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Revenge Adjacent Part V

 Part V


Previously in Bedtime Story #217: “Revenge Adjacent”


A few days after the 4th of July – the 6th of July, for example – a red-faced man wearing a suit went to a Multioak park to use one of the grills at a public picnic shelter to try out a new combination of spices on some chicken breasts. Having alienated all of his family and friends through unscrupulous business practices, the man, whose name was Lyndon, was alone at the park. Alone with his chicken breasts and the small plastic canister of blended spices in the pocket of his suit coat. As he prepared the grill, Lyndon noticed a man watching him from a short distance away. It was impossible to tell if the man was wearing a shirt or not. If he was wearing a shirt, how had he matched it so perfectly to his skin tone? How did the garment blend so seamlessly with his arms and neck? And if he was not wearing a shirt, what had become of his nipples, his belly button? How to explain the wrinkled texture of his stomach? The ambiguously-shirted man’s attention made Lyndon nervous. He wondered why the man was so fixated on him. Then it occurred to Lyndon that the man might be one of the many Multioak-area people he had cheated with his unscrupulous business practices. Encounters like this were happening more and more to Lyndon. Strangers approaching him at the grocery store and smashing eggs on the back of his neck. Strangers spraying him with gasoline while he was filling up his truck at the pump. Strangers leaving notes on the windshield of his truck that strongly implied that Satan approved of Lyndon’s behavior. If anything, Lyndon’s vanity plate reading “N-O-R-V-N-G-E” – his attempt at discouraging revenge-minded victims of his unscrupulousness from following through – had increased the amount of revenge Lyndon was forced to deal with on a daily basis. And so it seemed to Lyndon as if even his post-4th-of-July grilling experiment was to be interrupted. What form would this man’s revenge take? Would he shout insults at Lyndon? Would he physically assault him? Would he wait until the chicken was grilled, spiced, and ready to eat, then rush forward and knock it into the dirt? Lyndon thought that he would be less disturbed if he could tell whether or not the man was wearing a shirt. He felt that being able to definitively answer that question would assuage a portion of his anxiety by grounding the man more firmly in the real world. It would make the man’s capacity for revenge seem less limitless. At last, unable to bear it any longer, Lyndon called out to the man and asked him what he wanted. The man called back that he wasn’t sure if he should approach Lyndon or not, that he wasn’t sure if it would be a good idea, but that he wanted to thank Lyndon. Baffled, Lyndon asked the man for what he could possibly wish to thank him. The man, maintaining his distance, explained that he had been trapped in a dysfunctional family, that his tween daughter had become impossible to control and that his wife had succumbed to the power of their daughter’s will, so desperate to remain in their daughter’s life that she had subordinated herself to her daughter, debasing herself in ways both dangerous and humiliating. Finding this family situation untenable, the man had been searching for a way out when Lyndon had come along and cheated him on a business deal, providing a perfect motive which the man could use to grant plausibility to a faked suicide. The man had just concluded this recitation to Lyndon when he caught sight of his wife lurking near the parking lot, cried out in terror at the possibility of being recognized despite his disguise, and demanded the keys to Lyndon’s truck. Lyndon refused, but the man rushed him. An instinct that proved misguided drove Lyndon to pull the canister of blended spices from his pocket, pop the lid off, and fling it toward the eyes of his assailant, but he failed to account for wind and the spices blew back into his own eyes, incapacitating him so he was not able to fend the man off as he extracted the keys to Lyndon’s truck from his pants pocket, nor was Lyndon able to see through the burning whether or not the man wore a shirt. In a red world of pain, he heard the sound of his truck roaring away, then the sound of a woman crying out for help, and then the sound of a different vehicle roaring away. With tears streaming down his face, Lyndon staggered in the direction of the parking lot while wiping continually at his eyes with the backs of his hands. Perceiving the rough outline of a garbage can in the shade of a tree, Lyndon leaned against it and closed his eyes. A woman’s voice somewhere nearby commented on the redness of Lyndon’s face and asked him whether or not his car was available to borrow. Lyndon explained that his truck had been stolen, from what he understood, and the woman said that her car had also been stolen. They commiserated over their bad luck. Lyndon introduced himself; the woman said her name was Etna Green, which Lyndon said sounded like the name of a city, a large one. Lyndon also noted that his eyes didn’t seem to be getting better. In fact, they were getting worse. He could no longer perceive the rough outline of the garbage can against which he now leaned. He wondered what would have happened to him had he consumed that blend of spices. Lyndon confessed to Etna that he was very dissatisfied with how his life had turned out and that he wished he could find a way to start over with a whole new identity. He mused aloud about the idea of faking his own suicide, dying his hair, affecting an accent, dedicating himself to ethical business practices, and living out the rest of his life as someone else. When Etna asked how he would accomplish such a thing, Lyndon, speaking in a hypothetical sense, explained that he would drive a car off of a cliff, leaping clear at the last second and allowing everyone to believe his body had burned up in the wreckage. He noted, however, that there were no such cliffs around Multioak. None near enough to a road to make his plan feasible, anyway. But Etna, sounding excited, interjected to tell Lyndon that her friend Mary knew of exactly such a cliff in the Multioak area, and that this Mary also owned a car which she hated and which she had been hoping would get totaled so she could collect the insurance money for it. What if the three of them – Lyndon, Etna, and Mary – were to conspire