Read This Is What Happens Next Online

Authors: Daniel MacIovr

This Is What Happens Next (3 page)

“Should we get a Christmas tree?”

“Is there a time when we could talk?”

“We can talk now.”

“I don't want to live this way anymore.”

“Can we climb out of this hole together?”

“No.”

“Can we try?”

“I don't want to try.”

And yes okay fine it was on the phone but what was I supposed to do? Say yes to the tree and then go home and break up with him in front of the tree and ruin Christmas forever? But now apparently everything's fine. Now he's not crazy anymore. Why did he wait to stop being crazy until we broke up? Now he's happy. Now he's civil. “Today might not be the best day for you to pick up your stuff.” How civil. He's happy. Well I don't believe it. His civility is carved to an awfully sharp point; his happiness is a bit too acidic for me. Oh he's having a barbecue? Well you know what? I never liked barbecues. I never owned a barbecue until I met him. Or a microwave. And suddenly we're barbecuing every night for dinner and microwaving the leftovers for lunch. Partying with cavemen and picking up robots online for sex. I don't even remember their names. I don't even remember the sex. Oh but there's a tape! Oh but there's footage! I'm sure that will resurface if I ever decide to run for alderman. But I don't care about that stuff. That's not my stuff. I want my stuff. I want my windbreaker and my sneakers and my book and my tax stuff and my John Denver
cd
. I want my stuff and I want it today.

WARREN
's cellphone rings again. He takes it out and looks at it.

VOICE OF WILL

Don't answer that.

Don't answer that.

WARREN
answers the cellphone. Light shift.

SUSAN

(on phone)
Warren? It's Susan. Are we meeting today or what? Call me back, you idiot. And don't you dare go to that goddamn barbecue.

(
SUSAN
turns off the phone.)
He better not have gone to that goddamn barbecue. And I'm not saying that as Warren's lawyer I'm saying that as Warren's friend. Those two were a bad match. Like a ferret and a hamster. You ever see a ferret and a hamster go at it? A bloodbath. My youngest daughter had a hamster and then she hit puberty and decided that ferrets were cute—there's a red flag. First it's the ferrets, then it's the piercings, then the tattooing, then the floor-length capes and the Aleister Crowley. Then she wants to change her name to Cerridwen and move her bedroom into the basement. Full moons she's sneaking out to spend the night with her dishwater-complexion friends at that swamp behind the soccer field that they call “the heath.” You know what she asked for for Christmas last year? You know what she asked for for Christmas last year? Fangs! She wanted to have her incisors filed down to fangs. What happened to Cabbage Patch Kids? What happened to Barbie Dream Homes? What happened to Tickle Me Elmo? “No you're not getting fangs for Christmas.” Goddamn vampires. Ah they're all Mormons anyway. Honest to God. Kids. But she's just the dull throb to the sharp pain. The sharp pain that would be my oldest daughter. Three years at an American liberal arts college at thirty-five thousand dollars a year and she quits in her last term to marry a snake. A snake. Rotten? Rotten? Rotten? He gets her involved in a real-estate scam. A real-estate scam? In this economic climate? I can't talk about it it's in the courts. And what can I do? It's not like I can pull any strings. Twenty-five years at Shmulik Ginsberg Family Law and I can't pull any strings. I could maybe get you a caterer cheap, or a limo service, a landscaper. That's about it. Shmulik Ginsberg.
(She dials on her cell.)
And nobody calls him Shmulik anyway, everybody calls him Sam. He just likes “Shmulik” because it takes up more room on the marquee downstairs.
(into phone)
Answer the phone, you moron.
(She hangs up.)

