Inside the Mind of a Bibliophile

The Horn

I came home from work on Thursday at the same time I had all week. I didn’t expect things to be any different than normal when I arrived. When I walked in the door however; I didn’t trip over his shoes in the doorway. Instead, I found a much more annoying obstruction on the kitchen table. It was a note from my husband declaring that we were over. I sat down and re-read the note over and over unable to grasp the words he had written. It was a straight to business letter written in his horrible penmanship stating that he had moved out and would have his lawyer contact me soon to discuss the details of our divorce. Still in disbelief, I walked towards his office and opened the door. The once equipped gaming room was completely empty minus a few crumbles of cat litter in the corner and the lingering odor of old food.

I went back into the kitchen and picked up the note again. The words hadn’t changed any, but finding his computer and everything important to him gone had pushed me towards believing its contents. It was cold as ice, that letter. There were no terms of endearment, not that he had ever expressed them before. “You’ll be fine” was as nice as it got. Just below that he had scribbled his name, Christopher.

I walked over to the cabinet above the sink to get a glass. I filled it with ice, poured myself a Diet Coke, and sent it flying to the floor when I tried to grab it off the counter. I cursed at the shattered glass and sliced my fingers open when I used my shaky hands to pick up the pieces. I kept telling myself this was just some sick joke. That any minute Chris would walk through that door and laugh about it. My heart knew this was a lie. Chris was never much of a jokester, not a funny one any way. The thing that made me so angry was that I didn’t expect this in the least. I always though I’d be the one to finally give up and call it quits with us.

That night I called his mom in Herscher and asked if Christopher was there. “He is, but he’d rather not speak with you.” His mother expressed with a hint of sympathy in her tone. “I would prefer you not call again.” Then I heard the click of the phone being hung up.

On Monday I got a call at work from Christopher’s lawyer, who introduced herself as Amelia Chavez. After being certain she was actually speaking with Patricia Smith, She started calling me Pat. I absolutely loathe being called Pat, and if Christopher had used any non-formal correspondence with this woman about me, she should know I go by Trisha.

Amelia Chavez proceeded to inform me that paperwork had been emailed for me to review. What kind of name is Amelia any way? In her prissy formal tone Ms. Chavez also instructed me on my finances and the prospect of setting up a meeting to resolve the issue of my marriage.

“Stop.” I said. I was sitting at my desk while holding the phone with one hand and trying to calm my nerves by twirling a chunk of my hair with the other. “First of all my marriage is not an issue and the first meeting we should be having should be in preparation to resolve the marriage not straight into ending it. Second of all, if Chris thinks I’m going to take any thing from him that is his, he’s wrong.”

“Yes,” she responded. It wasn’t a yes like she agreed with me, but more like she understood the words coming out of my mouth.

“Also, you’re his lawyer. Calling me Pat like you’re some sort of friend is beyond irritating. We’re not pals, and even if we were, you’d know that I go by Trish. I hate Pat, and the fact that you’re unaware of this proves that you should be using nothing but my full name to address me. Call me Pat again and I may gouge your eyes out when we meet.”

I hung up on her right then and there. It was the first enjoyable thing I’d done since I’d walked into the house without tripping over his shoes, only to get tripped up by that letter sitting on the kitchen table next to his house key.

I took Tuesday off work and spent the morning online researching divorce attorneys. I settled on a guy named Joseph Rignier because he was the only guy within my budget that didn’t sound like a complete ass hat. I set up an appointment to meet with him on Thursday and then I hopped in the shower. I spent the next hour pacing through the house after accidentally opening Christopher’s office door to see if he wanted breakfast. It’s strange really. I loathed the sight of him hunched over that desk, his hairy face illuminated by that stupid computer screen, so much. I never thought it would be something I could miss. I went into our storage closet, grabbed the handheld sweeper, and vacuumed up the remnants of cat litter in his office. Then I closed the door and went into the living room. Flipping through movies on Netflix and puffing on my vape, I started getting extremely irritated. I gathered up my battery charger, the couple of bottles of juice Chris never liked, an extra package of atomizers, and my unit. I put them all into a box, grabbed my car keys and headed out the front door. Then I tossed that shit in the garbage before driving to the Casey’s around the corner and buying a pack of real cigarettes.

That vape had become an extension of myself over the course of our two year marriage, and it felt pretty damn good to be rid of it. I sat in our garage and chain smoked about five Newport 100’s before deciding to try to take a nap. While laying in bed attempting to fall asleep, I began to think Thursday would be one of the worst days of my life. I also thought that I’d regret going back to smoking. My first thought turned out to be correct, but definitely not the second.

