Category: Episode 21

Episode 21

Hello fine friends of flash.  It is that time of the month where we go on a little bizarre adventure into the minds of 8 writers.  This episode is loosely focusing on “Obsessions”….really, who doesn’t have them?  These stories get into the nooks and crannies of our obsessive selves and I have weaved them together in a hopefully off-putting manner.  Let’s squirm a little, shall we?

For those of you that are new to In Between Altered States, this site is set up to have all the stories read in order for a collective feel about the topic and then you can go back and enjoy the stories individually.  I would like to welcome these writers back to the fray:  Eric Suhem, David Haase, and Lynn Alexander.  Our newest victims…..I mean writers are:  Jonathan Byrd, Spencer Dew, Samuel Cole, Chris Leek and Robert Buswell.  Enjoy!!


According to the opinion of the deputy medical examiner of LA County as expressed in the autopsy report you print in the computer lab between classes and carry folded in your jacket pocket all day, mode of death remains, at this time, undetermined.  “While his history of depression is compatible with suicide,” you read, “And the location and direction of the stab wounds are consistent with self-infliction, several aspects of the circumstances (as are known at this time) are atypical of suicide and raise the possibility of homicide.”

We grind up half a jar of trucker uppers from the interstate service plaza outside of town, cut them into lines with a laundry card and snort them off a little pink-framed mirror that you keep next to your bed.  All I want to do is kiss you, the tip of your chin, the side of your neck.

Instead, we sit, hips touching, dizzy and dry and invincible from the ephedrine, and we take turns, on your bed, reading the report aloud:  “These include the absence of hesitation wounds, stabbing through clothing, and the presence of small incised wounds on the right arm and left hand (possible defensive wounds).”

I light a cigarette for you, the transfer from my lips to yours as close to anything more as we will ever get, and even with that suspicion, or psychic foreknowledge, I don’t savor it enough, don’t pay enough attention to describe the sound of paper catching, the sound of your lips as they close around it, the edges of your eyes as you smile, your lashes as you look back down at the autopsy report.  “Additionally, the girlfriend’s reported removal of the knife and subsequent refusal to speak with detectives are all,” you say, squirming with relish at the words, “of concern.”

He understands her body language, so different from his own but that’s the attraction. Like a poorly executed piano chord stuck to a sustain pedal.

She’s an angry blinker; picks her teeth deep in thought; slouches when she’s nervous; plays with her ears as she laughs; taps her feet if she’s bored; cracks her neck when life’s too much.

At the kitchen table, slouching, tapping her feet, blinking so much he wonders if eyelids can wear out, he offers a wink as she looks away to pick her teeth.

“Whatcha thinking about?”

She cracks her neck and stands, making a sputtering noise with her lips. She opens and closes the dishwasher, the refrigerator, the stove, the microwave, and almost every upper cabinet. Finally, she sits and sighs.

He understands that sputtering lips means soon she’ll be out the door. But the sigh is new.

“I’ve never heard you do that before?”

“Do what?”

“Sigh like that.”

“It’s a sigh. People sigh. I mean, God.” Her tone working up the registers.

“It just caught me by surprise.”

She crosses her arms. “Stop deconstructing me.”

“Fair enough.”

She weaves in and out of the living, dining, and laundry rooms as if searching for something hidden.

“That bad.” He knows crossed arms mean she’s ready to pop.

“I got an apartment in the lower east side. I’ll be out two weeks from Sunday. I’m not changing my mind so don’t even try and stop me.” She sighs again, louder this time, crossing her arms even tighter. “His name’s Jim by the way, not that I owe you an explanation or that you even care.”

That’s right; she stomps up the stairs after admitting an affair.

Xylophagy: the eating of wood, either alive or dead.  He wasn’t sure why that entered his head, butwhat followed were memories of termites, swarming in the den, littering wings, and Linda in her bathrobe, screaming with a vacuum nozzle to suck them up.  He wanted to ignore them, and eventually they did, as they eventually ignored most things, as they eventually ignored each other.

In bad marriages, things feel acute in the beginning.  Irritants swarm.

In time, you learn to live with things. You have to.

Linda went from hysterics to flicking wings off her robe sleeves soon enough.

You could eat them, he said, fried up.  They were oily, they’d crisp. You could use them for gasoline. He looked up their yield. He was going to figure out how much termite juice it would take to get out to Romulus, but he didn’t get around to it yet.

He watched animal shows and used the same adjectives. “Awesome”, for most of them.

“Amazing’, for the rest, mostly reptiles, he had always wanted an iguana.

“An iguana is a commitment, they grow real big,” Linda would say, holding her hands apart.

It annoyed him. Everybody said that.

Except Velma, who theorized that Harold really wanted a child, and this gave him something to think about along with xylophagy that day. A baby would be amazing, he said to only Velma who had four, whose swarms would never annoy him- he was sure- and whose hands never worked at emphasizing   anything.

“I love your tweed, is that who you are?” he asked.

“Maybe,” said Peggy coquettishly.

He tore into the nectarine, his incisors gleaming malevolently with traces of orange fruit. She wrapped her lips around the banana and slowly pulled it down her throat in one sensuous, luscious gulp. He did the same. There was fruit piled up on the wobbly kitchen table, in a 7-foot high mound reaching to the asbestos-filled ceiling. She pulled tomatoes from the pile and threw them angrily against the wall, splattering redness against the floral wallpaper. He removed an ice pick from a kitchen drawer, and began stabbing an eggplant, more and more violently, the ice pick sticking in the imitation Danish cutting board.

