WritersBeat.com
 

Go Back   WritersBeat.com > Write Here > Fiction

Fiction Novel excerpts, short stories, etc.


The Big Weight

Reply
 
Thread Tools
  #1  
Old 03-27-2017, 04:33 PM
Myers's Avatar
Myers (Offline)
Heartbreaking Writer of Staggering Genius
Official Member
 
Join Date: Sep 2013
Posts: 1,332
Thanks: 244
Thanks 262
Default The Big Weight


The Big Weight


Gary watched the young couple from his balcony as they prepared supper in the common area between apartment buildings—a patch of red dirt and weeds that passed for a playground, with a rusty swing-set and sandbox full of water and dead leaves.

While the man plucked hotdogs off a makeshift grill, the woman carefully arranged paper plates, napkins and plastic forks on a folding card table draped with a red-checked tablecloth. As a final touch, she placed a jumbo-sized plastic stadium cup in the middle of it all, and rammed it full with clumps of wilted goldenrod and sage. She said something to the man before gesturing extravagantly toward her creation. He nodded and beamed with approval.

They seemed lost to the world in each other's company, happy with such meager provisions and humble surroundings. It all reminded Gary of the time when he was content with not much of anything other than the presence of his wife—the time before it all started going wrong.

As night fell, he sipped Coke and watched the couple from behind a magazine, even though it made him feel lonely. So lonely he could feel it pressing on his chest. He’d been surprised when he first noticed the feeling, surprised that something like loneliness could cause physical pain. It was so real, he’d given it a name—The Big Weight. He imagined it as one of those enormous black weights labeled “One Thousand Pounds” in big white letters that he remembered from the Bugs Bunny and Road Runner cartoons. Sometimes it even amused him.

The couple picked up after themselves and walked to their apartment, talking and laughing, shoulders pressed together. When they closed the sliding glass door, all went quiet, except for the white noise of traffic on the nearby highway. Gary lit a cigar, the last of his Montecristo Sublimes, the twenty-dollar stogies he’d once given to his best clients. He stared up at a dull night sky, blank except for a sliver of moon and the few bright stars not obscured by the milky glow of city lights.

When his drink was empty, he crushed the can, put out the cigar and went into the apartment. It seemed like every time he walked into the place it was smaller—and he almost tripped over a stack of old newspapers. His roommate sat on the couch with his feet up on the coffee table, watching Jeopardy and eating a Big Mac.

“Please don’t put your feet on the coffee table, Mitch. Do you know how much I paid for that?”

“You’ve told me about a thousand fucking times.”

“Well then...”

Mitch put his feet on the floor and sighed. The stainless steel and glass table was one of the few things Gary’s ex-wife had allowed him to take from the marriage, and that was because she’d always hated it. “Too cold looking,” she’d said. He’d seen an original at the Cooper-Hewitt while they were vacationing in New York and ordered a reproduction without asking her. It was the kind of thing that drove her crazy.

“How’d the interview go?” Mitch asked, as he dabbed special sauce from his faded Polo shirt.

“They dragged my ass all the way down there to tell me I’m over qualified. What difference does it make to them if I can do the job, for chrissakes?" He went to the kitchen and took another Coke from the refrigerator.

“You’re suckin’ those things down these days,” Mitch said. “That's like pouring sugar down your throat. I read this article about high fructose corn syrup and... ”

“Jesus, Mitch. If I’d wanted to hear that kind of shit, I would have moved in with my mother. As it happens, things really suck right now. Let me enjoy my one last vice.”

“What about the cigars—that's not a vice? ”

“I'm out of cigars, man. I'm quitting by default.”

Gary picked up a framed photo of his five-year old daughter from an end table and studied it for a time before letting out a low moan. “How’d I fuck up so bad, Mitch? How’d I get it all so wrong? I’m a fucking idiot.”

Mitch punched Gary lightly on the arm. “The series is on tonight. I'll go down to Taco Mac and get us some wings. Let’s just watch the game and chill. How about it, bro? Fuck those Yankees.”

Gary collapsed onto a beanbag chair and put his hands over his face. “How’d I fuck up so bad?” he said again.

“You know exactly how you fucked up. ”

“Yeah—well.”

Mitch sat forward and tented his hands. “I’m worried about you, buddy. When's the last time you called your sponsor? And except for this interview, I can’t think of the last time you even left the apartment. You stay in bed half the day. You just sit out there on the balcony hour after hour and stare into space. You’re depressed, dude. Seriously. Maybe you should see someone. Get on some meds or something. I think you’re self-medicating now—with soft-drinks and sweets.”

Gary made himself laugh. “Self-medicating? You’re watching way too much Oprah. I don't need to see anybody. If I could just talk to Catherine—you know—face-to-face and tell her I really get it now. I see how much I hurt her. And that I love her. That I will always love her.”

“I want to believe that,” Mitch said. “And I really do think you're sorry.” He put his hand on Gary’s shoulder and squeezed. “Now—how about those wings? Or we could go down to Toni’s and watch the game on the big screen.”

Gary pointed at a paper cup on the coffee table and shook his head. Mitch lifted it and wiped up a ring of liquid with a paper napkin before smiling and giving Gary the finger.

“Screw the series, Mitch. I’m going out.”

“I don’t like that look on your face. You’re not going to try and talk to Catherine now are you?”

“Maybe.”

Gary again picked up the picture of his daughter. He dismantled the frame, revealing a hidden photograph. It was of Catherine—winter-pale, glistening with sweat and sunscreen on the beach at St. Simon's Island. He closed his eyes and imagined the scene. She was walking just ahead of him, along the Johnson Wall. She turned and held her hand out, beckoning, looking at him with so much love and anticipation.

“Now you're just wallowing in it, Gary. Come on man, stay for the game.” Mitch was holding the remote and going through the channels, searching frantically for the World Series. He landed on the game just as the Yankees were coming to bat. “There you go. There's that bum Soriano. ”

Gary rocketed out of the beanbag chair, scrunching his face into a mask of determination. He took out his keys and jiggled them in Mitch's face. “You said I needed to get out more.”

“Look—if you want any kind of chance with Catherine, give it time. A lot of time.”

Gary started to say something, but Mitch waved him off and resumed his lecture.

“I know— I know. You've managed to stay sober for a while. Big fucking deal. That doesn't fix everything. You've got to suit up and show up, as they say. Make your payments. And be a good father to Molly. Better than you ever were—which wouldn’t take much, to be honest. Even then, it's a real long shot. One in a million. You've got to realize that.”

