True Love in Myrtle Beach
by Ann Jones
Rosemary carried a goose-necked lamp. First, it'd been tattoos, then body piercings, then the lamp: electric cord wrapped round her waist, neck in her fist, parchment shade billowing like a giant calla lily. People made cracks about Diogenes; she ignored them. Her lamp was a fashion statement, not a philosophical pronouncement.
A philosophical exclamation!--that's how Spencer clutched his can of Bud. The glare from Rosemary's lamp struck him sightless, and it wasn't even lit. He was, though. After three six-packs, he was definitely lit. He lay down on the concrete, opened up his chest, and sent his blind heart singing into the lamplight that wasn't even there.
Spencer fell in love with Rosemary and her lamp. Just like that, at the Tiki bar beside the swimming pool.
Then, along came Rex. Ah, Rex: the practical one; the one with the MBA and the job in sales. Rex kept strict count of HIS beers (two, max). He never smoked, or ate red meat, or skinny-dipped in uncertain waters. On top of that, he was movie-star handsome--a fact which gave him a certain visible advantage over long-necked, openhearted Spencer, what with Spencer's sunken chest and acne scars and all.
While Spencer lay there--drunk, in love, and immobilized on the splintery poolside; his heart scampering around on the chlorine-scented cement--Rex approached Rosemary with the stealth of a salesman. "You're not utilizing your lamp to its fullest potential," he purred, all bright eyes and bushy tail. Rosemary felt Spencer's heart scrabble over her ankles; absently, she kicked it away.
Rex unwound the cord from around Rosemary's waist; or, more precisely, he unwound HER from the cord, holding the plug-end and spinning her around. After seven spins, the lamp cord dangled loose between them. Rosemary giggled, dizzy from the spinning. "Allow me," Rex whispered. He grasped the lamp's two-pronged plug between his perfectly manicured fingertips, bent over behind the Tiki bar, and inserted the plug into the poolside electrical socket.
The lamp blazed. Illumination. Fireworks!
Now, startled on top of dizzy, Rosemary staggered backwards. Three steps, four... and she fell into the pool. With the lighted lamp clutched tight to her breasts, she was electrocuted in five seconds flat. Rex jumped back, screaming "SOMEBODY CALL 911!"
But Spencer? Spencer and his heart dove right on in after her.
Spencer's frantic heart had pulled him off the splintery concrete straight into the murky waters of the electrified swimming pool. He dove way down deep, and then deeper, and deeper still. "How much deeper can I GO?" he wondered. He was scared, but his heart just kept on pulling him--down, and down, and down--until, finally, with a splash, he came out the other side. The bottom side. The downside.
The downside of an electrified Tiki bar pool.
(Cue generic aboriginal tribal chant.)
NARRATOR'S VOICEOVER: Hello and welcome to (cue generic aboriginal drumbeat) MAKE... THE SACRIFICE.
ON-CAMERA HOST: First up, we have Spencer from Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.
VOICEOVER: Spencer is willing to sacrifice himself in order to join his newly electrocuted girlfriend, Rosemary.
HOST: Go, Spencer! O-kay! Behind door number one is your first sacrificial challenge: the Pit O' Pit Vipers. In order to complete this challenge, you must traverse an eight-by-ten pit filled with rattlesnakes, copperheads, and water moccasins.
VOICEOVER: (whispering) Trained physicians are waiting on the far side of the pit with antivenin, a crash cart, and a full set of scalpels.
(Visual: Spencer wading waist-deep through a slithering sea of thrashing pit vipers.)
VOICEOVER: In his first challenge, Spencer was bitten 32 times. Doctors gave him 24 shots of antivenin, restored his heartbeat, and amputated his left leg at the thigh.
HOST: Wow, Spence! WHAT a SACRIFICE! (Cue generic aboriginal tribal music.) Next up is our elimination round. It's easy, buddy. All you gotta do is drink a can of RC Cola.
(Visual: Single can of RC resting on a rotten tree stump surrounded by swarming honeybees.)
HOST: Honeybees are integral to the food chain in their role as pollinators. Over eighty percent of the foods you eat wouldn't even EXIST without honeybees. In this challenge, Spence, we're gonna cut to the chase. You're gonna just swallow the BEES!
(Visual: Spencer drinking the RC, his face, hands, and neck crawling 3-4 deep with honeybees.)
VOICEOVER: In his second challenge, Spencer swallowed approximately 127 bees. He was stung, internally and externally, more than four hundred times. Doctors gave him 27 doses of epinephrine, a tracheostomy, and restored his heartbeat three more times.
