Dull

Peggy Herschel sat in a café and looked out at the cold wet morning. She sipped her coffee and thought about Stan Parks. She was having an affair with him. Cheating on her husband of ten years with him. She had no idea why. She’d started an affair because the passion had gone out of her marriage, but she realized only this morning that there was no passion with Stan, either. She had traded out a dull and predictable boredom for a new and varied boredom. What a dull, sad old woman I’ve become, thought Peggy. She took her idea pad from her purse and flipped it open. She took the pen from the metal spirals at the top of the pad and jotted down a note. "Woman has affair, is bored." At least she’d have something to write about when she got home. Thank god for my writing, she thought, if it weren’t for my vivid imagination I don’t know how I’d get through this chore of a life.

The door to the café burst inward. A man in an expensive suit ran into the shop, a briefcase attached to his arm by handcuffs.

"Excuse me," he said to Peggy. His voice was low and sultry, with a hint of an accent. His eyes had an intensity that made Peggy nervous. "I’m in a bit of a hurry. I need to get to The United Nations. QUICK. I was wondering if you could drive me? I promise, you’ll be well compensated. It’s very important, the fate of an entire small country in the wilds ofEastern Europe depends on getting this suitcase to…"

"I’m sorry," Peggy gave a tired smile. "It’s just, I’m enjoying this coffee, you see."

"Oh. All right," said the man. "Well, thanks anyways." Peggy watched as the man moved down the bar to a cute blond girl reading a textbook on community planning. He gave her the same pitch he’d given Peggy and the girl nodded her head. As the two of them left the café they were accosted by two men in sunglasses and jumpsuits. The handsome man in the expensive suit said something to the two men, then began throwing punches. The fight was epic, the handsome man fending off both attackers, all while keeping a firm hold on the suitcase firmly attached to his wrist. The handsome man had one assailant in a choke hold, while kicking the other repeatedly with his left foot. The man he was kicking regained his senses long enough to put a hand up and grab a hold of the handsome man’s ankle. The handsome man then swung his right foot up over his left, delivering a crushing blow to the assailant’s face, knocking him to the ground. However, such acrobatics had forced him to loosen his choke hold on the other man. Before the handsome man could regain his footing the other assailant took a gun out of his waistband and pistol-whipped the handsome man. He said something, then raised the gun to the handsome man’s head. Just then the blond girl came up behind the assailant and hit him with the textbook in the back of his head. The man stumbled and dropped his gun. He turned and grabbed the woman by the neck and lifted her off the ground. The woman, choking and sputtering, pulled her leg up behind her and reached down. Her hand reached down and managed to slide off her two-inch pumps. Holding the shoe by the toe she threw her arm out and lodged the heel into the man’s eye. The man screamed in pain and dropped the woman. The handsome man came to and grabbed the assailant’s dropped gun and put two slugs into his stomach. As the man fell the blond came over and helped the handsome man to his feet. Their eyes met and they kissed, deep and violently passionate. The woman broke off the kiss and pulled out her keys, jogging over to a small Taurus across the street. The handsome man got into the passenger’s seat, and the car sped off down the street.

"Tsk," said Peggy. She looked back down at her notebook. "Man abandons creative, intelligent woman for dull slut," she wrote. She was full of ideas today.

If it wasn’t working out with Stan, maybe she should find someone else. She thought of the other men she knew. There was Phillip, the entrepreneur who had made a fortune developing a non-toxic fertilizer that was revolutionizing the wheat industry, some saying single-handedly lowering the price of bread a full thirty cents. Then there was Gordon, an actor who had recently translated a lauded stage career into film stardom as the tough-but-fair chief of police in a successful cop action series. Or perhaps Neil, who was gaining national attention for turning around problem schools in low-income areas. Then, of course, there was Arthur. There was something about the way Arthur tore down the other people in their writing group, really cut them down to size. There was a mystery about him. He wasn’t in good shape, he had a dead-end job and his stories were third-rate Don DeLillo rip-offs, but the way he carried himself with such assurance, such cocksure bravado, there must be something within him, thought Peggy. Maybe it was something dark, perhaps he was troubled. She would put a feeler out at the next writing meeting. Write a story just for him, see if he notices. She went back to her pad. "Entitled, arrogant yet sensitive artist ravishes marries woman." Good. That one would be fun to write.

Peggy stared out the window. On the street a boy dressed in lederhosen danced a jig while playing a pan flute. As he passed a sea of rats scurried out of the sewer, following him. It took Peggy a moment to realize that the rats, too, were dancing. As the last of the rats were dancing down the street a man who had been putting coins in a parking meter jumped into the street and grabbed one of the rats. He bit into the rat’s stomach, tearing out its guts and slurping out its insides. He then put the hollowed-out rat carcass on his head and let loose a loud, cackling laugh. "I WANTED TO DO IT, AND SO I DID IT," he said. "I AM LIKE A GOD!" An angel descended from the sky, holding a flaming sword in its hand. "How dare you blaspheme!" said the angel, and swung the sword of fire, releasing the man’s head from his body. The angel picked up the man’s head, with the rat body still on top, and placed it on its own head. The eyes of the man’s disembodied head shot open. "NOW I AM LIKE A HAT!" it said. The angel ascended back to the heavens. An old balding man stepped out of an apartment and watched the angel rise to the sky. "What a bunch of religious poppycock!" harped the old man. "I am a man of science! What use have I for angels when I have a Local Temporal Accelerator!" The old man pulled out what looked like a ray gun from a 1950s B-movie. "What’s that?" asked a pregnant woman passing on the street. "My invention!" beamed the old man. "What does it do?" asked the pregnant woman further. "THIS!" said the man. He pointed the gun at the woman and pulled the trigger. A pulsating purple wave overtook the woman. Her belly grew quickly, then suddenly a baby plopped to the ground. The woman began aging at a rapid pace, as did the baby at her feet. As the child began to grow up the mother grew old. They passed each other in a matter of moments. The child was nearing adulthood when the mother first bent over with great age, then passed away. The boy looked at the corpse of his mother and let out a howl of rage, then he too began to enter adulthood, then ever quicker old age and, finally, death. With two corpses lying before him the scientist raised the gun to the air. "See, you silly god!" he screamed. "I hold time, your greatest weapon, in my hand! Tremble before me, you pitiful deity! Witness sanctity in science!" Just then the jaws of a giant Tyrannosaurus Rex swept down from above and clamped down on the scientist. It lifted him up in the air and with a toss of its head the T-Rex threw the scientist in the air and swallowed him. Bombs began exploding around the ancient beast. It roared and began running away. Tanks and helicopters followed. A decorated general in an open-topped land rover sat on the back seat and yelled out of a megaphone, "Keep on him, boys! Let’s blast this abomination of science back to the Cretaceous Period! He’s headed towards the river, lads!"

Peggy sipped her coffee. "If he goes into the river at this time of day The Great Squids will get him, anyway," she said to no one. She wondered if her husband had any idea. She hadn’t exactly been discreet. Maybe if he would get angry at her, if he could loathe her, it would give her the freedom to feel something. How had it gotten like this? How had the world become so small, so inane?

Peggy finished her coffee. She jotted one final note onto the pad. "Unsatisfied woman blows brains out while cheating on her husband." At least I still have my creativity, she thought. She put the pad back into her purse and went to meet Stan.