“Oh, and you’re the expert.”

“You could say that.” He poked Gary in the chest with his index finger. “Maybe you can learn from my mistakes, man.”

“Maybe.”

Gary looked at the TV and considered what his best friend had to say. But it was too late. Things were in motion and he was feeling the rush that comes from making snap decisions. He put on his jacket and smoothed his hair back.

“Mitch, I appreciate the concern. Really. But I'm out of here.”

Mitch ran to the door and stood in front of it. “Don't go man. You're going to blow it. It's just going to piss her off and make you more depressed. I care about you and Catherine both.”

“I know you do, buddy. Now move.”

“Let’s watch the goddamn series.”

Gary came at Mitch sideways and shouldered him away from the door. Mitch lunged and grabbed the back of Gary’s jacket after he went by, but Gary broke free and ran down the hallway.

“I’ve got to do this!” Gary shouted.

“OK. You want to know what I really think?” Mitch said. “I think you’re fucking up. Really. You’re going to make it all worse. You don't get it, man—the damage you caused."

“There were good times too, goddamit. ”

Mitch followed Gary down the hallway, scolding and warning. Gary could hear his voice trailing off as he went down the stairs and out into the parking lot.

When he reached his car, he noticed a long scratch all along the side and pounded the door with his fist. He remembered what a source of pride the car had been when it was new—proof he’d really made it. Now, he couldn’t afford to fix it or even wash it at a proper car wash.

He started the car and gunned the engine for no reason. Then he accidentally honked the horn. Two men drinking beer and smoking cigarettes in a doorway looked at him and smirked. Gary gave them a half-smile and shrugged his shoulders. They laughed and shouted something at him he couldn't understand. He wondered if they were the ones who fucked up his car. Assholes. He pictured the gun he kept in his glove box and imagined taking it out and waving it at them or shooting it in the air. When they looked away, he made a little gun with his thumb and forefinger and aimed it at the men from below the dash. “Pow,” he said.

Gary left the apartment complex and drove for several miles on a crowded four-lane lined with fast food restaurants, low-rent apartments and strip malls before reaching the highway that would take him into the vast arc of suburbs north of the city. He opened the sunroof and took in the cold October air, and it burned like a shot of whiskey on the back of his throat. It suddenly occurred to him that if he had just one drink, it would really take the edge off and make it all so much easier. He could picture himself at a bar off the highway where he sometimes stopped for a quick one on the way home from work, downing a single shot of Jack, feeling the warm calm flow through his bloodstream and up to his brain. But then he rolled the whole scene through and snickered. Even if he could stop at one, Catherine would know. She always knew—and it would be over before he finished the first line of his presentation. He was hit by a wave of relief. Maybe he really was getting it this time.

The road narrowed, from six to four then two lanes. There were fewer exits, lights and buildings, and he realized his was the only car on the road. It made him feel lonely, and he thought of the Big Weight. In an effort to distract himself, he turned on the radio and tried to find the World Series. No luck. So he put Nirvana on the stereo and drummed along on the steering wheel with his palms, just the way he'd psyched himself up for big sales calls.

He got off the main highway, and as he neared his former home, he drove mostly past pine forest and pastures, except for a few gaudy subdivision gates with names on them like Cambridge Estates and Chateau Woods in fancy script letters. Behind them were enclaves of fake stucco houses with three-car garages, walk-in closets and sunken tubs. He'd been sure Catherine would be pleased when they first looked at houses in the area. But none of it impressed her. She’d been perfectly happy in their little ranch house just outside town. It was all in some godforsaken wilderness according to her. The boondocks. Too far from her parents. From anything. Gary assured her that civilization was on its way; and noted that ground had been broken for a Walmart and a Waffle House just across the highway.

When Gary reached a subdivision called Lake View, he drove through a large brick entryway and pulled over to the side. Catherine thought the name of the place was hilarious; considering there wasn’t a lake or any body of water around for miles, except the old trout pond down the road where Gary fished when she got on his nerves. He’d once taken his daughter there before Catherine gave him the boot. He had a photo in his wallet of the little girl holding her first catch ever, a four or five-inch trout she’d named Alfred. She’d cried when they threw it back. He wanted to take out the picture and look at it, but knew what would happen. The Big Weight. It might come anyway, if he couldn’t stop thinking about it. He slapped his forehead in an effort to dislodge the memory.

As Cobain's voice faded, he heard Mitch’s warnings. Faintly at first, like the third wave of an echo. And then louder. “I think you’re fucking up, man.”

He was losing his nerve, but again shook off the warning. What the hell did Mitch know? Then he wondered if he should prepare his case. Maybe jot down a few words and memorize them. No, he decided. Under pressure, he might forget his lines and come up empty. And he’d always been good at extemporaneous speaking. It was one of the things that made him such a good salesman. He was sure something would hit him, something that would open Catherine’s heart. There had been good times too. Lots of them. She just needed reminding.

After all, the approach had worked the first time he was shown the door, although he couldn’t recall what he’d said. He did remember that afterward they’d gone to their lake house and made love in a warm afternoon sun tempered by a cool breeze off the lake on the deck overlooking the water. He recalled her familiar, radiant beauty, and the feeling of her body beneath his, a body softened by time and childbirth. “Fill me, Gary—please,” she’d said, as she always did when they made love. How he longed to hear those words again. And he was sure he would—once she heard him out.

Then something interrupted his reverie. A rap on the window. It was an emaciated bleach-blond in jogging shorts and a sports bra; Catherine’s best friend, Marcy. He rolled the window down.

“Gary—what the hell?”

“Look, Marcy, I just wanted to see the house. I’m just feeling a little down. I don’t know why I came.”

“I should call Catherine, you know.” She fingered the cell phone in the pocket of her too-tight jogging shorts, then leaned toward him and sniffed. “Have you been drinking?”

“No, I haven't been drinking. Please, don’t call Catherine. I’m leaving, okay?”

“All right. I’ll take your word for it. Although I don’t know why I should. And in case you were wondering—she's doing just fine.”

She clicked her tongue and went on her way. He guessed she was probably still sore at him for the time he'd had a little too much to drink and threw all her new patio furniture into the swimming pool. But that was only because she wouldn't mind her own damned business. The bitch. He started the car and crept forward until she was out of view.

