The Human Things
by Oscar Deadwood
forum: The Human Things
speculative fiction for the internet generation.

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The Human Things


        It would have been one thing if it was covered by my insurance, but it wasn't. In fact, they laughed when I called and asked them.

        "You'd stand a better chance getting prescription coverage for Viagra," said the operator or rep or whoever it was that insurance companies use to tell you no.

        But that didn't stop Heidi and me. A lack of insurance couldn't stop us as we were running out of options. In fact, we were down to two—kill each other or get a divorce.

        Divorce was never discussed very long. Heidi and I considered ourselves moral people, you know, believers in the right things, and divorce would have been devastating on the children; at least that's what Heidi said. I sort of disagreed; I thought her throwing her shoes at me as soon as I walked in the door wasn't good for the children either, nor was it good for the children to hear me criticize Heidi for her lack of culinary and homemaking skills, and that's really no big deal, really, but I would point out that she was the only person I knew that could actually burn water in a microwave and that she was the only woman on the planet who kept vacuuming with the same vacuum cleaner even if the bag had been full for something like six months.

        But divorce was out because we were too damn broke to go through one. We had refinanced our house to the hilt and both car payments were breaking our backs and in a divorce everything is divvied up, and half of jackshit is just plain old shit.

        So we stuck it out. We went through marriage counseling and through a litany of ministers and they all said the same thing: "You fight about money, only money, remember, its only money." But that argument only went so far; there's nothing like financial strain to wear on the nerves of a miserable couple with kids staring at them all the time like they're performers in a circus or professional wrestlers.

        And the counselors and ministers also pointed out another obvious flaw in our wreck of a marriage:

        "You're not friends," they said. And that was true enough; ours was a typical courtship, I think. We met and dated and then screwed each other so much that we thought we were in love and then we got married and had kids and then the screwing stopped and the ugly things came into the harsh light, the ugly things like the way I cut my nails over the toilet but the clippings land on the floor, or the way that Heidi flosses her teeth in front of the television and I can see chunks of food splash on the couch and the dog moves in to lick it up as if he has just made a major score.

        You know the ugly things; they're the human things.

        But we didn't like each other enough to get past the human things and we thought we were down for the count until Heidi saw something about the latest psychological surgery on one of those gossip shows she watches with the volume full blast.

        Memory replacement.

        Stars and celebrities had been flocking to these clinics in bizarre and remote places like northern Idaho or Pine Bluff, Arkansas to these clinics where hypnotists and brain surgeons worked in tandem on ridding certain memories and replacing them with certain handpicked ones.

        For example: this one actress who was struggling with her weight had a problem with beer and ice cream. She couldn't get enough of the stuff so she went to this clinic in Moscow, Idaho and this new-agey and Buddhist chick with a shaved head and this retired brain surgeon made her forget she liked beer and ice cream. After she was done with the procedure she had a terrific appetite for bean sprouts and green tea.

        And powerful couples were going to these clinics together; they'd go together and shell out a hundred thousand dollars and the memories that strained their relationship would be wiped out and replaced with happy and loving and sensual ones.

        They would forget about past adultery and physical and emotional abuse, you know, human things like that.

        Heidi studied up on the procedure called Past Restructuring, and she decided it was the only hope for us.

        We just had to find a way to pay for it.

        So I called the insurance company for the hell of it, after all, they paid for a lot of counseling and that didn't work so I figured why not?

        The insurance company was no help, and a hundred grand was too much for me to come up with. After all, the house had been refinanced something like eleven times and we could play poker with all the credit cards in my wallet and in Heidi's purse.

        But Heidi found this clinic in Haiti on the internet, where Past Restructuring only cost five grand. I could burn enough plastic to come up with five grand and pay for a trip to Haiti at something like twenty-seven percent interest, but I did want to save our marriage and do right by our children so I made it happen.

        Actually, I didn't want to go through the hassle of a divorce. There were too many guys at the office that had gone down that road; seeing their kids every other Wednesday and every third Tuesday and every other weekend and not to mention the legal fees they're still paying off, legal fees so steep that all the divorced guys I know all have to drive around cars with a lot of exhaust smoke and squeaking belts.

        We flew to Haiti and Heidi and I had never been outside of the United States before and let me tell you, there's nothing like Third World air to make you realize just how bad those human things can smell and look and feel. The Haitian air was a mix of sewage and exhaust and shit but it made me feel alive and fortunate and glad that I had decided to go through with the procedure. The clinic was in the house of the only fat man I saw in Haiti, a doctor who was trained and worked in France before retiring to his native Port-au-Prince to live the life of a colonial baron. He was assisted in the procedure by a thin and very dark-skinned woman who spoke English in a pidgin sort of way and I could barely understand her, but she understood Heidi and me well enough because we fell into a trance in the doctors office and we didn't wake up until we were in the recovery room, which was a lavish and decadent spare bedroom in the doctor's house.

        The Past Restructuring worked. We woke up in a canopied bed with the sounds of Port-au-Prince drifting up and through the open window of the doctor's guest room, we woke up and smiled at each other and we were madly in love, and we had spontaneous sex even though our heads were sore with stitches and scars, we had spontaneous and furious sex that lasted more than a minute and that hadn't happened in at least a decade.

        Heidi and I couldn't keep our hands or lips off of each other as we flew back home and the kids stared at us open-mouthed as we insisted on eating home-cooked meals together as a family in the weeks that followed our return home while before we ate delivered pizza every other night.

        The doctor made Heidi forget that she couldn't cook.

        But our bliss didn't last long, our bliss didn't last long and it wasn't worth the five grand at twenty-seven percent interest. The restructured past can't shape the future, and those human things made themselves known again. The new Heidi didn't like the way I looked in boxer shorts and the new me didn't like the way Heidi chewed her food until it was nearly liquid.

        And we were still broke. We didn't care about it for a while, but the bills in the mailbox and the collection calls at night made us relearn the misery of our lives being led on borrowed money. The fights resumed but now they are more intense and almost violent.

        We're still too broke to get a divorce, but we've both talked about our second option…


copyright 2006 Oscar Deadwood.

Oscar Deadwood lives in Royal Oak, Michigan. His novel The Perfect Revolution was published this spring by Silverthought Press and his second release, The Trinity, will debut this fall.