short stories

The Bachelor

“If he doesn’t choose my daughter…” the fine red veins were visible in the backs of Mr. Snyder’s eyes. The retired detective’s dimming lights protruded so far from his face, they looked as if they may fall from their sockets.

As Snyder shook his head, the air held heavy in the severe silence. Then, the shaking stopped. And those two strained optical globes shrunk back under their wrinkly eyelid canopies.

“… I’ll kill him.”

The camera crew had barged into the Snyder Family’s home not 20 minutes prior, and Papa Snyder had already worked himself into a homicidal frenzy, imagining his only daughter’s heart broken by the bachelor and the heinous game show he came from. Show producers decided to cut his couch interview short, at this admission of premeditated murder.

They brought the bachelor into the next family’s home. Maybe Mr. Marsh, Desiree’s dad, wouldn’t be so threatening in the face of his potential son-in-law.

The two sat on the shinily upholsetered couch. Eyes locked. The bachelor, a silver fox called Kent, held the stare to not expose his fear. Mr. Marsh: Zen.

“What is it that you’re planning with my daughter?” He was eerily calm.

“Um, um, I care for your daughter very deeply,” Kent’s velvet tone aimed to cool Mr. Marsh’s concerns.

“But how can you sit there saying you care for Desiree, when you’re currently courting three other women??”

Marsh’s voice rose at the utterance of “women.” To Marsh, Kent was afront to all females now, not just his blood.

“Ummm, that’s just the game.”

“This isn’t a game! This is my family.”

“OK. Cut!” a producer, off in the murk of the makeshift set in Marsh’s living room, called this second segment to a halt. The bachelor’s presence did not seem to help the situation.

In the sanctuary of neutral territory–a bar down the street–they set the lighting for Kent’s talking head atop a barstool.

He looked directly, desperately into the camera.

“I mean, I guess I didn’t expect them to react so aggressively,” Kent’s metallic eyes shifted back and forth looking downward. His whole body squirmed in the backless seat. His voice quivered. His shoulders shrugged. “What did these guys expect?”

“Okayy, Kent,” the producer yelled from off screen.

Kent dismounted from his cushioned perch to meet him. The producer put his consoling hand on Kent’s high shoulder.

“OK, we still have two families to visit. You ready for this?”

“Yeah, I guess so. I signed a contract, right?”

The producer, calmly, carefully: “Yes, yes you did.”

The show’s production van–a white, beat-up, unmarked box–followed two car lengths behind Kent’s chauffeured black car to the third home. Inside the back, black-leather seat, Kent felt the onset of flop sweat, but tried his best to calm his nerves, lull the butterflies in his stomach, and muster the resolve to confront his next would-be in-law. The buttery leather squeaked as Kent sunk into the warm confines of the car seat, the last comfort he’d experience for hours, maybe days.

Suddenly, a strong vibration in his hip startled Kent. The producer was calling.

“Kent, we’re about 10 minutes out from the next house. You don’t have to come in to join Kathryn and her family.”

“So, will I just sit out here like a creep?”

“I mean, it beats risking your health, no? I’ve heard Kathryn’s dad is 6’3″, 250. He’s also an ex-marine.”

“Semper, fuck.”

“Yeah, I wouldn’t go riffing on the Marine Corps’ sacred motto. Actually, forget I said ‘ex-marine.’ Those guys are marines for life.”

“This is not helping.”

“Oh, ya, sorry. Like I said, you don’t have to come in.”

“I really like Kathryn. I can do this.”

“Ooookay.”

INSIDE KATHRYN’S HOME

The family’s in the kitchen. The whole crew’s in the kitchen. Everybody’s trying to separate cowering Kent from Kathryn’s dad Gary, clutching the bachelor’s throat with ferocious, unbridled, old-man strength.

“I’ll rip your head off, you salt’n peppered prick!” The anchor tattooed on Gary’s throbbing forearm bobbed in the warm kitchen light, as this father of three throddled the young bachelor. “If you hurt my daughter, I’ll end you. Do you understand me??”

Gasping hopelessly for air, Kent could barely utter vowels, let alone an affirmation that he’d exchange vows with this angry marine’s youngest princess.

“Well, what is it?”

“Garryyy!” the marine’s wife shrieked from the threshold of the next room. “Let him go! You’re gonna kill him!”

“That’s the idea.”

“Sir, sir!” the producer finally came to Kent’s rescue. “We’re sorry. We’ll get him out of your home.”

The marine finally released his grasp of the now coughing Kent.

“Get him back to the car,” the producer instructed his other crew.

As they ushered the bachelor through Kathryn’s childhood home to the front door, Gary hung back breathing heavily. Veins popped out of his temples. His face, beet red under the overhead light gently swaying from the melee a moment ago. He cradled his heavy head in his hands as his wife consoled him.

“Gary, you gotta control your temper. This is Kathryn’s choice.”

“She doesn’t know what she’s doing. She shouldn’t have to compete for a man. The guy should just know, with not a shred of doubt in his heart. I guess nothing compares to a father’s love for his daughter.”

Gary was now sobbing into his giant meat claws.

Kathryn entered the kitchen from the back staircase.

“Dad, dad! It’s a game show. Do you have any idea what this is going to do for my acting career?”

Gary lifted his crying mug from his mits and looked at his favorite daughter.

“So you’re not in love with him?”

“I mean, he’s kinda cute, I guess. I think you raised a smarter girl than that, though. Daaadd. I’m not an idiot. I’ve made it to the ‘visiting the family’ stage and I still only have a 1 in 4 chance of marrying this guy. Not exactly great odds.”

“You have no idea how relieved I am to hear that, sweetie.”

The last destination on Kent the Bachelor’s family tour was the Jackson home. Gina Jackson greeted Kent, the show producer and crew at the doorway. Wu-Tang played faintly from somewhere inside.

“Hi, guys. Kent, you’re gonna have to tell my dad that you’re gonna pick me. I know that’s not part of the rules. I’m just a little concerned for your safety, okayyy?”

The producer stepped between them.

“Gina, Kent’s just here to meet your folks. We can’t make any promises like that this early in the game.”

As if from nowhere, Gina’s dad suddenly descended upon the frontstep conversation.

“Hey, Kent, if you hurt my daughter, I’ma sew ya asshole shut and just keep feedin’ ya and feedin’ ya and feedin’ ya.”

Deep inside of the Jackson home, the Wu-Tang rang on…

“M-E-T-H-O-D MAN! M-E-T-H-O-D MAN!

A wet spot expanded rapidly in the crotch of Kent’s $120 jeans. He froze, as steam rose from the warm moisture heavily flowing below his waste.

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