Broken Puppets

I’ve got some new stories for 2022 in a collection I’m calling Others. Each story is about the weird side of relationships. Connection Lost was the first, here’s the next.

Broken Puppets

They were fighting again last night.

I hear them all the time, from up here in my box, at the top of this old house in the woods. They are like my puppets except they have minds of their own and like to use them against each other in unspeakable ways. They scream at each other, beat each other up, slam doors and sob quietly in the corners.

I thought it was only my family that lived like this, in routine hatred of each other. I thought all the other families were happy, playing board games around the polished coffee table, smiling warmly at each other, rolling their eyes when the littlest one drops their pieces.

Guess I was wrong, man. Guess all the families are the same; all fucked up in their own special yet completely unoriginal ways.

I left home when I was just a kid, you know, and I’ve drifted around from place to place since, so I don’t remember much about that old place, the place where I grew up. All I remember is the pain. I can dimly recall being in my bedroom; all blood red walls, a scratched up portable TV, a mattress on the floor, me sitting there, looking through the window, out at all the other houses in my dumb little farming village, seeing them all still and dark and quiet, the lights off, curtains closed. Those houses looked so peaceful to me, like the families inside them were sleeping with smiles on their faces.

Not like our house. The lights were always on in our house.

But now I’m older and I’ve been around, lived in all kinds of messy places, I guess all the houses are the same, full of shouting and screaming, only the sounds get drowned out before they reach the neighbours.

I swear it wasn’t always like this, here in my new home. From up in my little box at the top of the house, I used to only hear the muffled sounds of TV, amicable conversation over home cooked dinner, lovemaking, or even nothing at all.

Bliss.

But since I’ve been here, I’ve felt the love that once filled the space between these walls evaporate and escape through the ceiling, through the branches of the trees hanging over the roof, out into the big empty sky where everything gets lost.

Now this place just feels like the last place I was in; cold, dirty, full of hostility. I swear, man, something happens to the atmosphere in a place where people are trapped. The air breathed in by the imprisoned gets poisoned and turns those inside into blocked up strangers.

I may be the only one in a box, but I am certainly not the only prisoner here.

I mean, they hardly even fuck anymore, which is a real shame because I like listening to the damp animal sounds coming from the floorboards beneath me. Ellie’s squeals, Mike’s pig grunts, the friction of their burning skin.

I like to close my eyes as tight as I can and imagine it’s me down there, with Ellie, instead of Mike, pouring myself into and all over her, or at least watching from the corner.

Ellie. She’s too good for this world. I like to watch her leave for work every morning, from my tiny little circular window, in my box at the top of this old house. I watch her, always dressed nice, always with her head high and her shoulders straight, and I watch Mike, her husband who has more than he’ll ever appreciate. I watch them kiss goodbye, before they get in their cars and drive away.

It is always the best part of my day.

But yeah, like I said, their relationship has gone into freefall.

It all started going to shit when Ellie found the fake eyelash in Mike’s car. Not hers.

I thought it was over that night. The way Ellie cried, man, I can still hear it now. Like a wounded animal. Mike both denied the crime and apologised for it at the same time, insisting that nothing happened and he was terribly sorry. What a prick. He said he didn’t deserve her but couldn’t live without her and if she ever left him he would put his head in the oven. I remember that last part because it sounded like the kind of thing my father would say, probably. I can barely remember the man’s face now, but I can vaguely recall the threats he would make to my mother when the fact that he was a failure got to him.

Man, even from up here in my dusty old room, I could hear the guilt leaking from Mike’s mouth. He was and is full of shit. But, hey, Ellie listened to it all, and a whole lot more sobbing and shouting later, the excited sounds of the bedsprings told me the married couple I share a home with were working things out.

I was shocked, I mean, if someone betrayed me like that, I’d strangle them before walking away forever. But I guess that’s what a relationship is: forgiving each other of things you would easily murder others for.

