He’s A Cheatin’ All Over Town

Part I Reality TV Presents: “Just Good Ole Boys”

Part II I Would Never Shoot The Sheriff

 

He’s A Cheatin’ All Over Town

Now you may call me a traditionalist, but I thought the one place where I would not face reminders of my husband’s infidelity was at his funeral. You’d think it would be sacred territory.

There were at least a half-dozen black clad, veil-wearing weepers clinging on the arms of others as if they had lost their husbands. They blew into their hankies and sobbed, some bereft almost to the point of vapors. It became immediately clear that Ry’s dingdong had been ringing a lot of doorbells.

Reverend Mayfield stopped at one point as the wailing became more than slightly overwrought and drowned out his sermon. He looked at me in sympathy, but I was stewing and almost glaring at the coffin. Seeing it on tv was bad enough, but suspecting that he’d has his own door-to-door welcome wagon with all of these women ripped apart my insides.

Back at the house my sister, Clarice, served beer, wine, sweet tea, and bourbon as well as donated casseroles of every size, shape, and content, and patted my hand at intervals. “Stiff upper lip, Annie. Our Granny didn’t raise limp rags.”

“I was just thinking any one of those women could have killed him.”

“More like any one of their husbands.”

“It’s a wide playing field,” I said, took a sip of the old fashioned she’d made me, and shook my head. “How is it possible I didn’t know?”

“Maybe you did and you subliminally couldn’t accept it,” Clarice said, raising an eyebrow at me.

I raised an eyebrow back at her.

“No. You’re right,” she said even though I hadn’t said anything. “You wouldn’t handle anything subliminally. You’d have made him wish he were dead.”

“Ladies and Annie,” Linc said as he came up to us.

“Nice one, Sheriff. Have you been practicing your standup comedy in front of the mirror again?”

Clarice giggled. She punched Linc in his upper arm. “You’re looking mighty fine in your uniform these days. And probably mighty fine out of it too, right, Annie?”

“I wouldn’t know,” I said somewhat huffily.

Linc cleared his voice. I noticed that he had turned a little red, which was cute for a thirty-year old man.

“My understanding is that there were more than a few upset women at the funeral?” he asked.

Clarice gasped. “Don’t you have any consideration for Annie’s feelings?”

“Not lately, no,” he said.

It was my turn to gasp.

“I’m not fond of being lied to,” he said.

“I didn’t lie to you,” I said.

“Ry bought a gun.”

“I didn’t know.”

“Your fingerprints were on it.”

“That’s not possible.”

We were in each other’s faces. I could see the flecks of amber in his blue eyes. My breathing was hard as if I had just kissed him again.

“I can’t speak to possibilities. I can only speak for what the CSI guys found. Your fingerprints on the gun that was used to kill Ry and that Conrad Shears woman.”

I wished at that very moment that I was a fainter. It would have been a better scene ending than asking Clarice to find Uncle Newman, my soon-to-be lawyer.

As she walked away, I frowned at Linc. “You don’t think I did it, do you?”

He shrugged. “I hope to hell you didn’t, but we go with evidence. Your fingerprints on the murder weapon is pretty damning.”

“I still didn’t do it.”

“And I still got to take you in.”

He pulled out his handcuffs and gestured for me to extend my hands.

“Do you have to cuff me?”

“Yep. Just not the picture I had in my mind when I thought about doing it.”

 

end 3/29/2017

S. Darlington

 

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I Would NEVER Shoot the Sheriff, or his deputy

First Part is here


I Would NEVER Shoot the Sheriff, or his deputy

There is no love lost between me and the Sheriff of Carderiff County.

In another life, that one called high school, which is like a mini-world unto itself with its winners, losers, those who will be kings, and those just waiting to move onto college and real life, he was an All-State wide receiver and I was the photographer on the school newspaper whose single-minded goal was to snap a picture every time he dropped or fumbled the ball.

I had a whole seven shots in my Lincoln Bergstrom football portfolio. At one time, they wallpapered the tiny office of the newspaper.

And then there was the shot of his foot hitting the hurdle and his subsequent face plant, his mud-clad body after he slipped during cross-country, and my personal favorite that I entitled “And From This Angle” which makes an entirely innocent football tackle look like something else. I’ll leave that to your imagination, which does require a tangential trip to the gutter.

