Rosylnn considered the jar sitting on her cluttered kitchen counter.
“Mrs. Koldmeyer’s Specialty Dills,” the label read. The box and its packing
materials lay scattered about on floor and counter and on Roslynn’s lap. Her hand shook as she opened the gift card.
“Dear Ros, just wanted to reach out on our ‘anniversary’—ha ha! Family is doing well. Jess is in her final year of med school and Paul just welcomed a third child. I still have the painting you gave me a long time ago, and we get compliments all the time. Still the department head at good ole Racine Academy, and the faculty parties here at the house are now a tradition. Mary is great, as you remember, with those things. Anyway….Hope you enjoy these craft pickles. They are ‘local’ —whatever that means. I did not want the day to pass without acknowledging—you know. I hope there are no hard feelings. Your friend (I hope), Jack”.
Roslynn was paralyzed for a period of time which she later could not measure. Was it an hour? A minute? Or was it a second just spread out like eternity in a drop of rain? Anyway, she came out of it eventually. She took the jar, popped the lid, and paused to smell the fragrant tang of dill, vinegar, and a selection of spices. Then with a hand finally steady, she put the jar down, reached in with unwashed fingers, and pulled out one of the pickles. She closed her eyes, opened her mouth, and slid the giant cucumber into her mouth.
The shabby no-tell motel room stank of cum and stale cigarettes. Ros lay on the white sheets (the comforter with its questionable cleanliness had been cast aside) and thought about how beautiful the sunlight looked streaming through the curtains. The floral monstrosities were peculiarly dotted with cigarette burn holes. Ros tried to imagine what circumstances had driven a person to take the time to artistically destroy the fabric. She could not understand, but she thought it was beautiful. The sound of Jack singing a silly song in the shower was beautiful, too. His rumpled school clothes on the aged vinyl chair next to the bed were beautiful, too. BEAUTIFUL. She laughed at herself. Jack would have scolded her for choosing such a banal description. He was the creative writing teacher with one story published in a national “literary” magazine, but he was quick to say a novel was in the works. Ros believed him— he was much too beautiful to teach high school. There it was again.
The water went off, and she heard her lover step out of the shower. HER LOVER. It was still scary, this relationship that involved hand jobs behind Racine Academy and once a month fuck-fests at one of the five fleabag one night stand establishments that ringed Racine, Ohio like a patch of jock itch around a sagging sac. Roslyn felt like a queen, however, and she called out to Jack. “Baby, if you are clean…..”
Jack padded out of the minuscule bathroom with a thin white towel wrapped around his waist.
“I don’t know…..my last class starts at 2:35….”
The towel dropped. Roslyn smiled and came to her knees. That was not enough. She got off the bed and fell down on all fours on the wretched and stinking carpet, her left knee hitting an old ground-in piece of gum, and Jack finally let the towel drop.
“That’s more like it, baby,” she crawled toward him and when she reached his feet, she raised up and reached out for his turgid penis. As she wrapped her lips around Jack’s cock, she thought how BEAUTIFUL she felt.
The pickle was good, but it certainly did not meet up to its billing—“The best CRUNCH in MIDDLE AMERICA”….She wondered what Jackson Felsworth thought about that little piece of creative writing. Still, the pickle had a great “mouth feel” (again, LOL). Finally, she allowed herself to remember the “anniversary.” Only Jack Felsworth would have the audacity (and not of HOPE) to use that word. She supposed it was the anniversary of the day she met Jack at “The Midnight Cowgirl” lounge (a part of the “upscale” establishment known as “Highwayman’s Retreat”—the place Jack sometimes sprung for on special occasions). Roslynn laughed out loud at herself. On that fine day, she was going to announce that she was turning down the scholarship to Pacific University, where she had been offered a full fellowship in the literary arts department. She had decided she could not leave this man, Jack Felsworth. She would tell him today, and they would establish that she did not expect him to leave his wife or give up his position at the Academy (writing had been slow for him, and he needed the DISCIPLINE of the regular work). No one need ever know that the first time they had made love, she had been a 16 year old junior at Racine. No one would ever understand in these judgmental times. She had already accepted the job at the local Bi-Rite which specialized in “organic goods.” She remembered that on that day, she was drinking a glass of sweet wine. In those days, the drinking age for beer and wine was 18…..
Roslynn had been working through “Mrs. Koldmeyer’s Specialty Dills” like they were going out of style. She saw that the note from Jack was still in her left hand. Funny how time gets away from you, right? There was only one ginormous (he would HATE that) pickle left, and she moved with eager fingers into the jar. She brought the pickle to eye level and spoke to the empty room. “Mrs. Koldmeyer, your seasonings are good, but your dicks are limp!” The pickle was a bit flabby, and she hated that in pickles. She liked them firm and hard to the bite. She took a bite of the last pickle and then tossed the rest of the cucumber into an overflowing trash bin.
