My Goddess first came to me when I was a young man. I was twenty-five years old, and an outcast. I dreamt of a horrible world, one even worse than the one I already lived in. It was filled with burnt, decaying buildings, and ravenous children hungering to devour me. They chased me throughout the festering city, clawing at my flesh whenever I stopped to catch my breath. I was so frightened, and then I saw Her.
Caution: Graphic sexual content.
Once, there were three of them. It was decades ago, when options for friendships were limited to other children on the block, and it didn’t matter much if you liked the other kids there or not. Their parents would gather on the porch each night, along with their other neighbors, and William, Terry, and Joshua would play tag, or hide-and-seek. Sometimes, when her parents weren’t fighting, Jessica from across the street would join them. The trio of boys called themselves The Three Musketeers, though none of them had read the book, or even seen a film based upon it. Terry had seen the book on his family’s shelves and was in awe of the titular swashbuckling heroes pictured on the cover. Upon presenting it to his friends, the decision to bestow the title upon themselves was unanimous. None of them realized that the Three Musketeers had a fourth companion, though Jessica knew, and secretly considered herself their d’Artagnan.
The boys grew apart, as children are wont to do. There was no particular event or moment where the friendship fell apart; it simply dissolved over time. As the trio got older, they built friendships based on bonds stronger than immediate location. By the time they’d entered high school, they only saw each other in passing and the occasional block party. Their parents convinced them to share a limo to prom their senior year of high school. None of them had achieved a level of popularity that would keep them from consorting with each other, and there was no animosity to make the ride awkward. All of them agreed it was a good night, and none of them had spoken since.
JEROME HAMMOND, resident of Northbrook, IL, passed away on August 26th, 2013, at the age of 96. He was finally done in by his fourth heart attack.
Born at his childhood home in Chicago, Jerome was renowned for being the most hated person in the world, by percentage. Although monsters like Adolph Hitler and Joseph Stalin tend to claim this title in terms of sheer numbers, Mr. Hammond broke new ground in this category because practically everyone he met hated him. 99.8% of people who came into contact with him disliked him immensely. His daughter disowned him at fifteen. His son was famously quoted saying, “He isn’t good for anything, even an inheritance.” His own mother described him as “a complete and utter disappointment.”
From a young age, Jerome was insufferable. He found a way to effortlessly display every negative character trait known to man. As a child, he was a bully. He channelled his frustrations at younger children, tormenting them at every opportunity. On more than one occasion, his peers confronted him about his conduct. In every instance, he cowered like a wuss until they let him be, and then returned to his reprehensible behavior. As he entered high school and realized no one was intimidated by him anymore, he began to instead harass immigrants and minorities. He was particularly fond of mocking the Irish, even after it had fallen out of vogue.
Jerome never learned from his mistakes, and blamed every misfortune to befall him on someone else. Every hare-brained scheme that failed was the fault of a co-conspirator, and every car he rear-ended had a faulty brake light. He heaped unreasonable expectations on every person he met, and took no responsibility for himself. He was exceptionally rude to sales clerks and waitstaff. There are no recorded instances of him receiving an unmolested meal upon returning to a restaurant for a successive visit.
By contrast, every good thing to happen to him was, in his view, entirely his own doing and richly deserved. Jerome did not believe in chance. Every scratch-off lottery ticket that did not result in a win was a misprint; every win was due to his refined scratching technique and “system.”
When asked how a man such as he could ever get a woman to sleep with him, let alone marry him, his wife of sixty years, Margaret, responded, “He paid me. He was a bastard, and a pain in the ass, and he had the most annoying voice. But he mostly left me alone. Once he had a couple kids, he never touched me again, thank God. Jerry was a means to an end, and that’s it.” Margaret, for her part, is the sixteenth-most hated person in the world, disliked by 92.24% of the people who have met her.
Jerome is succeeded by his aforementioned wife, Margaret(84), son(Robert, 63), and daughter(Dinah, 59). In addition, he has four grandchildren. They are reasonably well-adjusted, all things considered.
Jerome has already been cremated, and the world is richer for having lost him.
There's a saying about turning heads when a person walks into a room. It's supposed to indicate how attractive or magnetic a person is. I never liked it; most people will turn and look when they realize someone has walked into a room. They want to know what is going on. The real measure is how long a person is watched when they walk into a room.
I say that because I don't think it does Josephine justice to say "heads turn when she walks into a room." Of course they do. What's exceptional is how long everyone's eyes stay locked on her. Josephine always looks perfect. She’s in great shape. She dresses both stylishly and appropriately. When she smiles, her eyes light up. Her laugh is infectious, and she always know when to laugh, and for exactly how long. Everything about Josephine projects success, from her perfect hair and make-up, to her ever-changing wardrobe. She's polite, she's kind, but she is still formal and to-the-point. She's the epitome of no-nonsense.
Josephine is always the queen of the room, and she knows it.
The room, in this case, is a small cafe that specializes in sweets and sandwiches. She comes here several times a week, as I do, though not from the same place. Most of the time, when I see her here, she gets a salad to go. She has never once stayed to eat. She walks in the door, makes a bee-line for the counter, where her food is already prepared, and she leaves. Josephine has never given any indication of noticing me. I don't mind that. It's probably for the best. What would we have to discuss? Something tells me she doesn't watch Community or The Venture Brothers, and I’m pretty sure she's never pondered the finer points of Final Fantasy VI. Her favorite bands are probably whatever's on the Top 40 station at the moment, and her favorite movie is likely a romantic comedy, but not a good romantic comedy, like Stranger Than Fiction.
Speculation, I know.
Here's the thing: I went to high school with Josephine. She was a beauty, even then. She was a cheerleader and a dancer, and she always dated the coolest, best-looking guys. It would be easy to believe she'd been bred from a tank for science. One parent an Olympic-athelete-turned-doctor, the other a marathon-running attorney. Something like that.
She was in my Theatre Workshop class freshman year. I think we had some other classes together, too, but with one exception my memory is foggy on the subject. We didn't run in the same circles, you know?
We only really talked once. She probably doesn't even remember it. Whenever our algebra teacher couldn't make it in to work, a few of the more unruly students took to making disruptive noises whenever the substitute teacher turned his or her back. Most of them made animal noises, but one person made a hard-to-pin-down guttural sound that was something between a cat's curious meow and a rubber band. Between the moos and baas was a doyoyoyoyoyoy that couldn't be sourced.
“Come on, guys,” Josephine would chide. “Grow up.”
Toward the end of the year, as the cacophony was in full swing, she turned to look at me and smiled. Below the rumble of the mock zoo, she whispered, “Can I show you a secret?”
“Sure,” I said, shrugging.
She twisted in her desk to better face me. “Watch my lips and my neck.”
I did. Nothing happened. The audible chaos continued, that distinctive doyoyoyoyoyoy joining a chorus of pigs and wolves. “I make that noise, and no one ever guesses that it’s me. No one knows except you. Don't tell anyone.”
Josephine smiled at me and turned back around, putting on a serious scowl. “Seriously, you all still think that's funny? Jeez.”
I wonder if that Josephine exists anymore. The world would be a sadder place if she didn't.