Gary opened his glove box, took out a metal tin of breath mints and put several in his mouth. As he was putting the mints back, he noticed the gun. He stared at it for a moment, then withdrew it like it was something delicate, cradling it in his palm. He'd only fired it once, when he accidentally shot up his next door neighbor's birdhouse one New Year's Eve. Other than that, he'd never given it too much thought. His father had kept the gun in his truck and his father before him. It just seemed like a good thing to do—especially now that he lived in a low-rent apartment on the edge of no-man's land. It was a compact, nickel-plate, thirty-eight caliber revolver. Heavy and shiny. Old fashioned, like private detectives used in black and white movies. He liked the way it looked, and the weight of it in his hand.

He closed his eyes and imagined that if his petition failed, he could hold the gun to his head and threaten to end it all. It would make great theater, but it would get him nowhere with Catherine. He’d likely land in jail or in the nuthouse, humiliated and even more the pariah. And he’d probably never see his daughter again without supervision. Still, he played out the scene in his mind. He was intrigued by the notion, that if only for moment, he would have the upper hand. Something he hadn’t had in long time.

Gary moved to put the gun back, but hesitated. He could feel some sort of energy flowing from it, up through his arm and into his body. Of course, he would never use it, but it made him feel confident, in control. “Pow,” he said, before shoving the gun into the inner breast pocket of his jacket. Then he started his car and drove along a street lined with large houses that were mostly the same.

When he reached what had once been his dream house, he parked at the curb. The place was dark, except for the warm yellow light from the kitchen that he could see through a front room. He saw his wife’s silhouette move across the kitchen doorway, he held his breath for a moment and exhaled with force. “This is it,” he said.

Instead of taking the flagstone path that meandered through flower beds and pine straw covered islands, he marched straight across the lawn, up the front steps, two at a time and hit the doorbell button. He could hear movement, and through a door-side window, he saw his wife approach. He swallowed as she opened the door.

They stared at each other for a moment. Catherine had her hair piled on her head, loosely tied in a red bandana. There was streak of something, cake batter or paint, across her cheek. She was wearing one his old button-down shirts and pink, flannel pajama bottoms. He wondered if he had ever seen her look more lovely. She put her hands on her hips—those full, soft, beautiful hips.

“What are you doing here, Gary?”

He looked down, then raised his head slowly for dramatic effect.

“I came because...”

Shuffling through his thoughts and feelings, he struggled to put them into some kind of order before speaking. He licked his lips and fiddled with the zipper on his jacket.

“You came because...” She crossed her arms and tapped her foot while she waited for him to continue.

“Because I want to come home.”

To his horror, all eloquence had escaped him. He’d said it in a long, high whine, like a child protesting his bedtime.

“Oh, my God, Gary. I don’t believe it.”

Catherine squinted and shook her head. It was more of a vibration, really. And she made a low humming noise while she did it. He wasn’t off to a good start. She reared back and sucked in air like she was going under water. He flinched.

“Gary—get this straight. I will never take you back. Never. I do not love you anymore. The lies kill the love. Do you understand? ” She put her hand over her heart and made a fist. “The lies kill the love.”

She’d said it slowly, and the words came at him one at a time; a measured volley that hit him right in the heart like five fastballs from a pitching machine. It sent him backward and he had to grab the railing to steady himself. Again, he tried to launch his appeal, but choked.

“I will never take you back,” she said again in a low rasp. “Is that clear?”

He stepped back to the edge of the porch, put his hand over his chest and felt the gun through his jacket. He felt its energy. He stood straight and put his feet at shoulder width.

“Is that clear?” Catherine said. “I gave you your second chance, and you blew it.”

“Listen, to me!” He grunted, unzipped his jacket and put his hand inside it. He wrapped his fingers around the gun grip.

“What are you doing, Gary?”

“Hear me out,” he croaked, as he put his finger through the trigger guard. He was panting and shaking.

“Gary, what the hell is the matter with you?”

Before he could withdraw the gun, he heard a high, clear voice coming from behind his wife.

“Is that Daddy?”

Catherine turned, and Gary strained to see around her. He saw his little girl. Her blond curls, still wet from bath time, sparkled in the light of the gigantic crystal chandelier he'd installed in the entranceway. She clutched a blanket that was no more than a tangle of threads and satin edging.

“Daddy!” she said.

“Your father can’t visit now, Molly. Go back to bed.”

Catherine tried to restrain her daughter, but the little girl broke free and ran out onto the porch. She threw her arms around her father’s legs. He knelt on one knee, put his arms around her and kissed her cheek with an exaggerated sucking sound. The little girl did the same, and he held her, reveling in the warmth of her unconditional love. “Hello, sweetheart,” he said.

“What are you doing here, Daddy? Am I going with you?”

“Your daddy has to go now,” Catherine said. “Go on back to bed. Now.”

“Can he tuck me in?”

Gary knew not to look at his wife; that she wouldn’t allow it.

“You’d better go on, Molly,” Gary said. “I’ll see you soon. All right?”

The little girl nodded and went into the house. He could hear her tiny bare feet on the marble floor in the foyer as she ran, singing The Bear Went Over the Mountain.

“She misses you, Gary. You should be glad of that.”

“I am,” he said. And he began to cry.

“Oh, Gary,” she said, as she reached to put her hand on his shoulder. “I didn’t mean to be so harsh. But I’m still holding a lot of anger. Do you understand?"

He wanted to say he was sorry. But he’d said it so many times when he didn’t mean it.

“And you need to realize there’s no chance,” she said. “You need to move on. We both need to move on.”

“Okay—I get it.” he said, as he sniffed and wiped his eyes with the back of his hand.

“I hope so. Now you’d better go.”

“All right..”

He turned and walked down the stairs, and back across his footprints on the frost-covered lawn. He looked over his shoulder at Catherine and waved. She smiled—but just barely. He looked up and could see stars. Millions of them.

Gary got into his car and threw his head back against the seat. As he tried to make sense of what had happened, he thought of the young newlyweds and wished with all his heart that he could go back to that time before he started making mistakes. Again, he remembered the time at the lake, and how when he was still inside Catherine, he’d buried his face in the nape of her neck and made promises. Promises he wouldn’t keep. And then there were the lies. And more lies. Then he closed his eyes and tried to conjure up one good thing, something that he could grasp and hold on to that might provide evidence that he deserved another chance—even if Catherine would never give him one. Something she couldn't see or just didn't want to remember. But nothing surfaced. And even the images of his most precious memories flickered and burned out like the last frames of an old home movie.

