Cemetery Closing (Everything Must Go) is now available, but if you’re a “try before you buy” kind of person, here’s Chapter One…
I think about death a lot, because people are always trying to kill me.
For example, right now I was being held at gunpoint in some guy’s living room. If you’re new to my exploits, your reaction is probably, “Oh my God! That’s not good at all! How did he end up in this predicament? What’s the backstory?” The rest of you are thinking, “Yeah, that sounds about right.”
The man with the gun wanted to shoot me because he thought I was sleeping with his wife. I definitely wasn’t. Even if we remove other key elements from the situation (moral issues, lack of opportunity, my fear of my own wife’s wrath, etc.) it’s important to realize that I had absolutely no energy for any kind of extracurricular activities. None. The tank was empty. I was exhausted. If Helen told me I was allowed one night with Scarlett Johansson, and a scantily clad Scarlett was crouched on the bed beckoning to me and saying, “C’mon, stud—let’s do this!” I would proclaim that my greatest wish had been granted, politely ask Ms. Johansson to leave, and bask in a night of uninterrupted sleep.
Here, let me catch you up.
I’m Andrew Mayhem. Thirty-five years old but feel about seventy-two. In addition to my aforementioned wife, I have an eleven-year-old daughter named Theresa and a nine-year-old son named Kyle. A lot of very bad stuff has happened to us. I mean, I once had to pose as a serial killer so I could infiltrate a group of psychopaths who were playing homicidal games in a billionaire’s mansion. I’m not trying to be a whiner, but that was a terrible frickin’ weekend.
I’ve lost both of my pinky fingers. Not at the same time.
In my last madcap escapade, my parents were murdered. That wasn’t even the worst part of the bad guy’s master plan. What he wanted to happen is so messed up that I’m not even going to describe it here, because it’s the kind of thing you need to be eased into hearing about. If I dropped it right here into the recap you’d say, “Nope, nope, nope, I think I’ll find other reading material, thank you very much.”
That was about a year ago. Everybody was in pretty bad shape when it was over. Of course, we’re always in bad shape when these adventures are over. You should’ve seen me after the first one. We spent a few weeks mourning and healing, and then it was time for our next great big zany experience.
As I said, I have a son and a daughter. When Helen and I found out that she was pregnant again, we were apprehensive, because my kids haven’t fared very well having me for a father. I assume their tell-all book will be called Our Dad Keeps Getting Attacked By Psycho Killers And We Keep Getting Dragged Into His Shit. Theresa will probably ask to have her name legally changed before she starts dating.
When we found out Helen was having triplets, we were basically in a state of shock. I mean, even wealthy people who don’t find themselves frequently facing off against homicidal maniacs tend to go, “Uhhhh, what?” when they hear that they’re having multiple new children instead of one. With twins, you break into a cold sweat and say, “Oh, umm, okay, I guess we’re doubly blessed.” With triplets, you stare at the wall for a long time, not really seeing it, silently haunted by your own thoughts.
We’d gone through some seriously trauma-inducing stuff while Helen was pregnant, so there was reason to believe that there could be problems later. But she went into labor right on schedule, and my bumbling misadventures while getting her to the hospital were minimal. She gave birth to three healthy, beautiful baby daughters. I wanted to give them rhyming names, or at least alliteration, but was overruled by my entire family. Instead, we returned home with Brianna, Cecilia, and Rose. And I never slept again.
So when the angry husband kidnapped me while I was out buying diapers and accused me of sleeping with his wife, I would’ve laughed in his face if he didn’t have a gun. Infidelity? Now? Couldn’t he see the dark circles under my eyes? The way I could barely hold up my head? How I kept gazing longingly at the pillow on the end of his couch?
“I should kill you right now,” said the husband, pacing around his living room while he kept the gun pointed at me.
“Please don’t,” I said.
“You think it’s okay to sleep with another man’s wife? Is that the kind of person you are? Doesn’t anybody have a moral code anymore?”
“I didn’t sleep with your wife.”
