Drinking From The Cup Of Love
The Joker tumbles through the air, dizzying the carpet awaiting its prey. Thrown with an apparent measure of skill, the card rims the left side of a bowler hat and falls into the center with a handful of peers.
“Good shot, Shoog!” Hortense elbows her husband in the ribs as they sit, passively, at the right side of the bed, eight feet back from the makeshift basket. “Let me try again.” A flick of the wrist sends a card flying to the far-left of the hat.
"This is kinda nice, baby." The former Love Sister front-woman wraps her arms around Thomas’s neck and pulls. It’s taken being held hostage to keep Stephen in the same bedroom with her, but sunny days are wherever you look.
"This is Kathy-Bates-dinner-party nice. You show up expecting to be found dead in a wine cellar eight weeks later but taste good apple pie along the way."
"Want me to try the door again?" Hortense asks, putting the cards in her hand to the side.
"No, you'll just end up dislocating your shoulder. That sounded like a solid hit.” Thomas staggers to his feet. “Did it budge at all?"
"It's a two-foot thick metal door."
"Maybe if I Irish whip you into it, and bend your knees more..."
"Together,” she said, climbing to her feet as well.
"You hit low, I aim high."
"Are you serious?"
"Right. We're locked in an airtight room together; let's give Red the satisfaction of having me die after being hurled head-first into a cast iron door."
"Nobody said anything about head-first,” Hortense corrected, hands firmly on her hips. “If you wanna get sarcastic, you can go in the bathroom and act that role out."
"I'm the captain of this ship, doll. Don't forget that."
"A Captain who gets locked in his own cabin. Baby, you're not even fit to pilot the Love Boat.”
It was a new low to be scolded by a woman who was Thomas’s wife by a technicality only. Hortense turned to lift a bottled water from the nightstand and take a swig before catching herself. “I could only be so lucky. Speaking of which, we've been married for nearly two years, when do you think I'm gonna see a little bit of penetration up in here?"
"Oh, okay,” Thomas shot, his hands in the air dismissing the conversation. “Alright. That's it. I’m not having this conversation."
"We NEED to have it. Are you having a problem you're embarrassed to talk about? Is that why you've never touched me?"
"Yes. It’s as dead as a doornail. Hold me."
"I gave up my good years for a man like you!"
"Your bad ones won't be any better," he warns.
"Do you love me?"
"You married me for position didn't you."
"No, I married a three hundred pound, fifty-year-old polka-dot-wearing black woman for love. Don't be silly."
"I want out of this marriage." Hortense said flatly. She was serious, and caught Thomas by surprise. It’s been a marriage of dodgeball. The charade had to end at some point, but in truth, neither wanted to be alone.
"No. How about that?" Thomas said defensively.
"I want out!"
"No! I'm not giving up on us. Come on, I'm ready to fight. Why aren't you? You're stuck with me, Hortense. For better or worse, for richer or poorer...YOU made those vows. Or did they only mean something to me?" The words felt all wrong, but with any lie, over time they could be made into truth.
"You care about this marriage?"
"How dare you ask that question…”
"Consummate it then."
"CONSUMMATE YOUR LOVE."
"You're hysterical," Thomas claimed.
"I know I'm no pearl, but I deserve better than this."
“Why yes...yes you do,” a third voice entered the conversation.
Thomas and Hortense turned their attention to the large screen plasma TV where Lyle Tallman, aka the RED MIDGET sat in seclusion, apparently during an 'intermission' to his ongoing stage show in the ballroom.
“Thomas, why isn’t there any penetration up in here?” cracked Red.
"You'll swing for this, Red. Ten million people know my name. I crap and it makes CNN! You think you can just hijack my boat and not be arrested? Look, I can’t speak for your quality of life before this little stunt, and hell, maybe you worked at a zoo feeding gorillas. Whatever! But it can’t be worse than going to jail, which is where you’re going!”
“You’re assuming what I’ve done here is a crime, you foul piece of sewer scum.”
“I’m a hostage! That’s a crime. Or, it should be!”
“What was it like, Stephen, to make the decision to leave me for dead? Did it trouble you in the days leading up to your stab at freedom? Or was it purely instinctive?”
“What’s the right answer here?”
“C. NEVER LEAVING A FRIEND FOR DEAD!”
“Hey pal, you had fresh fruit and rain water to last weeks. And less we forget YOU’RE ALIVE AND WELL! Have you ever stopped to consider what would’ve happened if you went sailing with me? You could’ve died.”
“Ohmygosh. You’re right. You saved my life.”
“You really were thinking of my best interests when you nearly broke my neck trying to get save your own skin.”
“You know,” Thomas turned to his wife, “there really hasn’t been a day gone by where I didn’t figure that’d eventually come back to haunt me. It’s just, he was so little…”
“Karma; in bite-size form. Fitting, Thomas, is it not?”
