Tuesday, May 31, 2011

The Wedding Photographer by Al

 Sometimes crimes aren't just about breaking the law... sometimes they are about life...

I have been told that I am an extremely boring person, and I believe this to be true. I also believe it to be true of most of the general population as well. Isn’t that why action movies, romance novels and reality shows exist, to take us away from the mundane and ordinary lives that we lead and whisk us to the places we rather be, occupying the bodies of the people we secretly hate because we are not them. I have the desire to believe that away from the camera and red carpets, the Brad Pitt’s of the world are as every bit as bored with life as I am. However, that is a secret I seldom share.

But, back to the subject at hand. I’ve been boring and ordinary all my life. In high school, I had not one girlfriend, not one date. I didn’t play football or basketball, didn’t excel in grades or anything else for that matter. I was invisible as I suspect, so were you. Maybe the difference is that I admit it.

College was no better for me. Two years of lonely dorm life surrounded by what seemed a never-ending stream of keg parties I was never asked to attend, but was forced to listen to until the wee hours of the morning. At the start of my third year, I left. I quit because I wasn’t learning anything useful and to be quite honest, I found college even more boring than high school. Besides, during the summer months back home In Queens, New York, I worked a job I found I was actually good at, if not excelled at, photography; Weddings, a Specialty, that is the company logo, or was as the owner recently passed. He gave me a break and hired me as an assistant that first summer off from college. I had two courses in photography in high school, found it rather interesting and took two additional courses my first year in college. My job was to set up tripods, check lighting and audio if recording a DVD and back up with a secondary camera for missed shots. It was easy work, mostly done on weekends, as that is the days most couples choose to hold their weddings.

After four years in his employment, I gave my notice to go off on my own. I set up shot in the basement of my parent’s home where I also resided. Business was slow at first, but having nothing else to do with my life, I persevered and after several years, I had a thriving business and an actual girlfriend. Mary, her name is Mary, applied for a part time position I advertised for to supplement her college tuition. We discovered immediately that besides photography we had in common the fact that we were both extremely boring people. She is dull, I am listless, and it was a match made in Ho Hum Heaven.
After a year, Mary quit college to work for me full time. A year after that, we got married, purchased a home in Rego Park, Queens to the delight of my parents, and set up shop in the basement. Long story short, we will shortly celebrate our 16th wedding anniversary. Through the years, the business grew. Mary and I both had assistants as we often worked several weddings a day on weekends. Weekdays, you see were spent developing and organizing albums and DVD’s. All that is quite boring and has nothing to do with what I am about to tell you, except as a backdrop.

Not long ago, after an exhausting Saturday wedding, I stopped for a drink at a local bar on
Queens Boulevard
a few blocks from my home. It’s a nothing bar, ordinary and average in every way, which is probably why it attracted me as a semi-regular.
It was a bit after eight in the evening when I parked my car and dragged my exhausted tail into the bar. A dozen or so regulars sat scattered at tables and at the bar itself. I took a seat at the bar between an old timer and a man I’d never laid eyes upon before that night.
He was tall, inches above six feet with broad shoulders that stretched his suit jacket to the limits. He wore a full, very dark beard that enhanced his rugged appearance. I didn’t see his eyes until a bit later.

As I settled into my seat, the bartender wandered over to me in no particular hurry. “Usual?” he said. I nodded.

The bartender looked at the empty glass in front of the stranger to my left. “Another for you?”

“Why not,” the stranger said and when he spoke, his voice was so soft and mild, it betrayed his size and powerful presence.

The bartender mixed my drink first, a rather ordinary screwdriver and set it before me. Then he filled a glass with shaved ice and slowly drizzled Maker’s Mark Whiskey over the ice, watched it settle and set it before the stranger.

“Thank you,” the stranger said and then I realized that his soft-spoken tone didn’t detract from his physical presence, but only added to it.  This was a man, I realized, who didn’t need to make noise for the world to sit up and take notice. His self-confident presence of being did his talking for him. I was filled with immediate envy for this was a man who with a wiggle of his pinky could sleep with my wife.Yours, too, I would imagine.
Not because our wives don’t love us, they probably do, but because they settled for us instead of the one they could never have. We, the ones settled for don’t like to admit that fact, but it’s true nonetheless.

