Getting Rid of John and Martha

If you’ve taken my online creative writing course Beginning Writers Workshop, you will remember the characters of John and Martha.  Yes, they were once a happy couple, but then they divorced.  Unexpectedly, they met on a snowy curbside as John stepped off the bus that Martha had been waiting for.   You know the rest. 

Since these two were the basis of an assignment on point of view, they have had more incarnations than Madonna.  If my calculations are right, over 7000 versions of their meeting have been written.

By popular demand, John and Martha must be laid to rest.  It is your job to get rid of them both, as creatively as you can.    

18 responses to “Getting Rid of John and Martha

  1. Oh, this should prove interesting… I’m off to Denali (that’s Mt. McKinley to your southerners) for a week, but I’ll be back to hear all about J&M getting bumped off.

    • Hey Gullie, We absolutely loved it there! For a mountain that is supposedly so elusive, we saw it nearly every day for a week. Breath taking. Will you go out on the green busses to hike? Our favorite place is Polychrome Pass. Have a great time!

  2. Ha! I knew this would please you, Gullie. Have fun in Denali. I hope to get there someday. While you’re hiking and contemplating the universe, you may find a hidden canyon or two to stash J & M in. –Ann

  3. Marsha tore a page from the yellow legal tablet in front of her and pushed it across the cherry conference table, covering the reflected glare of the sun.

    Mush better, she thought. Next to her, her $400-an-hour attorney tapped on his laptop. Marsha wondered if he was working on her case or another client’s.

    I’ll bet he’s double-dipping, she fumed. Billing me and someone else for the same time. Figures.

    She leaned towards him. A manicured hand stopped her.

    Guess I’m not supposed to break his concentration, she thought. Even though this time is MY time. Gawd! Four hundred an hour for an affidavit. No wonder John eluded the process servers so long. If I hadn’t run into him at that bus stop and got the license number of the car he left in, we’d still be looking for him.

    Across the table at the far end, John slumped in his seat.

    He is SO trying to act cool, thought Marsha. Hah! I can tell by the set of his jaw he’s furious. Too bad. We both could have been spared all this if he’d revealed all his assets.

    Disturbed air soughed as the glass door opened. A phalanx of pin stripes and ties paraded in with leather briefcases and laptop satchels. No Office Depot here, she noticed, as a Coach emblem floated past.

    An elbow found John’s ribs. He straightened his posture. Marsha looked straight ahead but saw an expertly coiffed silver toupee lean towards John. Then John smiled.

    Uh-oh, she thought. Now what?

    ***

    Two hours and eight hundred dollars later, John’s tie had surrendered its death grip on his neck. Perspiration flowed freely off his forehead and ran behind the lenses of his glasses. He grasped his soggy handkerchief in his right hand. Marsha was sure he could wring droplets from it if he squeezed any harder.

    Marsha slipped her hand into her large purse and wrapped her hand around her own handkerchief. Still there, still there, she reassured herself.

    “Now, Mr. Smith,” said Marsha’s attorney, “is it your testimony that you have no off-shore financial accounts and own no real properties overseas?”

    “I already…” The words squeezed through clenched teeth before John felt a hand on his arm was interrupted by the blue pin stripe next to him.

    “My client has already answered that question. How many times does he have to deny your insinuations?”

    “Until he answers truthfully, I’d say.”

    Marsha noticed John’s handkerchief lying on the table. She looked at his arm, the one that had been holding the handkerchief. His hand was below the table. She slipped her hand into her bag and reached under her handkerchief.

    “You greedy bitch!” yelled John and pointed a snub nosed .38 at her.

    “You lying bastard!” yelled Marsha and drew a .357 double-action revolver.

    ***

    Special to the Anchorage Daily Gazette

    TWO DIE IN DIVORCE CONFERENCE

    by Gullible

    A long-separated married couple shot and killed each other yesterday during a conference at an attorney’s office.

    The medical examiner’s office identified the deceased as John Smith, 46, and his wife Marsha Smith, 43.

    Four others were wounded with non-life threatening injuries in the altercation.

    The shootings occurred while Mrs. Smith’s attorney was questioning Smith about off-shore bank accounts and real estate holdings. Smith repeatedly denied owning any such things. Suddenly both Smiths drew pistols and fired at each other several times. Attorneys present at the shooting claim they had no idea the two were armed, but did note that their divorce case had been rancorous.