For the third time that evening the same old question came into his mind, and he tried to scream it out loud—“How did I fuck up so bad?”

But it was no use. He felt something on his chest. Bearing down. Pushing. He wasn’t surprised.

It was The Big Weight. Bigger and heavier than ever. The white letters were so large and close, he couldn’t read them. It was all he could see and feel. He couldn’t breathe, and he thought his ribs might crack or his heart might explode.

It was so heavy. Everything. The loneliness.

The gun.

He asked for forgiveness.


Last edited by Myers; 04-01-2017 at 05:13 PM..
Reply With Quote
  #2  
Old 03-27-2017, 05:55 PM
brianpatrick's Avatar
brianpatrick (Offline)
Verbosity Pales
Official Member
 
Join Date: Sep 2014
Location: Arizona
Posts: 3,618
Thanks: 343
Thanks 781
Default

Originally Posted by Myers View Post
The Big Weight


Gary watched the young couple from his balcony as they prepared supper in the common area between apartment buildings—a patch of red dirt and weeds that passed for a playground, with a rusty swing-set and sandbox full of water and dead leaves.

While the man plucked hotdogs off a makeshift grill, the woman carefully arranged paper plates, napkins and plastic forks on a folding card table draped with a red-checked tablecloth. As a final touch, she placed a jumbo-sized plastic stadium cup in the middle of it all, and rammed it full with clumps of wilted goldenrod and sage. She said something to the man before gesturing extravagantly toward her creation. He nodded and beamed with approval.

They seemed lost to the world in each other's company, happy with such meager provisions and humble surroundings. It all reminded Gary of the time when he was content with not much of anything other than the presence of his wife—the time before it all started going wrong.

As night fell, he sipped Coke and watched the couple from behind an old newspaper, even though it made him feel lonely. So lonely he could feel it pressing on his chest. He’d been surprised when he first noticed the feeling, surprised that something like loneliness could cause physical pain. It was so real, he’d given it a name—The Big Weight. He imagined it as one of those enormous black weights labeled “One Thousand Pounds” in big white letters that he remembered from the Bugs Bunny and Road Runner cartoons. Sometimes it even amused him.

The couple picked up after themselves and walked to their apartment, talking and laughing, shoulders pressed together. When they closed the sliding glass door, all went quiet, except for the white noise of traffic on the nearby highway. Gary lit a cigar, the last of his Montecristo Sublimes, the twenty-dollar stogies he’d once given to his best clients. He stared up at a dull, night sky, blank except for a sliver of moon and the few bright stars not obscured by the milky glow of city lights.

When his drink was empty, he crushed the can, put out the cigar and went into the apartment. It seemed like every time he walked into the place it was smaller—and he almost tripped over a stack of old magazines. His roommate sat on the couch with his feet up on the coffee table, watching Jeopardy and eating a Big Mac.

“Please don’t put your feet on the coffee table, Mitch. Do you know how much I paid for that?”

“You’ve told me about a thousand fucking times.”

“Well then...”

Mitch put his feet on the floor and sighed. The stainless steel and glass table was one of the few things Gary’s ex-wife had allowed him to take from the marriage, and that was because she’d always hated it. “Too cold looking,” she’d said. He’d seen an original at the Cooper-Hewitt while they were vacationing in New York and ordered a reproduction without asking her. It was the kind of thing that drove her crazy.

“How’d the interview go?” Mitch asked, as he dabbed special sauce from his faded Polo shirt.

“They dragged my ass all the way down there to tell me I’m over qualified. What difference does it make to them if I can do the job, for chrissakes? ” He went to the kitchen and took another Coke from the refrigerator.

“You’re suckin’ those things down these days,” Mitch said. “That's like pouring sugar down your throat. I read this article about high fructose corn syrup and... ”

“Jesus, Mitch. If I’d wanted to hear that kind of shit, I would have moved in with my mother. As it happens, things really suck right now. Let me enjoy my one last vice.”

“What about the cigars—that's not a vice? ”

“I'm out of cigars, man. I'm quitting by default.”

Gary picked up a framed photo of his five-year old daughter from an end table and studied it for a time before letting out a low moan. “How’d I fuck up so bad, Mitch? How’d I get it all so wrong? I’m a fucking idiot.”

Mitch punched Gary lightly on the arm. “The series is on tonight,” he said. “I’ll go down to Taco Mac and get us some wings. Let’s just watch the game and chill. How about it, bro? Fuck those Yankees.”

Gary collapsed onto a beanbag chair and put his hands over his face. “How’d I fuck up so bad?” he said, again.

“You know exactly how you fucked up. ”

“Yeah—well.”

Mitch sat forward and tented his hands. “I’m worried about you, buddy. When's the last time you called your sponsor? And except for this interview, I can’t think of the last time you even left the apartment. You stay in bed half the day. You just sit out there on the balcony hour after hour and stare into space. You’re depressed, dude. Seriously. Maybe you should see someone. Get on some meds or something. I think you’re self-medicating now—with soft-drinks and sweets.”

Gary made himself laugh. “Self-medicating? You’re watching way too much Oprah. I don't need to see anybody. If I could just talk to Catherine—you know—face-to-face and tell her I really get it now. I see how much I hurt her. And that I love her. That I will always love her.”

“I want to believe that,” Mitch said. “And I really do think you're sorry.” He put his hand on Gary’s shoulder and squeezed. “Now—how about those wings? Or we could go down to Toni’s and watch the game on the big screen.”

Gary pointed at a paper cup on the coffee table and shook his head. Mitch lifted it and wiped up a ring of liquid with a paper napkin before smiling and giving Gary the finger.

“Screw the series, Mitch. I’m going out.”

“I don’t like that look on your face. You’re not going to try and talk to Catherine now are you?”

“Maybe.”

Gary again picked up the picture of his daughter. He dismantled the frame, revealing a hidden photograph. It was of Catherine—winter-pale, glistening with sweat and sunscreen on the beach at St. Simon's Island. He closed his eyes and imagined the scene. She was walking just ahead of him, along the Johnson Wall. She turned and held her hand out, beckoning, looking at him with so much love and anticipation.