I took a meager sip of my drink and tried not to stare at the stranger in the mirror. I averted my eyes a bit and noticed a long black case resting against the bar beside the stranger’s right leg. My eyes went down to the case and the stranger must have noticed me looking at it because he said softly, “It’s a Remington 7MM high powered medium to big game rifle.”
I turned and looked directly at him. His eyes were steel gray and appeared like glass marble. They sent a shiver down my spine. “You mean that’s a gun?” I said.

“No, it’s a rifle,” the stranger said. He reached inside his suit jacket, removed a massive revolver, and held it for me to see. “This is a gun. What’s in the case is a rifle.” I was stunned.

The stranger smiled. “Relax,” he said. “I have permits for both. I’m catching a plane later tonight for a hunting trip.” He stuck the revolver away, picked up his drink and took a small sip.

“I…I’m sorry for my reaction,” I said. “I’ve never held a gun…rifle and to see one like that in a public bar…well, you understand.”

“Yes, I do,” the stranger said. “Most people who’ve never held a weapon react just like you. The thing is the weapon in itself is harmless. It’s the person holding it that’s dangerous.”

“I guess that’s true,” I said. “So, you’re a hunter?”

“Yes,” the stranger said. “I guess you could say I’ve hunted all my life.”

“What do you hunt?” I said. “Not that I wish to pry, I’m just curious.”

“Any medium to large game,” the stranger said. “I’ve hunted them all and all over the world.”

I took a sip of my drink to work up the courage, and then asked my question. “How does it feel? To hunt something, I mean.”

The stranger smiled at me. “Do you mean is it exciting? Do I get a rush?” He calmly sipped his drink. “I suppose that I do, but it depends on the prey. If it’s a chase and a hunt and the prey is dangerous, it’s much more exciting and fulfilling. If the prey quivers like a deer in the headlights, I can barely pull the trigger.”

“But, you do anyway?” I said.

“Pull the trigger?” the stranger said. “Yes.”

We both sipped our drinks. For some reason my legs felt weak. I believe it was adrenaline running through my body, although I had done nothing to stimulate my glands. “I have to admit,” I said, feeling rather foolish. “That I find you a most fascinating individual.”

The stranger looked at me. “So what do you do?” he said.

“Do?” I said. “Oh, for work, you mean? I’m a photographer.”

“For what, the newspapers?”

“No, nothing as exciting as that, I’m afraid,” I said. “My wife and I own a small wedding photography shop we operate out of our home. It’s all quite dull, I’m afraid.”

“Oh, I don’t know,” the stranger said. “You make your own hours; work with your wife and judging from the suit you’re wearing do quite well.”

“We make out alright, I guess,” I said. “The suits are a business expense. I wear them for wedding shoots. I had a long one today that ran six or more hours.”

“That’s a lot of pictures, my friend,” the stranger said.

“Thousands,” I said. “I’ll spend the week reviewing proofs and selecting the best one hundred for development and process a DVD for the bride and groom. I have a selection of music I add to enhance the viewing.”

“Just in time for the next wedding,” the stranger said.

“Yes, I suppose so,” I said.

“So, what do you do for fun?” the stranger said. Good question. I sipped my drink while I pondered for an answer.

“You must do something you enjoy?” the stranger said. “Movies, sports, a favorite restaurant you and your wife frequent? Everybody has something they enjoy.”

“I’m afraid that I’ve been dull all my life,” I said. “I wish I wasn’t, but I am. The truth is I can’t think of a single thing I can honestly say gives me enjoyment.” I don’t know why I made such a confession to a total stranger. Maybe it’s because he was a total stranger and had no stake in my life and I would never see him again, I don’t know.

“What about sex?” the stranger said. “You must enjoy making love to your wife or you wouldn’t be married to her, right?” How do you answer a question like that? My silence was my answer.

