Short story: Segovia’s revenge

“I’m supposed to be married,” the shrunken form of what was once a man uttered bitterly from across the room. He paced nervously, biting at what remained of his fingernails and occasionally drawing blood. He didn’t even feel it anymore. He didn’t feel much of anything except for the loss that drove him into himself.

“There was supposed to be a band, and cake,” he lamented to no one in particular, and no one in particular listened anymore, each too involved in their own living hell. “We were going to go to Hawaii and then get a house, have kids, and….” His eyes became unfocused as he stared off into the distant past and his voice trailed off.

He fell and lay limp of the cold tile floor. Another patient pointed and laughed, but most had grown bored of his theatrics and roundly ignored them. No one talked to him, each thinking his madness beyond what was permissible, even confined in their ward.

“Why don’t we go for a little walk, Mr. Salzburg,”  a kindly tech said as she offered him a hand. “We don’t want to be late again, do we?”

“What?” Mr. Salzburg said, confused by the question, before accepting her assistance. “No, we wouldn’t want that,” he agreed, not really certain to what she referred.

“That’s it. We’ll take a little walk and then you can see Dr. Segovia and you two can have a chance to talk. He’s very eager to hear your story.”

“He is?” The patient lit up, ready to tell his story again. “When can we meet him?”

“Right now, of course,” the tech replied, leading him through a series of locked doors before walking out into a long corridor, devoid of warmth. It was lit with harsh fluorescent lighting, no windows, and painted a neutral beige color which seemed to sap the heat from the patients. They all shivered even though the temperature was kept at a moderate 72 degrees.

Mr. Salzburg shuffled beside the tech who kept a hand on the patient’s elbow, both to lead him and to prevent him from running away. Within minutes, they walked into a waiting room that was locked from the inside, to prevent the patients from trying to escape. The pair sat in the lobby, which was decidedly warming with plush carpeting and a warm color palette, but with little in the way of decorations. The few painting on the wall were bolted in place, and all the furniture was bolted to the floor. Nothing that could be used as a weapon was allowed.

“Jon, thank you for joining me today.” A short man, in his early fifties, walked out of an office and stood in front of the patient. “That’ll be all for now, Edna,” the doctor said to the tech, who merely bowed her head and walked out without another word. “Why don’t we come into my office?”

Mr. Salzburg stood up and shuffled into the office and sat down on a couch across from a large leather armchair, into which the doctor sat. Picking up Salzburg’s medical record, Dr. Segovia scanned the file before setting it down and picking up a notepad. “Why don’t we start this from the top again?”

“The top?”

“Yes,” the doctor replied wearily. “What do you remember? Can you tell me?”

“I was supposed to get married,” Salzburg said, his voice clearly agitated but otherwise remaining calm. “The was going to be a band and cake, and then we were going to go to Hawaii before getting a house and raising a family.”

“I see,” the doctor nodded. “What happened?”

“What do you mean?”

“I mean, can you tell me why you didn’t get married? Can you tell me why you didn’t get to go to Hawaii and why all your plans fell through? Why are you here instead of with your wife?”

“I don’t know,” Salzburg replied, perplexed by the questions.

“Okay, can you tell me who you were supposed to marry? What was she like?”

“Who I was going to marry? Her name was Laura,” he said with difficulty, straining to pull the answers that were buried deep in his memory.

“Yes, good,” the doctor leaned in, excited at the potential breakthrough. “What else?”

“Laura was a lively girl, always excited to talk to everyone.” Salzburg closed his eyes as flood of memories overwhelmed him. “Yes, she was outgoing, but you see, she chose me. She was popular, but she agreed to go out with me. Why would she do that?”

“Why don’t you tell me?” Segovia urged him gently.

“I don’t know,” he shook his head. “I wasn’t anything special, but I screwed up the courage to ask her out, and we hit it off. We were going to get married, but we didn’t.”

“No, you didn’t,” the doctor agreed. “Tell me more about her and about what happened.”

“Laura loved to dance. She insisted on the band, and I gave in. I always gave in to her. I was powerless to deny her anything, until….”

“Until what?”

“I – I don’t want to talk about it.” Salzburg folded his arms and tried to shut everything out, the doctor and the memories.

“But you need to talk about it. What is it that you’re trying to remember. Speak!”

“I – I can’t,” he cried. “I was supposed to be married. I wanted to be married. I never thought I would find anyone and then I found Laura and now…. Why did she have to die?”

“I think that’s enough for now,” Dr. Segovia spoke up abruptly. “We don’t need to get there just yet.”

“Why not?” Salzburg yelled indignantly. “You brought it up.”

“Are you ready for the answer? Do you really want to know why she died?”

