William Quincy Belle
Murray looked at the clue for seven across, Movie award, then looked back at the puzzle. Five letters. He silently spelled out O-S-C-A-R. It fit. Nevertheless, he used a pencil as it paid to be cautious. He never knew when a crazy letter combination would trip him up.
Murray leaned forward and reached for his coffee. It was a lazy Saturday morning. His wife was out running errands, so he had time to indulge in his pleasure, the weekly puzzle. He leaned back on the couch, propped his legs up on the coffee table, and adjusted the folded newspaper against his left thigh. He searched out seven down when a slight movement caught his eye: A fly darted along the upper-left edge of the paper. Murray flicked his hand, and it flew away.
Seven down was defined as Furnace fuel, three letters. Since the O of Oscar was the starting letter, the answer seemed to be oil, but Murray checked the other definitions, to make sure. As he read the other clues, something moved in his peripheral vision. The fly walked along the upper-right edge of the paper. He gave it a half-hearted swipe, and the insect disappeared.
He leaned forward and took another sip of coffee, savoring the java. It was a wonderful morning: no work, no reason to rush off. He settled back into the cushions and studied the clue for fourteen across. Nothing obvious came to mind, so he looked at the puzzle grid. His brow furrowed when he saw the box labeled fourteen was already filled in, but he couldn’t recall having written anything. As he stared, confused, the black mark in box fourteen moved. His eyes widened as the fly stirred. Startled, he shook the paper before propping the paper back up against his leg and examining the crossword. Box fourteen was now empty.
As he was about to pencil in his answer, Murray stopped and looked around, wary. His eyes roamed over the upper edge of the newspaper, up and down the left and right sides, and across the middle, settling on the crossword. No fly. He half-smiled at his foolishness and raised his pencil. Something zipped in front of his face. He printed a capital I before moving to the next box. Once again something whizzed by. He printed the letter L. He lifted his pencil from the puzzle with a satisfied smile, when he heard a plop. The fly had touched down in the middle of the crossword. He pursed his lips: this creature seemed determined to ruin his leisure activity. It had to go.
He put down the pencil and brought his hand back to the paper. He cocked his middle finger against his thumb and came up behind the fly. It moved. He froze. It took a few steps and became still. He waited a moment then flicked his finger, catching the insect and launching it into the middle of the room. He grinned and took another sip of coffee.
The smartphone on the table rang. Murray pushed a button and held the device to his ear. “Hello?” He glanced at the clock in the kitchen. “Eleven would be great. Don’t forget; I’m taking you out for brunch today.”
He looked at the crossword as he listened. “My treat. I want to try Alfred’s Café. I’ve never been there, and somebody at work said their eggs benedict is to die for.”
He glanced at fourteen across a five-letter word, starting with I, meaning Stupid person.
“I’ll see you shortly. Love ya.”
He ended the call, lost in thought. What was a synonym for Stupid Person? He put down the phone and picked up the pencil.
As he contemplated the answer, he noticed the fly crawling around the upper corner of the grid and slammed his hand down. The sharp end of the pencil tore through the newspaper, stabbing his thigh. He yelped and jerked his leg as something ripped.
Murray rubbed his leg and examined his pants for a hole. He couldn’t see anything but continued to massage his thigh. “Geez. That hurt.” He took a sip of coffee and settled back, determined to finish his crossword. He positioned the paper on his thigh. The newspaper had a gash running down the middle of the page and right through the crossword. The puzzle had been ripped in two.
His eyes widened, and he pursed his lips. “Why, you little …” He twisted his head around, seeking the object of his displeasure. A black dot moved on the wall. He set down the newspaper and pencil and picked up a magazine. He held it with two hands, rolling it into a tube.
Murray crept up on the dot. At the last moment, he swung. The magazine scraped along the wall, hitting a picture frame. The entire painting shifted, and the wire support slipped off the nail. As the frame fell, one end knocked into the arm of a straight-back chair, shattering the glass.
He glared at the shards of glass spread over the floor. A flush crept up his face, and he turned back to the room. His gaze darted back and forth, looking for the insect that had ruined his morning. He couldn’t see it. He revolved on one spot, surveying the room until a movement caught his attention. The fly walked on the ceiling over the entertainment center. He rushed over and jumped. He flailed the magazine at the fly but couldn’t reach it.
Murray placed a foot on the first shelf and tested his weight. He reached up to the top shelf for support, took a step up, and tilted his head up to look for the fly. It was still on the ceiling. He raised the magazine, trying to maintain his balance, and swung at it. As the insect flew away, he felt something wasn’t right. The bookcase was tipping. He jumped out of the way as the entertainment center toppled over with a crash. The television smashed as it met the hardwood, books, and knickknacks scattering across the floor.
Murray threw up his arms and yelled in frustration, rushing back and forth, looking at the mess from different angles. He glanced at the clock in the kitchen then stared down at the fallen bookcase. He slapped his forehead. His wife came home in ten minutes.
Something flew in front of his face, and he saw the fly flitting back and forth in a stream of sunlight coming through the kitchen window. Without taking his eyes off the insect, his hand tightened on the magazine.
He rushed into the kitchen, waving the rolled-up magazine like a club. Up. Down. Left. Right. The insect evaded his best efforts though he struck enough times to kill a horde of locusts. The sound of his panting buzzed in his ears. He bent over and put a hand on each knee, trying to catch his breath. Was it done? Had he extinguished the bane of his existence?
Something flew across his field of vision, and his eyes fell upon the fly as it landed on top of the refrigerator. He raised the magazine, strode three paces, and beat the top of the appliance. He grabbed the refrigerator handle as his foot slipped on the linoleum. The magazine swept across the top of the fridge, pushing several containers against the wall. He lost his balance, and as he fell against the door, the entire refrigerator shook. A flour container bounced against the wall, flipping onto its side. The top of the container flew off, flour pouring over the edge and onto his head. Sputtering in rage, he brushed a hand over his face.
Murray blinked and looked down at the front of his shirt. It was covered in white powder. He heard a key in the front door when he spied a black dot on the wall by the window. He snuck toward his quarry as a voice from the front said, “Honey, I’m home.” The dot remained fixed. He slammed the magazine into the wall, hitting the end of a decorative shelf and launching several pieces of pottery into the air. They arced through glinting sunlight before smashing on the linoleum floor.
He looked at the end of the magazine. The oozing remains of the insect stuck to the page. He turned to see his wife standing in the middle of the living room, eyes wide, jaw dropped. Murray half-spit, half-blew flour from his mouth and held up the magazine. “Look, sweetie. I killed a fly.”
With the magazine still up, he looked around, surveying the devastation and his eyes lit up: a five-letter word, starting with I, meaning Stupid Person.
William Quincy Belle is just a guy. Nobody famous; nobody rich; just some guy who likes to periodically add his two cents worth with the hope, accounting for inflation, that $0.02 is not over-evaluating his contribution. He claims that at the heart of the writing process is some sort of (psychotic) urge to put it down on paper and likes to recite the following which so far he hasn’t been able to attribute to anyone: “A writer is an egomaniac with low self-esteem.”
You will find Mr. Belle’s unbridled stream of consciousness floating around in cyberspace.
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Photo: The Passion of Creation by Leonid Pasternak (1862–1945), Russian post-impressionist painter