Exquisite Corpse - Issue 4
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by Jack McEnany
Bailey wrote: "Baseless charges from lonely women."

Or were they lonesome women? Lonely, lonesome? He didn't know. He could look it up.

(l`onli) loneõliõer, loneõliõest., adj.
1. Dejected by the awareness of being alone. See Synonyms at alone.
2. Producing such dejection: the loneliest night of the week.

(l`onsm), adj.
1. Dejected because of a lack of companionship. See Synonyms at alone.
2. Producing such dejection: a lonesome hour at the bar.

An interesting distinction, he thought. Are they dejected by their awareness of being alone, or simply by the lack of companionship they suffer? Truth was, some of them were lonely and some of them are lonesome. Some were both.

A lonesome hour at the bar on the loneliest night of the week
. That's where he met many of them. Others carried lonely like the flu and spread lonesome like manure. Bailey never felt more lonely than when he was with Laura. She was a librarian turned lawyer, not in love with the law, not in love with books, not in love with anything. Certainly not herself. She had a regular boy's haircut and doughy cheeks with freckles she covered with pancake makeup. She fretted about her looks and her weight, always trolling for some small expression of praise or respect, which Bailey was quick to bestow.

In fact, Laura looked more like a boy than a woman. Or like a boy and a woman at the same time. But Bailey liked that. So much so he worried over the number of women he was drawn to who fit that description. Was he a repressed pedophile? Or a perderast?

(pd-fl, pd-)
An adult who is sexually attracted to a child or children.

A man who has a sexual relationship with a boy.

Bailey wanted to stress the repressed aspect of the attraction, if in fact it existed at all. So it seemed pedophile would be more apposite than pederast, since pederast expressed an active relationship and left no doubt as to the subject's predilections. A pedophile, apparently, is merely attracted to children. Like a Calvin Klein ad. Pederast, however, specifies boys, as opposed to the more general child or children under pedophile.

In any case, he wasn't explaining away inappropriate behaviour with boys. He was explaining away criminal charges levied against him by thirteen women who claim he charmed them out of large sums of cash. The legal brief referred to him as a "Bluebeard," which struck Bailey as wholly too literate to have been written by Laura, who it is doubtful ever read the novel by Charles Perrault. It must have been an associate at Brown&Long, PA. Someone she assigned to her case; someone not so far removed from academe to forget that a literary flourish, even an inaccurate one, can lend beauty to an otherwise sterile document.

(bloobîrd), noun
A man who first marries and then murders one wife after another.

He never married anyone. And he certainly didn't kill any of them. Quite the opposite in most cases. Though it would have been merciful to put some of them out of their misery. Cindy, for instance -- rich, beautiful and addicted to Percoset. She never missed the money he took. What's more, he was the lone soul in her life who convinced her that drug rehab was preferable to death at worst and eventual prosecution for prescription fraud at best. Now, clean and sober, she wanted him behind bars. Where was the justice in that?

His criminal lawyer (Bailey had asked if "criminal" in that context was a noun or an adjective) gave him a questionnaire with bright-lines from the complaint begging explanations. "Did willfully defraud..."

Willful? Mary Margaret was willful. Bailey was not. Bailey was merely self-directed.

also wilõful (wlfl), adj.
1. Said or done on purpose; deliberate. See Synonyms at voluntary.
2. Obstinately bent on having one's own way. See Synonyms at unruly

He'd met Mary Margaret in a bar and, as it turned out, she was the Typhoid Mary Margaret of loneliness, tipping back scotch until she tipped right off the back of her stool.

"One more drink and you're shut off," the bartender told her. Bailey bought it for her, then made conversation. He'd been watching her for an hour as she scoured a crossword puzzle. When Bailey finally bellied up next to her he saw that only one word had been filled in. Nine across, "Edible tubor," three letters. Mary Margaret had written "dog." He smiled and why shouldn't he? He didn't yet know how willful Mary Margaret was. He didn't yet know the definition of the word.

She was a bit of floozy, big blonde hair, piano legs, an ass that reposed for many, many bottles of single malt. But she laughed more than most. She laughed and slapped the wooden bar. "I'm a psychiatric social worker," she told Bailey. "Have you ever been in a nut house?" He had not. "I work in one and some days, when it's time to go home, I think I should stay."

Her voice trailed off with that admission. And her grin dropped. It was as if she could change her mood in an instant. But that was backwards -- so many of Bailey's initial assumptions were because he could never distinguish between symptoms and causality. Mood-swing was the dynamic force in Mary Margaret's life -- untethered good, bad and crazy moods rolling on the deck, firing cannon balls and kisses at the world.

"Take me home," she said. Bailey offered to get her a cab. "No," she demanded. "You take me home, please..." She pouted. "Now you rotten bastard. Take me home and fuck me." Drunk, willful and lonely was Mary Margaret.

Now, thirty pounds lighter (nearly worried herself herself to death, Bailey supposed), her hair returned to its original chocolate brown, she wanted to rob him of his freedom. Hadn't he put up with her manic and sombre moods, her loud yuks, her large-curd cellulite and her sloppy, silly drunkenness all those months? She even peed the bed once. In return for his tolerance and charm (now used against him as a verb of violence and deceit), Bailey barely got three months walking around money from her sickly social worker's bank account.