“Yes – well no,” Salzburg collapsed into the couch. “She really is gone?”

“Yes, I’m afraid she is.”

“And I’m the one that found her?”

“I don’t think you’re ready for the answer.”

“But I need to know. You made me remember. I held her in my arms as she bled, begging me not to…”

“Not to what?”

“I – I killed her,” Salzburg’s face drained of color, his face as stark as the walls of the hospital.

“Yes, you killed her.”

“Why would I do that? We were going to be married.”

“No, you weren’t,” the doctor replied. “She never agreed to go out with you, and she never agreed to marry you. She was engaged to someone else, and in a fit of jealousy you killed them both. You’re here because a judge ordered you here for evaluation. That was five years ago.”

“Five years,” Salzburg closed his eyes and thought back. “Yes, I killed her. Why couldn’t she just love me?”

“I can’t answer that,” Segovia replied, “but I’m satisfied that you remember what you did and are fit.”

“Fit for what?”

“To pay for your crime,” the doctor replied as he filled out a form and then pushed a button on the table next to him.

“What are you talking about.”

“You confessed, did you not? Didn’t you just say you killed her?”

“I did, but what do you mean pay for my crime?”

“Just that. You know what you did, and admitted it. That’ll suffice. You’re guilty and therefore able to pay. You’ve been sentenced to death.”

“I don’t understand,” he cried as two large orderlies entered the office.

“You don’t have to understand,” Segovia admitted with a grin. “You just have to understand the crime, which you’ve admitted to. Good bye.”

“No, wait,” he yelled as the orderlies grabbed him by the arms and pinned him to the couch. “You’re a doctor. Aren’t you supposed to help me?”

“Help you?” Segovia laughed as he pulled a syringe from his desk. “I’m here to help the victims get closure. Don’t worry. It’ll be painless. In a few minutes you’ll be dead.”

“No! You can’t do this!” Salzburg struggled, but he was no match for the men who held him. “You can’t do this!”

“Tut tut,” Segovia said dryly as he chose the vein into which to stick the needle. Slowly he plunged the drug into his arm and Salzburg stopped struggling. “You see? Painless. A better way to go than the way you butchered my daughter. Goodbye.”


Short Stories

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Previous story – In love with Bella

I need to get away

My work schedule has been posted and beginning next Friday at 6:00 p.m., I will be off for a week. Actually, I’ll only have six days off, but close enough to a week for me to call it a vacation, my first extended time off in almost two years. I don’t know how to express just how much I need some time away from work, but I suspect you probably know the feeling.

I don’t have any elaborate plans for my time off, other than going down to visit my friend down in the big city. I’m hoping to have time to just zone out and relax, veg out in front of the television, and quite possibly play catch up on my writing. This past two weeks have been brutal for me, healthwise. I haven’t had the energy to do any meaningful work on my writing. I hope to remedy that during my time away.

Also, while I’m down there, I may be forced to play the tourist. It’s amazing just how much there is to see and do in Dallas. What’s more, I lived down there for twelve years and saw none of it. I never went to the Dallas Zoo, or The Arboretum. I never visited Delay Plaza or the Texas Book Depository. I never went to a Texas Rangers game or saw the Dallas Mavericks. And horror of horrors, I never took time to see the Dallas Symphony, see a ballet, or even attend a rock concert. L’horreur!

Seriously, I don’t know what, if anything I’ll do while I’m out-of-town. My only plan is not to think about work, not go to work, and try not to gain weight from sitting around all day doing nothing. I want – no I need! – to spend time working on my book. I keep saying that’s what I want to do, but I keeping allowing life to get in the way. This vacay is for me to decompress and just be me. I deserve it.

Until then, I’ll continue working on my project and hoping I get a little further. I just need to survive ten more days. I think I can make it. I hope I can.

Please help me make it….

Short Story: In love with Bella

He knew it was pointless to check, but Guy couldn’t help himself. It seemed that all power to resist had been stripped from him, and all he could do was submit to an impulse that robbed him all hope of joy from his life.

Guy opened up his laptop, logged back into his Facebook, and searched for her. Bella was unlike all the other girls he had known in his life, all the girls that he ever dated. Not that those girls weren’t beautiful in their own way, but Bella was different, special in some undefinable way. She had a way of making him smile, of coaxing his better nature out of him. She also exposed the worst in him as well.

Her profile came up, and he sighed as he caressed her photo on the screen, wishing it was her face instead of the cold pixels in front of him. Guy wanted nothing more than to kiss her lips, to hold her against him, to feel her warmth against his skin. All he wanted was for Bella to love him as much as he loved her.

