A Beginning to an End

(feb 2011)

Martin "Chuzzlewit" Dickens (oh, how he hated that nickname, slapped on him quite reasonably in his college days - he was an English Lit. major after all, and his last name is Dickens, fer fucksake...) sat staring into space as he so often did these days.
"What am I to do with my time?" he asked the empty room.
"How do I spend my remaining minutes, hours, days.... dare I hope weeks?"
He looked down at his feet, which just now struck him as impossibly small for a man over six feet tall. The thought "How do I even walk around on these things" ran around in his head a bit, got somewhat winded, and collapsed. Not unlike most of his so-called 'trains of thought' nowadays.
Yes indeed, Martin was at a crossroads, his dilemma compounded significantly by his now almost complete inability to focus on anything anymore. His once precious books lay dusty and rebuffed. All the music he had collected over these many decades sit ignored and silent, the majesty of their contents now sadly lost on him.
Even unconsciously absorbing the televised idiocy of the real world has lost it's charm.
Oh how he once loved to watch TV, sneering at the lowest common denominator.
It gave him relief, then, to fancy himself better, more evolved, a higher form of life.
All gone now. All the pretty delusions. All the dreams of tomorrow. Yesterday's news.

Rousing himself from his all-too-consuming reverie, Martin crosses the room, unsteadily wobbling towards the kitchenette of his tiny studio apartment.
Not taking him long to get there, he was astounded by his sudden arrival.
"How did I get from there to here? I don't recall even standing up, much less coming in here." These things have been happening a lot to him recently. A lot.

"Well, while I'm in here I may as well fix myself some lunch." he decided, his first decision (and food) of the day, already well into the afternoon.
Cobbling together a tuna salad on rye on autopilot left another few minutes for his mind to wander: "I wonder how many fish die each year to fill my sandwiches? I"ll wager it's a significant number...." the thought dissolving as he bit into the now assembled sustenance. Wandering back into the 'living room' , he munched as his mind wandered with him. The sandwich now consumed, he mused " Well, that's something done, anyway."

- - -

Helen walked into the room, dishtowel in hand, to see what all the commotion was about. "Why can't you two just get alo......"
The word froze in her mouth as she fainted.
Opening her eyes proved to be the wrong move entirely she thought as she took in the scene before her. Martin, her son, just ten years old, standing rigid and expressionless over the unconscious body of her husband. An amazing amount of blood pooled on
(or by now, in) the carpet as well as splashed up onto the pale lavender walls.
The thought "Now that's unattractive" flashed through her brain, shocking her at the mundanity of her reaction to the apparent patricide.
"Martin...?" she whispered tentatively.
The boy offered no response. In fact she had to squint a bit just to ascertain that he was breathing, so still has he remained these, what, ten, fifteen seconds.
She stood and took a few steps toward him, still astounded at her indifference to the prone body of the man she had spent the last twelve years of her life with.
"Martin .... come." she said softly as she reached him, enfolding him in her arms.
"Let's go away from here now."

College life agreed with Martin Dickens.
He felt for the first time in his life that he was in control of his own destiny, as sports announcers are fond of saying. Martin had no real interest in sports as such, but kept an eye (and ear) open to it so as to provide him with possible small talk, in case he ever made a friend or needed to 'break the ice' with a girl.
What Martin liked about being at Ohio State was that it was neither a very large school or a small, intimate one. There were more than enough people to get 'lost' among, to blend in with unnoticed, but the student body wasn't so large that it seemed overwhelming or suffocating. He was able to move freely about his business, hardly drawing a glance from the others, who seem very preoccupied with themselves anyway. Except for that nickname. "Chuzzlewit" . He hated it. Hated that it was the best that they could do, only confirming his opinion of, well pretty much everyone else.

It had been only a year since his mom, Helen had died.
Actually, not quite a year, the sad anniversary next Tuesday.
She had been ill for some time, so her passing was not a shock, maybe secretly a bit of a relief for them both, the last few weeks being especially hard on both of them.
As her life ebbed away, he realized quite viscerally that he was losing his only family, friend and confidant. On the other hand, The Secret would die with her - he could simply wipe any trace of it from his psyche now.

Martin was sitting, reading, smoking a cigarette (something he rarely did except in times of stress, so he was rather surprised at himself for lighting it) when the phone rang.
"Damn!" he sighed. "The phone always rings when you're comfortable, whether in the bath, an easy chair or bed, the phone always rings when you're comfortable."
Crossing over to the table where the faux-antique French telephone sat, he raised the receiver to his ear. "Hello? Can I help you?"
"Son, it's me. We need to talk."

Approaching the agreed-upon restaurant, his heart in his mouth, Martin's mind raced - "What is happening to me? Am I crazy? Why am I even here? Who could this person be? And what's going to happen? Blackmail? How does he know, whoever he is?"
Suddenly he realized he was standing in the doorway with his hand on the handle.
"In or out, Pal! Yer blockin' up the works!"
"Oh, sorry, sorry... I..."
"No prob, Bob, just pick in or out 'n do it, OK? Make a decision."
"Good advice" thought Martin.

"Bet you're a bit surprised to see me, eh boy? It's been quite a while, hasn't it?
"Who are you?"
"You mean, you didn't know I.... I mean, didn't your mother tell you...."
Martin just sits, rigid, expressionless.
"Didn't you mother ever tell you that I survived? You cracked my skull pretty good with that lamp that day, I'll tell you what, but I recovered after a while. After everything that had happened, y'know, before as well... well we both thought, I mean your mother and I... we both thought it would be best if I didn't contact either of you again. I only heard of her passing a month or so ago and have been fighting the urge to contact you since. I just couldn't fight it any longer."
"She said you were dead... that I...."
"Yeah, I've sort of gleaned that outta context if y'know what I mean."
"So now what?"

Ellen had been a great help to him, but now she too was gone.
He had met her at one of his many teaching gigs, in New York State at SUNY.
She liked his reserve, his amazing wealth of knowledge, not just in regard to English Literature, the subject she was assisting him in teaching, but in general.
He seemed like a very well grounded fellow. They were immediately attracted to each other, and he carried off his part in the mutual seduction so well, all thing considered, that she didn't know (until he subsequently admitted) that she'd been his first (and only).
She was so charmed by this for some reason that they were married only six months later. Now eleven years had passed, two and a half since the cancer took her away.

- - -

Stumbling out of bed and into the bathroom, Martin "Chuzzlewit" Dickens found himself staring at the mirror on which was written, apparently in blood and clearly in his own handwriting "I may not have a future, but at least I've had a past " .
After the third read through, he spat angrily, "Now what the bloody hell is that supposed to mean?"

© 2011 What "!" ho Productions
All Rights Deserved.
Short Fiction by B. Janoff