The next eight days were horrible, but not nearly as bad as I thought they’d be. My stomach was still filled with knots of anxiety. I wasn’t able to eat a thing and spent my days off chain smoking to the point of throat aches. These were the moments I started thinking vaping was a much healthier way to go. I’d drive by vape shops and want to stop. I’d filled my Amazon cart with all the necessary equipment over and over only to empty it out minutes later. At one point I had a very heated argument with myself about what a fucking idiot I am and how much money I’m going to be wasting, but I still chain smoked away.

The worst times were at night. I’d lay in bed reading a book and I’d miss the sweet flavors. Dragging yourself to an ice cold garage is quite difficult when you’re wrapped in a plethora of blankets. It was in these moments that I’d remember the convenience of inhaling nicotine in the comfort of my bed. The exquisite flavors of it are actually in my mouth as I’m thinking of this. These were the moments I’d grab my phone and fill up my Amazon cart with vape essentials. Then I’d empty the cart and head to the kitchen. A combination of cornflakes, peanut butter, and chocolate syrup became my perfect substitute. It may not have contained nicotine, but it was sweet and I could enjoy it under the security of my blankets. This was also good because it was the only food substance I had been able to consume since he left. Anything to keep me from going back to vaping.

I didn’t exactly understand my desire to quit vaping, and revert back to my cancer sticks, at the time. I really saw no correlation between vacuuming up cat litter and deciding to pitch everything vape related at the time these two events took place. It wasn’t until I really started reflecting on the last few months of our marriage that the correlation appeared. I’m not the smartest chic in the world, and I’m not usually a quitter when it comes to people, but the decision to quit vaping may have been contradictory to both of those attributes. I don’t really know if that correlation does actually exist, but I definitely spent many hours with my mind on the topic after Chris left.

I have wondered that giving up vaping when I did may have been a contributing factor to what happened that day at The Horn. It may very well have been. Who the hell knows. People don’t sit around trying to analyze the results of their actions. We may reflect from time to time, but most of what we do is reactionary. We spend our time trying to do things to make us feel better. Let’s be honest. Even if we are trying to do the right thing, it’s still possible for someone else’s blood to be spilled.

Chavez called me again on Tuesday, waking me up from my nap. At least she had enough sense to call me Mrs. Smith, even if she did use her stuck up tone to do so. I informed her of my recently acquired attorneys name, and she suggested the four of us meet for lunch Wednesday of the following week. Eight days away. The four of us meant Chris. I hadn’t seen Chris since I stared at the back of his head before rolling out of bed the morning of his life altering letter. I hadn’t really seen him or spoken to him in who knows how long prior to that. I felt my heart begin to race. My ears got hot and I could feel the sweat begin to bead up under my shirt.

“We have much to discuss, there are several forms to sign, this seems the opportune time to begin the process.” She said this in her perfect stick up the ass tone that always made me want to rip her face off. “Although it can be best to give a bit of space to a couple for reconciliation, I believe in this situation it would be best if…”

“Wait,” I said. “So you want…”

“Lunch, a meeting with the four of us to get this process started.” She commanded. Then she switched to her stick up the ass fake polite tone. “Will Wednesday of next week work for you?”

“I can be free on Wednesday,” I said. “Where did you want to meet?”

Laying there in my empty bed, sweating like a pig and sick to my stomach, I wanted nicotine more than anything in the world. I pulled myself out of bed and went to the garage. Between the screen door slamming behind me and the noise of me lighting a cigarette, Chavez said something I couldn’t hear.

“Huh?” I asked

“I asked if you’d ever been to The Horn on Prospect.” She explained with the utmost annoyance in her tone.

“I’m sure I can find it.” I told her.

“Twelve O’clock please,” she snipped. “And please be on time.”

This made me cringe with anger. I deeply inhaled the sweet heat of my cigarette before smiling into the phone as I said, “I’ll have to speak with my attorney.” Using that pompous phrase on anyone else would have made me uncomfortable. With her I felt a sweet satisfaction.

“You do that,” she hissed. “If it’s an issue, get back with me.”

I sat in the garage long enough to finish my cigarette. Then I went inside and called Joseph Rignier. We discussed the place and time and agreed it was not an issue.

After assembling another batch of cornflakes, peanut butter, and chocolate syrup I curled back up in bed to binge watch Shameless on Netflix. As I was laying there, supplementing my craving for nicotine, I started thinking about what was actually happening in eight days. I was going to see Chris again, and I had no clue how it was going to go.

I took the following Wednesday off of work. I wanted plenty of time before lunch to prepare, and even more after to recover. I was in the shower with a head full of Garnier when my phone rang. I was able to dry my hands and tap the speaker button just in time to catch Joseph Rignier’s call. “I absolutely don’t want to do this to you Trisha, but we’re going to have to cancel lunch today. My wife’s out of town and I had to keep my daughter home from school. She’s running a fever, and all she wants is her daddy.”

