Stephen looks around the family room.
“Where is it?” He says out loud, throwing stacks of paper around, turning furniture upside down, spilling out the contents on the floor. He runs his hands through the pile digging and digging until he was pulling up carpet.
“Where did I put it?”
He runs upstairs to his room. Checks his dresser drawer and then re checks it. He tears off the covers and flips over the mattress. He looks over the night stand at the picture of his wife Susan. He wonders what’s she’s doing.
Then he remembers why he’s looking for his keys in the first place. Falling down to the floor he looks under the bed, nothing. He springs back up.
“Where could they be?”
Feeling something in the palm of his hand he opens it to reveal metallic pieces hung together by a thin chain.
“There they are.”
Then he thinks of Susan his beautiful sweet Susan with her tan skin her black tasseled hair, her slender frame. He imagines her dancing, dancing, dancing. Not for money. Not for fame. Not for anyone but him. Stephen smiles, moving downstairs he ignores the mess he has made.
He opens the front door. He walks out to his driveway. He was ten steps away from his car.
“Stephen!” He turns around to see Mary and Jerry Fitzgerald approaching him the happily married couple, the perfect next door neighbors. Their smiles are shining sparkling ivory. Not a dent or scratch in their pearly whites. They walk in sync, her arm gently around him and his around her, her blond hair blowing in the breeze, the envy of the city, the evil in Stephen’s heart.
He swallows and thought what she looks like naked. Strangely enough he transposes Susan’s body on hers. Even stranger he did the same for Jerry. He shuts his eyes hard and opens them for Mary and Jerry to be fully clothed.
“Where you off to Stephen?” Jerry pushes up his glasses.
“Nowhere.” Stephen wants to hurry away opening his door.
“Oh come on Stephen. You never do anything with us anymore. You and Susan used to stop by all the time.” Says Mary. He is stuck.
“Yea. You guys never come over anymore. How is Susan? It’s been ages since you guys came to our last party.”
Stephen had more money then.
“Susan’s been busy working.” says Stephen.
“I’m actually on my way to pick her up. I’m sorry guys we should do something soon. But I have to go, I’m late.”
He slams the door as he gets into his car. He watches the Fitzgerald’s from the rearview mirror. They wave in unison with big grins. Then they turn and walk back into their home. Jerry looks back seeing his house. It’s white, the only white house in the neighborhood of brick. It’s almost obscene how noticeable it is.
“How can the other neighbor’s stand it?” Stephen says to himself.
He breathes a deep sigh when it was finally out of sight.
“God it is so horrible!”
“Day in and day out, it’s so glaring and obvious! A dung pile burning in their noses how can they tolerate it?”
Stephen stops talking as he enters the highway. He pays careful attention to the drivers around him. His eyes dart right then left. His hands become clammy and tense as he grips the steering wheel. His heart races as a car comes closer and closer to him from behind only to turn left and speed up.
“Bastards!” he mutters to himself. “Bastards all bastards, all dirty stinky miserable vain bastards!” His face is getting redder the more he mutters to himself.
“They’re all ugly. Stupid. Conceited..” He begins to drool a little. The fuel tank alarm sounds.
“Aaahh come on!” he shouts. In the business to leave he forgot to check the fuel gauge. He starts cursing everything, the road, the cars and the people.
“All are in my way!!!” He turns off to the next exit. Luckily there is a gas station not too far. Stephen pulls in and starts pumping gas. He looks around the station, remarking in his mind about its dirtiness. He then went on to comment on the stench.
“Never have my nostrils befell something so odious.” He says to himself, barely audible.
“Stephen!” Stephen turns around and sees Phil.
“How are you? You know I haven’t seen you in some time. It’s been ages.”
Phil is short and pudgy. His head gleams from lack of hair. Stephen looks into his beady eyes pausing for a proper response.
“I’ve been good.” Stephen checks the amount, ten bucks and still going up.
“Yea, well that’s swell. The office is still the same. You know pushing paper, crossing T’s and dotting I’s. You know how that goes. The new guy that’s in is doing an ok job. But that’s boring stuff eh. How’s Susan? How’s your wife?” Stephen’s gas-nuzzle clicks off.
“Sorry Phil. I have to go. We should talk some other time.”
“Yea we should.”
Stephen closes the door of his car and speeds down the highway.
Thoughts of Susan race through his head, Stephen entertains an old memory. Stephen is sitting in his chair reading the paper. Susan is sneaking up behind him. She lifts her arms high above and plops a big bowl of fudge on his head. Stephen jumps up and chases her as she laughs. The memory flickers out as the next exit approaches.
He turns in where all traffic ceases to exist. Only people on foot come where he is. Walking leaches with pale blotted skin, wearing over coats, trying to hide the burn marks from their cigarettes, a lot of the same that feed from the sewer, the refuse from the rich. The values from the shadow of diamonds, it sparkles and dazzles to hide what it does in the dark.
He turns down a familiar alley where vomit is the key to the right direction, old nostalgia for Stephen. Cat fights behind dumpsters, high art obscenity written on every building, the vulgarity in the tension of Stephen’s grip. He turns the wheel.
He emerges from the alley. There they are. All lined up like peacocks for display. A vanity they need to sell what’s in between their legs. All shades of color mismatched and ill applied.
“They’re all clowns.” Stephen mutters to himself seeing how their looks fade from one to the next in an evolution of degradation. Not one peek his interest, but there are enough men on the street to take one and disappear into dark places. Some may not survive. If they’re gone no one cares to look, just another dead prostitute for the police to write up, put in a file and never look at again.
Stephen turns his head toward a familiar form. She turns. Her body dazzles in his mind. He stops the car and rolls down the window beside her.
“Susan!” She looks at Stephen with a sour expression.
“Oh, it’s you. Listen I can’t go with you anymore. Jeremy doesn’t like me going away for so long.”
“Susan please, come back to me. I’m your husband.”
“Listen, cut the husband crap ok. You still owe Jeremy money. He’s still pissed.”
“I ain’t going with you.”
“But you’re my wife.”
“How many times do I have to tell you? I ain’t your wife. That was all role-play. You might have thrown a wedding and everything, but I ain’t married to you.”
“But I… But I…” Stephen stammers. “But I love you.” A tear rolls down Stephen’s cheek.
“Well that’s a shame because I don’t love you.” A man emerges from the dark in a purple jacket with rings on his fingers. He yanks open the door and grabs Stephen’s wrist flinging him to the pavement.
“You’re the fool, who took candy and hasn’t paid in full.” Stephen squirms against the man’s impressive bulk.
“Jeremy don’t. He’s just a sucker.”
“Shut up Candy! Every sucker has to pay.”
Jeremy dragged Stephen into the alley while Stephen kicks and screams.
“No don’t! Susan please help! Susan don’t leave! Susan please! I love you.”
A few moments of struggle and then silence.