He started to sniff at the tweed, disturbing his companions, who wanted to look at the Ferris wheel. “The Ferris wheel is so round,” they cooed in unison, admiring its arcs. “Don’t bring your tweed obsession into our enjoyment of the Ferris wheel!” they said sternly, moving along the boardwalk to other carnival attractions.

“What does tweed have to do with a Ferris wheel?” he asked, head full of bemusement and tweed.

For the next course, he chewed into the pig, cow, and bird remains with abandon. Her right eye gleamed with lust as the lamb parts steamed on the plate before her. She dove into the meat, incisors and molars gnashing incessantly as steam rose from her forehead. The bones and pieces of skin flew onto the floor as they gnawed and chewed feverishly.

“Well it has nothing to do with that, but we just felt that we needed to set some boundaries,” they said, perfectly willing to move their attention to other subjects, while he refocused upon Peggy’s tweed hat.

It nagged at him, not in the same way that Miriam did, about fixing the leaky faucet or putting up the storm shutters. After 27 years of marriage he could tune her out easily enough, just like spinning the dial on his old Sears Roebuck.

This was different. It was relentless; this was a song that played on every station. Even down amongst the static of the AM band he could hear it, gnawing away at him beneath the hiss and crackle.

It was in that damn box of his father’s. During his childhood the box had sat smugly on the dresser, given pride of place. Now he kept it in the disgrace of the tool shed, hidden on a back shelf under rusty car parts, but he could still hear it.

He had tried more than once to throw it out. The last time he had driven 50 miles up state. The box, wrapped in a burlap sack, so he wouldn’t have to touch its slimy veneer. He listened to it mocking him from the passenger foot well, thumping against the gear shift when ever he made a left.

He buried it deep in the woods next to the interstate and drove home at 70, hearing only the Ford’s ancient engine bitch and complain. The sense of exhilaration, of finally being free vanished when he pulled on the drive. The box was waiting for him on the door step, like an anxious parent on prom night.

Well this time things would be different. The cold barrel of the thirty-eight he pressed to his temple told him that. This time there would be no coming back.

His condition prevented him from getting the autographs of his idols. Make-A-Wish created a personal form rejection for him. He improvised. He sweat. He collected sweatshirts. Never washed them. He marked time by personalwear. Sweatshirts tacked to his walls. The shirt, above the mirror,  he wore for every TJ Hooker episode. Every season.

Thirtyfive years ago he sent a fresh insaturate shirt to Farrah Fawcett-Majors. It was nicely done, professionally sealed under glass in a happyface polka dot frame.

The city has declared his room more toxic than Love Canal. I am tasked with the bagging and tagging of his life, under the glaring eye of  Representative, the Fawcett estate.

No one will miss one tube sock, slipped into hazmat vest.

“I’ll hide in bushes beside your window,” said the first applicant.  “I’ll watch you through the blinds.”

“Too unoriginal,” he replied.  “Next.”

“I’ll get a job where you work and work out at your gym and attend your church and follow you to school,” said the second.  “I’ll golf where you golf.”

“I don’t do any of those except work,” he told her.  “Next.”

The third just stared at him.

“What are your qualifications?” he asked.

She continued to stare.

“Too creepy,” he decided.  “Next.”

“I’ll paint my name in blood on your front door,” said the fourth.  “I’ll smear bodily wastes on your car.  You’ll wake up at three to find me keening in the fetal on your bedroom floor.  I’ll make voodoo dolls.  I’ll catch you out one night and stab you repeatedly.”

“Sorry, I don’t do stabbings,” he sighed.  “Next.”

“I’ll never speak to you,” the fifth told him.  “You’ll never see me again.  I’ll spend my whole life fantasizing about you, but you’ll never know.  I’ll write thousands of poems about you and check your social networks daily.  Years from now I’ll kill myself in an especially dramatic way, citing you as the reason in my masterpiece of a suicide note.”

“Nice, but too distant,” he told her.  “And too tragic.  Next.”

“I’ll capture your attention with a compelling act,” said the sixth.  “You’ll search until you find me.  You’ll think me unusual, but also strangely alluring.  I’ll live for you and you’ll fall for me, but I cannot say what the end result will be.”

“Sounds fun,” he said.  “You’re hired.”

A week later, his new hire launched a targeted biological weapon which rapidly killed every human female except herself.  Then, as she predicted, he began searching for her.

He wasn’t the only one searching.

I wouldn’t call it an obsession.  17,231 20 ounce bottles of Fruit Punch Gatorade is not an obsession.  Melinda doesn’t think so.  She looks at the other 17,230 bottles as her sisters and brothers.

I must admit, I do give Melinda preferential treatment; she is my favorite afterall.  However, I don’t neglect the others; I spend quality time with Mary, Jenny, Emily, and Heidi.  I even talk things over with Mitch and he still smells like the trash can I found him in.

See, it’s not an obsession.  Its rescue. People just toss these poor bottles aside, leaving them for dead.  I rescue them.  I bring them home, and, as you can see, I give them new life.

Oh…oh my…  I’m sorry; you’ll have to excuse Melinda.  She can be so veracious since or relationship became romantic.

Oh…oh my…yes. Do excuse us, but when amour calls. You can see yourself out, can’t you?

Coming my love.