    In an interview at Alaska Hospital, attorney for Mrs. Smith Robert Pendergass, said they have certified documents proving that Smith had accounts in Belize and Switzerland, and owns substantial real estate in northern Italy. Pendergass is recovering from two bullet wounds to his left arm and shoulder.

    “I guess I’ll have to bill John Smith’s estate for this,” he noted.

    John Smith’s attorney Label Birkenstock is in a medically-induced coma to prevent brain swelling after a bullet furrowed the top of his head. He is expected to recover.

    Two paralegals had minor bullet wounds and were treated and released.

    Arrangements are pending at Anchorage Funeral Home.

  4. “I already…” The words squeezed through clenched teeth before John felt a hand on his arm was interrupted by the blue pin stripe next to him.

    Boy, I sure wish there was a way to go back and edit:

    “I already…” The words squeezed through clenched teeth before John felt a hand on his arm.

    Neglected to delete the rest of that sentence.

  5. I always thought Marsha and John would get back together. But there is no way I that can happen now, is there? Then again, I may have to think about this one a bit.

  6. Gullie, you are violent! Nonetheless, this scene works perfectly. We believe every bit of it. The newspaper item is great. Lots of collateral damage from that particular gun fight. I hope this wasn’t creative nonfiction. Thanks for the good read. I’m glad to see that you’re in top form.

  7. THE DEATH OF JOHN AND MARSHA

    “Little Melanie has good taste,” Marsha said as she stepped into the penthouse apartment.

    “Expensive taste,” John said. “Not necessarily good.”

    He kissed her hello and took her coat. She walked to the French doors and looked out onto the expansive terrace decorated with an abundance of Roman sculpture with a giant hot tub as the centerpiece. The rain had turned to snow again and the giant flakes drifted gently past the windows.

    “That’s the biggest hot tub I’ve ever seen.”

    “Yeah. Melanie chose it. I have to say, it gives a really great massage. Wanna give it a try?”

    “Who sits in a hot tub at eight in the morning?”

    The devilish grin on his face made her laugh out loud. That grin always meant fun and always got her into trouble.

    “I thought we were going to discuss unfinished business,” she said.

    They giggled like teenagers as they waded through the slushy snow wearing overcoats and boots. With a sweep of his muscular arm, John cleared a place for their coats on the edge of the tub.

    “We must look incredibly silly,” Marsha giggled as she posed in her fur edged knee high snow boots and nothing else.

    “M-m-m you don’t. That’s the sexiest look I’ve ever seen.”

    “Then you must be crazy about goose bumps. Hurry! I’m freezing!”

    They lounged in the tub, necking as though they’d just begun dating.

    “Did you feel that?” Marsha pushed him away and looked around.

    “What?”

    “A thump. It felt like a thump.”

    John laughed and reached out to pull her close.

    As she slid against his body, the tub shifted in their direction, water sloshed up over their shoulders. They locked eyes.

    “Don’t move.”

    “What are we going to do?” Marsha whimpered.

    John’s strong hands gripped her around the waist. As he thrust her over the side onto the roof deck, the tub lurched downward.

    “John?” she whined. “Johnny?”

    Shaking uncontrollably, Marsha crawled toward the French doors. She turned and stared with disbelief at the gaping hole.

    Terrified and in shock, Marsha dressed quickly. She jammed her feet into a pair of Melanie’s diminutive boots and headed for the door.

    In the lobby twenty floors below, there was no evidence of the collapse. Just when she was certain no one even knew it had happened, firemen pushed through the revolving doors, filling the lobby, shouting orders. She slipped out the same side door she’d entered barely an hour ago.

    Outside was a sea of fire apparatus. The noise overwhelmed her. Marsha clutched her purse to her chest as she waded through the deepening slush. She stepped into the street emerging from between two fire trucks. The limo clipped her just below the knees. Her body rolled up onto the hood and back down to the pavement as the heavy car slid to a stop, jamming her up against the enormous wheels of a ladder truck.

    “Oh, my God!” Melanie shouted. “Carlos, what just happened?”

  8. Barbara, It’s easy to see you enjoy a good writing challenge. Now we may have to come up with the next chapter on Melanie and Carlos! Thanks for the good read.

  9. Scene and Background: Martha shot John for spending all his money on alcohol, neglecting his children, and also being unfaithful. She went to prison where she trained to be a firefighter. John’s new girlfriend, Bertie, got drunk and accidently set their love-nest/apartment on fire. Martha tries to rescue Bertie but turns her ankle. John carries them both to safety.
    —-
    Poor Bertie, thought Martha, as she checked the unconscious woman’s vital signs.

