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Heather Santo
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angerserves.jpg
Art by Hillary Lyon 2019

Anger Serves a Greater Purpose

 

By Heather Santo

 

 

Kelly paused, her shirt pulled halfway over her head. Humid night air teased the bedroom drape corners, and soft rain pattered through oak leaves outside the apartment complex.

She didn’t remember leaving the window open.

Body tense, Kelly dropped her shirt, the silver locket she always wore thudding against her chest.

Something brushed against the screen, a movement so slight it was barely visible.

Kelly approached the window, stubbing her toe on a box next to the bed.

“Damn it.” The bedroom was crammed with partially unpacked cardboard boxes. She had no idea which contained the flashlight. A rumble of thunder startled her as she knelt at the window, adrenaline chasing away the day’s exhaustion.

Kelly curled both hands into fists, considering.

“Hello? Is someone out there?”

Branches answered, scraping the outside wall. The rain fell harder and the wind picked up speed. Kelly squinted, making out the shape of the oak’s large trunk in the darkness. Something moved under the tree, near the twisting roots, a silhouette darting through layers of shadow.

“Hey!” Kelly said. She reached forward and jerked the screen upward. Rain droplets pelted her blonde hair as she stuck her face through the opening. “Who’s there?”

A flash of lightning momentarily lit up the apartment courtyard. Kelly saw a man running toward the street, the hood of a dark sweatshirt covering his head.

Thunder crashed again, nearer.

“Who’s there?” she yelled again, but the wind stole the words from her mouth and carried them up through the wet oak leaves and into the storm.

#

“It’s been...” Dr. Ward glanced down at the file on his desk. “Six months since your surgery. How are you feeling? Any improvements?”

The patient sat across from him, dark spots of rain drying on his gray sweatshirt. The storm from the previous night had become a steady summer drizzle. The morning news reports warned of potential flooding.

“Okay, I guess.” The patient lowered the hood of his sweatshirt. A white scar flashed at the top of his head, visible beneath his closely cropped dark hair. He fidgeted, not making eye contact and instead looked nervously around the office. Rows of neurosurgery journals filled the bookcases along the wall.

“Well, Jason, your incision seems to have healed nicely,” Dr. Ward said. “And you want to be cleared for work.”

“Yeah, part-time at my uncle’s painting business. It would be good to have a job again.”

Dr. Ward smiled. “Your depression was so bad before the surgery you couldn’t leave your house. I’d say the implant has made a big improvement.”

After a few moments of silence, Dr. Ward tapped his fingers in time with the small clock on his desk. “What about social interaction? Have you tried going out with friends, maybe dating again?”

“I’m still pretty torn up over my last breakup,” Jason said. “That’s what really threw me into the depression. I mean, I’ve always dealt with depression, but…”

Dr. Ward furrowed his brow and waited.

“I did meet up with some friends last weekend,” he said, finally. “A couple guys I know are in a band and their bassist moved away. I went to a practice to see if I’d be a good fit.”

“Yeah? And how did that go?”

“It was okay at first. Felt good to play again.” He stopped, gulped in a breath. “But, something happened.”

“Please explain,” Dr. Ward said.

“Well, I was playing along with the guys, really jamming out, and then I got mad. Like, uncontrollably angry. I stopped playing and slammed my guitar against the wall.”

The young man shifted stiffly.

“It’s like I’m a different person sometimes, you know? Not myself.” His eyes regarded the doctor, pleading for an explanation.

“The implant works through deep brain stimulation, sending electromagnetic impulses to the area that control moods.” Dr. Ward pointed to a diagram on the wall. “Prior patients have had success battling their depression with these implants, but remember what I told you before surgery? Emotions are complex.”

“Yeah,” the young man mumbled.

“My recommendation is to engage in a period of introspection. Understand that your anger cannot be suppressed and is serving a greater purpose.”

Jason nodded, but his expression remained dubious.

“Don’t give up on being social, either. Try to meet new people.” Dr. Ward motioned at the framed photo on his desk. “My wife likes that coffee shop across town, says it’s a popular hangout. Maybe you should check it out, try to strike up a conversation with someone.”

“Yeah, maybe.” The tension in Jason’s jaw relaxed slightly.

“Tell you what.” Dr. Ward closed his file. “I’m going to clear you for work, but let’s do another follow-up next month.”

#

“Do you think it was your ex?” Amber asked. She opened her umbrella as they left the coffee shop, holding it slightly to the right to shield both herself and Kelly from the rain.

“I don’t know,” Kelly said. They stepped into the puddle-filled parking lot. “I haven’t heard from him in a while. I don’t want to jump to conclusions.”

“Did you call the police?” Amber hit the button on her keys, unlocking the car.

“Yeah, they sent a patrol car over, but the officers didn’t find anything. They told me to call back if it happens again.”

“Well, that’s goddamn comforting,” Amber snorted. “If it happens again.

