The Quandary of Herman Sherman
Warning: This short story (fiction ) is very dark and contains graphic violence and adult situations. It’s out of character for my “normal” upbeat and positive posts.
Herman sat at the end of the elaborate mahogany bar and felt the Crown burning the back of his throat. He didn’t want to get too drunk tonight. He had to have his wits about him. Herman wanted to savor the satisfaction when he found relief for the itch he had been feeling. The nondescript, hole-in-the-wall pub on the edge of town was starting to get crowded, and the wait shouldn’t be too much longer. His eyes scanned the bar, looking for possibilities to ease the anger that burned deep inside him. Some lonely woman would be so drunk that her defenses were down, and that was when he would make his move. He liked those kinds of women, the ones that didn’t have any fight left in them.
While waiting, his mind started to wander. Hell, he wouldn’t have been here tonight if the wife hadn’t pissed him off. She always wanted something from him. He came home from his government accounting job that he had worked for the last twenty years. He was tired and hungry, and she had to start nagging at him. Nagged at him about how the money for this month’s house payment had disappeared. She was fit to be tied. He didn’t like it when she had that flare of spunk. She seemed to have it a lot lately, and that made him very uneasy.
She always used that calm, silky voice of hers when she was angry, stepping carefully around his reaction. “What did you do with the mortgage payment, Herman?”
“I don’t know what you’re talkin’ about,” he told her. Of course, he knew where the money went, but he wasn’t about to tell her. He learned a long time ago how to tell a lie while looking her straight in the face. She had a sixth sense about him and his lying. She was going to figure out what he’d done with the money sooner or later. “I haven’t done anything with the mortgage payment.”
“I took a second job so we could catch up. Even the savings are gone. Three months that money has disappeared, and we can’t be late again. We’re going to lose the house. What are you doing with it?”
He felt a familiar flash of anger and backhanded her across the mouth. She didn’t even see it coming. He liked the element of surprise. The fear in her eyes sent a shiver through him and he felt his immediate erection. He wanted to hit her again, but stopped himself. He would have to save that for later, because losing control on her could get him into trouble.
“Don’t ask me about the money again, Diane. Just get your fat ass in the kitchen and finish fixin’ dinner.”
He noted the tears in her eyes and blood on her swelling lip. He felt a small tug of regret at the edge of his conscience. His feelings for Diane were complicated. He loved her more than he loved anyone in his whole life. She had been so innocent when they met. Sweet. Kind. She still was. She was also beautiful with her long, blond hair and clear blue eyes. Even now, after her hips had widened after three kids and stretch marks mottled the loose skin on her belly, she was beautiful. There was something about her that made him want to be a better person when he was around her. He loved the way she used to look at him. She was convinced that he could accomplish whatever he wanted, and she almost made him believe it. She made him want to be like her. She made him want to please her. They used to be happy way back then.
Diane knew nothing about his growing up with a pathetic whore of a mother, or that his father was an unknown choice of several different men. His mother was a passive woman that let Herman’s stepfather pimp her out to whoever offered the most money for her services. After a few years of marriage to Diane, Herman found out his mother had passed away. That’s when the nightmares started. Vivid ones. Scary dreams that made him relive the reality of his horrible childhood. Memories that he put in the back of his mind and vowed never to bring out again. The dreams made him remember the times when his stepfather entered his room in the dead of night and wouldn’t leave until six-year-old Herman was naked on the floor in the fetal position, whimpering in pain. Memories when his mother wasn’t enough for his stepfather’s friends, and little Herman became the moneymaker in the family.
Herman awoke in the throes of one of those nightmares and reached out for Diane with a deep-seated anger that he couldn’t quench. He brutally plunged inside her, painfully waking her out of a dead sleep. Before he realized what he was doing, she was lying there beneath him with tears in her eyes, silently sobbing.
