One Sadistic Muse

One Sadistic Muse
Cyndi Pauwels

“Life’s a sadistic bitch.”

Gerald’s grumble melted into the din of the coffee shop and I strained to hear his words. It was the first thing he’d said since I answered his gruff voicemail command to meet him. All I got when I arrived was a curt nod as he waved me into line ahead of him.

I searched his dark face for clues to his unusual moroseness. In the six months since I’d seen him, the creases around his mouth had deepened into caverns, his vivid blue eyes had faded into a dull storm cloud grey. Apparently divorce did not suit him.

“Jamie fighting the settlement?” I guessed only his now ex-wife could evoke such emotion.

He sipped his coffee, wincing at the heat, before answering. “Nah, I don’t care about that. Told her she could have it all. Not that there’s much to have.”

His words jolted me. “Not the cabin, too?”

The ramshackle building on Lake Erie, more hut than cabin, had been our hideaway all through college. He had restored the place himself as the dollars had trickled in from the occasional short stories he had published. A case of beer and burgers on the grill had paid for labor when he had needed a grunt crew to replace the roof and tear out the old concrete floor. After a dozen years, the place was worth three times what he had paid for it. Memories alone would have made me fight to keep it.

Gerald frowned. “Course not. The cabin’s the only thing we agreed on in that damn pre-nup. Guess I should be grateful I let her talk me into it signing it.”

I stifled an exasperated sigh. “So what then? You haven’t returned my calls in months, ignored my emails, and then order me to show up at o-dark-thirty when you know I work Wednesday nights.” When guilt flashed across his face, I toned it down. “You look like you lost your best friend, but I’m sitting right here.”

He tossed a sheaf of papers across the table. “I got a three-book contract.”

“That’s terrific!” I looked from the eight pages of legalese to his gloomy expression. “After all those years of trying, how can you not be thrilled?” I searched for a title in the crowded nine-point text. “Which book?”

He leaned back in the chair and scrubbed at the stubble on his chin. “After the last court hearing, I celebrated by getting wasted – without you, sorry. Then I started writing. No idea where it came from, other than I was determined to show Jamie she’d made a big mistake running off with Muscle-boy. I was going to write the biggest, sensational best-seller on the market and send her an autographed first-edition.”

“Take the muse however it comes, Ger-o. What’s it called?”

Gerald’s melancholy morphed into embarrassment. “Lady Chatterley’s Younger Sister,” he mumbled, forcing me to lean in to hear. “I wrote a bodice-ripping, swooning virgin, goddamn romance, and submitted it on a bet. They want two more.”

about the author
When not teaching freshman composition to reluctant college students, Cyndi Pauwels is hard at work on her fourth novel. She’s published a number of short stories and essays, the award-winning non-fiction Historic Warren County: An Illustrated History (Lammert Publications 2009), and a second anthologized essay which will be released soon in Sugati Publication’s 51%: Women and the Future of Politics. She holds an MA in creative writing from Antioch University McGregor (Midwest) in Yellow Springs.