So here's the deal, just in case you haven't been following my brilliant musings over on Becoming Leigh Fischer, I am back and on a schedule. Surviving the Apocalypse will now be updated every Sunday, no later than 10 PM EST (though I will probably be a couple minutes late tonight, but it is my deadline).
Unfortunately, I do not have the next installment of Delirium Jane (she will be back next Sunday . . . probably . . . maybe). But I do have a short story for you. This is a recent short I wrote in response to a Lifetime Movie writing prompt. I took my inspiration from a local woman's real life apocalypse. My hometown peeps should appreciate this one. Enjoy!
Rebecca, Kerri, Vickie, and Alice have all met for their weekly book club meeting at The Leafy Dragon, a small café in town. They sit at a round table picking at sandwiches and salads, gossiping about anything other than whatever book they were supposed to be reading.
“Did you hear? The list is coming out today,” Rebecca says as she fiddles with her iPad.
“Of course I’ve heard. When was the last time we had something so scandalous go on around here?” Vickie squeals with excitement.
“I know, this is so much better than that time Margie’s sweet angel made the arrests section of the paper for drunk driving,” Kerri adds.
“You know, I wouldn’t be at all surprised if her husband’s name is on the list,” Vickie chuckles.
“How fabulous would that be?” Rebecca says with a devilish grin. “Could you imagine? Perfect Margie’s gorgeous husband . . . paying for sex!”
“I don’t know. I don’t think that’s very funny. They have had a lot of trouble lately and are going through some tough times, they aren’t so perfect,” Alice says quietly to her friends.
“Funny, her troubles don’t seem to have changed her attitude at all,” Kerri sneers.
“It’s up! The list! I found it! The Journal has it posted!” Rebecca cries.
The three other women immediately jump to their feet and push back their chairs. They rush around the table and crowd over Rebecca to get a look at the rumored list on her beautiful glowing crystal ball.
“Roger Adams? The high school football coach, Roger Adams?” Vickie asks.
“Must be. He’s the right age and I am pretty sure he lives on West Side,” Rebecca answers.
The women cluck excitedly as they scroll down through the list of men’s names, ages, and town of residence.
Many of the names they don’t recognize, but when they catch sight of one they do, there is a roar of laughter and hushed speculation.
“Oh my. Harry Richards.”
“What a shame.”
“Mary must be devastated.”
“Chris Taylor? That’s Samantha’s new boyfriend isn’t it?”
“I’d say that was Samantha’s new boyfriend.”
“Look, Leo Warren.”
“Not at all.”
As their eyes drop to the last name on the list, their chatter ceases and they stare in disbelief.
“No . . . it can’t be,” escapes from Kerri’s lips
“Of course not sweetie. There must be another Mike Wilson in South Ridge,” one of her friends says without conviction.
Kerri nods, but she can feel the burning in her eyes as they begin to well with tears and she knows the truth. She knows her husband has been linked to the scandal of the decade, if not the century, and her life as she knows it is over.
The headline first broke three weeks ago, ZUMBA INSTRUCTOR ARRESTED FOR PROSTITUTION! The headline alone was sensational enough for the small city, but as the days passed and the police continued their investigation, more and more details were released to the public.
It really was a fabulous story, unlike anything that had ever been seen before. A beautiful young woman in her early thirties open’s a new zumba studio. She’s a local girl. Older folks remember her as a child and everyone else remembers going to school with her. Her business is wonderfully busy, but then again, zumba is all the rage. It is the perfect success story for a lovely girl. And then the gorgeous façade falls apart. She is arrested in the middle of one of her classes in a thrillingly public display of police power. It is soon released that she has been charged with a list of felonies a mile long to include prostitution, conspiracy to commit prostitution, and tax fraud and evasion. The absolute best part was that she kept meticulous records of all her clients. 137 johns were listed over a two year period. It was rumored that the list contained notables including a few politicians, a local news anchor, and a county judge.
Once the names had been scrubbed and the paperwork filed to bring charges against the johns, the list was released to the public and that is when all hell broke loose.
“Michael! How could you do this to me? Do you have any idea what it was like? How humiliating it was? Right there in the middle of The Leafy Dragon!” Kerri screams at her husband in their kitchen later that night.
“God Kerri! You find out that I’m cheating and you’re upset about where you found out? Only you!” Mike screams back, exasperated.
“Everyone knows! It’s everywhere! You should have seen the look on Vickie’s face.”
“Oh I’m sure I can-“
“And Alice couldn’t even look at me!” Tears stream down her face as she crosses her arms and looks away from her husband. “It’s not just cheating. This is so much worse. It’s so . . . so . . . so public.”
“I didn’t even want to do zumba. It was your idea,” Mike mutters.
“What? So this is my fault? I didn’t realize that you were incapable of working out and keeping your dick in your pants! Should I also be concerned about what you’re doing with Greg when you go play ‘basketball’ with him?”
“No! Of course not!”
“What am I going to do? Just what am I going to do?”
“I don’t know what you’re going to do, but I know exactly what I’m going to do.”
“And what is that, Michael?”
“I’ve already gotten a lawyer. I’m going to fight this.”
“But that means . . . You can’t! I won’t let you!”
“You won’t let me? Try and stop me! There is no way I am going to jail over this. My lawyer thinks I have a case.”
“But if you fight it in court and go to trial it will be all over the news. You can’t. Just when people will be starting to forget, it will start all over again.”
“Kerri, don’t be ridiculous. This is my life, my freedom, we are talking about. Not some bad dye job you don’t want anyone to see.”
“Michael, think of your children.”
“I am, damn it!”
Headlights beam through the kitchen window as a car pulls into the driveway, silencing both Mike and Kerri instantly.
“Not a word about this,” Kerri hisses at her husband.
