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July 2010 Volume 12 , Issue 7 submit to us!
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Chateau+Frankenstein
by Craig Gehring -- Contributing Author [Email This Story]

My first novel to hit the bestseller lists concerned a billionaire who lived like a pauper. He refused the temptations of the material world and dedicated his fortunes to charity. He was a modern day Buddha. A woman fell in love with him thinking he was poor, married him, then learned he was rich and summarily divorced him because he refused to spend some of his wealth on her.

My favorite line in the book was, "You can play Buddha all you want, toots, just so long as I get a temple."

My second favorite line was, "You can take that temple and shove it."

The moral of the story was that it's possible to eventually be happy without material things. It's how much you help others that counts.

Which is why I experienced great trepidation when my wife decided to design our new house.

I'm no Buddha, but I'm no hypocrite either. It felt somehow sacrilegious to use my book about charity and giving to build my own "temple."

We did agree to a budget. $500,000. That buys a lot of house in Louisiana.

"That's good enough for a temple," I argued. "And that still lets us have some financial freedom in our future."

She leaned over and whispered in my ear, "Freedom is now." She had a manic gleam in her eye.

She just wanted to add a zero, that's all. After all, my next novel is hitting the bookshelves in just a month and she's had to live in an apartment for so long that she hears neighbors' toilets flushing in the middle of the night that aren't even there.

$600,000. We agreed.

Still, I feared. I would be away for two months on a marathon book tour.

My wife could topple the Eiffel Tower with her bare teeth in two months. She could dismantle the nuclear armaments of North Korea in half that time. In two months, she could hunt down and kill Osama Bin Laden and still have time for a pedicure.

I feared.

Needless to say I was shocked when she emailed me the estimate. I'll never forget the moment. I was laying in my Holiday Inn Express bed under ten comforters with the air conditioner cranking at fifty, just the way I like it.

(Yeah, if they're going to bill me $89.99, I'm going to milk that room for every amp I can get.) (It's like an all-you-can-eat energy buffet.) (I leave the lights on there, too.) (And all that about recycling your towels -- that's B.S.)

I heard a "ding." I pulled up my iPhone. I furiously pinched and swiped down to the bottom line of her email.

It said, "$350,000." I read the number twenty times.

I screamed, "Yes!" over and over. One of my Holiday Inn neighbors called and told me to get a room.

I had survived my wife's "freedom phase." I could write in peace for the rest of my days with nary a financial woe besetting me. I could have my art be art and not always monitored by that harshest of critics: the buck.

Or so I thought.

I am ashamed to say that I was so gullible as to even write my wife a long, inspired, affectionate reply detailing her many virtues, chief amongst them, thriftiness. (Is thriftiness a virtue? It is in Boy Scouts.)

She emailed back that I would be especially happy to know that it was a rush estimate. The house would be done by the time I finished my tour.

Thank God! No long nights in front of Home Depot paint chips acting like I can distinguish really pale white from really really pale white. No surprise visits in my study transforming momentary flashes of inspiration into a debate over the intricate balance of power between tile and wood. No home improvement. I could just walk into my study, sit down at my computer, and write. And not have to write for a very, very, very, very long, succulent, delicious time.

She picked me up from the airport. I asked her if she had gotten Botox. She told me, "No." She was just really happy to see me and to finally have the opportunity to show me the house.

I felt like a fat man was smoking a Cuban cigar in my stomach and rubbing out the butts on my small intestine.

"What's wrong?" she asked. "You look funny."

I didn't look funny. I looked like I was going to hurl.

The last time she had her Botox face going on, she had transformed my study into a "drawing room." And no, that's not a place where you go and draw, as I quickly found out.

I knew this would be far worse than the incident concerning the room with the misleading name.

She took us the wrong way on the interstate. We soon exited.

"We live in Baton Rouge," I reminded carefully.

"We live in Metairie," she corrected.

Cuban cigar man flicked burning ashes up my throat.

"What?" she retorted to my silence. "You can write anywhere. I like Metairie."

She drove us into an outrageously expensive neighborhood. She drove us to an outrageously expensive house. She passed that one up. She drove us past an acre of manicured grass.

"Are we on a golf course?" I asked.

"That's our front yard," she said. That's our front yard. I will occasionally interject italic echoes of what she said during this part of the story in order to emulate my mind at the moment of impact.

"That's our chateau," she said.

"What's a chateau, exactly?" I asked. She rolled her eyes.

I still didn't know what she meant by "chateau."

Then I saw it, just beyond an ancient grove of gargantuan, moss-bearded live oak.

I felt like I was walking onto the set of Gone with the Wind. I felt like I wasn't in Kansas anymore. I was mixing up old blockbusters with wild abandon, and it was all I could do to keep myself from rending my clothes and gnashing my teeth. I was about to go biblical on her.

This was an old Southern plantation on crack. This was a Southern mansion with pillars the size of God's dough rollers. I mean you could roll enough dough to feed Africa with those bad boys.

Apparently, the definition of "chateau" is "domiciliary monstrosity."

At the side of the house was a stable as large as our first apartment. I think I saw horses, but I wasn't sure. I spared myself by covering my eyes.

"What's wrong?" wifey asked.

"It's really bright," I said. In hell.

"Do you like it? Isn't it wonderful? Let me give you a tour."

She tugged at my arm like a little girl wanting to show off her prized collection of ribboned and nail-polished hermit crabs.

I asked her, "How did you build all this for $350,000?" I sounded like a robot. Actually, I sounded like a robot trying to sound like a robot. I was stiffer than a corpse in a blizzard. "And was that a real horse?"

