1. Falling Woman

    by Zack Abrams


    I could only gawk as my wife fell out of her third tier balcony seat. Her blonde hair splayed behind her, her arms flailed as if she was trying to fly. I knew she’d been drinking.

    I remember when her drinking really started, after the good Dr. Gomez told her, “You’re more barren than the Mojave,”

    It hit her like a wrecking ball. She started working on her wine palette pretty quickly. I warned her that she might be slipping into alcoholism. She told me, “I’m not slipping, baby. I’m falling.” Just like my ma. So, for the first time in my life, I recycled a joke.

    “Darling, you’ve got a drinking problem. Wine is too cultured for us. Try something more Third World, like Pabst.”

    It worked, sort of. She started drinking Burnett’s. Straight out of the plastic bottle. She said she was prescribed one a day. A few months later I was sitting with her in an old dilapidated church in the boonies. She squeezed the blood out of my hand as we listened as a male breast cancer survivor joked about survivor’s guilt, and an ex-abused wife explained that she only drank Jack Daniels because everything else reminded her of “him”.

    Everyone there turned in unison to stare at my wife when her turn came along. She shrank under their judging stare. Her baby blue eyes begin to tear; her lips parted, sealed, and parted again.

    “I’m barer than the Mojave,”

    A few days later I found Percocet on the bathroom sink sitting next to an empty handle of Burnetts. And now there she was wearing her vibrant yellow dress in a nosedive headed straight for Aisle J. I noticed some of the more cowardly members of Aisle J were cowering under their seats. Taking cover from the incoming bombshell, I thought.

    “I’ll only go if I can drink,” she said. I knew it was wrong, but I okayed it anyways. It was the first time I wasn’t going to be some low brow opening act at some seedy dive bar on the shittiest side of town. This gig was big. It was at this Victorian auditorium, with velveteen chairs and beautiful tapestries hanging from the walls. Where a few thousand goys watching me from their elevated seating; where ten thousand and one eyes watched my drunk, mostly numb wife pass the second tier balconies as she plummeted towards Aisle J.

    She told me she was a falling woman, so I suggested a parachute.

    It was an unwelcome guest breaking into my head. The joke seemed the spawn of another man’s mind. It intruded on the moment, like a wailing infant at a movie, or a shitty song stuck in my head during sex. It made me uncomfortable. Then again, I’d been uncomfortable ever since I stepped onto this auditorium’s polished hardwood stage. O’Malley’s was better.

    O’Malley’s. I only got this gig because my last routine at O’Malley Cats went viral. I’d paced around the warped stage telling jokes about my drunk wife.

    “You can always tell when she’s really drunk, ‘cuz she’ll daintily kick off her heels and start prancing around like Tigger from Winnie The Pooh. A couple of drinks past that, and she starts actually bouncing around on her “tail”. I’d show you how, but I recently had mine removed. I went in expecting a vasectomy, and left without my tail.”

    I got enough laughs to land me a gig at this elegant theater, filled with fashionably dressed folks with deep pockets and opera glasses. It felt strange to share this experience with them. I guess horror transcends class differences.

    Don’t worry, she won’t feel a thing.

    I couldn’t stop the jokes. Like I couldn’t keep her from drinking. I signed us up for couple counseling after our little stint with AA didn’t work out. The doctor was real nice, knew her shit. My wife couldn’t take her seriously, though. It’s hard to take someone seriously when they have a fauxhawk pixie cut, and they’re telling you to invest in K-Y Intense.

    That was the joke I’d been telling when I heard a lady scream. It wasn’t my wife, though. It was some random woman who probably made six figures every hour, pointing her finger up towards the majestic ceiling, still holding her opera glasses to her eyes. I followed her finger up and saw my wife drop her wine glass. That wouldn’t have been so out of place, but for the fact that she was plunging through the air.

    “She’s not plunging, baby. She’s falling.”

    I’m watching the love of my life cannonball towards Aisle J, and the best thing I cab do was try and stop these goddamn jokes. And then the siege starts.

    “You know, she loves Blue Öyster Cult; she don’t fear the Reaper…How long until she turns into a fallen woman? ‘Cuz right now she’s just falling…My wife has a seeing problem; she tries to look at the world through the bottom of a beer can. Well, the can’s opaque, so she can’t see anything…”

    The jokes were zombies; they hungered for my brain. I boarded up the cracks in the walls of my mind, but they slipped through anyway, accompanied by the even clank of Blue Öyster Cult’s cowbell.

    Nine thousand ninety-nine eyes watched my wife fall in silence that oozed with trepidation and fear. I covered my eyes as the last of the barrage hit my brain.

    “Cleanup in Aisle J.”

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    Beautiful and familiar…
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