“The hell you didn’t!”
“I haven’t had sex with anybody in almost a year, and I’m counting myself. I know I’ve done something vaguely along those lines in the past, because I have five kids, but I really don’t think of people in those terms anymore.”
“Who’s your wife?”
He walked over to a shelf and picked up a framed picture of a happy couple on their wedding day. I recognized the groom, because he was currently pointing a gun at me, but I’d never seen the bride.
“Don’t know her,” I said.
“Why do you keep lying?” the man shouted.
That was a dumb question. If I had slept with his wife, I’d lie about it to keep him from shooting me. I mean, duh.
“I’m not lying,” I said. “I don’t recognize her. She’s a lovely woman and the guy who is having an affair with her is a very lucky man, but it’s not me.”
As soon as I blurted that out, I recognized that it wasn’t all that smart of a thing to say to an angry murderous husband. If I were operating on more than six minutes of sleep a night I would have phrased it differently.
“When will the lies stop?” the man asked. “Don’t you realize that I’m going to kill you?”
“I totally get that,” I said. “But let’s be real here. You’re one guy, who’s probably never taken a human life, pointing a gun at me with a hand that won’t stop trembling. This doesn’t even make my top ten. I got buried alive once. This other time I was climbing up burning corpses in the back of a semi truck that was teetering over the edge of a cliff.”
“I’m sorry—you were what?”
“It was a crazy day.”
“You were climbing up burning corpses? How does that even work?”
“I’m too tired to give you the full context. You had to be there.”
“Stop trying to distract me!” the man shouted.
“All I’m saying is that if you made a list of all the times my life was in danger, it would be a very long list and this wouldn’t be all that high up on it. I’m not saying I’m not scared. I’m totally scared. It’s just hard for me to keep my eyes open wide enough right now to look scared.”
“I order you to never see my wife again.”
“That’ll be easy. I accept those terms. Are we done?”
“Why do you keep lying to me?”
“Why do you keep accusing me of lying to you? Why do you think it’s me? Did you see her with a guy who looks like me? Did she say it was me? I don’t understand why I’m part of this drama when I don’t even like girls right now.”
“I read the emails,” he said. “God, they were so graphic! I know that she calls your penis Big William! I shouldn’t have to know that!”
“You absolutely have the wrong guy.”
“What’s your name?”
The man hesitated. “Not Bill Brombowski?”
“No. Not Bill Brombowski.”
“Then why did I think you were him?”
“I couldn’t possibly answer that question.”
“You’re famous, right?”
“A little. Not rich famous.”
The man lowered his gun. “Oh, crap. I get what happened. I saw you and you looked kind of familiar, and I thought you were the guy my wife was talking to for way too long at that party, and I put two and two together, but I put them together wrong, like I thought it added up to three or five or something, and now we’re here. I’ve been pretty scatterbrained since I read those emails. I mean, she never stops complimenting his penis. She just never stops.”
“Did she say unkind things about yours?”
“No. If she did you’d be dead by now.”
“Okay, well, I’m glad we got this cleared up,” I said. “Can I leave now?”
He pointed the gun at me again. “No. I kidnapped you and threatened to murder you. That’s illegal. Now I have to see it through or you’ll go to the police.”
“I wouldn’t go to the cops. Look, I can totally relate to having a non-functioning brain right now. I’m honestly surprised I haven’t mistakenly kidnapped somebody, too. Make you a deal: you promise not to murder Bill Brombowski and I promise not to go to the police.”
“How can I trust you?” He vigorously shook his head. “No, I’m in this too deep now. I have to kill you, then Bill, then Elaine, then myself.”
“I have five kids. Do you really want to create five orphans?”
“Is your wife still alive?”
“Then the kids wouldn’t technically be orphans.”
“Are you sure?”
“I don’t think both parents have to die for them to be orphans. Maybe I’m wrong. You’d think that’s something I’d know considering how often people try to kill me. Either way, you’d be creating a widow and five kids without a dad. Three of them are still babies. Can you live with that?”
