A SHELL OF A MAN

A SHELL OF A MAN

Who the hell do you think you are,
Sitting out there in your fancy car?
Everyone know that you’re just a tool
Strutting around town like a Goddamn fool! 

You spend more time on your pretty boy look
Thinking you can snag me with your Devil hooks.
Well, let me tell you something that you might not know:
Your looks count for nothing when it’s all for show.

You’re not a man, just an empty shell
Of someone I thought I knew so well.
It’s obvious to everyone who called you friend
You care for no one and deep wounds never mend.

What happened to your soul, your spirit, your heart?
Did you ever once wonder why we had to part?
Of course you didn’t; your conscience is clean
Of every misdeed you claim to have never seen.

You used and confused me, deluded and abused me
And made me forget the strong woman I used to be.
I don’t look any different; it’s inside I’m not the same.
It’s gotten so don’t even recognize my name.

It won’t be long before you’re all alone.
No one’s gonna call you on the telephone.
You’re the biggest loser so face the facts:
People will judge you by your deeds and acts.

You think you’re perfect like Christ walking on water
But what kind of man abandons his wife and daughter?
My father always said you were a piece of shit
But I turned a deaf ear; I just didn’t want to hear it.

I trusted you once; I was blind, deaf and dumb
To the fact that you were nothing but a piece of scum.
How could I have been such an idiot not to see
What a snake in the grass you’d turn out to be?

You wooed and chased me, swept me off my feet
With pretty little gifts and whispered lies so sweet.
I felt so very special when we were out together.
Never listening when told I could do much better.

I loved you so much and you promised me all
So we ran off and got married at Buxton Hall.
A quiet little honeymoon at the Tan Hill Inn;
No more sneaking around and ‘living in sin’.

It didn’t take long for your true colors to show.
I caught you making time with some floozy named Flo.
That was just the start of a whirlwind of deceit.
You broke my heart to bits and I kicked you to the street.

So now you’re sitting there just like you own the place
With a look so smug I want to slap it off your stupid face.
You thought you could control me, break me down, but in the end
I turned into a willow tree and I learned how to bend.

Do us all a favor and get the fuck out of here.
Don’t come close to me or those I hold so dear.
Drive as far away as you can and don’t ever return.
You’re going straight to hell and I’ll be laughing while you burn.

NAR © 2021

HOSANNA! HEYSANNA!

Legion after legion they watched him with wary eyes, like vultures in search of prey. This seemingly simple man healed the sick and preached of love for one another. What a rabble-rouser, a threat to those in power! He made them all very nervous, suspicious, just by his mere existence.

Multitudes thronged after him chanting “Hosanna! Heysanna!” but he chose only twelve by uttering just two words: “Follow me”. In a darkened room they broke bread together. They clung to his every word, pledging their undying loyalty, but they couldn’t stay awake for even one hour as he prayed that night in the garden.

There was one who denied him – not once but three times – before the cock crowed the next morn. Coward! Yet another betrayed him for a paltry sum. Viper! Like a hunter slinking through the woods he led the soldiers who dragged this innocent man away to face judgement. He stood before one official, then another; no one could find fault with him. They washed their blood-stained hands. He was tried by a kangaroo court. The verdict: guilty of blasphemy.

Stripped bare, whipped and scourged, he was nailed to a cross enduring an agonizing symphony of pain. His desolate mother wept silently at his feet. After torturous hours, whispering words of forgiveness, he slipped into the arms of death. He was buried in a plain tomb.

Three days later his crypt was empty. No force could defeat him. No power could contain him.

Hosanna! Heysanna!”

NAR © 2021

ON THE ROCKS

Ancient Greek temples dotted the hillside of Agrigento. “Aren’t they magificent, Helene?” I tried engaging my wife of seventeen years in conversation.