Over the next few months, when he repeated the rape again and again after his relentless nightmares, he was unable to get the tenderness back with Diane. The remorse he felt was unbearable. In the dark of the night, he sobbed his apology to her after each merciless violation. She would hold him while he cried, but he knew it was from a sense of fear. She lost the luster of love in her eyes, and she drew away from him in the light of day. She closed herself from him, and the intimacy they once knew was nonexistent. He finally realized that he couldn’t change the person he was. There was no way that he could live up to her expectations. He simply gave up.
He eventually got a handle on controlling himself when he awoke from one of his dreams. But a man can only take so much control until he had to find an outlet. Herman’s answer was visiting prostitutes from the seediest part of town. He would usually pick crack-addicted, pitiful women whose minds were in a drug-induced reality. They were the easiest victims of his violent sexual appetite. All it took was a rock from the corner drug dealer, and the whores would salivate to do what he wanted. They were usually so far gone that Herman doubted they even remembered where the bruises came from when the high wore off.
The hardest part was acting like everything was hunky-dory in his normal life. Herman and Diane had learned how to fake the outward appearance of a happy couple and upstanding family. They went to church on Sundays, taught Sunday school, and Herman even served on the church board. The lies bothered Diane, and she started to withdraw from the activities, telling him that she couldn’t do it anymore.
“Can’t do what, Diane?”
“I can’t act like everything is all right. It’s a lie, and something has to change. Neither one of us is happy.” She was right about that, but Herman felt an onslaught of rage.
“Are you saying you want to leave me?”
“I’m saying that maybe we should get some help. Maybe we should talk about separating,” Diane said, already cringing from the anger sparking in Herman’s eyes.
Herman backed Diane into a corner, grabbed her hair, pulled viciously, and hissed through his teeth, “No way will you ever leave me. Do you hear me?”
His spittle rained over her face and she croaked, “I hear you. I’m not going anywhere.”
“The only way you will ever leave will be in a body bag. Or better yet, I will cut you into tiny pieces and nobody will ever find you. Do you understand me?”
“Yes,” Diane answered, tears silently falling down her cheeks.
That was the first time he punched her. Herman found that making her cower was extremely erotic for him. That was when he started discovering how to inflict bruises on her in places that didn’t show. He got such a rigid hard-on from watching her wince in pain and scramble to do what he told her. He realized eventually that he had to stop that behavior. Beating his wife was too risky. There was the slim chance that she could get a backbone and tell someone. So, he learned self control again, and visited his crack whores more often. That’s where the house payments went.
He knew he had to slow down on his extracurricular activities. It was starting to bury them financially, but he was also getting careless. There was always the possibility that he could buy crack from an undercover cop or pick up an undercover cop posing as a whore. His latest visit to the doctor revealed a raging case of the clap, and he was glad that his wife wasn’t interested in sleeping with him anymore. He was sure she suspected his activities, but bringing something like that home to her would reveal all of his true secrets, and he could not afford that.
Tonight, Herman was trying something new. He shook his head to clear his thoughts and became aware of his present surroundings. He realized the pub had filled with a lot more people. He nursed the amber liquid in his shot glass as he scoped out the women at the bar. He wanted one who came alone. He spotted a brunette sitting opposite him and tried to catch her eye. She was definitely prettier than the crack whores he was used to, but probably not pretty enough to have the single men flocking to her side. Finally, she glanced at him and he flashed her his most charming, Sunday-at-church smile. She smiled back at him, and he motioned for her to come sit on the barstool beside him. He felt his pulse quicken and his crotch tighten in anticipation.
“Can I buy ya a drink?” Herman asked.
“Sure, that would be nice. Vodka and cranberry.” Herman motioned for the bartender to give her a double.
The small talk between them was making Herman impatient, but he was gleaning the information he needed. She was new to town and wasn’t quite settled yet. She was twenty-three and it was her first venture out on her own. Her family was out of state. He bought her two more drinks, and he noticed the lowering of her eyelids and the slurring in her speech. She was just about where he wanted her.
“Maybe I should take you home,” Herman said smoothly.
