I write to keep me sane. I write so that my words may outlive my life. I write to find redemption

Friday, October 05, 2007

Goodbye, Mr. Understanding

I found myself struggling to write something with the words offered this week. Unlike a few weeks ago, though, I did not drive myself batty spending hours writing the start of 20 different stories I hated. Instead I waited until this character, this frustrated man with a need to scream, came to me. Meet Martin Langley on the day he comes undone......

Goodbye, Mr. Understanding

A crime of passion. That is what the newspaper would say about this tomorrow, Martin Langley was sure.

Wouldn’t the people who knew him- all those nosy neighbors who peeked out their windows when Tanya moved out, and all the bloodsuckers down at his office- find it ironic that he was the one who snapped? For if there was one quote he was sure would be in the article about this incident, it would be “Martin was not the type to lose it that way.”

Maybe he hadn’t been, but he was now. Walking the line had proved less than useless. Crossing it felt like his first breath of freedom after twenty-eight years and eleven months of being the perfect, unappreciated, good guy.

Hell with the laws, with what people would whisper, with what it would feel like to have a rap sheet. He needed this and he would have it.

Wearing a self satisfied grin, he went from room to room collecting every item that Tanya left behind. An errant shoe tossed under the couch. The painting she picked out in Tuscan that he silently despised ever moment it had hung on their wall. Her copy of The Secret that was left on the bedside table. And the wall calendar- all marked up with her handwriting, telling him about birthdays and parties and holidays they wouldn’t be sharing now. Because of her, because of what she did.

He could still smell her all over this house. That wouldn’t do. He grabbed the used towel still hanging on the back on of the bathroom door. Next he whipped the comforter off the bed- she insisted on goose down feathers even though he was allergic- and all the pillows, too.

Everything went into a pile on the floor of the living room. Tanya had loved this house. She just had to have four bedrooms- saying it was for the children they would have but knowing all along it was just to have one more than her sister in Cleveland.

There were no children here. There will never be any children here.

With that thought in his head, he struck the match and watched her things start to burn. But it wasn’t enough. Tanya was still here, everywhere, still lying to him and sneaking off into the other room to take a call from Hank, who Martin had been assured, ad nasueam, was just a friend.

A damn good friend, it turned out. The type you walk out of your marriage over.

Needing Tanya- and everything that she had loved once- gone from this house, Martin’s eyes darted around for more kindling. He spotted the picture on the bookshelf. A smiling, in love pair on their wedding day. Grabbing it he cursed her face as he flung the frame into the fire.

The smoke alarm went off, piercing the air with a ear shattering beep, just as the door rang out a high then low, ding dong.

Martin pulled it open to find Emily Grabowski, the gaurd dog of Lincoln Street. At seventy-two years old, she had spent fifty of them looking out her window at all of them, noting and judging their small little existences.

“Dear,” she started in her condescending way “I thought I smelled smoke.”

“Very astute of you to notice. But then nothing gets past you, does it? Well, come in, come in, I’m having a barbecue.”

She hesitantly stepped one foot inside, turning just enough to look into the adjoining living room, and gasped at the flames that now had burned not only the pile of belongings but also the carpet and couch.

“Hot dog or hamburger, Mrs. Grabowski?”

She gave him a look reserved for very small, unaware children or very large insane men. Martin thought himself neither but then she wouldn’t understand him so how could he expect her to see this wasn’t the act of a crazed, cheated on, abandoned spouse but instead of a rational man who knew the only way to begin anew was to destroy the old. He had not misplaced his good sense, no quite the opposite. He had found the guts to do the only sane option Tanya had left for him now.

Smoke started to cloud the room.

“I’m going to call the fire department,” she said, then fled back out the door, leaving it standing open.

Martin reached in his pocket and pulled out the last thing he wanted to toss into the flames- a band of gold, now tarnished and not worthy of hanging onto.

He wound up, like a pitcher trying to strike out the last player in a baseball game, and with a whoop of joy tossed the ring onto the top of the blackened pile. Then he picked up his briefcase, full of the only documents he needed to start his life over, and walked out the door.

Mrs. Grabowski was whispering to her old cohort in snooping, Mr. Lee, “The way I heard it was she just up and left in the middle of the day while he was at work....oh, Martin, dear,” she called out after seeing him walking down the sidewalk toward his car “the fire department will be here any minute.”

“No rush,” Martin said as he climbed into his car. “Tell them to not waste the water. There’s a drought going on, you know. Remember you are the one who told me just last week- no using the sprinklers on Tuesdays, right?”

He smiled at her. The front window of the house exploded outward. The neighbors on the lawn scurried toward the street.

Martin drove away, passing the speeding fire engine that was barreling toward his house. He flipped on his CD player. The song playing was one he used to listen to in high school. Before he was a banker, before he owned a four bedroom house with two mortgages, before Bush was in office, before Martin had a low sperm count, before he ever met Tanya.....before.

Martin decided he would ditch the car but take the CD with him. Wherever he ended up, whoever he ended up, he would still need good music in his life. It was one thing he was sure of. That, he figured, was enough to know for now.


Thanks to Bone at
Three Word Wednesday for the words this week:



  • At 10/05/2007 11:15:00 AM, Blogger TC said…

    It's not worth driving yourself crazy over. Good for you just waiting until it came :)

    Walking the line had proved less than useless. Crossing it felt like his first breath of freedom after twenty-eight years and eleven months of being the perfect, unappreciated, good guy.

    Nice to know there are guys who go through that as well.

    This was both heartbreaking and liberating. Part of me wanted to feel sorry for him, but another part of me was proud of him for the decisions he made.

  • At 10/05/2007 12:03:00 PM, Blogger Jo said…

    A good read.......I was glad he got away. And hey, you can permalink!

  • At 10/06/2007 06:10:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Hello Sara,
    What a fantastic title this is, "Goodbye Mr. Understanding." :)
    I haven't yet been able to read your prose but will do just that later.
    I am continuing my blogger over at Behind the Curtain as I haven't been able to get into my Blogger dashboard for 2 days. So sorry for this runaround.

  • At 10/07/2007 10:45:00 AM, Blogger Susan Helene Gottfried said…

    That's great! I want to know more -- you've created a very real world in a very short space.

  • At 10/07/2007 12:38:00 PM, Blogger poefusion said…

    Love the life you breathed into Martin's understanding. I am glad he took action and left for a better life. Keep up the good work.

    My 3WW is finally posted if you would like to come over and take a look.

    Have a nice day.

  • At 10/08/2007 03:26:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Great Writing Sara! :) I just read a book called 'An Imaginative Experience' by Mary Wesley. The protagonist in your story has a lot in common with the one in the book. Read it up if you'd like to see one version of how it all ends! :)


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