Ellie said she loves him too much to divorce him, which is a shame because Ellie deserves a man who will loyally lie at her feet and feed her opium filled grapes, and also because I wanted to know if Mike really would put his head in the oven.

Now, well, shit. My gut tells me it’s a matter of time. If the fighting goes on she’ll either leave him or chop him up and mix the parts up with sawdust, set fire to it and also to the whole house and then to herself.

She says she forgives him but that’s an easy thing to say. You know, babe, it was all a misunderstanding, babe, I just gave some colleague a lift home and her eyelash must have slipped off her face, come on, nothing happened, nothing fucking happened; but, well, as I understand it, forgiveness doesn’t entail a repeated trial of the same crime. Every night they have the same fight, unless they don’t, and the house is silent, which is somehow much worse.

Mike pleads the same weak story about his new colleague who is in sales and in her early thirties and from somewhere North and needed a lift to her new flat in the city and was wearing a green sweater and (he added more details when pressed) is single as far as he knows they hardly talk anyway and what about you, huh, Ellie, what about you and that guy from that party who you gave your number to, hey, what the fuck about that guy?

Ellie insists on hearing the same details of the story over and over like she gets off on it. Mike delivers the same lines; he’s had time to hone and polish them by this point. It’s like they’re both taking part in some sick role play, to an invisible audience. Except the audience is me and neither of them knows it. 

I sometimes wish I could rip open the door to my box, climb down my ladder, go down there, grab the pair of them by their throats and strangle some sense into them, you’re throwing it away guys, throwing it all away, the very thing everyone wants! What’s wrong with you! Idiots! Hey, Mike! How about you refrain from pounding your secretary, how about that? Or if you really can’t help yourself, if you really just have to do it, how about you don’t do it in your goddamned car?! How does that sound? Hey, Ellie! If you are going to leave him, why not check out the guy sitting right above your head, the guy you don’t even know exists, because maybe, just maybe, he’s the real man for you?

But of course, I’ll never do anything like that. I will sit up here in my dusty old room at the top of this house in the woods, and I will wait for the hours of the day where the house is free, empty, mine.

I will do everything in my power to ensure they never learn of my existence. I suspect my new housemates would be afraid of me if they ever saw me, though I would never hurt them.

It’s not going to be easy, but it’s not me I’m worried about.

I just hope Mike and Ellie can work it out.

*

The sound of the grand oak door closing is the signal. I jump up from my bed of old discarded clothes and newspapers. I crawl over to my little circular window and poke my head up.

There she is.

Oh yes.

She’s wearing the jade blouse today, and the hoop earrings. She looks good, she always looks good. He comes up behind her, still working on his tie.

Two cars. And this big country house, in this outstanding area of natural beauty.

They’re too young to be so rich, they must have family money in this place. I don’t know what Mike does for a living, exactly; I know it’s in an office and I know it involves selling machinery, but I’ve heard him talking about “the bosses” a lot, so I’m guessing he’s not one of them, I’m guessing he’s one of the low level cubicle chimps with a miniature globe on his desk and an inevitable receding hair line. Yeah that’s right buddy, from up here I can see everything, even if your beautiful five foot three wife hasn’t noticed yet, I have, and she will soon enough, and then we’ll see if she still loves you, then we’ll see if little miss fake eyelash whore will want you then, yeah, how about that Mike, you ungrateful cunt.

I’ve figured out that Ellie is a schoolteacher. I’ve heard her talking about the children, seen her packing books and pens and pencils and shit into a big bag in the morning. I’m not sure what age her students are, but I bet they love her, I bet the highlight of their little lives is staring at her for several hours a day, sharing and breathing the same air, if they’re old enough I bet the girls envy her intensely and the boys masturbate over her furiously, I bet she brings a genuine speck of meaning into their lives and into this miserable fucking world.

But even I know teachers are overworked underpaid donkeys who can’t afford big country houses.