Seventeen year-old Lisa walks through the door and stares at her parents. Kerri is leaning against the kitchen sink with her arms crossed. Trying to look natural and comfortable, she forces her arms to her sides and grimaces at her daughter. Mike shifts his weight awkwardly with his hands shoved into his pockets. His eyes dart about the room avoiding contact with the other two women.
“So it’s true,” Lisa says quietly as she closes the door.
“What’s true, sweetie?” Kerri says in a voice all too playful.
“Mother, cut the crap. It’s all over town. Everyone knows. Did you know Milo was running a pool? Little bugger made 500 bucks.”
“What? A pool?” This time Kerri’s ignorance is sincere.
“Yea. When the cops first said they were gonna’ release the list, he started getting kids at school to bet that their dad’s names were on the list.”
“What kind of kids bet against their own fathers?”
“Well, at first it was just the kids that know they have shitty dads. But as the pool got bigger, more people wanted in, just in case . . . I think some of the teachers even got in on it.”
Kerri stares at her daughter in disbelief, trying to make sense of her words.
Lisa shakes her head. “I should have listened to him. Right from the beginning he said Dad was a sure thing since Dad did zumba.”
“That doesn’t mean anything. She had plenty of legitimate students,” Mike says defiantly.
“But you weren’t one of them!” Kerri screams, ending her momentary ceasefire.
“Where is your brother?” Mike asks his daughter, ignoring his wife as she bursts into uncontrolled sobs.
“I dropped him at Zach’s. He didn’t want to be here for this. Can’t say I blame him. I’m just here to make sure she doesn’t try to kill you or something.”
Mike smiles weakly at his daughter. “I’m sorry kiddo. I . . . this wasn’t . . . I didn’t . . .”
“It’s ok, Dad. Me and Milo, we’re gonna be fine.” Lisa walks to her father and wraps her arms around him. “Mom, is another story.”
Mike kisses the top of her head. “No matter what happens, remember I love you kids. I always will.”
Kerri hasn’t left the house in days. She is too ashamed to be seen in public. Mike wants to move out, to give her some space and time, but she just bursts into tears and cries that having her husband walk out on her would only add insult to injury. Instead, he sleeps in the guest room and spends long hours at the office.
“Ma, you should get cleaned up and go out to dinner with Aunt Alice. She was asking about you,” Milo says. He is a precocious fourteen year old who frequently forgets his age and place in the world.
Kerri continues to surf through the endless TV channels. Lounged on the couch, she wears red plaid pajamas and a pink bathrobe. There is a half empty box of tissues next to her on the floor and dozens of used ones crumpled and scattered about. An empty pint of Chunky Monkey is tipped over on the coffee table and the last of the ice cream has melted, dripped out and congealed on the wood.
“Ma, you stink. It’s August and you’re wearing flannel. When was the last time you showered?”
Kerri ignores her son’s pleas until he shrugs and gives up, leaving her to wallow.
“I heard that she hasn’t left the house in over a month,” Margie whispers to her husband while they wait for the high school band performance to begin.
“And where did you hear that?” Jim asks, humoring his wife.
“Laura told me.”
“And our daughter is always such a reliable source,” Jim says dryly.
“Well she heard it directly from the horse’s mouth. Or damn near. The Wilson Boy-“
“Milo,” he corrects.
“Yes, yes. Milo’s locker is next to Laura’s. She overheard him telling his friends. They were placing bets.”
“On when she’s going to leave the house!”
“Of course I can’t blame her. What he did to her . . . she’s ruined.”
“She’s not ruined, it’s just an affair.”
“An affair? It’s prostitution. It’s public. In the newspaper. On TV. I bet they’ll even make a movie about this. It’s humiliating. If I were her, I would probably kill myself.”
“Baby, that’s a bit harsh. And why do you even care?”
“That bitch is always spreading filthy lies about me . . . shhh the band is starting.”
At 9 pm on a Wednesday night approximately six weeks after the list was released to the public, Channel 6 cuts from a sitcom to a news anchor in his late thirties with beautiful wavy brown hair and a sparkling smile.
“Ladies and gentlemen, we are interrupting our regularly scheduled programming to bring you this late breaking report. Just moments ago, an hours long standoff between police and a local woman ended in tragedy. We now go live to Jessica Thomas, on site. Jessica?”
The image cuts to a blonde woman standing in a residential neighborhood with a police officer.
“Thanks Tim. I am standing here with Officer Reynolds who was the first officer to report to the site and has been here through the whole ordeal. Officer what can you tell us?”
“Yea, I got a call ‘round 6. Neighbors had called in a domestic. Said there was a lot of yelling going on. When I got here things were pretty quiet. I knocked on the door. No answer. I tried again. Still no answer. As I started to walk away I heard someone scream ‘she’s got a gun.’ At that point I radioed for backup. It turned out the mother had taken her husband and two kids hostage.”
“What happened next, Officer,” Jessica coaxes.
The officer shakes his head, suddenly distraught. “We messed up. Damn, we messed up bad. We waited too long or we rushed too soon. We did something wrong. We were trying to negotiate. We thought we were getting somewhere with her. Then all of a sudden . . . bam . . . bam-bam . . . . . . bam. She killed them all and then she kill-“
“This interview is over. Reynolds, get back to the station,” another police officer says as he rushes up and puts his hand in front of the camera.
Jessica tries to hold onto her scoop. “Officer, we are-”
“This interview is over; the Chief will be calling a press conference within the hour. You can get your story then.”
The feed cuts back to the handsome anchor in the studio.
“We will keep you posted as this story unfolds and details become available. We apologize for the interruption and now return you to regularly scheduled broadcasting, already in progress.”
The feed jumps back to the sitcom, leaving viewers to speculate about what had happened, whose family had been ruined, and why.