A Cauldron For Angelo by Jamie Grefe

Angelo’s been found out—lipstick smudged collars, suspicious underwear stains, and the lingering scent of other women’s perfume. His supposedly unsuspecting girlfriend, Jenny, calls her sisters, tells them the plan. They meet up. It’s almost time.

 

Tonight, thinks Jenny, dear Angelo pays for what he’s done.

His orange van traipses around town, out late again, cruising the strip for a slice of action.

After an hour, Angelo swings into the long driveway of his hillside bungalow. A match is lit in the dark, the illumined face of Jenny awaits. Shadows hide her two sisters, Jennifer One and Two. They say, “No more mercy,” burn strange incense, chant around a bubbling cauldron, summon the hurly-burly, thunder and rain, patient for dear Angelo to unlock the front door and enter the room so they can begin.

Van headlights hit the living room window. The sisters are ready. He’s whistling, puts key to lock, hand to knob. He opens the door.

 

Jenny bashes Angelo on the head with his bronze cross-country racing trophy, drags him into the house. The blinds are shut, the door locked behind him.

With Angelo stunned, the two sisters take turns stirring the cauldron. Jenny mixes drinks.

 

His hands are tied with the lamp cord, face mangled from brass-knuckled punches to the cheeks and chin. His eyes open. Three female forms drift into clarity. They are gathered in the living room, downing strawberry daiquiris, blowing smoke rings from skinny cigarettes.

 

“Ladies, what’s going—”

A wooden spoon whips down and smack, a sharp crack to the side of his head. Angelo twitches, slumps, and goes limp again. Three pairs of long legs haul back and kick his body, stomp the lies from his chest.

 

Strawberry daiquiri soaks his face and then it’s lights out. X amount of time later, Jenny’s sweet laughter snaps him awake. He gurgles, drools strings of blood and spittle on the carpet. Something in front of him clicks. Jennifer One’s sawed-off shotgun is cocked and loaded.

Angelo stands, stumbles in place as if drunk or drugged. The sharp tip of a high heel drives into his crotch. Noise erupts inside him. Someone is singing—“Nice girls were never enough, pretty girls not nice enough”—something he might have once said. He drops to his knees in prayer, a tap to his shoulder.

 

Jennifer Two rams a fishnet-stockinged kneecap into his forehead. He’s pulled to his feet, hopping on one leg, bound arms groping the air for support. Jenny watches with delight.

 

“Your sisters never liked me, have it out for me,” he mumbles.

 

Jenny holds a mallet in her right hand, stroking the wooden handle. With each step she takes, Angelo hobbles back until he bumps into the wall behind him, cornered, trapped.

“Jenny,” Angelo says, “I . . . I didn’t mean it, babe.”

“Shut up, pig. This is what happens to cheaters like you. Consider tonight a little goodbye party from us girls—from all of us girls.”

Their laughter sounds like some kind of chant.

The mallet whips into Angelo’s ear, slams down on his head, followed by a series of rapid blows to arms, chest, nose, back then groin. He totters, spills to the floor, hears the doorbell ring. Arms hoist him up. More people are arriving.

Angelo stirs. He’s strapped to the dining room table. His limbs have been drawn out, body stretched tight: leather belts, lamp cords, neck ties, shoelaces. He hears familiar voices, cranes his head to look into the living room. He counts—thirteen: seven ex-lovers, two one night stands, one friend with benefits, Jenny, and her two sisters, One and Two. He jolts, screams up at the ceiling.

Sinatra’s Angel Eyes drifts in from the living room mixed with the television sounds of fast cars and gunshots. A redhead looks down at Angelo, gives him a peck on the cheek, licks his nose, and punches him hard in the neck. Another girl shoves an apple in his mouth, jams it deep silencing his screams. Three shorter girls huddle around him and just point. He hears a glass break, audience applause, followed by the roar of shattered dishes. Girls tear down the kitchen cabinets, smear food on the walls, upturn and rip open furniture, smash in windows and mirrors, cheer, jeer, and chant, poke, pinch, and slap Angelo.

Silence. Nobody moves. Jenny leans over Angelo.

She pets his hair and says, “Almost dinner time, girls.”

Delicate hands massage his meaty skin, sprinkle salt and pepper, drizzle vinegar, pinch of cilantro. Olive oil coats his arms and legs. Dishrags wipe blood from his face. One girl, a brunette, holds a turkey baster in front of him, squeezes something mushy up his nose. He gags on the apple. The microwave beeps, coffee drips, water boils, and places are set. Angelo looks over, focuses on the massive bubbling cauldron in the corner, spits out the apple.

“Jenny!” he shouts, head tilted up, staring into her eyes from where she stands, examining her fingernails, at the foot of the table. “I didn’t mean to screw all of them. I love you, Jenny.”

The room goes silent again. Jenny nods to her sisters. Jennifer One and Two cut him loose from the table, grab his collar, yank him up. He’s tossed to the sofa. Jennifer One stands behind him, and presses the sawed-off to the back of his head.

“Just say the word and I’ll do it, please let me do it.”

Jennifer Two stands beside him, stomps, digs her heel into his big toe.

“I’m starving,” she says, “sis, hurry up.”

Jenny just stands there, mallet in hand, patting it into her palm.

 

“Let him speak. Speak, asshole.”

“I thought,” he says, “I thought there was another man, Jenny—Matt.”

“Matt,” she repeats, “Matt Stewart, that hockey prick?”

“Yeah,” he says, voice cracking, “I was jealous . . . thought you were fooling around with him, so I started seeing other women.”

Jenny kneels down, almost nose to nose with Angelo. Her brow furrows, brushes hair from her face, stares at him through eyes gone beyond compassion, beyond forgiveness. She inhales his sweat and remembers the dinners, the flowers, the chocolates, the promises, those sweet, sweet promises. She looks around at the ten girls and her two sisters, and settles on the cauldron in the kitchen.

She imagines him standing in the middle of her palm, a little Angelo, half an inch tall, leaping up and down, waving, calling out for mercy. He rattles on and on about this mistake, how men are weak and women are from Venus and ten thousand other silly things. The girls stand quietly behind Jenny, huddled together, waiting. She leans back, sighs.

Angelo exhales, licks his lips, looks away. She sees him in her palm, again, swallows his excuses until little Angelo starts to grow. The more he speaks, the taller he gets. His tiny adult body expands with each lie, each story, each slippery word dripping from his mouth.

Jenny licks her lips, too. She squeezes her hand shut and holds it in front of his face, feels his hot blood and tiny guts squish against her clenched fist. She clears her throat, smiles. He smiles back, relieved.

“Thank you, Jenny. Thank you, baby. I promise I’ll never do it again. I pro—”

“Girls,” she says, “we’ve all had one part of him in our mouths at one time or another. Now, let’s see what the rest tastes like, shall we?”

 

 

***

 

Jamie Grefe currently lives and writes in Beijing, China. He sips coffee from a Craven A tin. His work appears in Bartleby Snopes, Untoward Magazine, Mud Luscious Press, and elsewhere. Visit him: http://shreddedmaps.tumblr.com

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