Title this painting and write a story about this painting and win the watercolor on the right.
This contest closes Monday July 11th, 2011
Buy this painting now.
The story you write should be a "Flash Fiction" which is a complete story in one thousand or fewer words. Please post the story in the comment section, you will have to provide your name and an email address in order to be qualified to win or you can e-mail me at email@example.com with your info. There is a problem with how many characters can post (only about 4,000) so if you cannot post it. E-mail it to me at firstname.lastname@example.org
This is the second version of this show!
Round #2 of Renovated Reputations will culminate in a show at Ohlone College in Fremont, California at the Louie Meager Art Gallery in February 2012.
Stories will be published in a vintage style newspaper catalog and the gallery will be converted into a 1930 or 40's cabaret set and students will be acting the stories out as monologues at some of the events at the college in the art gallery.
More competitions posted on my website at:___________________________________________________
These came in by e-mail:
The Letter by Anthony Pino
Butterfly by D. Bellenghi
In the beginning, she was so different. I met Carlotta at a gallery opening my insurance company was co-sponsoring as a community project. I will always remember the first time I saw her....She stood alone, a mysterious aura surrounding her. She was as delicate as a rare exotic butterfly. She wore a silk dress in soft, muted colors. Her eyes were deep blue pools that I could not look away from. She was enchanting in a quiet, demure way. She was exquisite and I was captivated.
We married three months later. We settled happily into marital bliss, both of us very much in love, I thought. After several months there were small changes in Carlotta under the guise of her forgetfulness. There was not enough time in the day to complete any errands for me. Any business engagements she had previously agreed to attend with me became lapses of memory. At first, I took no notice. It was the sort of thing one dismisses. I loved her and my butterfly was all I saw.
Over time this pattern began to disturb me. When I sought any kind of information or answers, Carlotta became uncomfortable and we would argue. My questions to her seemed to be accusations. With unsure footing on my part and quick turns and maneuvers on hers, I was inevitably put on the defensive. As our relationship matured, I could see that my little butterfly had come out of her cocoon and found more than her wings. She could be moody and she became plagued with migraines. The migraines sent her to her bed, not to be disturbed. Over time, the veil fell from my eyes but not my heart.
There are periods of time that Carlotta is warm and loving and even flirtatious with me. She teases me, laughing full heartedly, her eyes bright and twinkling with mischief. I have tried so many times to keep this Carlotta with me. But she vanishes at will. Even now, Carlotta is my consuming passion. It has made me weak and her powerful; the grand puppeteer pulling the strings.
I sit behind her in her dressing room and watch and wait. I have been waiting over a hour as she readies herself for the evening. She takes her time. There is no need to rush. The world will wait as I do. I do not mind the waiting. I am watching beauty. Carlotta does not acknowledge that I am here. I see her eyes flick from her reflection in the mirror to me and then quickly back to her. She tries to conceal it but if one knows what to look for....there, the slightest cruel turn upwards of her lower lip. It is wisp of a smile that attests she is relishing her power and control. Even now, in this stinging moment of triumphant for her and pain for me, she is perfectly beautiful. It is all I can do to keep myself from taking her in my arms and kissing her until she succumbs to my love. She would detest me touching her that way. She would fly into one of her rages. She would leave me here and go to the party or not. She could be gone for days, doing whatever she pleased, with God knows who, just to put me back in my place.
When Carlotta is acting this way, she is like a spider, a spider that cares for no one. She belongs only to herself. She has allegiance to no one. She cares only if it pleases her. She is free but I am not. I am caught in her web, waiting. She keeps me arms length, just to taunt me. She pushes me to the edge of madness and then because she is bored has pity on me. She acknowledges my mere existence with an unexpected thoughtfulness. The tormented prey is saved for another day as I wait for the butterfly to return. Some say there is a thin line between love and hate....
Untitled by Patrick Nelson
“C’mon now, Belle! Quit teasin’ me! How in the world did you get Theodore to come clean about murdering his own Father? I mean it!” Georgie’s frustration with Belle’s coy and flippant attitude was making his questions sound like a whiny kid.
