Varying Degrees of Murder
On a rainy-day Tuesday I murdered Cupid. It was an accident of course. No amount of spit-in-my-face romance would drive me to murder the entire industrial complex of love. I loved love. Love made singing birds, giggling babies, and the most honest smiles ever smiled.
Also, there was no body. It had vanished like a sock after a dryer run. Poof.
“Manslaughter,” I sighed. “A case of murder-lite. At most.”
“I’m not a lawyer,” said Van, “but I don’t think there are degrees of murder.”
“Yes, there are, you idiot. There are literally degrees of murder. Second degree murder. First degree. Etc.”
That was Joan Newman. I was in love with her, though it was a new love, the age of which was approximately three, call it...eh...four hours.
“No body,” I said.
“True,” said Van. He struck a thinking man’s pose. “A guilty verdict might be tough to…”
“Should we, like, do something for him?” she interrupted. “Some sort of eulogy? I mean, he was a man…”
“Was he?” I asked Joan.
We both looked at Van.
“What?” he said, like an idiot. Like Van. Like the oblivious assistant: King of the Fuckboys.
How We Got Here
I worked at a place called “Charlie’s Books” which was a goddamn awful place to work. Don’t let the name fool you - there were dozens of them. They gave 5 Ways to be Wealthy: Get Rich Bitch (Or Your Money Back) prime real estate and buried Nabokov in the back with Joyce and Fitzy. We had to wear name-tags, and mine said Jonah. That’s my name, BTW. There was also a place to write your favorite book on the name-tag, and so I wrote Moby Dick.
“I love that book,” a nice older woman said to me that very same day, the first day of the name-tag.
“I’ve never read it.”
“So why did you write it on your name-tag?”
I shrugged. “Seemed like low-hanging fruit.”
She wandered off, and I felt pretty bad. I don’t think she got it. People say I have issues with my tone, young man.
I got written up by the manager (on my first fucking day!), so I had to change my favorite book to How to Win Friends and Influence People because fuck you, Charlie. And your books.
Anyway, I fell in love with Joan Newman because she was a writer, and wore black frame glasses, and white high-top Converse below a dress and a sweater. Also because I fall in love easily. I tell people that I’m a romantic, which is different than actually being a romantic, but I’m one of those too. My brothers call me a pussy, which is just not cool, bros.
Joan was a pretty great writer on a book tour. She hailed from the west coast and was trudging her way across the Great Plains via a host of Holiday Inn Expresses, dodging Oklahoma’s imperfect smiles and aggressively Christian billboards while, she felt, her artistic integrity lit itself on fire. She found herself bible-belt sequestered, stuck in the rain.
She read from her book, Woman in the Mirror: My Decade of Dancing Like Beyonce and Being a Bad Bitch, and complained that she couldn’t buy wine at the grocery. We told her it was because Jesus didn’t want her getting too drunk, but she was still pissed. Nobody told Joan Newman what to do. Not even Jesus. Especially not Jesus.
Love’s a Battlefield w/ Crossbows
I wasn’t following her, so much as walking a respectful distance behind in the same direction. Could I have walked with her? Sure! Did I? Hahahah...
Either way, she wasn’t being safe. The neighborhood gentrification had set and dried (which was kind of shitty, and also kind of historically inevitable), but nitrogenated cold-coffee shops or not, there were always pockets of danger in the witching hour. We should have been in an Uber. One of the cheap ones.
Even though I was on high alert, it was still pretty surprising when a Hobbit-like figure slide into the alleyway behind Joan. Most appearances are pretty surprising in dark alleyways around midnight, I suppose. Per my nature, I immediately thought, Nothing good can come of this. Fuck.
I had no idea where he’d come from. His appearance was some kind of magic trick. He was very short and round, with hair that was long but afraid of the crown of his head. The little fat man shined by the light of the lone streetlamp. He was also struggling to carry something, dragging it behind him like a third leg.
Right around the time the short-round lifted the third leg up to his arm, it struck me that life is sometimes stranger than fiction. That the world will never make sense. That we are all flawed beings, fucked and beautiful, and oh my god is that a crossbow?!?!
Yes. Yes it was.
Something came over me. It was love. Not a boner, but courage. Courage! Unheeded! So I squawked my battle cry into the night, and ran at him. I thought he would, you know, stop whatever it was that he was doing. Don’t criminals say, “Fuck it,” and bail when some good citizen intervenes?
But the little troll didn’t bail. Instead, he spun around and pointed the crossbow at me. I zigged and zagged like I was playing capture the flag at motherfucking summer camp. (Falls Creek Runner-Up, 1995 & 1996. Screw you, Barry “Beaver” Bevinson. You didn’t deserve it.) Unfortunately, I got to him quicker than planned. Having nothing better to do, and not having an arrow in my gut, I just...kept going. I didn’t so much tackle as run into him. We both tumbled into the side of some dumpsters.
The Recycle one knocked me unconscious.
Stanley Cupid’s Eulogy & Coda
When I woke, Stanley Cupid was gone and Van, his assistant, had appeared. Van said that Stanley had been his name, and Cupid his title. He said that Stanley Cupid was the one true Cupid, and that his crossbow was not only harmless, but actually, “more important than the wheel and fire combined.”
I found that claim dubious at best.
Van said without Cupid, without the crossbow, there would be no love.
“It’s a partner system,” Van said. He held up a small black address book. “This,” he said, “this is the little black book of love. It tells us who our targets are.”
“And then?” Joan asked.
The rain had stopped, and so the three of us gathered around the death dumpster of the hobbit. Van gave both the eulogy and some much-needed background info on Stanley Cupid.
“It is with great regret,” he began, head bowed, holding back tears, “that I say goodbye to the only boss I’ve ever known. Stan, you were a good matchmaker. The best. You shot the world with your arrows of love. You shot children and old people. Penguins. Swans. Some Bald Eagles, I think. Sometimes you would shoot, like, ten people a day.”
I looked at Joan Newman who was, like, what the flying fuck is going on? But then she smiled at me and...I dunno...we were a team.
“I told you who to shoot,” Van continued with cracking voice. “The names appeared, dispatched from Le Factory del Amore. I’ve never been to Texas, but I’ve heard it’s there.”
Van sneezed, and wiped his teary eyes. I felt bad for him. Whoever this Stanley Cupid was or wasn’t, he meant something to someone. After it’s all said and done, I hope someone sneezes and wipes teary eyes for me.
“Rest in peace, Stan the man,” he finished.
We sat there in that humid post-rain silence. The halo of dawn peeked from the east, and with it came a Wednesday.
“What’s next?” Joan Newman asked.
“Well,” Van said, “I don’t know. I guess we go to the factory. They’ll tell us what to do.”
“Where’s that?” I asked.
“Somewhere in Texas,” Van replied. “Down by the border. They make tortillas there. And love. Tortillas and love.”
“Good luck,” Joan scoffed.
“Oh, well, you have to come with us,” Van said.
“Us?” I said.
“Fuck that,” she said. “Topeka awaits me.”
“If you don’t,” Van said, pointing at me, “then he dies.”
“What???” I yelled.
Van scratched his head, and with trademark confusion said:
“Well...it’s possible. I think. I think it’s possible.”
It’s possible our quest will continue with…
Eros Wants Revenge
Written by: Logan Theissen
Photograph by: Daniel Vidal