The Waterbed

Damn right Tara wouldn’t let Jim get a waterbed, even though it was his kinky heart’s desire. They had a big argument over it that blew up out of nowhere, so Tara felt compelled at that point to tell Jim the story she hadn’t really wanted to ever share with anyone. She told him she had once had “a really bad sexual experience” on a waterbed. Tara wanted to stop there with the story, but Jim got the wrong idea on that, and she had to explain that no, it hadn’t been forced sex. Then she realized it must be time for the story to finally come out of that deep recess inside her where she had buried it, so Tara just told him everything. “This was back in the early nineties,” she began. She and her high school boyfriend had dared each other to “do it” in an abandoned funeral home that many of the older kids used as a hangout. Sackler Funeral Home had been empty since way back in the eighties. The entire family of four (there were two young daughters) had disappeared after the IRS came calling for dear old dad. Law enforcement searched for the tax cheat for years, but he was never captured. There had been an unsubstantiated sighting of the family in Ireland, but nothing came of that. Despite being seized, the property never resold, probably because it’s harder to sell a place like that with everyone knowing its history and people just not wanting to live in a place where corpses were embalmed. Kids largely stripped the place of its contents over time, but you could still see some horrific tools in the embalming chamber. Weirdly enough, most of the furniture was intact. Windows had been broken out by vandals throwing stones, so in winter the place was freezing. But it had been summer when her boyfriend had dared her. So the teens found themselves in the master bedroom high up in the mansion on a sticky July afternoon. Tara remembered hearing birds chattering in tall trees of the funeral home’s overgrown backyard. Hardly a serenade. Just weird, angry bird cries. The windows had not been broken out in that room. Quite miraculously, nobody had savaged the waterbed either, which still held its water! Tara figured it was because kids liked to get high and make out while riding the waves. Waterbeds are relatively uncommon today, Tara pointed out to Jim. But they had been very popular back in the eighties. After some seriously stoned kissing, she and Brad did it on that waterbed. She said the room had smelled sickly sweet, so bad that Tara nearly lost her cookies at one point. Brad had told her it was no big deal, that a girl must have “just gone apeshit and sprayed an entire bottle of perfume” to freshen the room. They had rocked upon the waves as they finished up, but it had been an awful experience for Tara. Brad had loved it. He said through a satisfied leer that he couldn’t wait to buy a waterbed for his bedroom. Tara figured the waterbed must have been falling to pieces, as she could feel parts of the plywood frame jabbing her in the back when she moved around on the large mattress. They ran out of the house, Brad laughing and Tara giving him a strained look. They broke up the week after that, she told Jim. He stared at her blankly. He really didn’t get what was so horrible about the whole experience. He didn’t want to be insensitive, but he couldn’t resist asking, “Is there more to this story? You were seasick? Or is there something you’re not telling me, love?” Tara stared into his eyes for a few seconds without saying a word. She was searching his eyes for something. The strangest smile crossed her face then, an involuntary one that Tara didn’t even know was there. “Well,” she said, “It’s obvious you didn’t see the story in the news a few years ago.” Jim shook his head. “Well, dear, they finally found old Montgomery Sackler. Living out in California, not Europe. His wife and two grown daughters were not with him. In fact, they were nowhere to be found. They grilled Montgomery and finally he confessed it all, even told them where their bodies could be found.” Jim’s eyes darkened, but he was still not quite there. “You mean…they were in that house?!” “Yes, darling, but not just in that house. The other Sacklers were in three triple-sealed body bags. They had been limed and their bodies had just liquidated over the years. They were found under the large waterbed in the master bedroom.

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William Keckler

Writer, visual artist. Books include Sanskrit of the Body, which won in the U.S. National Poetry Series (Penguin). https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/532348.