This article was last modified on May 6, 2007.


Breathing Together, Part 12

Part 12: Stacy: The Thanatological Principle

Have you ever smelled the putrid stench of death? The rank, vibrant repugnance that is human decay? Perhaps the ultimate malodor? I have only twice in my life. Once as a little girl and once more as a sophomore in high school. Allow me to explain.

As a twelve-year old in rural Appleton, my father wanted me to have a job. He said, “Stacy, it’s important to start off young so you get into the habit of working later in life. Let’s face it: you’re no catch, so you’re not going to marry into any money. And you’re Jewish, so you know your odds of winning the lottery are nil.” I never understood that joke — assuming this was a joke — and I still don’t. So he hooked me up with a job delivering newspapers each morning before school.

I received the papers from a man in a child molester’s van (the kind with the teardrop windows), who threw the plastic-wrapped bundles into my front yard. I would deliver to the people listed on a pre-printed chart, with daily changes printed on a sheet not unlike a telegraph. I never met my boss, and my money came from the people who chose to pay me instead of the newspaper. Somehow this evened out so I was paid exactly what I was owed from the newspaper. And many of the customers were kind enough to leave me tips around Christmas or cans of Pepsi on hot summer days.

You could always tell when a customer’s house was owned by an elderly couple because there was a distinct smell each time you opened the screen door to wedge in the paper. At first I was not sure what the scent was — maybe some bad potpourri, who knows? But soon enough I discovered the same houses that had the smell also had residents who would die within that same year, and not uncommonly even that same month. The coincidence was kinda eery, but I never saw the people face to face, so the reality never really sunk in.

Years went by, and while attending Appleton West High School we took a field trip to Madison to see the botany exhibit at the state university. They have this flower there called a Corpseflower that blooms for like one day a year and allegedly smells like a corpse as the name implies. One big, flowery mass of rotting ass. We waited around for the flower to open, and as the oddity did open — sure enough, the inside reeked like the wrinkling old bones of the people I delivered papers to years before. All the memories came flooding back and now that I was old enough to understand, the thought kind of repelled me and I had to step outside for some air with all the smoking kids (things were much different in those days).

On a side note, another recognizable smell for those who deliver newspapers is the house where the destitute kids have way too many fucking animals for some reason, and the kids are all disgustingly obese even though they can’t afford clothes. The smell is piss, piss all over the damn place because the fucking parents don’t tell the kids to potty train the animals. Either that, or they’re too fucking cheap to pay the water bill and just piss all over their own furniture. God knows they don’t use the shower, maybe they piss on everything and even use the piss to brush their teeth and make the coffee. How should I know?

There is an entirely different smell that was associated with a condo I had to deliver newspapers to that was across the street from a Catholic church. I won’t tell you what the smell was, but the woman who lived in that apartment — her name was Kathy — was up to something peculiar.

I only mention the “death smell” thing because I had this weird feeling that death was fast approaching. I couldn’t smell the old familiar stink, but I just had this feeling — a weird sense that someone was going to die. Preparing myself for the worst, I gripped the cold, blue steel of the Desert Eagle a little tighter as I hit the gas and approached Grant’s apartment stealthily with little more than the glow of my foglamps to guide me.

I arrived a few minutes later, and the interior looked very dark. No shadows dancing from the cathode-ray glow of a television advertising Tony Little’s latest scientific breakthrough. I parked around the corner and decided I would just wait around in his living room until the bastard got home. I walked up the stairs and used my key to unlock the door. Come to think of things, I don’t know if I’d ever used this key when Grant was not with me. Almost defeats the purpose of making a copy — except, of course, for when he was too drunk to use his own. Strangely, the door seemed to have been left unlocked tonight. I turned the bronze handle and walked inside.

I barely had time to set down my purse on the coffee table when out of Grant’s bedroom sprung a man in a police uniform. I pointed my gun at him by instinct and he, in turn, pulled his gun on me. We stood there motionless for what seemed like several minutes before he announced:

“Officer Benson, Appleton Police Department. Drop the gun now!” His aim was straight and true, no trembling or uncertainty. I’m not sure he could say the same for my demeanor.

“You drop yours first,” I retorted. The last thing I was going to do was get shot in someone else’s apartment. I mean, can you imagine the immaculate mess that would be created and the unbelievable Rug Doctor bill? I had no intention of shooting a cop, either, mind you. But he didn’t know that.

“Just put the gun down, I won’t shoot you.” He persisted. These words were not convincing as he moved his finger over to slide the safety off.

“I can’t do that.” I physically couldn’t, either. My nerves were so frazzled the grip on the pistol was turning my skin white.

“Do I look like a maniac who goes around killing girls?” So now he was talking like he was Rex Carlton — a screenplay writer from the 1950s and 60s who ended up killing himself when he couldn’t make enough money from his low budget films to pay back the mafia. Why do I know that?

“Not girls; Women.” I wasn’t going to let one hundred years of feminist advances be trampled on by some thug with a badge and a gun. Call me politically correct, but I do have a set of hooters on my chest.

“Whatever. Women. What is your name?” he asked, switching from reactionary to constructive mode.

