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The Bowling Balls
Zachary Lancelot Amadeus Bartholomew had very bad writer’s block and a very large family to feed. Zack, as everyone called him, had not had a good idea since 2009. Every penny of the advance he had received from Pretty in Print Publishing in 2010 was gone, and he had as yet to finish Chapter Three of The Silent Stalker of Stockholm. Was he, as his wife so often suggested, a one-book guy? Did only one thriller, The Roast Capon Caper (Pretty in Print Publishing, 2007), exist within him? That classic little page-turner that had launched his so-called brilliant career?
Sitting at his Dell, Zack stared at the 17-inch screen that had no words on it. It was near dinnertime, and he dreaded the interrogation that was to come. Or would his wife have left by now? Just upped and packed her Burberry luggage and Pierre Cardin makeup case and walked out. Hopefully, she would have taken her three children by her three previous marriages, fit them all in his black BMW and driven out of his life. Could he be that lucky? Would he descend the staircase of his beautiful home in Brentwood and find a solitary place set at the Atelier Viollet dining table? With only Gretchen, the platinum-haired Norwegian maid, to serve him his bouillabaisse?
Zack! For God’s sake, stop that! He had no Norwegian maid, no black BMW, no home in Brentwood. Why he continued to fantasize every night around dinnertime was a mystery to him. Able to conjure all kinds of scenarios when anticipating a tirade from Cassandra, his head was a vacant lot when it came to his book. Even if Cassandra had left him, as she threatened to do nearly every single night, she would have had to pack her wardrobe in the old Samsonite. Zack had set her Burberry suitcases on fire in the driveway after she appeared with them following her oxygen facial at Aida Thibiant last week. As for the black BMW, well, that had long gone to pay the mortgage on the house in Calabasas that was sold to buy food, meaning Cassandra’s Zone diet meals.
The three children by the three previous marriages existed well enough, fully grown nightmares that had moved in one by one to mooch off their famous writer stepfather. There was Peaches Powell, 24, plus Powell’s illegitimate, cerebral-palsied son, Evian, 3; Luke Thornton, 22 (supposedly Billy-Bob’s son), and 18-year-old punk-rocker, Sam Giancomo, whose precise lineage Zack feared to ask Cassandra about. He knew only that Sam was the result of his wife’s Cosa Nostra period, something Zack always said he probably deserved for being foolish enough to marry anyone named Cassandra. But Zack had been flush with fame and fortune back then, his fragile ego pumped to perilous heights with spreads in People and Us. Reigning atop the “Mystery Writers of America’s Best Seller’s List”, he was tagged to write The Roast Capon Caper screenplay. There were foreign distribution rights, meetings to take at DreamWorks and talk of Ben Affleck playing Bruno Bentley, the brilliant, suave, sightless sleuth who solves crimes via his extraordinary ESP. Although the movie never panned out, the possibility lingered through September—and it was Camelot.
Zack first encountered Cassandra, a budding mystery writer, on the Internet. It was one of those damnable .com relationships that work so well in chat rooms. Taking her on as a “writer’s buddy”, he realized too late her gift lay in shopping at Barney’s. He was a year into the marriage by then, forced into a new home in, well, Calabasas, not Brentwood, and struggling with the first of Cassandra’s three children by her three previous marriages. Their relentless invasion had prohibited him from walking around the house nude and having sex on the living room bear rug. Not that he had sex anymore. Much less a bear rug or a living room or a house. He had a duplex in Bellflower. Half a rented duplex. And a considerable amount of rubber tire around his waistline. So much for his nude days. Already up in arms about his writer’s block, Cassandra had turned her evil attention to that sensitive subject, which only made Zack eat more and write less. When she nagged him nowadays she stared at his poor defenseless gut. Attempts to get her to look him in the eye had destroyed his posture. He had been arguing so long bending sideways that one shoulder drooped, and he had a permanent crook in his neck. He also slumped. Sitting at his Dell with nothing to say for months at a time had him so depressed he just got to slumping more and more.
