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Madelynn sucked back a bong rip like a teenager at a house party, “if Checkhov’s gun, were in the box with Schrödinger's cat, would Occam’s razor suggest that it would still have to go off?” she exhaled as she spoke spewing pot smoke into Gloria’s face.

“I have no idea Mads,” Gloria responded trying her best to imitate her friend’s smoking technique without actually inhaling much of the mind altering haze that swirled around the beautiful blown glass object that seemed to take up half of Madelynn’s coffee table.

“I know you’re not inhaling it Glorie I don’t even know why you bother coming over here anyway, it’s not like this is your poison of choice. Hell, I’m not even sure you have a poison these days. What do you do with your time now anyway?” Madelynn sucked back another hit before moving the bong off to a side table beside an ashtray shaped like a human skull and assorted other dingy gruesome treasures.

Gloria started counting off on her fingers her list of weekly accomplishments, “well I work a lot, and there’s school, Brad and I are talking about maybe getting married and moving out to the suburbs, I chair a committee at the university, you know a women’s rights type of thing, and Friday night is lady’s night at bar up the street so a few of us get together there, you know the one I keep inviting you to that you’re never available for?” she tried her best to make the question pointed but the swirling of the dope smoke was making her head swirl and as usual she was regretting coming to visit her oldest friend.

“Yeah bars aren’t really my scene, neither is that women’s lib stuff, I mean don’t we have rights and shit? Like I have the right not to shave my legs or go to lady’s night. I’d rather get high and go to guys night, watch the drunks stumble around an play darts. And I work too ya know!” Madelynn ran her hands across the skull shaped ashtray before picking it up and dumping it’s contents into the waste basket next to her chair.

“Oh I know you do,” Gloria scoffed, “it’s just, isn't working in a head-shop kind of a kids job? I mean we’re both in our 30’s aren't we supposed to outgrow this type of thing?”

Madelynn lit up a cigarette and took a long steady drag, “well first of all I’m the assistant manager of that head-shop and we sell books and clothes and stuff too, plus I get an excellent employee discount and well… I do have some side work you know,”

Gloria rolled her eyes, “yeah Mads, dealing dope to the local kids how noble”

“Hey Glorie, I feed stray cats and keep the kids off of hard drugs by selling them my product at a reasonable rate. I’m practically a pillar in the community!”

“Whatever you say Mads, I just think it’s about time you start thinking about what you want out of life I mean don’t you ever want to get married or have kids or any of the normal stuff? How about getting out of this apartment, you've been here since we graduated high school!”

“Hey listen up Barbie I don’t judge your choices, aren't you still in school? Where’s your husband, and 2.3 children? I like my apartment, I like this neighborhood, I like my crappy job and my weed, why do you even care?”

“I’m less than a year from getting my masters, Brad and I have been dating for 3 years, we’re planning to get married and have a baby or two yeah, I just… I want you to be a part of my life I always thought we’d grown up together!” Gloria raved waving the cigarette smoke out of her face, her cheeks hot with frustration.

Madelynn responded by grinding what was left of her cigarette into the eye socket of the skull tray, “Look Glor I didn't drag you down to the bad part of town you grew up in. I didn't force you to sit in that chair and pretend to smoke with me like back in the day. So why don’t we cut the crap and just tell me what you came here for.”

Gloria sighed exasperated, “I’m pregnant you idiot, and getting married and I want you to be my maid of honor and the baby’s godmother and maybe not be high the whole time you’re doing it!” Gloria blurted out tears tumbling out of the corners of her eyes.

“Aw shit,” Madelynn jumped up and opened a window, then turned on the ceiling fan before flopping down on the couch next to her friend, “Why didn't you just say so! For real? A baby? That’s so cool! I can be crazy aunt Maddy? Wow this is great!”

“You mean it?” Glorie sniffed, “like really?”

“Of course I mean it, you’re my oldest friend! I can’t let you go it alone through uncharted waters! This is going to be amazing! But Glorie I still gotta know one thing?” Madelynn asked with an impish grin breaking through the fog of her mid afternoon daze.

Gloria grinned, “If it’s about Schrödinger's cat in the box with Checkhov’s gun I’m pretty sure Occam’s razor would suggest that the cat is definitely dead Mads.”

“Excellent,” Madelynn replied with a cackle rubbing her hands together, “we’re going to have the coolest baby!”