That’s the way Belle saw him most of the time, anyway: a small infatuated child following her around waiting for her to say: ‘yes, Georgie Porgie. I will go to the dance with you.’
“I told you Georgie, I’m a detective. That’s what I do. I detect.” She stroked her eyebrows deftly with the pencil. They filled in quickly.
“Awww, Belle. You’re killin’ me!” his voice even cracked a little.
She decided she better give him something so she said simply: “Stockings my dear Watson, Stockings.”
Georgie screwed up his face in an overly dramatic grimace. Belle liked having him around to talk to but it really wasn’t her fault she was about twenty laps ahead of him in the race. His constant inability to stay with her was one of the reasons she never attended to his clumsy attentions.
“I saw Stephanie at the Gordon’s dinner party and she was wearing stockings” was all she said. It wasn’t her fault he couldn't make the connection from there, was it?He smacked his forehead with the heel of his hand so hard some of the talc from his barber shop visit today actually puffed out from inside his collar.
“All right, all right! If I tell you, you have to promise to quit bugging me about it and you also have to promise that you will start calling me before you come over for these little visits. I wasn’t even decent when you talked Henrietta into letting you on up" she said.
He gave the Hallelujah Chorus Hand wave and pulled his chair closer to the makeup table. “Deal.”
“Georgie-boy, it’s war time. Stephanie had on stockings. Real ones. No woman with an ounce of love for her country or the freedom of America would hang on to her nylons when old uncle sam was asking for them. She would do what I did: drop your hose and hand them right to dear old Sammie. See these?” Belle asked as she spun in her seat at the vanity so Georgie could see her legs. “I paint the lines on my legs.”
“Yeah but how-” he sputtered and blinked.
“How did I get the murderer from the fact that she wore real nylons?” Belle interrupted.
“She doesn’t have two dimes to rub together. That and the new apartment she moved into add up to something fishy for a girl who works at the airplane factory. After cocktails I cornered her and started grilling her before dinner. Soon enough she let on that Theodore just happened to be the new bankroller of her high living.”
She paused to apply her lipstick. Georgie watched it slide across her lips slowly and would have traded his whole world to be that lipstick right then.
She continued: “I also know that Theodore and Steph hate the stuffing out of each other. So why, my dear boy would the suddenly rich beneficiary turn benefactor? Because she was delivering him the mail.”
This time she left Georgie, who was starting to sweat through his shirt into his jacket, sitting on the edge of his seat as she lightly smacked her lips together to even out her lipstick.
“Black mail. She must’ve had something on the sole heir to the So Smooth Peanut Butter empire. When I then cornered Theodore, who conveniently happened to be at the same party, he was so guilt ridden that he cracked like a nut. He told me all about `how it was an accident that his father happened to be deathly allergic to nuts and that he had no idea of that fact when he switched the old man's traditional ham sandwich at lunch with a sample of Super Chunky Peanut Butter the company was developing."
"So wait. How does Steph figure into this? If it was an accident..." Georgie was truly fogbound and as always Belle turned on the bulb in the lighthouse for him.
"You know how small a town this is? Well her roommate happens to work in the cafeteria at the peanut butter works so you tell me what happens next." She hunched over with her hands clasped in her lap and her head bowed like she was trying to teach a small boy a lesson.
"Um." He said.
Rolling her eyes, she continued: "her roommate reads the paper and talks to Steph about the strange fact that Theodore insisted on making his father's lunch that day. He was really proud of the new peanut butter and wanted him to try it without him knowing, so he'd be surprised. Steph puts two and two together and comes up with thirty thousand because she goes to Theodore and tells him she knows he made the sandwich.
"Yeah, but nobody knew the old man was allergic" Georgie said. "I mean, jeeze louise! Imagine a guy trying to hawk a product he's never tasted."
"So it seems he didn’t murder anybody, really, but with the right amount of pressure in the right places, she had him so scared of going to jail that he was willing to do anything, so he started her bank account..." she paused there to check him in the mirror behind her; sometimes revealing the details of a case to him like this was like waiting for a dog to do his business in the rain.
