A Chapter by Tom Cook



                "I didn't mean it." Mara says.

                "Yes you did. Why else would you have said it?"

                "Because I was hurt and angry with you. I was upset." We both fall back and lay on the bed staring at the ceiling. She folds her hands across her stomach and closes her eyes. Our heads spin. Drunk, or maybe buzzed.

                "I want to believe you."

                "You should."

                "I'm not sure how."

                "What other reason would bring me here?"

                "I'm not sure. To make yourself feel better," she laughs and rolls her eyes. "Abraham Lincoln always said that humans act out of kindness to others because of selfishness."

                "What do I gain from this then, Clarence?"

                "I don't know. Triumph, a final victory over me. Over my mother."

                Mara begins to laugh. She folds her cardigan in as if to cover her plump breasts and stops. She rolls her eyes to the window and then back at me.

                "Should I jump then, Clarence?"


                "I want to jump." She sits up and walks to the window where she presses her hand against the skin of the glass.

                "Don't jump."

                "Why not?"

                "Because I don't want you to?"

                "And why not? What would you lose."

                I pause a moment and bite my lip. A dense crushing feeling sulking over my heart, burying me under layers and layers of loving decay. There are the usual worms and maggots and mites and muddy tree roots. But I don't feel so empty. Not so sad, there is something happy down there.

                "A friend." I say.

* * *

                A year and six months, the court said. A year and six months before I could finalize my Tradition and Honor contract for my family. The year, they said, was a probation period to ensure that I wouldn't harm myself and to see if I would remain healthy--Cross played his cards right and got me out of rehab. The six months was for reflection. To see if I would reconsider. But I figured a year and six months was long enough to debate, even though I had over ten years to make up my mind at the time. Mother wanted to get it done with as soon as possible and she harped me over the year and six months. So I told her why and she was upset that she had to wait because I tried to kill myself. Mother's love, I'm sure. The rejected vessel, the black sheep. I was a lot of things to my family and at the same time didn't mean one.

                Mara moved out and left me. She dated a bartender for a couple months and then a flight school teacher for awhile too. They ended, but not on the same terms we did. Their finale was less dramatic, I'm sure, and maybe even cordial. Mutual feelings even. I like to imagine them at a coffee house discussing their relationship and where it's headed and how it's not working but how they still respect the other person. Love ends, but respect remains. That's hard to achieve, I always thought. And then they would hug and keep in touch every few weeks or so.

                I hadn't heard a word from Mara months into my probation period when mother called and invited me to the house for dinner. The last time she invited me, anywhere, was my high school graduation. She forgot all my favorite foods and drinks, and even forgot how much I hated seafood.

                I knocked on the door and was struck in the face by the aroma of baked salmon. She even bought shellfish at a high price down at the market. She griped about living in the Midwest and how much she wished to have her restaurant back. Father grunted and Carissa stayed in her room.

                "Can you help me with the table, Clarence?" She asked and handed me a column of fancy plates with flower decals. Father sat in his recliner in the living room reading a vid on the West. In the seven years I had been gone from this home nothing had changed. The same picture frames of Carissa but with a few added from junior high and high school. The wedding picture, a vacation shot at Daytona Beach. Paintings from French artists. Then a line of me that looked like the evolution of man. Baby pictures and then toddler. Many as a child, I don't remember my parents being the way they are when I was a child. A little league photo and then my freshman class picture. Then after that there's...nothing. Not a goddamn thing. It seemed my family cut me out when I was around fourteen years old.

                The dining room table had been replaced. A longer and more elegant design with spice furnishing. My mother talked about it when she drug me into the kitchen. The TV reflected off the glossy skin of the table and hovered in her eyes as she told me. I set the plates and mother started to talk about the restaurant.

                "It's been a long time since I cooked a meal like this one. Since I had the restaurant, Clarence."

                "It hasn't been that long." I said.

                "I know. But a few months makes you feel rusty," she pauses and I know the memories of losing that place come back. "She was a sweetheart you know. But a terrible worker. Real good person outside of work but really sly."

                "You alright?"

                "I'm fine, Clarence. I miss it though."

                Mother hands me silverware that has been wrapped in thick and coarse napkins with a small ruby wrap around the center of it. Just like old times, she would have said. Old times die hard though. She holds one in her hand and rolls it along her fingers and palm. I thought she would cry but she held back.

                "Where's Mara?" She asked.

                "I rather not talk about it," I say. "We had a falling out awhile back. She needs her space and well I need mine."

                "I'm sorry, Clarence." I hated when she said that. Every time we saw each other it felt like one of us was a thick wool blanket that suffocated the other. This whole dinner was a charade for the future. A s****y olive branch that on the surface wanted to make amends but beneath the marrow and flesh it only craved my blood. I never even called her mom or ma, just mother and I hardly said that to her at all.

                "I know. But these things happen."

                "You know your father and I never approved of her. We knew she was trouble." I saw her angle. To bleed out Mara's name to me a little more, just enough to make me revel at the thought of her.

                "I bet."

                "I'm serious, Clarence. She seemed like she wanted to use you."

                "For what?"

                "For, for money of course!"

                "We had the same degree," I rebutted. "If anything I would've made the same as her."

                "Clarence, girls are smart. I'm sure she bled you a little bit. A dinner here and a movie there. Maybe one of those laser vid concerts that kids are going to these days."

                "We didn't go out much. We liked to stay in a lot and cook. If we did anything we always ran or played tennis, go on picnics. We didn't have much."

                "Well not many people do these days, Clarence," she smiled, hinting toward her and father. "And don't say we anymore. It's a new start, Clarence! You have your family that loves you."

                I force a smile and nod. Even then I should have known better. The steam rises from the oven as mother checks the salmon. She prepares sides and numerous salads and brings out a bottle of wine she claimed to have been around during the Eisenhower administration. We take our seats around the table and begin to eat in silence until mother raps her glass with a spoon.

                "A toast," she said raising her glass of wine. "To family."

                "To family." We all said.

* * *

                "Two hours, Clarence," Mara said. "And she hasn't even come to see if you're okay or rang up here even."

                "I suppose she's just having a good time. She needs to unwind a little."

                "Shut up, Clarence."

                I smile and stand beside her at the window. The baseball game in the distance has ended, a long line of bright lights fill the parking lots and streets. The glowing eyes of the surrounding buildings begin to shut for the night and I think about holding Mara's hand. Maybe just once, for old time sake. Nothing major or new. Just to feel something before I go through with it.

                "You wanna jump?" I ask her.


                "I mean it. You said you wanted to jump, well. Let's do it together." I grab her hand at her waist and squeeze it for a minute. She squeezes back and gently pulls it away.

                "Are you drunk, Clarence?"

                "Think about it. If you were do it you should do it with me. Together."

                "No, Clarence." She said and walked back to the bed.

© 2012 Tom Cook

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Added on August 14, 2012
Last Updated on August 14, 2012
Tags: suicide, room, fate, death, jack, kevorkian, violence, dystopia


Tom Cook
Tom Cook

Cape Girardeau, MO

My fiction has been published in the World of Myth, my body in Play-girl. I'm an editor for Wednesday Night Writes, please send me your stories, flash fiction, and poetry, I want you to know the wa.. more..

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