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The Poe Toaster (first part)

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Old 02-01-2012, 06:50 PM
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Default The Poe Toaster (first part)


First part of a short story I'm working on and planning to submit. Would love any feedback/critique. Thanks!


The Poe Toaster


I realize my husband drills me like he drills his patients—with mechanical precision and an impersonal, business-like air. In the bedroom, Preston’s an emotional and physical automaton. Soon after the wedding night, I learn that sex with my husband is tedious at best and painful at worst. Not unlike going in for an annual cleaning.

At least with a good enamel scraping, there is a feeling of cleanliness and purity—something in exchange for all the bleeding and hurt that comes with chiseling away at months of plaque buildup. Making love with Preston J. Schulz, D.D.S., however, I am left feeling like a heavy, violated lump. That first year I accept what it means to love someone in the traditional, married sense: psychotropic medication. Lots of it psychotropic medication.

Suddenly out of the blue, the inevitable occurs. I am scouring our second bathroom, the one off of Preston’s office, when I discover an item in the cuff of his pants that freezes me in place. A ticket stub had wedged itself between the fabric—some indie French romance. Something I myself would love to see. The one time I managed to drag Preston to a foreign film, he suggested sitting in the back row. During the opening credits—the very second when the theater went black, he unzips his fly and urges me to entertain him in a way that would make it impossible to read any of the subtitles. And so went my appetite for film culture.

In the bathroom I am multi-tasking. The weight of my discovery hits me and is gaining momentum. I am bleaching away fowl-smelling stains from the porcelain while I’m put on hold with Preston’s office. His voice comes through the phone irritated and rushed. No patience for my need to chat during business hours.

“What’s her name?” I ask calmly without greeting him.

“What’s that?” He says.

“Don’t talk to me like that, Preston, alright? I’m not some damn patient
who’s lost a crown.”

“What’s this all about, Elise? I’ve got work to do.”

“It’s about a woman, Preston.”

“Who?”

“The one who managed to broaden your film horizons.”

“Film?” He coughs. “She’s a patient of mine. It was just a movie. I make friends.”

“And how often do you fuck this friend?” The second the words came out, she feel like I’m delivering a line on stage. Even the hurt and jealousy I try to convey to Preston over his infidelity sounds forced, overshadowed by my immense relief.

“Elise. You’re distraught.”

“Distraught?”

“It might be time to make another appointment with Dr. Campbell. Try some other—”

“Some other pill? Is there a prescription to cure me of your need for extramarital sex, Preston?”

He sighs and I place the phone on the floor. I chisel at the crusted, stale urine lining the back of the toilet, listening to Preston’s faint cries of questioning protest.

I make Preston’s bathroom as cold and sterile as his dentist’s office before packing a few bags and driving to a coffee house downtown to comb the paper’s apartment listings. I later learn from Preston that it was this patient in his chair: one curvier, older woman marked by her sexual temerity that he has really, truly fallen for. I imagine him with a silicone blond, feeling up her skirt after a routine filling, just as he had done with me at eighteen. I feel little sorrow for the whole ordeal, and concentrate on the excitement of embarking into the world on my own. A free woman.

I find a compact studio apartment located at the central part of the city. It’s in one of the more questionable locales, but the yellow brick building boasts a securely locked entrance, an enclosed parking lot, and an immediate move-in date.

There is one small discrepancy in the application process that I manage to side-step with a bit of harmless exaggeration when I meet the landlady.

“It’s an artist’s building,” she tells me. “The owners provide studio living at an affordable price for amateurs and professionals. They want to patron the arts. There’s an editor above you and a documentary cinematographer next door. What’s your work?”

I falter for a moment. “I read.”

“So, are you with a publishing agency? Are you an editor?”

“Not exactly. I mean, I write.” Not completely fallacious. Up until recently, I had been recording the highs and lows of anxiety in a journal for Dr. Campbell. But writing sketches of what Preston once referred to as “cross-wired adrenaline tantrums” can hardly be construed as art. There was that phase during my two semesters of college where I cranked out some bad, Poe-inspired poems in a tattered notebook every chance I got.

“I don’t write professionally, or anything,” I profess. “Not yet. I’m between things, really.” I play with the collar of my shirt, buying time to slow my rapid pulse. “I’m going through a divorce?”

The landlady hands over the papers with a conspiratorial lift of her brow.

I am giddy with the prospect of humble adventure. Getting my own place feels like the first, real grown up decision of my life (the decision of marriage being such an obvious blunder on my part). Though our separation is in its fledgling stages and I am still able to spend Preston’s money without question, I resign not to splurge. Maybe out of some self-inflicted attempt at pride. It feels romantic to go minimalist, and I want to stick to strict necessities for the time being. Necessities, a coffee pot and working internet.

My apartment comes furnished with a bare lamp, and a large, abandoned crate filled with straw. I flip the crate and use it for a coffee table, reclining on my cheap futon that will serve as bed, couch and dining table for my first nights alone.

There is a wall lined with windows looking out on the back of Cincinnati Music Hall. If I sit in total silence, I can hear the faint strings from the evening’s orchestra or opera floating in. I want to just putter around my box of a living room, content with taking meds and writing to-do lists and making cheap coffee while the world flies by without me.

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Old 02-03-2012, 03:07 PM
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Pretty funny. I enjoyed cringing at that awful marriage. The main problem was that it moved too fast, seemed to skim over the divorce. If you don't want to make the unraveling of the marriage central to the story (though there's a lot of potential there), maybe tell it as a flashback. Other than that, just a few clunky parts in the writing. But at least polishing this should be less painful and messy than getting teeth polished.
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Old 02-04-2012, 07:18 AM
Frances (Offline)
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It was easy to read and follow. It's very well written.

The overall story sounds good and interesting, and made me want to read on.

I liked that it jumped along the storyline, from her finding out about the affair to suddenly having a new apartment...

I hope this helps
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Old 02-04-2012, 03:18 PM
mike jerome (Offline)
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Great pace and interesting content - looking forward to the next installment - M
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