John-Henry Heckendorn
Margaret and the Son of a Bitch

Margaret! Sitting before her house; a titan astride her porch rocker warhorse. A stallion saddled with plush cushions; the swinging seat anchored to the ceiling by rusted chains.

Boots mounted on the porch rail, the frills of her dress fluttered coyly at the wind, Margaret had taken a line of credit on heed owed to bare legs and flushed cheeks that boiled brazen in the morning air. For Margaret had put aside her soap and her suds and her plates. She gripped a weathered browning shotgun in one hand and a weathered cigar in the other, her hair a loose mass at the back of her head. Cartridges lay like fallen leaves littered on the porch steps and sons of bitches lay like dead leaves in the yard and out into the street.

Not so many yet, but it was 8:00 in the morning and already the postman slumped by the mailbox and the milkman in the driveway lying, eyes to heaven, in a puddle of his own milk. In the road an unknown, except that he wore a suit, and a round hat, and glasses and, by God, was certainly a son of a bitch. He too lay blood streaming, a symbol perhaps for the living, but not alive, lying as lifeless as the day he was born.

And still Margaret watched, resting the shotgun against her knee, taking the occasional satisfying pull, but not satisfied, no, never that. She had ammunition to last her; the sole donation of the poor soul still inside, his head perhaps spattered against the remains of his scrambled eggs.

 

Leonard lay along the bar laughing. His head propped up by an elbow, he held a revolver in each hand, letting off rounds alternately. Leonard conducted this, his first concerto, with a certain selectivity; here blowing out a window, then squeezing off a few rounds at the shouting, wailing unfortunates who had not yet managed to escape the chaos. At one point Leonard had emptied an entire magazine on the martini glasses hanging from the ceiling.

The shooting and shattering provided Leonard an unparalleled release. He rolled over on the bar and carefully took aim at the glass doors that opened onto the main lobby of the hotel. Gentleman and ladies scrambled down the sweeping stairs and made for the entrance, throwing convention, and some themselves, out the window. Leonard fired and the doors shattered, provoking new shrieks and squeals. Leonard lay back, his body bending slightly as he laughed. He reached for a bottle with a fancy label and poured wine in the direction of his mouth, a red stain spreading over the white of his pique collar and Versace tie.

Hours later, the hotel had emptied. Leonard remained lying on the bar, staring at the ceiling. He stared up as though he had blown a hole in the roof, and could see the stars. Slowly he sat up, swinging his legs over the side. Absently, looking at the paintings on the wall, he reached for his pistol where it had fallen to the floor. He turned to regard the ruined entrance to the bar. Then, he adjusted his tie and walked towards the lobby, towards the revolving doors at the front, past the balustrade, and out into the night.

The street outside the hotel was quiet. Devoid of doormen and boys in red coats, the hotel stood tall and silent, against the sirens in the distance. Leonard watched a piece of paper dance in the night breeze, settling on the other side of the street. He was still looking when he heard footsteps behind him, and turned. A fat man in an untidy leather jacket was wandering down the street. His head was down, eyes focused first on one foot and then the other. He smelled hotly and cheaply of piss-bar lager. Leonard smiled.

Moments later the drunk collided with Leonard where he stood silently. The man staggered back and to the left, muttering to himself. He raised tired bewildered eyes to meet Leonard's. Leonard stared, first at the drunk, then down at his suit, in apparent disgust. He slowly brushed the lapel of his jacket.

His confused apology cut off in mid-sentence, the man blinked as Leonard raised his revolver. Placing it coldly over the man's left eyebrow, he fingered the hem of his jacket between two fingers.

"This is a Brioni, you son of a bitch," he shot him.

 

Margaret hummed tunelessly to herself. She kicked a shoe over to the mat by the door, and held a pan high above her head as she reached into the refrigerator. There were scrambled eggs and bacon on the stove, and some toast in the toaster. She walked out from the kitchen and around the counter to the table, where she put the jam and the marmalade and a little plate with butter on it. Returned to the kitchen and yawned as she walked through the doorway. The newspaper that sat at the table moved slightly, and her husband asked her if she wouldn't mind bringing some orange juice when she had a chance.

Margaret moved the eggs around the pan with a spatula. The phone rang and Margaret reached for it. She answered and said,

"Hello?" and then,

"Oh hi, how are you?" Presently she reached for a pen and uncapped it, holding it in her mouth as she listened to the phone and moved the eggs. When she went to take the pen in her hand she got some ink on her fingers; a few thin blue smudges, the sort of thing that seemed to happen every day at one point or another. Later she looked over to the table, to see if she had remembered the marmalade. The newspaper moved slightly again. Margaret glanced at the front page.

Back in the kitchen Margaret saw that the phone was off the hook and she would have replaced it but she saw that the eggs were ready and turned to them instead. She put the eggs onto a plate with the bacon and the toast. At the table the newspaper was turned to a new page.

Margaret opened a drawer and pulled out a knife and a fork and also pulled a napkin out of a holder on top of the microwave. She brought the plate and the silverware to the table, setting it down in front of the newspaper. She reached for a small orange container on the bureau and put two white capsules on a napkin beside the plate. Her husband looked up and thanked her. He folded the newspaper and put it to the side. As Margaret walked back to the kitchen her husband inquired whether she wasn't eating. She told him that she'd already had a bowl of cereal, and he reminded her that they were going out to lunch that afternoon.

 

Lenny went out to the car, opened the door and pulled some papers off the back seat. He then opened the front door on the passenger side and took out a jacket and his wallet. He turned and walked back up the brick walkway. He saw the dog lying on the grass and whistled to it. It stared back at him, blinking tired eyes. He opened the glass door and walked into the house.

He looked at the clock above the oven. He called to his wife and she answered from upstairs. He told her that it was time to go and she called back that she would be down in a minute. He stood by the door, and looked out into the yard. He saw the basketball hoop over the garage and the flowers in a patch of earth along the drive way.

Presently his wife came down the stairs and they walked out to the car, she attaching earrings to her ears and fussing with her scarf. Lenny held the door for her and wondered why the mail hadn't come.

 

At the restaurant, Margaret was there, and so was Leonard. Margaret looked at the curtains on the window; white with blue shapes on them. Sitting across from her, Leonard speared a shrimp with his fork and rolled it around in the red sauce. He collected a little pile of pasta in his plate, and scooped it onto his fork, with some falling off. He couldn't remember a time that he had eaten pasta and most of it hadn't fallen off the fork every time. He looked across at Margaret, as if for the first time, and wondered what would happen if he stood up on the table, stepping on the food and the plates, and kicked her in the face.