    “Is she going to be all right?” John’s voice was scratchy from the smoke. He kept patting Bertie on one wrist, as if he were knocking on a door, hoping for an answer.

    “She’s only fainted,” Martha said, wiping Bertie’s face with an antiseptic tissue and getting a good look at John’s new girlfriend for the first time. Bertie’s lips had been plumped up with collagen, making two puffy lumps on her thin face. Grape jelly stained the white cable knit sweater she wore.

    Only now did Martha realize that she, too, was ready to pass out. She blinked rapidly and swallowed back the bile in her throat. She removed her firefighter’s hat and stretched her neck, swiveling her head in all directions. Where was that ambulance? Bertie needed medical attention. John likely did too.

    His plaid flannel shirt was yanked wide open where she’d hung onto his back while he carried her, carrying Bertie, down the final flight of stairs. She’d always liked that shirt. She raised her eyes. His face was streaked with gray and a raw redness.

    John reached out with one hand and pushed the hair back from Martha’s face. “I’m so sorry about everything,” he said. “I’ve been such a fool.” His fingers lingered on her cheek and then dropped. “I can’t stop loving you. I won’t. Ever.” He swallowed, but held her gaze.

    Martha scowled, turned her head away and then back. How could he talk about love at a time like this, with his face all blotchy, his hands covered with blisters, and the hair on his chest curled up and burned to stubs?

    Two EMTs appeared, gently lifted Bertie onto a stretcher, and loaded her into a waiting ambulance. Martha and John struggled to their feet, grabbing each other for balance. John squeezed Martha’s arm, sighed, and then climbed into the ambulance. Before the doors closed, Martha saw him peering out at her, looking exhausted.

    The ambulance drove away, siren wailing. The building had turned into a smoky, soggy ruin, and with all the commotion of her colleagues busily working and shouting to each other, it was clear the chief could live without her services for a few more minutes. Martha swayed on her feet just once, then let her weariness wash over her. She smelled the acrid stench of ash and water. The siren faded in the distance.

    She trudged slowly over to the fire truck and eased herself down onto the running board, resting her head back against the red door. She jammed one hand into the deep pocket of her coveralls and pulled out her cell phone. The compact metal rectangle felt warm and reassuring in her hand, untouched by all that had happened.

    She flipped open the phone and found John’s number. Slowly, she poked the letters one by one, smiling a bit as she did. She paused a moment, reading her text message. She raised one eyebrow, took in one long breath and exhaled. Then she hit send.

    “Come have supper with the kids & me tomorrow. M.”

    —–

    (Well, they’re not dead, but once you give characters a happy ending, you have to let them go.)

  10. Playing next at your neighborhood theater: Son of John and Martha.

  11. I took Ann’s BWW course this past January and immediately followed it with her Writing Essentials course. I have followed John and Martha’s travails and got a real kick out of Ann’s continuation of the story on this website where John and Martha, tired of being fodder for creative writing students, pelt Ann with peas and rubber tipped darts. Here’s my take.

    ********************************************************************************

    John and Martha watched Bertie being loaded into the ambulance.

    One of the paramedics turned to John. “You coming?”

    John shook his head. “Go ahead. I’ll follow shortly on my own. I need to talk to Martha here for a minute.”

    They stood silently side by side as the ambulance wailed away into the night.

    Martha turned towards John. “What did you want to talk to me about?”

    John coughed and cleared his throat.

    “I, uh, just wanted you to know that, uh, I appreciate what you did for Bertie and me back there. Saving us and all.”

    Martha pursed her lips. “Well, it wasn’t a real auspicious beginning for me, twisting my ankle and then needing your help to get us all down the stairs, but you’re welcome.”

    John coughed again. “I also wanted to say that when I saw a firefighter come bursting through the door, I never in a million years thought that it would be you under all that gear. You must have worked real hard to get to where you are now. I never knew you had it in you. I think that what you’ve done for yourself is great.”

    Martha inhaled sharply. Staring at John, she replied, “In all the years we were married, the only thing I ever wanted from you was your approval. And all ever I got was your disapproval.”

    John cleared his throat again, looked down at the ground, nudged a piece of gravel on the road with his foot. “I’m sorry. I should have been nicer. You were always a good mother to our kids and kept a clean and tidy house. I realize that now.”