“Now you're just wallowing in it, Gary. Come on man, stay for the game.” Mitch was holding the remote and going through the channels, searching frantically for the World Series. He landed on the game just as the Yankees were coming to bat. “There you go. There's that bum Soriano. ”

Gary rocketed out of the beanbag chair, scrunching his face into a mask of determination. He took out his keys and jiggled them in Mitch's face. “You said I needed to get out more.”

“Look —if you want any kind of chance with Catherine, give it time. A lot of time.”

Gary started to say something, but Mitch waved him off and resumed his lecture.

“I know— I know. You've managed to stay sober for a while. Big fucking deal. That doesn't fix everything. You've got to suit up and show up, as they say. Make your payments. And be a good father to Molly. Better than you ever were—which wouldn’t take much, to be honest. Even then, it's a real long shot. One in a million. You've got to realize that.”

“Oh, and you’re the expert.”

“You could say that.” He poked Gary in the chest with his index finger. “Maybe you can learn from my mistakes, man.”

“Maybe.”

Gary looked at the TV and considered what his best friend had to say. But it was too late. Things were in motion and he was feeling the rush that comes from making snap decisions. He put on his jacket and smoothed his hair back.

“Mitch, I appreciate the concern. Really. But I'm out of here.”

Mitch ran to the door and stood in front of it. “Don't go man. You're going to blow it. It's just going to piss her off and make you more depressed. I care about you and Catherine both.”

“I know you do, buddy. Now move.”

“Let’s watch the goddamn series.”

Gary came at Mitch sideways and shouldered him away from the door. Mitch lunged and grabbed the back of Gary’s jacket after he went by, but Gary broke free and ran down the hallway.

“I’ve got to do this!” Gary shouted.

“OK. You want to know what I really think?” Mitch said. “I think you’re fucking up. Really. You’re going to make it all worse. You don't get it, man— the damage you caused. ”

“There were good times too, goddamit. ”

Mitch followed Gary down the hallway, scolding and warning. Gary could hear his voice trailing off as he went down the stairs and out into the parking lot.

When he reached his car, he noticed a long scratch all along the side and pounded the door with his fist. He remembered what a source of pride the car had been when it was new—proof he’d really made it. Now, he couldn’t afford to fix it or even wash it at a proper car wash.

He started the car and gunned the engine for no reason. Then he accidentally honked the horn. Two men drinking beer and smoking cigarettes in a doorway looked at him and smirked. Gary gave them a half-smile and shrugged his shoulders. They laughed and shouted something at him he couldn't understand. He wondered if they were the ones who fucked up his car. Assholes. He pictured the gun he kept in his glove box and imagined taking it out and waving it at them or shooting it in the air. When they looked away, he made a little gun with his thumb and forefinger and aimed it at the men from below the dash. “Pow,” he said.

Gary left the apartment complex and drove for several miles on a crowded four-lane lined with fast food restaurants, low-rent apartments and strip malls before reaching the highway that would take him into the vast arc of suburbs north of the city. He opened the sunroof and took in the cold October air, and it burned like a shot of whiskey on the back of his throat. It suddenly occurred to him that if he had just one drink, it would really take the edge off and make it all so much easier. He could picture himself at a bar off the highway where he sometimes stopped for a quick one on the way home from work, downing a single shot of Jack, feeling the warm calm flow through his bloodstream and up to his brain. But then he rolled the whole scene through and snickered. Even if he could stop at one, Catherine would know. She always knew—and it would be over before he finished the first line of his presentation. He was hit by a wave of relief. Maybe he really was getting it this time.

The road narrowed, from six to four then two lanes. There were fewer exits, lights and buildings, and he realized his was the only car on the road. It made him feel lonely, and he thought of the Big Weight. In an effort to distract himself, he turned on the radio and tried to find the Series. No luck. So he put Nirvana on the stereo and drummed along on the steering wheel with his palms, just the way he'd psyched himself up for big sales calls.

He got off the main highway, and as he neared his former home, he drove mostly past pine forest and pastures, except for a few gaudy subdivision gates with names on them like Cambridge Estates and Chateau Woods in fancy script letters. Behind them were enclaves of fake stucco houses with three-car garages, walk-in closets and sunken tubs. He'd been sure Catherine would be pleased when they first looked at houses in the area. But none of it impressed her. She’d been perfectly happy in their little ranch house just outside town. It was all in some godforsaken wilderness according to her. The boondocks. Too far from her parents. From anything. Gary assured her that civilization was on its way; and noted that ground had been broken for a Walmart and a Waffle House just across the highway.

When Gary reached a subdivision called Lake View, he drove through a large brick entryway and pulled over to the side. Catherine thought the name of the place was hilarious; considering there wasn’t a lake or any body of water around for miles, except the old trout pond down the road where Gary fished when she got on his nerves. He’d once taken his daughter there before Catherine gave him the boot. He had a photo in his wallet of the little girl holding her first catch ever, a four or five-inch trout she’d named Alfred. She’d cried when they threw it back. He wanted to take out the picture and look at it, but knew what would happen. The Big Weight. It might come anyway, if he couldn’t stop thinking about it. He slapped his forehead in an effort to dislodge the memory.

As Cobain's voice faded, he heard Mitch’s warnings. Faintly at first, like the third wave of an echo. And then louder. “I think you’re fucking up, man.”

He was losing his nerve, but again shook off the warning. What the hell did Mitch know? Then he wondered if he should prepare his case. Maybe jot down a few words and memorize them. No, he decided. Under pressure, he might forget his lines and come up empty. And he’d always been good at extemporaneous speaking. It was one of the things that made him such a good salesman. He was sure something would hit him, something that would open Catherine’s heart. There had been good times too. Lots of them. She just needed reminding.

After all, the approach had worked the first time he was shown the door, although he couldn’t recall what he’d said. He did remember that afterward they’d gone to their lake house and made love in a warm afternoon sun tempered by a cool breeze off the lake, on the deck overlooking the water. He recalled her familiar, radiant beauty, and the feeling of her body beneath his, a body softened by time and childbirth. “Fill me, Gary—please,” she’d said, as she always did when they made love. How he longed to hear those words again. And he was sure he would—once she heard him out.

Then something interrupted his reverie. A rap on the window. It was an emaciated bleach-blond in jogging shorts and a sports bra; Catherine’s best friend, Marcy. He rolled the window down.

“Gary—what the hell?”

“Look, Marcy, I just wanted to see the house. I’m just feeling a little down. I don’t know why I came.”