Why, you might ask, was I hell-bent on taking photos of Lincoln Bergstrom at his worst? That is another story best saved for another time.

His car kicks up a cloud of dust as it approaches. I am sipping today’s elixir: raspberry iced tea, with a hefty dose of bourbon to calm my nerves.

He gets out of the patrol car, stretches his lanky body to its full-height while I eye him, always wary. Wary because for all of my pre-twenty shenanigans, I lusted after him like nobody’s business. And it wasn’t. I never told anyone how I felt about him, although my best friend, Carly Danes guessed.

“Annie Hollister, what kind of crap did you get yourself into now?” he asks while putting on his cream-colored Sheriff’s hat.

“Want something to quench your thirst?” I ask.

“Maybe in fifteen minutes after I’m done questioning you,” he says. He sits in the white wicker chair opposite me, stretches out his long legs, and eyes me beneath his hat, which is placed low over his brow.

A fly buzzes around my magic elixir and I swat it away.

“I didn’t do it,” I say.

“That’s what they all say, especially the ones who are guilty,” he says. “Where were you last night?”

“I don’t have an alibi. I was here by myself watching that new Tom Hardy movie.”

“What in the hell is a Tom Hardy?”

I mumble something extremely inarticulate. “Can you tell me where they were murdered?” I ask.

“Now, Annie, you know I can’t divulge that kind of information.”

“I heard they were shot dead in her bed,” I say.

“You ever been to her house?”

“Nope. It’s not like she was going to invite me to tea after boinking my husband.”

“How did that make you feel?”

“Are you kidding, Linc?”

“Did you want to kill her?”

“I wanted to kill him.”

“Maybe you should call a lawyer,” he suggests. He removes his hat and rubs his fingers over his eyes.

“I will if you’re going to haul me in, but I didn’t do it. I didn’t really think about murdering Ry. It’s just something you say.”

“It’s about the worst thing you can say right now. Do y’all own a gun?”

“Nope. I hate guns.”

“Christ, are you still a vegetarian?”

“Maybe. What’s it matter? Do you still eat bloody dripping hamburgers?”

“You are still antagonistic.”

“And you’re still conceited.”

“You’ll never change.”

“God, I hope not.”

And then our lips are smashed together, our tongues waging war with each other, while our hands grope over each other’s bodies as if we are manning a search for lost gold. When we pull apart, breathing heavy, our eyes glued to each other’s, all I can think to say is: “Well, that was inappropriate.”

 

end 3/28/2017

S. Darlington

Nothing Is Ordinary

Mother Nature flicks her wand

Rain pours down

But in her wisdom

Today is not ordinary

(but then no day is)

For in moments there is wind

And a shift to sun

And bulbous clouds scudding

And mercurially she tosses out a rainbow

She’s playing

I admire her capriciousness

Her challenge

And the cardinals chirp

And the squirrel’s nose flaunts a millet gem

And the wind chimes sing with the breeze

Maybe I curled too long in a bruised body

Engrossed in pain, believing

an extraordinary event provides profound answers

I missed the cherry blossoms unfurl

The arrival of the cowbird as true a call of spring

But now I understand there are answers always

And questions, more to unravel

And the answer is neither inward nor outward

But all around, in the ordinary and extraordinary

Except I would attest, nothing is truly ordinary

once we privilge ourselves to see

 

end 3/24/2017

S. Darlington

Reality TV Presents: “Just Good Ole Boys”

 

Reality TV Presents: “Just Good Ole Boys”

I knew when I married him that Ry was not the sharpest tool in the chest. What I didn’t know was the extent of the lack of sharpness or the fact that he was, indeed, a tool.

I took his desire to be on a reality tv series about a group of good ole boys in stride, figuring that, while he was cute as all get out, he really knew nothing about being a good ole boy except for his love of cars. Somehow that must have won the hearts, minds, and souls of those “in the know” because he was cast.

In the weeks that followed Ry was glued, almost literally (don’t ask; there was super glue involved), to youtube watching every single fishing, hunting, and gun video that existed.

“I’m gonna be famous, honey, just you wait,” he said. He smiled at me, his big blue eyes shining and that dimple creating a crater in the side of his cheek and I remembered why I married him: because he was cuter than sin. I dug deep and found acceptance of his new found desire for fame. My bad.

