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The Wife Beating Literary Agent - Part 1
By James Richard Larson
Monday, August 20, 2007
Rated "R" by the Author.
Abuser Arthur Brent just might get what's coming to him.
Excerpt from my novel, "The Right Thing"
Carolyn Brent flinched at the words as if she’d been physically struck. In most cases being hit was the rule rather than the exception, but today Arthur was in one of his better moods, if it could be called that.
Mr. Arthur Brent said, “Jeremy, finish your cereal and make it snappy. You don’t want to miss the school bus a second time this week.”
Jeremy didn’t look up. Instead, he doubled his efforts to get the bowl emptied, avoiding eye contact with his father.
“Don’t worry, son. We’ll get you to the bus on time,” the boy’s mother said.
“You have no reason to yell at my son. No reason at all. What the hell’s the matter with you?”
“I didn’t yell. I only thought . . .”
“And that’s another of your faults,” Mr. Brent said. “You think too much with that pea brain of yours. And you open your goddam mouth when you should keep it shut.”
“Dad, please don’t holler at mom anymore. Please?”
“There! Are you happy now? Now you turn my own son against me. It’s not his fault he missed the bus. Can’t you ever get anything right? Well? Can’t you?”
Not giving her a chance to reply Arthur continued, “Are you going to stand there gaping at me like a dummy or are you going to fucking answer me? Can’t you ever get anything right?”
“What am I supposed to say? Whatever I say is wrong.”
“What am I supposed to say?” Arthur whined, mimicking her.
“Say something mom . . . please.” Jeremy said.
“There! You see it? You’ve turned my son against me. See? Well thank God I don’t have any more time for this shit. Some of us have to work for a living. But this conversation isn’t over. And when I get home you’d better have a damn good explanation or there’s going to be hell to pay. You’d better make goddam sure he makes it to school on time. Got it?”
Carolyn looked at the floor.
“Goddammit, do you got it, you ignorant bitch?”
“Yes. I got it.”
In the sink basin, Carolyn clenched the steak knife in her hand. Releasing it so it made no sound, she put it back with the rest of the silverware.
I wish I had the nerve to do it. I wish I had the nerve to leave him. But I can’t leave Jeremy. I won’t. I’d have to take him with me.
But he’d find me. He’d find me and he’d kill me. God I wish the son of a bitch was dead.
After they heard the garage door slam and saw Mr. Brent’s Jaguar turn onto the street, Jeremy asked, “Why, mom? Why is he so mean to you? You didn’t do anything wrong!”
“Your father’s just having a bad day, honey. He loves us both very much. Just remember that. Better get out front. I just saw the bus up the street.”
“Mom, dad won’t hurt you anymore, will he? I hate it when he hits you. You didn’t do anything wrong! I wish I could . . .”
“Better hurry up honey. Don’t want to miss the bus again.”
“Okay mom. I love you.”
“Love you too, honey. Out you go. Bye.”
Carolyn Brent watched out the front window until Jeremy got on the bus. When the bus pulled away, she went in the bathroom and brought her face up close to the vanity mirror. The raccoon mask look from the black eyes had faded to a dull orange tint. With a bit of makeup she’d be able to go out today. Carolyn winced when she stood back up. Pulling up her blouse, she inspected her reflection in the full-length door mirror. The back bruise over her kidney was still tender and swollen, and the pain was as intense as it had been the morning after the night he’d punched her repeatedly in the back. It wasn’t the first time Arthur had cracked one of her ribs.
Turning, she saw her full reflection, head to toe.
I don’t look so bad. He tells me how ugly I am. I’m not ugly. I’m pretty. Mike always told me how pretty I was. Mike—why didn’t I try and get him back? Why? A silly little argument. A silly stupid little fight that took on a life of its own. How could I have said those things to Mike? He should have known I didn’t mean them. God, how many years has it been, eight already? And then there was Arthur. Mike’s so-called friend Arthur. Johnny on the spot Arthur. I’ll help you pick up the pieces Arthur. Why don’t we get married right now Arthur. Why did I do it? I can’t say I didn’t know how he was before I slept with him. And how many times was that? Two? Three? And then he wouldn’t—couldn’t perform. Arthur was so reserved when it came to sex. So shy. I don’t even remember anymore. But he was such a gentleman, wasn’t he? If I’d only knew then. Why did I ever let myself get pregnant? Why do I stay with a monster? Oh God what am I gonna do?
Carolyn Brent already knew the answer to that question. She wasn’t going to do anything. She wasn’t going to do anything at all. When she covered her face with her hands, the sobs racked her body. On her knees, spent, she looked again at her reflection in the mirror, the self-loathing slowly supplanting her fear.