“I should call Catherine, you know.” She fingered the cell phone in the pocket of her too-tight jogging shorts, then leaned toward him and sniffed. “Have you been drinking?”

“No, I haven't been drinking. Please, don’t call Catherine. I’m leaving, okay?”

“All right. I’ll take your word for it. Although I don’t know why I should. And in case you were wondering—she's doing just fine.”

She clicked her tongue and went on her way. He guessed she was probably still sore at him for the time he'd had a little too much to drink and threw all her new patio furniture into the swimming pool. But that was only because she wouldn't mind her own damned business. The bitch. He started the car and crept forward until she was out of view.

Gary opened his glove box, took out a metal tin of breath mints and put several in his mouth. As he was putting the mints back, he noticed the gun. He stared at it for a moment, then withdrew it like it was something delicate, cradling it in his palm. He'd only fired it once, when he accidentally shot up his next door neighbor's birdhouse one New Year's Eve. Other than that, he'd never given it too much thought. His father had kept the gun in his truck and his father before him. It just seemed like a good thing to do—especially now that he lived in a low-rent apartment on the edge of no-man's land. It was a compact, nickel-plate, thirty-eight caliber revolver. Heavy and shiny. Old fashioned, like private detectives used in black and white movies. He liked the way it looked, and the weight of it in his hand.

He closed his eyes and imagined that if his petition failed, he could hold the gun to his head and threaten to end it all. It would make great theater, but it would get him nowhere with Catherine. He’d likely land in jail or in the nuthouse, humiliated and even more the pariah. And he’d probably never see his daughter again without supervision. Still, he played out the scene in his mind. He was intrigued by the notion, that if only for moment, he would have the upper hand. Something he hadn’t had in long time.

Gary moved to put the gun back, but hesitated. He could feel some sort of energy flowing from it, up through his arm and into his body. Of course, he would never use it, but it made him feel confident, in control. “Pow,” he said, before shoving the gun into the inner breast pocket of his jacket. Then he started his car and drove along a street lined with large houses that were mostly the same.

When he reached what had once been his dream house, he parked at the curb. The place was dark, except for the warm yellow light from the kitchen that he could see through a front room. He saw his wife’s silhouette move across the kitchen doorway, he held his breath for a moment and exhaled with force. “This is it,” he said.

Instead of taking the flagstone path that meandered through flower beds and pine straw covered islands, he marched straight across the lawn, up the front steps, two at a time and hit the doorbell button. He could hear movement, and through a door-side window, he saw his wife approach. He swallowed as she opened the door.

They stared at each other for a moment. Catherine had her hair piled on her head, loosely tied in a red bandana. There was streak of something, cake batter or paint, across her cheek. She was wearing one his old button-down shirts and pink, flannel pajama bottoms. He wondered if he had ever seen her look more lovely. She put her hands on her hips—those full, soft, beautiful hips.

“What are you doing here, Gary?”

He looked down, then raised his head slowly for dramatic effect.

“I came because...”

Shuffling through his thoughts and feelings, he struggled to put them into some kind of order before speaking. He licked his lips and fiddled with the zipper on his jacket.

“You came because...” She crossed her arms and tapped her foot while she waited for him to continue.

“Because I want to come home.”

To his horror, all eloquence had escaped him. He’d said it in a long, high whine, like a child protesting his bedtime.

“Oh, my God, Gary. I don’t believe it.”

Catherine squinted and shook her head. It was more of a vibration, really. And she made a low humming noise while she did it. He wasn’t off to a good start. She reared back and sucked in air like she was going under water. He flinched.

“Gary—get this straight. I will never take you back. Never. I do not love you anymore. The lies kill the love. Do you understand? ” She put her hand over her heart and made a fist. “The lies kill the love.”

She’d said it slowly, and the words came at him one at a time; a measured volley that hit him right in the heart like five fastballs from a pitching machine. It sent him backward and he had to grab the railing to steady himself. Again, he tried to launch his appeal, but choked.

“I will never take you back,” she said again, in a low rasp. “Is that clear?”

He stepped back to the edge of the porch, put his hand over his chest and felt the gun through his jacket. He felt its energy. He stood straight and put his feet at shoulder width.

“Is that clear?” Catherine said. “I gave you your second chance, and you blew it.”

“Listen, to me!” He grunted, unzipped his jacket and put his hand inside it. He wrapped his fingers around the gun grip.

“What are you doing, Gary?”

“Hear me out,” he croaked, as he put his finger through the trigger guard. He was panting and shaking.

“Gary, what the hell is the matter with you?”

Before he could withdraw the gun, he heard a high, clear voice coming from behind his wife.

“Is that Daddy?”

Catherine turned, and Gary strained to see around her. He saw his little girl. Her blond curls, still wet from bath time, sparkled in the light of the gigantic crystal chandelier he'd installed in the entranceway. She clutched a blanket that was no more than a tangle of threads and satin edging.

“Daddy!” she said.

“Your father can’t visit now, Molly. Go back to bed.”

Catherine tried to restrain her daughter, but the little girl broke free and ran out onto the porch. She threw her arms around her father’s legs. He knelt on one knee, put his arms around her and kissed her cheek with an exaggerated sucking sound. The little girl did the same, and he held her, reveling in the warmth of her unconditional love. “Hello, sweetheart,” he said.

“What are you doing here, Daddy? Am I going with you?”

“Your daddy has to go now,” Catherine said. “Go on back to bed. Now.”

“Can he tuck me in?”

Gary knew not to look at his wife; that she wouldn’t allow it.

“You’d better go on, Molly,” Gary said. “I’ll see you soon. All right?”

The little girl nodded and went into the house. He could hear her tiny bare feet on the marble floor in the foyer as she ran, singing The Bear Went Over the Mountain.

“She misses you, Gary. You should be glad of that.”

“I am,” he said. And he began to cry.

“Oh, Gary,” she said, as she reached to put her hand on his shoulder. “I didn’t mean to be so harsh. But I’m still holding a lot of anger. Do you understand?"

He wanted to say he was sorry. But he’d said it so many times when he didn’t mean it.

“And you need to realize there’s no chance,” she said. “You need to move on. We both need to move on.”

“Okay—I get it.” he said, as he sniffed and wiped his eyes with the back of his hand.

“I hope so. Now you’d better go.”

“All right..”

He turned and walked down the stairs, and back across his footprints on the frost-covered lawn. He looked over his shoulder at Catherine and waved. She smiled—but just barely. He looked up and could see stars. Millions of them.