“You need to get out, get away, do something that opens your nose and lets you breathe,” the stranger said.

“I know it,” I said.

“Life is too short, my friend,” the stranger said. “There’s too many things to see and do because before you know it, you’re gone.”

I nodded my head and looked at the stranger. “What about you, are you married?”

“Me? No,” the stranger said. “There’s too many women in the world to settle for just one, if you know what I mean.” I didn’t. I had no fucking idea.

“That first walk into a woman’s bedroom, that first time she takes her clothes off for you, that feeling fades quickly,” the stranger said. “By the second week I’m bored and I move on. It’s just the way I am.” It’s the way I always wanted to be, but couldn’t.

“But, that’s just me,” he said. “Some men, like you, can stay with one woman their whole life and that’s a good thing.” Is it?

“It’s the very fabric of society,” the stranger said. “Family life.” Jesus Christ.

“The backbone of modern civilization,” the stranger said.

I looked at him. “Are you fucking with me?”

“Yes.” I sighed, took a final sip of my drink, and set the glass on the bar.

“Bartender, set my friend up again,” the stranger said.

“Thank you,” I said.

“Least I can do for my minor transgression.”

The bartender set a fresh drink before me and I took an immediate long swallow. “Let me ask you something,” I said. “What does it feel like to shoot something? Really feel like?”

“Good question,” the stranger said. “Exhilarating, perhaps. Liberating to an extent. Satisfying, maybe. All of the above.”

“That doesn’t tell me much,” I said.

“No, I guess it doesn’t,” the stranger said. “It’s like that feeling a man gets when he sees a woman’s breast down her shirt for the first time. That thrill of seeing a quick peek of something you’re not supposed to. That excitement, that thrill, do you know what I mean?”

A few months ago, I photographed a wedding on Long Island. A young couple still in their twenties. It was a large weeding and besides my wife, we used two assistants. After the formal pictures, the bride wanted casual shots of the guests and so forth. While the band played and guests danced, the sister of the bride, blind drunk by this time, flashed me her breasts. It was just a second long look, but the excitement I felt was something I hadn’t felt for twenty years, if ever.

“Yes, I do know what you mean,” I said.

“Good, but you know, I can never fully explain the feeling,” the stranger said. “It’s something you have to experience for yourself.” I sipped my drink and nodded my head.

“Hey, why don’t you come along with me?” the stranger said
“With you?” I said. “You mean hunting?”

“Sure, why not?”

“I…I’ve never even held a gun…rifle,” I said. Truth was I’d never even been in a fight, unless getting beat up on a regular basis in school by boys and girls alike counts as a fight.

“So what? There’s nothing to it? You point and pull the trigger.”

I was suddenly covered in sweat. Not sweat from heat, but from fear. I suddenly realized how boring and cowardice are so closely linked. A coward is afraid to take chances, to risk and thereby settles into a boring, mundane routine. My bet was that the stranger never committed a cowardice act in his life. I did nothing but.

“I…I have another job tomorrow,” I said. “A large wedding in Forest Hills. I’m committed to it. I’m sorry.”

“Well, maybe next time,” the stranger said and downed his drink.

I feared he was about to leave. “Wait,” I said

“Have you…I mean…maybe you could take some photographs and show me?” I said.

“I’m afraid I’m not much with a camera,” the stranger said.

“It’s easy with a digital,” I said. “Nothing to it. I have several in my car I can lend you.

We can have a drink when you return and you can show me what it’s like on a hunt.”

“You’re serious?”

“Sure, why not?”

“Well, why not?”

“I’ll be right back,” I said and scurried to my car for Kodak digital.

The stranger held the camera in his hand. “What do I do?” I showed him.

“It’s simple enough,” the stranger said. “Okay, next Saturday we meet right here for a drink. My plane lands at eleven. I can be here right after .”

The wedding scheduled for next Saturday was at five with a reception. I did the math and said, “I’ll be here.”

The stranger gave me his right hand. “What’s your name?”