HOST: All right Spencer! You're the MAN! Ready for your third and final sacrifice? (Cue generic tribal music.)
VOICEOVER: In his third and final sacrificial challenge, Spencer must jump off the Cliff of Unknowing into the Morass of Maybe Finding Rosemary.
HOST: Jump, Spencer!
VOICEOVER: Jump! (Cue generic aboriginal tribal drumbeat.)
(Visual: Spencer precariously balanced, teetering on his one remaining leg way out over the Morass.)
HOST: If you want to find Rosemary, Spence, you gotta MAKE...THE SACRIFICE!
HOST: JUMP, YOU CANDY-ASSED WEENIE!!!
He landed in the middle of a deep, dark, misty forest. A wild-eyed woman stood hefting an oak-twig basket full of mushrooms. With his amputated leg, a tracheostomy, swollen-shut eye, and heart that had stopped and restarted four times, Spencer guessed: 1) that the mushrooms were poisonous, and, 2) that he'd have to eat them.
That's what he guessed, but he was wrong. (Cue quiz-show music.)
VOICEOVER: I'll have "Riddle of the Wild-eyed Woman" for five hundred, please.
"Hey, Spence!" the wild-eyed woman shouted. "Tell me this: What goes on one leg in the morning, one leg at noon, and five legs late at night?"
"I KNOW this one!" Spencer cried. "It's a bowling ball, right?"
VOICEOVER: Aw, Spence! You're delirious. (Cue loser theme.) Everybody knows the real answer to the riddle is: "An exhausted marathon pogo-jumper, crawling home at night on all fours, dragging his pogo stick behind him."
VOICEOVER: (whispering) Well, folks, it's all up to the wild-eyed woman. Will Spencer's crummy answer satisfy her? Will she allow him to pass through the forest, or not?
The wild-eyed woman, who'd been gathering truffles for four days and nights in order to make an aphrodisiacal soup for her illicit lover, took pity on Spencer and let him pass. "It could be a bowling ball," she said. "I mean, well, it COULD be..." She watched Spencer hop by on one leg. His breath was heavy and labored, whistling sharply through his tracheostomy tube. Tears welled up in her wild eyes. "Good luck, Spencer," she murmured. Oh, how she envied Rosemary! Her own lover just wasn't the type to make sacrifices. (He also wasn't the type to eat truffles, but she didn't know that. Yet.)
Spencer hopped through the forest. After seventeen miles, he came to a castle. In the castle was a large drawing room, and in the drawing room was a cocktail party. It was a cold, featureless party, filled with thousands of women, all chattering cocktail party chatter and clutching goose-necked table lamps. All the women looked alike. All the women looked like Rosemary.
Spencer was aghast. He stood on one leg, a sickly smile plastered across his swollen face, a can of cold Bud in his hand. He didn't know what else to do but drink up. Fortunately, his jump-started heart took control: sniffing around like a bloodhound; ascertaining that none of the Rosemaries were real. Then, led by his heart, Spencer hopped out of the castle after only one Budweiser, unswayed by either the beer or the Rosemaries.
Finally, seven hours later, he came to the edge of the forest. By then he was crawling, dragging himself along on two hands and one knee. Outside the forest was a flat, white landscape. There was no horizon. No sky. Just endless white. Far off in the distance Spencer saw her--Rosemary!--waiting under a streetlamp that cast no glow in the whiteness.
He crawled to her, imagining love and home and hearth. His reward. He'd earned it. He'd earned HER! He'd suffered. Why, he'd sacrificed his all for her! How glad she'd be to see him. Her hero! She'd kiss him, and hug him, and love him--
But wait. What was happening?
Oh, no! Was she crying? She was sobbing! Hysterically.
"I don't WANT a house and a hearth and a one-legged, puffy-faced hero!" she sobbed. "I just want to go back to Myrtle Beach. Back to junk stores and fashion magazines and...and Rex and the Tiki Bar. Don't you get it? I just want to go home!"
Rosemary's tears chilled Spencer's heart. It grew colder and colder. What, after all his sacrifice she STILL wasn't happy? His heart froze rock-hard.
"Aw, fuck it," his heart said, turning its back. "Guess I made a mistake. Turns out she's unworthy. Turns out she's an unhappy whore. Sorry, Spence."
The landscape was flat, white, and endless.
The streetlamp cast no glow in the whiteness.
About the author:
Ann Jones lives in Pittsboro, North Carolina. She occasionally vacations in Myrtle Beach, but only during the winter. This is her first published story.