Base, Meet, Deep

A short story incorporating three random words, written in 20 minutes.

by Marcus Jonathan Chapman

Lemuel picked up the ring on the table, size 4 finger. It had fit for a while, then in the middle of their marriage she had gained some weight. After much struggle she was able to slide it off. Butter, go figure. When she slimmed down again, the ring was back on for a week but came off again. A lot of things became off after she lost weight. Lemuel’s base instincts knew something else was off.

Then a few months later, like a bad movie, he found the evidence that became the catalyst to their divorce. She would meet others, Lemuel didn’t know them. She wouldn’t answer the phone. Lemuel couldn’t sleep. She never slept with him. Lemuel puffed out his chest and stuck out his chin as if it didn’t matter, but there was too much darkness down deep to keep pretending his confidence came from the light.

Lemuel tried, for a while, to pretend it didn’t bother him. He reached out to friends, family and without telling them what was going on, pretended to have a change of heart that bent towards connection. Really he was trying to fill that new crevasse that had split him open after the earthquake of her absence.

Because he had reached out to loved ones, they began reaching out to him. But the darkness was taking over, even if he didn’t realize it. One day he was in its shadow and the next he was swallowed whole.

After a night of hard drinking, Lemuel loaded his dog into the car, grabbed some clothes and food, and drove in one direction. East. East would let him drive farther, too far west and he’d need a boat. Too far North or South and he’d need a passport. All things he didn’t have the capacity to deal with.

He stopped. There were rows of wooden cabins that looked like something gold miners during the rush of early California days would build quickly to sustain them for sleep and food. An inn that allowed pets and plenty of space from one room or cabin to the next.

Lemuel paid for a week and moved all his things into the room. Keeping the dogs in the air conditioned inside, a detail that he was thankful to be added, despite it’s historical gold rush inaccuracy. Lacing up his boots, grabbing a bottle of Bulleit Kentucky Straight Bourbon whiskey, or what he referred to jokingly with his ex-wife as his dancing shoes. And so Lemuel laced up his dancing shoes and waltzed into the desert.

Taking shade in an outcropping of boulders, Lemuel rested. A pain emanated from his stomach. When he pulled up his shirt, he saw something moving underneath his skin. Always carrying a pocket knife, but rarely using it, Lemuel found the perfect opportunity. He flipped open the knife and poked his stomach where the bulge had emerged. The stab hurt, but it was a duller, less urgent pain. Sure the blood would run and he might feel faint, but it wasn’t the sort of pain that wrapped his head and heart in butcher paper, pounded by a tenderizer 24/7.

The bulge emerged at his side, between his last bottom two ribs. He poked and dragged the blade, this one made him wince, but nothing came out. However, he did feel a small sense of release which also felt like relief. He stood up and wandered back to his cabin, wondering what HBO might have on their station this evening.

Woman, Cellar, Cutting

A short story incorporating three random words, written in 20 minutes.

by Marcus Jonathan Chapman

Her razor blade was still on the nightstand, dried brown with blood. There was water running, the shower, she must have turned it on to hide any sound. What sound, I didn’t know, but then again suicide is often uncharted territory if done correctly.

I put her clothes from the hospital in the hamper and sat on the bed. What were all those forms I needed to fill out? What were those phone numbers I had to call? Why did I put her clothes in the hamper?

I stood up, compelled by the only instinct, I knew. I headed down to the cellar and grabbed the first bottle of wine on the rack, not bothering to read the label. I suppose it wasn’t instinct, simply learned behavior.

I pulled off the label, twisted into the cork and popped it open. Red wine. Whiskey would be better but I was able to hide my learned behavior behind a hobby of wine collecting. Maybe that was one of the reasons that compelled her to leave. One of many, I guessed.

I went back to the room. No glass, just the bottle. I laid in bed. I need to fix that baseboard it’s loose. She had pointed it out. I never got around to it. Probably never would. Perhaps that was one of the last remaining forms of communication between us. A shared responsibility for the house. Without that, what was the house?

I turned and saw the razor blade still poised on the edge of the night stand. I imagined it had just been used and looked down to see the crowns of blood on the floor below it. What had that felt like? Sitting here, hiding from me, wanting to escape, not just this home but everything. There wasn’t a single place she would have rather gone, could have gone other than to that unknown place that hovers like a stick behind us. Or maybe in her case, like a carrot dangling in front of us.

A deep emptiness seemed to push all else out of my stomach. A pit so vast I couldn’t drink fast enough to fill it. The emptiness forced tears out of my eyes and shaking so violent I double over, gripping my pillow. It pulled my face in all directions, contorting my mouth into ugly cries. There was a deep hole and would not be filled again. Never.

What did it feel like to sit here, shower running and cut into the veins of the wrist? To cut so deeply that the blood rushed out like a crack in a dam. What sort of emptiness was that? Or was it exactly like my own. An agonizing look into nothingness.

I grabbed at the razor blade, spilling my wine. What sort of emptiness did she feel? That woman, that once called herself mine. My woman. A woman. What did it feel like?