The Only Possible (Novel Excerpt)

Murphy thought today was a good day to hang herself.

Chapter 1: Murphy

It was Wednesday. Cloudy. A chance of evening showers — although the forecasters were always getting it wrong. Outside Murphy’s window, it hailed burning trousers and sensible shirts. Mark was at it again. Bringing home women while his wife was at work. But this time she cased the apartment because trust, once lost, was nearly impossible to regain. Murphy watched the girl, who barely looked sixteen, fleeing naked down the street. A pair of jeans, a silk shirt, and blue tennis shoes — all aflame and flung out the window — trailed in her wake. The wife screamed it was over and Murphy shut her window because it was Wednesday and she was tired of reruns.

NOW YOU REALLY DID IT! Mark shouted. Their thumping made Murphy’s ceiling shake. And then the fire alarm in their apartment proceeded to blare for the next half-hour.

Murphy had been bold once. Cornered Mark in the elevator and asked him why he did it.

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Do what? He asked, regarding her as if she were a shoe he considered trying on for size. The cleft in his chin was downright indecent.

Murphy glared and said it. You know precisely what I mean — the women in your house.

Well, now. Aren’t you the busybody? Mark said. He gave her one of those long pauses you only see in the movies and when the elevator doors opened, he shrugged his shoulders, stared at the side of her face and said, I’m sick of her rearranging all the furniture.

Five-alarm fires also blared on the television screen. A whole country engulfed in white flames. Pink knit hats battled faux 1939-era mustaches in the streets with their placards and new-age optimism. A father kneeled down and drew a neat square above his five-year-old son’s lip with a magic marker. Good times are here again, he hummed while adjusting a swastika patch on his son’s arm. A camera crew hovered. A microphone inched further into the frame. The father said he needed an iron and maybe some super glue when a woman hissed in his ear sotto voce, Nazi! Later that week, the Nazi would grant an interview to the local paper blaming a rich liberal billionaire for the fact that none of the rich white liberals on his block wanted to come out and play.