“That would be great. I don’t think it would be safe for me to drive at this point.” The woman actually giggled, and Herman felt irritation stirring in him. He couldn’t wait to silence the bitch in his own unique way.
Herman led his victim out of the bar and into his car. The moment he placed her in the passenger seat and clipped on the safety belt, she passed out. Herman smiled. This was absolutely perfect. He drove out of the city limits, deep into the country, down a gravel lane that his buddies used when they went hunting. He parked the car and tried to awaken the woman. He laughed as he realized he didn’t even remember her name. That made his intentions all the richer.
She didn’t even rouse as he undid her safety belt and tore the buttons from her blouse. She was dead weight as he removed her bra and jeans. When he viciously tore off her panties, digging them deep into her skin, she moaned in pain and opened her eyes. As they widened in surprise, he was frenzied in his sexual need. He dragged her by her feet onto the gravel, and he didn’t stop dragging until the car headlights illuminated her naked body. He wanted to see the fear in her eyes. He needed to see her cower in terror. It suddenly reached his conscious mind that he desired to witness the moment when she realized she was going to die, to see the look in her eyes the moment she knew he was in complete power. Killing her hadn’t been in the plan, but now he was certain that was what needed to be done. He craved the power of achieving this victory over her. Maybe, just maybe, finally he would resolve his unquenchable anger.
When he was finished savagely raping her, Herman beat her until she was unrecognizable. He felt her bones break from his incessant blows, and the sight of her blood drove him to pound her harder with a maniacal, mindless anger. When he was spent, he left her lifeless body in the middle of the gravel road and backed the car out of the lane.
The minute the woman was out of sight of his headlights, Herman started shaking. He felt the bile rise in his throat and stopped the car. He fell to his knees in the gravel as his body wracked uncontrollably to empty the contents of his stomach. He felt unfamiliar tears smarting in his eyes, and realized that he had stopped puking and was sobbing into the silence of the night like a little boy. As he wiped at the tears with his fingers, he saw his skinned knuckles and the blood on his hands. This didn’t feel like it was supposed to. He was supposed to feel good about what he did! Empowered. Instead, he felt such an onslaught of remorse that he thought he might die from it.
He stumbled back to his car and drove to the city limits, crying the entire way. What could he possibly do to take back the last few hours? How could he bring his victim back to life? How would he ever find redemption?
Diane. Yes, Diane. He needed to be enveloped in her arms and feel the comfort only her love could give. He needed to touch her goodness and feel her warmth again. Yes, he would redeem himself by being the man Diane wanted him to be. It would be like this never happened. He would spend the rest of his life making her happy. He would never touch her in anger again. He needed Diane’s love to wash over him and make him clean.
He parked the car in his driveway and ran to the front door. He was disheveled and filthy, his shirt was soaked in blood, and he had streaks of dirt and dried blood on his face and hands. Herman wondered what Diane would think. He didn’t even try to come up with a lie. His first thought was to grovel at her feet and beg her to love him again.
He opened the door and found the house empty, except for a bare minimum of furniture. He ran to the kids’ rooms and found them empty. He screamed for Diane, but there were only echoes. She was gone. She left him. His shoulders sagged in defeat as he sat on their bed, noting the irony of her leaving this particular piece of furniture. He didn’t feel the rage he had imagined. He only felt the acute loneliness, the infinite emptiness. He felt a surging need for self-destruction.
He went to their closet to the locked safe box where he kept the gun. The same gun that Diane hated so much. He wondered now if it was because she feared he would use it on her. He pulled the cold metal out and felt its weight as he loaded it. He screamed into the empty house, “Please love me again, Diane.” Again, the silence reverberated through his veins and the ache in his heart was tangible. Regret. Somewhere too many things went wrong, and it was entirely his fault. His chance for redemption was gone.
“Except for this,” he whispered. He held the gun to his temple and pulled the trigger. The loud crack was the last thing he heard as the darkness permeated his soul.
Written by Dawn Gondeck.