Yep, my guess is her parents, or Mike’s parents or both, invested well in their youth, left a nice little nest egg to the newlyweds.

Really, man, these idiots don’t have a clue what they’re throwing away.

I watch them as they open their car doors.

They skip the kiss goodbye.

Shit.

A first, a new low.

It is worse than I thought.

What next?

They get in their cars and drive away.

I dwell on that absent kiss for a while. The start of a slippery slope. First they miss the ritual kiss, then the next thing they know they’re divorced, living separately in mouldy apartments, eating stale cereal and wondering who’s to blame.

I try my best to forget about it, because now, the day is mine. For the next eight hours, I am the master of this house. I open the hole in the floor and climb down the ladder. My feet touch the soft beige carpet of the landing. I head straight to the bathroom, take the longest piss. After that I splash water on my face, gargle a drop of mouthwash.

Then I go downstairs, to the kitchen.

Even I’m not crazy enough to think Mike and Ellie won’t notice if I take their food. But their family money affords them to live like pigs. They throw away enough to feed me and a couple of other people, and hey, there’s plenty of room in my shitty dusty box, I could do with some company, maybe I’ll invite someone.

I mean, alright, yeah, I get to come down here eight hours day, five days a week, eat, piss and shit and shit, read the papers, watch TV and maybe if I’m feeling brave take a bath, if I’m feeling braver go through the drawers and try on Ellie’s underwear, but the rest of the time, I am confined to my box, just like the last place I was in. Only this time I have to be extra quiet and still. I can hear every damn sound they make through the floorboards, so I can only assume they will hear me too if I move, cough or breathe too loudly. The weekends are the worst, especially the rainy, lazy pyjama day weekends, where they decide to stay at home all goddamned day and I have to wait until the dead of night, until their snores are thick enough to convince me that I can crawl through the house undetected.

I came here to be free, man, but look at me. Guys like me spend their whole lives trying to be free. But wherever we go we’re still in a box.

Half a sandwich in the bin, bullseye, oh shit and a half a dozen dumplings and a fishcake and both breakfast and lunch are served. Boom. You’d be surprised how little food you actually need to survive and how much is just greed. I mean, yeah, I look like shit, but I’ve always looked like shit, even when I was paying for my food, which is why guys like me end up hiding all their lives and guys like Mike have beautiful women like Ellie and fake eyelash whore lining up for him.

The world is a cruel place, man. 

I heat up the bin food and check the fridge for expendables. Some grapes. Cheese. A few nuggets of a chocolate bar if I felt like pushing my luck. Half an opened bottle of wine.

The calendar on the wall says it’s Tuesday and that means I have been here for nine months. That’s the longest stretch I’ve done in one place since childhood. Funny how you try to predict where you’ll go, what you’ll be like, what you’ll yearn for and what’ll make you happy, and you always get it off, way the fuck fucking far way off, isn’t that funny, isn’t that soul-destroyingly funny?

Normally on Tuesdays I wait for the Jehovah’s witnesses to turn up and answer the door and invite them in and talk to them for an hour or two about their relationships with their fathers.

But today I actually have something to do. Something important. This is a rare opportunity and I intend to grab it.

Today I can make a difference in the small lives of Mike and Ellie, like the puppet master I am. Though sometimes I wonder if there’s someone bigger, looking down on me, playing with me like a toy. 

They were fighting about the goddamned washing machine again last night. It’s been broken for weeks and Mike said he would fix it then when he tried and broke it even more he said he would call someone out to do it and he hasn’t even done that and Ellie is fed up and so am I.

Obviously the fight wasn’t really about the washing machine, it was about Mike fucking women’s eyelashes off in the backseat of his car on his lunch break and spinelessly lying about it. Well, Mike, you asshole, I hope you appreciate what I’m about to do for you. I can fix a goddamned washing machine, even if I can’t do much else in this world.