He better not have gone to that goddamn barbecue. And I told him. I told him when it started. I told him before it started. I told him long ago. I said, “Warren, you do not have the constitution for coupling.” Which is true. I call it like I see it. I know people. And you want me to tell you something? It's a very slim margin of humans who do have the constitution for coupling. It's a fifty per cent divorce rate, people. You put that and human nature in a calculator and you know what comes up? Pre-nup. Pre-nup. Pre-nup. And even then. Even getting that. Standard pre-nup. All laid out on the boardroom table. Client comes in with his fiancée. All he's got to do is sign. You can see he feels a little queasy. I hand him the pen. He goes to sign, he stops, he goes to sign, he stops, he looks up at me: “This doesn't feel very good.” No it doesn't feel very good, it's not a time-share in Costa Rica it's a pre-nup it's not supposed to
feel good
. But bingo bango Missy sees her way in. She starts digging in her purse. Pulls out this chewed-up plastic pen. Goes to hand it to him: “Here, use my lucky pen.” Oh what a gesture. What a woman. Offering the dagger with which he will stab her in the guise of the lucky pen. I can see what's happening here. I can smell it. His heart melts. And I can see in his eyes what he's about to say, “Awww we don't need a pre-nup.” So I step in just in time and I say, “Hey hey hey, who needs luck when you've got love?” Thank you very much. That gets us over the hump long enough to get signatures and off they go for cake arranging or flower tasting or whatever the hell they're spending their time and money on. About twenty minutes later I go into the boardroom to clean up and what's on the table? That's right. The lucky pen. And I keep that lucky pen for two months waiting for the frantic “Did I leave my lucky pen there?” phone call. Never comes. Come on, she fished that pen from a junk drawer ten minutes before she left the house. The ruse of the lucky pen. I've seen it all. I'll give her back her lucky pen when she comes in for the divorce. And divorce! Trying to get people through that these days. There's a walk in the park, there's a weekend at the beach. Another client of mine. Gervase. Gervase and Sonja. Oh my God. Gervase. Dumb. Lazy. Rich. There's a stellar combination. And beautiful. Lighter fluid on the fire. Gervase became my client a few years ago when he came into the office all upset about how his psychic just told him the world was going to end in five years, not in eight years like his psychic told him last time, so Gervase wants to adjust his living will accordingly. What? Whatever. Doesn't matter to me, bring on the end, a change is as good as a rest. Then a couple of days after this Gervase goes out and buys a turtle. A turtle? A turtle? This guy thinks we've got five left and he goes out and buys a turtle? Those things live for seventy years or something. That's a scary thought all by itself. Then Gervase meets Sonja. Sonja. Gervase and Sonja are both models. They met in rehab for Ritalin addiction. There's a prescription for bliss. Within a month they're married, fourteen months later we're working on the divorce. A couple of days ago Gervase walks in to my office with a bowl on his head. “Why do you have that bowl on your head, Gervase?” “It's not bowl it's a hat.” Models! “Take off the bowl sit down shut up and tell me what you want.” And Gervase tells me he wants to withdraw the divorce papers. Again! “Why this time, Gervase?” “Well the other day I dropped by the house to get…” Laid! That's the only reason he's dropping by the house. To get laid. Happens all the time. Familiar sex. It's very dangerous. The lure of familiar sex can hold divorces up for years. Of course sex is scary you just have to watch porn with the sound down to see that. Of course you want to hang your hat on a hook you know. And who wants to subject themselves to the horrors of dating? Come on! True story. Here's me:

“So tell me a little about yourself?”

Here's him:

“Well I'm a very active member of
NA
because last year I got addicted to marijuana because I was smoking it medicinally to counteract some gastrointestinal issues that I developed as a result of my
HIV
meds which also gave me anal fissures, they're not malignant but my doctor wants me have them removed before I go back to school this fall to study fashion design.”

AT THE AGE OF FIFTY-TWO
! It's a circus out there. And now Gervase is in my office telling me that he and Sonja are still in love. Love. Oh please. I don't care how you feel. I'm not a marriage counsellor. You want a marriage counsellor at three hundred dollars an hour? I suggest you get a therapist. It's half the price and twice as indulgent. I don't care how you feel. It's a ledger. A ledger. A ledger. A list of objects and numbers connected to the objects. A chest of drawers? Fine. How much is it worth? Put it on the ledger. I don't care how you feel about the chest of drawers, I don't care if you met buying the chest of drawers, I don't care if your grandmother strapped that chest of drawers to her back and swam all the way from the homeland with it. Just tell me who owns it what it's worth put it on the ledger. Period-osky.
C'est ca. Tout fini. Nada
more.