Ernestine was Mary Margaret's opposite, an immigrant from Germany unschooled in the ways of American courtship. Petite, reserved and admirable in many ways. Before Bailey, the closest she ever got to an American was an army of occupation not generally known for its chivalrous wooing of foreign women.

Bailey, it seemed to her, at first, was the nicest man in the world. A mensch. They met at a poetry reading in a used book shop, a safe place, a proper venue. The poet spoke evenly of love and of moisture between people, of their sweet smells and crinkly textures. Bailey watched Ernestine subtly squirming in her folding chair, crossing and uncrossing her legs. She wore a boiled wool suit and a hand-painted silk scarf. Cha-ching, his brain said.

Over the next few months Bailey changed Ernestine's mind about American men. He took her hiking in the mountains, chose passages from Shakespeare for them to read together, sent flowers for no reason, encouraged her choose the wine in restaurants and to pay the bill. Eventually, Ernestine dumped him. An odd feeling for Bailey. Perhaps she was wise to his intentions. She looked at him differently, with her eyes pinched half-shut, her mind weighing his words for evasion. That drove Bailey hinky. He would have jumped if she hadn't pushed him.

She's happily married now to an investment banker, a former Olympic swimmer, a trim and handsome man. Bailey had seen them together at Border's, plumbing the aisles for big coffee table books to spread around their no-doubt spacious suburban home. He avoided them, watched them from the café, hid behind a menu when they drifted too near. How can she be mad at him, he thought. What's money compared to happiness?
Elaine, on the other hand, was not happy. She was angry, perhaps the angriest of all. Mostly because she still wanted him back -- despite his pilfering of her daddy's legacy -- a sizable piece of change amassed from his chain of funeral parlors. Elaine loved Bailey and wished desperately to reconcile. That's what she wrote him before the legal unpleasantness began. She was desperate, she wrote, to reconcile.

'des-pur`ut, adj.
1 a : having lost hope <a desperate spirit crying for relief> b : giving no ground for hope <the outlook was desperate>
2 a : moved by despair <victims made desperate by abuse> b : involving or employing extreme measures in an attempt to escape defeat or frustration <made a desperate leap for the rope>
3 : suffering extreme need or anxiety <desperate for money>
4 : involving extreme danger or possible disaster <a desperate situation>
5 : of extreme intensity

She was desperate long before Bailey cruised into her life aboard a ship in Alaska. She'd lost hope after her father died and so, moved by despair, she bought a ticket aboard a boat from which she might throw herself into the sea. She saw herself sinking through sunlit waters, a fallen angel drifting to the bottom of a frozen blue fjord where her sadness would be preserved forever. Instead, she met Bailey and a nearly identical fate.

Bailey rescued her from certain death. She was alone on the bow, standing atop an upturned lifeboat, ready to launch herself into the big cold blue. He quietly came up behind her and snatched her leg, pulling her backwards into his arms like a damsel whose life and virtue he'd spared. She devoted herself to him after that.

He was actually attracted her for a while. She had those boyish good looks, but was otherwise difficult and anxious -- so intense that at times Bailey imagined her to be skin stretched over static electricity. He could never reconcile with any of them, much less Elaine.

, 're-k&n-"sIl, verb
Inflected Form(s): -ciled; -cilõing
1 a : to restore to friendship or harmony <reconciled the factions> b : SETTLE, RESOLVE <reconcile differences>
2 : to make consistent or congruous <reconcile an ideal with reality>
3 : to cause to submit to or accept something unpleasant <was reconciled to hardship>
4 a : to check (a financial account) against another for accuracy b : to account for
intransitive senses : to become reconciled

In fact, it was Elaine's accountant's reconciling her checkbook that led to Bailey's downfall. Elaine didn't care about the money at first, but when she realized that holding his life and liberty in her hands was not enough to sustain Bailey's orbit around her, she advertised for others to join her in her criminal complaint against him. She got the idea from a newspaper story about a Catholic priest who for forty years buggered altar boys with impunity until one came forward. And with that one came another and another, until his list of now-adult victims filled an entire newspaper column. Elaine must have fantasized about an outpouring of public denunciations of Bailey, an endless rollcall of his marks, his prey, his suckers, all queuing up in court to tell their story and add another life sentence to his punishment.

Laura was the first to respond to Elaine's query. She offered the services of her law firm to draw up the civil complaint against him. The District Attorney prosecuted his alleged criminal activities. For his part, Bailey postponed a much-needed trip to Palm Beach.

The newspapers jumped on the story, setting down every lurid and financial detail they could shake loose. The local tabloid dubbed him "Prince Charmer."


1 a : to affect by or as if by magic : COMPEL b : to please, soothe, or delight by compelling attraction <charms customers with his suave manner>
2 : to endow with or as if with supernatural powers by means of charms; also : to protect by or as if by spells, charms, or supernatural influences
3 : to control (an animal) typically by charms (as the playing of music) <charm a snake>
intransitive senses
1 : to practice magic and enchantment
2 : to have the effect of a charm : FASCINATE
synonym see ATTRACT
- charmõER /'chär-m&r/ noun
His lawyer told him remorse and recompense were his only hope. Even then, he would, "most likely do some time."

