Til Death Do Us Part
A. Michael Peters
Cars honked and brakes squealed as he tried to push his way through the crowded sidewalks. The stench of trash that was weeks old filled his nostrils. Glancing at his Rolex, he quickened his pace. "Shit. I'm going to be late again", he said inaudibly. Montoya was not the same man he was this morning. He began to think about his wife and the fight they had this morning. He just wanted to go to work and get back home - and get there on time.
His thoughts returned to the crowds as he bumped into someone. "Oops. Excuse me", he said, turning to see who he had collided with.
"Fuck you, you dumbass. Watch where you are going ? You suits are all the same, Excuse me. Look out, here I come'. Well, this is my domain. You see dis?" the man asked as he pointed to the embroidery on his coat, "dat sez 'Earthquake'. I am Earthquake and I will shake yo ass down to the ground if you get in my way. You got dat 'Whitebread'?" he asked as he pulled up his L.A. Kings jersey to show the 9 mm Berreta stashed in the front of his baggy pants.
Whitebread?? Whitebread? That's what my platoon leader in 'Nam used to call me.
The gangster's dreadlocks flopped around as he continued to verbally abuse the little white man. After the day he had experienced, yelling felt good - it felt real good.
Earthquake's words melted away and became those of Montoya's platoon leader. God, he hated that son of a bitch. "Why didn't you kill that fucking gook when you had the chance Montoya? That little VC bitch killed half of the guys in this fucking barracks. All you had to do was to pull your gun out of its holster and point it at that little slope's forehead like this and pull the trigger. Marines are trained to KILL, not THINK!!" Earthquake pulled the 9mm Berreta from the front of his baggy pants. He snatched Montoya underneath the chin squeezing tightly as he held the gun to Montoya's forehead.
Montoya tried to get away, but he was held too tightly. Earthquake slapped him hard on his scarred cheek. It felt like there were needles sticking in his cheek. The pain was so intense that it caused a huge wave of pent up emotions to come forth. Montoya flashed back to his platoon leader.
"Do you feel this shit sticking in your cheeks, Montoya? That is shrapnel and bone fragments of your friends. If you think this hurts, wait until next time you get in my way, Whitebread!"
Montoya looked at him with bulging eyes - but he did not see the gangster, he saw his leader, Johnson. The fear that Earthquake expected to see in his eyes was not there. Those bulging eyes bore through his head and into the back of his skull. It wasn't fear he saw in Montoya's eyes, it was something that Earthquake couldn't place. It scared the shit out of him.
"You're lucky I'm late meetin' with my bitch, or else I'd blast your ass right here. Besides, I don't wanna get dirty". With that, he briskly walked away. Earthquake wes scared, but he had learned on the street many years ago that if you are scared, don't show it or you'll end up dead.
Starting a slow jog to make up for lost time, he hurried down the street to catch his train. Just as he got to the bottom of his stairs, his eyes watched as the number five subway train was pulling away. He was really going to be late to work today.
Feeling angry and spiteful, Montoya eat on a bench waiting for the next train. He sat there, recalling the days actions. I shoulda kicked that son of a bitch in the balls, grabbed his hand, pointed the gun back at him and pulled the trigger with his own finger, he thought to himself. I can't believe I just let him do that. He thought, again, about that day in 1969 and how badly he wanted to kill his platoon leader.
With that thought, Montoya opened his briefcase and pulled out his gun. He carried it everywhere - it was his security. It was a homemade job, not very pretty, but it definitely got the job done. It was made from an old artillery gun barrel with a hand-made trigger. Montoya had learned about ammunition while he was in the Marines, many years ago. He designed and built this gun while he was in Viet Nam.
The bullet was fabricated by crimping down a .56 caliber shell to fit a specially designed plastic bullet that held iron shavings. When this baby hit, there was no stopping the bleeding. The iron shavings would enter your body at all angles and tear your insides to little pieces. If you got in the way of this bullet, you were as good as dead.
He was just about to put the gun away when he heard a man talking out loud to himself as he walked into the unusually empty subway halls. "Damn. How in the hell could I forget my keys? Jesus, I'm stupid".