“I already said I’d be the last victim of my killing spree, so I won’t be living with anything.”
“That’s right, you did. Sorry. But a killing spree ending in suicide isn’t the right way to go about this. How about instead of murdering them, you shame them on social media? That’s what it’s for.”
“What did you mean by ‘three of them are still babies’?”
“I know, right?”
“I can’t kill somebody who’s taking care of triplets.”
“Thank you. They’re all girls. Maybe when they’re teenagers I’ll ask you to revisit the idea.”
“How do you tell them apart?”
“Toenail polish. Pink for Brianna, green for Cecilia, and purple for Rose.”
“I know, I know, why not use pink for Rose? The reason is that we were very, very, very tired at the time. We also keep this notebook where we write down tiny little differences that we notice. I’m not sure what the distribution of evil is with triplets. With twins you get a good one and an evil one, but I’m not sure if we get two evil and one good, or two good and one evil. Right now they all seem pretty evil.” Yes, I was babbling. I do that a lot.
“Smart. Okay, well, I’m not going to kill you or Bill or Elaine, so I’m just going to skip to the last step,” said the man, shoving the barrel of the gun into his mouth.
“No! Don’t do that!” I quickly got up off the couch.
He pulled the trigger. Nothing happened.
“Take the gun out of your mouth,” I said.
He kept pulling the trigger.
“Seriously, stop doing that.”
He didn’t stop. I assumed that he wasn’t stupid enough to be trying to kill himself with an unloaded gun, so if he kept pulling the trigger, it might become unjammed and splatter his brains all over. My preference was for that not to happen.
I moved toward him.
He stepped back, keeping the gun in his mouth.
“Give me the gun,” I said.
He shook his head and continued to pull the trigger.
He refused to hand it over. Despite my state of pure exhaustion, I decided that I could summon enough energy to try to forcibly remove the gun from his mouth. I rushed at him. He quickly backed away, tripped, and landed on his ass. He didn’t stop pulling the trigger. I crouched down and tried to grab the gun away from him, but he was moving around too much and I couldn’t get a hold of it.
“Keep your head still! I mean it!”
He said something that I couldn’t understand because he was talking with a gun in his mouth.
Maybe I should just leave.
No, I’d feel bad if I heard a gunshot go off as soon as I walked away. I’d seen much worse messes, but still, if you can stop some dude from offing himself, you should give it your best shot. And, yes, I recognize that “give it your best shot” is exactly the wrong phrase to use, but it’s an accurate reflection of my mental process during this time.
I grabbed for the gun again. Got a hold of his hand that was holding the gun. Tried to pry it out of his mouth. Couldn’t. Tried harder. Still couldn’t. Realized that if the gun went off while I was trying to pull it out of his mouth, it would be rather challenging to explain that I was trying to prevent him from getting shot. Kept trying anyway.
I punched him in the stomach with the hand that wasn’t trying to pull the gun out of his mouth. He let out a grunt of pain, and then I successfully yanked the gun away. It popped out of my hand, flew across the room, and struck the floor. It did not go off and shoot him in the face, which was perhaps a sign that my luck was changing.
He got up and ran.
I’m not sure why he felt the need to run. What was he fleeing? An inspirational speech about how life is worth living?
He smacked into a large bookshelf, then fell again. The bookshelf wobbled. You know how in a movie when something is about to hit somebody, they stare at it and scream instead of trying to get out of the way? That’s what he did. He put up his hand, as if that was sufficient to block the fall of six rows of hardcovers, and cried out.
The bookshelf came crashing down on him.
I just kind of stood there and stared for a moment. At least until I saw the trickle of blood.
* * *
“He’ll live,” said my friend Sergeant Tony Frenkle. “I’m not saying it’ll be a high quality of life, but it’s not like his skull was completely shattered.”
“That’s good,” I said.
“Why were you here?”
“Don’t you have kids to take care of?”
“Yes. Lots of them.”
“Well, I’ll take your statement and get you back to your large, large family.”
“Thank you very much.”