“Hold on a second,” I said. Leaning back in the shower, I rinsed the shampoo out my hair and grabbed my towel. After turning the water off, I went out to the garage. I needed a cigarette to help me process this. “Okay, I’m back.”

“I’m really sorry to do this to you,” Joseph said.

I inhaled a drag before saying, “I’m really sorry about your daughter. I hope she feels better.”

“I’m sure she’ll be fine,” he responded. “She just needs extra attention when she’s not feeling well. Her mother babies her too much.”

“I’m still going to the meeting,” I blurted out before even being sure if I meant it.

I heard him sigh a long sad breath before saying, “why on earth would you want to do that?” I didn’t know how to answer the question because I really couldn’t understand it myself. So, I sat there defiantly puffing on my cigarette, trying to figure it out.

“Do you want to see him that badly?” He asked.

“No.” I was angry when I said this. I didn’t ever want to see him again. Even that would be too soon.

“Good,” he said flatly. “Because that kind of thing is a bad idea. You have money. Money that was began long before Christopher was a part of your life. You have things that you’ve worked for, with no assistance from him, that I’d hate to see you loose because you go to a meeting with him and his lawyer for emotional reasons.”

“I have to go,” I said this again without knowing that it was the case. After the words were spoken they made a lot more sense. It’s her more than anything. I can’t let his lawyer intimidate me. I know that’s why he hired her. Even with this, he needs to have that bit of control over me. There’s no way I’m admitting this though, so I take another drag from my cigarette and lie. “I don’t want to be the one to cancel the meeting. I’ll show up and explain your situation. I won’t sign anything. I’ll just listen to what they have to say, apologize again for you not being there, and schedule another meeting.”

“Hold on honey,” I hear Joseph say softly in the opposite direction of his phone.

“I should let you get off of hear and take care of her,” I say. “I don’t feel right keeping you.”

“I will,” he says. “But first I need to explain a few things to you. There are certain things that could happen here that would be extremely bad. They could be situation where I would no longer handle this case. Do you understand me?”

“I’m listening”

“Don’t call him names Trisha.”

“I won’t,” I laugh back at him.

“I mean it,” he emphasizes. “No matter what they say or do you can’t get angry. You can’t yell at him or call him names.”

“I won’t.”

“Her either,” He says. He slips this in as if to imply he read my mind, and knows where the real issue lies. I had no intention of displaying any uncontrollable anger towards him. There is absolutely nothing even remotely hurtful he could say to me. Her on the other hand. The rage was strong with that one. “I know you don’t like her, and she doesn’t like you much either. I can’t have you saying anything thats going to screw things up for you.”

“I said I won’t.” I had actually only said I won’t about him, but neither of us were in a hurry to point this out. I hoped he hadn’t noticed.

“Also,” he continued. “Don’t discuss anything. You’re just going there to hold up an appointment, and listen. Don’t talk, don’t sign anything, and you should be just fine.”

“Go take care of your daughter,” I said.

“Okay. We’ll get together Friday evening and talk about your meeting. Please remember everything I said.” Then he hung up the phone.

We would meet Friday evening for drinks after I got off work. We would not discuss my lunch at The Horn. Sitting there discussing legal dealings over a couple glasses of whiskey we dared not bring up the subject. I could still see it on his face though. Seeing me there after, he was thankful his daughter fell sick that Wednesday morning. If she hadn’t he may have ended up just as dead as Amelia Chavez. Maybe even deader.

I left my house at eleven-fifteen. I wanted to make sure I had plenty of time to find the restaurant. My arrival needed to be well before theirs so that I could be seated at a table and ready when they walked in. Chris thought my punctuality was cute at the beginning of our marriage. He later saw it for what it was, my need to control everything, and hated it. I get that it’s an insufferable trait to live with. I hated it too. Sometimes it’s hard to be who we are, but it’s even harder to be who we’re not.

My car turned into the restaurant parking lot at eleven-thirty-five. I had a rough idea where it was, but I used GPS anyway. GPS navigates all of my commuting. It was one of those fake western looking buildings with the wood shingle siding and the big wooden saloon doors. The Horn was illuminated in big red letters on the roof with a glowing red set of steer horns beneath it. Typical.

I sat in my car for a moment and stared at the pack of cigarettes sitting in my passenger seat. Not having a vape in this moment was excruciating. There’s absolutely no way that I’m walking in there smelling like smoke. I decided that I should hide the evidence, in case one of them decided to park next to me, so I shoved the pack into my glove box. I’d spent an extra hour getting ready this morning after getting off the phone with Joseph. Everything needed to be perfect, so I shoved a piece of gum in my mouth and got out of my car.

My already knotted stomach began doing somersaults when I looked at my phone. It was eleven-fifty and I was petrified they may already be inside. I knew I should have left at eleven, and I was angry at myself for risking it. If it were just Christopher I probably would have been late. But with her, it was dire that I arrive first.

