Monday, July 18, 2011

Excerpt from Judas (Short Story, Full Version to Follow Soon)

The wheel on the shopping cart needed to be oiled badly. It squeaked in a rhythmic pulse like a bird being buffeted by a metrenome. Jake tried to ignore it as he walked down the isle. The florescent lights overhead flickered slightly. Flickering in time to the bird-metrenome-wheel squeak. As he walked past the shelves, littered with the remains of the once bountiful produce isle, he barely registered the field of scattered beans his squeaking wheels were navigating towards the back.

“Ah. My favorite customer.” the swathy man in a smeared and stained green apron beamed as he greeted Jake with a smile that was all teeth.

“Your only customer.” Jake corrected him with a glare.

Along with the sighing, the glaring was a recent addition to his face’s repottoire. His normally passive eyes had learned a fiery new shade of blue when they locked onto their target.

“Of course. And I am most obliged to that fact.” the man said his eyes disappeared into the widening smile. “What can I get you today?”

“I’m looking for truffles.” he said, scratching the back of his hand as he thought of the loud cookbook. It had been a present from Marie and Jude.

“Ah! Manefique! I have white and milk chocolate ones!” the man said as he turned around to go fetch the aforementioned treats.

“No, I mean the mushroom type. I need black truffles.”

“Hmmmm, well that.” The man said rubbing his unshaven chin between his thumb and forefinger, “That will cost you.”

“Even today?” Jake asked sighing, yet again.

“Especially today!” The man threw his hands in the air, “I’ve been cleared out twice now! Look at what they did with four bags of beans. Four! Do you know how valuable those will be soon!”

“Georg, I’m sorry. But honestly, I don’t care.” Jake began saying before Georg interrupted.

“Of course you don’t! No one does!” He began sweeping as he had been doing when Jake first interrupted him, “That’s why they did this. They figure, why not, you know?”

“Anyway, what do you want this time?” Jake wanted to get home. It was almost six.

“Well, you can keep your currency. But do you have any pills?” Georg said, as his wet tongue ran across his large lips.

“Yeah. Some oxycoten from my root canal.” Jake replied, thinking about how Jude would still be in the office, even today, making those last minute calls. While Marie would be getting home from the lab soon. She was always so lonely when Jude worked late. Which was more and more frequently the last three months.

“That is perfect. I will be by to pick it up tonight.” Georg said as he shuffled behind the counter and took a large key ring from his belt. After unlocking the small door, half of his bulbous, hairy frame disappeared into the hutch. When he withdrew his face was much redder and covered in beads of sweat. But he had it. “Here you go. Hey, that bottle of pills, it better be mostly full.”

“Are they black truffels?” Jake asked, looking at the label printed in some other language.

“Black, white, what? Are you choosing now to suddenly become racist? What does it matter?” Georg said as he resumed his sweeping. “Hey, just remember, I’ll be by later tonight.”

“Before or after?” Jake said as he pocketed the glass bottle of white truffles.

“Before of course! After, well, you cannot plan for that, no. You cannot.”


In the millions of phone calls caught in the atmosphere, one stood out over the rest.

“Hey, Marie, its me. Are you home already? Listen, I know Jude won’t be in for a while yet. Did you need some company? No, I haven’t changed my mind about dinner. Sure, I’m already on your side of town. See you in five. Bye.”


“Oh, look, Sara! Its Jake! Hello! Hello, there!” The old woman called from her chair on the porch.

Jake was just rolling out of his beat up, blue pick up, when he saw the familiar, pruned face waving him from next door. Jude and Marie’s neighbors took a keen interest in Jake. They had since the first time he had come over to visit Jude and Marie, after they had just bought the house. Marie’s first. Jude’s fourth. He liked to impress whenever possible. And Marie was easily impressed.

“Hi. I’m just stopping by to see Marie.” Jake called out as he waved.

“Of course, of course you are.” The one called Sara said as she shuffled towards the door, leaning on her walker while trying to adjust the shawl hanging open. “But first, could you be a dear and help us with this. It seems Katie turned the internet off again.”