“John Smith,” I said.


“I’m afraid so,” I admitted. “What’s yours?”


“First or last?”

“Just Nash.” That figured. A cool name for a cool guy, another of life’s little injustices.
“I’m glad to know you Nash,” I said.

“Me, too, John Smith,” Nash said. With that, we shook and went our separate ways.

The following week was the longest, most ponderous week of my life. I’ll share some of what it’s like to be me. On Monday, Mary and I spent the day processing proofs from our perspective weddings. We had meatloaf for dinner. On Tuesday, we spent the day selecting proofs for the bride and groom to approve for their wedding albums. We had roasted chicken with potatoes and carrots for dinner. On Wednesday, we mailed out proofs to our clients and spent the afternoon tidying up our basement studio. Dinner, I believe was pot roast. If I remember correctly, Mary was in the mood and we made love, although I’m not really sure. Thursday we spent readying our equipment for our Saturday and Sunday commitments. Baked fish was dinner that night. Wait, now that I think about it, we made love on Thursday, not Wednesday. On Friday, I double-checked my equipment and booked four more weddings for the coming month. I don’t remember what I had for dinner or if I even had dinner as the anticipation of seeing Nash again consumed every waking moment. If Mary noticed a change in my behavior, she didn’t comment on it, but then again, would Mary notice an anvil if one fell on her head? I think not.

Saturday arrived. I shaved and showered, dressed in my best wedding suit, kissed Mary goodbye and drove to the church in Forest Hills. Mary was booked on Long Island for an evening weeding and wouldn’t be home until well after I. The circumstances for meeting Nash were perfect.

I set up shop in the church. Do you…blah, blah…and do you…blah, blah, kiss, kiss, hip, hip hooray. On to the reception hall. Here comes the bride, blah, blah, blah. Stand, smile, pose, cut the cake, first dance, blah, blah, blah. Finally, it was over. I packed in a hurry and nearly forget to take my check, loaded up the car and drove along
Queens Boulevard
to the bar. I lucked out and found a vacant parking spot along the curb thirty feet from the front door of the bar. I was about to get out when I looked at my watch. I was early. I decided to sit and wait and keep a lookout for Nash’s car, but then I realized I had no idea what he drove or if he would be arriving by cab.

Twenty long minutes passed and suddenly I wasn’t early, but Nash was late. A feeling of dread washed over me. What if he stood me up? The first truly interesting person who took an interest in me and…

A yellow cab pulled up next to the curb.

A moment later, Nash got out and paid the driver. I was so excited to see him I didn’t realize that all he carried was a laptop shoulder bag. He entered the bar.
I waited for a few seconds, wiped my soaking wet hands on my pants, got out of my car and walked to the bar. I hung back for a few more seconds, then entered and walked straight to the bar even though I could see Nash was in a booth by the window.
At the bar, I pretended to notice Nash in the mirror, turned and walked to the booth.

“Sorry I’m late,” I lied. “The wedding and all.”

“No problem,” Nash said as he took a sip of his drink.

I sat opposite him. The bartender sent the lone waitress on duty to the table. “I’ll have whatever he’s having,” I told her.

“Maker’s Mark over shaved ice,” she said.

“Sure,” I said. The waitress went to the bar.

“Well,” I said. “I’m excited to see your photographs.”

“Let’s enjoy our drinks first,” Nash said. “Then I’ll fire up the old laptop here and play a slideshow.”

The waitress returned with my drink and set the glass on a coaster. I carefully lifted the glass, took a sniff and the aroma of the whiskey all but cleared my nose. I looked down into the glass at the dark colored whiskey, then took a small sip expecting it to go down like an angry lion. Instead, it went down like a passive lamb, it was that smooth. The delight must have shown on my face.

Nash said, “Amazing what twenty years can do to a fine whiskey, isn’t it?”

“Yes,” I agreed. I took another sip and set the glass on the coaster. My palms were sweating. I had to admit that I couldn’t wait to see Nash’s photographs.

“How was the wedding?” Nash said.

