uniqueness, and, of course, captivating plot and characters. Some people might call you strictly a pop fiction writer, but I would wager they hadn’t read enough of your works, especially the later ones, to be able to discern your true talent. For instance, the tying together of a meta- plot arc spanning basically the whole of your writing career in the Dark Tower series took epic writing chops, so sayeth this humble writer. Some reviews have no doubt referred to your writing in “literary” terms, and I think this is more accurate, because you don’t just write stories, you write characters…real people. Yes, I am fully aware I sound like a gushy fangirl, but, believe me, I am coming to a point (I think.) I read and love your writing so much I know it has influenced my own, from the “artistic liberties” I take with sentence structure to the very tone of my writing. Your stories make me think.

Mr. Mercedes is no different. I am still in the thick of the novel, but the villain in Mr. Mercedes has gotten me thinking, and… I think, therefore I BLOG. Although I have some educational background in criminal justice, and have done quite a bit of reading on sociopathic killer-types, I really can’t say for sure what your “typical” villain might be like. Brady Hartsfield seems to fit a lot of the established characteristics (and maybe some stereotypes?) for sociopaths. He’s arrogant, narcissistic, seems socially underdeveloped yet is great at faking proper social interactions. His moral compass is completely off kilter (he still thinks he knows right and wrong, but his morals definitely don’t conform to social norms.) He’s also fairly intelligent…and perhaps also predictably, he does consider himself smarter than the rest of us sheeple.

And yet, like most criminal/villain types in pop culture, he is stupid. Not in the intellectual sense, so much as the moral sense, I suppose. As if we didn’t have enough reason to dislike Hartsfield for committing mass vehicular homicide (and then writing a letter to brag gleefully about it,) you wrote him as a casually unapologetic racist. While he doesn’t overtly go out of his way, at least not that I have read yet, to commit acts specifically for a racial agenda, throughout the narrative of his internal thoughts, he displays his tasteless views on everything from inter-racial dating to black people with “white names,” and peppered in there, in case you need more convincing, is his flagrant use of the N-word.

Now while all of this of course did achieve the likely purpose of causing me to dislike him even more, I found also that it put me off of his “character” as well. What I mean, I guess, is that many readers may dislike a villain for his actions, but like the function he serves in the story. Let’s face it; some characters make good villains (Hannibal Lector immediately springs to mind as an iconic good villain.) They have flare, charisma. They’re clever. Some of them even start out with sort of sympathetic reasons behind their villainous actions.

This douchebag, Hartsfield, while admittedly “clever” in the sense of planning and execution of his crimes, has sort of lost any credibility (with me, at least) as a good villain. As intelligent as he may be in some ways, the fact that he displays such racist ideals just proves his ignorance and selective use of intellectual and logical thinking, and thus causes him to go down in my estimation, even as a villain. While this may seem like an obvious statement (uh, duh, racism is stupid) what was more curious to me was how this changed my dislike for him, from simply thinking of him as a nut-job with a murderous agenda to thinking of him as a narcissistic, weak-minded brat.

So, if there is a point to this whole excursion into mental diarrhea, I suppose it’s that (in my book at least), If you’re a villain, it’s okay to be a psychopathic killer… as long as you’re not a fucking idiot too.

Thanks for coming along, readers.

Related:  https://alienredqueen.wordpress.com/2013/01/05/tunnel-vision-more-on-the-predictable-pathology-of-bad-guys/

DP: The Man in Black Fled Across the Desert…

 "The man in black fled across the desert, and the gunslinger followed."

“The man in black fled across the desert, and the gunslinger followed.”

Maybe it’s no “Call me Ishmael,” but the above sentence starts the beginning of an epic journey (for once, the term “epic,” applied appropriately, and not uttered from the mouth of an emo teenage dirtbag,) the tale of Roland of Deschain’s journey towards the Dark Tower.

I wouldn’t say the aptly named first book/novella, The Gunslinger, was my favorite of the seven (now eightDark Tower series.  In fact, I have a hard time separating the novels in my mind, let alone choosing a favorite.  This series transported me in the way any good novel should, but through the series, I also developed a deep attachment to most of the characters, including the non-human ones (Oy! Oy!)

