The nightmares had started attacking Krystal Dickson again, robbing her of sleep, rendering her so listless, so scatter-brained that she had mislaid the files for the divorce proceedings of an important client.
This story is fiction.
It does not depict any real person or actual event.
My short story, “Krystal’s Dark Nights,” is based on my original poem, “A Terrible Fish”:
A Terrible Fish
“In me she has drowned a young girl, and in me an old woman
Rises toward her day after day, like a terrible fish.” —Sylvia Plath’s “Mirror“
The nightmare repeats itself:
A daughter clamped tight to each foot
Pulling her down under
The brute waters of the dark, deep lake —
She gasps — imagines she’s drowning
While her husband watching on the levy
Wrings his hands, faints in the heavy fog.
A terrible fish looms under her nose;
She smells blood dripping
From a dozen hooks dangling
From his mouth.
His eyeballs slide out easy
As the drawer of a cash register.
Each eye-socket a window
To her own soul — $ bills
With little jackpots on them
Jump up and dance like clowns
Poking out their tongues,
Flapping campaign signs
With hammers, sickles, swastikas —
She believes – ¡Sí se puede!
Morning shivers her awake again,
Stumbling to the bathroom
Where the mirror flashes
In her face that same terrible fish
That has been catching her dreams
And throwing them back
As she chases each $,
Never quite able to grasp enough.
Krystal’s Dark Nights
“We are the ones we’ve been waiting for.” — Barack Hussein Obama
The nightmares had started attacking Krystal Dickson again, robbing her of sleep, rendering her so listless, so scatter-brained that she had mislaid the files for the divorce proceedings of an important client. Now she had to call that client and ask her to reschedule an appointment to recapture the information. Her associates in the firm of Stegall, Porter, Marsch, Rictoff, and Davis, the most prominent law firm in Richmond, Indiana, were like family to Krystal so they once again cut the blundering legal eagle some slack, as she so often seemed distracted.
Everyone surmised that Krystal was out her element as a lawyer, but they felt sorry for her, and once in a blue moon Krystal actually pulled her weight for a few months, and more importantly Krystal provided the face of diversity. Krystal couldn’t count the times she feared she would lose her job, yet every pay check seemed to evaporate before she could register that she actually was paid.
Krystal’s husband, Dr. Jamal Kreedmont, had nightmares of his own. His own heart was failing, but he somehow managed to keep his practice a float. Kreedmont had given up on his family business, The Wilderness Trail Campground, just south of town in favor of doctoring; although he still lived on the land in the sprawling old ranch-style house he grew up in, kept his five ponds well manicured and stocked with fish, his loss of income from the campground caused Krystal to fret over losing those dollars. And Krystal made sure Jamal knew how she felt about losing dollars.
Many times Krystal and her sister Bethany would gang up on the good doctor, castigating him for not making the most of his property. But Jamal would remind Bethany that perhaps if she had stayed in Indiana instead of traipsing off to Florida with Jamal’s brother Florence, they could have kept the business running. Jamal would trust only family to run his business, and since both of his brothers and three sisters had left the state, he closed it instead of trying to manage employees.
Jamal never worried about money; Krystal was the center of his life, and it did pang him that she was so insecure about their financial situation. He promised her repeatedly that he would always take care of her, and she would never have to suffer.
Shasta and Keishlan, the couple’s two daughters, dropped out of high school to pursue a career in early retirement, fleshed out with adventures in crime. Despite their job hopping, the girls were perennially broke and ended up living in a make-shift, loft apartment above the barn, a cornfield away from their parents’ house. They were bleeding the parents dry in daily hundred $ increments. Jamal and Krystal had enjoyed stellar reputations in town until Shasta and Keishlan started their reign of terror: shop-lifting, brawling in restaurants, bullying fire fighters, wrecking a car they had stolen for a joy ride and then assaulting the police officers who rescued them from the burning vehicle; then one night they were caught sexually gratifying each other in a restroom in Glen Miller Park. At ages 28 and 30, the Dickson girls—they both were assigned their mother’s last name—had trashed their own reputations and nearly ruined that of their parents.