"Do you like it?" she asked. "That was Lucille you probably saw. She's got six brothers and sisters. I couldn't bring myself to break up such a happy family, you know." Six brothers and sisters.

She pulled me along. I felt an irresistible force dragging me through the door. I saw black. I was getting sucked in by a black hole. Not a Star Trek black hole with lots of light that just spits you into the past all in one piece. That would have been quite fortunate, actually. No, this was an all-consuming, black black hole that threatened to engulf me and crush me into a sea of my constituent quarks.

I found myself in the kitchen. It had 20 foot ceilings. It had cabinets that reached all the way to the top. I imagined myself donning mountain gear to pull down the salt and pepper from the precipice.

"Isn't it beautiful?" she asked. She turned to look for my response. My head had started bobbing "yes" and then "no", "yes", then "no" alternately on automatic. She saw one of the yes bobs and clapped her hands and skipped. "Come this way!" she squeaked, tugging me up the stairs. "This is my favorite."

We walked into a room that in any sane person's home could have made up a master suite. It was my wife's closet. It displayed two intimidating Great Walls of Fashion.

"Are these all your clothes?" I asked. I asked the question inaudibly. That way I wouldn't have to hear the answer.

"Watch this!" she said. She pressed a concealed button. The right Great Wall rolled across the room to join the left Great Wall. We now stood in a closet of informal wear. I recognized whole lines from department stores. Some outfits were lined up in several sizes.

"Why some of the same clothes in different sizes?" I asked.

She shrugged. "I liked the way they looked. Supporting the designer. Besides, with all the work on the house, you don't think I had time to try them on, do you?"

The Walls shifted. A rainbow of shoes paraded before my eyes. "What just happened?" I asked.

She showed me where the button was. "These are electric-powered rolling files. I had them refitted to hold clothes. They're the same machines they use in the Library of Congress," she said.

The Library of Congress.

"I thought you'd really appreciate how much space it saves," she said.

The Library of Congress.

"You're going to love this," she said. She tightened her grip on my hand and led me up another flight of stairs. "Ta-da!"

It was my study. I must admit, it was pretty nice. A solid oak desk, complete with ink blotter. My computer was already set up. Real wood paneling everywhere. The room was majestic. She'd even hung some dead animals from the walls. The shelves were lined with a vast collection of my favorite books, and the view was superb.

"This is really nice, honey," I said.

"Yeah? Well, I haven't shown you the best part. You're gonna love this." She pulled a remote control from the bookshelf. "Stay here."

I stayed here. That was easy. My legs felt like two telescoping light saber toys in the process of un-telescoping. I had no desire to experience any more of my wife's Chateau Frankenstein.

She closed the door behind her. I heard her voice echo through the whole room.

"Hi, honey. Do you see me?" she asked. "I see you!"

As I reached for the door, it locked with an ominous click that reverberated just like her voice. I couldn't get out.

"Nah-ah!" she said, giggling. "You haven't reached your word count for the day!"

I felt like the hero in the scary movie who thinks he's just escaped from certain death only to have the tense background music start again.

"My what?" I asked.

"Honey," she said, "do you know how you're always telling me that if you could just concentrate, if you could just not be distracted, if you could just stay disciplined, you could write better?"

I saw the black hole again.

"Well, I solved it. I had them install this. I can lock you in from the outside, check on you now and then with this surveillance system, and not let you out ‘til you hit your word count!" she explained cheerily.

The black hole grew larger. I muttered something about why.

"Well how else do you expect us to pay for this house? My cross-stitching?" she yelled. I could imagine her hands on her hips.

I reached the event horizon. The black hole got me. The floor got my nose, but I didn't realize that until I came out the other side of the vortex.

It was a Star Trek black hole after all. The wormhole led to two hours and forty-two minutes into the future, to a white bed in the emergency room.

Apparently, my wife lacked the foresight to install an E.R. in the house, complete with surgeon, nurse, receptionist, and medical coding specialist.

I later learned that she did have the foresight to install two Olympic-sized heated swimming pools (in case we ever get around to having our two kids, and they each want a pool to themselves, in January, because "sometimes siblings can be so sibling rivalrish with one another").

I also have no one else to thank but my wife for the room full of marble sculptures ("just like Colin Firth had, to win over that other girl -- what was her name? Jane Austen? Keira Knightly? Oh, well, that girl.")

We even have a chapel in the southeast corner. ("I had to do something with that room.")

What of that $350,000 estimate? "Oh, that was for the materials for the framing for the main building. Oh, you need to learn to read the fine print, honey. It was clearly written on an email I drafted but never sent."

"Didn't you need my signature for the mortgage?" I asked.

"Oh, I got that," she said, swooshing an imaginary pen through the air.

I asked her other questions, but only when I was alone in my study. I don't know if she picked them up on her surveillance system or not. I did ask pretty quietly.

Now I am but a ghost in my own mansion. I have a sixty hour work week. I had that before, between managing a restaurant and writing. Now I have sixty hours of solid writing, locked away in my wooden casket, my only company decapitated deer and my books.

Many days I do like that lock, by the way.

And sixty hours of writing in a week, while it can be grueling, definitely has its benefits.

There's an upside to everything. Recent events have inspired me to dash out a new book at breakneck speed. You see, it's a project I can really relate to. It only took me a month to finish the whole thing, and not just because I was locked in my room.

It's like Misery, only the author is married to the psycho, and she's not his fan. I dedicated it to my wife. I call it, ‘Til Death Do Us Part, though my editor wants me to change the name to I Wish I Were Dead. He's always been a grim sort of fellow. I prefer to see the glass one-twentieth full.

 
 
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Features -- July 2010 -- Mid Month Issue
 








Craig Gehring
-- Additional Work --