Brently Mallard

photo by James Forbes

photo by James Forbes

Knowing that Mrs. Mallard was afflicted with a heart trouble, great care was taken to break to her as gently as possible the news of her husband's death.

- Kate Chopin, “Story of an Hour”

I open the door and that cocksucker Richards jumps in front of me and past his greasy pomade and sparkling teeth I see you tumble down the stairs ass over end like a sack of drowned cats. Not, “How was work, honey?” or even “I hope you like takeout, asshole,” but Richards with an arm levied across my chest and his Keanu-Reeves-shithead drawl, “Brently mahn, just slooow down.” What? Where the fuck you think I’m racing off to buddy? Into my goddamn foyer? Now why would I do that? And a thud later you crumple onto the floor and Josephine’s wailing on the stairs kneading the air like an alchemist and Richards is all surf’s up or some shit and I drop my grip-sack and umbrella, push him off me, and rush towards you to hold your head, to pick your head up off the carpet because it’s wrong the way it is, it seems like a doll’s head or something, twisting the wrong way, and your eyes are marbles and there’s a worm of blood, and oh fuck oh fuck I scream “Richards call 911 for Chrissakes!” and I’m pretty sure you’re dead. Dead. D-E-A-D. For real. What the fuck? Seriously: what the ever-loving fuck? I just walk in the door and this? I want to scream, run, cry, rend my flesh, bash Richards’ face in. I have no conception of how to process this event.

Woke up this morning, everything’s fine, no problems, you’re a little moody as usual. Rephrase: you’re an unrepentant bitch as usual. Yes, no problem honey, so sorry to disturb your slumber, you just stay in bed till 10 and drink the coffee I made while I get up at 5:30, work out, have breakfast, which I also made, shower, shave, and haul ass to catch the train to the city, but yeah, your shitty attitude is totally warranted. Have a good snooze, Lambchop. My last sight of you – aside from watching your tumbling routine just now – is that famous Louise-sourpuss-Fuck-you-Brently-you-dumb-bastard disdain virtually giving me the finger as I leave. Thanks for that, sweetheart. That’s going to be a lasting memory. You really know how to make a guy feel special.

Wait a second… Richards? Not Richards, please. I can’t believe it. I won’t believe it. I’d hope you’d have more class than banging that trust-fund geek. Josephine maybe. Josephine definitely. She’s probably fucked the amputee behind the counter at 7-11. Had a three-way with the gardener and the mailman. Let’s be honest, the whole block and corresponding help-staff have been privy to Josephine’s well-travelled snatch. Bad enough to have your sister laying around all day without these simple-minded dickheads like Richards air-humping the hedges. When is she leaving anyhow? Fuck, never now, she’ll be here through the funeral, God knows how long after that – you’ve left me with a whole raft of rejects to contend with haven’t you, Louise? Oh, that’s right, you can’t answer me because you’re dead. Dead. You just couldn’t take the shock of seeing a living, breathing Brently Mallard, your husband, walk through the doors of our house after my certain death and dismemberment in some mystery train accident I know nothing about (and to be perfectly honest question the veracity of). Yes dearest, I am aware you are afflicted with heart trouble. Yes, you undoubtedly have delicate humours. I am fairly certain not all the medication in the bathroom cabinet is of a recreational nature.

Christ, I need to watch your sister, the last thing I can deal with now is a fucking O.D. Josephine’s hysterical and drunk. Richards is drunk too – why is he still here? Doesn’t he work? I’ve never even seen him at the office apart from the Christmas party.

You’re on the ground and Keanu wakes up to join the party and can’t take it; he starts sobbing and blubbering, Josephine’s keening away on the stairs; it’s an avalanche of noise and retardation and I can’t breathe and I loosen my tie and Richards is huffing gin in my face: “But you were dead! The office called and said you were dead and I called the L.I.R.R. and they didn’t know and I didn’t know what to do and the office called again and asked if I would come over to be here when the news came, like more personal, a face-for-the-company, and I said okay and I came and I told Jo what happened and Jo told Louise and she started crying and they were both crying… I made some drinks for us and we were drinking and crying and it was very cathartic but then Louise just stopped all of a sudden and a blank look came across her face and she went upstairs and locked herself in the room and was just quiet and we were worried she might hurt herself and Jo asked her to come out, knelt there speaking into the keyhole, but she wouldn’t come out and I was like fuck, should I break the door down? But then after 30 minutes or so she comes out, calmer now, and then like immediately thereafter you walk in and I knew she had heart trouble so…”

Yeah Richards, thanks, I was there for this part: when you blanketed me like a gay poncho while my wife cartwheeled down the stairs and drunk Josephine tried to hold her up, flailing to brace her fall, funny like some old BBC comedy show is funny except not funny because she’s dead and you’re in my house and Josephine is passed out and this fucking doctor going on about chakras and what the fuck. “The joy that kills,” he said. Seriously, what the fuck is that? Is that supposed to be some kind of diagnosis pal, because I beg your pardon. You went to medical school? In Calcutta, I assume? Jesus Christ. Richards get the fuck out of here. You’re not getting laid tonight unless you want to prop up Percoset Patty over there drooling on the carpet, which maybe you do, but still fuck off. Louise, Christ, what the fuck have you done? I’m speechless here babe, I don’t know what to say.

Erik Wennermark’s novella The True Story of Yu Fen, short story collection Evil Men, and nonfiction on topics such as the politics of Hong Kong independence and the death rattle of an Indian guru can be found dispersed on the web and beyond.


Erik Wennermark