I know they keep the tools in the garage because, well, I’ve looked at every inch of this house. I know where he keeps his cigarettes, I know where she keeps her vibrator. I know they have termites in the walls. I know they have a record collection worth easily a couple of grand sitting in their attic that they don’t know about because they never come up there. I know they inherited this place and all their money and got married too young, too young to know how to do anything except fuck it all up.

Those guys. They’re lucky they have me.

I get the tools and it takes me an hour, hour and a half tops. The Jehovah’s come and knock, but they only knock once and leave quickly, probably avoiding the patronising grilling they sign up for every week.

When I finish fixing the washing machine (was it so damned hard for you to do that, Mike, you piece of shit!) I sneak a little bit of wine from the opened bottle in the fridge as a reward. Ellie won’t notice; she’ll be too thrilled about the smooth running of the machine, the dazzling white of her delicates.

And I gave her that.

That one little victory in a world full of defeat.

I smile as the wine burns my insides and makes me shiver.

*

– Fuck me like you fucked that washing machine, big man, yes, who’s the man of the house? Who’s Mr Handy man? That’s right plumber man, my pipes are in need of a good service, fuck me like you fucked that washing machine, Mike, I love you!

Does this count as a threesome if I made it happen?

He’s really giving it to her, just like in the old days. Yeah, Mike, you piece of shit, give it to her, give it to her from me. I knew you would blindly take credit for fixing the washing machine, I knew you would quietly wonder in the back of your head how the hell that happened and would presume it somehow fixed itself, but you would see Ellie’s life-affirming smile and you would run with it – Uh, yeah, yeah babe that was me, I snuck down here in the night when you were sleeping like an angel in our bed and I fixed this fucking thing, I was real quiet, I wanted to keep it a surprise, you know me baby, always the romantic, now let’s fuck until morn.

A couple of times Ellie’s erotic screams get too much for me and I vomit. Luckily they can’t hear a sound I’m making up here as they’re too wrapped up in each other and their symphony. At least for once and I can move and scratch and cough and shit.

– Who’s the man of the house? Hit me with your tool! Harder!

I close my eyes.

It is me there, with her, with them. Their invisible guardian angel. They will, they must, never know what I did for them today.

And hey, damn, Mike is killing it, beating his average time of eleven minutes by a solid stretch. From the sounds of it, Ellie’s had a cracking time, but is now ready to sleep and is beginning to clock on. She is not used to having her husband fuck her like a porn star. This can’t go on all night, they’ve got work in the morning.

Ellie’s cries slow and then stop. Something’s up.

– Stop.

– Oh yeah.

– Mike, stop.

– Nguhhh.

– Mike, stop!

– . . . What’s wrong?

– Why haven’t you come?

– What?

– You never last twenty minutes.

– . . . Yeah I do.

– Pull your dick out of me.

– I’m close.

– Mike.

– Come on.

– Get your fucking dick out of me.

Shloop.

– What the fuck is going on?

– I thought I was having sex with my wife who came back to me.

– Why can’t you come Mike?

– I was about to.

– No you weren’t, I know when you’re about to.

She is sat upright, on the bed, the blanket wrapped around her naked body. He tries to sit close to her but she moves away.

Don’t ask me how I know this, but when you really use all your senses you can see things you never knew you could.

– Why are you being like this?

– Being like what? Answer the fucking question.

– What question?

– Why haven’t you come? Is it because you already came inside someone else today? Who, Mike? Who did you come inside today?

– . . . You’ve gone insane, Ellie. That’s happened now.

– Why can’t you just answer the fucking question?

– Because it’s not even worth answer –

– Who did you come inside today Mike? How many? Some? A lot of people?

I can hear the crescendo of franticness in Ellie’s voice. Her husband’s ears may not be tuned to it yet, by the way he’s antagonising her so deafly I have to think that’s the case, but even I, the drifter, who they have no idea exists, can sense that if Mike doesn’t stop being a piece of shit soon, Ellie is going to snap.

