It all started when Gretchen sued Ed for sexual harassment.
“Your honor,” she told the court, “this man touches me inappropriately, constantly flirts with me, and always suggests some sort of intimate relation.”
“How long has this been going on?” The presiding judge asked.
“Ever since we got married.”
Things only got worse. As the result of the suit, Ed lost his job at Frontières Sans Médecins, Borders Without Doctors, because they lost patients with him. He was able to land a job as a proof reader. He painstakingly corrected pages that had been intentionally left blank. It is well known most authors draw blanks very well. And sometimes they draw a blank with a blanket and call it a blankety blank. Ed also corrected those pages unintentionally left written, like all the pages in the books of Stephen King, Danielle Steel and Doctor Sanjay Gupta. When the economy soured Ed was given the axe. Since he did not know how to grind it he was let go. Then he was laid off. As part of his severance package the company amputated his pension plan.
Up to that point, Ed and his stay-at-home wife, Gretchen, had an uneventful, quiet life next to a noisemaker factory. Ed smoked chains because he was a chain smoker while Gretchen preferred Camel because she enjoyed smoking humps. After the layoff Ed and Gretchen had to do a complete role reversal to keep the roof over their heads and the yard in the back. Gretchen had to return to work so the family could put food on the table since they could no longer afford plates.
Soon, the pressures of the professional life took a toll on Gretchen. She began frequenting bars every day, because she worked in a bar. Along with other female buddies she would drink heavily, because some of them were overweight, after which she would stagger home late at night and stone-drunk, singing violent rap songs that demeaned men by calling them pimps, hoes, and worse yet, two-bit neo-cons.
On Friday nights, to have a good time she would go to a gentlemen’s club, where distinguished gentlemen drank martinis and discussed foreign policy matters such as whether to invade first and ask questions later or whether to just invade, no questions asked. From the gentlemen’s club she would go next door to a strip joint. Most of the strippers had run away from home as young boys and some as old men. Some of them had been sexually molested by women drivers while hitchhiking, and the rest of them were waiting their turn impatiently.
Gretchen was quite taken by a particular stripper, a boy by the stage name of Electro. Gretchen was attracted to Electro’s magnetism. He was a physics major who had dropped out of college unexpectedly when he had fallen off the dorm balcony and out of the campus. Now he was only strip dancing to save enough money to go back to college to get his security deposit back, and to finish his degree in order to be successfully unemployed like other college graduates. A few times Gretchen followed Electro out of the joint, cornered him in a dark corner and tried to do things to him. Lucky for Electro, the bouncer happened to be bouncing nearby and she protected Electro from being charged by Gretchen, just so that she could do those same things to Electro herself.
Sometimes Gretchen would come home disheveled, with her clothes torn, her stilettos broken and her face bruised in a bar brawl. It was obvious she was going down a slippery slope fast. Nobody objected though, since she was skiing at the time.
Every day except Thanksgiving the slightest incident would provoke Gretchen to beat Ed into a pulp. On Thanksgiving she would beat the stuffing out of him. Ed often tried to hide the bruises with Gretchen’s cosmetics. But he was no good at applying makeup and always drew lipstick arrows pointing to the bruises. Every time someone noticed his bruises with their arrows Ed would make up some story about how while watching his soap he had slipped out of the shower, rolled out of the bathroom into the hallway and down the stairs, hitting the railing and bouncing off the opposite wall before tripping over the skateboard and falling face first on the anvil that just happened to be at the bottom of the stairs. He blamed the anvil on Gretchen, who had not paid attention, like most wives, to the shopping list Ed had written for her, buying an anvil instead of Advil. But nobody believed him, not because of the impossibly elaborate plot but because Ed lived in a single story house.
Friends suspected something was going on. One suggested Ed should stay with his mother for a while but Ed refused to take the advice because his mother was dead. She had been poisoned by the gas released from the sewer next to where she lived. Ironically she had always said “live by the sewer, die by the sewer.” Besides, Ed did not want his family to know there was something sinister happening behind the happy facade of Gretchen beating him up in public. Nor would he want to go to the locally abused husbands’ shelter because like most men who had been dipped in egg and covered with flour he was suffering from battered man syndrome. He believed the daily beatings were only a phase that would soon pass in a few decades if he just kept cooking and cleaning and repainting and reroofing and rebuilding the engine and ignoring her porno magazines which she kept in the closet behind her gun, hand grenades, ballistic missiles, and skeletons.
Ed longed for the day he could have her shoulder to cry on again during those times of the month that he was feeling weird in a way that women just did not understand, such as whenever his favorite teams lost.
“Let’s go to counseling.” Ed would say when Gretchen was in a rare good mood.
“I have a different angle for you,” she would bark back, lighting a cigarette. “Why don’t you and your counselor eat my circumference.”
“Please don’t make such violently geometric remarks in front of the kids,” Ed would object.
“Toots, you don’t need to worry your pretty little head over such matters. Just go to the kitchen and make me a greasy burger with all the fixin’s. Better yet, stay in there because that’s how I like you: barefoot, ready to impregnate and in the kitchen. Other than that, I have no use for you.”
Ed would run crying to the bedroom.
Gretchen had stopped becoming intimate with Ed, unlike during their engagement when she just could not keep her damn dirty paws off him despite the objections of Charlton Heston. But now they would just lay in bed and exchange very few words. Ed would check his TV Guide for the upcoming episode of the “Desperate House Husbands” while Gretchen flipped through news networks, like Comedy Central, and other networks that only had pretend news, like Fox News and CNBC, making comments about topics that Ed had no interest in, such as “how about that Tiger Woods” or “how about that Serena Williams” or “how about that Doctor Sanjay Gupta?” The only thing she ever said to him that did not start with “how about that…” was “how about more beer?”
