Here is Holly Butler’s first entry into our contest for her work-in-progress, the sequel to Me, Myself, and Marilyn: The Travails of a Love-Hungry Look-Alike, soon to be published by A Word with You Press. So far, I know most of the people who have entered our First Annual Award for Literary Excellence, A thou$sand Reasons to Write, so I remind everyone that the judging will be conducted independently. Simply submit 1,000 words (exactly!) of your unpublished fiction manuscript, or memoir, screenplay or poetry. We’ll post your entry, bio, synopsis and link to your website, and post on Facebook as well to give you the most mileage towards building your platform and garnering the attention of agents. Details are on the home page.
by Holly Butler
I wonder who he’s bragging to.
I hover outside our den door, listening in for a clue, half-smirking at his bravado. “This has been my best year ever!” He’s been broadcasting this for months, to anyone who will listen. “Zoom has leveled the playing field,” he gloats. “I’m hosting my speed pitches on-line now. It’s been very productive. I’m doing my one-on-one consultations on Zoom, too … Oh, yeah, Kelly’s doing well. We’re both staying healthy. I’ve been walking five miles a day. I’ve lost 20 pounds this year.” He doesn’t mention our doctor scheduled him for an angiogram next week.
Dave is the glass-half-full person in our relationship, often reminding me of his dad’s legacy: “The best thing you can do is make something good out of something bad, and the worst thing you can do is make something bad out of something good.” He is oblivious to my presence on the other side of the slightly ajar door. “I’m the most successful failure in Nashville,” and as he announces it, he chuckles. It doesn’t bother him that after 28 years in the Country Music business, he’s never made his millions. As a music publisher, he’s lost more money than he’s made. “We have a great life,” he always reassures me, anytime I complain that I hate selling real estate.
My formerly tall, dark, and lanky Jewish husband from Los Angeles embraced the Country Music Business in 1993. Helping wannabe songwriters hone their craft with his expert editing skills has been his life’s passion. It was this skill, along with his nurturing manner, and his fierce loyalty to every person in his life, that drew me to him in the first place. And I knew without a doubt he’d never cheat on me. Without even trying, he repaired the damage of my divorce from Brad, and an embarrassing number of false starts with place-holders.
We’ve settled into life during the pandemic very well. David jokes to everyone he knows that “he never sees me anymore.” And it’s true. Even though we’re both in the house, we’re on Zoom for hours in separate rooms, except when I’m out showing property, Covid-proofed, with my hand sanitizer and my N95 mask. I haven’t felt the need to be with him constantly like in the old days when I was insecure and demanded his undivided attention. After 20 years of marriage, you don’t need undivided attention, and you sure don’t need constant attention.
Listening in on his conversation, I admire his commitments to his relationships. He maintains his long-term friendships, remembers dates, and always calls people for their birthdays. Even when it’s his own birthday. Which is today.
Tonight will be our first out-of-the-house dinner date with friends since this whole Corona mess began. True Foods has outdoor seating and space heaters. We’ll wear our masks between bites, and our friends, Suzie and Tim will too.
All diets are off tonight, all culinary sins forgiven. Amnesty. David never drinks, but since Tim is buying, he has two Dewar’s on the rocks, followed by salmon smothered in butter and French fries. I raise my eyebrows, but let it slide. Life is good. Love is better.
Hours later, I’m awakened by a loud crash coming from the bathroom. It must be Rudy. He must’ve carried a chipmunk in through the cat window again.
I quietly climb out of bed, and I notice light trickling from under the bathroom door. That’s odd. Rudy couldn’t have closed the door. Why is the light on?
I turn back and realize that David has gotten up. Oh. That explains it. I’ll bet he’s having trouble with his stomach again. I warned him. But he had retorted, “It’s my birthday!” So, what could I do?
Just outside the bathroom door, I notice the metal waste basket tipped over. That must’ve been the noise I heard. David kicking it in the dark. I breathe a sigh of relief and tap on the door.
“David?” He doesn’t answer.
I open the door.
He’s sprawled out on the toilet.
His sweatpants are collapsed around his ankles, his head hanging back, and his eyes rolled toward the ceiling. I scream, run to him, and shake his shoulders. I lift his head. I’m in his face, yelling, getting no response.
My first thought is heart attack, but then I remember the vasovagal syncope attack he had a few years ago. “David!” Still no response; he’s not coming to. This can’t be a heart attack. He just did a stress echo test and told me it was a piece of cake. He’s been doing so well lately with his diet and exercise. It has to be vasovagal. It has to be.
“David!” I slap his cheek, screaming again, straight into his face.
I scurry to find my cell phone, panicking.
“9-1-1, what’s your emergency?”
“I think my husband is having a heart attack!”
“Ma’am, what’s your address?”
I frantically recite our address into the receiver, pacing the bathroom floor.
“The paramedics are on their way, Ma’am. Stay on the phone. Can you try giving him an aspirin?”
“Are you able to administer CPR?”
“What? Oh my god, no, I don’t know how!”
“Well, if you have an aspirin, put it under his tongue.”
Hysterical, I drop the phone and race to his bedside table. I scatter aspirins, pluck one from the chaos and rush back to the bathroom. I struggle to pry open his mouth, thinking an aspirin is not going to help.
Grabbing his limp wrist, I check his pulse and can’t feel anything. I’m staring down at his face, now bluish. I pick up the phone again.
“I think he’s dead.”
“Hang on Ma’am, the ambulance is on its way.”
Oh, my god, he’s dead. Oh my god, oh my god, oh my god. I feel the howl rise in my throat and lie sobbing against his chest, trying to hear a heartbeat, but I only hear the sirens approaching from the distance.
Born and raised in California, Holly Butler is an actress, and was a much sought-after Marilyn Monroe impersonator for many years in Los Angeles before relocating to Nashville, Tennessee to write songs. As a songwriter, she has had cuts with several recording artists, before shifting her focus and devoting her time to blogging, short stories, and long-form writing. Holly’s debut novel, Me, Myself, & Marilyn: Travails of a Love Hungry Look-Alike is fictional yet inspired by some of her experiences portraying the platinum goddess.
Synopsis for Full Circle-(Work in progress!)
Comfortably married for 20 years, Kelly and David are thriving during the pandemic, they’ve settled into a rhythm, and life is good. Until David’s 65th birthday, when he collapses in the middle of the night, and Kelly’s world changes in an instant. She navigates her way through her loneliness and grief, and just as she learns to live alone again, she stumbles upon an unexpected link to her past, and a new happy ending.
Holly’s website is www.bravenewbooks.us