[Note: Renata and Juan are both important characters in my recently-released, thriller novel NOT SO GONE ]
“Stop! Stop filling my head with your crazy nonsense,” Renata cries.
“Sorry, I’m addicted to breathing and your crazy ex, Brad, almost put an end to that. It’s not nonsense. Look at this.” Juan lowers his collar, revealing an eight-inch cut across his neck, still oozing. “What the hell do you call that?” Juan says.
“OK. What did you do to provoke him?”
“Nice. The assumption is that it’s my fault, right?”
“Well, I know you and I know him. So, odds are…”
“Look, I bumped into him at the Grammar Bar. You know, the one on 63rd. I should’ve told him to buzz off right then and there, but a free drink is a free drink.” Juan drops into the overstuffed easy-chair in Renata’s fifth-floor living room overlooking the park. He just stares out the picture window at the lightly falling snow. The aroma of coffee lingers in the air.
“And?” Renata says, raising her eyebrows.
“We had a few drinks and got into an argument about gerunds.”
“Gerunds? What are you talking about?”
“Like when a verb is acting like a noun. Like Reading is my favorite pastime. Reading is a gerund there.”
“So, so what? For this he slashes your throat?”
“It started to get out of hand when he said ‘How do you like fucking my Renata? Is that a good gerund?’”
“Wow. That’s why Brad’s an ex.”
“So naturally I get really pissed off because…” He pauses for a long five seconds, “Because I don’t think fucking is a gerund there.”
Renata gives Juan a swift kick in his right shin, “That’s what pissed you off?”
Juan clutches his shin, “Ouch, that really hurt. I was just kidding.”
“Glad you could enjoy a joke at my expense.” Renata folds her arms and purses her lips.
“No kidding now, I think fucking really is a gerund in that sentence.”
Renata spins and gives Juan a harder kick in his left shin. “How’s ‘my boyfriend deserves a thrashing’ for a gerund?”
Juan clutches both shins now. “I thought you found my sense of humor, or should I say joking, attractive?” He says with a grimace. “Guess not. Anyhow, because he insulted both of us, I grabbed him by the throat and wrestled him to the floor. I tell him, ‘strangling you would be worth the consequences.’ I’m squeezing hard. The bartender says, ‘No fighting in the Grammar Bar.’ I finally lost my nerve and let go.”
“Christ, Juan, serving time is not what you want to do. Didn’t have enough wasting away in that hellhole in Guadalajara?”
“You’re getting this gerund thing pretty good.”
“It’s well. Pretty well,” she says.
“I’m not sure about that. Anyway, your Brad pulls out a stiletto, flips open the blade and does this.” Juan points to his throat. “He says, ‘killing you may be more enjoyable and a better gerund than screwing Renata.’ He was about to finish me off when two beefy guys grab him from behind. I was lucky. They were off-duty cops in the bar discussing the pluperfect when the fight broke out. If it weren’t for their fast thinking, I’d be your ex too.”
Renata lets out a deep breath and her expression softens, “Do us both a favor. Stay away from Brad and don’t go near that bar anymore. I’d like to keep you in one piece. Mourning is not as much fun as loving.”
“Or schtupping,” Juan smiles.
Renata’s warm hand gently touches Juan’s neck, “Let me get something to put on that.”
“Thanks. Who knew grammar could be so dangerous?” Juan says.
– End –
This story is dedicated to my late mother-in-law, Florence Sandler, who was a Ph.D. professor at Seton Hall University, wonderfully creative, and an insistent grammarian.