“I’ll be right over.” Jake said as he couldn’t help but smile. He quickly beat out a text message and bound up the neighboring houses’ steps.

“Thank you, dear. Would you like some tea?” Katie said as she sipped from the rose strangled cup.

“No, thank you.” He said, scratching the back of his head.

“Of course not! Not today. Today he wants some whiskey!” Sara said shuffling back from within the house, a bottle in hand. She poured two shots of the amber liquid, one for him and one for herself. “Today we don’t worry about our poor hearts.”

“My heart is fine.” Jake said as he threw the shot back, savoring the cool burn along his esophagus.

“Is it?” Katie asked, peering wide eyed over the rim of her tea cup, “I don’t think its been fine for quite some time.”

“I mean,” Jake struggled, blinking a few times before taking the bottle from Sara and pouring another shot, “I don’t think there is anything wrong with it.”

“Well, we will find out tonight, won’t we.” Sara said, taking the bottle back and pouring another shot for herself as well, “Well, the two of us won’t. Even if we do see morning, we’re old. We can’t even do the skype right. We can’t learn how to live all over again.”

“We’ve had a good run, though.” Katie said, putting the cup down, and taking Jake’s hand, “But you still have a chance. Who knows, maybe tonight might be the right time.”

“Why do I have the feeling like there’s something you’re not telling me?” Jake said, feeling the slowing buzz at the back of his head.

“You should run along, dear.” Katie said, pulling him closer and placing a wrinkled kiss on his cheek, “Marie will be waiting. And Jude will be home soon.”

“Take the bottle,” Sara said, “And good luck. You have balls, Jake. Dig deep and remember how to use them.”


Jake opened the door without knocking. He had had his own key since they bought the house. He spent just as much time there as he did at home anyway. Used to spend even more. From the living room he heard the sound of a female news anchor drone on, despite all that was happening.

She sat on the couch, her legs pulled up, a red and pink quilt wrapped around her shoulders. She had probably handmade it. He knew that nearly half the items in the house had been made by her. Lots of long lonely nights, waiting for Mister Important to get home.

Which wasn’t fair to Jude. He was Mister Important for a reason. And the guilt Jude felt for not being there always showed itself when he was there. Jake noticed a glass of Merlot in her hand, and sighed with relief as he pulled the bottle of whiskey from his jacket pocket. Marie was usually chilly about alcohol, unless she had some herself.

“You took long.” She said without looking up.

“Sorry. Katie and Sara. You know.” He wanted to talk with her like they used to. Back when things were normal. But the news caster’s voice broke the spell with healthy doses of reality.

“ there has been numerous reports of burglaries and fires throughout the city. Authorities say there is just not enough manpower on the ground to combat the rise in crime and according to several witnesses, police officers took part in at least one of the cases of armed robbery...”

“Georg’s was hit twice today.” Jake said after taking a sip.

Marie loosely acknowledged his bottle with a roll of her eyes before answering, “Jude says that it should not be a surprise. He said this is why we shouldn’t inform people.”

“What do you think?” Jake asked, taking another sip.

“The neighbors left their dog. It’s in the backyard, howling away as if the world is ending.” Marie said, taking a sip from her glass. “They went to the mountains and just left it.”

“Didn’t you try to warn them?” Jake said, “I mean, I thought that Jude had said that–”

“Of course we tried!” Marie said, closing her eyes as if she was in pain, “But when you’re frightened, suddenly, even if two PhD carrying members of the Advisory Council tells you its a bad idea, you are going to run with the herd. Its just the mentality. You know I wrote a thesis on that. Herd Instincts and Its Effects on Human Motor Functions.”

“So, when will Jude be home?” Jake asked, looking into the glassy eyes staring at the images of fires and broken window panes.

“He has to push the button. The big red one.” She said, putting her glass down, and standing up with a slight wobble, “Then he gets to come home and see me like this.”

“Okay, you need a glass of water.” Jake said, jumping up and grabbing her around her small waist.