"Yeah, I get it now, but now the DA is backing off charges and all the company is his and Steph's assets are in a sling" the man told her like he was delivering news she didn't know already. "So now you wrapped it all up and he's so grateful that he wants to take you out and wine and dine you. You know how that looks, right? It looks like he's payin and you're--"
"I don't care what it looks like Georgie. Besides, a grateful millionaire asks me out to dinner at The Guard and I turn him down? A girl would have to be crazy to turn down a night at that place. Since you cops don't pay me to solve your crimes yet, I don't get too many nights out on the town" she said as she put two puffs of powder on the tip of her nose to keep down the shine. She squinted at Georgie through the haze of makeup dust. He was pouting like a baby whose toy had been taken away.
"Besides, I want to ask him a little something about a break-in at his father's doctor's office a couple of weeks ago. Seems all that was taken was one patient's file in particular..." she said as she rose, grabbed her clutch and wrap and headed out the door.
"Oh, by the way: lock up behind you and stay out of my drawers this time, it’s creepy."
"Get Up and Go" by Debbie Weiss
"Come on Kathleen, you look beautiful and glamorous enough. We have got to get a move on, baby." "I'm getting there, Herbie, my sweet Herbie." Kathleen said as she continued putting her lipstick on just right. She would take her time and outline her luscious lips in a dark red, she was very precise. Then she would color her lips with a bright red to really attract attention. She loved attention. She loved Herb's attention. Herb smiled. Oh how he adored Kathleen. He loved her from the very first moment he set eyes on her, back when he was in High school. How many years had it been now. At least thirty he thought to himself. How he could have been so stupid. He shook his head to himself. He stood watching Kathleen at his wife's dressing table. He closed his eyes and remembered back.
Herb played football back in High school and had his eye on a cute blonde cheerleader, Betsy. She did the splits in front of him, she threw her pom poms up and tried to catch them near where Herb was standing. She smiled and flirted with him at every game.
He asked her out one day at lunch and she gladly accepted. Herb knew he would get lucky with this girl right away. She looked the type.
Shy and playful but he figured her to be an easy girl and he would take advantage of that. He picked her up at her house on a Friday evening and was surprised to find a beautiful girl answering the door.
"Do I have the right address?" Herb asked. "I am looking for Betsy Cooper." "yes", the beautiful girl answered in a low raspy voice, "this is Betsy's house." Herb was afraid to ask who this lovely creature was. He was led into the house. The girl ran up the stairs and Herb introduced himself to Betsy's parents. Betsy came down the stairs in a long sleeved dress with buttons that went all the way up to her neck. He was a bit shocked, she looked very conservative. Maybe she was not the girl he thought her to be. She kissed her parents goodbye and they went out the door. He looked back up at the stairs but no luck, no beautiful girl standing there looking down at him.
He opened the car door and before he could even get inside, Betsy had unbuttoned her long sleeved black dress and had on a small lacy bra and a large wide smile.
"Betsy." Herb remembers yelling out. "We are still parked in front of your house, are you crazy?" Herb remembers thinking to himself, I knew it. I knew I would get lucky tonight. Betsy did not want to go the movie show, and was not hungry for the burger joint around the corner from her home.
Herb parked the car at a nearby park. He was loosening up his tie while Betsy had already jumped into the back seat of his Chevy. She was unhooking her nylons, her dress already off and crumpled on the floor. Herb jumped in over the seats and Betsy jumped on top of him and his night was made.
After several hours of play, they dressed and stopped at the diner to get some food. Betsy slid into the slippery vinyl booth and Herb right beside her. She grabbed his hand while she downed her french fries. " I had fun with you tonight, Herbie." She smiled. "Likewise." Herb smiled too. He was dipping his fries into the ketchup. "Ah, you're parents seem nice, and that girl who answered the door, who was she?" Betsy continued munching on her food," oh that girl was my sister Kathleen." "Oh." Herb said not sounding too overly excited. She seemed nice too." She was at college for about a year and wasn't very happy there so she just came back home.
My mom is happy to have her back but my dad is angry." Herb was staring at the food. He knew right then and there, he needed to get to know Kathleen.
Herb looked up and Kathleen was just getting up off the cushioned seat near the dressing table. She grabbed at the papers sticking to the mirror. They were Betsy's life insurance policy papers. Kathleen grabbed the bunch of papers and closed her eyes as she stuffed them into her red over sized handbag. She started to remember back.