“LYLE. Whatever beef you have with my husband doesn’t concern me. Let me walk sweetie, okay?”
“Hortense…” Thomas pleaded.
“Sweet Hortense, how have you been?”
“I got married!”
“You deserved happiness, love. Go on and wait by the door, you’re right this doesn’t involve you anymore.”
Hortense claps her hands in delight and faces the door. She waits for twenty seconds in silence until it becomes obvious Red’s joking with her.
“Baby, you look like a fool. Come back here…”
“Married a deserter. Justice is poetic, after all these years.”
“Red, it’s not working.”
“Give it a minute, sunshine.”
“Let’s get to brass tacks here. What do you want? A job? Is that it? Fine. Well played. Assistant to the VP of Security and your own workspace.”
“Your stay in hell will be a slow burn, Thomas. Oh, and your VP of Security has a little run-in with a taser earlier.”
“Don’t be an idiot, Red. Dental is in the health plan. Have you caught a good look at your teeth lately?”
“Enough is enough. Get us out of here RIGHT NOW!”
Lyle laughs maniacally. “For too long Thomas you’ve left me powerless. A punch line this company told over drinks and fine cheeses. Now you see who really has power. For the next week, Thomas, this ship is mine."
“Everybody aboard this Cruise has a cell phone,” Thomas shook his finger at Red’s image. “It’s only a matter of time before someone realizes what you’ve done and calls the proper authority. Hundreds are probably huddled together to break through that door right now!”
“Really?” Instantly Lyle cuts out on the TV, as various locations of the PCL2 are shown. All docile and behaving as expected: the vacation for the rest of the Cruise moves forward. "Remember, we're on a SHIP, genius. Unless someone's got a satellite phone they wouldn't be able to get a signal -- and I've even got that option taken care of."
“The revolution apparently won’t be televised. Play your cards right Thomas and you’ll leave this Cruise with your dignity in tact. And HAVE a company to run. But, if I sense a mutiny brewing, I’ll sink this ship. ‘Thousands die on a CSWA Cruise Liner.’ What would that headline do for business, Thomas?”
“You don’t have the balls to kill innocent people.”
“What if random passengers are taken into the dark and beaten by CSWA employees? You’re a PR nightmare from looking for work, Stephen. This company that I’ve suffered through is being held together with pins and needles. Don’t kid yourself to think the end can’t come at my hands here this week.”
Stephen considered the claim, and he found it to be true.
“What do you want?” Thomas asked, resigned.
“I want you at my mercy, just as I was on the Island, praying you’d keep your word and come back! I want you waiting, in tears, to see what my next move will be! I want you cowering in fear, begging to God that you’ve been disgraced enough!”
“THERE WAS A RESORT ON THE OTHER SIDE OF THE ISLAND!”
“I WANT YOU TO BE A MADE A FOOL OF WHEN HELP FINDS YOU, LIKE I WAS WHEN I WAS FOUND!”
“Damn you Red! Open this door!”
“Now. The lady asked you to do something. And I think it’s high time you did it. You’re overdue, Thomas, it's time to become a man.”
“What curse does the Devil dare speak of?’
“You want out of this cabin? Consummate the marriage.”
“LYLE…the do---. Did you say something?”
“A candlelight dinner is on its way up. Heavily protected, to be sure, but don’t let that kill the mood.”
“You evil little man. I will not rape my wife for you.”
“Rape? Shoog, I’d run through a fire for this.”
“You lied to that poor woman. Another innocent soul destroyed so that you might get what you wanted. But, consequences are abounding for the CSWA now. End the lie. Consummate your marriage to Mrs. Thomas.”
“I will do no such thing…”
The Cabin doors open up and Red’s henchmen bring in a candlelight dinner.
“I bet that meal is to die for, Lyle.”
“It can be.”
“This isn’t happening. Red! REDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDD!”
Thomas sinks to his knees.
“You want a league to come back to? Show your wife how much you love her.”
“I’m not doing this with you watching!”
“Sad to say, I won’t be. There are other guests to attend to. But, trust me, I’ll know if there’s honor between you two by night’s end. Goodbye, Stephen.”
“I’ll kill you!” Thomas runs for the TV screen and starts pounding away on the wall. “Okay! I’m sorry! There! I said it! I’m sorry, Lyle! I was selfish and mean, and…scared. Just so scared, Lyle. I’m not proud of what I did to you. I deserve this. I know I do. But, find forgiveness in your little heart. I’ll make it up to you. I’m sorry…”
Thomas rests his head on the TV screen. Seconds later, defeated, he turns to see Hortense lying seductively on the bed.
“We’ll eat later Shoog...” the lady pats the bed and flashes a ten dollar smile.