“You know, Jake, there was a time when you actually made me j–” but the rest of her words were drowned out by her bending over double and puking on the white egyptian cotton rugs.

“How many did you have?” Jake said catching sight of the nearly finished bottle under the table. “Come on, lets get you upstairs and cleaned up before Jude gets back.”


Jake looked outside at the small square of green lawn. The brilliant green was mottled by bright yellow spots of dead grass. It had been like that the day he helped move the couch in on top of those egyptian cotton rugs that were now thwacking away on the inside of the washing machine.

“Just leave them.” Marie had said as she wave him off while slumping backwards on the finely embroidered bedspread. “It doesn’t matter.”

“I know.” Jake had said, but still put the rugs in anyway, measuring the exact 4 ounces of detergent needed and then rinsing out the measuring cup before placing it perfectly next to the orange detergent bottle. “Now, it’s your turn.”

He hesitated as she turned and held her arms up. He took hold of the bottom of the thick, beige sweater and began rolling it up over her milky skin, where tendriling trails of freckles wove across her back. He fumbled with the clasp of the black bra, averting his eyes as he gentle turned her around.

After staring into his downcast eyes while he worked to undo her slacks, Marie finally slurred, “Do you have to tell him today?”

He looked up, her green eyes dancing as they tried to keep him in focus. He merely finished undressing her and wrapped her in a thick white bathrobe, leading her to the ornate bathroom. Most of the sinks and fixtures had been his handy work. Jobs that would have taken Jude the better part of a day to finish, he had finished under an hour. But even if Mister Important did have the time, he just didn’t like working with his hands like Jake did. The thought made him smile.

“Here, let’s get some water running. You’ll be fine after a nice soak.” Jake said, turning the faucet on and letting the rumbling water splash and splatter as it pooled in the large tub.

“You know. I wait for him. Everyday.” She said as she leaned against the counter. “Everyday. Like some fifties housewife in my apron. It’s not fair. I mean, you know.”

“Yes.” Jake said, checking the temperature of the water.

“Of course you do. You’ve had to wait too. We both have.” She said, placing a hand on his back, tracing a sloppy circle with her finger.

He stopped. Looking forward in the mirror and catching her eye with the new glare of his as he simply said, “Stop. Don’t.”

She withdrew her hand and looked down. “You know, it really is pointless to tell him today. I mean, why ruin the way he sees the world. Has always seen the world.”

From outside the window, a dog started barking. Jake sighed. He knew she was right. None of it would matter. Maybe it would be better if he didn’t say anything. If some secrets were taken to the grave. Jude would never have to know.

“That stupid dog.” Marie squinted at the window, holding a hand up to block the light.

“I’ll go take care of it.” Jake always took care of everything, “But in the meantime, come on, get yourself cleaned up.”

Jake helped her slide into the tub of lukewarm water. She raised a single, thin-wristed hand and let the water slide between her fingers in large, warm drops. They sagged on her delicate fingernails before dripping down and disappearing in ripples.

“Here, take this.” Jake said, handing her a small white cup.

“What is it?” Marie sniffed the cup.



Outside a wind was picking up, whipping up the dust in small tornadoes that tumbled across the pavement before dying on the grass. Jake walked across the lawn towards the line of the faded fence. Before today, this fence would have been re-stained and sanded by the Mallers. But they had gone crazy, just like everyone else. Nobody cared anymore. Jake got to the door and he heard the eager anticipitory huffs of the dog’s panting breath as it ran closer. He placed his hand on the wood of the door and it began whining, scratching at the wood as it sniffed across each slat and crack between the wood. Its desperate pleas to be heard.

“Hi there, boy.” He said, putting his hand beneath the wooden door.