Herb was coming around three times a week to see Betsy, or so Kathleen remembered. Herb was actually coming around the house to see her. Kathleen did not have a boyfriend, she was envious of her sister Betsy. Betsy was cute, curvy, all the boys wanted her. Kathleen was herself striking, but in a more mature way. She was almost a threat to boys her age. She was sweet but not as fun as Betsy. She always caught Herb staring at her. It made her a little nervous especially since Betsy seemed to like Herb so much. She would not ever think about stealing her sister's boyfriend. During one football season, Herb had broken his leg and the team along with the cheerleaders were going on an overnight trip. Herb made sure he was going to miss that trip. Betsy's parents went along to help chaperone their daughter. Herb could not wait. This was his chance to be alone with Kathleen and when she opened the door, his heart melted and he really knew she was the one. Kathleen was hesitant to even kiss Herb that night, but she did.
During the summer after graduation, Betsy announced to Herb that she was pregnant and he would have to do the right thing. Herb was crushed and broken-hearted. He loved Kathleen but knew what he had to do. Betsy and Herb had a beautiful wedding. Her parent's purchased a small house for the happy couple. Betsy was beaming, she wanted Herb and had a feeling he and Kathleen liked each other, but she would not ever let her sister get her boyfriend. After a few months, Betsy broke down and told Herb she had lost the baby. Herb felt awful and even guilty as he only had thoughts about Kathleen. He realized he would not ever have Kathleen and tried to make the best of his life with Betsy.
The girls parents had been in a car accident and both of them had passed away. Kathleen decided to give the big house to Herb and Betsy and she would move into the smaller house they had. Going through her parents papers and belongings, she found a life insurance policy belonging to Betsy leaving everything she had to Kathleen. She also found an
old diary of Betsy's that told the entire story of how she lied about being pregnant. As Kathleen read through each page, she became more and more angry. The main reason Betsy married Herb was to keep him away from Kathleen. Through each written word, Kathleen learned just how devious her sister was. The first thing Kathleen did was to telephone Herb at his office. They hardly spoke with each other but secretly loved each other. Kathleen told Herb about the policy Betsy had and that both her parents had left everything to her also. Herb was furious at what he heard. He had thought about leaving Betsy many times, but felt it was wrong. But now he was ready to do something when he thought about all the years he had wasted on Betsy. They needed a plan. Kathleen invited Betsy over for lunch one afternoon. Herb had purchased some rat poison at the hardware store. Kathleen poured it into the wine bottle and watched Betsy drink glass after glass. Herb came out of the bedroom, grabbed Betsy's passed out body and placed her in a box that he had built and buried her in the backyard of her parents home. Kathleen had been throwing up when Herb returned inside. "Let's go." he said. Herb picked up two suitcases and they walked down the stairs. A For Sale sign stood in the front yard as they got into Herbs car and drove off. "What do you think will happen to us?" Kathleen quietly asked. "I don't know but lets make the best of whatever time we have together." Kathleen held onto Herbs hand as they disappeared into the night._________________________________________________________________________________
The Letter by Anthony Pino
Let’s not worry about the letter. I’ve got a guy working on it now. It’ll be OK. Insurance companies do this kind of thing; they turn down claims they should pay, even when they know they’re liable. We can take care of this. David wanted you to have the money and house I’m sure.
You know, Marcia, I’ve always thought that dreams are tied in two knots. It’s hard in the morning to untie the first knot that ties up your memory about the dream. And then there’s the second knot that ties up your understanding of the dream. You have to untie them both to see what’s in the bundle.
That party we had at the place on Franklin Street, just before you left me for David. It was like a dream. I keep trying to unravel it to understand it better. Anyway, I’m glad we’re back together. I can’t tell you how hard it was without you. I went walking out nights trying to work the whole thing over in my head. One night I even had a problem with the cops.
You were the center of it all, the tantalizing movie star in that magnificent plum turban with the big pearl clasp above your forehead. And that blue---I guess you’d call it “aqua”--- kimono (that’s a word I remember) with the flowers all over it. Ooh, those golden legs pouring into those creamy leather shoes. I remember it so well.