Gary got into his car and threw his head back against the seat. As he tried to make sense of what had happened, he thought of the young newlyweds and wished with all his heart that he could go back to that time before he started making mistakes. Again, he remembered the time at the lake, and how when he was still inside Catherine, he’d buried his face in the nape of her neck and made promises. Promises he wouldn’t keep. And then there were the lies. And more lies. Then he closed his eyes and tried to conjure up one good thing, something that he could grasp and hold on to that might provide evidence that he deserved another chance—even if Catherine would never give him one. Something she couldn't see or just didn't want to remember. But nothing surfaced. And even the images of his most precious memories flickered and burned out like the last frames of an old home movie.

For the third time that evening the same old question came into his mind, and he tried to scream it out loud—“How did I fuck up so bad?”

But it was no use. He felt something on his chest. Bearing down. Pushing. He wasn’t surprised.

It was The Big Weight. Bigger and heavier than ever. The white letters were so large and close, he couldn’t read them. It was all he could see and feel. He couldn’t breathe, and he thought his ribs might crack or his heart might explode. It was so heavy. Everything. The loneliness. The gun. He asked for forgiveness.


Boom! This is very good, and some of my favorite kinda shit. Damn, you can make it boil slowly. There were a number of commas I would remove, but I think that's my style and maybe wouldn't work for you. Anyway, you can look at that. There was a para that didn't work for me:


“Oh, Gary,” she said, as she reached to put her hand on his shoulder. “I didn’t mean to be so harsh. But I’m still holding a lot of anger. Do you understand?">>> I would remove this entirely. It loosens some of the tension at a time when I want it to stay tight.

And... the last line is wrong in my opinion. You could almost remove it entirely, but then I see that it would leave a really open ending. And people would say: hey man, what'd you just give up? Ha ha. There is so much tension there at the end and I'd like to see you lessen it gently, but not fully release it. Does that make sense? I don't have any suggestions exactly. I'd just like to see it come down more slowly.

Anyway... good shit as always Myers.
Reply With Quote
  #3  
Old 03-27-2017, 06:00 PM
brianpatrick's Avatar
brianpatrick (Offline)
Verbosity Pales
Official Member
 
Join Date: Sep 2014
Location: Arizona
Posts: 3,618
Thanks: 343
Thanks 781
Default

Just spitballing: maybe you could keep the tension hot as he heads for the bar and then slowly bring it down as he finally decides not to go in for that drink?

Dunno... just an idea.
Reply With Quote
  #4  
Old 04-01-2017, 01:19 PM
Myers's Avatar
Myers (Offline)
Heartbreaking Writer of Staggering Genius
Official Member
 
Join Date: Sep 2013
Posts: 1,332
Thanks: 244
Thanks 262
Default

Hey, BP. I'm glad you liked it.

Wow, I went back and looked at it with an eye on the commas -- and I took out quite a few of them. I could probably loose more. While most of them are technically correct, they can interrupt the flow of things. I think it's a holdover from some of the writing I do for work -- features and benefits stuff etc.

Regarding the bit you mentioned -- I guess I was trying to soften Catherine -- have her not come off as such a bitch. But I think you're right -- it's somewhat forced in. And if I've set things up and developed the MC properly, then we should understand that her anger and reaction to him showing up is justified. Good call.

The whole thing is about a slow building of tension, so I'm thinking an additional struggle over a drink isn't really needed. In my first version of this, the reason he decides to go see is ex is because he does go off the wagon and gets drunk. His confrontation with his roommate is more angry and physical, he gets into an argument with the guys in his parking lot, he's obnoxious to his wife's friend etc. In some ways, I liked it at least as much, but the people who read it found him to be just too loathsome. I like unsympathetic characters, but I took it a bit too far.

Anyway, thanks for reading. I pretty much posted it knowing it was your cup of tea. Thanks for taking the time and for the useful comments.

Cheers!
Reply With Quote
  #5  
Old 04-01-2017, 02:20 PM
brianpatrick's Avatar
brianpatrick (Offline)
Verbosity Pales
Official Member
 
Join Date: Sep 2014
Location: Arizona
Posts: 3,618
Thanks: 343
Thanks 781
Default

Yeah, that's what I meant about the commas. Some felt a little too cautious or safe maybe. In a story that is about, on some level, risk. I comma the hell out of stories on the first draft and then go back and remove a shit-ton in edits.

I would personally like to see the last line removed leaving the reader with that fat sense of 'weight.' When he asks for forgiveness it pops the balloon. I love wide degrees of closure in a story where the reader walks away with the same sense of what the character feels and has to live with it a while. But I also get the comments from some who say: 'man, you just gave up there!'
Reply With Quote
  #6  
Old 04-01-2017, 02:40 PM
Myers's Avatar
Myers (Offline)
Heartbreaking Writer of Staggering Genius
Official Member
 
Join Date: Sep 2013
Posts: 1,332
Thanks: 244
Thanks 262
Default

Oh yeah -- I meant to comment on what you said about the last line -- because I think it's important. Sorry about that.

That might not be a good last line, but when I take it out, it just feels cut off. It feels like it needs something -- but maybe I'm too close to it. And I wanted to end it by implying that he might kill himself or that he was at least considering it -- that's what line is about. I'll have to think about it...
Reply With Quote
  #7  
Old 04-25-2017, 07:19 AM
Escriber* (Offline)
Word Wizard
Official Member
 
Join Date: Mar 2014
Location: Sarasota, Fl
Posts: 559
Thanks: 30
Thanks 119
Icon12 The Big Weight

Very good writing here. I really enjoyed your story; you have publishable talent. Keep writing.

The things you achieve in this draft are strong characterization and conflict. We see Gary as a round character and even know that he is dealing with a break-up; the Man vs Self conflict becomes evident after Gary walks through three warnings, even warnings he sent to himself to stay away from Catherine.

The audience witnesses Gary's decisions and actions; we expect him to look at the couple the way he does and want his daughter to remember him as a "father". Mitch definitely works better as a flat character. He's not in control.

The third-person narrator works best in place of a flashback. You don't really need one to show that Gary and Catherine had a break-up.

