The Enablers - Paul A Toth
This is a historical record. These are the sources: Sue; Ben; Randall; Cathy; Susan; Mitch; Vic; Tim. This document will be buried in a mason jar next to Meteor Lake. One day it will be found by architects.
The neighbor said, "You look like shit. How'd it happen?"
"Down the stairs."
"This is a trailer."
"Here he comes. Go, go."
The neighbor left as Sam headed for the fridge without a glance at Jen. Only his violence included her, but she hadn't given up hope that they could share other things.
"What's the problem?" she said.
"I told you I drank before we got married. I always serve notice."
"Get me a beer, please"
"You don't drink."
"I'm starting. Now what?"
"Nothing. It's wonderful."
Her plan to induce sobriety in Sam wobbled in her mind like a Frisbee. She slugged Sam's arm. When he reached for her, she threw him. The judo lessons had worked.
"How's it feel?"
"I like it. You should have fought back before. That's the way it's supposed to be. I feel better about the future."
They had sex. Afterwards, Sam said, "You ever think about adding to the party?"
The next morning, she wondered how Sam made it to work every day, but as the hours progressed, she began to understand how a reward awaited him at the end of each shift. She poured hers as the neighbor arrived.
"You don't drink."
"Listen," she started, but the neighbor cut her off and asked for a drink.
Soon the next phase had been arranged. That night, the moon made a lunar triplet of their bodies. When it was over, the neighbor said, "Listen, I got a friend. He's a little lonely, not the type to do this kind of thing. But if we got him drunk, I'm sure he'd change his mind."
Within a few weeks, the trailer filled each night, the expanding platoon drilling without relief. When a session ended, they all clinked mugs of beer.
Saturday night, Jen said to Sam from the opposite couch -- because they no longer slept together and the bedroom was reserved for group sessions -- "You never hit me anymore."
"Is it something I said?"
"I just don't feel like it. Christ."
"I'm sorry. I know you need space."
"It's not space; it's pressure."
"I miss the intimacy."
"I'm tired, too."
He slapped her face.
"Thanks," she said. "I'm better now. Good night, Sam."
Sam snored. Jen ruminated. She used to wonder how people came to engage in this swinging business. Now she wondered how they found their way into cults, if those worked the same and whether they could make one happen.
"Sam? We should have ranks. We should have privates and sergeants. We should have generals. We would be the generals, of course."
"That's not a bad idea."
"Let's think about it tomorrow, okay?"
"Let's do it."
The others initially refused the new order, but they came around after realizing it was one way or the highway that ran past the trailer park. It seemed less offensive to them once they understood Jen and Sam would no longer participate except to issue commands for various juxtapositions.
There had been one dissent, the neighbor insisting, "I won't do that, not with him. Never have, never will." After a kick in the ribs, she never disobeyed another order.
One Sunday, Sam and Jen found themselves ill with the flu. For the first time, they called off the gathering. It happened to be Memorial Day.
"God, I'm bored," Jen said.
"We've covered every base I'm sick of it, sick of them all. But I've been thinking."
"How stupid are they?"
The next morning, they let everyone know there would be a meeting that night. At dusk, they all gathered outside the trailer.
"That's right," Sam said.
"What's that got to do with us?"
"Everything," Jen said.
"Everything like what?"
"Like the meteor is heaven, that's what."
"And you think we're going to heaven?"
"If we rebirth ourselves in the atmosphere."
"Now you're going too far."
"We haven't gone far enough," Sam said, "but I'll tell you how we will. I've got the plans right here. It's spiritual."
Work began that night. Inside the trailer, the generals listened to hammering and nailing, fusing and soldering. They drank mugs of beer, but soon all the clanging lulled them into a silence finally broken when Jen said, "We haven't gone crazy, have we? When they finish and come inside, the trailer won't fly, will it?"
"It's gonna burn.
"Oh, Sam," she said, "fuck me up good."
"I see it," somebody said. "I see the meteor."
"Christ," Jen said, "he actually think he sees it."
"Not yet, he doesn't."
When he threw the match outside, everyone "saw" a meteor. Then they all rose into the atmosphere, forming a constellation of body parts that rained on Jen and Sam like falling stars. A corpse lay atop Jen, and she could hardly breathe. Sam put Jen out of her misery, and then the police and courts put him out of his.
Twenty years later, the crater remains. In the summer, it is filled with water and makes a little swimming pond known as Meteor Lake. A few babies were conceived in the darkness by that pond. They're grown. Most have joined the armed services. They'll come back to better cheap housing. It will be different. There was 1975, there is now, and then there will be another now. It is hoped this document will assist the field of architecture in naming these eras.
Paul A. Toth returned to his home state of Michigan after spending eight years in Los Angeles, Washington D.C. and Denver. His first novel Fizz and its successor Fishnet are available from retail outlets and major online bookstores. He has read in venues across the country. His short fiction has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize and Best American Mystery Stories. Toth’s story The Pop Lady Comes On Wednesdays received honorable mention in The Seventeenth Edition of the Year’s Best Fantasy & Horror, ed. By Ellen Datlow. Toth is currently working on his fourth novel. His audio work, which often combines story and music, has been widely published. Two short films Fizz and Knotted have been based on his work. The latter was a semi-finalist on Triggerstreet.com and an IFilm Plus Selection.
“Letter L from Alphabet after Serlio” image is from Frank Chouteau Brown: “Letters & Lettering: A Treatise With 200 Examples” (1921)