It must have been a big year for kimonos. Mona was wearing one too; hers was yellow satin and her robe was the same color in silk.
Anyway, the guy I’m working with is 15 years out of USC law and specializes in insurance. He’s so tough that some insurance firms would rather pay out than deal with him. He’s that good.
Do you remember the garden spider crawling out of the hibiscus and Mona screaming? She didn’t realize her robe was pinned under the lawn chair and got up so fast it ripped in two! Erich was playing “Anything Goes.” What a sight!
And Fred fell asleep in the blue hammock and didn’t wake up till the afternoon. Great voice, he slept without singing a note.
God, the garden was beautiful that day: hibiscus, calla lilies all around, birds of paradise, peach roses, banana trees, King palms all over the neighborhood---everything together: tile roofs, wrought iron balconies, and the birds warbling. I can still hear their echoes and Erich’s piano; it’s like they were all working together.
Erich sure could pump out the tunes. Cole Porter was his staple. Everyone left money on the piano. He was in heaven while he played. He’d smile and his eyes would be half-closed and then he’d take a drink after a couple of tunes. Poor old man. Damn! Heart attack.
We had a life, didn’t we?
Anyway this guy told me not worry at all about your case. He apparently has a lot of dirt on this insurance company’s execs and uses it as leverage to get his way with them.
The food that morning was good too. Shrimp cocktails, lox and bagels with smoked salmon, mimosas, carved lamb, sugar ham, those fabulous deviled eggs Maria used to fix, sliced melons, Champaign, Champaign, Champaign, and…of course,
And then David showed up, top down on his goddamned classic yellow Duisenberg, gold hair, handsome as hell, pulling off his jacket and pants and jumping into the pool---nude! It took guts and I think you liked that. That I wasn’t expecting. He was a tanned guy, all those women staring at him all the time. Frankly, I’m not sorry he’s dead. I couldn’t compete with him. I’d put on a lot of weight and I guess I wasn’t the eye-candy you admired anymore. I smelled like cigars all the time. David was so much a movie guy: muscles, gold hair, tan, a great dancer. Hollywood, so Hollywood.
The lawyer says, he’ll take the cash---there isn’t much---and you can have the house in the hills. That’s where the money is anyway. Then we can move in together. This time for good; I love you so much. So much. There’s no one like you, Marcia.
This time I've untied all the knots.
Strength in Numbers by Elisa Bandy
She looked a pretty as a picture as she sat there, looking back at me in her mirror while she put on her lipstick. It wasn't for me, of course; exactly the opposite. Lena was going on a date, and not with me. Her wedding ring with its minuscule diamond already sat safely inside of the locked jewellery box on her bureau. I had bought it for her when I had nothing else to give her besides a dream. I liked to think that I more than made up for the initial insult by showering her in more ice and chrome than she could ever want for. Still, she always thought of me the same way as when we'd met: as nothing.
Lena put her tube of lipstick away in the drawer and smiled at me. In between her too-white teeth, she said, “Henry, I'm going to have you killed tonight.”
Bemused, I turned the page in my book. “Couldn't we just get a divorce, darling?”
“That would only get me half of your money. I'd like all of it, if that's quite the same with you. The life insurance would be a wonderful addition.”
“Of course. Are you going out tonight to establish your alibi?”
“You know me too well, Henry.” Lena stood and adjusted her dress just so. She turned to me and leaned on her table. The contents of her handbag clattered with a plastic sound as she slung it over one slender shoulder. “I would say it's not you, that it's all business, but that'd be a lie. It really is all you. I thought you would want to know.”
“Thanks for that, Lena,” I said. To irritate her, I rest my hand on her cheek for the last time. “Good to know that I could finally be of some use. Have a nice night, love.” I stood there in the centre of my bedroom and watched her go, listening for the slam of the hardwood outer door and the rev of the engine of her new toy's Italian dream.
It was to be expected: our marriage had been on the rocks from the get-go, fuelled by convenience and the thought that we were the best the other could do at the moment. That assessment was more or less true, as she was too beautiful for me, and I was the most promising doormat she could find. There was a time I would have done anything for her, including lay down my life for her. Especially that. Now, all I wanted to do was die, but I would be damned if I was going to do it for her sake.