I don’t know how honest that actually is. There’s a chance I would have arrived early to have a table waiting for Chris’s arrival. Maybe I want to say that’s who I am. Or, maybe I just don’t want to say she has control over me.

I waited in the foyer for a few minutes after entering. The place was dark which was a win. I was terrified the restaurant would be bright and would accent the huge bags which recently developed under my eyes. The walls were thick wooden paneling stained to look rustic. Halfway down there was a tin looking form of trim which finished at the floor. A floor which seemed to be carpeted in peanut shells. A short little boy man approached the host stand and mumbled something I definitely could not understand. I say boy man because I don’t know how else to describe him. I assumed he asked how many and explained I needed a table towards the back wall for three. He walked me to a booth near the kitchen entrance and I sat staring at the entrance in anticipation.

Walking into the restaurant had me so consumed with anxiety I felt as though I were in an alternate reality. I was so focussed on the thought my complexion being improved by the dim lighting, I almost didn’t notice the host when he approached the stand.

He was a very odd looking gentleman. He honestly looked like a small child standing there. His posture was completely lacking and his head hung like a kid who’d taken a few too many beatings. There was something aged in his face though. He didn’t look like a boy there at all. He was wearing jeans and a The Horn T-shirt just like everyone else that appeared to be working there. His jeans weren’t in the condition of everyone else’s though and neither was his shirt. Faded and frumpy, his clothes hung off of him like over worn rags. When he opened his mouth to speak, thick orange plaque was visible on his teeth. It was apparent the kid didn’t know how to use a washing machine and really loved his orange soda. There was a big splatter of something dark across his T-shirt, and I remember thinking that my life could always be worse. I could be this guy.

I felt embarrassed for noticing his teeth when he opened his mouth to speak. Especially when I zeroed in on his intense plaque build up but, couldn’t for the life of me, make out a word he said. In my defense, he spoke in a complete whisper and refused to lift his chin from his neck while he did so.

I was standing there fiending for some nicotine and terrified they’d walk in behind me before I was able to be seated, so I didn’t ask him to repeat himself. “Is there any way I could get one of those tables back by the kitchen?” I asked. “I have two others meeting me, and I know I’ll see them when they walk in if I’m back there.” Without saying a word he picked up three small plates, the cloth wrapped rolls of silverware, and three plastic coated menus. He shuffled his feet through the carpet of peanut shells at a snails pace, and lead me to my requested table. There I waited patiently for what turned out to be mere moments.

The host was at the host stand with his head down when they walked in the door. I could see his shoulders tense together when she spoke. “We need a table for three.” Her voice was so clear, even in the back of the restaurant where I happened to be seated, that I understood his reaction completely. Christopher pointed in my direction and her eyes followed. “Never mind. But goodness child. Wash your clothes and brush your teeth for christ sake. You’re a mess.” She said this before prancing her way to my table. Chris walked behind her at a slower, less demanding speed.

I wasn’t the only shocked and appalled face staring at Amelia Chavez as she clomped her heals through the carpet of shells on her way to my table. I matched her coy fake smile with my own as she approached. Im pretty sure I noticed the host shivering as well, but with Ms. Chavez’s dramatics, I can’t be certain. Besides, despite how bad I feel for the kid, I can’t be worried about how badly he’s shaken up. I can’t be concerned with the emotional stability of a host at The Horn today. I’ve got a lot more of Amelia Chavez to worry about than he does. There’s also Chris to deal with. I need to worry about how badly I’m about to be shaken up. I definitely can’t be worried about this kid, or my growing urge to rip Amelia Chavez’s face off.

Christopher looks at me as he approaches the table, and I’m unsure of what I see in his eyes. It seems as though I’m able to make out a degree of anger in his eyes, and this infuriates me further. I’m not even sure if it was anger I noticed as much as it was indifference. He looked at me as if I didn’t exist, yet I was still managing to inconvenience him. After everything I put up with, I deserved a hell of a lot better than this.

“You dropped these,” I was barely able to hear the host whisper in his quiet raspy voice. With his head towards the ground he reached his hand out to the fake breasted woman in the overpriced white suite now seated across from me in the cheap leather booth. She rolled her eyes at him as he held out his hand. He let the keys slip from his trembling fingers, and fall onto the table next to her arm. She scoffed at him as he turned to walk away. I dug my fingernails deep into my palms in an attempt to control the overwhelming urge to punch her in the face. I don’t think Jospeh Rignier had any idea how merited his fears were.

While this transpires Christopher is looking over his menu. I stare at both of them with equal amazement. She feels its perfectly acceptable to treat this kid like garbage for no good reason other than the belief in her own superiority, and he’s wondering what he wants to eat. They’re absolutely perfect for each other.