Oy the billybumbler

Oy the billybumbler

As an added bonus, King’s magnum opus included both oblique and more obvious references to at least a dozen of his other former novels, such as The Stand, It, and Eyes of the Dragon, as well as some of his short stories (Little Sisters of Eluria and Everything’s Eventual.)  Some of the references are small, almost name drops, while others manage to reintroduce interesting characters from previous novels.  You get answers to questions, and back-story to characters and events that you never knew existed.  While the length of the series may seem daunting at first, by the last page you’re mourning the end of the story and wishing there was more.   A story that effects you emotionally and whose characters you come to love  is not as common as you might think, but that is what the Dark Tower series represents for me, everything that is good about reading!

Cute Child Actors That Are Now Busted

*warning: one or more of these photos may be considered disturbing to some …and tacky, apparently…

In the same vein as Very Much Dutch‘s and B(itch) Log‘s posts on unlikely crushes and good looking men, I have definitely had my share of posts about celebs I’d boff and sexy older men, and now I give you my latest list:

“Adorable celeb kids who later fucked themselves up on drugs and now have criminal records and/or just mke us sad. ” (But in the interest of brevity, I ended up truncating the title a bit.)

So, here we go.  It’s a short list.  I haven’t bothered with older celebs like Danny Bonaduce.  This is more focused on child actors that were kids when I was a kid and since.

1) Macaulay Culkin– Home Alone (1990):  Still one of my holiday favorites, I can’t watch it without lamenting that this adorable little kid (who used to always remind me of one of my cousins) is now a gaunt specter.   I see him going the way of so many young actors who drowned in their own fame and money and ended up dead of an overdose.  I truly hope I’m wrong.  His latest press was decidedly not positive, and came in the form of some pics of him looking wasted, possibly sick or in the grips of addiction.  Of course his “sources” have denied either possibility, but I don’t see how he could look so bad if something wasn’t deviling him.

“Mack” in 1990 for the film Home Alone, and then in 2012 looking very un-Kevin McCallister

2) River Phoenix– Stand By Me (1986): I remember having a crush on River Phoenix in the movie adaptation of Stephen King’s “The Body.”  He’s long dead now, of a drug overdose, so I guess he’s technically no longer “on drugs” and he was never really “busted” looking.  But I do remember thinking (and still do think) what a waste of a beautiful man.  Given my macabre turn of mind, even as a kid, I’ll admit to you fair readers the thought of him rotting away in his grave was very disturbing to me.

River Phoenix ~ 1986

River Phoenix ~ 1986

River Phoenix,

River Phoenix, “all growed up”

can not speak for the authenticity of this photo, but supposedly a photo of River in his coffin (which seems appropriate given

I can not speak for the authenticity of this photo, but it’s supposedly a photo of River in his coffin…

3) Daniel Radcliffe– Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (2001): Undeniably adorable, Daniel Radcliffe captured the hearts of youth and grown-ups alike as Harry Potter in the film series of the same name.  Arguably, he’s not too far gone yet, but by his own admission he was drunk for at least some of the filming of the latest Potter film.  You disappoint us, Harry. ~smh

Daniel Radcliffe (2001)

Daniel Radcliffe (2001)

Daniel Radcliffe, looking a bit pissed (and that's the British interpretation of pissed)

Daniel Radcliffe, looking a bit pissed (and that’s the British interpretation of pissed)

And last but not least, because this still bugs the shit out of me:

4) Edward Furlong– Terminator 2 (1991), American History X (1998): A cute kid who grew up to be quite a sexy young man, Furlong has had his trouble with drugs, which is sad…  but not as sad as his other legal troubles, which include charges for domestic violence and harassing his ex.
He apparently also owes thousands in back child support.  The drug abuse I could over-look as sad, but fairly commonplace, but this other bit of douche-baggery just spoils the whole thing for me.  He used to be sooo adorable, even appearing as a model for Calvin Klein.  And now, he’s just a fat, dirty, slob who doesn’t know how to treat women.  I have lost much respect for him, which is sad because I so want to still like him.