When Arthur Brent had learned that his new wife was pregnant only weeks into the marriage, he’d announced that he would not sleep with her until the child was born. At first Carolyn rebelled, but as her pregnancy progressed it no longer seemed to matter. A few months after Jeremy’s birth, when Arthur had come to her bed, he was unable to perform the sex act. After time, Carolyn begged him to seek help. However, instead of heeding the advice, Arthur convinced himself that his wife was the problem. She’d always been the problem. At first the abuse was verbal. And it wasn’t until the third or fourth year that the physical abuse began in earnest. And once the physical abuse began, a month or two or maybe even three might go by without a physical incident. But then Arthur’s pent up rage would erupt and Carolyn endured another session in hell. Each time was worse than the last. These days Arthur physically abused his wife at least once a week, insisting afterward that he loved her and that he was sorry, but hadn’t it been her fault? Hadn’t she been the one who caused him to do it? Wasn’t it her fault that he couldn’t get it up because she was so fat and ugly? Didn’t she agree that this was true ? Didn’t he force her to agree that this was so, again and again until she believed it to be true , that he couldn’t get it up because of his fat, ugly wife?”
In the downtown section of Dallas, just a few blocks east of Dealy Plaza, Arthur Brent parked the Jaguar in his private spot in the parking lot behind the agency office building. He keyed open the door under the sign that read Brent Agency. Please use front entrance.
Arthur strode past the back foyer and toilet room. The next door led to the library and storage room. On one side the shelves were filled with Arthur’s personal book collection, the overflow from the bookshelves in his personal office. At the other end of the library storage room, manuscripts covered the shelves from floor to ceiling. All of these manuscripts were rejections, and although most agents filed rejections in the nearest circular file, recycle tub or incinerator, Arthur did not. Because Arthur Brent was a pack rat, and although the tens of hundreds of folders were neat, well stored and documented, they remained manuscripts that the Brent Agency had rejected.
If the subject happened to be the publishing industry, Arthur Brent was a veritable who’s who. He was able to recite the names of agents and publishers past and present, their foibles, idiosyncrasies, and genres represented and preferred. When it came to the publishing arts, one would be hard pressed to find another with Arthur’s knowledge. To Arthur, publishing was both profession and hobby.
One shelf in particular caught Arthur’s eye when he was about to enter the offices. He stopped. It was true that the shelf in question held manuscripts that he had rejected. But there was a difference. In most cases, these manuscripts had gone on to big sales and high earnings. Best sellers. Some had been true blockbusters. Movies. A manuscript titled Private Property stopped his eye.
Arthur took the manuscript from the shelf and opened it to the first page. A copy of the form rejection letter with a personal note from Arthur himself screamed at him in the silence, mocking him, questioning him. Who to blame? Private Property the movie had succeeded as one of the top films of last year, three academy award nominations and two Oscars. That was after three years of book sales numbering consistently in the hundreds of thousands. And whose fault was this?
Arthur scanned the query letter. How the hell could he have missed it? Why the hell had he let this one go by? He started reading the story. Hell. Everyone knew the story now. It was only the best thing he’d read before or since. So why?
Arthur remembered. He remembered when an excited Gladys Sanders told him about the manuscript and that he should go with it. Gladys was one of his best agents, if not the best. He remembered that Carolyn had put him in a piss poor mood that day because she’d somehow found the courage to threaten to take Jeremy and leave him. So instead of taking Gladys’s advice, he shelved the manuscript and sent the rejection note himself.
And right after that the bastard over at the Bishop Agency got the contract. The Bishop Literary Agency of Dallas, Texas. Two blocks away. Unbelievable! Shit!
He was sure he’d made Carolyn pay dearly for that one. After all, hadn’t it been her fault? Hadn’t she been to blame? Maybe it’s time to remind her again of the fact.
Arthur put the manuscript back in its place on the shelf. He took no notice of another rejected manuscript, two shelves away, one that had never been published, titled The Circle of Light by Elsbeth Malone.
“Good morning, Mr. Brent,” the woman said. Mrs. Olson was sixty-ish, glasses from the 1950’s, with iron-gray hair tied back in a bun as perfectly round as a cue ball.
“Good morning, Mrs. Olson. Appointments?”
“Two cancellations this morning, sir. Nothing this afternoon.”
“Good. It’ll give me a chance to catch up on my reading. What about the agents? No one has anything?”
“Ms. Sanders wanted to speak to you as soon as you came in.”
“Arrow Publishing didn’t call?”
“Not yet, sir.”
“Very well. Ah, would you inform Ms. Sanders that I’m here? You can send her in.”