“Fine,” I said. “Long, but it pays the bills.”

Nash raised his glass and swallowed his drink in one quick motion. “So, are you ready then?” he said.

“Absolutely,” I said, trying my best to appear cool.

Nash set his laptop on the table, flipped it open and spun it around. He stood and slid in next to me so I was against the wall
“Let’s see now,” Nash said and clicked some files. “I think I want slideshow. Is that okay with you, John?”

“Fine with me,” I chirped, sounding like a high school girl on her first date.

“Okay, the first picture is of the lair of the prey,” Nash said.

I eagerly awaited the first photo to pop up, anticipating some jungle mound or hidden cave occupied by a wild tiger. A photo of my home filled the laptop screen.For a moment, I didn’t know what I was looking at. It was my house. What the hell was my house doing on Nash’s laptop?

“Is that my…?” I said.

“Wait,” Nash said.

The next photo was of me mowing my lawn, and then another followed of me walking to my car, followed by another of me entering the local grocery store. “What is this?” I said, confused, disoriented. “Is this some kind of joke?”

“Now take it easy, John,” Nash said, softly. “No, it’s no joke.”

“Have you been following me?” I said. “Why?” Nash sighed softly, turned and showed me his steel gray eyes. I felt something press against my side.

“What you are feeling is a .32 Magnum pistol with a silencer pressed against your liver,” Nash said barely above a whisper. “If I pull the trigger, the sound of the bullet will be as a slight cough. No one in this bar will know you’ve been shot. Do we understand each other? Say yes.” I was paralyzed with fear, unable to speak or move.

Nash sighed. “Are you listening to me, John?” he said and jabbed my liver with the .32.
“Yes,” I found the strength to mumble.

“Good boy,” Nash said. “Now put your cell phone and car keys on the table.” I couldn’t move. I wanted to do what I was told, but fear so gripped me I couldn’t move a muscle.

“Keys, cell phone, now,” Nash said. “Or I’ll just pop you right now and the hell with your wife.”

I blinked. “What, what did you say?” I rasped.

“Put your fucking keys and cell phone on the table,” Nash said. There was no anger in his voice. He might have been ordering a burger from the menu; he spoke with such lack of emotion. I removed my cell phone and car keys and set them on the table.

“Okay, here’s the deal, John,” Nash said. “Your wife hired me to kill you. She is sick to death of you, John. She said life with you is as exciting as a blade of grass. She said that, not me. I try never to make things personal.” My head started to pound, my lungs wouldn’t fill with air. Bile rose up in my throat, fowl tasting and rancid.

“Don’t you puke, John,” Nash said. “Not in here.”

“Mary hired you to kill me?” I croaked weakly.

“Don’t hold it against her, John,” Nash said. “You are one boring son of a bitch. Christ, I’d kill you for nothing just too free up some extra oxygen.”

“Please?” I whispered
“Oh, don’t start that shit,” Nash said. “Begging never works. I’m a professional, John. They all beg and they all die slobbering on themselves.”

“Oh, God…oh, God,” I said softly to myself.

“Well, he’s not going to be of much use to you, John,” Nash said. “So without further ado, let’s get this show on the road.”

“You’re going to kill me here?” I said.

“God, you are a stupid fuck,” Nash said. “As dumb as you are boring. No, I’m not going to kill you here. What’s the fun in that, huh? I ask you.”

“Fun?” I said. “Killing me is fun for you?”

“It can be,” Nash said. “If you do it right. Like I told you, John, I like the thrill of the hunt. I like to stalk my victims before I kill them.”

“What?” I said.

“I’m going to give you a head start,” Nash said. “I’m going to count to ten before I come after you. You can waste that ten trying to call for help or find a pay phone, or you can use that ten to try to escape. Up to you, John.” Nash stood and moved to the other side of the table. “Go,” he said.

“What?” I said.

“Go,” Nash said. I wanted to get up, but my legs wouldn’t work.

“One,” Nash said.

“Please,” I begged.