I would like to say, “somehow” Ry forgot about the constantly rolling cameras, but there was no “somehow” involved. Ry forgot about ten minutes into their filming and went about life the way he always had. He became an immediate sensation. People loved him. He was a cute, foolish man who frequently needed to be reminded to put on pants. Again, literally.

Which is how I found out about Lily Conrad Shears. Real name.

On that fateful afternoon with the cameras of “Just Good Ole Boys” running, Ry Hulver stepped into the afternoon sunshine draped across Lily Conrad Shears’ front porch in his blue plaid button down and his boxers. He stood there looking around and you half-expected him to break into a chorus of “Oh, What a Beautiful Morning” but instead the door opened behind him and Lily Conrad Shears thrust my husband’s blue jeans into his arms and then twiddled her fingers at the camera. She was wearing only a black and red teddy.

I have been assured that there are worse things than finding out via nationally broadcast television that your cuter than sin husband has been boinking an invasive, predatory species. When asked what, the immediate response is death, of course. Which is why the sheriff of Carderiff County is on his way here. But between you and me, I didn’t do it. Oh, I’ll probably tell the sheriff that too, so never mind the between you and me thing. We’ll just catch up later.

end 3/22/20167

S. Darlington

“I’ve Been a Bad, Bad Girl”

If thoughts are as bad as deeds, then Leah knows she’s karmically going to a really bad place.

Ever since Tony yelled viciously at the children, making Nellie cry body-racking sobs, she’s considered ways to leave him . . . or kill him.

But he’s constantly around, claiming to work from home. He doesn’t trust her. He thinks she’s going to run off with some man. What man? A bloke at the shop?

He watches her all the time, checks her mobile, even hacked into her email. He labels her best friend, Jane, a lesbo because Jane doesn’t react to his “charms.” Did he have some once? He must have. Once. Or she wouldn’t be here.

“Babe, fry me some mushrooms,” he says.

She almost says “no” because neither she nor the children like them. And, then she remembers the article warning about the deathcap mushrooms.

 

end 3/20/2017

S. Darlington

 

Semantics

My grandpa was a firm believer in words and thoughts. He often said, “If people could think their way out of a paper bag, there would be no wars.”

What paper bags had to do with wars, I never quite knew, but for a very long time I repeated that thought mostly to my classmates who nodded solemnly as if I had spoken great wisdom. Of course, Gar Parker, my nemesis, had to ask: “What’s that mean?”

I hitched myself up to my 4’7” and looked him firmly in his freckled nose and said: “It’s self-evident.”

He laughed. “You don’t know, do you?”

I pushed him. “I do so. It’s about wars and paper bags. I said so, didn’t I?”

He laughed harder and then had the audacity to pull one of my braids. I reared back and hit him with all of my might, which hurt me, probably more than him, although he did go sprawling on his backside and I had the momentary pleasure of seeing the tallest boy in class hunkering down, momentarily, in front of me. I didn’t know what to expect, certainly not the smile that appeared as his hand slid over his cheek.

“You hit hard for a girl,” he said.

Unfortunately for me, Miss Council saw me hit Gar and marched me to the Principal Cartwright’s office.

Later that evening, grandpa said: “Do not conquer your enemies, become one with them.”

The throb in my knuckles made those words sound like very good advice indeed. “He’s not an enemy, grandpa, he’s just a boy.”

Grandpa grinned. “One of those, eh? Now that’s much more work than an enemy.”

“No kidding.”

“But soon you’ll have him eating out of your hand.”

“He’s a boy, not a dog.”

“Semantics, my dear, semantics.”

 

end 3/19/2017

S. Darlington

 

Damages

 

Exchange Student XII

Previous installments of Exchange Student can be found here.

He looks dead.

His face is pale. There’s caked blood under his nose, along the ridge of his upper lip, on his chin. I glance around me before approaching him, surprised that he’s by himself.

“Eddie,” I whisper, half-afraid that he will not respond, half-afraid that he will. I take his hand in mine and squeeze. It’s warm to the touch and just that dissolves some tension.

His eyes open. For a moment he frowns as if trying to place me. “Posh. You’re here.”

I smile. “What happened?”

