Thursday, February 21, 2013

The Laughter of the Cosmos

This week, to keep things interesting, I asked Steph to choose the first line from the fifth chapter of any book of her choosing. She chose Three Junes by Julia Glass. The first line of the fifth chapter is as follows:

“Clever how the cosmos can, in a single portent, be ingratiating yet sadistic.”

Use this line to start your stories.  Then please go check out the other stories over here.

"Clever how the cosmos can, in a single portent, be ingratiating yet sadistic." 

"What the hell you yammering on about, now, Woman?"  George glared across the table at Alice, his fork halfway to his mouth.  Some of his meatloaf and gravy dinner had been deposited down the front of his dingy t-shirt, Alice noticed.  A glob of brown gravy sat in the middle of his protruding stomach. George never chewed with his mouth closed; she had no idea why she had ever found that to be an endearing habit.

"It's just something I read in a book once, George," Alice picked up her water glass and stared into the bottom before taking a sip.  "It just reminded me of you, that's all."

"You insulting me, wife?" George had resumed shoveling large pieces of meatloaf into his mouth. Bits and pieces of food were ejected into the air as he spoke, and Alice grit her teeth to keep from screaming.  "Do I need to get the belt and teach you some manners? You've been getting uppity lately."

"Not at all, dear," Alice knew that she needed to be very, very careful now.  Once George felt that she needed to be taught manners, she would be too injured to do much of anything for days. She held her breath a moment, gathering her courage around her. She needed to say her piece.

"It's just that I wished for a husband, George." Alice stared up at the dingy ceiling, as if she could see the night sky from five years before.  "I wished upon a star one night, for a husband, and the cosmos sent me you."

"That right?  So I'm a gift from God?" George snorted, coughed, then spit on her clean kitchen floor.  He eyed her untouched meatloaf speculatively, then he reached over and used one ham-sized fist to stab it with his fork.  "You gonna eat that?"

"No, George, you go ahead and eat that. You're a big man, You deserve it," Alice said, before she realized that George had already deposited the slice of meatloaf on his plate and was digging in.   She watched him a moment, then she got up, carrying her plate to the sink. 

"At first, I thought that the heavens were smiling down on me, that day we were wed," Alice reached into the cabinet and pulled out a shot glass, and George's favorite bottle of 100 year old whiskey.  "And that first night, when you beat me for not shining your shoes right, well, I thought that maybe I had done something wrong."

"What the hell are you doing with my whiskey?" George's voice had taken on a wheezing quality, and his face had turned florid with anger.  "You know you ain't allowed to touch my whiskey, you stupid bitch!"

Alice brought the bottle over to the table, placing it in front of her husband. He grunted. She opened the bottle and poured a shot, then handed it to George.  He glared at her a moment, suspicious, then tossed the whiskey back.  She poured him another shot, then went back to her seat as he poured himself another.  She wasn't supposed to leave her seat until George told her she could, but Alice thought that perhaps he might not notice.  His eyes appeared glassy and she could see beads of sweat pooling on his forehead. 

"After I found out I was pregnant, I thought that maybe the baby was the reason I was sent to you, that maybe the cosmos was on my side after all," Alice continued, her voice quiet, and yet it seemed that the entire world paused to listen.  "Then, when you beat me so bad that I lost the baby--well, that was the day that I heard it." 

Alice put her fist in her mouth, to stifle her feelings just a little longer.  George's head, which had begun to slump forward on his chest, snapped up. He glared at her, and she could see that several capillaries in his eyes had burst, spilling red blood into the whites of his eyes. 

"You heard what, you cow? The sound of my belt?  My fist?"  His words were slurring, and his head seemed to have become too heavy for him.  But he was too far gone in his fantasy that she was beaten, submissive, compliant. He had to try and reassert control. 

"No, dear," Alice smiled, her eyes betraying her anger after all these years.  "I heard the laughter of the cosmos. The idea that if you're good and do what you're told, you'll be rewarded. That's when I decided that I needed to take matters into my own hands. That's why you're going to be leaving me this evening."

George struggled to get up from his chair, realization dawning, but it was too late.  He fell to the floor, a fish out of water, and clutched frantically at his chest.  Alice poured herself a glass of whiskey; a profound sense of peace took hold of her.  She raised the glass in a mock toast to George, who foamed at the mouth as his body began to seize. 

"It was in my slice of meatloaf."  Alice whispered to her finally dead husband, and at last she was free.



  1. this is wonderful, reminds me of the many black widows whose stories made their way from my head to the screen. Yours is told with such vivid detail, and the reveal at the end was perfect. i totally gasped.

    1. I forgot to mention that the buildup was well done and you managed to convey his abuse in few words. I believed it and applauded.

  2. Well done!!! There is so much here packed into a short piece. I love Alice and George was perfectly revolting.

  3. Oscar Wilde was SO right to say 'the good end happily and the bad unhappily. This is what fiction means.' FAAAAABULOUS!

  4. Ha, this reminded me of a story that I read about a woman who baked a poison pie and told her greedy husband not to eat it, pretty much knowing that he would anyways because he was a jerk. If he had kept his mitts off of her meatloaf...well done, great story.

  5. Wow, this is terrific. George is so revolting without being over the top, and Alice is cool in her resolve. We cheer for her. Nice description. Great story.

  6. I wondered if this was going to be a vengeance piece.

    I loved the build up, how she remained so calm. A calculating woman pushed too far.

  7. I loved the pacing of this, and the vivid nature in which you drew each character had me locked in, waiting to see what came next!

  8. Love this! George was so deserving of his end. And I love that she poured herself a shot.

  9. ok, so I had no idea that I wasn't following you anywhere..that is now rectified. OMG.

    and this was wonderful, it was witty and creepy and had me wanting to give her a standing ovation at the end. He deserved it, every last bite

    gosh you're a good writer. :)


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