“Yeah.” Kelly’s voice was distant. Amber glanced over, noticing rivulets running off the umbrella and staining her friend’s hair a dark honey color. She was clutching her locket with one hand and staring at an old, blue Chevy truck parked next to Amber’s Honda. There were cans of paint in the bed, rain bouncing off the metal lids.

“Hey,” Amber said, snapping Kelly out of her reverie. “You okay?”

Kelly nodded.

“Why don’t you stay at my place for a few days?” Amber suggested. “It would make me feel better, too. We can binge-watch Netflix and eat junk food.”

“Really?” The worry that had clouded Kelly’s eyes broke. “I’d love that, but I don’t want to impose.”

“Oh, please,” Amber insisted. “What are friends for?”

#

Jason exited the coffee shop, tossing his mostly full cup into a trash can before running toward the blue truck.

The engine of the old C10 clunked once, twice, then roared to life. Jason lowered the hood of his sweatshirt, slid the truck into gear and reversed. The paint cans in the bed rattled and the rain sluiced over the windshield. Cursing, he hit the wipers and gunned out of the lot. He was fifteen minutes late for his first job.

The fingers of his left hand went unconsciously to his head, rubbing at the scar, as he wondered how he’d lost track of so much time.

Traffic moved at a steady pace just below the speed limit. Jason weaved in and out of both lanes, fitting into spaces just wide enough for the truck.

He noticed a red Honda, the brunette driver moving one hand animatedly as she talked. A gap widened in front of the red car, and he whipped the truck to the right, cutting off the brunette. His eyes darted to the dashboard clock.

A horn blared. Jason flicked his eyes up to the rearview mirror. The woman driving the red car jabbed her middle finger in his direction. She signaled, squeezing into the fast lane and attempted to pass. He looked left, locking eyes with the blonde woman in the passenger seat.

Jason was swallowed by a hot, feverish rage. The scar on his head burned. Paint cans jostled around in the truck bed.

The Honda found room to cut in front of him, the brunette’s middle finger still waving.

Fucking bitch,” he shouted.

A bolt of lightning tore across the sky like a brilliant, jagged arm. Jason slammed his foot onto the accelerator, and the truck’s ancient engine struggled to power forward. The rusted front bumper of the Chevy made contact with the back of the Honda, splintering a taillight.

Thunder boomed over the highway. Jason accelerated again, ramming the red car a second time.

Nearby vehicles backed off from the left and behind. Jason swerved into the fast lane, the top of his head erupting like a live volcano. With one last, fleeting glance at the two women in the Honda, he turned the wheel sharply, slamming the passenger side of his truck into the red car.

The Honda flipped off the highway, rolling sideways once, twice, and then coming to a stop on its roof in the grassy area off the shoulder. His rage not yet spent, Jason cut to the right again, jamming his foot on the brake. Cars veered around as he threw the truck into park on the shoulder and hopped out, leaving the driver’s side door wide open. There was a tire iron in his hand.

Bloody and broken, the brunette’s body hung partially outside the driver’s side window. The blonde had managed to free herself from the wreckage, one leg bent at an extreme angle. She moved at a crawl on her stomach. Rain fell in buckets, leaving a red trail in her wake.

Jason raised the tire iron. The blonde girl screamed and rolled onto her back, shielding her face with both arms.

Lightning slashed at the sky, and for a moment an image of the tire iron was reflected on the surface of the silver locket around the woman’s neck.

He swung his arm down with the next crash of thunder.

#

Dr. Ward sat patiently, tapping his fingers in tempo with the small clock on his desk.

There was a light knock at the door.

“I’m sorry to bother you.” His receptionist stood outside, steel gray hair wound into a tight bun. “The police are here, they need to speak with you.”

“Show them in.”

Two officers entered the office, uniforms wet with rain. The taller officer removed his hat, expression solemn.

“Dr. Ward, I’m sorry to inform you there’s been an accident on the highway. We can’t share details at this time, as the incident is still under investigation, but your wife has been killed.”

Dr. Ward took a step back, steadying himself on the desk with one hand.

“Killed?”

The shorter, younger officer shook his head sadly.

“We know you and Mrs. Ward were in the process of a divorce, but decided it best you were given the news in person.”

Dr. Ward swallowed thickly. “I appreciate that, officers.” He retrieved a business card from the desk. “Will you please keep me updated on the investigation?”

The taller officer tugged on his hat and took the card. “Of course.”

The door shut behind the officers. Dr. Ward remained standing for a few moments, studying the brain diagram on the wall. He then took a seat behind the desk, picking up the framed photo of a blonde woman.

A silver locket hung from her neck.

“Divorce hurts. Doesn’t it, Kelly?”

It had almost been too easy. He recalled what he had told Jason earlier that day.

Understand your anger cannot be suppressed and is serving a greater purpose.

         Thunder boomed and Dr. Ward smiled.


Heather Santo is a chemist living in Pittsburgh, Pa with her husband of three years, two dogs, four cats and a pet tarantula. In addition to writing, Heather devotes her spare time to photography, painting and world travel.

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