“Two,” Nash said. I suddenly realized that I was eight seconds away from certain death and that propelled me from my seat. I ran to the door, opened it and dashed out to the street. For a moment, I was so paralyzed by fear, I couldn’t move. I heard a tap on the window, looked and saw Nash hold up three fingers. I ran.

Amazing how dark and empty the streets are at one in the morning. I ran without direction, feeling my lungs burn with each step I took. My wife hired a lunatic to murder me and for what…because I’m dull and boring? Is that a reason for murder? Is it? Okay, don’t answer that.  I heard footsteps echo behind me. I didn’t need to turn around to know they belonged to Nash.

Christ, my lungs burned, my legs felt like cooked spaghetti, but I had no choice but to keep moving. At a corner, I made a sharp left turn. I remembered the park a few blocks off
Queens Boulevard
in Forest Hills. If I made it to the park, maybe I could lose Nash in the dark, hide somewhere and escape.

I suddenly became aware of a noise. I realized the noise was my own labored, raspy breathing. I knew if I stopped, I would puke my guts out, so I didn’t stop. There it was up ahead, the park. Dark and ominous, I raced toward the opening and onto a stone path. No, I needed cover. I veered off the path and onto the grass and ran toward a soft hill where a clump of trees provided cover. A large oak. I raced to it, ducked behind its wide base and cringed in darkness like the coward that I am. I heard Nash enter the park. I prayed. Please God, let him not see me.  Please! I heard his footsteps on the stone path.

I cringed in fear and asked God to spare me, although God was probably as sick of me as I was of myself. Dull, lifeless, boring and a coward my entire life, why should my death be anything different. Still, I clung to my miserable existence as if it were gold. I hid in the dark on my belly like a worm.  A noise. I turned and slowly looked up at Nash’s smiling face.

“There you are, John,” he said.

“Please,” I begged.

“Now, now,” Nash said and grabbed my by the shirt, lifted and flung as if I were a rag doll. “Remember what I said about begging?”  I hit the dirt and rolled a few feet before Nash lifted me again and shook me like a rag doll
“Aw, come on, John,” Nash said as if speaking to a child. “Be a man. Fight me.” A fist punched me in the gut, another in the nose and I fell over backward.

“Don’t go out like this, John,” Nash said. “Fight. Be a man once in your fucking life, would you.” I crawled on my belly in the dirt.

“No, please, no,” I begged. Nash grabbed my ankles and pulled me backward. My face dragged in the dirt.

“Jesus, John,” Nash said. “What do you have to live for?” I rolled over and vomited in the grass. He politely stood by until I was done.

“Better now?” Nash said. “Good. Now get up and fight or so help me God, I’ll make you die so slowly and painfully, you’ll beg for a bullet between the eyes.” I tried to stand, slipped and fell.

“I can wait,” Nash said. Slowly, I made it to my feet.

Nash grinned at me as he pulled out from inside his suit jacket the biggest fucking Rambo knife I’d ever seen. He held it up for me to see and moonlight glinted off the jagged steel blade.

“Now I’m going to carve you into steaks,” Nash said. I stepped backwards and stumbled into a tree.

“Life is like a box of chocolates, John,” Nash said in a Forrest Gump like voice. “You never know when you’re going to die.” This sick fuck was actually enjoying himself.
Six feet was between us, the tree was at my back. I was boxed in. My eyes glanced around for a weapon, a tree branch, a rock, something. There was nothing.

Nash waved the massive knife through the air like a sword. “Ever have one of those days where you woke up and just had the urge to kill something and watch it bleed,” he grinned. I watched the blade of the knife slice through the air. His grin was as sharp as the blade. Then slowly it faded and he lowered the knife. “Aw, come on, John,” Nash said in almost a little boy pout. “You’re not making this any fun.”

“I’m sorry if you’re disappointed in me,” I said.

“That’s it, that’s what I mean, John,” Nash said happily and waved the knife again. “Now you either fight me or I’ll make sure you’re sill alive when I cut your balls off for a keepsake.” Fight? With what? The knife slashed closer. I could hear its breeze as it sliced the air.

