"I won!" Ava DiMateo squealed to the heavens, clutching her check between her hands. Glenn Doyle's eyes involuntarily bulged out of his face at the high-pitched tone of Ava's gloat. And then they half-masted as Ava lowered her voice into a throaty purr. "Again." She thrust the check against her chest as if she were trying to wrap it around her whole body, wiggling like a warm lover.
Glenn glared at Ava with sizzling jealousy. He was a hairy yet balding 38-year-old with glasses, short and stout. His apartment was a mess, he was completely oblivious to the fact that he seemed to have been permanently cursed with the stench of Raid and mothballs, and he had virtually no life outside of writing and repairing computer devices. To him, Ava had it all. Short and petite with perfect midnight black shoulder-length hair, creamy smooth skin and lips redder than a summer rose. She seemed to win the Greedsy writing competition at least once a month and had already been contacted by two literary agents - one who was also a publisher - about marketing some of her work internationally. Her apartment was just as gorgeous as she was, always spotless, always designed in Ava's signature red, black and white. Even her love life was great. Glenn was stuck with his pillow stuffed between two mattresses. Ava, on the other hand, had a different "visitor" almost every other night.
"Yeah, well… congratulations again, Ava," Glenn muttered and attempted to push his grocery cart full of broken computers past her. "Gotta go-"
"Thank yooou!" Ava chirped. "Oh, don't look so sad, Glenny! You'll win one of these days, you just wait and see."
Glenn threw a venomous glance at Ava over his left shoulder and continued to walk past.
Glenn used to really like Ava only a few months ago. She was different then. Sure, he knew he bored her and she only kept him around because he was constantly offering her gifts of wine, drugs and money. But he felt that she was the epitome of a woman, that she deserved to be as arrogant and commanding as she was.
One day, in an effort to talk about something he knew Ava would be interested in, he mentioned the Greedsy website. He knew she loved the arts, literature included, and the fact that money could be won for the best story of the week only sweetened the pot for Ava. She immediately joined the Greedsy community and had taken off miraculously. That's when she became annoying, constantly bragging about her winnings and all the compliments she received in that sing-song voice of hers, waving those paper checks in his face. Not once before she began winning the Greedsy competitions had Glenn remembered her ever knocking at his door. Now, she made it a point to pay him a visit and tell him each time a new check arrived in the mail. It had Glenn to the point where he tried to avoid Ava altogether.
Week after week, Glenn could be seen in the living room window of his apartment, writing and working, writing and working, writing and working. And watching. Watching Ava twirl and dance in the street with her blonde-haired friends, her pretty new handbag dangling on its golden chains. Watched as she was ushered into the back of yet another lover's vehicle, watched as a billboard was erected along Interstate 74 marketing the sale of Ava's upcoming book.
What am I missing?, Glenn wondered incessantly. What do I need to do to win - just once? I KNOW I can write. So what's wrong with me?
The questions kept him awake at night sometimes as he lie alone in shadows as thick as blood.
And one night the answer struck him awake out of a sound sleep. Experience. The more real an author can create a story, the more it can not be denied. And the only surefire way to create a real work of art is to build off of one's experience.
Glenn sat up in his bed thinking that night for what seemed an eternity, his heartbeat in his ears and the devil in his smile.
Officer Willie O'Donnell walked into the kitchen through the back door after work, as usual. His wife was at the stove, stirring the lamb and lentil soup with one hand and gripping her cell phone up to her face with the other. He gave her a quick peck on the cheek. "Hiya, honey." She mumbled something and waved him off, went back to stirring the soup. For a moment, his forehead wrinkled. Lately, all she did was immerse herself in that damned phone of hers. What's the big deal?
He held onto the banister of the stairs for a moment and studied his wife. Saw how intensely she was enraptured in her reading, saw how white her knuckles were as she read every word. He smiled wryly and shrugged. Just as long as she was quiet and enjoying herself, why should he care?