Consequently, he was a slightly bent-sideways heavy person with a hump back and writer’s block. Not a pretty sight. Here he was only 48 and feeling like 106. His habit of rubbing the top of his head as if an idea might materialize hardly helped. Even his hair was deserting him. He was a slightly bent-sideways heavy person with a hump back, writer’s block and thinning hair. Not that he had been all that sexy when he met Cassandra face-to-face in 2004. Now that he thought about it, he was probably Bradley Cooper on the scale of sex objects compared to now. Cassandra, on the other hand, had been a knockout and still was. She certainly didn’t look 46. He chalked it up to her breast and butt implants. God! $24,000 to get a lap dance from two bowling balls. No butt should be that hard. And then one of her breast implants leaked, and she had to have it replaced. The new boob led to endless complaints. Convinced the plastic surgeon had shortchanged her on the left side, she forced Zack to file suit. Bartholomew vs. Loverly M.D. FACS cost him another couple of grand. So one tit drooped a little? So what? All she had to do was stuff those Double Ds in a Wonder Bra and voila! But the chemical peel was the worst. He had almost thrown in the towel with that procedure. Watching the layers of charred oozing skin drop off her face as he sat across from her, trying to choke down his Zone diet dinner, sent the puke meter through the roof.
No wonder he had no advance money left. He should have written The Case of the Butt Implant Ball Crusher. Let old blind Bruno Bentley sink his teeth into that one. Zack looked at his watch. If he was going to face Cassandra, not to mention another Zone dinner of bat wings and couscous, he was going to have to have a Coors Light. If all the Addams Family offspring were home, he would need at least six. “Okay, Mozart,” Zack said, looking down at the retriever collapsed at his feet. “If we have to face them, we’ll get as wasted as possible.”
Peering up at Zack through his one good eye, Mozart stood up and stretched. Neither the muse nor the Golden Retriever he used to be, the pooch was getting old, which only deepened Zack’s despair. “We’re both getting up there, Mozart; you and Zachary Lancelot Amadeus, but that’s life,” he said, ruffling the dog’s whitening fur. “We used to make beautiful music together, you and me. If it hadn’t been for you, I never would have had the inspiration for old blind Bruno Bentley.” Zack rose wearily from his chair and went to the small refrigerator where he kept his stash of beer. He could down six Coors Lights, crush the cans with his hands and sculpt them into little aluminum weapons, all in the space of thirty minutes. Tonight, however, he felt the need of something stronger. Alongside two Coors six-packs was a quart of Ketel One, something Zack reserved for desperate occasions. Grabbing the bottle by the throat, he took it to his desk, pulled open the bottom desk drawer and removed an empty Best Foods mayonnaise jar. He poured a substantial amount of vodka into the tumbler, dipped his index finger into the alcohol and allowed his sidekick to lick it off.
In the old days Zack would have spent this time with Cassandra, not his dog. He would have made Cosmos or Margaritas and asked his wife to read the days five pages. The sexual tension would build through dinner, Zack’s libido sparked by Cassandra’s swooning praise and hints of a blowjob. Those were the days before the implants, oxygen facials and chemical peels. Sure, her butt sagged a little. But her limitless devotion to his literary genius and willingness to go down on him had blinded him to these minor deficiencies. Back then Zack could have porked every secretary at the William Morris Agency and still had cum left over for Cassandra. He was not represented by William Morris but he had taken a meeting there once. Point was he felt like a teenager then. Well, if not a teenager, at least a man who did not require two tons of Viagra to get a hard-on.
Warmed by the Ketel One, Zack tried to think more generously toward his wife. Envisioning her butt implant through the hazy lens one now focused on Madonna, he tried to forget that her wall-eyed left tit reminded him of an arm reaching out to signal a left turn. Closing his eyes he prayed for arousal, something robust and manly he could take downstairs to dinner. Like the old days. Moments later he opened his eyes and faced the limp dick reality he lived with. Why didn’t those bowling balls incite his lust anymore? Was it the children? He thought of Evian, his three-year-old, cerebral palsied step-grandson, whose body kept endless time to the Eminem rap tunes playing in his head. So Evian threw syrup-drenched waffles across the dining table at his step-grandfather every morning. Rather, he threw syrupy waffles across the kitchen table that used to be a dining table where they all assembled like the Addams Family. God, he hated, loathed and despised Evian.
Only one problem. Disliking a grandson, step or...