Lucky for the lawyer and doctor, most people were aware that sometimes kids just don’t reflect the values of their parents and would sympathize when someone would say to Krystal, “I overheard your daughters the other day, trying to open a saving account at the Second National Bank; they said they were from Canada and apparently had some Canadian IDs.” To which Krystal would apologize profusely, explain a bit about her plight, thus gaining the empathy and sympathy of another Richmondite. Continually, the behavior of those girls caused a lot of grief for Krystal and Jamal.
Krystal experienced nightmares, and Jamal developed a heart condition. But things hummed along for a few years, and then Shasta and Keishlan started hatching a plan: they reasoned that if they could get that 350 acres of land on which the former Wilderness Trail Campground once flourished, they could sell it and live big time. They knew that the property would go to their mom if their dad died first. They also knew that it was likely he would die first, being twenty years older and suffering a heart condition. They also knew that they could manipulate Krystal and ultimately get anything they wanted from her. So the first part of the plan: Dad has to go.
The Dickson girls knew that their dad was crazy about their mom, so they reasoned the best way to kill off Dad is to stick it to Mom somehow. They put their heads together and came up with love letters written to Mom from one of her associates at the law firm. They told Dad that they had something to talk to him about, and they showed him the letters. He read them and knew immediately that the girls had written them. He said to them, “You two must be the sickest, dumbest creatures to ever live,” then turned and walked away. “Goddam him!” they screeched and proceeded to plan B.
They would hire Ziggy, a druggy friend who would do anything for a brick or two of crack, to break into the house, hold Mom at gunpoint and then pistol whip Dad. Dad’s bum ticker would do the rest. So the plan went down, but Pop didn’t. Krystal and Jamal huddled closer than ever, started revealing old secrets to each other in order to cleanse their souls, so they could fuse even closer. They realized while staring down the barrel of Ziggy’s gun and his crack-crazed buddy Toody, that life is precarious, better cling to the good and true while you can.
Then Krystal admitted that she had been “seeing” Mel Frenchman, a lawyer who practiced in Washington, D. C. She would “see” him only two or three times a year when she had a conference in the capital to learn about all the new regulations affecting law firms. Jamal stood opened mouthed for a long moment; his blood began to boil, he remembered the “love letters” he accused his daughters of writing—no, he still knew they had written them; they weren’t intelligent enough to have suspected Krystal’s real “affair.” In an instant, all the closeness, all the love Jamal had nourished in his heart for Krystal turned to a bitter bile of hatred. He grabbed his 15 pound bowling trophy, raised it high and came down hard on Krystal’s head; she fell dead—her back had been turned to Jamal; thus she did not know what hit her.
Stuttering, jabbering, wildly flinging his arms about, Jamal finally calmed enough to ask himself, what do I do now? Well, the only thing possible: bury the body. He dragged the corpse out beyond his vegetable garden into the middle of his big cornfield, retrieved a shovel from the shed and dug as deep as he could.
After shoving Krystal’s lifeless form into the hole, he began to refill it. Now all is good, he kept thinking: yes, he had fixed it. He would simply tell whoever might ask that Krystal had run away. Sure, she couldn’t take living with those two black holes of daughters, so she just ran away. But on his way back to the shed carrying the shovel, Jamal keeled over and died.
Now lest gentle reader think those black holes had finally triumphed, not so fast. When Dr. Kreedmont didn’t show up for work, his office assistant sent the authorities out to his estate. Of course, they figured out in record time what had gone down. And after proper funerals, the Dickson girls seemed to be in the catbird seat, until the wills were read. With Krystal preceding him in death, Jamal’s property went to a large recreational corporation that promptly evicted the Dickson girls.
After several failed attempts to sue, they gave up. Last anyone around Richmond ever saw of them, they were hitchhiking to San Francisco. But a newspaper report in Wyoming might have offered the last bit of information on the whereabouts of the girls: the headline read, “Two Nude Female Bodies Found Near Jackson Hole.” The report read in part: “Gunshot wounds to the back of each head seem to suggest an execution style killing. Thus far the bodies remain unidentified.” Maybe it was Shasta and Keishlan, or maybe not. As some wise philosopher has said, karma is a bitch. So whatever they deserve . . . .