“I got pissed and went for a walk,” he says, a slur in his voice. He closes his eyes again, but his thumb rubs over the knuckles on my hand, letting me know he’s still awake.

I lift his hand to my lips, kiss his fingers.

The curtain opens with a rasp of its rings on the metal rod. A gray-haired man enters, his blue eyes flicking over me with something like disdain.
“Who are you?” he demands.

“I’m Eddie’s friend,” I say.

“Ah, the little American from the show. The controversy,” he says in a clipped accent as if I should understand what this last bit means. “I’m afraid you’ll have to go now. Edward’s on his way to a rehabilitation centre.”

Two male attendants appear as if on cue.

“Father, give me a moment with Posh,” Eddie says.

“Posh,” his father repeats. “No. We have no time. We must get you admitted into the facility. I have an appointment.”

Eddie clutches my hand as if it were a life-preserver. “You’ll visit?”

“Not possible. Only family,” his father says, summarily dismissing me.

Tears sting my eyes as I see the distress crease Eddie’s face. I lean over to kiss him when he grabs me by the upper arms and almost hauls me onto the hospital bed. He smells of beer and vomit and antiseptic.

“Don’t forget me,” he says, his voice urgent, almost panicked.

“That’s enough, Edward,” his father says. He then gestures to the attendants.

I watch them wheel the bed down a long corridor. There’s a strange silence around me, a vacuum. I feel almost afraid to move, as if movement will shatter calm. No one looks at me. I feel as if I am invisible. I fold my arms across my chest, tuck my chin downward, and walk into the permeating chill rain.

Tomorrow at this time I will be on a plane just hours out of Norfolk International Airport. My family will pick me up, be relieved to see that after a semester abroad I am unscathed.

My former crazy has been tamped down with the help of a soul nearly as broken as mine and I will think of him, nearly constantly at first, wondering about his hours and his welfare, wondering if he thinks of me, or if a new smiling visage inspires his heart. And I will daydream that somewhere down the years we will meet, perhaps at the Tonys or the Academy Awards or the BAFTAs. We will be elegant and charming and witty outwardly, but inwardly we will still be two kids, Posh and Eddie, who once fell in love.

 

end 3/18/2017

S. Darlington

Falling

Exchange Student XI

Previous installments of Exchange Student can be found here.

He tries to be gentle. He says he’s never been with a virgin before and, oddly, despite what I’ve seen, I believe him. I want him, but this is not lovely. It is not a gift. It feels sharp and painful, uncomfortable, like being jabbed with scissors.

“I’m sorry, Posh,” he says, his voice a whisper. He strokes my face gently, nuzzles my neck.

The pain ebbs, leaving a throbbing discomfort that I try not to think about. He holds me tightly to him. Our breathing merges as if we have become one. Abstract images of us play through my mind. I imagine never having to leave England, of being here with Eddie, for always. I fall asleep to such dreams.

When I wake, my face is pressed into his neck, legs entwined, his arms locked around me. A soft light filters through the window. It could be anytime from 9 to 3.

I hear the subtle shift in his breathing, know that he too is awake now.

“I could stay this way forever,” he says and then kisses me.

This time I understand why people have sex.

Back at my room, I plod through my homework, my brain only partly engaged. My mind is chaos.

We took a selfie in the back of the taxi and I stare at the image of our faces pressed together. I cannot rid myself of the feeling that this, what we have, is ephemeral. I send the image to my email so that there is a copy. At this moment, the image is the only proof of us.

I receive a text message from my Aunt Judy. She and my Uncle are touring Europe for three weeks and will be stopping in London to take me on a sightseeing trip to Scotland. The Glass Menagerie will be over by then. Classes will have ended. I had thought I would have that one week to be just with him before returning to life without him. There is no way to say no. Opportunity of a lifetime.

I feel time tumbling through my fingers.

 

end 3/10/2017

S. Darlington

 

Egress

Exchange Student X

Previous installments of Exchange Student can be found here or choose the one you may have missed: I, II, III, IVV, VI, VII, VIII, IX.

I don’t know where he’s taken me. Eddie hired a taxi that drove through darkened glistening streets until it jerked to a stop in front of an elegant stone building with a wrought iron fence in front and stone walls on either side. Now I look from him to the building, uncertain.

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