I’m pretty sure I noticed the host clenching his fists as he walked away from our table. She looked back after him only to scoff again and roll her eyes up to the ceiling when she turned back towards us.

“Patricia Smith, I’m Amelia Chavez,” the blonde bimbo said all prim and proper like as she reached out her perfectly manicured hand. The rest of her was as perfectly manicured as her hand, and she had the disgusting confidence to back it up. She looked to be somewhere in her early thirties, and I’ll kill myself if her perfect chest wasn’t purchased.

“Nice to finally meet you,” I said with out any more thought about what was coming out of my mouth than was spent on the host with the dark stain across the front of his shirt. I just wanted to get this hand shake over with, and get back to digging my nails deep within my flesh before I popped this woman’s eye’s out with a spoon.

“Will Mr. Rignier be joining us soon?” Chavez asked as she pulled her hand from mine to unfold her silverware and drape the cloth napkin smoothly over her lap.

“He’s actually caring for his sick daughter today I’m afraid.” I smiled at her while saying this and snuggling my fingernails back into the groves they had formed in my skin before the unwanted handshake.

“Well that’s convenient,” I heard her scoff. She looked around the restaurant theatrically while mumbling something about a server, but I had tuned her out completely to keep from going crazy.

I looked toward Christopher instead. His facial hair completely consumed his face now. It was unkept for the last eight months or so before he left, but this had reached a whole new level. There could have been actual creatures living within his beard. Chris looked like hell which didn’t make any sense at all. He’s the one that left.

“How are you Trish?” He asked, and the words sounded strange to me. They didn’t feel like they used to.

“I’m fantastic Chris. How are you?” I said in the most upbeat voice I could manage. I prayed the strain wasn’t detectable in my voice or visible in my smile.

“We have matters we should be discussing right now,” Chavez said. I’m still amazed at how much the sound of her voice annoyed me.

She reached down and picked up her white leather suitcase, and I watched as she moved her fingers across the clasps until the combination was in place and the clips sprung open. While she was reaching inside for papers I turned my head back towards Chris.

“Why the hell do you think you’ve got it so rough with me?” The words were out of my mouth before they could even begin to be processed by my brain. As soon as they did register in my head, I instantly recognized them as words Joseph would have wanted kept to myself.

He looked up at me for a second before looking back down at his menu. He didn’t say a single word and his eyes were just as silent. In the glance he gave me they appeared empty of all feeling.

Chavez looked annoyed at my question and closed the top of her briefcase. “I was unaware Mr. Rignier would be unable to join you today Mrs. Smith,” she said. “I wish you would have saved all of us some trouble and called with the change of plans. This is not a social exchange, feelings and childish emotions should not be discussed at this time.”

My blood was boiling at this point, so I know my face must have been flushed. I’m certain Ms. Chavez noticed because her smirk stopped being one of concealed contempt, and became one of victory.

“You’re going to let her talk to me like this,” I asked as if I was astounded. I wasn’t though. Chris had always stayed away from conflict. When I was involved, he was even more likely to avoid it. In a situation like this, where he would have to choose sides, I was always destined to end up on the loosing end. I assumed Chris didn’t know how to stand up for me.

I did notice something while pleading to Chris for defense. The menu had begun shaking in his hands. Like being hit by a bus I’m slapped in the face with a flashback to myself shattering a glass on the kitchen floor the day I found his letter because my hands were shaking the way his are now.

“Calm down,” Chavez sighed as if she were dealing with a child. “Get a handle on yourself ma’am,” She said, and this just infuriated me further. She chuckled at me as she looked around the restaurant. We still hadn’t been greeted by our server and miss thang seemed to be growing more and more impatient.

“I have a right to know,” I began.

“The questions you’ve asked are not the things we’re here to discuss,” Chavez growled out. Her inability to keep her own cool only boosted my confidence.

“Of course,” I said. “It’s got to be about Chris’s needs. Lets all make sure we don’t question what he wants.”

Chris had set his menu flat on the table, and his hands were concealed in his lap. I assumed they were still trembling, and that was his attempt at concealing that fact. He never looked at me. His eyes were focused in on the cheap cowboy painting on the wall behind me. His attempt to look through me I guessed.

“That’s enough,” Chavez declared as she slapped her hand on the top of her over priced white leather briefcase. “You keep carrying on like this, lunch is over.” She gave me the fakest smile I’d ever witnessed and my only thoughts were on how badly I wanted to slap it off her face. “That would be a shame since we haven’t even gotten the chance to order drinks yet.”

