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Love may be a many-splendored thing, but in writer Brittany
Muscarella’s Weird Words entry “Love,” it’s just a shade or two less so. Enjoy…
“That one! She’s perfect!” Dieter Love indicated an antique
armchair in the far corner of the store. An aged dust cloth hung over the
chair’s left side, partially obscuring the dark green fabric punctuated with
soft pink rosebuds.
The proprietor of the little shop nodded. “A beauty, sir. An
excellent addition to any room!”
“I know. She calls to me. ‘Dieter,’ says she, ‘Oh, Dieter,
put down thy pen and finish thine rooms. Finish them with me!’ ”
“Ah, the graceful tongue of a poet. Redecorating, are we?”
The old man scribbled a receipt for the purchase. “Twenty-six dollars.”
“Artist, if you please,” Dieter corrected. “I have recently
taken up residence in a peaceful neighborhood nearby. I intend to complete my
manuscript there. But the décor abhors me! The previous owner of the place was very
“Understood, sir.” The older man took his payment, gave
Dieter his receipt, and pushed open a nearby door. A bell chimed. “Let me hold
this for you.”
Once home, Dieter situated the chair in the downstairs
parlor at the edge of the rug. Along with the ancient grandfather clock that
stood in the corner, this rug was the sole item of the house’s original décor
that Dieter had decided to keep. He had imported his own carefully selected
pieces and placed them throughout the house according to an artistic vision he
had received three evenings prior as he worked on his manuscript. The scheme
was elegant, tasteful, full of artful arrangements and refined details that
made his mouth water. It made even his new maid, Krissa, question his decision
to write over design.
This particular room had been missing something since he had
arrived at the house. He had wracked his brain these past three days as he
searched for the elusive item that might fill the void; today, this thing had
fallen into his lap when he had walked into that antique furniture shop.
“Oh, my Elizabeth,” John breathed into her soft auburn
curls. “My darling love, as beautiful and inconstant as the moon, as Spring!”
Elizabeth lifted her face to him, her deep green skirts
rustling in the light summer breeze. She had tucked one of the roses they were
picking in the fields that afternoon behind her ear; the touch of its tender
stem felt like a lover’s caress against the pale curve of her neck. Her golden
eyes searched his own imploring gaze for a long time, but finally she spoke,
and the sun seemed to carry her words to him on its sparkling rays.
“This may never be, Mr. Hart,” she sighed, suppressing the
longing sob that hid deep within her slender throat. “You must let me go!”
Dieter’s fingers paused on the keys of his typewriter.
Something wasn’t right; he felt it in the air, smelled it. He turned and stared
into the darkness. Nothing whatever.
A crystalline tear welled up in John Hart’s eye. “Say it
isn’t so, Elizabeth! Why must you go away from me? I dream that you are Mrs.
“And so I shall be,” Elizabeth cooed, resting a soft palm on
his cheek, “forever in your dreams, my love.” She turned, a whirlwind of green,
to hide the regret and despair in her eyes. John grabbed her arm and pulled her
to his chest. She struggled against him. “Let me go, John! Please!”
“Never! You are my love, my only love!” His eyes were
feverish with his desire to keep her, but she mustered all her feminine
strength and tore herself from that desperate grasp.
There it was again! Something moving like an itch on his
brain. For months he had been in his rooms, working night and day at the
manuscript that would bring him artistic fame. The only interruptions had come
from the maid, asking about supper or laundry or other useless nonsense. For
all these long and lonely months he had been undisturbed: what force was just now
trying to keep him from finishing these last few lines? His finger punched the
Sobbing, Elizabeth ran down the path toward her father’s old
white plantation house, looking back not once at the good man she was
“Elizabeth! No! My dear.” But John’s outstretched fingers
could carry her back to him no more than could the wind. John inhaled a
shuddering breath, watching with longing as the dainty rose from Elizabeth’s
hair fluttered past him in the strengthening gale.
