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Exercise #25: The Halfway Mark

In Half

Andrea told people later that she was driven by rage, but the truth was that too little sleep and too much late-night TV put the idea in her head.

James had called as she was washing the dinner dishes to say that he wanted to come by in the morning to get his half of the stuff they’d bought together. When he had said he was ready to move on with his life, she had known that was code for “ready to start the parade of women” through his crappy apartment. Three years earlier, Andrea had brought up the rear of his last such parade.

The commercial was one she’d seen dozens of times without paying much attention. An idiot in a lime-green polo shirt stood between two stacks of mattresses, waving a chain saw. Cheesy graphics that were supposed to represent “slashed prices” materialized in the air around him and flew toward the viewer and off the edges of the TV screen. The 60-second spot whizzed by at double-fast-forward speed, but Andrea clicked the remote to stop it, then rolled back far enough to watch the end of the commercial, where Mattress Melvin or Krazy Karl (or whatever his name was) plunged the blade of the saw into the mattress at the top of one of the stacks. Shreds of ticking and batting sprayed from the deep gash. Andrea hit the “pause” button and stared at the scene.

Fifteen minutes later, she stood at the foot of the bed—a California king with a cherry frame. She remembered how expensive the red satin sheets were, and for a moment, she contemplated taking them off. But she decided that such a compromise would violate the spirit of the gesture. So she pumped the primer and pulled the cord to start the engine. She thought about the expression on James’s face the day he brought the saw home from the store, and how she’d held back an urge to mock his affected ruggedness. The red flannel shirt still hung in closet, worn only that one time.

Andrea squeezed the saw’s throttle and went to work on the bed.

Note: The prompt was to write about an event that was a “halfway mark.” This exercise was the halfway point in the 50/50 workshop. I’m just 326 days behind schedule!

© 2009 Edward F. Gumnick

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