Lena had kept her gun in her bureau, an H&R Young America Double Action, .22 calibre. Like everything she owned that was of practical worth, I'd given it to her. It was an anniversary present long ago. It was the only gun small enough to fit into her gentle, under-worked hands. Evidently, she had however removed mine from the safe and hidden it in her purse—likely so that I didn't shoot the man she'd send to off me, or at least with any accuracy. I picked the gun up and put it in my pocket in any case, then went downstairs and poured myself a stiff drink.
It was an hour or so before there was a knock on the door. I shouted to my would-be murderer, “The door's open! I'll be in my study.”
Heavy footsteps followed me into the room. I sat down in my favourite chair, the one with that was too stuffed for its own good and had been in fact a manufacturer's accident. Just like me. I pointed to the drink cart to my left. “You should have a drink before you get down to business, Johnny.”
The kid looked nervous—it was his first hit. Shame too; he had such potential. I'd hoped he'd keep his nose out of the brunt of the work for at least another year or two. He wasn't even old enough to get into a bar without rousing suspicion, poor kid. What a way to lose his baby-face.
Johnny pointed the Smith & Wesson at my chest with a shaking hand. Kid was too yellow to pull the trigger, so he just stood there, shaking. Shaking and stuttering some bullshit excuse that I did not listen to at all. I held my drink and cigar in the same hand like a man while Johnny kept both hands on the grip of his peashooter. It was pretty clear what was going on.
“How much of a cut did she offer you, Johnny Boy? 50%? Nah, my Lena's too greedy to give you that much credit. Lemme guess: she wants you as her 'figurehead' while she runs the real business, 30-70 split? But it's all worth it to you because she's just so damned pretty, and what's a girl like that ever see in a schmuck like you?” He didn't say anything. He didn't need to. My Lena was really that pretty. “Tell you what. I have a proposition for you:
“You take this note downtown, and you hand it to that nosey detective. You do this for me, this one last messenger job, and I'll leave you everything. The house, the cars, the money, the business. You can have it. Plus, I'll give you two-hundred G's—cash—right now. It's all there in that briefcase,” I said, pointing with my cigar. “With that amount of cash, you can get a girl ten years younger than my Lena, and ten times dumber to boot. Which is good, because kid, Lena will eat you up and spit you back out without thinking twice.”
The kid didn't know what to do, so I pulled out Lena's 'gun' and waved him over towards the cash. He took the case and ran. I knew that my business was about to take the ultimate header, and that Johnny was going to be dead within the month. I just didn't care; Hell had a room with my name on the door for quite some time now.
The muzzle of her gun was cool against my chin. This way, I made sure that she would always stay my Lena. I was going to make damned sure that she knew it too.
I pulled the trigger, and then it was lights out from there.
This story came in by e-mail:
"Latrodectus Hesperus" by Marlin Bressi
"Helen," he said in a quivering voice, "I think we need to have a talk."
The raven-haired beauty did not reply to her husband, who had been acting quite strangely ever since the pair exchanged nuptials two months earlier. She misted her locks with hairspray. The aerosol hiss reminded Robert of an angry snake.
"I lied to you, Helen. The man I went to meet last night wasn't a client of mine. His name is Stanwick, and he's a private investigator."
"So this is what it's come to, Robert?" she demanded, angrily slamming the aerosol can onto the mahogany vanity. The impact nearly toppled a decanter of brandy which rested beside Helen's jewelry box. "I can't help but to think that if we had not gotten married so suddenly, you might have grown to trust me. It's obvious that you don't know me, Robert. And sometimes I wonder if I really know you."
"I admit that, at times, my jealousy does get the best of me," he replied, sinking his hands into the pockets of his pants. "But I've always had my suspicions, and I had to find out a few things."
"And just what did Sam Spade discover, if I may be so bold as to ask?" Helen laughed dismissively, and then turned toward the mirror, lifting a tube of red lipstick to her mouth.
"Do these names mean anything to you, Helen?" He withdrew a tattered sheet of paper from his pocket. "Archie Kean? Harry Baldwin? Virgil Mays? George Stokes? Do any of those names ring a bell, dear? No? What about Henry Chapman or Gus Andrews?"