It was eight years ago that Mike Allen, learning with the force of an H-bomb that Carolyn was pregnant with Arthur Brent’s child, assuaged his grief by marrying a clinging, oh so needy but sweet ex-girlfriend, a woman he later realized that he never did love. One—he’d wanted it a little too bad and Two—she was saving the Holy Grail for marriage. Yeah, right. Shouldn’t have been surprised on that account. What was it they called the big mistake? A rebound. Yep, your prepackaged here you go you’ll be sorry man you shoulda known sucker bona fide rebound. Couldn’t describe it any better than that, could you? What had seemed such a good match soured within a year. Why? Incompatibility? You could call it that as easy as any other thing. After the new blood-engorged rush had worn off in the first six months or so, regardless of the fact that little Miss she’s so sweet didn’t turn out to be as virginal as she’d let on, there wasn’t a hell of a lot left to go on, was there? Sure let’s joke about strapping the proverbial eight-foot long two by four across old Mike Allen’s pile driving ass! Then why had he stayed with the bitch for seven years? Persevered for seven years? Suffered for seven years? Did he really think things were going to change? And wouldn’t he still be with her if he hadn’t learned of her infidelities? You bet your sweet ass that’s plural. Damn right he would be. Once a sucker always a sucker. Good thing there weren’t any kids involved. Thank sweet Jesus for that.
And then there was Carolyn. He had to admit it—had to admit what was surely beyond any doubt the biggest mistake of his life. It shouldn’t have happened at all. He’d never really stopped loving Carolyn. Mrs. Arthur I should have never let you go Brent.
Emptying the dishwasher, Carolyn Brent flinched when she heard the phone ring.
Better get it if it’s Arthur.
Carolyn checked the caller I.D.
Don’t know this number. Let the recording get it? No it might be for him. If I miss a call he’ll really be pissed.
“Brent residence. Mrs. Brent speaking.”
“Yes? This is Mrs. Brent.”
“Who is this?”
“Carolyn. Don’t you know? This is Mike. Mike Allen.”
“Yeah. I haven’t seen you for, what is it, two years? At that steak house. Remember?”
It had been a chance encounter. Carolyn remembered that night after she and Arthur had gone home. The accusations of infidelity, the fight, the broken lamps, the broken glass, the beating.
“Yes. We saw you and your wife at the restaurant.”
What does he want? God if Arthur finds out—I better hang up.
Instead, Carolyn found herself saying, “So Mike, how’s your wife? I’d only met her that one other time.”
“My wife . . . yeah . . . well . . . she’s not my wife anymore.”
So that’s what this is about. “Oh, I’m sorry. I didn’t know.”
He said, “That makes two of us. I didn’t know either. I didn’t know she was seeing someone else. Had been for a long time as it turned out. You know what they say. You’re blind to it, cause you don’t want to believe it, although everyone else in the world seems to know about it but you. Anyway, it was bound to happen. We divorced about a year ago.”
“Mike why did you call me? What do you want? If Arthur finds out he’ll . . .”
“Arthur still treating you like shit, Carolyn?”
The thoughts came to her like body punches. God what if Arthur really does have the phone tapped? He threatened to tap the phone.
“Mike I got to hang up.”
“How’s Jeremy? At least tell me how the boy is before you hang up on me.”
“Oh Mike I didn’t mean it like that. Jeremy’s fine. It’s just that . . .”
“Son of a bitch is still knocking you around, isn’t he? And denying it. Isn’t he?”
“Mike I can’t talk. Don’t call here anymore. All right? Please don’t call here anymore. It’s bad enough.”
“Look Carolyn. I’m sorry. I’ll let you go. Really I’m sorry. I guess I shouldn’t have called. I just wanted to know how you and Jeremy were doing. I think I know. I know what’s going on. I understand. Maybe we’ll run into each other some time. I’ll leave you alone. Say hi to the boy for me, okay?”
“Okay Mike. But I have to go right now. Bye.”
Carolyn hung up. He’ll look at the phone bill. Oh God I hope it wasn’t long distance, it’ll show up and he’ll want to know. He always checks. Always accuses me of cheating. Like I’m gonna cheat on him.
She checked the number on the caller I.D. Local. Thank God. About to erase the number, Carolyn hesitated. She studied the number. Satisfied that she wouldn’t forget, she hit the erase key. Number’s easy enough to remember. Dare not write it down. One little victory. Score one for me.
Carolyn checked the schedule on the calendar, because Arthur scheduled his meals. Arthur scheduled everything. It didn’t matter to him what time he came home. Supper better be hot and on the table when he finished reading his paper. Every single work day—or there’d be hell to pay. She checked the refrigerator. Panicking, she checked the freezer. Have to go to the supermarket. Now.
Site: The Right Thing
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