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Card Challenge: Day 11

Here is today’s. Not sure how I feel about it, but part of this exercise is writing things I’m not 100% on, and just going for it anyway. Sometimes it’s all about putting words on the page. The tone of this one is weird, and I’m not sure how I feel about the narrative structure. It;s mostly a character piece, with a little bit of reflection and surprise mixed in (and, ultimately, the surprise may be utterly unnecessary). I think it is interesting, but I’m just not sure if I love it or hate it. Right now, it could go both ways. If you have an opinion, please let me know. May not sort it out for me, but it at least lets me know if I’m way off base! Happy reading!

Card Day 11: A woman standing and pulling aside her apron to reveal a puppet stage in her abdomen. On the stage, she raises an object threateningly towards another, smaller puppet. (Think the old Punch and Judy sketches.)

From all outward appearances, Dave and Cindy were the perfect couple, living the dream of blissful married life for nine loving years. They were the traditional, enviable power couple. She was brilliant, fit, and a terror of a corporate lawyer. She had worked hard for her prestige, though the memory of such long all-nighters through college and law school was distant now, and she continued to build herself into a dynamic machine of ruthlessness and productivity. Up at five am to hit the gym for a vigorous morning workout, it was then into the office by seven. Cindy was the kind of woman who would smile beautifully as she plainly told you precisely how this deal was going to go down, her lashes fluttering in innocence the whole while. I suspect some people fell for her routine and thought they were pulling one over on her, but most folks were smart enough to hear the steel in her voice, waiting to tear them apart.

Dave was a slight man, but most who knew him quickly forgot his underwhelming physical presence in light of his impossibly quick mind. He was an oncologist by trade, able to at once slip into the role of a comforting stranger belaying bad news while also carefully deconstructing every molecule of an interaction. His sympathy was short-lived by necessity, but he often found himself in shock at the maudlin displays put on in his office by a family who, quite obviously, previously cared very little at all for the fate of the poor sod getting the death sentence. He was a card shark, one of those who seemed to see right through the card backs based on a drop of sweat alone. He was popular, well-liked, and avoided for most major arguments. Dave had more wits than he knew what to do with, and sometimes unsheathed his biting comments in the face of another’s misguided ignorance. His was a friendliness put on for the obligation of human interaction, carefully masking an underlying disdain. Of course, his friends were eternally in the dark about that, so well-crafted was the disguise.

Then again, his wife was much the same way. The same in a way that allowed her to see through him, to the despicable being underneath. In turn, he saw past her beauty and charm to the bitter, jaded creature she truly was. They were, as I said, the perfect couple, as long as one did not dig too deep.

They went to the right parties, hosted the right shindigs, and belonged to the right charities. Their benefit dinners were well-known and well-attended, while they both sat on the prestigious boards of all the right organizations. In person, they loved and doted on one another, smiling from across the room. They danced in perfect harmony, and laughed at each other’s jokes. High school sweethearts, they had parted ways in college and only rekindled their love after a chance encounter in line at the local coffee shop. He bought her extravagant gifts, she praised his every accomplishment, and everyone smiled in awe of their wonderful relationship, if inwardly seething for the saccharine nature of it all.

Of course, that was only on the outside. Sure, there were clues if one knew where to look. There was a harsh edge to Cindy’s laughter when Dave told a joke, a mocking bite that he was certain to hear. Dave’s brows knit a little too close together when he smiled at his lovely bride, broadcasting his irritation to her from across the room, even as his eyes danced with a smile. If one were ever close enough to the smile-clad, dancing duo, one might hear the under-the-breath instructions barked by Cindy as Dave giddily disregarded each one. If you hung around late enough after one of their parties, long enough for the guests to go home, the staff to clean up, and the house to return to silence, then you would hear true feelings spill out, harsh words shot across empty hallways from rooms on opposite ends of the house. Bitterness, regret, rage, duplicity, and hopelessness.

To give up, file the papers, and go their separate ways would reveal a terminal weakness for both of them, something to be exploited or, even more distressingly, pitied. Staying together at least provided a ready target to drown with rage and frustration, as well as the occasional bought of angry sex born from isolation and animal need. It also, most importantly, shored up the image of a happy couple, successful in all they set their minds to. And, ultimately, wasn’t that what mattered.

What one might not know was that Cindy had a very dangerous peanut allergy, and that Dave had been routinely making himself a generous plate of fried chicken in sizzling peanut oil about once a week, most of which ended up uneaten in the garbage. Cindy, of course, could not explain the itching, swelling, and redness that occasionally sprung up. Dave, for his part, grumbled that she could use whatever she wanted if she ever took up the initiative to cook.

One likely wouldn’t know that Cindy had a concealed carry permit, ostensibly for the early morning walk from the office parking garage to her well-secured office building. And it was certainly not well known that she kept it under her pillow at night, sometimes lying awake and wondering which head most needed a bullet to end all of this. Dave, snoring peacefully like a freight train, slept on, unaware where his life hung in the ultimate balance.

Some people certainly knew about Dave’s secretive afternoon appointments with Janice Weathers, the lead surgeon at his hospital. She was, of course, there for surgical consults on patients, but the office hour was protected as sacred, with all phone calls on hold, the blinds drawn, and the door locked. For patient confidentiality, of course. They had only just booked their tickets to the latest AMA conference, though the meeting was in Denver while their tickets said Mexico. Someone knew, but likely turned a blind eye to something that was not their business.

And now, of course, everyone knows of the bloody aftermath. The knife wounds and gun shots that opened Cindy and Dave’s hidden inner life to public view. Everyone knows about the corpse in the swimming pool and the other in the garage, bags packed in the trunk already. Everyone knows about the screaming and yelling that woke up their sleepy neighbors, and about the pile of mementos burning on the front lawn.

If only someone could have seen through those two, interceded, and stopped Fate’s cruel hand. If someone could have seen the herald of the stars and somehow intercepted one of them, preventing this grand tragedy. Yes, if someone had intervened, those two would probably still be around, making someone else miserable. But, you see, Fate’s job is sometimes to remove the blemishes, cut the cancer out where it festers. It is a bloody, messy procedure so often, but I must say, I enjoy my job.

Creative Commons License

This work by Katherine C is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

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