Vignettes

Deleted Scenes from PERSONAL DEMONS

I wrote these as I went along, thinking they might add to the sense of impending danger and by showing the Yezer at work in people’s eeryday lives. But…um, I forgot about them, basically, and realized at one point I hadn’t put one in for over 20k words, so obviously they weren’t that useful or interesting. Still think they’re kind of fun for the above purposes, though, so enjoy.

Bernard Lerner walked out of the convenience store and across the parking lot with light, quick footsteps. Tina was waiting for him at home, the kids were having dinner with their grandparents, and there was a movie he’d always wanted to see on television, too. He whistled as he sidestepped a puddle. There hadn’t been any empty spots in the lot so he’d had to park at the strip mall across the street, but it was no bother. Bernard liked walking. Even if he didn’t nothing could put a damper on his mood tonight.

A little girl in a pink t-shirt stood next to her mother a few cars down from his. Bernard smiled. She reminded him a little of his own daughter, whom he loved very much. Even the impatient way she shifted her feet as her mother loaded their shopping bags into the trunk made him happy. His days or raising little ones might be over—Beth and Joe, Bernard’s children, were in their early teens now—but it always cheered him up to see other people’s children looking healthy and well cared for.

The little girl watched him approach, her eyes wide and cautious. Bernard started to say something, maybe “Hello, there” or “Aren’t you a pretty one,” but nothing came out. Instead something spoke to him, a voice he’d never heard before but that was still oddly familiar. It said, “kick her.”

He paused. The voice came again. “Kick her kick her KICK her do it kick her!”

Bernard didn’t think. He didn’t make a decision. All he knew was that suddenly his foot shot out and hit the little girl’s bony, hairless shin.

The girl started to cry. Her mother, whose head was buried in the trunk, popped up to stare, but Bernard was already running away, his face hot, his heart pounding. Whatever had possessed him to do such a thing? What was the matter with him?

The girl’s mother started shouting after him, dragging the girl in his direction. Bernard took one look at her red, furious face and wrenched open the door of his car. He started the engine with shaking fingers and squealed away, tears pouring down his cheeks. He’d kicked that little girl. He’d hurt a child, a sweet child, for no reason at all.

She’d made a face at him, he decided. She’d made a face or she’d been about to make a face, or maybe she’d said something rude that he didn’t hear but his subconscious mind heard it. Maybe she’d deserved to be kicked.

By the time he was home, he almost believed it. With effort he shook off the last of his shame. It was over now. The girl was fine. He hadn’t really hurt her, anyway, not really. Kids were resilient. Maybe she’d have a bruise, and a story her mother would probably laugh about in later years.

The girl was fine. So was Bernard. He picked up the bottle of wine from the convenience store and headed inside to watch a movie with his wife. After all, it wasn’t every night they had the house all to themselves…

Andrea Finnegan hit the button on her phonebox. “Thank you for calling TNB, this is Andrea, how many I assist you?”

The man’s voice was deep and pleasant. “Hi Andrea, I have a question about my account.”

Andrea took his information, her fingers flying over the keys as she brought up his details on her computer screen. Her glance shifted to the picture on her desk. How she loved to look at Sheepers’ lovely little puppy face every day! Getting a dog had been a wonderful idea.

“Okay, Mr. Jakes,” she said. “What was your question?”

Something bumped into her chair, hard. Andrea’s stomach slammed into the edge of her desk. She started coughing before she could hit the Mute button.

“Andrea, are you okay?” The concern in Mr. Jakes’ voice made her feel a little better, but not much. Damn that Christine Vale. She was so careless. So clumsy. So…well, so wide. Andrea didn’t like to say things about people, but that Christine Vale needed to lose some weight. This was the third time this week she’d pushed out her chair, stood up, and rammed Andrea’s seat.

“I’m sorry, Mr. Jakes,” Andrea said, glaring at Christine’s receding backside making its heavy way up the aisle. “Frog in my throat.”

She finished the call, answering her customer’s questions, making the necessary changes to his account record. She’d just hung up when Christine thundered back towards her.

“Trip her.”

Andrea almost jumped out of her chair. Who said that? The words were spoken right into her ear, she could swear they were, but there wasn’t anyone there.

“Go on. The bitch just hurt you for the last time, right? She wants to carry all that weight around, inconveniencing you, putting you out, she better pay, right?”

Andrea shook her head. She glanced up. Christine caught her eye and smirked as she pulled out her chair.

“Do it make her fall come on where’s your guts?”

Andrea didn’t even know how her hand reached the chair, but it did, and as Christine turned her back on Andrea and started to lower herself into it Andrea shoved the chair out of the way, and Christine fell backwards and sideways and landed in a heap on the pale green carpet.

Christine screamed. Andrea leapt up from her chair, amazed at what she’d done, shocked and horrified that she’d done it. “Mr. Cross!” she shouted. “Christine’s chair slipped! She fell!”

By the time the ambulance took Christine to the hospital to get a cast for her broken ankle, Andrea had almost forgotten about the voice. She’d almost convinced herself she hadn’t done what she’d done, she hadn’t purposefully hurt her co-worker.

And even the small, rational part of her mind that remembered it, shrugged. People did cruel things every day. Why should Andrea be any different?

Michelle Brooks sat on the floor amid dozens of boxes. The house was a wreck. So was Michelle. Laura was moving, her best friend Laura. What would Michelle do without her?

She picked up another figurine from the floor in front of her, the last of Laura’s prized Meissen collection. For years Michelle had watched her friend’s excitement when she found a new one, going hunting at antique shops and flea markets almost every weekend.

It was only to be expected Laura would find a hobby like that. After learning she wasn’t able to get pregnant, she needed something in her life to get excited about. Michelle had never felt worse herself than the day Laura told her the sad news.

Still, if Laura and Jack had children, they wouldn’t be able to do what they were doing now, would they? Pack up and move to Australia? Of course, they could have, but Michelle knew her friend. Laura wouldn’t want to disrupt a child’s life like that. And Jack’s new job involved a lot of travel, a lot of entertaining.

Lucky bitch.

Michelle jumped. Who—had someone said something? What a horrible thing to say! Michelle had never once, not once, thought about how lucky Laura was without thinking immediately after how much her friend deserved her happiness. Laura was one of the nicest people Michelle had ever known, always there offering a shoulder to cry on, a hand to hold, some homemade cookies. She was—

Nosy. Snobbish. Fuck her, her and her asshole husband.

It sounded like someone was speaking directly into Michelle’s right ear, but nobody was there. She shivered, the warm sunny room suddenly feeling cold.

She glanced once more at the little china figure in her hand. Such a pretty thing. Laura had excellent taste. Michelle had always liked this one best.

Take it.

Quickly, Michelle finished wrapping the figure in bubble wrap and stuck it on top of the others in the box. She’d seal it up, and then she’d tell Laura she wasn’t feeling well and go home.

Take it. She doesn’t deserve it. She’s leaving you, and she never even offered you one of these to remember her by or anything. Just take it. You deserve it.

Michelle closed the first two flaps on the box. The kitchen door opened. Laura would be in the room with the movers any minute to seal up the box and put it in the van. Good. Then she would be—

Take it!

Footsteps sounded in the hall. Michelle watched her hand snake back into the box, grab the little figure, and drop it into her roomy skirt pocket just before Laura walked into the room.

“All set, Michelle?”

Michelle opened her mouth. She was going to say, “No, there’s this one, too,” and give the figurine back, but something stopped her. The sound of someone giggling, maybe, or the sense that none of this was real. She wasn’t sure, but she just nodded and watched the mover close the box and tape it shut.