“Ever been stabbed, John?” Nash said. “It ain’t pretty. You die slow and get to watch. Not like being shot where you go out quick.”  The tip of the blade flicked against my cheek. I felt flesh tear, blood run. Nash stepped back and looked at me disappointedly. He sighed. “Okay, John, have it your way. Let’s get it over with.”

My belt. I grabbed the buckle, loosened it and slid the belt out from around my waist. I wrapped one end around my right hand and let the buckle dangle at the end of two feet of leather. Nash looked at me. He moved forward and I slashed out with the belt like it was a whip. The buckle hit him in the right hand just above the wrist and a tiny red welt appeared.

“Yes!” Nash yelled. “Yes!” I raised the belt and slashed out again and again Nash yelled with joy. The buckle hit him in the cheek, drawing blood.
“That’s it, you fucking worm, fight!” Nash yelled.

I slashed out with the belt. The sharp buckle struck flesh and another drop of blood appeared. A feeling I could only describe as joy washed over me as I drew more and more blood. The excitement of seeing a woman’s breast for the first time paled in comparison.

“You sick twisted fuck,” I screamed and drew more blood with the buckle.

“That’s the spirit, John!” Nash yelled as he came in low under the belt and struck me in the stomach with his head. “That’s the stuff dreams are made of.”

My back hit the tree. Nash yanked the belt from my hand. The knife came straight for my chest. I grabbed his wrists and looked Nash in the eyes. He grinned at me. I pushed hard, with all that I had, but he was strong as an ox and slowly the tip of the blade move forward.

“Fuck you!” I yelled.

“What?” Nash said as he drove the knife closer to my chest, my heart.

“I said, fuck you!” I yelled. “Are you deaf, you sick, twisted fuck?”?” Nash grinned wildly as the knife touched my shirt. I pushed with all that I had, but it was no use. I felt the knife press against my flesh, pierce my shirt.

“Go…and…fuck yourself,” I hissed through gritted teeth. The knife pressed hard and I could see the blade start to disappear. Then, with one mighty shove, the knife struck and dug into the tree.  Nash and I made eye contact. His eyes were positively orgasmic.

“Too fucking easy,” Nash said and grabbed my shirt. “Let’s make this more interesting. With a flick of his powerful wrists, Nash flung me to the ground.

“Tell me something, John,” Nash said as his arms encircled my throat. “I’m curious to know,” he said and pressed hard against the soft flesh of my throat. My hands felt for his arms.

“Do you see a white light,” Nash said. “When you die, I mean.” I dug my fingernails into his arms.

“Is there a tunnel?” Nash said. His grip was unbreakable. I was starting to go lightheaded.

“An angel?” Nash said
My vision grew dim. I knew it was the end of the line. In a moment, I would cease to exist and my boring life and all its tedious humdrum would be no longer.

“Or is it all just bullshit and superstition?” Nash said.

I mustered my final breath. “Fuck…you,” I rasped. Time stood still. It was the end. My end.

“Good boy,” Nash said, released his grip and I fell over and gasped for several minutes. Finally, my head cleared and I sat up.

“I don’t understand,” I said, still dazed and confused.

“Happy anniversary from your wife, John,” Nash said. “I’m your anniversary gift. From this moment on, you’re alive. Every meal you eat will be fit for a king. Every time you make love to your wife will be like the first time. Every breath you take will be as sweet as wine. Now go home. Mary is waiting for you.”

“Mary hired you to do this?” I said. “For our anniversary?”

“She felt your marriage could use a little …excitement,” Nash said. “You started out slow, but you came through there at the end.” I stared at Nash in disbelief.

“Go,” Nash said. I turned and walked away from Nash, and then I started to run. As I reached
Queens Boulevard
, the erection in my pants was like iron and I could barely contain myself, my lust for my wife was so great.

One footnote to this story:

Mary and I are now freelance photographers. We are currently on assignment with the troops in a war zone. Explosions are going off around us all the time. I’ve never felt more alive.

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