Gary Gets Gary

We heard the sniffles, the sniffling, the mumbling things to himself that we couldn’t tell what it was he was mumbling. His mumbles rose in volume, and there were screams in the mumbles, and the screams in the mumbles bugged us. We stuffed towels under the closet door, thinking we’d mute the mumbling, dilute the mumbling, something just to where we didn’t have to hear the mumbling as we fell asleep, but it seeped through. We dreamed. In the morning the sniffling and mumbles returned before we’d even opened our eyes. The mumbling made us open them. She looked at me. She said, “We should call somebody.”

“Let’s go in the closet,” I said.

So we went into the closet where once we were in there the mumbling stopped. We pressed ears to the closet wall but the mumbling was gone. If the mumbling continued, we said, then yes, we’d call some damn body.

I got a job in packing.

She got on as a waitress.

Our futon, when we’d first spread it out over the floor, what a fat puffy magic cloud it was! Two weeks later our puffy cloud was a knobby-ass pancake, and whenever we did it I like turned into a sobbing little infant baby underneath her. I was a gooey sobbing thing all grabbing up at her body and gobbling at her breasts, clutching her so tight in the wet misery thinking Mommy! just like a baby might think Mommy! Oh Mommy, Mommy, Mommy!

The mumbling came weekends. More and more we heard screams in the mumbling.

We always said we’d call somebody.

But Mondays rolled around and onward we rolled into other things. We blotted out the screams. Plowed over the whole idea of screams with other, stupid, silly things. We bulldozed the screams with our deal, the ordeal. She would cry. That was my queue.


“You know.”

“I do?”

“Yes, why do you have to be so mean?”

“I haven’t said five words.”

“When will I stop paying for this?”

I tried to comfort her. Licked her tears. Sometimes it worked. Other times they fell faster. I didn’t mind drinking her tears, but I think tears carry emotional weight, and can potentially mess up your stomach.

I saw the guy. I was leaving the complex when he came walking down the narrow hall under the dim spooky lights. His gut led the way. Had a cap on. Carried a bouquet of red roses. We slid to the sides to let each other pass. As we slid, I said, “Oh, I see you have a date.”

“For my son,” the man said.

We turned and faced each other, and he put the roses in his left hand so that he could bring his right hand up for a shake. I shook it, saying to myself, You're supposed to call somebody, not shake his hand!

“I’m in the printing business,” the man said, and said, “Can I ask you a question? Has Gary kept you up?”


“The last neighbor told the landlord I was beating him. The divorce is very clear. I get Gary when I get Gary, Friday night to Sunday on this day and that day. It’s very clear what days I get Gary.”

“I was wondering,” I said.

“It’s a medical condition. A disease. Today’s Gary’s birthday. I’m Gary by the way.”

“Hey, I’m Gary too,” I said.

“Trippy,” he said. His teeth had rotten spots on them. He looked at my shoes. I could tell he didn’t like that we had the same name. Said he’d see me around. I went down the hall, out the door. I kicked myself in the head all the way to Big Star where I bought garlic because she forgot the garlic earlier when she went for ingredients for the sauce.

Back at the place I mentioned Gary, told her what Gary said.

“Three Garys,” she said, and said, “You believed him?”


“Why didn’t you say something?”

“We’ve never heard him beating Gary.”

She started clapping hooray for the genius.

“You’ve had plenty of time to call,” I said.

“I’m calling Monday. Government things are open nine to five, Monday through Friday.”

“They have answering machines.”

“How can you say that to me?”

“I’m sadistic.”

“You’re a fucking asshole.”

It gets in you like you want to smash something. That’s what she wanted. Me to lose it, go crazy. Then, once I made a fool of myself, I’d get to feel really upstanding and good inside. Her birthday was in three days. She still felt shitty, lousy, dirty, that’s why she cried so much on the trip down. In Chicago we’d had a time of it. Had it been up to me, a stranger would have come along and murdered me. She obviously needed cheering up. Even though I knew I wouldn’t get any credit for it, I grabbed the dish strainer full of dishes and slammed it onto the floor.

She went to cutting garlic with a vengeance, really gripping that knife, letting me have it over the kind of guy I am. Cowardly. Selfish. Unconscionable. Violent. It was good we weren’t married because then I’d be a wife beater. Did I want to be a wife beater?

“I didn’t touch you,” I said.

“But you could have. You almost did. You wanted to so I don’t even see what the difference is.”

Getting ready for bed she was at it still, wordlessly, but at it, when the screaming started. It was pathetic, this crying screaming sobby sound that you couldn’t even tell what it was that was being sobbed about. We dropped our thoughts, crawled into the closet, then heard the man, Gary. He said, “I bring you roses!”

“I told you what I wanted!”

“Smell them, Gary!”

“I hate roses!”

We heard scuffling and the sobbing got louder and then it was the screams.

I can’t even think these things, but passionate rips were in her special flowery dress. In Chicago, where I threw the TV out the window. The man the TV nearly landed on always walked around the neighborhood with a brass pyramid on his head. He said to funnel energy.

But the screams were loud that night. This was the sound of our new life. The kid didn’t want roses. The screams came at intervals, as those that might be created with a belt, the putting on, the taking off of it upon a body. The engagement of such a process would surely create the sounds we heard.  

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