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FICTION on the WEB short stories by Charlie Fish

Death and Prosperity
by Vinie Brooks

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Her eyes closed while she clasped her hands together under her pendulous breasts. Her arms pressed tightly against her sides as she made futile attempts to suppress her loud, uncontrollable bursts of laughter - forcing her torso to rhythmically quake under a sizeable amount of corpulence.

Trying hopelessly to stop the laughter only made her experience pain rumbling from her stomach and encircling her chest. The only thing that she could do at that moment was to cry out at Buddy to stop or she would kill him.

The subway was crowded with the usual rush hour commuters on their way home from various jobs with no one paying too much attention to Cassie's cacophonous laughter echoing beyond the roar of the thundering rails. Every now and again a weary passenger gave a cautious glance to this noisy display, but without further thought continued the ride to their destination.

Cassie and Buddy got off the train at the Atlantic Avenue stop in the borough of Brooklyn where they lived - ascending the steps with Buddy sinking his fingers into her waist, once again - tickling her violently - causing her laughter to become louder and louder. She tried hard to unleash his grasp from around her waist while giving him her usual final warning to stop - or else...

Breathing laboriously as she climbed the steps slowly, she shouted, "C'mon stop... I can't take it anymore, Buddy." People passing her on the steps eyed her suspiciously while Buddy maliciously took pleasure in her painfully tumultuous laughter. Some started to twirl their fingers around the side of their heads and ears at her, letting each other know that she must be just another one of New York City's crazies.

When she reached the street at the top of the stairwell, Buddy began tickling her again, causing her to scream out in anger, "Buddy, I aksed you not to do that anymore... aaaaahhhhhaaaaa," she roared in noisy, unintentional hilarity while Buddy ignored her pleas.

A patrol car parked at the curb with two police officers inside turned around, startled by Cassie's outburst. One officer got out of the car and approached her with one hand on his gun holster. Cassie watched as the officer neared her, turned to Buddy and whispered, "Now look what you did - I'm in trouble 'cause-a you."

The officer, ignoring her whispers, but somewhat puzzled and threatened by Cassie's odd behavior grabbed her by the arm and cross-examined her as she stood silent waiting meekly for the handcuffs to restrain her wrists.

"Hey Miss? What's da matter? You need an ambulance? You on drugs? I think I need to take you to the station to let you dry out. Huh? Whatcha think?" Cassie, too frightened to answer him remained silent with her body stiffly poised like a wooden solder. He then asked her for ID and she nervously reached into her wallet and pulled out her nondriver's ID card.

Buddy did not care that the officer approached Cassie and warned of an arrest, he waited until the officer started walking back to the patrol car and then grabbed her waist on both sides and brutally tickled her some more. Cassie started to pull away as she bent over forward, backing away from him. She violently let out a longer, "Aaaaaaahaaaaaaa - hahahahahaheeeeheee - teeeheeee - hohohoho - I told you to stop you idiot!"

By now, Buddy was leaning on the fence by the subway entrance holding himself up with one foot propped in the wire-mesh opening, staring casually up at the sky - every so often turning his head toward Cassie and the officer - listening to them exchange more words. Cassie was so upset with Buddy she turned to him fuming, "Do me a favor - you dirt-bomb - stay away from me - get lost... hear?"

The officer stopped chastising her and began walking back to the patrol car after realizing he could not charge her with anything, but turned around to give her one last warning to go home and sleep it off. In child-like innocence, Cassie nodded a humble "Yes."

She walked along Flatbush Avenue, shouting at Buddy to leave her alone. Buddy, determined to elicit more vicious joy and pleasure from Cassie enduring the pain of wild laughter, tickled her cruelly until she let out another harrowing scream. As she reached the corner to cross the street, Buddy stopped tickling her and instantly grabbed her butt cheek causing her to let out another piercing cry and her body to spasm while some pedestrians stopped walking to turn their heads and see why she screamed once more. The next sound she heard was the siren of the patrol car heading toward her.