So, the only suggestion for improving is to try to add a scene where Gary talks to the couple. It could be a cool closing scene to the story.
__________________
As the saying goes,
first the Dread,
so remember to Dream the Descent.
No despair- it is the Decision.
Reply With Quote
  #8  
Old 04-29-2017, 05:37 AM
Grace Gabriel's Avatar
Grace Gabriel (Online)
Always Online
Official Member
 
Join Date: Apr 2011
Posts: 2,156
Thanks: 1,763
Thanks 938
Default

Originally Posted by Myers View Post
Oh yeah -- I meant to comment on what you said about the last line -- because I think it's important. Sorry about that.

That might not be a good last line, but when I take it out, it just feels cut off. It feels like it needs something -- but maybe I'm too close to it. And I wanted to end it by implying that he might kill himself or that he was at least considering it -- that's what line is about. I'll have to think about it...
Until I read this comment, I thought Gary's intention was to go back and shoot his wife - largely because he went to withdraw the gun before his daughter appeared. I thought it was an "if I can't have you - no one will" situation. If there'd been no mention of the gun in the house, I would of instantly understood suicide in the car.

There's nothing that I can or want to criticise - your writing is so smooth I can lose myself in the story. Great stuff Myers
__________________
GRACE GABRIEL
Reply With Quote
  #9  
Old 05-01-2017, 10:41 AM
Myers's Avatar
Myers (Offline)
Heartbreaking Writer of Staggering Genius
Official Member
 
Join Date: Sep 2013
Posts: 1,332
Thanks: 244
Thanks 262
Default

Escriber: Glad you mostly liked it. In an early version, I had Gary interacting with the young couple at the start. It was one of those "kill your darlings things." I liked the dialog and what it revealed about Gary, but it bogged the story down. Not sure how I'd get back to a conversation with them -- and it seems like it would let the air out of the balloon after building up all the tension.

Thanks for reading and commenting. Cheers.

Grace:
The suicide made sense to me, because the I wanted "the big weight" to be metaphor for his increasing depression.

But I think it's great that you thought Gary might be going back to kill his wife. If people see it that way, it works just fine. I'm OK with people ending it any way they want.

Glad you like the story and the writing. I know these are long by forum standards, so I appreciate the read. Cheers.

Last edited by Myers; 05-01-2017 at 10:43 AM..
Reply With Quote
The Following User Says Thank You to Myers For This Useful Post:
Grace Gabriel (05-02-2017)
  #10  
Old 05-02-2017, 02:03 PM
spshane (Offline)
Abnormally Articulate
Official Member
 
Join Date: Dec 2014
Posts: 113
Thanks: 32
Thanks 23
Default

The writing is good. Maybe a bit much of it in place. Could cut it down a bit. The only thing I struggled with was the deal with Gary and Mitch. I'm reading this and I'm thinking, "wait, are they a gay couple?" And then Gary goes on about his ex and still seems to be in love with her and I'm "okay, maybe just Mitch is gay." And I'm not trying to be funny or anything with that. It's just that I've never seen or heard two heterosexual men talk to each other like that. It's mostly Mitch, but he's a nagging little bitch. He talks like a woman. And the way he follows him out of the house griping at him. I've never heard a straight man bitch another man like that. We don't give each other shit about what we're drinking, smoking, job interviews, whatever. If a friend wants to tell you something, he tells you; otherwise noneya. It creates confusion in the story, because you're reading their tizzy like "okay, what's going on with them?"
Reply With Quote
  #11  
Old 05-02-2017, 04:20 PM
Myers's Avatar
Myers (Offline)
Heartbreaking Writer of Staggering Genius
Official Member
 
Join Date: Sep 2013
Posts: 1,332
Thanks: 244
Thanks 262
Default

spshane, thanks for reading.

It's not that long. I forget -- maybe 4500 words. That's pretty short by short story standards.

Naw, I'm not really buying the gay thing. Mitch may be a bit of a busybody, but my intent was to show that these guys are old friends who share a similar story.

First, Mitch is concerned his about his friend's depression and that he is going to relapse. Secondly, he doesn't want Gary to further screw up his relationship with his ex and daughter.

Seems like a good friend isn't just going to let all that slide without saying anything. In my experience "we" sometimes care about our friends to the point where we might want to intervene -- when it's about something this potentially damaging or life altering. I'm not even going to get into why that would automatically make someone seem gay.

Might be a good idea to not generalize so much and consider that some people might act or behave differently outside of what you have experienced. Not a bad thing to do if you want to be a writer of some kind.

Anyway, thanks for the comments. Cheers.

Last edited by Myers; 05-03-2017 at 01:38 PM..
Reply With Quote
  #12  
Old 05-05-2017, 04:47 PM
Mohican's Avatar
Mohican (Offline)
Tall Poppy
Administration
 
Join Date: Feb 2013
Location: Not quite back of beyond
Posts: 3,707
Thanks: 323
Thanks 624
Default

I read it in one pass, so even with the high word count you have good flow.

The set up works well- the young couple making the most of what they have in poor surroundings, and then the contrast to the main character.

It's rained here three straight days, 20 degrees colder than what it should be and you just went and added a good dash of melancholy.

But that's what your intent was, and you succeeded.
Regards
Mohican
__________________
If you surrender a civilization to avoid social disapproval, you should know that all of history will curse you for your cowardliness - Alice Teller

If John of Patmos would browse the internet today for half an hour, I don't know if the Book of Revelations would be entirely different or entirely the same.
Reply With Quote
  #13  
Old 05-07-2017, 07:17 AM
Myers's Avatar
Myers (Offline)
Heartbreaking Writer of Staggering Genius
Official Member
 
Join Date: Sep 2013
Posts: 1,332
Thanks: 244
Thanks 262
Default

Mohican, thanks for the read and glad it worked for you.

When it comes to both reading and writing, I tend to gravitate toward melancholy and depressing stories. Who knows why -- maybe they make me feel more grateful for my own circumstances.

Cheers.
Reply With Quote
Reply

  WritersBeat.com > Write Here > Fiction


Thread Tools

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off


Similar Threads
Thread Thread Starter Forum Replies Last Post
Hi I'm New! ShaeShae Writing Help & Issues 2 04-30-2012 12:39 PM
Bertie Brown the Bantam weight Ethan Blake Poetry 2 06-03-2011 02:55 PM
my father was a weight that I could not carry StephenDaedalus Poetry 8 12-05-2006 08:29 AM


All times are GMT -8. The time now is 01:52 AM.

vBulletin, Copyright © 2000-2006, Jelsoft Enterprises Ltd.