A warm, pink tongue hungerly flicked across his skin. He was surprised by how dry it was. It was thirsty. A prisoner begging for a drink of water. Jake reached up, over the door, to see if he could reach the latch to open the door, but it was just out of reach. The dog began panting more, giving a bark as if to say, “Don’t leave me. Don’t forget about me. I’m still here. I’m still here”. Jake found a thin branch nearby and tried to force it through a crack in the slats of the door. It pushed through but the latch still wouldn’t budge. The Mallers were a paranoid family, firmly believing that their home was surrounded by thieves. As such, they had put the most high tech anti-burglary door latch on the outside door. There would be no way for Jake to get in.

“I’m sorry, boy.” Jake said after the eighteenth failed plan, sitting down against the door, his chest rising and falling to the dog’s panting.

The animal grew quiet, as if it understood. A wet snout suddenly pushed its way under the door and shuffled around till it found his hand. It pushed into the palm of his hand, withdrew, and then pushed in again, settling there this time. As if the dog was saying, it’s okay, I tried a lot too.

“Hey, don’t give up.” Jake said, scratching the top of the muzzle, “We can make it through this. I’ll find a way out for you. I promise.”


“Where’s that shallow bowl you used last Halloween for your floating cupcakes?” Jake asked as he walked into the kitchen and began opening and closing cabinets, looking for the bowl.

“Why?” Marie in her white bathrobe asked obviously more sober, toweling her long brunette hair down with the thick towel.

“The dog needs some water.” He said, finding a metal fondue bowl and deciding it would do.

“Forget about it. It’s not bothering me that much.” She said, flipping her hair over and toweling it further.

“Its not you I’m worried about.” Jake said, filling it with water at the sink.

Marie looked up, her hair hanging like a curtain on the side of her head as she scrunched it dry. “I’m not a horrible person, you know that right.”

“I do.” Jake said, looking up at her, “But you still think I shouldn’t tell him?”

She ran her fingers through her hair while closing her eyes, “Fine. Tell him. But just keep in mind that when you do, he will suddenly realize his best friend has been lying to him for years. I’m sure thats the way you want him to see you right then and there before its all over.”

Jake looked down as the water spilled over the edge of the metal fondue bowl and onto his wrist. He closed the faucet and walked back outside. After sliding the bowl underneath the wooden door he walked back into the living room to find Marie, still in the bathrobe watching the news again.

“Alright, you’ve had enough. Come on, turn it off.” He said, reaching for the remote.

“Wait, here it comes.” She said, not breaking her gaze from the screen. “He’s about to do it. To tell them. Officially.”

Jake sat down next to her watching the screen dominated by the figure of an old man standing behind a consul, speaking to the flash of cameras.

“...and so we have here today, the President and CEO of GlobalNet Industries, Jude TerBlanche.”

There was mixed clapping and camera flashes as the old man stepped down and the much younger man stood forward. Jake had always joked that if Jude failed in business he could always become a model. The absurdity being that they both new Jude never looked good in pictures. But today. Today he carried himself well in front of the cameras.

“Thank you.” His soft, slightly timbred voice buzzed across the airwaves, rebounding from a million satellite dishes, chorusing across all frequencies.

1,035 kilometers away in a cafe in Paris, patrons put down coffee cups and magazine to turn and face the television overhead, while protesters in the street huddled in small groups around their handheld radios.

9,626 kilometers away in the city of New Dehli, the entire evening commute came to a stand still as a million car radios all echoed the same words.

10,477 kilometers away in the city of Buenos Aires, crowds gathered around the large outside monitors outside the football stadium where the message was coming in.

“Three weeks ago, we at GlobalNet first identified a possible deviation in the path of the astroid Apophis as part of our intra-lunar space inventory. We have worked with NASA, the European Space Agency, and the Japanese Space Authority and have concluded that after striking several GlobalNet Satelites in near-earth orbit, the astroid has indeed deviated from its projected path past the earth.”

The silence was terrifying.

“Instead, it will impact the earth. Today. At approximately 6 o’clock in the evening, Greenwhich Mean Time. Rest assured we have attempted all efforts to redirect the astroid. But none have worked. We urge everyone, to take shelter. Our models predict that ground zero of the impact will be the Great Rift Valley of East Africa.”

Marie sighed, “And so now they all know.”

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