What do we do with half-remembered dreams? Apparently, this…
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“Todd Vinson passed away peaceably on –.”
“It’s peacefully,” I corrected. “I died peacefully, not peaceably. I did not die without putting up a fight. I was simply at peace when I died. It’s important to know the difference.”
Maddie, my secretary, took a long draw on what remained of her cigarette. She ground the filter into the table inches from the unused amber ashtray. “Fine,” she finally said. She lit another cigarette.
“I can’t wait to start on your obit,” I said. “She died in her boss’s hotel room, some from lung cancer, but mostly from her stubbornness to quit smoking.”
Maddie gave me the finger without looking up from my laptop. In one motion, she lifted a shot glass, finished her drink, and slammed it down against the glass-top desk. She grabbed mine and downed it too, slamming my glass down inside her glass with a clunk.
“Nice. You’re so, so visceral. So sensual. So alive.”
“So starving,” she said, clicking away madly on the keyboard. “Next line reads –,” she interrupted herself with a long drag, then continued, blowing smoke out the side of her mouth.
“Wait.” It was my turn to interrupt. “Let’s change ‘passed away’ to ‘died’. What do you think? I died. I passed away? I died. I died? Yes, I died. I like the sound of that. What do you think?”
“I agree,” she said. Her red fingernails clicked away. “Instead of merely passing away, you should just die.”
“You just made me slightly uncomfortable.”
“Shut up and help me finish.” Our obits will be the neatest suicide notes ever. Straight from our fingers to the newspapers to the grieving families. Our obituaries become our suicide notes become our obituaries. Get it?”
“Got it.” I looked past the blowing curtains and beyond the metal railing of my room. “Then we hold hands and jump,” I said. “Fifteen seconds later, we hit the pavement.”
“One lump sum.”
“A lover’s splat.”
We both laughed.
“But you’ll hit the ground first,” she calculated. “You’re bigger.”
“Not according to Newton.”
“Newton whom,” she asked.
“Who,” I corrected.
“Who? Newton. Are you deaf?”
“No it’s ‘who’ not ‘whom’. It’s Newton who.”
“Whatever. Oh yeah. He’s that dude who got hit in the head with an apple and it made him really smart, right?”
“Pour me another drink,” Maddie demanded. She leaned back, folded her legs and plopped them heel-first on the desk corner. She wiggled her pretty toes and made her shoes dance.
She placed the laptop in her lap where, according to its name, it belonged. I grabbed the stacked shot glasses from the desk, placed them on the small hotel bar. I emptied the bottle, shaking the final drops into our glasses.
I turned with our drinks just in time to see Maddie twitch her feet and flick her shoes off. They landed in the trash can next to the desk. She wiggled her toes to let them breathe, as if oblivious to my presence in the room. Her shoes in the trash, blouse and skirt thrown like Frisbees across the room. That’s my girl.
What a hot mess, I thought. What a wonderful chaotic hot mess I’ve stumbled into. I don’t know which is more stressful: Thoughts of staying lost in this mess or being stuck back in my predictable reality.
“Stop staring. Bring me my drink.”
“Please,” she said, not looking up.
“Please, Mr. Bossman,” I prompted.
Maddie dropped her arms from the keyboard and smirked. “Please, Mr. Bossman, my most favoritest bossy boss in the whole wild world!” She gestured with her arms to draw me closer as if I were under a spell. “Please?” She stretched out the one-word plea for what seemed like ten seconds.
“That’s better.” I walked over and handed an overfilled glass to Maddie. Her fingers wrap around mine and she tried to take the glass from my grasp. I held my grip firm. I leaned over her until I smelled perfume over smoke.
“You meant to say ‘wide’. I’m your most favoritest boss in the whole wide world. Not wild.” I let the go of her glass. I started to kiss her. Without taking her eyes off me, she tilted her whiskey glass toward her chest. I watched whiskey form a momentary small pool, then a whiskey stream followed the path of least resistance.
The last thing I saw were her slightly separated lips in anticipation of my kiss. The last sensation I had was of my glass slipping from my grip. The glass bounced on the padded carpet. Whiskey sprayed onto my shoes and slacks but I didn’t feel it.
I saw it happen, even with my eyes closed. I watched the whole scene unfold as if someone were showing family movies with me on the screen. I watched myself fall limp against Maddie. My head slid down her wet chest and stomach.
I collapsed to my knees, looking like a resting child, like a bloody resting child with his head on a woman’s laptop. Maddie removed the dagger and used the point to push me the rest of the way off of her. From above, I looked like a deflated parade float long after the festivities were over.
Apparently, what I had not seen with my back turned to pour drinks was Maddie slipping a concealed blade from her purse, or from somewhere, and waiting for an opportunity to present itself. It was just a matter of time until I came close to kill. She knew me. She knew us.
Maddie slid the blade, blood and all, into the side elastic of her panties. The girl didn’t even wipe it off first. What a perverted mess of human flesh. Still, after all this, I fight the attraction.
She stepped over my body. As she did, she looked down at my lifeless body. “I’ve got to pee.” she said. For a second, I expected Maddie to squat over me and relieve herself. She might have done so if the idea had entered her twisted brain.
Maddie stepped over me again on her way back to the desk. “You ruined my night, you a-hole. I’m sorry, you ruined my night, sir, you a-hole boss.”
I tried to ask, “Did you even wash your hands after you peed,” but no sound came out.
Maddie opened my laptop and clicked on the folder titled, “Personal”. She had found my advertisement for an immediate opening for head secretary. In retrospect, I should have left out the part about my head secretary’s untimely death, especially since Maddie’s suicide was not planned until tonight.
If she believed I was going through with her double-suicide plan, she was crazier than I thought. I’ve got a company to run. I should have password-protected the folder, but secrets like that lead to suspicions.
I should have deleted the want ad, along with several other personal documents. Maybe the entire folder should have been deleted. Somehow, simply labeling the folder as “Personal” seemed good enough at the time.
I’m not great at relationships. I do a lot of small things wrong, and it’s the small things that do the most damage. To my credit, drafting suicide note-obituaries was not on my two-year plan. I can’t be blamed for everything that has gone wrong in my life.
Maddie lit a cigarette, leaned back with laptop in lap, and plopped her crossed feet back on the desk corner, returning to her deadly casual pre-stab-the-lover position. The dagger’s handle stuck awkwardly above the side of her panties, blade tight against her thigh, my spilled blood still wet on her legs.
She spoke as she typed. “Todd Vinson died,” Maddie paused, tapped the caps lock button, then continued. “PEACEABLY”. She looked down at the dead me on the floor. Maddie flicked her cigarette ashes onto my back.
“Bossy Wossy, next up, our corrected last will and testament, leaving everything to your most favoritest secretary in the whole wild world. And when I say wild, I mean wild.”
I, or whatever remained of me, tried to touch, grasp, roll, slide, lift, swing and throw the empty liquor bottle.
It would take years of practice, I would find.
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