Montoya knew that voice - it was that gangster wanna-be from the city. Scenes of his platoon leader flashed through his muddled mind. He slid the gun into the pocket of his trench coat and waited. Montoya's head was reeling as he was once again in Viet Nam. The rhythm from a poor man beating drums in the distance seemed to grow quicker and louder as he heard the footsteps getting nearer. In a dreamy state, Montoya was back in his barracks mourning the men he had lost today. He heard the heavy footsteps of his platoon leader coming toward him.
Not able to constrain himself any longer, Montoya stood up to face Earthquake. "Well, if it ain't my little friend Whitebread. Didn't I tell you to stay out of my way?" Earthquake asked. There was fear in his voice, but he could not back down.
As Earthquake pulled up his shirt to grab his gun, Montoya ran to him, trying to tackle him. The two of them wrestled around on the subway floor. They rose up and Montoya punched Earthquake in the stomach. He was not expecting that kind of power from such a small man. While Earthquake was doubled over, Montoya slid the gun from his pocket and placed it in front of Earthquake's heart. BLAM!!, The fabric of Earthquake's coat was shredded, along with his entire left chest cavity. Earthquake flew back about 5 feet, reeling from the shot.
Blood was everywhere - on the cement, on the bench, and on the walls, oozing around the pieces of Earthquake's lung, heart, ribs, skin, and jacket. Earthquake lay in a pool of his own blood, which was quickly growing in size. Montoya came back to the reality of the death he had created. He hadn't killed his platoon leader, he had killed Earthquake. Thinking quickly, he immediately flung off his trench coat and tried to cover the corpse laying on the ground, and make him look as though he were a homeless man asleep on the ground. Montoya tried to build a dam out of his coat to keep the blood from spreading. The dark maroon blood was starting to be absorbed by Montoya's coat as the next train stopped at the station. Only a few long, tired faces belonging to soulless people were on board the train, as Montoya stepped on.
The ride was a quiet and peaceful one. Montoya checked his Rolex again to see just how late he was going to be. He sat and stared at his watch unconsciously for five minutes, while his thoughts went cold. He was remembering the day that his present boss, McWilliams, gained his position. They had both been working on the same project together, but McWilliams took most of the credit. McWilliams got the promotion, and Montoya got the watch. He swore that one day he would have revenge.
The train's next stop was his, so he prepared himself to leave. The spicy smell of blood pervaded his nostrils. He had stepped in the pool of blood trying to cover up Earthquake. He clutched at his head, grabbing his hair, as if a spike was being driven through his head. So much pain - so much confusion - no way out. It was an incredibly powerful, uncontrollable pain.
Montoya strolled casually into the office. His boss looked up from a report he was reading, and his fat face began to turn red and veins bulged in his forehead. -How dare you come strolling in here an hour and a half late? I've got a good mind to fire your ass right now! I expect you in my office after hours. I've got a meeting all day, and we are going to talk. No "ifs", "ands" or "buts"!! Now get to work!"
Montoya worked quickly, dreading what the boss was going to say to him. Quitting time came and everyone left, not wanting to be around when the shit hit the fan.
Montoya walked slowly into his boss's office. Montoya this is it! This is the last God damn time you come in late. I don't care if your wife is leaving you; I don't care if your therapist wants to see you during the day; I don't care if you are asshole deep in debt. I don't give a SHIT about your pitiful life! RAR RAR RAR BLAH BLAH BLAH. . . His boss was yelling and slamming piles of papers so hard, that it caused Montoya to believe it was mortar fire.
Like a cable holding too much weight, something in his head snapped. The pain in his head was so intense that it pushed him over the edge. He felt faint and started to sweat profusely. His skin turned pale and he started fidgeting. He never heard the last part that his obese boss said as he waddled toward the door. He opened the door, and turned around to look down at the quiet little man with a shattered and depressed life. Montoya had been a treasured employee for many years, but lately, he had begun to get more and more careless.
Montoya slowly rose out of the chair, walked outside the room and turned around. His boss tightened his grip on the doorknob and slammed the door. Montoya stood there and looked at his boss through the clear-windowed door.