That – the mention of drinks – was just before everything started going very wrong, and I remember thinking how badly I wanted a cigarette. I was proud of myself in the moment, for sticking around. I thought I was really achieving something by suffering through this meeting without sacrificing my pride to step outside. I almost lost it when Chris pulled his vape out of his pocket and inhaled, but I stayed seated. Now I wish I had gone outside. I may have saved myself from the bloody experience I wasn’t aware I was in for.

“Such a terrible shame indeed,” I said with a smile I imagine appeared a hair faker than hers. “I’ll be much more mindful of Christopher’s inability to handle the topic of our marriage in the future. Lets stick to the unemotional business side of things. That’s where we’ve always ever been. No sense in venturing out now.”

Chavez nodded before continuing to twist her head around like an owl while grumbling about a server. I looked back over at Chris. He was no longer boring holes into the cowboy painting on the wall. He was back to staring at the menu which meant I was forced to stare at the bald spot on top of his head. I found myself wondering how he could possibly stand not shaving the hair around it.

“Let’s just get this over with,” Christopher said. He had finally pulled his head up from his menu and was talking directly to Chavez as if I didn’t exist. “It’s not like we can accomplish anything without her lawyer here anyway. I really don’t get why we’re even here at this point.”

Chavez didn’t seem to notice that he’d been speaking to her. She had just caught sight of the strange looking little host who fell victim to her bark moments before. “Hey,” she screamed at him while snapping her fingers. He had just finished seating a couple at a nearby table. He jumped at the sound of her voice and seemed to be shaking as he looked over in our direction. “Do you think you could manage finding our server? Or did you neglect to assign anyone our table?”

The host stared at her as she spoke, but it wasn’t a blank stare of confusion. There was something calculating in his eyes. I remember feeling sorry for him when he jumped. The look in his eyes erased most of my sympathy and replaced it with fear. “Well,” She barked, expecting some sort of response from the host which she clearly wasn’t going to get. He continued to stare at her as his face began taking on shades of pink and red. “Go find our server, and bring me a martini. Extra dirty with four stuffed olives.” She said this before turning back to me. “That boy seems almost as lost as you,” she said to me. “You should have called us when you learned your lawyer wouldn’t be attending. Christopher is right, this is really just an inconvenience for everyone.” I watched the host walk towards the kitchen. I needed to focus on something besides her perfectly drawn face if I was going to keep myself from ripping it off. After the host disappeared I removed the napkin encasing my silverware. I wanted to be able to ring my hands around the cloth napkin. However, after uncovering the utensils I discovered a rather large steak knife rolled up with my fork. Staring down at it’s thick wooden handle and sharp blade, I began thinking of other Ideas.

“Are you listening to me?” Chavez asked in her perfectly proper bite. I wanted to respond with, “No bitch, I’m doing my best to tune you out completely so that I don’t ram this steak knife through the top of your head.” I never got the chance to say that though, which is probably for the best. Before I could even open my mouth the entire restaurant fell silent to the sound of the host screaming.

Now this wasn’t a normal scream like you or I might make. This was more of a raspy squawk that sounded like it should have been coming from an oversized bird. It was high pitched and loud, but also wheezy and strained. It cut through the old timely country music that was playing in the restaurant as if it were a bull crashing through a peaceful antique shop. This scream was such an obscure sound it overshadowed everything else, and it just didn’t stop.

The entire room shifted its focus from whatever everyone had previously been doing. Every guest in the building looked up from their plates or stopped their conversations as this short, stocky, slumped over figure approached from the kitchen wailing his head of like a disturbed siren. His face had taken on the darkest shade of maroon I’d ever seen on a person. His left hand was at his side and clenched into a fist so tight the entire hand was red and his knuckles were white.

Chavez’s briefcase fell to the floor beside our table as the host rounded the corner of booths. It was clear he was headed directly for us, and Chavez had shot upright and was standing there staring at him in shock.

“Oh my God, he’s lost his mind,” A woman mumbled from the bar on the opposite side of the room. Her words were clear as day in the silence of the terrified establishment as the host had paused his shriek just long enough to refill his lungs and begin again.

“Calm down now,” Chavez began. It seemed as though she wanted to attempt to reason with him as her tone had softened and she had her hands extended in the host’s direction as if trying to talk down a charging lion headed her way. At this moment his right hand became visible. It was waving a long, thin, curved, filet knife over his head as if it were a battle flag he were waving to indicate a war charge. This knife was the longest blade I had ever seen, and seeing it waved by this screaming host as he charged toward us, it was also the most intimidating.

“Watch it!” I screamed at Chavez. At the same time the woman who had just been seated at a table near us let out a terrified shriek. A rather round gentleman a few tables closer to the front door dropped his mouth open in shock as a piece of partially chewed steak fell from it and landed back on his plate.

Chavez appeared oblivious to my shouts and the other woman’s screams. She was smiling at the host. “I’m sure we can just talk…” She began.