, ri-'mors, noun
Etymology: Middle English, from Middle French remors, from Medieval Latin remorsus, from Late Latin, act of biting again, from Latin remordEre to bite again, from re- + mordEre to bite -- more at MORDANT
1 : a gnawing distress arising from a sense of guilt for past wrongs : SELF-REPROACH
2 obsolete : COMPASSION

He felt no gnawing distress over his actions, but he did feel he could bite again. And again and again. Remorse then was possible in the proper context. Mordancy. Re-climax.

,'re-k&m-"pen(t)s, transitive verb
Inflected Form(s): -pensed; -pensõing
1 a : to give something to by way of compensation (as for a service rendered or damage incurred) b : to pay for
2 : to return in kind : REQUITE

Actual payment was probably out of the question. It would remain, as does the love in his relationships, unrequited. And for that reason, he may well do time.

,'tIm, noun
1 a : the measured or measurable period during which an action, process, or condition exists or continues : DURATION b : a nonspatial continuum that is measured in terms of events which succeed one another from past through present to future c : LEISURE <time for reading>
2 a : an appointed, fixed, or customary moment or hour for something to happen, begin, or end <arrived ahead of time> b : an opportune or suitable moment <decided it was time to retire> -- often used in the phrase about time <about time for a change>
3 a : LIFETIME b : a period of apprenticeship c : a term of military service d : a prison sentence

Or perhaps he could make recompense on time, the installment plan for the rest of his life. Maybe, with some luck, he'd meet a nice woman who could help him out of this financial jam, someone who enjoyed finer things and pleasant companionship, someone with the means to accommodate them both, someone with short, spiky hair and chubby cheeks.

"Inflict great pain and mental anguish,"
was a phrase Bailey considered unabashed hyperbole, backwards in its orientation, flimsy in its disregard for the obvious facts. Did he inflict their pain on them? Could any of them claim that? Or did he tap their unhappiness and allow it flow onto the ground where it sank, never to be seen again?
First principles of the confidence game state plainly that you can't con an honest man and if that's true, then you probably can't seduce a happy woman. That's how Bailey saw it. He told his lawyer that his case was damaged by the unquantifiable nature of the happiness he'd brought these women. They were far better off when he left them than when he found them. Bailey felt a holistic defense was in order, something that would raise the abstractions of the case, underscore the personal and public service he provided by guiding these women through their difficulties.

His lawyer agreed that his affect on the women was ethereal, but nonetheless, there was a baker's dozen suing him, so it can't have been all good times, shagging on a red carpet and whatnot, could it? Which was why, he told Bailey again, remorse, recompense and a guilty plea to avoid a costly trial were in his best interest now.

(glt`i), adj. guiltõiõER, guiltõiõest.
1. Responsible for or chargeable with a reprehensible act; deserving of blame; culpable: guilty of cheating; the guilty party.
2. Law. Adjudged to have committed a crime.
3. Suffering from or prompted by a sense of guilt: a guilty conscience.
4. Hinting at or entailing guilt: a guilty smirk; a guilty secret. See Synonyms at blameworthy.

Aside from the term 'blameworthy," which to Bailey smacked of a caste rather than a moral or legal conclusion, blame, judicially-speaking was undeniably clear. Clear, even to Bailey, who, according to the judge, didn't draw much value from the experience. Which was why he voided the DA's 18 month plea bargain and remanded Bailey to a 7 to 15 year prison sentence.
Elaine broke down when the judge announced the term of Bailey's incarceration, her inconsolable wails and sobs drowned out only by Bailey's own. He knew their second thoughts were coming, that by the time they got home, remorse will have settled on them like silt on dead bodies in the bay; they would never, in their long, now-potentially happy lives, ever repay him his kindnesses. Guilt would rule their lives once again, as it had before they met Bailey.
I'll wait for you, Elaine said as he shuffled past, manacled, sniffling and twitching.

, w`at, verb.
1. To remain or stay in expectation of; await: wait one's turn.
2. Informal. To delay (a meal or an event); postpone: They waited lunch for us.
3. To be a waiter or waitress at: wait tables.

Bailey wanted to tell her no, to punish her. But, of course, he didn't. Please wait, he whispered, and write and visit and send care packages...put money in my prison account and mount my appeal...work hard and pay off all the others...make my court-ordered restitution so that I can be free again. Free to do as I please.

'plEz, verb
Inflected Form(s): pleased; pleasõing
1 : to afford or give pleasure or satisfaction
2 : LIKE, WISH <do as you please>
3 archaic : to have the kindness <will you please to enter the carriage -- Charles Dickens>
transitive senses
1 : to give pleasure to : GRATIFY
2 : to be the will or pleasure of <may it please your Majesty>
- pleasõER /'plE-z&r/ noun
Email: jmcenany@mediaone.net

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