Vasant (Spring) 2021 Stories - J. Archer Avary


Trouble on Sugarplum Fairy Court
By J. Archer Avary


Ethan Brock got laid off from the Bennington Bugle-Examiner in June. At first he expected to bounce back quickly, but as the months passed he realized there was no longer a market for surly, know-it-all journalists in their mid-forties.


Ethan didn’t want to leave his hometown, so he leaned on the wide circle of acquaintances he had cultivated during his tenure as executive editor of the Bugle-Examiner’s Arts and Culture desk. He posted a series of social media posts, tinged with equal parts desperation and anxious optimism, shamelessly begging friends and followers to throw him a lifeline in the form of odd jobs.


Lindsay Cox took pity on Ethan. She saw him as an upstanding member of the community who’d fallen on hard times. He’d always been there for her when she needed to promote the Bennington Orchid Society’s Floral Extravaganza, dedicating the front page of the Bugle-Examiner’s Arts and Culture section to the event year after year. She offered him a few bucks a week to drive her twin daughters to school and back, and he gratefully accepted.


On this particular morning, Ethan was at Lindsay’s house way too early. He took a seat on her front porch swing, watching streaks of red and orange paint the morning sky and drinking black coffee from an eco-friendly cup. Without deadlines, he was finally free to enjoy the simple things, like the raw beauty of a sunrise.

His peace was shattered when a woman in a bathrobe sprinted across Lindsay’s front yard, waving her arms frantically. She came closer and he recognized her as Theresa Goodwin, one of Bennington’s top real estate agents.


“Are you okay, Theresa?”


“The shit has hit the fan,” she said. “Barry’s been caught cheating with Samantha Easterbrook!”


“The former Miss Bennington?”


“Lindsay just texted me,” she said, holding up her phone. “She caught them in the act. I got here as soon as I could.”


The lights came on and Ethan heard raised voices inside the house. His adrenaline started flowing as the voices approached the front door. He knew from experience that domestic disputes could escalate in a heartbeat. The door burst open and Lindsay’s husband Barry stormed down the steps and into the front yard. Ethan recognized him as a frequent flyer in the Bugle-Examiner’s crime blotter section. Big, dumb, and dangerous.


“You’ve got to believe me,” wailed Barry. “I swear, baby, I thought she was you. It was an accident, I just got into the wrong bed.”


Lindsay charged out of the house with an armful of Barry’s clothes.


“Don’t think I haven’t noticed the way you look at her,” she heaved his laundry onto the lawn and spat into the wind. “Wrong bed, my ass!”


“With the lights out you both look the same, you’ve got to believe me!”


“Get out of my life, you cheating bastard!”


Barry collapsed, banging his fists on the grass like a mid-tantrum toddler. Lindsay dashed back inside, followed by Theresa. Through the front door Ethan could see several women, still in last night’s makeup, strapping on high heel shoes and gathering their things for a hasty exit. What they doing here on a school night?


They avoided eye contact as they left. Ethan recognized them as prominent figures in Bennington society, attorneys, business owners, and heavyweights in the charitable sector. Important people he used to interview for the Bugle-Examiner. Ethan heard a scream and rushed inside. It was Samantha. Lindsay gripped her firmly by the hair, clawing at her face with her fingernails. He noticed specks of blood on the alabaster carpet.


“You’re supposed to be my best friend, you bitch!”


“I’m sorry! I was drunk!”


Theresa tried to restrain Lindsay unsuccessfully. Her rage intensified as she wrestled Samantha to the ground, tearing clumps of her long chestnut hair from her scalp and repeatedly ramming her head into a solid oak curio cabinet.


“Lindsay, stop!” cried Theresa. “You’re going to kill her!”


“No one fucks with my man,” snarled Lindsay. She released her grip and Samantha’s body slumped into a heap on the floor. “Bitch got what she had coming to her.”


Barry’s hulking frame appeared in the doorway, cell phone to his ear.


“I’d like to report a domestic assault in progress,” he said. “254 Sugarplum Fairy Court in Bennington Estates. One unresponsive female, we’ll need an ambulance, maybe two if you don’t hurry.”


Lindsay trembled as she moved to the sofa. Theresa threw her arms around her and the tears began to flow. The two women held each other and sobbed. Ethan guided Barry outside to the porch swing.


“Stay here and wait for the ambulance,” directed Ethan. “I’ll go check on Samantha, I think she’s hurt pretty bad.”


Barry seemed unexpectedly calm after the commotion, rocking back and forth lazily on the swing and playing Tetris on his phone. Strange behavior for a man who’s marriage was hanging in the balance.


Ethan took an emergency first responders course, but that was years ago. Could he remember what to do to save a life? He braced Samantha’s neck as he turned her onto her back. He felt her wrists for a pulse. She was alive, but her face was slashed open, vertical wounds consistent with fingernail scratches.


Samantha Easterbrook was widely regarded as the most beautiful woman in the greater Bennington area. She would never be the same.


Police and paramedics arrived at the scene. Samantha was loaded onto a stretcher and whisked away to Vague Mercy Memorial Hospital. Lindsay and Barry were both handcuffed and taken away in separate police cruisers for questioning.


“What now?” asked Theresa.


“We get the twins ready for school. Can you wake them up?”


“What should I tell them?”


“Tell them everything’s going to be okay,” he said. “Tell them Mr. Ethan’s gonna take them out for ice cream after school.”


J. Archer Avary (he/him)from the Channel Islands, UK is a former TV journalist. His writing has appeared/is forthcoming in Journal of Erato, HASH Journal, What Are Birds?, Horse Egg Literary, The Bitchin’ Kitsch, Blue Moon Poetry, The Beatnik Cowboy, and Green Ink Poetry. He lives on a tiny island in the English Channel.


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