Dieter grinned and smacked his lips against the page of his
manuscript, the brain-itch forgotten. “Brilliant.” He chuckled. The clock above
his desk read a quarter past seven. He had been holed up in his rooms for
nearly seven hours now! Seven hours, seven days a week, seven months out of the
Then the itch hit him like a grand piano: an unspeakable
flaw in his design. Dieter ran to the room that he had visited frequently over
the past months. He had never seen anything wrong in the room during those
times—nor did he see anything amiss now, but he sensed it. Something just did
not fit here.
Dieter inhaled. What’s this? A foreign stench. Dieter
sniffed various objects in the room, but could not pinpoint the odor’s source.
“Elusive stench!” When he shook his fists at the cracked
ceiling in frustration, his own reek throttled him.
“How many days has it been, Mr. Love?”
Yet his own body couldn’t be the fatal error in his design.
His eyes roamed over all the items present; they stopped on the chair, whose
roses seemed to blush deeper than they ever had before. God, what a gorgeous
chair! So soft, so deep, so immutable in its position under the salmon glow of
his reading lamp. He felt roses surface on his own cheeks as he considered the
chair and, overcome by a sudden inexplicable emotion, Dieter dashed from the
parlor. He did not stop running until he was safely tucked into his rooms, and
he did not leave them for days.
“Why, if it isn’t the future Mrs. Dieter Love,” he said with
a confidence that overwhelmed him. “Ah, my Elizabeth. Hello, Elizabeth.”
Dieter was in the parlor again crouched next to the chair.
He caressed the handsome upholstery with a tender hand, running the calloused
palm over the curves of the chair as over a lover’s neck. And the chair
responded to his embrace, drawing him closer into its warmth. Dear Elizabeth!
He took part of the fleshy bulge of its high back between his front teeth and
pulled. A dusky pink rose bud tore off into his mouth and left behind only a
tattered stem and ragged hole exposing sad yellow stuffing. Dieter, the pale
flower dangling from his lips, turned to the grandfather clock that now stood
against the far wall of the room, as far as possible from the chair.
“You saw nothing, sir.” His eyes widened significantly and
he rose a little in his crouched position. “Nothing.”
The still hands of the old clock, which had ceased its
ticking years ago, assured Dieter that they had no intention of seeing or
saying anything at all.
“Good. What is there to say?” Dieter awaited a response.
“No? What did you see? Nothing whatever? Nothing whatever.”
Dieter stood. “Well, my sweet, love hurts.” He chuckled and
patted the chair’s arm. “But now I must go to bed. Until we meet again, my
lady.” He swept forward in an impressive bow and, pocketing the fabric flower
as he rose, retired to his rooms.
The next day held many surprises for Dieter, not the least
of which was the disappearance of his love. His wailings and lamentations could
be heard throughout the neighborhood.
“Oh, God in heaven!” He swung his shaggy head from side to
side as he searched the room for the missing chair; a thin string of drool
dangled from the corner of his cracked lips. The late afternoon sun filtered in
through the spotless windowpanes, illuminating the place where Elizabeth had so
“Oh, courtly love! Savage love!” His eyes squeezed shut
against the tears, Dieter grasped an abundance of oily hair in both hands and
screeched. His voice was ragged and caught in his throat.
“Love! There is no love without Elizabeth! There is no God
where there is no Elizabeth!
“WHERE IS ELIZABETH! ELIZABETH! ELIZABETH! ELIZABETH!”
Krissa ran into the room, one hand gripping the St. Michael’s
pendant at her throat. “Mr. Love? Sir? What—”
“ELIZABETH!” Adam’s apple bobbing out-of-control. Up and
“—are you screaming about? You’ll have the entire—”
“—neighborhood here in a minute if you keep—”
“Where is she?” Dieter’s right arm lashed out and knocked
over the thin lamp nearby. “Where? Tell me where!”
He turned on the grandfather clock. “Where is Elizabeth?
What have you said? What did you say to make her leave?” Dieter rushed at the
clock and punched the glass panel in its door. Blood trickled from the cuts on
his fingers. “Nothing whatever? Just as we had discussed…” He considered the
clock’s silence. Krissa made a noise behind him.
Realization dawned on Dieter’s face like a bloody sun. “Red
sky at morning.” He turned and pointed a trembling finger at the maid. “You.