A very young Edward Furlong-- cute as a kitten...well, the kitten's maybe not quite THAT cute.

A very young Edward Furlong– cute as a kitten…well, the kitten’s maybe not quite THAT cute.

edward-furlongyoung

This pic pretty much speaks for itself

Oh, Eddie, what have you done?

Oh, Eddie, what have you done?

~Sigh~  So sad.  But let’s look on the bright side; maybe he’ll read this blog post somehow, somewhere, and realize he has to change his ways to continue to impress all the hot moms hanging at home with their toddlers and watching Kung Fu Panda on Hulu.

Til next time…

Doing the Dark Tower Right: Who Plays the Gunslinger?

As much a fan as I am of Stephen King’s epic series, The Dark Tower, I really, really hope they don’t make a movie/movies out of it.  Actually, I think it’s because I’m such a King/Dark Tower fan, that I don’t want they to make a movie out of it.  Two main reasons come to the forefront of my mind.

Firstly, Hollywood has managed to fuck up just about every Stephen King story that has every been adapted to film, even when King is involved in the adaptation.   Whether by substandard direction, low budget, or ridiculous special effects/monsters, they always manage to render King’s creations sort of…ridiculous.  They turn the scary silly, the morbid mundane.  In fact, the only adaptations of King’s stories that I can think of off the top of my head that were successful in any way were not initially billed in connection with King.  Like Stanley Kubrick‘s adaptation of The Shining, and more recently the film adaptation of The Green Mile, it was as if Hollywood feared limiting the scope of their viewers by associating it with the horror novel master’s name.

“Don’t you DARE make a Dark Tower movie! Just don’t. Fucking. Do it.”

And the second reason I really hope they don’t make a movie out of DT, equally if not more important than the first reason, is the fact that Stephen King’s Dark Tower series is his magnum opus.  THE magnum opus.  Now with the addition of The Wind Through the Keyhole, a volume written to fit chronologically between the fourth and fifth volumes in the sequence, the series totals eight books and encompasses elements of and references from over two dozen of his previous novels and short stories.  The epic novel-turned-film The Standfor instance, is heavily linked by common characters and themes.  Some ideas that may not even been previously apparent in the novel, such as the existence of many parallel strands of existence, have nonetheless have always existed for King somewhere in the reaches of his mind.

Other stories appear in The Dark Tower series as only mild references to characters or ideas from previous stories, so small the reader may not even remember them.

The point of which is basically that unless someone had the time, budget, knowledge, and skill to produce a whole season’s worth of one to two-hour episodes, it would be nearly impossible to do this series justice.  And you’d likely end up with a host of pissed off King fans.  Like me.

But… for the sake of argument, if they were  to make a film adaptation of DT, who would be worthy to play the iconic “spaghetti western” anti-hero, Roland of Gilead?  Unfortunately, Clint Eastwood is too old for the role (anyone else notice Roland’s startling resemblance to Mr. Eastwood as depicted on the dust jacket of the final (chronologically speaking) novel of the series?

“I’m the stunt double…”

Anyway, so I came up with three possibilities for the lead role.

Number 3: Karl Urban- He’s got that ruggedly handsome thing down pretty good.  Strap a gunbelt to him and he’s good to go.

Karl Urban

I’m kinda undecided on my second and first choice in that I like them both.  They’re both ruggedly sexy, good actors, and I could envision either of them as the acerbic and hardboiled Roland of Deschain.  The only drawback to any of these three men is that they are in fact well known actors, and may be considered by some as type-cast or locked into certain roles, which may be a hindrance rather than an asset to a film adaptation of DT.  But I’ll let you decide.

Number 2-  Hugh Jackman- Imagine the Wolverine attitude with…a cowboy hat.  He’s buff, tough, and he definitely has the right “air” about him.

“Snickety-snick! My guns are made of adamantium.”