Helene always wanted to visit Sicily; now we were finally here but our vacation had been marred by the news of the death of Ruth, her friend since college. Actually, Helene had been depressed ever since Ruth’s cancer was diagnosed two years earlier. She became obsessed with illness and death and every little pain sent her running to the doctor. It had become tedious; I thought a holiday abroad would lighten both our moods.

I don’t like this place, Richard” Helene remarked. “It reeks of death and decay. You can practically see the blood stains on the altar.”

Good Lord, Helene! Why are you allowing your mind to go there?” I questioned impatiently. “Look at the glorious Mediterranean surrounding us. Let yourself be transported to another era.”

I’ve got a pounding headache, Richard. Take me back to the hotel!” Helene demanded.

But we just got here! Look at these fabulous gnarled olive trees. Impressive, aren’t they? Let’s sit and enjoy the view. You’ve always dreamed of coming here, Helene. Enjoy it!

How can I enjoy myself knowing Ruth is gone? She was my dearest friend.” Helene buried her head in her hands, sobbing.

I know it’s difficult but try not to dwell on it. Here, listen to this.” Retrieving a brochure from my pocket, I began to read. “‘In mythology, Agrigento was founded by Daedalus and Icarus.’ Just think of it – these temples have been here since the 5th Century B.C.! The contemporary glass and steel buildings back home can’t compare to these majestic structures!”

Richard, please! You think I give a damn about any of this? It’s meaningless without Ruth. She was the light of my life.”

Helene stared at me with frenetic eyes. I was beginning to believe she was losing her mind.

Your life is meaningless? What about me, Helene? I’m your husband, for crying out loud!”

Oh, come on, Richard! It’s about time we admitted the truth. Our marriage is a sham! And now Ruth is gone! There’s nothing left for me!” Helene turned and started walking away.

Ruth! All you ever talk about is Ruth!” I yelled after her. “You’ve been consumed with her for years! I always wondered but now I know why you were never interested in sex, laying in our bed like a cold fish. You were in love with Ruth, weren’t you?”

Helene started running; I caught up with her, reaching for her arm. She screamed “Don’t touch me, Richard! Just go away and leave me alone!”

Pulling away, Helene ran toward the craggy cliffs. In a horrifying instant she was gone, plunging headlong against the rocks and disappearing into the sea.

Aghast, I stood staring into the abyss. “Goddamn, you, Helene!” I shouted. “Go be with your precious Ruth!”

After a long while alone on the cliffs I walked back to my rental and drove to the hotel. I saw no reason to rush back home. Perhaps I’d head to the Amalfi Coast. Too bad Helene had to end her stay so abruptly.

NAR © 2021

TRULY, MADLY, DEEPLY

The scream of the alarm clock jolted Tia from a deep sleep. With eyes closed, she reached over and smacked the off button. Slowly rolling her head, she glanced at her dozing boyfriend Andrew. 

Feeling her eyes on him, Andrew peeked at Tia and whispered a groggy “morning already?” 

“Uh-hum. 6:15” Tia murmured as she snuggled closer. “Plenty of time to…….” 

Fuck!!” yelled Andrew as he bolted from their bed. “I’ve got a 7:00 Caesarian and patients all day!” 

Disappointed, Tia went into the kitchen to brew some coffee. When she returned to the bedroom, Andrew was dressed and ready to go. He rushed by her, not even stopping to take the coffee and muffin she prepared for him.

Gotta run, T” Andrew called over his shoulder. “Catch ya later!” And he was gone. Tia picked at a muffin thinking how mornings like this were becoming more and more frequent. 

They met in college and fell in love, sharing their dreams – she becoming a fashion designer and he a doctor. Tia had been accepted to the Fashion Institute of Paris but Andrew begged her not to go until he was in med school. She agreed with the idea and found work dressing bridal shop windows. The job was ok but it was unfulfilling and every time she mentioned studying in Paris, Andrew reminded her of their plans. Now he was a busy doctor and she was still at the bridal salon. 