What have you done?
“What did you do to make my Elizabeth go away?”
“Nothing,” Krissa stammered. “I don’t even know who
Dieter chuckled and spread his hands. “Nothing, she says.
Nothing whatever! Hoho!” Dieter indicated an empty spot. “You think that’s
nothing whatever? Well? Do you?”
“The chair? But there was a tear in the fabric! I only—”
“YOU WHAT? Jealous wench! WHAT ONLY? YOU ONLY WHAT?”
“I was only going to mend it!” The sound of her voice infuriated
She tried to back up but the hem of her apron had caught on
a nail in the doorframe.
“So stupid! STUPID! ELIZABETH!” Dieter lunged forward and
tore her throat out with his bleeding hand. “Oh, God in heaven!” he screamed.
“Say something stupid now, you wench!”
Krissa’s body collapsed in the doorway and her stupid eyes
rolled at the grandfather clock, who ignored them, saying nothing, seeing
“Elizabeth,” Dieter sobbed. He drew the rose from his breast
pocket and kissed it. “A piece of you near my heart always.” His eyes widened
at a dark spot on the fabric. “Blood? Oh, my dear.” He licked the blemish with
quivering tongue and replaced the token of his affection.
“Ah, well. As they say, a rose by any other name.” Then
“I should think she has learned her lesson.” Bits of raw egg
dribbled down his chin. He awaited a response but the wooden bowl remained
silent in the center of the table.
“Hello? Oh, useless! USELESS!” Dieter swept the bowl off the
table. It clattered to the foot of the oven, whose door stood slightly open.
“Oh, shut your mouth,” Dieter snapped at the oven. “Never
have anything useful to contribute. You always criticize.”
Dieter continued. “She said nothing whatever! What would your
reaction have been?” He stabbed an accusing finger in the oven’s direction.
The silence enraged him. Hot blood course through his veins
like raw dripping egg. “SPEAK UP! Don’t you SPEAK when spoken to?” He stood,
toppling his chair, and smashed his porcelain dish against the appliance.
Dieter rammed his dirty fork into its range.
“YOU’RE MAD!” Gooey egg-yolk tears dripped down the oven’s
His eyes were open and bloodshot beneath the sleeping mask.
He could feel light and heat; he could hear mocking laughter even through the
closed bedroom door. Why? WHERE? Where was it coming from? Stupid Krissa must
have forgotten to close the curtains over the window outside his room: he hated
that! A merciless sliver of moonlight had crept into his house and was keeping him
awake! He could feel it, smell it! Impetuous moon. Damned lunatic!
Dieter swung out of his dirty bed, knocking his forgotten
manuscript from the bedside table onto the floor, and stomped out into the
hallway. Ignorant. Couldn’t she see he had THINGS to do? Didn’t she know about
the job of a genius? An artist? And that jealous wench had killed Elizabeth…
He would teach her. He would kill her all over again, once
he shut those Godforsaken drapes!
A hole in a curtain admitted the moon. Dieter growled. His gaze
rode the moonbeam down the dark stairs to the lobby below. The front door stood
open a little; the runner was bunched as if someone had shuffled her way into—
“Elizabeth!” Could it be? His knees buckled and he could
barely contain himself: he felt a warm stream trickle down his leg. Was this
real or just some sick trick propagated by that wench Krissa and her cohort
Father Time? Was it all in his head? All of it?
No! It was his love! Elizabeth! Is that?—how?—Elizabeth, is
it really you?
At the foot of the stairs stood the future Mrs. Dieter Love.
A bit more haggard than usual, and an unseemly hole gaped in her back; but the
darkness obscured most of the ugliness, and to Dieter she appeared as beautiful
as ever, perhaps even more so!, the way she was angled down there in a pool of
light the color of piss.
Joy! Rapture! My love come back to me on a moonbeam! Oh,
His dirty nails and bloody fingertips strained to touch his
love; his arms felt as if they were being pulled from their sockets as his feet
shuffled toward the edge of the landing.
“Oh, my love,” he squeaked. His lips widened into a smile,
cracked, began to bleed, turning his hard white gums pink again. “How I have
missed you. Why did you go away from me? Why did you leave?” He hissed. Dieter
creaked. His sounds imitated the old stairs beneath his flat feet.
