Excerpt From My New Short Story, “Marianne, Not Aphrodite”

You soared around the world in your dream – that dream, the dream of the world entire. Your spirit, caught by a concatenation of sparkling towers and bridges bunched on a nearly invisible island, wavers in a thronged spur of excitement, surges through the concrete-and-steel canyons of crushing commerce and cashed-in-on dreams of solidity in an ethereal meme, and merges with a wild burn of ambitious and dazzling aspiration, though free of its game.

Your spirit’s eye slips into one of the towers’ loftier transparencies, spinning down the affluent staircase where Macbeth hath murdered sleep and Jezebel still awaits her marching orders. You float through a door and see a man. Is he fretting? Is his conscience bothering him? Is he waiting for a friend to call? Does he live alone? He pours a glass of some dark ferment and sips without joy, watches light flicker on a squarish plane a while, dozes off, then rouses himself, or is roused by his own startling dream, shades of light still flickering upon his sleep-drunken face.

He rises up from a wide couch and paces the apartment some more, then begins to notice something strange. Has he lost something? Misplaced a prized item – or items? He throws books and papers around – he is in a rage, but you cannot look way. You come closer – you can read his thoughts: Where are they? A thousand-year old Chinese bowl. My Persian silk robe? And…what the hell? Where is my Matisse? What’s happening here? Is reality slowly just blinking out? The man is losing his mind, his spirit not far behind. It has happened before. The opulence of his urban palace suggests a prominence – in the community, in occupation, or as a form of elevated deviation. Hard to be sure. He’s long since given up the healthier tricks for escaping or perfecting reality like yoga and meditation for whiskey, beer, and the occasional pill-form panoramas.

His emotions grind and stir in a red-shift cauldron. He seems so utterly alone, though surrounded by the faces in paintings, by masks, statues, books. He lives in a joyless place, filled with things that, ostensibly, could provide some measure of joy to the right mind, ego, or personality. You realize that that place is him – as each one is the heart of place they make, the space sacred or profane. You watch, spellbound, as he makes a whirlwind of his own possessions, treasures, emotion, and solidity itself, no longer “looking” for objects per se, but swinging his own daimonic or wrathful wrecking ball around his own domain. At last, he relents, exhausted. He sits in a reclining chair a while cursing himself, past lovers, old friends, those who rule with hate, those who steal with love, then at last, dozes off in the late, wee hours in the “city that never sleeps” enfolded in the heavy thoughts that compound like some sadistic math formula and never stop.

His eyes flutter open a few hours later, his head pounding with a headache that feels like an aneurysm, and his first thought is I’ve been robbed. Burglarized. Ripped off! But who could it have been? Some cat burglar, while I was sleeping? He goes to stand and the existential pain is too much to bear. He cries out. He falls to the floor, rolls around, crawls to the bathroom where he manages to stand, pry the top off of a container of something or other, down three or four of whatever it is, cry out to whatever petty little god is there to hear this, as he puts it, then prays, curses, roils, makes his way to the kitchen, feeds himself, makes some phone calls to, apparently, colleagues, associates, perhaps, friends, then sits at the kitchen table and broods, frozen, like the statue of some robust, wild animal, thickened by self-abuse instead of the heroic labors of Hercules.

Then, he sits in wait – at attention, no more booze or pills! – for the next three nights, standing watch, on patrol of this little kingdom of his, this museum away from the museums of the world he had sanctified and poured all that effort into. And so, he waited, watching, no hard stuff to numb his consciousness and leave him, evidently, open to such cat burglary and violations of trust.

That’s it! he thinks. Someone who knew me or my ex-wife at the MOMA, who knows my ways, tendencies, vulnerabilities. Ah, I will get you! I know you will be back, because you know of my self-pity and negation…you don’t think I deserve such anthropological delicacies and masterful strokes! Well, ha ha ha, I’ve got you now! I will wait, and while I wait at night when you cat burglar creeps crawl out of your crypts, I will look for my pilfered items on the street or black market, and I will make you wish you’d never been born into this sorry world!

And so he hits the streets of Manhattan – second hand art shops, galleries, pawn shops, art dealers, friends, acquaintances, former colleagues…

“Sorry, we don’t know anything. Can’t help you. Good luck” seems to be the consensus. He is hapless. He wanders down Fifth Avenue and into the Park and watches a group of pre-teens playing games. He envies their endless energy.

You followed him all day through the busy, dizzy streets and his muted flurry of activity and quest of recovery. He arrives back home, grabs a cold beer of some esoteric label or other, and as the plucky, hoppy concoction ameliorates the dry throb of thirst deep in his bones, blood, and being, he thinks, Maybe it was Martha. Would she? She very well could hire someone out, maybe. Cat burglar for hire? Married five years, and all that trust, respect, and adoration down the proverbial tubes?

He couldn’t resist drinking the rest of the lager-style beer down in one misery-extinguishing quaff. A buzz wafted quickly to his head as he ambled through the wreckage of the night before strewn about his quarters. He rifles through another shelf, pulls a black disc out of a large envelope of some kind and impales it on a metal needle, drops an arm upon it and turns the sound way up. It is some kind of jazz – frantic, throbbing, jaunty.

The next night comes, and there is nothing. Then, night number three. His senses are sharp: he is ready. He can almost feel the burglar preparing to come for him now. Some blues albums. A couple of “art films” on IFC. Some sketches of the demons he sometimes sees in his bedroom doorway upon waking. He hasn’t slept much in days. He is preternaturally exhausted, but he keeps watching the window he is sure the crafty burglar will return through.

He is nodding out a bit, now. He catches himself. He has his pistol in his hand, has turned all the lights off, feigning a sleeping household, but remaining awake, on a small couch across from the window that sits ten stories up on a fire escape.

And then, there the awaited bandit is: a sleek, black figure, stealthier than the midnight wind, quietly lifting the window and entering the room. He watches in rapt surveillance for a few more seconds, letting the tiptoeing, hated figure get further in and away from their escape route, then – he leaps up and hits the lights.

“Aha!” he exclaims. “I’ve got you now, you son of a bitch!”

He jumps on the thief, grabbing him forcibly around the neck, wrestling him to the ground, and getting little to no resistance, as he is a large man and the thief is rather wiry thin and small of stature.

“You bastard! You stole valuable things from me, and I will make you pay!” he shouts at the thief with unabashed hostility, pushing the gun to his temple and pulling off the thief’s mask. To his great surprise, it is not some scrawny little worm as he’d thought “him,” but instead a stunningly beautiful young woman with long, silky brown hair who is revealed to him. She gives him a shy, sheepish look, like “You got me”. The man is stunned on many levels, and simply gazes dumbfounded at the girl for a tense moment, wondering what on Earth could motivate such a gorgeous creature to violate him so.

“Why have you done this to me?” he asks her. She is unresponsive, caught.

-30-

This is 1,400 words of what will likely be a 10,000+ word story, or even a short novella. Feedback appreciated, and thanks for reading.

3 thoughts on “Excerpt From My New Short Story, “Marianne, Not Aphrodite”

  1. Marianne, Not Aphrodite is now up to 11,000 words. Stay tuned, subscribers, for how you can obtain the rest of this erotic thriller!

  2. “Marianne, Not Aphrodite” is currently at 16,000 words and counting, and may or may not reach 20,000 – enough to count as a novella, but it’ll be close. If suspense-drama is your thing, you’ll love this one.

  3. I am pleased to announce that “Marianne, Not Aphrodite” has reached just under 21,000 words, and qualifies as a novella. Stay tuned for where and how you can read this story!

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