Jack’s face had gone white. Roslynn noticed his hand was shaking as he gripped the sweating beer glass.
“What’s wrong, Jack? Oh, my G-d? Aren’t you happy?” “Ros, honey, you can’t give up this opportunity.”
“But I already have.”
Jack’s voice got low and gravelly like it did when he was mad at her from calling at the wrong time, or when she got upset that he canceled a rendezvous. “Listen: I never promised you anything. As a matter of fact: what if I told you that everything I have ever said to you was bullshit of the purest ray supreme?”
Rosylnn suddenly felt cold. The sweet wine no longer tasted good, nor did the glass look BEAUTIFUL.
“Please don’t say that, Jack. I am not going to ruin your life. I thought you would be happy.”
As if a mask was being taken off, Jack Felsworth did a face palm drag, and his features suddenly looked foreign to her. He got really close to her, so close that she could smell the sweetness she loved in his breath—only now it didn’t seem so sweet anymore. His voice was low but even more gravelly than before. “Listen, you little cunt. I never asked you to give up any opportunities. I am a WRITER, for Christ’s sake. Did you really buy any of that shit I was feeding you? And listen, if you think the SEX was anything to write home about, you got another think coming.” He grabbed the beer and downed it in one gulp.
Roslynn sat in stunned silence. Then, she spoke in a voice that sounded more like a 12 year old than an 18 year old. “Don’t say that. You can’t mean that.”
Jack slid off the bar stool and straightened his tie, “Look, baby. I know you are smarter than you act. It’s been nice, but you need to move on. I got a wife and a kid and one on the way.” He started to turn away. Then Roslynn did something she had never done: she reached out and grabbed his arm in an attempt to make him stay.
It was as if another person was standing before her. Without caring who in the dingy bar was looking, Jack Felsworth took his right hand and grabbed Roslynn’s neck. He got really close to her ear and whispered low, “I could take you back to a room right now and take what is rightfully mine, cunt. Don’t ever try to contact me again, and stay away from Mary.”
Roslynn finally cleaned her counter. She saved the pickle jar for the last.
For awhile—maybe seconds, maybe minutes, maybe hours—she stared at the label. “Mrs. Koldmeyer’s Specialty Pickles.” Well, Mrs. Koldmeyer (probably a made up name—Jack hated those). Still, after all these years, he celebrated the “anniversary.” She could never understand why he continued to send gifts. This last one took the proverbial cake. She looked around her apartment—nice, upscale even—her job as an editor for the Lighthouse Publishing firm gave her plenty of room for a little luxury here and there. She was single, never married, no kids—it gave her the energy to focus on combing through the manuscripts she was responsible for culling. Her boss, Mr. Falls, said she was the best editor he had ever worked with. She worked under a pseudonym—she was a secret reader. Six of the novels she had sent to pre-publishing had gone national—three were million dollar sellers. Lighthouse had long had the reputation of being the “last chance before self-publishing.” Of course, the company still rejected more manuscripts than they bought. Roslynn grabbed the pickle jar and walked back to the patio door. Next to the slider was the pump action shotgun she kept for unwanted intruders. She took the jar and the gun to her patio beyond the slider. On the cafe table next to the door was her mobile and a stack of manuscripts. She chuckled to herself and picked up the phone to speed dial the boss. “Hey, Mr. Falls. I finally got through that novel.”
“What do you think Ros?”
Roslynn laughed as she scanned the title, DEATH IN THE SHADOWS by
John William Felsworth. “Let’s just say the guy should keep his day job. See you tomorrow when I pick up the next masterpiece.”
Roslynn put down the phone and picked up the shotgun. She imagined herself sitting down at the cafe table, placing the gun between her legs, opening her mouth the way she used to when Jack would stick his dick in there, and then pulling the trigger with her toe—she had checked the physics—doable. She looked at “Mrs. Koldmeyer’s Specialty Dills” and made her choice. It was illegal to shoot off guns in the city limits of Portland, Oregon, but who gave a shit anyway. With her right hand, she lifted the shotgun.
“That’s a big thumbs down!” She shouted and with a deft flip of her left hand, sent the jar up into the air. Like a flash of lightning, she moved to lift the barrel and fire. The deafening explosion sent glass shards across the tiny back yard, and her neighbor, crotchety old Mr. Jamison mace roaring out of his unit. “What the motherfuck! Call 911! It’s a terrorist attack!” Seconds, or maybe minutes, or maybe hours later, sirens exploded and started to come her way.
Roslynn smiled. “BEAUTIFUL.”
14 May 2020