Dieter’s head, elevated by love, eclipsed the moon, throwing
silent Elizabeth into darkness.
“Love?” Dieter’s eyes raced back and forth in their sockets,
their tendons tensed to snapping. He smelled death. Elizabeth? Disappeared.
“Where have you gone, Elizabeth? Gone? Gone? Gone?” Panic. Gone? Oh, not again,
Elizabeth! How could you? Who is it? Knock-knock, who’s there? Who’s there?
Dieter stiffened when he spied the grandfather clock standing in his peripheral
Lids narrowed. YOU! He could hear himself shout. NOTHING
WHATEVER, REALLY? Well, WHERE is she NOW? WHO TOOK HER? WHO IS IT? Where is it?
Nothing? Nowhere? Nowhere whatEVER?!?! Jouncing, his feet almost lost their
hold on the step; he stumbled against the wall and the light reappeared,
revealing the whereabouts of that shameless whore once and for all.
You shameless whore, ONCE AND FOR ALL! Dirty WENCH!
I will kill you ALL OVER AGAIN!
FEAR THE ONE WHO TEARS AND RENDS WITH NEITHER TOOTH NOR
I WILL BURY MYSELF INSIDE YOU AND GNAW MY WAY OUT!
MY WORM IS NOT DECEASING NOR MY FIRE DYING OUT!
FEAR THE ONE WHO DESTROYS THE SOUL AS WELL AS THE BODY!
HE, WHO SPARES NOT SINNING MESSENGERS!
Dieter’s hysterical screams carried him several inches
further toward the edge of the step; a rusted nail caught on his back as he
slid down the wall. Oh, that stupid wench! He couldn’t quell the sob rising in
his throat. Hadn’t she recommended that whoring maid, too? All a scheme to keep
him sleepless, full of the moon and time and the wrath of God, sing Hosanna,
all a filthy dirty whoring plan to keep him from his interior designs, to trap
him inside this stinking filthy ticking mess forever. Who saved you, Elizabeth?
Who rescued you from your garbage heap, rubbish, trash, ORPHAN?, who made you
beautiful and whole again? Who will save you from the Wrath of God?
His teeth gnashed in his skull, several splitting to their
rotting roots. But Elizabeth said nothing. The clock saw nothing; the maggots
in Krissa’s black eyeless sockets saw everything.
Speechless? So am I. So much like me, you. So lovely. So
cold… Elizabeth, I… I can forgive you. I give you another chance. I know you
are sorry. Don’t cry, love, no! Dieter is here; I am here. Love is here.
He cooed. He swooned. He took an unsteady step toward the
unmoved and unmoving chair. Elizabeth braced herself as Dieter came tumbling
down the flight of stairs, his bones snap-crackle-popping in time with the
Catch me, dear! I’m coming, Elizabeth! Her arms were so
close he could smell the mildew that shrouded her roses. He was suddenly
ravenous. Wait for me, love! I’m going to catch you! Love has come to you at
last, poor girl, my Elizabeth, my poor stupid little girl whore girl Elizabeth,
my darling Elizabethetheth Elizagirldarlibeth my love Elizalove Eloveabeth
Dieter landed with a thud at Elizabeth’s clawed feet. She
shrank back in disgust at the blood issuing from the hole in his skull that
gaped like a forgotten oven door. We match now, dear; she chuckled prettily.
Both holy are we. Dieter’s eyes rolled in their sockets at the sound of her
voice, drunk on love and dust and roses and rot and soft yellow interior,
frenzied at the sight of the arms abandoning him. Oh no, love, don’t leave me
again you said you would never go away again I trusted I loved I thought I
designed you were mine are mine mine mine I almost had you almost you reached
you close to so close to so you close you close to so almost had reached close
so close you to you Elizabeth my design my Eliza my love my my my my my
Love hurts, my darling Dieter.
The grandfather clock knew nothing whatever but this: Love’s
designs always fall short of its embrace.
Brittany Muscarella is a freelance writer living in Buffalo,
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