"What the hell are you doing here? Is there something else? Huh? Do you want to say something to me? What the hell do you want?"
"Justice, you fat pig", Montoya said inaudible to his boss as he pulled the gun from his briefcase. BLAM! The glass shattered, flying everywhere. His boss's fat stomach was shredded and Montoya laughed out loud as he watched chunks of fat flying across the room and landing on the walls, on the deck, and on his boss's name plate. Montoya looked briefly at his boss through the windowless door, then turned and left.
The walk from the train station to his small home was a long one that night. Thoughts of what his wife would say when she found out that he wasn't going to be working anymore filled his head. He quickened his pace toward home. He was scared at the thought of what he might find there. How mad will she be? Should I think up some fake excuse? He knew in his heart that would be wrong, so he was just going to face what he had coming to him.
He walked through the gate of the white picket fence and walked lethargically to the front door. He glanced to his left and thought about grabbing some posies from the flower bed. He opened the front door to find his wife sobbing uncontrollably at their mahogany dining room table. The white table cloth was stained with the remnants of the red wine that his wife had finished off before he returned home. As he walked forward, he dodged the plate that held the remainder of his dinner. It crashed into the door and small shards of porcelain sprinkled onto the porch.
He noticed a fork, jammed into his head in their wedding picture hanging on the wall. This is it - she 's gone mental. I should call someone to come and get her.
"I'm sorry...it was the boss", he said meekly. He started to walk toward her, broken dishes and glass crunched beneath his feet. He stared at the elaborately prepared dinner staining their brand new carpet.
"Sorry? You're sorry? Twenty-five years of marriage to the day, you come home three hours late for the special dinner you KNEW I was preparing, and all you can say is 'I'm sorry?'" He started to say something but she cut him off. "What?? Did you have to stay after hours so your boss could get his kicks by yelling at you? Did he walk all over you until you groveled? You spineless piece of shit! Grow some balls, Jeff!" He started to say something again but was cut off. "Don't even tell me that you are going to start standing up for yourself! You took the lives of many men in your platoon in Viet Nam because you were too seared to stand up!"
He grabbed her and held her close as she broke down and began to cry on his shoulder. He embraced his crying bride harder and said, "I love you. You know - TiI death do us part, and the whole thing. I wouldn't ever want to be without you. Come on, give me a kiss."
"Kiss you? Damn it, this is just like you - thinking that everything will be just fine. Well, things are not fine, Jeff. They are wrong - very, very wrong. This is the last straw. You'll never change' 'Oh honey, I promise - no more late nights at the office.' 'I promise we will go out this weekend.' You never do!? You're such a spineless, piece of shit. I hate you," she screamed as she started to pound on his chest with her forearms and fists. "I hate you, and what you have become!"
"I'm leaving you, Jeff," she said as she backed away from him. The words, 'I'm leaving you' thrust into Jeff's head, triggering yet another PTSD flashback. Suddenly, his wife's words were being spoken in Vietnamese, and she became the girl that had killed most of his platoon. "It all over, Jeff. No go back. You no good. I kill you."
As she reached for the detonator of the bombs she had strapped to her chest, Jeff pulled out his pistol, and lunged at her - pointing the pistol at her head. This time I 'll kill you, bitch. "Rot in Hell!" BLAM!!!
When he landed on the ground, he was stunned. He looked at the smoking barrel in his hand and looked at the body of his wife. Where her once beautiful face had been, was now nothing but a conglomeration of bone and brain fragments and blood. He rose to his knees, put his head in his hands and wept loudly. What have I done? I must stop the pain in my head and stop these damn flashbacks! BLAM!
The police spent many hours trying to piece together the events of this crazy day, and the strange events that took place in the home of this seemingly stable couple. Was this part of his brain or part of her? Or was it meatloaf?
Acknowledgments: I would like to thank the following people for their contributions to this story: Matt Dahm, Rachel Bartol, Lynn Ayer, Dr. Terry Heller. Thank you for your inspiring comments and rewrites!
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