Limbo (A small sample of a short story I wrote back in college)
I have no recollection on how I got here or where I was. The old creaking, naked twin bed mattress I was lying on would certainly affect my mobility for the rest of the day. I knew this before even sitting upright. Then came the pain. It began in the front of my head and soon struck like a lightning bolt into the back and sides of my neck. Groaning, I picked myself up slowly, using the wall to guide my ailing body into a seated position. One window with plain white blinds, a bookcase, a rotary telephone and a bright blinking light….Jesus, that bright blinking light. It was coming through the blinds, but permeated throughout the room. It filled the room, came from the walls and infiltrated every angle the room I had in my vision. Swinging my feet, off of the bed and onto the floor sent a blistering pain into the balls and heels of my feet.
And there was the glass. A pile of shattered glass lying almost strategically, at the side of this mysterious bed. I began plucking it out of my feet, and wiping the blood with my now relegated-to-painting college t-shirt. Through the pain in my head, neck and now feet, my thought process began to try and unravel the mystery of where I was and how I got here. It seemed quite familiar, but was very bare, almost like my buddy Tully’s frat house, although I didn’t ever remember him showing me this room. Perhaps somewhere in between the copious amounts and whiskey we had been consuming combined with my ever growing yearning for cheap narcotics, I had somehow forgotten this hollow area of the house. I swiped the glass aside carefully, making sure not to add yet another set of puncture wounds to my arms and legs and headed towards the window for a clue.
Nothing but that blinking red light was blaring into the window. It was impossible to see six inches out of the window without that blinding red light, blazing through my corneas and into what felt like the deepest vicinities of my skull. Quickly, I shut the blinds, looked away and closed my eyes. Seeing spots, I stumbled a bit and put my right foot directly back into the glass lying next to the bed. Now writhing in pain, I sat back down and recollected myself. This had happened before, many a time. Shit, just last week I woke up in the girl’s dormitory with my pants, wallet and phone nowhere to be found thanks to a overzealous night at McFadden’s pub. Apparently, I stumbled down some stairs after ignoring the icy conditions and fractured my wrist. A little glass in the foot was not of perennial concern, but nonetheless a bit offsetting. When I found out who put it there, revenge would be swift and sweet.
Ok, time to go downstairs and find out where the hell I actually am. But upon leaving I couldn’t help noticing the selection of books placed very neatly in the bookcase, the only other piece of furniture in the room. They were children’s books, some of which were my absolute favorite growing up as a kid. Thumbing through them, I couldn’t help but feel bad for Tully. We had always clowned on him for being dumb, not being able to read, pronouncing words wrong and so forth. However, flipping through some of these books, I couldn’t help but wonder what he was still doing at school. I grabbed “Whorton Says a Who” and carried it towards the door for two reasons: 1) It was my favorite book as a child and 2) this issue would be a cornicopio of humorous materials as we all had our afternoon beers.
I couldn’t help chuckling as I opened the door and thought about Tully sneaking up to his secret infantile library to read through some Dr. Seuss. My good mood was short lived. I stared down the hallway before me, lit by nothing but a side lamp. The red light, was even brighter in this hallway and without any windows visible, this was seemingly impossible. Down the hallway, standing at the top of some wooden stairs, was a silhouette of a Labrador mix. It looked like Mac.
Mac was my childhood dog. When he was nine years old he was diagnosed with a malignant tumor behind his right eye. Within a month he was blind one eye and obviously in excruciating pain. The tumor was spreading towards the back of his brain and was beginning to cause slight hemorraghing, giving him headaches beyond what is humanly comprehensible. My parents rescued Mac the side of a highway intersection when I was one. At first, they had decided to take him home, contact the ASPCA and then have him professionally placed into what would hopefully be a loving home. I napped with Mac that first night on our couch as my parents worked the phone and my dog and I spent every moment of my childhood together after that day. When the veterinarian told me he was having headaches, I refused to let him go. When he went blind in both eyes, I led him around and handfed him every day. When he cried incessantly because of the pain in his head, I tried to pet him, placed cold rags on his eyes and sang lullabies to try and make his hurt go away. Then one day, when I came home from school and my parents had told me that keeping him alive was cruel and they had euthanized him….killed him by sticking a syringe into the main artery in his right leg and sent death shooting through his extremities into his heart. I never got to say goodbye.
I had dreams about Mac a lot, so now this was starting to make a little bit of sense…I was asleep. So being asleep I decided to smash my right arm into the mirror to the right of me. No feeling.
