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Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Elena Callahan's Very Big Day Part Six

Here's part six. Part five is here.

Part Six: Terrible Swift Sword

Elena sat quietly in her green chair, magnifying glass poised over a particularly memorable passage of Great Expectations. She was unaware that she’d read the passage at least five times in the past ten minutes, delighting in Dickens’ description of Miss Havisham over and over again. Unfortunately for Mrs. Guzman, sulking around a large potted fern near the open window, Elena was in the habit of reading aloud to herself in her firmest, mostly unbearable voice.

“If I hear about that goddamn withered bride inside her withered bridal gown one more time,” Mrs. Guzman said in her firmest, completely inaudible voice, “I’m going to murder you with this fern.” She reached abruptly for the pot, and her hands passed through it.

“...everything within my view which ought to be white, had been white long ago, and had lost its luster,” Elena sang out, “and was faded and yellow. I saw that the bride within the bridal dress had withered like the dress...”

Mrs.Guzman screamed silently to herself.

Cobble burst into the apartment just as Elena was beginning the passage once more. Elena, several feet away, looked up sharply from her book, dropped the magnifying glass, and was just about to gasp when she recognized the general shape of the figure in her hallway to be her grandson.

Cobble appeared to be carrying a large cane, which he wielded like a sword.

And of course the cane was a sword. If Elena’s eyes had been better, she would have been terrified at her grandson’s appearance, which was that he had blood and bits of human insides all over him, one eye was swollen shut, one pant-leg was ripped from the thigh to just below the knee, and his left arm badly bruised.

“Cobble,” Elena said, placing the book on an end table beside the now-cold, untouched cup of coffee. “I’m glad to see you dear, but please knock. You scared me half to death.”

Cobble limped down the hall. “Alive,” he said. “Thank god.”

“I said ‘half to death,’ dear. Of course I’m half alive as well.”

Mrs. Guzman, who could see just fine, noticed the blood and the bits of human insides, dismissed it all as probably a new fashion of which she was unaware, and locked her eyes on the sword gleaming dully in the sunlight. It looked very old and probably belonged in a museum. There were jewels embedded in the hilt and along the blade, which was also covered with blood and matted hair.

Mrs. Guzman, for the next five minutes, continued on unnoticed as she tried desperately to steal the sword from Cobble with the intention of shoving it through Elena’s voice box.

“Do you not know what’s happened?” Cobble asked.

Elena got to her feet. “Let me put on my dress. You have a seat. You look tired.”


“I’d get you some coffee, but it tastes horrible without sugar, and I’m out of sugar.”

“It tastes awful because you brewed it with--”

“Sit.” She started off across the living room to her bedroom.

Cobble dropped the sword to the hardwood floor, where it rattled and clanked. Mrs. Guzman lunged for it and ended up in the Leibowitzs’ apartment downstairs--and saw, incidentally, that the Leibowitzs‘ had been slaughtered and partially eaten some days ago.

“Grandma, listen.”

“What is it?” She was squinting at the deceptively heavy cane on the floor.

“Something has happened. No one knows what.” Cobble approached his grandmother, his hands reaching out to grab her lightly at the wrists. “People have gone insane. They have. They’re... have you not watched the news?”

Elena’s hip was hurting. Sharp pains. She took a step back, towards her chair. “I don’t watch television. I can’t see it. The last time I had it on, every channel was playing horrible horror movies, so I turned it off.”

“That was the news,” Cobble said.

“They mentioned the return of Christ,” Elena said. “I figured they were all Easter-themed horror movies.”

Downstairs in the Leibowitzs‘ apartment, Mrs. Guzman wished Cobble would stop engaging his grandmother in conversation, and would just deliver a lengthy monologue. Not that his voice was much more pleasant. Too nasal.

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