Number 1- Timothy Olyphant-

Comes with his own hat and boots.

Also, as a runner up, especially if you want a little less of a polished, classically handsome choice, I would suggest Michael C. Hall.  He’s proven himself a versatile actor and he has a face that is pleasant but not as generic as the standard “Marlboro Man.”

How to Kill a Werewolf

artwork from Cycle of the Werewolf by Stephen King

“Silver bullets. How ridiculous…”

“You mean they don’t really work?”

He snorted. Pale yellow light from inside softly   illuminated their table through the cafe windows, and the ring in his lip glimmered, reflecting the glow, whenever he spoke. His teeth were very white. “Well, yeah. I guess they would…if any of those morons actually knew how to make them.”

Her mouth made a disapproving little moue, but her eyebrows betrayed her confusion and curiosity.

He set his cup of coffee on the tiny cafe table, leaned back in his seat, and settled his hands comfortably on his flat belly. “Well, you don’t think it’s like the movies, do you? Some high-school kid melts down some silver in shop class and pours it into a bullet mold? Loads it into a handgun?” He chuckled and shook his head.

“What?” She sounded slightly defensive.  That was pretty much exactly what she thought.

“You don’t know anything about guns, do you?”

“What do you mean?” Now she was definitely defensive.

He favored her with a bemused look. “How do you think a bullet fires? Magic? You can’t just put a bullet-shaped piece of silver in a gun and pull the trigger,” he said, mimicking the action with an imaginary finger-gun. “First of all, bullets come in casings. You need gunpowder to make the bullet go, to fire it out of the casing. And then you need something to ignite the gunpowder; that’s what the primer is for. The pin inside the gun strikes the base of the cartridge casing when you pull the trigger and –boom!– sparks the primer, which ignites the gunpowder. The energy of the explosion and the compressed gases force the bullet out of the casing.” He paused and lit a cigarette. “It takes skill to make that kind of thing. Not just any idiot can do it.” The hand holding the cigarette described lazy circles in the air.

She stared at him a moment, and then- “Well, wise-ass, do you know how to make silver bullets?”

artwork from Cycle of the Werewolf by Stephen King

“No-oo. But I know the principles behind it.” Then he added, with exaggerated patience, “you don’t need to be a chef to know if your food tastes good, do you? Or a professional singer to know when someone else can’t carry a tune in a bucket?”

Her eyes narrowed momentarily but she had no rebuttal. Finally, she said, “So if bullets are out, what’s the next best thing? Monkshood? Beheading? Silver-tipped arrows?”

He smiled thinly at her. “Did I say bullets were out? No, bullets’ll work-”

“But you just said-”

“I said homemade silver bullets wouldn’t work. That’s amateur kid’s shit. Real bullets would work just fine. They don’t even have to be silver, just aimed into the right major organ and big enough to do the job.”

“Really?” she asked, her annoyance momentarily forgotten.

“Sure.” He shrugged. “They’re freaks of nature…but they’re still just animals. Like people.” He reached for his cup and downed the rest of the coffee.

“What’s that supposed to mean? ‘Like people’?”

He leaned forward and butted out his cigarette in the glass ashtray on the table. “People,” he repeated, speaking slowly, as if to a child. “Man. Human beings. Homosapiens… Scientifically speaking, we all belong to the Animal Kingdom. We’re all animals.”

She rolled her eyes so he added, almost apologetically, “I only meant that they may have the strength and senses of a wolf, and the intelligence of a man, but they’re animals. All animals can be killed, and it doesn’t take a silver bullet to do it.”

“Right. Well, it’s getting late and I have to work tomorrow, soooo…I’d better jet. Thanks for the coffee.”

He only smiled and lit another cigarette, the flame from the lighter reflecting on his white teeth and his lip ring. She thought it was probably made of silver.

© alienredqueen (pencil and Prismacolors)

Diagram of typical

Diagram of typical “bullet” – more appropriately termed “cartridge”:  1-bullet 2-casing 3-gunpowder 4-rim 5-primer (Photo credit: Wikipedia)