This is my piece for week 15 of LJ Idol topic: Checkhov's Gun. Feel free to check out the other stuff that's up this week, there are some really great writers out there!
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Nolan fidgeted nervously rubbing the penny between his thumb and index finger. His four year old patience always wore thin by this point in the morning. It wasn't his fault really, or at least that's what Grandma always said, boys will be boys and boys like to run and play, not sit and listen to momma play piano all day. It felt like all day anyway, at least to Nolan.

Momma didn't play as much anymore, so he knew he should be a good boy, sit properly and listen nicely. He mustered up the last of his patience putting the penny carefully into his pocket and sitting up straight. Most days now Momma just slept and went to see Doctor Gallagher. Nolan didn't like the doctor, even though he always had a teddy bear in his office for him to play with and a sucker for him if he'd sat quietly when Momma had to bring him along to appointments. The office always smelled like those horrible mints Grandma liked, Nolan had tried one once and told her it tasted like burning.

His mother slowed her rendition of Moonlight Sonata, even at four Nolan could recognize the notes she missed, her focus was gone. Grandma must have noticed it too because in an instant she was at her daughters side, "Lori that's enough for today why don't you go lay down," said Grandma, her hands grasped firmly on Lori's shoulders as if she were trying to hold the younger woman together.

"I told Nolan I'd take him to the park," Momma replied flatly, Nolan knew the tone all too well, she felt bad, and he never wanted her to feel bad, he wanted her to be happy like she used to be.

"It's ok Momma, Grandma can play in the yard with me," he choked out the words trying not to cry, only babies cried and he was a big boy now, he could count to 100 and jump off of the second branch of their apple tree, he'd had lots of practice climbing that tree.

"Right," Grandma retorted guiding her daughter out of the living room and off to the room she rested in, that room smelled like the doctors office and Nolan seldom went in, even with an invitation from his mother he preferred to stay out in the hallway to talk to her, all the pills and creams and potions that sat on the side tables made him nervous, the room was always dark and somehow seemed colder than the rest of the house.

Nolan tried to shake the image of the dark resting room out of his head as he wandered out into the yard. The hot July sun beat down on the lush green grass, he listened carefully to a small flock of sparrows splashing in the neighbors bird bath chirping and fluttering into the gnarled old apple tree, curved and bent leaving lots of opportunity for climbing. He hesitated at the base of the tree, Grandma tended to worry if he got up too high, especially if he was out by himself and got caught. The path out to the back shed was an old cement walkway cracked and crumbling in places, pieces of it pushed aside by the beginning of an anthill.

The ants loved the cracks in the cement poking their funny little heads up looking for food. Nolan hated the cracks especially in that sidewalk, he used to run up and down, jumping over the cracks, singing to himself not really paying much attention, that was before Momma got sick.

He'd tried explaining it to Margo who lived next door that you couldn't step there anymore, "in fact," he'd said, "just stay off the sidewalk, walk on the grass," he'd told her.

Margo was terrible at following rules, and she'd happily pranced across the sidewalk, cracks and all, while Nolan shrieked at her to stop, "you don't understand!" he'd screamed, "you'll make her worse! It will be my fault, stop it Margo!" but Margo had just stood there right on the biggest crack of them all looking at him with a strange and confused look on her face, and so, Nolan had pushed her into the grass, he hadn't seen the small stick and of course she landed on it scraping her knee. Margo hadn't been over to play since, sometimes though she'd call through the fence in her singsong voice "don't step on a crack or you'll break your momma's back," just to taunt him.

"Are you watching the ants?" Grandma asked. Nolan wasn't sure when she'd come outside but there she stood staring at the cracks in the cement right along with him.

"Do you think it's my fault Momma keeps getting sicker?" he asked tears streaming down his face.

"Oh heavens child no, it's not your fault that your mother is sick, why would you think that?" she replied hugging his shoulders the same way she had his mothers moments before.

"I was thinking about Margo and how she stepped on the cracks and how I didn't stop her and maybe that's why Momma's back is so broken," he whimpered, as the summer sun baked the tears onto his skin.

"No sweetie, that old rhyme has nothing to do with why your mother is sick," Grandma offered reassuringly, "now come on, lets go in and get some lunch."

Nolan looked up at her, but he couldn't make out the expression on her face, he couldn't be sure she wasn't just trying to get him to stop crying, be a big boy again. He took a slow deep breath and steadied himself on his feet, grabbing grandma's hand firmly he walked the path back into the house, watching intently as they both avoided every crack in the pavement.


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