On the way to work she heard that George Harrison song with the line “And if you don’t know where you’re going any road will take you there”. She couldn’t get that line out of her head and the road not taken – the road to Paris. She truly loved Andrew and made many sacrifices for his career. Now it was her turn. 

That evening when Andrew got home from work Tia told him they needed to talk. “Let me grab a shower first and I’m all yours” he replied. 

When Andrew returned he went to the fridge and poured them both a glass of wine. “Listen T, I known you want to talk but I have something to say. Can I go first?” Tia nodded. 

“After all our plans and promises, our dreams have finally come true but there’s still something missing in my life. I love you, Tia. Marry me. 

Tia was floored. “Drew, I love you, too, and want to marry you but there’s something missing in my life. What about my dream to be a designer? What about Paris?” 

Paris!? Not that foolishness again! T, forget that road, stay here and marry me.” 

“Foolishness, Drew? Foolishness!? You begged me to wait for you while you pursued your dream. If you truly love me you’ll wait while I follow my dream.” 

As they stared at each other, Andrew’s pager beeped. He glanced at it. “My patient’s in labor. I gotta go. We’ll talk about this tomorrow.” 

But Tia already knew which road she had to take. 

NAR © 2019

ON THE BRINK

Today she would find out if her entire life was a lie.

“Where to, Mrs. Carmichael? Shall I call for your car?” asked her ever-attentive doorman, Harold. 

Not today, thank you. Just walking up to Brooks Brothers to buy an anniversary present for my husband. It’s our 15th.”[Note to self: stop at your psychologist’s office first]. 

“Congratulations! You have yourself a nice day.” 

Claire Carmichael smiled at Harold and walked the short distance to her therapist’s office on Earl Street. Ringing Dr. Brink’s doorbell, she waited for his ubiquitous snobbish greeting of “Enter!” 

“Welcome, Claire. Last time you were here we discussed your suspicions that Jeremy was having an affair. Why don’t we pick up from there” he suggested. 

Clearing her throat and adjusting her skirt she began. “I’m no longer convinced Jeremy’s cheating on me. I’m not saying that he’s never had affairs but something is different. Things have changed between us. They’re better. Jeremy’s calmer, more attentive, grounded. He’s home every night by 6:00 and we enjoy our weekends together. No more overnight out-of-town business trips and I’m actually happy for the first time in years.” 

“Interesting” Dr. Brink acknowledged. “And to what do you attribute this change in Jeremy’s character?” 

“We had a heart-to-heart the other night and he confided in me that he’s been having panic attacks for quite some time. He finally started seeing a psychiatrist who’s helping him tremendously. He’s on medication and skips lunch twice a week to see his doctor.” 

“And you believe him?” 

I do” Claire replied, uncomfortable with his skepticism. 

Did Jeremy happen to mention his psychiatrist’s name?” 

Feeling rather nonplussed she replied “No, he didn’t and I didn’t ask. That would be prying and information I didn’t need to know. Now I really must get going. It’s our wedding anniversary and I have plans to make.” 

“Good luck, Claire. Ever vigilant!” he called after her. 

When Claire stepped outside there was a chill in the air and leaves were swirling about. That session unnerved her and she lingered for a while smoking a cigarette wondering what Dr. Brink meant when he said “Ever vigilant.” Muttering “shrinks!”, she wrapped her coat tightly around herself and quickly walked to Brooks Brothers. She chose a pair of monogrammed cuff links; they were elegant and ridiculously expensive but Claire wanted Jeremy to know how proud she was of him. 

Leaving the store Claire decided to go across the street to their favorite French restaurant and arrange for a special anniversary dinner to be delivered to their apartment. Looking up Claire’s heart skipped a beat and she felt dizzy. 

Exiting the restaurant was Jeremy, his arm around a captivating young woman. They were laughing, embracing and kissing as they walked. 

Disheartened and furious, Claire threw the cuff links into a trash can and hailed a taxi. 

“Where to, your highness?” The driver was uncouth with a big mouth, both physically and metaphorically. He chomped noisily on cigar and Claire could smell his disgusting breath from the back seat. But he probably never cheated on his wife, she thought. 