As if! She barely registered his existence, unless she needed something from him. Twenty years removed from the hell that consumed him in high school, and somehow she transported him back to those days. The same feelings on inadequacy, of being duped to do what ever she needed on the thin, unlikely chance that she might grace him with her presence.

He berated himself, of course, knowing that he had no chance in hell of securing even a lunch date. He wasn’t her type. She preferred tall and handsome men, athletic with an alpha personality. Guy was short and insecure, not ugly per se, but just not classically attractive. He was average to the point of being invisible.

“I love you,” he scoffed at the unhearing screen, lamenting his bad luck in having met her. No hope existed but he remained helplessly enthralled by her grace and her poise. He loved the way she smiled, and the way her eyes lit up when ever she saw him. Then again, she lit up when ever she got her way, and she knew how to make him do anything she needed.

Cursing his weakness, he closed his laptop as his cell phone rang. With a glance, he saw that Helena was calling, another one of his co-workers. “Hey,” he answered unenthusiastically. “What’s up?”

“Oh, not much,” came the nervous response. “I was just wondering, you know if you’re not busy, if-you’d-like-to-join-us-at-the-movies,” Helena sped through the invite. “I mean, not like a date, really. Just some of us from work are going, and I thought maybe you’d like to come.”

“I don’t know,” Guy said as he rubbed his temple. “I’m kind of tired.”

“I understand,” Helena replied, trying not to sound disappointed. “Bella’s not going to be there, so I didn’t think you would go. I just hoped you’d come with me, well I mean us, any ways, but it’s cool. I – I guess I’ll see you at work?”

“Yeah, probably.” Guy set the phone down, not giving Helena another opportunity to say anything. She was cute in her own way, and probably a better match for him, but she was no Bella, and she probably wouldn’t give him the time of day. She deserved better than him anyhow.

A few minutes later his phone rang again. Praying that it wasn’t Helena again, he checked and his heart skipped a beat when he saw Bella’s name on the screen. “Hello?”

“Um, hey Guy!” Bella said in the overly cheery voice she used when she wanted something from him. “You busy tonight?”

“What? Me?” He laughed. “Nah. I’m just chilling at home. What you need?”

“I need a big favor.”

“Anything!”

“Mark from Electronics just called and asked me out at the last minute. I was hoping you could watch my son for a few hours. We’re just going to have a few drinks, maybe grab a bite to eat. We shouldn’t be out too late. I have to work in the morning.”

“Oh, I suppose,” he agreed, the small bubble of hope that had risen in his chest bursting. He chided himself for even entertaining the illusion that she had called for anything more than that.

“You’re a doll! I’ll drop him off in about an hour. I totally owe you. I haven’t forgotten that we’re supposed to grab drinks after work. You did ask and I said yes. Remember?”

“Oh, I remember. Last fucking year,” he added quietly. Bella got off the phone, leaving him to feel more like floor mat than a man. If only he had taken Helena’s offer to go to he movie, but no. It didn’t matter anyway. Bella owned him and they both knew it. He cursed himself for being a pushover but what could he do? He was in love.


Short Stories

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The maturing of Howard Wolowitz

The last episode of The Big Bang Theory reminded me of something that I had grown to believe as of late. If you haven’t watched it, this is your warning that there will be spoilers ahead. With that out-of-the-way, let me proceed.

At the end of the episode, Howard Wolowitz, played by Simon Helberg, received a call informing him that his mother had died in her sleep. Carol Ann Susi, the actress who voiced the unseen Mrs. Wolowitz, Howard’s mother, passed away from cancer in November. Instead of employing some gimmicky storytelling and having her move away, which would have been contrary to what we know of her, or having another actress come in, the writers chose to kill her off of the show.

Not that my opinion counts for much, but I believe it was the best course of action. Carol Ann brought a character to life, one who had absolutely no screen time, yet somehow managed to steal the scene. She was obnoxious and overbearing, intimidating and prone to employing guilt-trips to keep Howard from leaving. I doubt anyone could have matched her skill to bring the unseen mother to life. I’m glad we will never have to see anyone try and fail.

Now comes my confession. For the past year, I had begun to wonder if the character should be written off the show. Let me say that the thought is not because I thought the Mrs. Wolowitz to be unfunny, rather I thought Howard needed something catastrophic to happen to motivate some character growth.

Out of all the main cast, Howard was the one I hated the most in the beginning. He was crass and pushed the line between funny and creepy. He came across as desperate and perverted, a sad case of a loser with no hope of ever finding a woman, that is until Bernadette came along.

However, over the course of the past few seasons,  Howard did grow, probably more than all the rest of the characters on the show. Yet even so, he was stuck between being a man and a child, a son being held hostage, never really embracing what it meant to be a husband.