Her words were interrupted by the whooshing sound of the filet knife as it was thrust down by the hosts hand. His scream was still resonating throughout the restaurant when it was met with a soggy flop when silicone and flesh fell onto our table. Blood shot from Chavez’s chest as if from a water hose after you place your thumb over the nozzle. It splattered across the plastic checkered table cloth, and I clearly remember (I’ll never be able to forget this image) seeing two droplets land on top of Christopher’s head. He must have been sweating heavily at this point because those two droplets bleed together with his sweat like watercolor paint being dropped onto a wet canvas, and spiderwebbed out all across his scalp as they ran into the hair on the sides of his head.

Chavez wrapped both of her arms around her chest in shock as her perfectly white suite turned redder by the second. There was a mass of translucent jell and what appeared to be bloody flesh laying on the checkered table cloth. Splattered with blood I was unsure at first, but soon I realized the host must have severed one of my husband’s lawyer’s perfect implants.

“I found you a server,” The host whispered scratchily in Chavez’s direction. The look in his eye was much worse than what I had noticed there while she had been yelling at him moments before. He looked like a mad dog.

Other people had begun screaming now. Chavez had been spraying blood all over the place before she covered her chest with her arms. It was still dripping onto the floor like water from a leaky pipe, and the entire front of her pantsuit was now red.

“Trish,” Christopher said. “Trisha!”

There was a couple seated next to the door when we first walked in. They were feeding each other from a plate of cheese fries and I remember thinking they must be in a new relationship. They looked so young, happy, and gorgeous. Now the guy leapt to his feet and sprinted towards the swinging wooden front doors. “Tom, wait for me!” His girlfriend screamed, but Tom never gave so much as a glance back in her direction. He acted as if he just remembered he had left the stove on at home and needed to hurry back before his house burnt down.

It was as if someone had pushed pause on everyone else in the restaurant until that very moment and the sight of all the blood had pushed the play button. Plates crashed to the floor as tables were flipped over. I saw one man pick both of his children up, one under each arm, as he bolted towards the door. Their faces appeared frozen in shock and pale as could be.

I don’t know if this happened in ten minutes or ten seconds. It was like having a nightmare where the horrific memories are flashed before with no sense of time available. There is a lot that I can’t quite piece together, and some things I don’t remember. I’m sure that the pieces I do remember I’ll never be able to forget. No mater how hard I try.

Chavez fell back to her seat and stared at me with her eyes as large as they could be. I remember fearing they my pop right out of their sockets. She was crying and the tears wear bleeding with her mascara creating long black streaks down her cheeks. I had just enough time to feel sorry for her before the host wrapped his other hand around the handle of the filet knife, raised the long curved blade up with both hands, and then sliced it clear through the side of Chavez’s head. It slipped straight through her temple and came out the other side. I’ll never forget the way those wide eyes were staring at me before they went dead, completely blank. I’ve never seen anyone die before, not in real life.

Her face made a splashing sound as she fell forward and landed in the puddle of her own blood that had been forming on our table. The host had a sickening grin on his face now. The orange plaque on his teeth appeared disturbing with the blood smeared across his cheeks. His eyes were completely crazed as he pulled the knife out of her temple. “Here are the stuffed olives you asked for,” He said as he pulled a stick with four olives on it out of his pocket and stuck it into her open mouth. They stayed there hanging out of it with her tongue like some sort of sick flag he had used to mark his discovered territory. Christopher was still sitting next to Chavez in the booth, and had been sprayed all across the front of his button down when the knife was removed from her temple. He lifted his hands up to shoulder hight, with his palms facing him. He was staring at them in shock as they shook and dripped with blood. The host paid no attention to him, but looked directly at me.

“You brought that bitch in here didn’t you,” The host said in his quiet raspy whisper. He seemed completely oblivious to the screams of guest and kitchen staff running for their lives behind him. His eyes were huge and completely crazed. “You’re all the same. No respect. No manners. You’re all worthless.”

I had the steak knife in my hand. The one I’d been staring at only moments ago while resisting the urge to do something similar to Chavez myself. I still have no idea when I picked the knife up. It may have been when Chavez was standing their screaming while the evidence of her fake tits plopped onto our table, but I honestly can’t say for sure. I remember Tom ditching his poor terrified date without so much as a second glance. I know his name was Tom because I distinctly remember her screaming it after him, but I don’t remember picking up the knife. I just remember staring into the Host’s crazed eyes as he screamed at me, looking down, and seeing the short serated edged blade sticking out of my fist as my white knuckle grip clung to the heavy wooden handle. As the host swiped across the table, I assume intent upon opening my throat, I raised my fist and caught his shoulder with the blade. It got stuck in there pretty good. At least well enough for Christopher to climb across the top of the table to my side of the booth.