Just drive” was all she said and he smiled greedily as he flipped the meter. 

NAR © 2019

Originally written in 2019 and revised on 9/6/22 for Fandango’s Story Starter #62.

JUDAS BLUE EYES

Life was good

It was fine

A bit mundane

from time

to time

but fine and dandy

dandy and fine

Never once entered

my contented mind

to look for someone

or

cross a fine line

Who

could be

out there?

I never once

had a care

for a

mesmerizing

intense

blue-eyed

devilish

stare

Smooth

suave

and

sure of himself

Getting caught up

in spite of myself

A

Charming

Sexy

Funny 

Clever 

person

I didn’t know

existed

Ever

Never

I’m savvy

Street-wise

Nobody’s fool

No blinders on

Lady Green Eyes

Always so cool

Drawn to him

Dream of him

Laugh with him

Fun times begin

Really good friends 

That’s it

Nothing more

Though the roar

in my head

and core

screams

“Maybe more!”

Than friends

Exciting

Inviting

Igniting

Skywriting

Delighting

Inciting

private jokes

and

teasing

flirting

What does it matter?

Who are we hurting?

Close friends

Familial blends

All so natural

All so casual

Days

Weeks

Months

Years

Lunches

Dinners

Laughs

No tears

Holidays

Relations

Weddings

Vacations

never foretold of the

inevitable cessation

When did it change?

When did it turn?

I was about

to learn

and

to feel

the burn

of

Lies

Aspersions

Deceptions

Distortions

Evasions

Contortions

Deceptions

Fabrications

Hyperbole

Inaccuracy

Mendacity

Dishonesty

Insincerity

Falsity

Hypocrisy

Duplicity

This ideal

once heaven friend 

Now

Svengali

Machiavellian

Reptilian

Cheater

User

Liar

Abuser

Selfish

Shallow

Manipulative

Hollow

I was a friend

I was a fool 

To the bitter end

an unwitting tool

Too kind

So blind

Edged out

Left behind

Lied to

Why?

Once bitten

Twice shy

One step too far

behind my back

A devious blow 

Did he think

I wouldn’t know?

No

Apology

did

Judas Blue Eyes

see

He didn’t

even care

he was

losing

me

Obtuse and dense

Now past tense

Amazing how

caring

and

sharing

can turn

into hate

Fuck you, my once friend!

Too little too late

NAR © 2018

BLINDSIDED

Hard to imagine life without her. When the hell did everything start to unravel?

Now he sat alone in the shell of their apartment, baseball game on the tv playing for no one, nursing his second Dewars. Once upon a time this place was alive with people enjoying one of their famous dinner parties. When he closed his eyes he could hear their friends discussing politics, movies, the crazy tenants on the 2nd  floor … and the sound of her spirited laugh when someone told a dirty joke. 

They were the perfect couple, the envy of all their friends. Theirs was an easy, comfortable marriage – viewing a gallery in SoHo, cycling through Central Park, steamy showers after Saturday morning love-making. They were in sync in their choices of restaurants, paint colors and the biggest decision of all … neither one wanted kids. 

He sat there, head in hands while a thousand thoughts went through his mind. When did he begin having second thoughts? Was it the weekend in Maine spent visiting his sister after the birth of her first baby? Was it watching the kids in the playground across the street? All he could remember was the night he whispered in her ear that he wanted to have a baby. 

She was blindsided. What? No! He was just named partner at Goldman Sachs. She was food editor for Connoisseur magazine. Life is perfect. They had an agreement, dammit! Would she just consider thinking about it? No! How could he spring this on her now? 

Weeks, months went by. She remained adamant, distant. Then one day he came home after work and she was gone. 

Here he sat, alone with his Dewars, ballgame long over, fingering his wedding band, staring at divorce papers. 

It couldn’t have happened to a more perfect couple.

NAR © 2017