Sympathy Pain–a short story by David M Marek [revised]: Part One

Long before Austin, Texas promised to “keep it weird,” even before that city
was known as the City of the Violet Crown, some of the old folks called it,
the City of Eternal Moonlight. It seems, in the Nineteenth Century had the
bright idea of illuminating the lanes and avenues with arc carbon lamps.
Arranged in the shape of a halo, and suspended atop steel towers as tall as
a six-story building, the lamps shone so brightly that it was said a
gentleman, or gentlewoman, could stand beneath one of these Moon Towers at
the stroke of midnight and read the Austin American Statesman.

A century later, just such a tower, stood a city block away from the house
where this Author was born and reared. There was another one not far
from the depression-era house where the Author’s brother, Zeno, had been
“homesteading” in a detached, never-used garage. And another one towered
over the South-side quadruplex, where he often made himself at home, such
as the night in October, when all our lives were to change forever.

Zeno–rhymes with “Bevo”–and his buddy, Crosby, had been planning a
masquerade party since Easter. The Fridge stocked with Shiner beer and
popcorn by the bag, the two men patronized the costume shop on South
Congress Avenue and rented out “Batman” and “Robin.”

Picture, if you will, a quadruplex with a central hallway, bisecting the
two downstairs apartments, same as the two upstairs, with the doors always
open to reveal their contents. On this evening, you would have seen
several dark silhouettes, all seated around a conflagration of candles,
sipping liqueur and smoking “Mary Jane.” Nearby were perched large bowls
of guacamole and chips, the State Appetizer. Past the stairs and the newel
post on which Jack O’Lantern crackled, the hallway opened onto a spacious
patio. Here a baker’s dozen costumes, each animated by its own reveler,
danced under Japanese lanterns.

Located somewhere in the darkness that was the back yard, a pickup band
launched into a kind of manic jazz. It was then “Batman” and “Robin”
arrived, having recently emerged from the bathroom in a hempen cloud,
and floated among the dancers: “Batman,” easily the taller of the twosome,
and “Robin” split up–the former to dance with “Snow White;” and the
latter, with “Lizzy Borden;” “Count Dracula” wiggled with “Nurse Ratchet,”
from the movie, “One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest;” the “Grim Reaper”
bopped with “The Mummy;” a six-foot “Nun” shimmied with a spot-on “Zombie;”
off in one corner, “The Incredible Hulk” squirmed in a kiddie chair;
while “Frankenstein” enjoyed a lap dance from his “Bride.”

The uptempo number having wound everyone up, the band segued into some
elevator music–for grins–and “Batman” took the opportunity to tap
“Robin” on the shoulder, “Mind if I cut in?”

“Robin” turned and stared at the caped crusader for a beat–both of them
eyeing each other through the slits in their black masks. Without a word,
they joined hands and proceeded to waltz around the floor. The elevator
music petered out and then rebounded with a raucous ode to Beethoven,
written by the late Chuck Berry. In fact, the two men were having such
a good time that neither of them noticed another costume had crashed the

Sporting lime-green tights and a giant question-mark on his chest, the
comic book rival crept over to the dynamic duo and, glaring through his
black domino mask, tapped “Batman” on the shoulder, “Mind If I…?”

The caped crusader bowed out. Slightly out of step with the back beat,
“The Riddler” and “Batman” danced ballroom-style, ’round and ’round,
parting other couples, so quickly the lanterns seemed to smudge like
wet paint.

The band played their last “ta da!” The odd couple spun and dipped,
amidst much hooting and laughter from the onlookers. “The Riddler”
recoiled, enraged at being their comic relief, then, clamping his
partner’s wrist with one hand and the nape of his neck with the other,
he flung him to the cement floor.

An unnatural silence ensued. The onlookers looked at the fallen one.
Then, at his nemesis. Some gasped. Some fled the scene. The Victor
stood, calmly gazing at The Other–now crumpled on the floor, its neck
quite broken. One witness told the police, the murderer smiled like
“a porn star.”
. . . . . .


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