Gervase says I need a vacation. Yeah, Gervase, I'm taking a vacation this weekend. I'm taking Percocet Airlines up to Gin Lake. Shut up, Gervase. But he's a cutie. He's got that going for him. What's he so upset about divorce for? My marriage ended and I'm fine. Except I got the goddamn kids. No no, they're the best thing that ever happened to me. Or they ruined my life. Who knows. I don't know what might have happened because this happened. But when all is said and done and at the end of the day I'm a good mother. I am. Because I set boundaries without being overbearing. I let them make their own mistakes. I let them have their diversions. Their books. I'm not a fan of books. I read when I have to but I can't say there have been many books I've got through without at some point wanting to chuck them across the goddamn room. And self-help books? Oh my God. Listen, if you're thinking about buying a book called
Should I Leave?
save yourself the $25.99 and leave. And fiction? Meh. I haven't got the imagination for fiction. They made me turn in my imagination when I gave up my expectations. I'll wait for the movie. But I let the girls have their books. The little one has her Aleister Crowley—she doesn't really read it though it's more of a prop. And the older one went through her Candace Bushnell phase. Candace Bushnell.
Sex and the City
. Candace Bushnell, I'd like to burn that bitch in effigy. I tried to watch that
TV
show, but what the hell was it? Four whores sitting around tables in restaurants stuffing their faces with cheesecake and bread. And what did they weigh? A hundred and twenty pounds collectively. I actually saw it once where the little scrawny one said, “I'm going to drown my sorrows in another piece of cake.” Yeah maybe with a bucket beside you. What were they selling besides herpes and bulimia? God I hate that shit. Bring back the Barbies, at least they didn't talk. But I wasn't coming down on my kids about this stuff. Their books, their diversions. I let them make their own mistakes. But the older one I don't know. I think it's just prison for her. A real-estate scam? In this economic climate? She might as well have been stealing wheelchairs from war amps. I mean give me bank robbery, give me hijacking. These days a real-estate scam makes organ harvesting look classy. But the young one, who knows? She's young. The tattoos won't go away but the piercings will grow over. And there are worse things than hanging out in a swamp with a bunch of vampires wearing purity rings drinking Dr. Pepper from a goblet. I indulge her, I call her Cerridwen, and she seems pretty happy in the basement. But I was thinking, one thing I might have done wrong, maybe I should have got her a turtle instead of a ferret. A turtle and a hamster might have got along better. But not really though. It was the hamster was the mean one. Tough! That ferret didn't stand a chance. Ah what difference does it make turtle ferret hamster. We all end up feeding the same field of daisies. Everything ends. Or turns into something else. Or goes away. Just like when you're fifteen years old at the high-school dance and Lionel Richie is singing “Easy Like Sunday Morning,” and Elliot Hillman finally asks you to slow dance and introduces you to the concept of engorged for the very first time. But four minutes and sixteen seconds later it's all over and you can never get it back again. And thirty years pass and Elliot Hillman finally comes out of the closet after two marriages and you can't get into the high-school dance without passing through a metal detector and Lionel Richie has a daughter who grows up and becomes famous for being best friends with a skank. That's the way it goes. It ends and it turns into something else. Or it just ends.
(She takes out her cellphone and looks for a number.)
Okay, Warren, that was strike three. And I cancelled a date today to meet with that son of a bitch. Goddamn barbecue. Warren's out, date's back on. Yeah I'm dating. I met him online. Third date today. Nothing's happened yet though. He's shy. He's an astrologer. There's nothing wrong with that. Astrology's no worse than anything else. And I believe in things. I believe in lots of things. What I don't believe in is people. Because I know people.

She pushes a button as if turning on a
CD
; it's “Easy” by the Commodores.

I'm just gonna chillax with some tunes and see if I can get the reluctant Romeo on the line and rebook the date. Fingers crossed third date we'll get below the belt. “Oh she's randy!”

That's the Commodores. Lionel Richie at his best, baby. A girl can dream can't she?
(into phone)
Hi Aaron, it's Susan. Listen—

The sound of giant footsteps and a record scratching.

Light shift.

WILL

The Commodores? What's next John Denver?

Music “Happy Ending.”

And she doesn't read? Oh, okay. I guess I can get behind that. And domesticated turtles don't live to be seventy years old, they're lucky to see seven. She'd probably know that if she read.
(He takes a sip from the Starbucks cup; he immediately spits it out.)
Jesus Christ! That's fucking
cold
! Grrr. Oh listen, “Happy Ending”! Yay. But as for happy endings I'm sorry to say that if we were to continue telling her story it would not be a happy ending. If she were to continue on the road she's on it will be a ripped-from-the-headlines type ending: “Mother Drugged and Killed in Bathtub by Satan-Worshipping Teenage Daughter.” But the good news is the daughter ends up becoming rehabilitated in prison and finds God. Although she does eventually go back to jail for bombing a mosque. You win some you lose some. No happy endings here. Which brings me to Mister Arthur Schopenhauer Fellatalist—urm—Philosopher, who would say that it is the will of the horny lawyer mother, the will of the vampire mosque-bombing daughter, the will of the I'm-going-to-get-my-stuff Warren that leads to their unhappiness. Because Arthur Schopenhauer was the guy who said “A life of will is a life of misery.” Oh okay. Well let's take a look at Arthur Schopenhauer's life shall we? Once upon a time Arthur Schopenhauer was born to a privileged, cultured family. But tragically Arthur's father dies when he is very young. And this is tragic because little Arthur has a nasty, nasty relationship with is mother. Arthur Schopenhauer is a very serious kid but his mother is a party girl of the highest order. They're fighting all the time. One night his mother actually pushes little Arthur down a flight of stairs. Pushes him down a flight of stairs! So clearly Arthur Schopenhauer has approval issues. And all he really wants all his life is to be famous. But nobody wants to read all this pessimistic writing he's doing. So he ends up sixty-nine years old living in a dingy little flat in Frankfurt paying people all over Europe to cut out any tiny mention of his name in the paper and send it to him. That's just sad. Maybe if Arthur Schopenhauer realized he could use his Will rather than deny it he would have… I don't know… lightened up a bit… learned how to play the fiddle or something. Change your attitude, Arty. And I'm not talking about some pathetic “from now on I'm going to look at snow as a good thing” attitude. What the hell was that? No, I say if life gives you lemons—break out the tequila. Make a change, take a stand, tell your story, get your stuff. Of course some people just don't have the balls.
(He finds this hilarious.)
You'll get that later.

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