"I have no memory of any of those people."
"Of course not, Helen," he said. "Of course not."
"Are you going to tell me who those men are, Robert? Or shall we continue to play this nonsensical game of charades?"
Robert shoved the paper into his pocket. "Damn it, Helen!" he exclaimed. "You know perfectly well who those men are. They were your previous husbands. All six of them, according to Stanwick."
"You are downright certifiable, do you know that?" replied Helen, before returning to her lipstick. "Forgive me, Robert," she added, after a long pause. "That was not the right word to describe you. Abnormal. Yes, that's better. You, my dear, are completely abnormal."
"Do you know what I think is abnormal, Helen? Marrying six lonely men. Men with one foot already in the grave. Men which had been convinced to name you as the beneficiary on their life insurance policies."
"You have quite a vivid imagination, Robert."
"Imagination? Did I imagine Stanwick? Did I imagine the report he gave to me last night?"
"You can't believe everything you read, dear," she said, rolling her eyes. She grasped the decanter, poured her husband a glass of brandy, and handed to him. "You need to calm down." Robert took the snifter, staring suspiciously at the amber fluid inside. He then set the glass down without taking a drink.
"For heaven's sake!" protested Helen, as she tossed her lipstick onto the vanity, and declared, "I have had just about all I am going to take of this nonsense! You are my first husband, and I swear to you that I do not know any of those men. Is that why you think I married you, Robert? For your money?"
"You knew that I was rather well off from the beginning."
"Think, Robert. If I had married those men and then collected on their life insurance policies, then where is all of this great wealth I've come into? Wouldn't you expect me to be more extravagant in my purchases? Or do you suppose I keep the money hidden inside a mattress?"
"Perhaps you keep it in a hidden bank account," Robert theorized aloud. Helen, enraged at the accusation, stood up and slapped her husband strongly across the cheek. The blow caused Robert to lose his balance, and he attempted to regain it by grabbing onto the bedroom curtain. The fabric ripped and Robert toppled forward, smashing his head against the corner of the mahogany vanity.
Helen knelt beside her husband, and wept as she searched for his pulse, to no avail. Just then she spotted the crumpled piece of paper on the floor, beside Robert's prostrate body. She could not contain her curiosity.
"Robert, you fool," she laughed hysterically between her wracking sobs of sorrow. "The name on the report is Helen Van Buren! My maiden name is Van Doren. Oh, Robert, you damned fool! I was right. It's obvious that you never got to know me very well."
After the coroner left and the chief of police offered his condolences, Helen composed herself and telephoned her late husband's insurance company, and she was very grateful that Robert had the foresight to take out a rather large policy which named Helen as the beneficiary.
by Stephen D. Rogers
Jean spoke to Greg's reflection. "I understand when you say she didn't mean anything to you. What I don't understand is how that's supposed to make me feel better."
Greg swayed as if he was about to step forward but in the end he stayed in place. "She's a tool."
"So's a razorblade. I don't see you taking one to bed."
"We need her to think she's approaching your husband for her own good. If she realizes she's playing into our hands, she'll go to the police and tell them everything."
"Does she think getting involved with my husband is for her own good, or for the good of the two of you?"
"What she believes isn't important."
"Then there was no reason to bed her."
Greg sighed through clenched teeth: "It didn't mean anything."
"There you go again." Jean turned away from his image, applying lipstick to her own. "Your story keeps changing, Greg. That's what happens when you make things up as you go along."
"Okay, fine. If that's the way you want it, Jean, that's the way I'm going to give it to you. She doesn't mean anything to me because she's just herself. You, you mean jealousy, and you mean privilege, and you mean money. You mean dealing with emotional problems and baggage that requires a train of its own. You mean wondering how long I'll be able to stay with you before I shatter."
She turned to face him. "That was good. Let's go with that. From the top."
Jean spoke to Greg's reflection. "I understand when you say she didn't mean anything to you. What I don't understand is how that's supposed to make me feel better."
"It isn't supposed to make you feel better. What I'm telling you is that it makes ME feel better."