The host made a sound similar to a rabbits scream as he reached his hand up to the knife handle sticking out of his shoulder. He glanced down at it in a brief moment of shock before looking back at me with even more rage than before. I was more terrified than I’d ever been in my life when I grabbed Christopher by the wrist and made my way towards the kitchen.

Heading towards the front door would have required running alongside the host. He was terrifying enough wielding one knife, I didn’t want to be anywhere near when he pulled the second blade free. The kitchen entrance was directly around the corner of the wall my side of the booth had been seated against.

I turned the corner and slammed directly into an oblivious server with a full tray of drinks. Glass, ice, and liquid went flying in all directions as the girl crashed to the floor and landed on her backside. Glass shattered all around us as what looked like the head cook began shouting in our direction. “You cant’t be back here. What the hell are you doing?”

I instinctively reached my free hand back to Christopher’s chest and pressed it firmly against his blood soaked shirt. I caught a glimpse of shocked horror in his eyes right before turning to show the cook my blood stained palm. “He’s trying to kill us,” I shouted. “We have to get out of here.”

The cook’s face took on a look of shock and sympathy as he said, “This way. There’s a back door.” He handed us a ring of key’s and pointed us down a stretch of cooler doors and freezers. I pulled Chis in the direction he had pointed and glanced back momentarily only to discover the cook hadn’t followed us. I quickly realized why when I heard him shout, “Stop.” His demand was followed by another rabbit shriek before the sound of a load thud which was accompanied by a splat. I have no real idea what these sounds were, but I feel like I will continue to wonder about them as they continue to appear in my nightmares.

When we arrived at the back door I looked at the lock and then down at the ring of keys the cook had shoved into my hand. I’d liked to have felt I had the time to try all seventeen keys and get the back door open before the knife wielding host was upon us, but the part of me that wanted to survive knew this was impossible. I shoved the keys into Christopher’s hand and pushed him towards the door. “Figure out which one works, and get that god damn door open,” I shouted before looking around the mop sink across from us for something I could use as a weapon. Christopher hit up against the door and I heard the ring of keys fall towards the ground. Turning back to face him, it was as if I was looking at a deer which had just been hypnotized by the headlights of an oncoming truck. I shook him until it looked like something might be registering in his brain and again asked him to get the back door open. I bent down, picked up the keys, and shoved them back into his hand. “One of these will open the door.”

He looked down at the ring and shook his head. “I can’t. It could be any one of these.”

I spotted a can of spray paint on the shelf next to some green scrubbing pads and a bottle of bleach. “Obviously it could be any one of those Christopher. That’s why I need you to keep trying them until you find the one that opens the god damn door, so shut up and do it.” No sooner were the words out of my mouth than I saw the host barreling down the hallway towards us. I reached into my pocket for the cigarette pack I had hidden their for security purposes. While I was hiding the evidence of my habit in my glove box I discovered and empty pack. I pulled a single cigarette from the pack in my glove box and placed it into the empty package along with a lighter. I wanted to know that I could quickly step outside if the urge became too much to bear, and I was very thankful for this decision as the psychopathic host headed our way.

When the pack emerged from my pocket I remember hearing Christopher scoff, and I couldn’t believe I was upset about his letter even for a second. “Are you smoking? What the hell Trish,” He said. I rolled my eyes before telling him again to just get the door open so we could get the hell out of there. I flipped the top up on the green and white package and pulled out my lucky Dierks Bentley lighter. I’ll probably keep this lighter in my pocket for the rest of my life at this point in order to feel safe anytime I’m away from the safety of my home. I shook the can of spray paint, popped the top off of it and let a stream of flames fly just as the host got within slicing distance of my face. Flaming paint engulfed his shirt and face as he dropped the knives and reached his arms up to shield his eyes. I dropped the can and shoved the lighter into my pocket while I turned towards Christopher who was still standing there glaring at me as if I were the one that just decided to slice people into pieces. I grabbed the keys from his hand and by the grace of all things glorious I guessed correctly on my first attempt. I flung the door open, pushed Christopher through it before exiting myself, and locked it behind us after slamming it closed with everything I had. I could still faintly hear the host’s muffled screams through the steal door.

I turned to Christopher and glared at him, “Thanks for all your help babe.”

“Fuck you,” he said with a look of complete hate and I remember feeling more anger than I’ve ever felt in my life and probably ever will.

“I saved you life you asshole,” I said to his with shock and disgust. He had been absolutely useless in this whole ordeal and should be extremely thankful I didn’t let that host cut his throat out. Lord knows we’d both be dead if I had counted on him.

“My life wouldn’t have needed saving if it weren’t for you and your pride,” He said with disgust. I remember looking at him then and reflecting on everything. Not just the last twenty minutes, but the last two years of our lives. The only thing I could think to say was, “touch’e.” image – Megan Groff

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