to say that Lyndon had stolen Mary’s car and driven it off the cliff? Lyndon was intrigued by Etna’s idea, but noted that neither he nor Etna had a phone with which to call Mary because both of their phones were in their stolen vehicles (he had left his in the truck so as not to be tempted by distractions while grilling). At that moment, another woman approached and asked if either Lyndon or Etna could dial her phone for her. She said that her fingers would not work on her phone’s touchscreen because she had the wrong kind of fingers for it. Etna agreed to dial the phone for the woman on the condition that she be allowed to make a personal call first. The other woman agreed, but then Etna realized she did not have Mary’s number memorized, and she said as much. The other woman asked Etna what Mary’s last name was, and when Etna said “Zamoya,” it turned out that the other woman knew Mary and that Mary’s number was already stored in her phone. Within ten minutes, Mary had arrived to pick up Lyndon and Etna in her despised car, Etna had guided Lyndon into the back seat, and they were all on their way to the cliff. They drove for a long time. Lyndon heard the traffic diminish, heard the surface of the road roughen beneath the tires of Mary’s car. Then the car exited the road. He heard the leaves of corn plants brushing against the windows, the occasional thump of an unripe husk against the side-view mirrors. Then they were out of the corn and the car came to a stop. They all got out. Lyndon could feel the soft field dirt beneath his feet. Etna told him to be careful because he was only a few feet from the cliff’s edge. Only then did Mary ask for details concerning the plan that Etna had teased to her on the phone. Lyndon, now wondering if his sight would ever return, listened as Etna related the specifics of the plan in a breathless rush. She told Mary that Lyndon was to drive her car toward the cliff, jumping clear at the last second. The car would sail over the cliff and explode at the bottom of the gorge. Mary would call Rory, her husband, to come pick all of them up in his work van. Lyndon would then hide out at Etna’s place, dye his hair, work on his accent, and read books about the implementation of ethical business practices. Mary would go home and report her car stolen from the park by an unscrupulous man named Lyndon, being sure to emphasize his former hair color and lack of accent. Eventually, the cops would find Mary’s car in the gorge and assume that Lyndon had crashed it there and died. Mary would get her insurance money, Lyndon would get his new life, and everyone would be happy. Mary wondered what Etna would get out of all of this, and Etna explained that the whole thing was her idea, which meant that she was right at the center of the action and would not need to get her car back in order to prove to herself that she was a woman to be reckoned with. Mary nodded, patted her friend on the shoulder, and then said that the plan would not work because they would need a body. Etna said that they would not need a body because the story would be that Lyndon had burned up entirely, that his body had been reduced to ash, but Mary said that would not be plausible because the exploded car would not burn hot enough to completely consume a body. Etna, wounded by what she considered nitpicking, complained that Mary always sold her short, that she always minimized her contributions. Before Mary could respond, from behind them came the clamor of an engine and something large crashing through the corn. Lyndon heard Etna and Mary shouting at him to move, but he didn’t know which way to go, so he stood still. A tremendous collision followed, knocking Lyndon off of his feet, leaving him dazed, and the next thing he heard – what felt like, but could not have been, minutes later – was an explosion somewhere far below. Sitting up, he called out to Etna and Mary, asking if they were OK. He heard footsteps draw near, felt hands on his arms pulling him upright. The women said that they were unharmed. Lyndon asked what had happened. Etna explained that a black truck had come barreling through the field, crashed into Mary’s car, and sent both of them over the cliff where they exploded together at the bottom of the gorge. Lyndon asked if either of the women had caught a glimpse of the truck’s license plate, if perhaps they had noticed whether or not it expressed an anti-revenge sentiment, or as much of an anti-revenge sentiment as possible given the vanity plate’s 7-character restriction. The women confirmed that it had. Lyndon asked if the driver had leaped clear at the last second. The women said that he had not. At that moment, Lyndon heard a woman call out from the direction in which the truck had come. She asked if the truck had gone over the cliff, if the driver had died in the crash? Mary told her it had and he had. The woman said that her work was done, then, that her husband had been avenged. She then launched into a long explanation about how she didn’t know what the man who had cheated her husband looked like, that she had only recently received a tip about the truck he drove, that she had happened upon the truck in the parking lot by chance after walking to the park to work off some of the calories she’d consumed over the holiday weekend, that she had decided to watch the truck as long as it took to see who got into it, but that when the driver had run up to the truck, jumped in, and taken off in such a panic, she realized that he had recognized her as a threat, and that he might be fleeing for good, that this might be her last chance to get at him. Desperate to keep him from getting away, she had stolen a car from someone else in the parking lot, and taken off in pursuit, chasing him through Multioak and out into the country where he had lost control of his truck, careened off of the road and into this field where he had met his fate, and her lust for revenge had finally been satisfied. Etna asked the woman what she remembered about the person from whom she’d stolen the car. The woman said she remembered nothing about the person and, in fact, the more she thought about it, the more it seemed like the car had just been sitting there with its door open and the keys in the ignition as if waiting for her, as if she had been meant to take it, a truly victimless crime. When we left off last time, Lyndon had just asked the woman if she had gotten a good look at the man who she had been chasing…