When she saw them she turned up Hanson Place and ran panting into the luncheonette near the other corner of the block so they wouldn't be able to see where she went. Buddy was standing by the entrance door. She walked toward him whispering, but when she turned to glance through the glass door to see if the police were in sight, Buddy was gone. She waited for the patrol car to pass the luncheonette and then walked out of the store cursing Buddy until she reached home.

Cassie lived on a block where one side of the street consisted of some boarded up brownstones and those still inhabited consisted of seedy apartments that were not yet fashionable in this congested downtown Brooklyn business district. The area was made up of mostly stores and office buildings where car horns blared and people moved about quickly as they scrambled to get to and from work. She had to keep her windows closed inside her apartment to avoid the noise and stagnant odor from car and bus emissions which made her apartment musty and stuffy.

When she climbed the brownstone's flight of stone steps where the front door stood open, she entered the vestibule and headed through the door leading to her first floor apartment in the back. There sat Buddy on the bottom rung of the steps, grinning as she entered. Before she could order him to leave, he was standing next to her tickling her waist, causing her to echo laughter through the entire hall. She bent forward and shouted her usual commands for him to stop - trying hopelessly to control the unwanted laughter at the same time.

She then heard her top floor neighbor open his door which made a loud squeaking noise as it always did. He leaned over the banister and shouted, "Hey - what's goin' on down dere?" Cassie could hear him as he started down the steps and quickly pulled out her keys and tried to run inside her apartment, sweating and panting through near heart-failure breaths to get inside. She grabbed the doorknob and squeezed it so that it closed softly not wanting him to know it was her causing the racket, but it so happened he was drunk and started walking back up to his apartment swearing loudly about bums entering the building.

Cassie walked into her living room and sat down on the sofa still panting while holding her chest. She began cursing Buddy, again, but he was not in the living room. She called out to him "...get in this living room - right now." Buddy never answered her nor did he respond to her demand. She sat on the sofa a bit longer until she was no longer out of breath and walked into the kitchen shouting for Buddy, once again, "...Come here now or I'll wring your neck - you good-for-nothing creep." Buddy still never answered her and she now found herself seething with anger.

While she sat at the table aggravated and enraged by his revolting disregard and insensitivity toward her feelings, gaining no satisfaction with a response from him, she contemplated whether or not to separate from Buddy. She sat complaining to herself and juggling whether it would be better to throw him out rather than tolerate his antics as she usually did when he showed no regard for her feelings. After much thought she justified her reasons for keeping him positive that he would suffer - one day.

"Humph - he'll get his one day - that stupid jerk... Thinks everybody's stupid like him. I ain't even worried about him 'cause I know that God don't like ugly. Yeah, that's what my mother always said - God don't like no ugly - he'll get his one day." After ten years of living with Buddy, her promised retribution would end with the same words, "He don't know it, but I'm two minutes from throwing him outta here."

Tonight, as always, Cassie prepared the usual sedative of carbohydrate bliss to help clear her mind of Buddy's taunting: Six slices of white bread, polished with peanut butter and a half jar of jelly, vigorously consumed lying across her bed and falling asleep while rapt in this comforting repast. A six pack of Devil Dogs kept handy on the nightstand for moral support. To recuperate on awakening all six were downed with a quart of  milk as the television monotonously stared at Cassie falling asleep yet again while eating.

On awakening the next morning, she got out of bed to place her sweater in the foyer closet lying on the bedroom chair and there stood Buddy, standing inside the closet, startling her, "Boo... been waitin' here for ya for days... ha-ha-ha-ha." Cassie did not think it funny and turned away from him with more infuriated anger.

She never said anything to Buddy, but instead ignored him and went into the living room to sit and read a magazine to drown him out and fell asleep on the sofa. When she awakened she felt a burning sensation in her chest and a queasy rumbling in her stomach and walked into the kitchen to get the bottle of Tums sitting on the shelf over the sink.

