Marshall Payne has led a colorful life. He has worked as a touring musician, music producer, sound technician, a salesman, and a waiter. He has written over 100 stories, appearing or forthcoming in places such as Aeon Speculative Fiction, Talebones, Brutarian, Triangulations: End of the Rainbow and Hub Magazine. You can find more about him at www.marshallpayne.com.br> br>
"You know I didn't mean it, honey," Garth said. "Sometimes I just get..."
"That's what you always say," Cindy replied. "I suppose you'll say it's all my fault, huh?"
"No, no, it's just... I don't know what came over me."
"You never do, Garth," she said, holding back tears. Still, she had found a bravery she'd lacked in the past.
"I promise. Never again!"
Some attribute the negative reputation the fruitcake has suffered to Johnny Carson on The Tonight Show, where he jested that there is only one fruitcake, passed from family to family. A hardened, detestable thing kept in the closet until the next holiday season, only to be pawned off on a relative held in low esteem. Johnny Carson was one of the best-known comedians of the 20th century. He died on January 23rd, 2005.
Last evening Garth had come home drunk, which was odd as Mondays were the only days Garth could usually be counted on to remain sober. Sometimes he would abstain on a Thursday, but that was only because he'd be resting up for a big weekend.
This time, Cindy hadn't even given him cause for an altercation, but that didn't seem to matter.
"Come here," Garth had said.
"Please, honey, let's..."
"I said come here!"
He didn't even bother shaking her before smacking her to the living room floor.
In the year 3982, a mentally-disturbed temporal displacement mechanic decided that the human species was a most vile thing. Determined to do something about it, he pinpointed the exact time when humanity had gone awry. A pivotal moment in human existence. The Great War, they'd called it. Back before they began giving them a number.
Pleased with himself, he sent his deceptively innocuous gift backward in time, and waited for his own nonexistence.
"Where did you hide it?!" he screamed.
"Please don't," she pleaded.
Standing over her, he peered down. "Tell me. Where's my booze?"
When Cindy didn't answer, he started a search. In the kitchen cabinets, out in the garage, in the hall closet. He cursed when an old fruitcake in a tin container fell from the upper shelf and he had to cram it back into place. Finally, he went to the liquor store.
The first mail-order fruitcake was shipped in America in 1913. Though a new form of delivery for the dessert, no one is certain who the first recipient of this canned dessert of chopped candied fruit and dried nuts might have been; records weren't kept as thoroughly in those days. Perhaps it didn't come through the mail at all. Perhaps...
In one of his more rational moods, Garth agreed to seek counseling -- marriage counseling that they'd attend together. It was half Cindy's fault, was it not? After all, they were married and it takes two to have an argument. That was his reasoning.
Eventually Cindy stopped urging that they attend the Wednesday sessions. Afterwards, Garth liked to stop off at a little nightspot they'd frequented while they were engaged. With every belt he put away, Cindy could feel each smack that would come later at home. And they always came.
After Johnny Carson's death, the tradition continued on The Tonight Show, with Marie Rudisill offering various options to fruitcakery as "The Fruitcake Lady." Rudisill was an aunt to the famous novelist Truman Capote. History records that Truman Capote was gay.
"Listen, you fucking faggot," Garth said to the bartender. "I'm going to give you one more chance to serve me a drink or..."
Cindy cringed as Garth said this. Darren the bartender probably wasn't homosexual, merely metrosexual. Still, he wasn't one to be intimidated. There was an altercation, and Darren demonstrated his skill at handling obnoxious customers.
Garth and Cindy left before the police arrived, but she could feel each coming smack as the flashing light of the passing patrol car danced off Garth's fists gripping the steering wheel.
The term "fruitcake" has been used as a derogatory term for a homosexual, but more often as slang for a "crazy person." It comes from the term "nutty as a fruitcake." Anyone who believes in time travel is presumed to be nuttier than a fruitcake. Garth was not a fruitcake. He was just a bad man.
"This time it'll be different," Garth said. "I know I've treated you poorly in the past, but I'll make it up to you. Really, I will."
"Do you mean it, Garth? Do you really mean it?" She had let him off the hook so many times before, but this time she knew it would be different.
"Yes, honey, I do."
Cindy had a friend who was once in an abusive relationship that she'd finally gotten out of. Her friend was quite the cook, always making scrumptious meals for her hardworking wife-beating husband to come home to. Lasagna, spicy chili, her own special recipe for Hungarian goulash. Cindy was the only one she ever told that for months she'd been using dog food as the main ingredient in these tasty dishes, and even after the divorce the man never knew.
"Sit down, honey," Cindy said. "I've made you something special. Seeing as how poorly you treated me last evening, I shouldn't have gone to the trouble, but..." She offered a fey smile.
At the table, Garth said, "A fruitcake. I haven't had one of these in years." And started in on the piece she'd cut for him, eating greedily.
Cindy well remembered the legend of the fruitcake. In fact, she remembered the one stored in the closet that some family member had given them years ago. She'd thought about serving Garth that old, wretched thing, but knew that would never do the trick. Nor would dog food.
Yes, Cindy's fruitcake had a special ingredient in it, one which Garth soon discovered as the beads on his forehead formed and he started gasping for air. He fell to the floor, rasping, "Help me! Help me!"
But Cindy only stood there and laughed. Still, what to do with the body? For now, she'd wrap it in a blanket until she decided how to dispose of it.
In the closet was where she kept such things, storing an old army blanket there that was seldom used. She saw the fruitcake and out of curiosity pulled it down. Just like with Garth, it was time to get rid of this nasty old thing.
There was an interesting inscription on it:
POSTERITY HOLIDAY FRUITCAKE
Ridiculous, she thought. It couldn't be that old. Probably just the year the company was founded. Still curious, she decided to open it and see what was inside. A chore, since it was so old and had never been opened. After a struggle, the top finally came off...
At that instant, time imploded and humanity came to an end.