I wondered if losing his mother would fuel a maturing of the character, letting go of the overbearing mother that he never was able to leave. He had become totally dependent on her, much to Bernadette’s annoyance. She accepted it for the time being, but playing the second woman in her husband’s life certainly rankled and I have to ask how long would someone like her actually tolerate being treated that way?

So I believed Mrs. Wolowitz should have to die at some point. The only other character to have lost a parent is Sheldon, and that happened sometime prior to the start of the series. This is the audience’s first time to witness how this group will rally around their friend, and how Howard will struggle to grasp what it means to lose this mother.

Unlike many fans of the show, I do not lament that the original premise of the show has changed. Had it not, I doubt the show would still be watchable. Life is about growth, and in storytelling, character development is integral in keeping the audience hooked. Without it, the story lines become stale, and there is limited stories to be told. So, as people in real life change, so too must a fictional cast of characters.

So for Sheldon to be the one to offer Howard words of comfort, says a lot about how much he has grown. For Howard to let Sheldon say his piece speaks to his evolving maturity. These are not static one-dimensional characters, but complex and ever-changing people, learning and grappling with the same hardships we deal with in real life.

I shed a few tears when Howard announced that his mother had died, and I sobbed quietly as they all tried to come to terms with the news. As much as I thought I wanted to see Howard grow, I admit that I will miss hearing Carol Ann’s screeching voice. I thought I was ready for it to happen, but now that it has, I realize that I’m not quite ready for her to have left. Her passing leaves a hole in the show, one that will never be filled, and that’s the way it should be.

My shell

introvert1All my life I’ve heard from countless people who I just need to come out of my shell. As if I really have a choice. It’s a strange fate to become a prisoner within your own mind whenever you find yourself surrounded by people you don’t know. I’ve learned to cope at work by scripting opening lines to say to customers. Nothing elaborate or witty, just a simple Can I help you? – or - Is there anything I can help you find? is enough to oven some form of dialogue.

But apart from that, it’s not a true conversation, at least on my part. I listen and offer my advice, suggesting the best option for their price range. Sometimes they heed my advice, other times they get angry because what they want to do is so plain stupid that I just can’t say that it’ll work, and no amount of logic will get it into their head that it won’t work. And when it fails, they do come back angry. Those people just need to die.

But I’m going off on a related tangent. This is about how I relate to people. I only open up to people I like, to people I trust. I can’t fake it. I can’t just talk like some people can. I don’t work that way. Yes, there are a few people who I’m drawn towards, that somehow get me to drop my barriers without me even realizing it’s happening, but that’s rare. Usually, I clam up, answer in short, clipped phrases, and don’t bother to elaborate. It’s just the way it is, though most people are incapable of grasping that one simple truth.

What I get so often, most especially from management, is that I need to come out of my shell. I’ve learned not to take it personally. It’s not their fault they have no grasp of psychology, that people are inherently different, and that my introversion is not a pathological condition that needs to be cured. My social anxiety is another story, but I really don’t want to delve into that bag. We’ll be here for months deciphering that mess!

Instead of appreciating what I do, and I believe I contribute a lot, I’m penalized because I’m not a gregarious personality. I’m naturally laconic, but if they’d bother to take to the time, they’d realize the depth of who I am. They’d come to discover that I have a dry, sarcastic sense of humor, oft-times self-deprecating, but always ready for a laugh. They’d learn that I have ideas and dreams, and yes, that I’m a real boy!

But no. They, as most people, don’t value me, and others like me, for who I am, for who we are. We’ve become invisible in today’s society. If we’re not putting ourselves out there, then we might as well give up. There’s no point trying because we’re not out there hamming it up with the people who matter.

If anyone cares to get to know me, I’ve put myself out there every time I publish another blog. I can also be found, to some degree, in the short stories I write. I write what I feel, what I know, what I fear. This is how I am, a writer trying to forge a meaning full connection to a readership that may or may not care, and that’s okay. I’m going to write regardless of how many people read what I write. I’ll treasure those who do, especially you who take the time to open a dialogue with me. Truly, all I know to say is thank you!

What gets me is being told to come out of my shell. I don’t think I should have to justify myself. I don’t think I should defend myself. There comes a point when it becomes less of a suggestion and turns into another case of bullying. No, I’m not saying that I’m a helpless victim. I’m not. What I am saying is that those who tell me that are inconsiderate and tactless, and quite frankly do me more harm than good. Every time they say that all I hear is that I’m not good enough being who I am. After a certain point, it’s easy to despair and stop caring.

But that’s who I am, and screw you if that’s not good enough. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have some work to do, after I watch the new episode of The Big Bang Theory. It makes me laugh, and I love to laugh, but you’d already know that, if you knew me.