Buddy was sitting at the kitchen table and when she entered he jumped from his chair and again grabbed her waist and viciously tickled her. She laughed so hard she coughed and before she could scream at him to stop, up came all of the food she had eaten - all over the kitchen table. By this time, Cassie was so angry she yelled, "Get the hell out of here, now - I've had enough of you - get out!"

Buddy pretended to cry and walked through the foyer with his head hanging to the floor, moaning a false cry of despair. When he reached the door, he stopped, turned to her and said, "Hey, wait a minute, where am I goin'? You can't throw me out... and ya better not try... You know why." Cassie, still infuriated, screamed hysterically, "Oh yeah... What... You better get da hell outta here 'fore I call da cops - you lame idiot."

By now, she could hear her intoxicated neighbor upstairs open his kitchen window and shout, "You better stop all dat racket down dere or I'm gonna call da cops. You no-class asshole," and then he slammed the window shut.

Buddy started laughing wildly and said, "Awww... go clean up dat kitchen, it stinks in dere from ya vomit. And while ya at it go clean up dat bathroom, it stinks worse than a skunk's ass in dere."

Cassie ran for the foyer closet and this time came out with a baseball bat that had dried, crackled blood on the tip. She looked at it curiously and said, "What the hell is that brown stuff?"

Buddy stood between the kitchen and foyer door, folded his arms in front of him with his head bent to his chin, a cold stare in he eyes and a frightening quality in his voice asked Cassie, "What's da matter, you can't remember?" Cassie, now in a state of frenzy, her face matching her bright red nail polish, grabbed at Buddy to throw him out. When she grabbed at him he was nearly out of the door and he shouted at her to take a look around the apartment before she decided she didn't want him there any more. Cassie, cursing him harder, headed for the bathroom to get the mop and some rags to clean the kitchen. She tried to open the door, but it would not open so she tugged at the knob and discovered that it was stuck by the swelling of the wood from being closed tight too long.

She pushed at it with her body and it finally flew open. The odor inside attacked her nostrils causing her to immediately cover her nose and mouth with her fleshy hand. She looked over at the tub in total shock. There was Buddy floating lifelessly in the bathtub full of stagnant, bloody water.

It all started to come back to her now. She began to recollect with pure shock how he taunted her with a winning lottery ticket - laughing crudely while holding her waist and tickling her at the same time ignoring her tormented outburst for him to stop. She remembered arguing with him over the $100,000 ticket, furiously removing the bat from the closet, sneaking into the bathroom behind him and clubbing him on the back of his skull as he toppled over into the bathtub. She nervously turned on the water to let the streaming blood escape down the drain.

Cassie could not remember what happened next other than standing outside on the steps of her brownstone with severe pains in her chest, grasping the iron rail as she stumbled and then cried out for help while gasping for breath and squeezing her chest with her hand. One man ran up the steps to resuscitate her by pounding her chest while an ambulance was called by a delivery truck driver - no one suspecting there was a body in her bathroom. The next thing she remembered was waking up in the hospital and then returning home by subway.

Cassie continued to hold her nose as she leaned over the tub to frantically remove the ticket from his hand which crumbled when she touched it and now lay floating in the bloody water with his body. As she winced in pain, she grabbed her chest once again and could not stop her heart from bursting in her chest this time.

She slowly went down on the bathroom floor - her torso wedged between the toilet, sink and claw-foot tub. Brutal memories tormented and tortured her of Buddy jumping out of the corners of their apartment shouting, "boo!" and enjoying her body rumble with gushing, turbulent laughter. Her new bottle of life-saving heart medication received from the doctor at the hospital, but forgotten until now, was sitting in her purse on the bedroom night table as she reached defiantly over the rim at the top of the tub to retrieve the crumbling water-soaked ticket.

"Buddy, help me, please help me," she cried out with her last breaths and her eyes shut tight, excruciating pain enfolding her chest. Her voice now dwindling into a soft murmur could be heard by no one this time as she pleaded again and again in a desperate cry for help.

"Buddy help. Where are you? Buddy, please help mmm..."

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