– Ten seconds ago we were fine.

That’s the best he can do? Man. A bit of the blame must go to Ellie for this, for marrying such a dipshit in the first place.

The fighting goes on all night, again. It seems my little trick did not work.

It seems my dumb broken little puppets are in far more trouble than I thought.

It seems only I can save them.

*

It doesn’t take much to be a good husband. All you need is a good memory.

Something like six months ago, or actually how the fuck should I know how long ago it was, time doesn’t really exist for me anymore; I remember Ellie mentioning how she loves the wildflowers that grow in the forest around this country house.

Chicories, daffodils, foxgloves, harebells, bluebells, a load more. All the bright shiny colours.

I remember hearing the unsubtle hint from way up in my shitty little box: go get me some goddamned flowers, Mike. Loud and clear. As I remember Mike said something like – mmm. He doesn’t know women at all.

Morning comes around again.

They didn’t sleep at all last night, but they still get up to go to work. I hear the heavy old door closing. I rush to the window.

She looks like shit today. Yellow bags under her eyes, hair still wet from the shower, dress not zipped up properly, makeup not finished.

Funny how even when she looks like shit she looks like gold.

Mike is behind her, looking like he needs to see a doctor. His skin is a kind of grey, his eyes aren’t even fully open. He’s not even bothering with a tie; he’s clearly just thrown on the nearest shirt. He’s trying and failing to suppress a permanent yawn.

They don’t even think about the kiss goodbye. They are far away from each other, closed off and blocked up and burned out.

They get in their cars and drive away and leave me with their house.

I’m always the one who has to fix everything.

I open my door, go downstairs. In the bin there’s three quarters of a pasta bake. I eat breakfast like a king. I take extra liberties and help myself to a coffee, guessing they’re too tied up in their battles to add a new fight about who used up the Kenco. The steamy, milky brew hits my mouth and tastes like the stuff they use to make the clouds angels sit on.

I guess this is one good thing about my deprived box life: I really fucking appreciate little things like a good coffee now.

I finish my breakfast and head up to the bedroom. I’m going to help them, really I am, but I’m feeling pretty pissed off with Mike this morning so after breakfast I rub his clothes all over my balls. If his sense of smell is as obtuse as his other senses, he won’t even notice, but I actually hope he does. I hope he puts on his shirt and a faint waft of pube sweat infiltrates his entitled nostril hair.

Fuck you Mike.

I take a hot wet dump, then head outside.

I’ve walked through these forests before, a bunch of times, so I know my way around. My room can get suffocating, it’s good to have somewhere to walk around in. My last place didn’t have that. We had outdoor time, thirty minutes a day of standing around in a yard, waiting to be called in. No forests full of tall whispering trees and vibrant wildflowers though. 

The little things.

Trees, man, I’ve always had a thing for trees. They look like they know the answers to all the questions in the world they just have better things do to than talk about it. I gaze up at them in their silent majesty as I walk through the forest. They’re watching over me. Nice of them.

I pick a collection of the best flowers I can find. I gather them in my pocket, walk around for an hour so, savouring the crispness of the morning.

When it’s time, I head back to the old house in the woods.

*

I step into the kitchen and look for the notepad, the one they use to leave passive aggressive reminders to each other about their respective chores.

They usually sign the notes with a heart or a kiss or an “I love you”, but people who really love each other don’t need notes, not if you ask me, not that anyone does.

As much as I can save Mike’s marriage, I can’t literally put words in his mouth, as much as I might like to, as much as I’d like to forcefully shove some words down his throat as well as my fist; so I need to write a note on his behalf. He always gets home from work around thirty minutes before Ellie. He usually spends that time scratching his balls on the sofa, but today, Mike feels like a romantic gesture. I have decided this for him.

I am god.

These people and their marriage, they are my playthings.

I get little shivers on the white hairs of my forearms while I write.