“Stacy.”

“Stacy? We talked on the phone earlier this evening.” This superficial familiarity seemed to ease him a moment.

I recalled the conversation, and I realized that Grant must be in much deeper trouble than I had originally imagined. I’m no expert, but it can’t be a good thing when cops with itchy trigger fingers are sleeping in your bed, waiting for you to return home.

He continued. “I am not here for you. Your boyfriend is wanted for questioning regarding a hit and run. You can leave any time you want. I won’t shoot and I won’t even mention you were here in my report if you would like. I don’t want any trouble.”

I was considering the offer to just leave and forget the whole thing when the door opened. In walked Grant, soiled head to toe with what looked like blood and shit, accompanied by some young floozy without a blouse on. I turned my father’s gun on him.

“You fucking pig!” I accused. In hindsight, calling someone a “pig” when a policeman is in the room seems a bit ironic, don’t you think?

“Hey, drop the fucking gun!!” The cop was now pointing directly at me with his arms out, looking serious as hell. Grant stood there speechless as he dropped Little Miss Perky-Tits to the ground in a drunken stupor.

“Stacy,” he managed to mumble, “what the hell are you doing?” I suppose Grant never expected to be in this situation or see me in this fashion. Well, then again, why would he?

“She is gonna get her ass shot if she doesn’t drop that gun,” the cop informed him, Benson’s eyes never leaving the target.

Christ. This night just cannot get any worse, you know? This was starting to remind me of Reservoir Dogs, with the exception that Grant wasn’t packing heat. By my math, that meant only one of the three of us might walk away alive if we didn’t cool the fight down right now. And I would rather end up being Mr. Pink than Fast Eddie.

“Grant, what are you doing with that slut?” I asked. No time like the present to better get some straight dope.

“Miss, he’s mine first,” insisted the officer. “Mister Zwilling, you’re wanted for questioning in a hit and run.” The cop just had to run the show. I could ramble on and on here about my thoughts on “authority” and “power” and whether or not these things are “legitimate” when we are talking about the police. But in times like these, “authority” and “legitimacy” don’t mean diddley squat when overshadowed by the “power” of a gun and a well-trained marksman.

“Hit and run? Me? Stacy, I can explain…” he stammered.

“Explain already.”

“Well, you see, Sam and I…” I assumed, correctly, that Sam was the woman flanking him.

I snapped. I just snapped right there. I do not even know why, but my finger just… sorta… slipped… and a slug went straight into Grant’s chest, blood splashing back in my eyes from several feet away. He grabbed for his chest, and his fingers slid right into the gaping hole that had torn his right lung right out of his body. He cascaded down the wall to the floor, the open gash leaving a skid so bright red I couldn’t even believe the moment was really happening.

But before I had time to apologize, Officer Benson instinctively fired upon me and shot my shoulder, causing me to drop the Desert Eagle. I fell hard, shrieking in pain. I first grabbed for my shoulder, but soon decided that I needed to get the gun before the cop did. I reached out for the piece, and he shot my other shoulder, resulting in another painful flesh wound.

“Son of a bitch! What the fuck is wrong with you?” I think this clearly contradicted his earlier statement about not being the type that shoots girls.

“Me? You’re the trigger-happy bitch with the over-sized hand cannon. You killed your own fucking boyfriend, for Christ’s sake.” My typical reaction to this would be to ask if I looked like the sort of person who cared what Christ thinks, but on this occasion I refrained.

“Fuck! Don’t you think I know that? Don’t you think I know how senseless and pointless it was? It was a goddamn accident, man! And the worst thing? You wanna know the very worst and sick part of it all? The only person that ever knew him was his mother. He never went to school, so he never had any friends. She was everything to him. And now she has to cry herself to sleep every night because of me.” Maybe this melodrama was a little bit over the top, but if Jennifer Hudson can win a Golden Globe, so can I.

Grant’s blood was bubbling up like an over-foaming beer all over his little slut mistress, and I started to get a sly grin as I saw how much she was choking on the flow in her sleep. I guess he was able to exchange bodily fluids with her after all.

The cop took his handheld radio out from his utility belt and called in for an ambulance and another squad. Fuck him, man. I crawled over to Grant, heaving him off of Sam and attempting to hold him the best I could without the full or optimal use of my arms.

“Grant, I’m sorry. I love you, Grant.”

He tried to talk back, I think, but all I could see was blood everywhere and his eyes had sunken back in his head like he was a heroin addict or something. He wasn’t gonna make it. Fuck the ambulance, he needed a goddamned priest. I felt like a modern-day Juliet, with my man dying here in my arms. Little did I know I was dying, too. I was losing blood and I was fading to black. That ambulance had about four minutes if I wanted to see sunrise, I figured.

Grant died then. Or if he wasn’t dead, his body had forgotten how to live. I snuggled in to his chest, feeling his warmth slowly leave his fragile body. I was falling asleep, and the last thing I heard was the cop’s radio.

“Should we call the coroner?” said the disembodied voice…

Also try another article under Poetry and Fiction
or another one of the writings of Gavin.

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