Gerald was mad at himself, but he didn't know it. He thought he was mad at something else. He removed his black leather army boots, which held onto his leopard skin socks, and threw them across the floor.
“Why do I let The Nanny talk me into wearing these stupid clothes?” he yelled at himself.
The fur vest quietly hit the window and fell to the floor. Gerald worked at his black rubberized denim clam-diggers but they offered resistance. The harder he pulled on its leg, the more they clung to his leg. He fell backward onto a small table and swore like...Gerald: Shit, fucking shit, piss, goddamn, fucking asshole... By the time he had gotten one leg out he had run through all the English curse words several times and started cursing in foreign languages: Scheiße , merde, i ndyrë, ezel, lanet olsun , hậu môm... By the time his second foot was out, Gerald started cursing in non-sensical language: garrgh, flister mick, bick, fuhstung, blahhhh bak, fertimeigahugen... He threw the aggravating pants on the floor and started cursing at them with his hands and fingers.
It had not been a good day. Everything seemed to be bothering Gerald. He thought everything and everybody was out to get him – to ruin his day. It had never occurred to him that if everything seemed wrong, maybe there was something wrong with him.
He walked barefoot out of the foyer of his huge multi-roomed maze of a mansion and into one of the living rooms. There, on the floor, was a broken vase. “Khua! Mo! Xavier!” Gerald yelled. No response. “You better get in here and clean this up or I'm going to beat your collective asses!” No response. No one was home. Where was The Butler? “Ah,” Gerald remembered, he had fired him that morning – the eggs were over-cooked. What about The Nanny? She now lived out back by the pool in a new combination cottage/cabana. She probably never saw this. Gerald wondered why he ever hired her in the first place. Maybe he should fire her. She can't even keep track of Geraldine, his daughter. Gerald then remembered Geraldine was missing. That made him even more mad at everyone.
“How could Geraldinebe missing? That is so irresponsible,” he said to no one. “That's when this all started, when things started going downhill.” He headed to the first floor kitchen. Mumbling to himself, “Someone wants to make my life suck. That's why they kidnapped Geraldine. I own half this town and most everyone hates me because I'm successful. As if I care? But they are all trying to ruin me.”
He opened the refrigerator to find some dinner. “And now I'm looking for my own food. Fuck, I hate this.” Gerald contemplated going out to Donkey Burger where, being the owner, he eats as much as he wants for free. Instead he grabbed a cold container of something and went to look for a fork. Gerald was unfamiliar with the kitchen. He never cooked for himself, never knew where anything was kept. He thought of himself as the most powerful man in town. He was also the most helpless in his own home. He never found a fork, so he ate what was in the container with a pair of tongs.
Gerald went to look for the dining room. He never found it. He finally came to eat sitting in a chair that was in a hallway. He didn't know if the food he was eating tasted good or bad. Gerald was not concerned about things like flavor. His only concern was that the slight pain in his stomach went away. He could have eaten cardboard or slugs; he wouldn't have noticed. His only driving force in life was to address, in the moment, what he considered inequities for himself.
This style of behavior made him very decisive and pro-active, which led to his wealth. But along with these positive traits came the burden of negative traits, such as an uncaring nature toward others and himself, a pervasive valuing of objects ahead of people, a consuming competitiveness, a heightened sense of paranoia and a serious lack of aesthetic judgment. But lately, it seems that another log had been added to the pile of difficulties: he has been lonely. Gerald is so emotionally incapable of dealing with loneliness that he simply gets mad – at everything else.
From a very early age, Gerald was recognized to be imbalanced and a threat to those around him. So much so that the gods that live in the heavens had determined that he should not be able to procreate. The gods took vigil over Gerald's romantic affairs and made sure there would be no off-spring. They did this by creating distractions, like fires, at crucial moments during intimacy. Although this strategy had its desired effect, the situation only made Gerald more ornery and determined to consummate a relationship. So determined, in fact, that the gods eventually had to resort to much greater measures of distraction: earthquakes, tornados, hurricanes and even plane crashes.
This may sound like a lot of work, but for a god, it is quite a simple matter. But, one day, while the gods were distracted by their once every hundred year kickball tournament, Gerald had about forty-five minutes to unleash his manliness on the world. By the time the gods had realized what had happened, Gerald had impregnated four different women. Nine months later, Xavier, Khua and Mo were born. The fourth child, a girl, was foretold to be so ugly and terrible that Mephistaherodyphia, the goddess of beauty, delayed her birth for an entire year.
Once Gerald discovered that he had impregnated four women, he was satiated and turned his attention to his business affairs. Being the person Gerald is, he was naturally unconcerned about the children, and he abandoned their mothers almost immediately. The gods found this intolerable and determined to manipulate events so that Gerald would eventually be responsible for raising all four of his children. But, in order to help them – and protect them – helpers were sent into their lives. Some would call them guardian angels.
Over the years, although Gerald was not concerned about his children, he became rather used to them. Now that they were older and gone from the house more often than not, Gerald would become lonely. He, of course, did not recognize this feeling. He also did not recognize that his unconcern and rough handling of his children had driven them out of their house. Deep down, beyond his own ability to understand, Gerald was mad at himself for this. His smoldering coal of a soul had been building for months like pressure inside a volcano. It would not be long before there would be no option except to unleash this force upon the unsuspecting and supposedly incompetent and deserving souls of the people around him. This force would not be recalled until Gerald felt emptied, until someone lay defeated before him.
Poor Bartholomew, it seemed like his life was forever entwined with Gerald's and his children's. He would have never asked for what was to come, but there was nothing he could do to stop it.
* * * * *
The Consuming Fires of Gerald, is the 22nd story in The Book of Bartholomew. The story, written and illustrated by Mark Granlund, shares that Gerald is upset and he will not calm down until someone is consumed. Even the gods cannot deny him.
You can see the full-color flipbook version of this story here.