               “No,” said the woman. “I wasn’t very far away from him while he was getting into his truck, but it seemed like he was trying to keep his face turned away from me. Another sign that he was afraid of me, that he knew my intentions and thought only of escaping my righteous wrath.”

               “Did you happen to notice whether or not he was wearing a shirt?” asked Lyndon.

               “No,” said the woman. Lyndon could feel but not see her giving him a look.

               “And any shirt or shirts on the body would probably be burned up?” asked Lyndon, directing his question to where he thought Mary now stood. “A car fire like that is hot enough to burn up a shirt?”

               “Yes,” said Mary. “Definitely.”


               Unfortunately, this is where Bedtime Story #217: Revenge Adjacent comes to an end. There were plans for a Part VI, but due to circumstances beyond our control, it will not be recorded. For the sake of closure, we’ll give you a brief overview of what would have happened in Part VI had we been allowed to complete it: There was going to be a lot of convoluted, but ultimately convincing, explanation about how the body in the truck could be mistaken for Lyndon’s. Having indirectly killed a man, the woman who may or may not have been named Delilah would have been accepted into her daughter’s gang as a full-fledged member, neither of them ever knowing that it was the actual death of the husband and father they thought already dead that brought them together. Mary would not have received her insurance payout for her destroyed car because of insurance company chicanery. Lyndon would have used the spice-blend-based loss of eyesight to justify a return to unscrupulous business practices. And the inconsequential events of that other character’s life would not have been addressed, not that you would have noticed her absence.  

Discussion Questions

  • How crucial to the action are you?

  • Where exactly does the term “bingeable” fall on the hierarchy of praise?

  • How much sleep, over the course of your life to this point, have you lost to continuity errors?

  • Should “previously on” recaps accurately present what has come before or focus more on preparing people for what’s to come? If you feel as if this question may be a trap and that it is too controversial to answer, feel free to equivocate.

  • How likely are you to mount a fan-campaign to insist upon the production and release of Bedtime Story #217: “Revenge Adjacent” Part VI? What sort of threats are you likely to level against me if I don’t acquiesce to your demand?