    Martha gave a short laugh. “Who are you and what have you done with my ex-husband?“

    John rubbed his chin. “Well, that’s all I wanted to say. Take care, Martha.”

    He turned away.

    Martha held out a hand. “John wait.”

    He turned back towards her.

    She swallowed. “You were always a good provider. A big part of our problem was that I didn’t like myself and I realize now that nobody can make you feel bad about yourself unless you let them. I like myself now and I’m proud of myself. Nobody can ever take that away from me.”

    The right corner of John’s mouth quirked up. “I’m glad for you Martha. I’ll see you on Sunday when I come to pick up the kids for my afternoon with them.”

    “One more thing John.”

    “Yes?”

    “I never wanted to be together with you and the kids after our divorce because I was so bitter and angry. I didn’t want our kids to see that. I don’t feel that way any more. So, I think we can show them it’s possible to be civil even after all we’ve been through.”

    John’s eyes lit up. “I think so too!”

    “Depending on how Bertie’s feeling on Sunday, how about we all go bowling or roller skating together?”

    “That would be great Martha. I feel like I’m getting a second chance.”

    She smiled. “Me too.”

    Distracted by pulsing blue and red lights, they both turned towards the road. A breeze ruffled John’s hair.

    “That’s odd”, said Martha, “where’s the ambulance?”

    They both looked up simultaneously as a blinding beam of white light engulfed the two of them. Hovering silently ten feet above them was a black, saucer-shaped object, blue and red lights flashing on its revolving outer edge.

    Frozen in the light, unable to move or speak, Martha and John were whisked up into the object. The craft spun faster, rose higher, and winked out of sight.

  12. Love the alien invasion! I’d forgotten that John and Martha got away from me and tried to do me in with pea shooters and darts. You never know what they’ll try next. I wonder if they’ll come back from outer space?

  13. Hello Ann. I just completed BWW and was alerted to your website by a fellow student. A few of us joined a Google Group by your suggestion, and your writing prompts here seem like a great way to keep us writing. Here is my contribution to the demise of our dear John and Martha.

    John and Martha: The Final Act

    John had been hunting Martha for three years. Her new life under the witness protection program had kept her one step ahead of him thus far. He had journeyed through four states, assumed two false identities, and murdered one person to finally arrive at this point.
    Stepping off the bus, John leered down at Martha, his mouth curling in triumph, his breath quickening in anticipation of her reaction.
    She stood, unmoving, as if the ice on the ground had grown tentacles around her feet. Despite the winter storm that waged a battle around them, a bead of sweat had formed on Martha’s brow. Her mahogany hair whipped into a halo above her head, as if beseeching divine intervention on Martha’s behalf.
    The bus pulled away, leaving the two ex-lovers to determine their own fate.
    John stepped forward, breaking the trance, and grabbed Martha roughly by the arm. He hauled her into the shadowy wood, while she stumbled, feet dragging alongside him.
    Stopping under the snow laden branches, John pulled Martha towards him, holding her firmly, her face just inches from his. While a few years ago, she would have leaned forward, head tilted up in anticipation of a kiss, Martha now recoiled, shoulders slumped in his grasp.
    “John,” she said, betraying no emotion. It was a statement, an inevitability. John had found her. She knew that he would.
    He laughed at her in response, drinking in the beauty of her, his Martha. This would be the last time, he thought ruefully.
    A few wordless moments passed. Then John released her from his grip, and Martha collapsed into a heap in front of him, the white of her woolen coat consumed by the white of the snow. Her head lolled forward, bowing to him as if in defeat.
    John paced a few feet back, bending forward to retrieve the pistol tucked into his boot. Suddenly, a jarring pain to the skull sent him flying backwards, flat on his back. He blinked against the black of his vision, the clouded sky slowly coming into focus. The face of an angel hovered above him. This is heaven, he thought. Had he already committed the murder-suicide he had planned for this day?
    Martha knelt down next to John and grasped his throat in both of her petite hands, squeezing with a firm unyielding pressure. John, still disoriented from the kick to his head, flailed for a moment, clutching weakly at her hands, until his breath diminished along with his life.
    Martha stood, brushing the snow from her coat and flexing the fingers that had stiffened into claws. She looked down one final time at the man who had haunted her nightmares for the past three years.
    “John,” she said and shook her head.
    Then Martha walked away, coat and hair billowing in the wind, to wait for the next bus.

    • Good one, Payal! I’m glad to see you found the site. Plan to post whenever you feel like taking a challenge!

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