“Came home from work early. I remembered. X”

Yes Mike, he who overcompensates for forgetting Valentine’s day with an oversized stuffed teddy holding a vomit-inducing heart, here’s a lesson, buddy: sometimes less is more.

Just as I allow myself a smile, putting my broken puppets back together, I hear something.

The clearing of a throat. The sniffing of a runny nose. The shuffling of feet.

Someone is home.

I put the pen down on the kitchen counter and go completely still.

I hear another cough, then the sound of gentle sobbing.

A woman’s voice.

From upstairs, in the bedroom.

It is a voice I know too well yet not even close to well enough.

Ellie must have come home from work early. Maybe she stood up in front of her captivated audience of children, tried to speak, and broke down before them.

Goddamn it, Mike, you motherfucker, look what you’ve done, look what you’ve done to this poor woman, she’s at home, all alone, sniffling like a little girl, crying into her pillow, all because of you, the man she entrusted with the best parts of her life.

It really takes something special to be that much of a piece of shit, Mike, I’ve got to give you that, at least.

I plant my hands firmly on the counter and keep them there. This is unprecedented. In all my nine months which is more like fifty years that I’ve been here, neither of them has ever come home early from work, not once. There was that time Mike took a sick day, but even I could tell he was faking it and was scared of the sexual tension in his office place with his secretarial female colleagues who when they take their glasses off and let their hair down look like temptresses. You knew it would get to you, didn’t you, Mike? Well, what would you say if you found out it was me who planted that eyelash in your car? Huh? What if I took the bus into town one morning, stole a set of fake eyelashes with extra jazz factor so she can look her best for her, and popped them through the cracked open window of your car on a fine summer’s day? What would you say then Mike?

Not that that happened, not at all, I mean, that couldn’t have happened, it’s totally impossible, right?

I’m just throwing it out there.

Ellie lets out another sniffle from up above. I slowly remove my hands from the counter. I could stay here and listen to her, but it is dawning on me that I have to move.

She must’ve told her boss she needed a personal day, drove back here at ninety miles an hour screaming at the top of the lungs, then got into bed and shattered into small pieces. But she’ll get up and move, at some point.

If she decides she wants a sandwich to shove down her misery, we could have a problem.

It seems improbable I can get back into my box at the top of the house without her seeing me. Imagine it. Her, in her glorious flesh, a few feet away from me. All the barriers between us, smashed to bits.

However I try to picture it in my dreams, her running into my arms and saying oh yes finally we found each other and shit, I know that’s not what would happen. Even I’m not that crazy. She would freeze, or scream, or run, or all three in that order. She would call the police and inform them of my unwanted presence. I would have to leave, again, drift around, until I find a new place.

That’s all I’ve done my whole life, go from place to place, get trapped in or shut out of all of them.

I’m tired.

As the infinite numbers of different possible outcomes to this scenario play through my head, I find my feet gliding along the floor. I am moving. Effortlessly, I am sliding my way out of the kitchen, across the downstairs hallway, past the wedding photos hanging on the wall, to the foot of the stairs, without even thinking about it.

I am coming.

This is a chance that in my whole time here has not presented itself to me. Ellie, home, alone, no Mike to get in our way. I know it’s impossible, I know it, really, but at this point there seems to be little left to lose, and my feet keep moving whether I like it or not. She is vulnerable. She needs me now more than ever, to wipe away the tears, to hold back her hair while she thinks of her husband and pukes before falling into my arms. Maybe I am crazy. Maybe everyone is.

I reach the staircase, press my toes onto the first step, then I hear something else.

A thud, the sound of something dropping.

A suitcase?

I halt, once more. Is she packing all her things? Did something between this morning and now make her snap, decide her only choice is to hit the road and get as far away as possible? Did one of her students draw a wholesome picture of their happily married parents and show it to her; did that push her over the edge? Is that what happened?