“Don’t you find me attractive anymore?” Ed would ask sobbing.
“Ed, I swear… Don’t start with me again or so help me God…” For her lack of interest she would come up with convincing excuses such as “your forearms are too muscular” or “your six pack is too chiseled” or “your foreplay takes too long” or “you talk to me after we are done.” If no other excuse worked she would say: “Not tonight… You have a headache,” before punching his head.
Luckily, Ed’s persistence finally paid off and Gretchen agreed to go to a center for abusive wives. Unluckily, there she learned new ways of abusing Ed.
One day Ed came home from shopping for a garage at a garage sale and found Gretchen in bed with Howard, his best man, closest friend, and his golf buddy. Ed was shocked to see her with four men like that. First Gretchen tried to explain that it wasn’t what it appeared to be, that they were not really sleeping together but merely having sex, but Ed found that hard to believe. Gretchen then said she had looked it up in the dictionary and it didn’t mean anything. Ed still didn’t buy it. Then Gretchen denied everything. She denied the Big Bang, the dinosaurs, Donald Trump’s hair, the thing about Richard Gere and gerbils, everything. Ed was inconsolable. He grabbed Gretchen’s gun, pointed it at Gretchen and her lovers, and threatened to shoot them all before turning the gun on himself. Gretchen agreed with Ed’s general approach but not necessarily in that order. “Why don’t you shoot yourself first since the gun barrel is closer to you,” she casually suggested.
Ed had to compromise because Gretchen was in a compromising position. So he shot himself first. Lucky for him, the bullet bounced off his tooth and hit the wall. Unlucky for him, the wall was made of concrete and the bullet ricocheted, entering his brain through the back of his head and stirring up memories of the worst movies of all time such as “Not Without My Daughter” and its sequels “Not Without My Dowry”, “Not Without My Ticket Stub”, “Not Without My China”, “Are You Going to Eat That?”, “Who Am I Kidding I’m Not Leaving”, and the conclusion, “I Can’t Believe They Paid Me To Write Xenophobic Rubbish And Call It A Memoire”.
Gretchen rushed him to the emergency room, but only after she and her lovers had tried to finish their business but failed miserably, because right away Howard, the best man and the best friend had to rush off to a symposium on fidelity, leaving only the golfer, and what can one expect from a golfer without a caddy.
By the time they got Ed to the hospital it was two days later and Ed had slipped into something more uncomfortable, a coma. The coma was so deep that the operating doctor also had to go into a coma in order to operate and take the bullet out. Unfortunately, the doctor only sported the title “doctor” without having a real medical degree, just like Doctor Condoleezza Rice, Doctor Henry Kissinger and Doctor Sanjay Gupta. He took out half of Ed’s brain instead but not the bullet. Ed came out of his coma but sadly the doctor did not make it. Ed was mentally empty and dentally shattered by the amalgamation of the events. From then on every time he sneezed the bullet blew his mind.
As he was leaving the hospital a man who was lost stopped and asked him for directions to an easy address, which Ed kindly provided. The man happened to be none other than Glenn Beck who while searching for eternal damnation had found it in the hot air and windbag industries.
Ed arrived home with no hope for the future but much hope for the past, because deep down he was hoping that one day George Bush would come back to power to butcher the English language all oval again. A high-flying elderly couple next door who ran a delivery business took Ed under their wings because they were storks. The husband was legally blind and his wife illegally deaf. They had to communicate in sign language, pluses and minuses, which cancelled each other out. So there was never any verifiable communication between them, just like between Fox News and viewers capable of original thought. Sadly, a few days later, while watching “The O’Reilly Factor” Ed fell back into a permanent vegetative state and stopped eating meat, cold turkey.
After crashing several cars and losing the wrecks, Gretchen’s wrecklessness finally caught up with her. One day, while at the gentlemen’s club and shooting a heated pool Gretchen got into a heated argument with a much smaller foreign woman, Luna, over how to politically deal with belligerent third world countries. Unlike Luna, Gretchen wanted preemptive strikes and bombings. After Luna made a sexist remark at the boy honey Gretchen was with, Gretchen decided she wasn’t going to be pushed around by a weaker foreign opponent and she had to do something before it was too late. So she preemptively struck Luna. But Gretchen had picked on the wrong woman. She had struck the much bigger and more vicious woman behind Luna, Gracie, who had broken a few engagements in her day by killing the fiancés. Gracie pummeled Gretchen, took her wallet and fled on foot to her car. There laid Gretchen, defeated, broke, profusely bleeding double entendres and fatally out of puns.
As final thoughts raced through her mind, Gretchen had a rush of epiphanies, such as fights are easier to get into than to get out of, that domestic violence may lead to foreign conflicts, that those who shout breathlessly for glory in wars abroad are usually failures in bed, that some people fall back into a coma after watching Bill O’Reilly, and that a man with half a brain knew more than Glenn Beck. She also realized that acting all macho, espousing attacks and promoting bombings had not turned her into a man, just as the same hadn’t turned other women like Ann Coulter, Laura Ingraham and Rush Limbaugh into men.
Just before she took her last breaths, Doctor Sanjay Gupta arrived, promising her to save her life only if she would read his book, “How To Live Longer By Doctor Sanjay Gupta”. Gretchen chose to die with honor, instead of being bored to death, by Doctor Sanjay Gupta.