They used to get high with dinner, after cooking, when eating commenced. The gummies would kick-in when they were setting to work cleaning the kitchen. It was just the two of them and Don Henley and Stevie Nicks. Then one day, he was gone. He'd run off with the shop girl at Euclid Records, where they use to buy their vinyl in bulk. It was a dollar for ten used albums. They would go home and dig through their latest bag grab of records. This was a Saturday afternoon ritual. Drinking wine and thumbing through the albums playing name that artist. If one found anything by the Rat Pack, the other one had to chug their glass of wine. It was a poor way to treat the wine, but it was a fun of their own invention, which made it special. The records would spin and get hung up on scratches while they made love on the living room floor next to the stereo console. The stereo console was a beautiful mid-century modern, high-polished cherry wood. It was his. It had belonged to his grandma. The 1960s piece of furniture stereo was what started Larry's and Molly's love for vinyl. At first, Larry spun the albums that came with the console, dancing Molly to unrecognized tunes. The laughter ensued, and the love deepened from there.
But now he was gone with that vinyl dealing slut. Molly had looked for the pot in Larry's sock drawer, but he took that with him. She sat on the floor with a bottle of wine and waited for life to point her in some direction. This was the new ritual—the ceremony of one mourning the loss of her partner. Then one day, he reappeared.
"Molly, how are you?"
"Drunk. You did that."
"Look, I'm not to blame for what you do. And I'm not here to fight."
"Fight? We never fought. All we did was laugh and make love. Who walks away from that?"
"I don't see it that way. And, like I said, I didn't come back here to fight."
"Yes, I realized I made a mistake when I left the console behind."
"The console, of course."
"I need to coordinate a time with you for the movers to come get it."
"You can't have it. Consider it your parting gift to me."
"No, I'm not going to do that. I love that thing."
"Love, what about love, Larry? You once loved me. What about me?"
Larry hung his head with nothing to stay. He approached the console and rubbed a loving hand along the top. He got down on one knee and slid back the door to reveal their favorite records stored there, his favorite records. It was his thing. She had just been along for the ride. He slid out a vinyl Dean Martin, Pretty Baby, and dropped it when he hit the floor. It was too much. She couldn't stand losing another thing. Molly had struck him across the back of his head with a baseball bat she kept in the bedroom for protection. She knelt down to take his pulse. She wasn't sure. Molly had never taken a pulse before. The bat's noise on his skull had made a loud crack like a Babe Ruth home run. Molly fetched a handheld mirror from the bathroom and returned to hold it under Larry's nose.
There was a fog. Thank god she hadn't killed him, because she was not prepared for that. Molly put a pillow under Larry's head, and she sat down on the sofa and watched. It was hours. She ordered a pizza. Finally, he came to, but a part of him had been left behind. He was slow and malleable. His faculties were short wired. He blinked with one eye, a long slow blink like a baby doll with a lazy lid, which gets stuck no matter how you turn and shake it. At first, Molly was upset. She broke him. But with time, she realized she had fixed him. He stayed. He never left the house. He was amicable to all she wanted. One day she returned from Euclid Records and the rain.
"I've got a new stack of records," she said discarding her raincoat.
"Let's see what we got in here. Maybe something to dance to?"
She slid a record from its sleeve. It was no one she recognized, but the label was Warner Brothers 1961. Molly placed it on the turntable. It dropped, and she moved the arm of the needle in place.
"Remember when you ran away
And I got on my knees
And begged you not to leave
Because I'd go beserk
Well you left me anyhow
And then the days got worse and worse
And now you see I've gone
Completely out of my mind
And they're coming to take me away ha-haaa
They're coming to take me away ho-ho hee-hee ha-haaa"
Molly looked back at him. Her palms sweating. Him sitting on the sofa, his hands at rest in his lap, a stupid smile slung across his face. She blamed him for the song. Somehow he had snuck this record in, but how? Larry was useless. He rose and took her by the hand. He danced her around the room to the creepy song. They stepped on vulnerable vinyl strewn on the floor, and the records cracked beneath their feet. Each unbalanced stride was a step toward madness for the happy couple.
Leah has two published books of short stories, Swimming Middle River and White Knight Escort Service. Her book Catawampus in Sweetgum County will publish in spring 2022. Leah is a Pushcart Prize nominee, and earned her MFA at the University of Missouri-St.Louis where she teaches in the English department. leaholbrooksackett.com