This is the first chapter of a book I started writing about a cartoonist
Lenny sat at the dock, dangling his feet, swaying them to the rhythmic motion of the current underneath him. Now comfortable in his own deranged thoughts, he finally felt as though things had started to make sense. Still sporting his suit pants from the catastrophic meeting earlier, but having shed the jacket, suit, tie and shoes, he was obviously causing quite a conversation for the large family passing by on their pontoon boat. Having reached a level of comfort in his own mind, Lenny had decided to wave, a little too exuberantly, almost falling off of his perch and into the frigid lagoon waters below him. Appearing even stranger to those passerbyers was the fact that he had taken quite a delight in this and was speaking to himself about the incident. What that boat party did not take into account was that the man on the dock, dangling his feet, was well out of his mind at this point and speaking to his nemesis turned friend Dickie sitting by his side.
Lenny laughed for a few moments but quickly was reminded that there was still business at hand that needed immediate attention. Before passing the bottle of bourbon, whose capacity at this point was nothing more than a distant memory, he glanced at the rope tied to his ankle. Lenny did not remember tying the knot, or carrying the cartoon anvil attached to the end of it down to the dock. Before taking the last sip out of the bottle, Dickie gave him a look of disgust. This was a look Lenny had learned to accept and abhor at the same time. Something about being looked down upon made him feel the weight of the thousands of recent disappointments, but also made him feel alive. The mere fact that someone would take the time out of their day to frown upon who he had become, meant at the very least, that he still existed…he was still alive. Even if a hefty percentage of the things going on around him may not even be happening.
A funny thing happens when you accept the fact that your mind isn’t quite right. At some point you stop explaining things to yourself as right and wrong and you just move on with whatever parrellel reality you may be living in. Lenny remembered a boy named Mike back in middle school who wanted to be a wolf. The teachers, guidance counselors, staff and the rest of the powers that be took him out of class for a full two years attempting to explain to him how his mind was supposed to work, how he was supposed to act and what his priorities were supposed to be. This boy, the last Lenny had last heard, made it up to Junior year in high school before he bit three students in the neck, was tasered and dragged out of the building by a host of police with a huge smile on his face. Mike would rather be seen as a bad wolf than a good man. Lenny was now in wolf mode.
He looked over at Dickie one more time to take in the plethora of feelings he was having about this demon. After all, this duck was a demon who was finishing whatever he was sent into Lenny’s soul for. But for some reason their bond was not as clear cut as it once was. Lenny looked into his dark eyes, so black that they had almost become a mirror. He looked at his green overalls, his tangerine-colored beak, his striped undershirt and every other facet of this beautiful character which was born out of the most innocent corners of his own mind and wondered how this creature was now prepared to drown him. If someone was going to pull the plug on this beleaguered shitshow of a life, he did seem like the right choice. This was Lenny’s reasoning.
Something about falling into a cold, wet death didn’t seem right just yet. Lenny removed his pants and out of habit folded them up beside him. “At least they’ll know I was in my right mind,” he smirked. He took one last look at the demon beside him and another at the bottle. The bottle now had only an “X” labeled on it. Lenny smiled and opened up to the onslaught of mental misgivings undoubtedly coming his way. On cue Debbie the Gnome Rabbit appeared beside him and the group of Catholic choir singing birds appeared over his head. It had been years since he had actually smiled, but it was impossible to fight this moment. No boxer would ever want to die fading away in a hospital, unable to raise his hands and peeing in a bedpan. The glorious exit, the fighter’s exit, is being taken out by one of your peers in the form of competition you thrived and survived on as a career and as a life. For Lenny, this was his life and his fight, of sorts. He was now surrounded by those he created, had lived with and survived upon for over 40 years. In a moment of finality, Lenny grabbed the bottle of “X” and smashed it over Debbie the Gnome Rabbit’s neck. The small animal crunched up, went into a short series of seizures, threw up blood and collapsed on the dock in a tiny heap of death.
Dickie dropped the anvil into the water. The rope sunk, tightened and in what seemed like a breath’s moment, took Lenny underwater. It was a splash, a few ripples and once again the lagoon was calm. Lenny sunk to the bottom of the eight foot lagoon and sat on the bottom, waiting for his inevitable and unsuccessful last gasp attempt to reach the surface…but it never came. He sat on the muddy bottom of this lagoon, hoping that it wasn’t a child who found his deteriorating, crab molested corpse. On the dock, there was nothing, except a folded pair of suit pants. “Jessica,” his brain panted…..and then…dark.