I endure the turgid, tense silence. Let it sink into me. I do not breathe even a tiny bit. After a few still minutes, I brave my way up to the second step.

The third. Fourth. Fifth.

I am coming, Ellie. At last, I am coming.

We could wait for Mike to come home, strangle him together, bury him in the garden, piss on his grave and drive as fucking far away as we goddamned want. We could beat him unconscious together, throw him in the back of that suitcase, bundle him into the car and push it into a lake. We could lock him in inside the house and toss a lit match in through the window, stand back and watch as the whole fucking thing is brought down, hand in hand. We could set the whole forest on fire, we could –

– Shh, Ellie, listen, forget about it.

Holy shit.

She’s not alone.

A man’s voice, and definitely not Mike’s. Damn, this is interesting. I slow my heartbeat to nothing, finetune my ears to the voices coming from upstairs.

– . . . *sniff*. . . It wasn’t always like this . . .

– It’ll be over soon. We’ll be together. Far away from here.

– He’ll never sign the papers.

– He won’t have a choice.

– He’ll ne –

– Who cares? We’ll be far away. You don’t need to get married again. We don’t need a certificate to prove we’re meant to be together. We’ve known it for a long time. Right? It’s like you said. He’s had enough chances.

Some more sobs, this time expelled into the welcoming fabric of a shirted shoulder. Bodies easing back onto bedsprings. Deep mouths latching onto each other. Lips touching, sucking and pulling apart. I can even hear her fingernails digging into his back. Surrendered expulsions of air, light and heavy moaning.

Who the fuck is this guy? Where did he come from? This impostor, whose stolen it, stolen it all, the grand prize, right at the death? Suddenly I can feel my hands shaking. My breathing starts up again and accelerates. Blood is rushing to my head.

I am betrayed, cheated, like always. Put back in my box where I belong.

My pocket is full of flowers, after a whole morning spent walking around the woods, all for this ungrateful whore.

I turn back from the fifth step, trudge my way back to the kitchen. I wrench the flowers from my pocket and tear them to shreds, tossing the mulch all over the floor. I stamp on them, spit on them, abandoning all my nine months of stealth and secrecy.

What the fuck was it all for anyway?

All my hiding has been a waste, all my efforts to fix their doomed marriage for nothing. I don’t care about being quiet anymore; they’re too busy fucking each other’s brains out now to even notice pathetic little me down here, so, you know what? Fuck it.

Fuck it all.

It’s time to destroy. 

I grab a plate from the cupboard and smash it on the floor. I grab all the plates from all the cupboards and smash them all. I grab the glasses and smash them too. I grab the wooden chairs and bash them to pieces. I kick the bin and spill all the shit all over the floor.

Then I find what I have been looking for, exactly what I need to cleanse this disgusting scene. I empty the bottle of lighter fluid all over the pile of shit on the kitchen floor.

I take the box of matches from the kitchen windowsill. I pull one out, strike it against the box, watch the flame go up. I pull out the rest of the matches, hold the flame against their welcoming tips.

Swoosh. They all join in the dance.

I throw fire onto the pile of shit, and a new marriage is born. What a beautiful sight.

I take one last look at it all, then turn around. 

I walk away from the house in the woods, my home and prison and theatre of absurdity for too long.

Guess I’ve got nowhere else to go now, except back to where I came from. It’s just like I said: guys like me are put in a box wherever we go.

The only way to beat the box is to accept it.

I’m going home.

They’ll be wondering where I got to, where I’ve been all this time. I imagine they’ve had people looking for me. At least they care about where I’ve been. No one else does. Certainly not Ellie, certainly not the guy whose dick veins are throbbing inside her at this very minute, certainly not her worthless husband who’s either tied up and gagged in the corner being made to watch or sitting in his office at work wondering how the hell it’s going to work itself out.

And you know what? Fuck them both, they deserve each other, for what little time they have left.

I’m going home.

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