Chief O'Donnell went upstairs to bathe. By the time he made it back downstairs for dinner and sat there for almost ten minutes watching Mrs. O'Donnell silently read her cell phone at the table, his patience had run thin.
"You readin' at the table there, Lola?!" the Chief bellowed. "What are ya, raised by wolves or somethin'?!"
Lola visibly jumped, then let out a string of loud, creative profanities. When her heart slowed down, she snapped, "I'm readin', dammit! What's it to ya?!"
Officer O'Donnell began speaking with his hands. "A man comes home, he might as well be invisible. He ain't even good enough to receive five lousy minutes of his wife's time at the dinner table. Well, pardon the bejeebus outta me, your royal friggin' highness!"
"Oh, shush yer gripin', ya big crybaby. I've been readin' the Greedsy website. Told ya 'bout it b'fore, yer just too damned primitive t' 'preciate a community like that. Them's some talented folk, I tell ya. Better'n t.v. I's read damn near every single one of 'em and some of 'em I tell ya'd knock yer teeth right in the back of yer-"
"Yeah, yeah, yeah, I got bigger things t' worry about'n readin' some of yer little fairy gawdmudda stories there, Lola. Never you mind, eh?"
Lola shrugged and went back to her phone, picking absently at her plate with her fork. After a moment, Chief O'Donnell muttered to himself, "Gotta case we've been workin' on that's really got me stumped…."
There was a young lady named Ava DiMateo that had been found murdered at 10:32 p.m. on October 13th. No fingerprints, no witnesses, no leads. The landlord was the one that found her. The groundskeeper had noticed the apartment door was ajar for three days in a row and notified the landlord who, in turn, investigated. Initially, Ava seemed to have drowned in the tub, but it did not take the coroner long to find the crack at the top of her skull. Further examination revealed that Ava must have been struck across the head then placed in the tub to be drowned to death. It truly angered Chief O'Donnell that someone could have done that to such a tiny speck of a woman, but how could he deliver justice to a criminal he couldn't catch? "Sure woulda helped if you coulda left some kinda clue some where abouts, Ava," Chief O'Donnell muttered aloud.
Lola looked up from her plate. "'Ava?' Did you just say 'Ava'?" Chief just glared at Lola as if she had Looney Tunes stamped on her forehead. "Hmm. What a coincidence."
"Meh, what are ya yappin' about, Lola? Yeah, I said 'Ava'. 'S a case I'm workin' on. Nothin' you would know anythin' 'bout." He sniffed and wagged his head in a most superior fashion and pulled the edge of his boxers an inch or two higher over his belly button, feeling quite satisfied with himself.
Lola cut her eyes at her husband. "Yeah, well," she continued, scrolling through her phone once again, "the winner of this week's Greedsy competition wrote a story that would scare the crap outta ya. It's so graphic, so real. The imagination on this guy's just incredible. Name's Glenn Doyle, somethin' or other. Wrote about an Ava DiMaggio or DiMaggoto or whatever have ya. The descriptions, the thought processes, my gawsh. Was almost like you were there, ya know? Guy caught her in the back hall one night while she was takin' out the trash, knocked her out with a pillowcase full of heavy computer equipment-"
Chief O'Donnell snatched the phone out of his wife's hand and knew the exact names to search for in order to pull up the story she was referring to, complete with all the details a law official could ever need to close out this particular case. The authorities had Glenn arrested in the middle of the night, before the day could even break. Quite a few people, including Chief O'Donnell himself, swore they would never forget the way he stood there in front of the judge throughout the entire trial with that maniacal grin plastered to his face, giggling and repeating the same words over and over and over again.
Despite the prosecutor's argument that Glenn was aware enough to explicitly reveal a mental awareness in his short story to justify imprisonment to the full extent of the law, it was eventually arranged for the defendant to be permanently committed into an insane asylum where he could be consistently supervised, monitored and "treated." Glenn Doyle had finally become a Greedsy competition winner. But he had failed miserably at the art of life itself.