Refund

Part of the Fiction for Charity thing. For Dave H.

In her dream, Grace is in a theater. The seats are lined with red, crushed velvet. The theater has an air of importance disguised as stuffiness. Haughty people came here, she thinks. People with opera glasses and full length-gowns and mink coats. The walls of the theater are made of ornate carvings, scenes of intertwined lovers cast in ivory and wood.

Grace is alone in the theater, seated in the middle seat of the middle row. The only light in the room comes from above, where a small, dusty, glow dances out of a window high above the theater seats. A movie, Grace says out loud. Let’s watch a movie. On cue, an old-fashioned, pull-down movie screen lowers onto the stage. The lights go out and the movie starts. A movie for one.

Grace notes that it’s like one of those old 8mm home movies. Scratchy, grainy film. No sound. Muted colors. It’s a film of Grace’s marriage, from beginning to end, though it takes all of five minutes for seven years to pass before her eyes. Everything goes by in a flash, but Grace comprehends each event as it unfolds, with every spoken word and nuance and tear reviving itself in her mind.

There’s the wedding, where her father sits in the limo outside the church and asks if she was sure she really wanted to marry this man, that she could still back out.
There are the fights, the days without him speaking, the frustration, the silence.
And the day he left her stranded in the city. The nights he didn't come home. The parties and family gatherings and doctor's appointments she went to alone. Forgotten birthdays. Broken promises.

Then movie ends, frozen on a frame from that moment the week before, when she sat on her porch and wondered out loud if there was any way out.
She sits there in the movie theater, stunned, silent and angry. Then Grace stands up, looks straight ahead so as to avoid the creepy wall carvings and walks out to the lobby where she asks the cashier for a refund. I was promised a happy ending. I was promised happily ever after. I didn't get it and now I want my money back. The cashier stares blankly at her, mute as the television in Grace’s living room. But she does reach her hand out of the small, caged ticket booth and hands Grace a small piece of blue ice.


At the very moment that his wife Grace is waking from her dream, Steven Reese is riding in a limousine, cursing his agent for scheduling a nine a.m. CD signing. His hangover stings his temple and he smells like too many women and too much champagne. Not even a long, hot shower had helped.

This was another appearance at a record store, just one in a long line of meet-and-greets that his agent had planned out. Yet another day smiling for his public, shaking hands, signing autographs for adoring fans. Steven loves the publicity, loves the limelight and more than those things he loves grabbing an extra fondle or two while he scribbles his name with a Sharpie on another pair of young tits. Once in a while he points one of those sinfully eager girls out to Mikel, his assistant, and she grudgingly tracks the slut down and slips her a piece of paper with Steven’s hotel, room number and a time. And they always show up. Always. Steve marvels at his own charm and luck. He gives Grace a distant thought once in a while, but mostly in that “god damn, I am lucky she’s so naive” kind of way. He doesn’t know what Grace thinks while she lays awake in bed at night and he doesn’t know that Grace often dreams he’s dead and that she never once wakes up horrified from those dreams.

Steven sits tight, waiting for his posse of bodyguards and hangers-on to give him the signal to emerge stripper-in-a-cake like from the limo’s sunroof.

He hears the squawk of Mikel in his earpiece he looks toward the roof, waiting for the window glass to slide back. What Steve sees when he looks up turns his face into something out of a cartoon, all bug-eyed and gape mouthed and as the driver looks at Steve in this cartoon pose, he has the absurd thought that there should be exclamations points hovering above Steve’s head.

A plane overhead. A sudden shadow. Something falls out of the sky, something blue and glistening in the sun, something streaking down like a meteor, something crashing through the sunroof of Steven’s Hummer limousine and landing squarely on his head, turning his comic book face into a mess of blood and brain.

Steven Reese, World Famous Rock Star, has just been killed by an enormous, blue chunk of frozen human waste that had somehow dropped out of an airplane. Blue ice.

A thousand miles away, Grace Reese turns over in her bed and goes back to sleep.

All the text herein is copyright © 2004 Michele Catalano. All rights reserved. Photo herein is copyright © 2004 Justin Brejwo. All rights reserved.


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