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A lone starfish washed up on a desolate beach along the eastern seaboard. Early morning light caused it to sparkle and catch the eye of Simon Weatherly, an august math professor taking his habitual morning stroll. “What a delicate, curious little creature you are” said Simon aloud to himself. He interrupted his constitutional, taking time to more closely examine the starfish. He bent and bunched his tweed vest at the waist, trying to get a better viewing angle. His eyes squinted behind silver-rimmed spectacles, and his white mustache set rigidly on his upper lip while he calculated unique equations, delineating the starfish’s beautiful symmetry. In the back of his mathematical mind, he wrestled with other thoughts. Now late in his tenure, he was losing interest in his curriculum and university life in general. During his lectures, he harbored feelings of annoyance toward his class and detachment toward particular students.

As the aging academic stood alone on the beach, his daily routine altered, morning light moved his shadow sundial fashion around him. His algorithms didn’t stimulate any feeling toward the creature, just cold analytics about its points and spines—nothing more than numbers and theoretical values. Lapping surf sounded like brushes on a snare drum against the shoreline. Random sea terns cried down at the musing man. The mathematician and starfish, both synchronistically lost in a vacuum of time. 

     Weatherly’s morning walks along the shore were his only solace from personal entanglements. He couldn’t seem to refrain from involvement with certain promising students. Simon caught himself drifting more and more in private calculus and less and less in social interaction. Colleagues started to notice  his abstract detachment and gossiped around campus. 

Just a short distance behind the Ivy League professor, a couple, garbed in expensive couture, walked beside the lapping surf in route to their favorite French Bistro for lunch. They overtook and passed the mathematician, but were themselves too lost in private discussion concerning their betrothal and upcoming wedding to notice him. The woman fluttered an ornate fan and rambled on about how the lace on her wedding dress would match decorative patterns on her fan and how many tiers their wedding cake should have. Her fiancée, a seemingly earnest man, pretended to listen, but could’ve actually cared less. ‘What a cow’ he thought to himself, ‘I won’t stand for this twaddle after the marriage. I’ve got more important affairs that need my attention.’ His family lineage was more prominent than hers in the city’s social register hierarchy. He chose her strictly for her looks, to reside on his inherited estate and manage household affairs. ‘If it wasn’t for her father’s business holdings and the choice real estate he accidentally gained, I wouldn’t bother with Patrice at all.’

They walked along the sand, talking in low, compassionless tones. A loveless affair, with each participant lost in their own world. Patrice momentarily stopped speaking to watch heavy clouds push toward shore. ‘I know Curtis has other things on his mind. But there’s so much to discuss about our wedding and I need his approval on the guest list and seating arrangements and, well, everything.’ Patrice’s focus on her wedding was distracted by lingering doubts surrounding the circumstances of how they got together. She had to end her strained relationship with Samuel, and Curtis’ attentions were a convenient way to end it quickly. Curtis was so persistent, calling her and sending gifts—at least for the first months—compared to Samuel, who acted more like a confused brother than her lover. Her choice in breaking it off with Samuel seemed the right thing to do, although she still suffered periodic angst about it.

Curtis and Patrice could have walked off a cliff and not even noticed. They didn’t notice an odd man standing beside a closed concession stand wearing a bizarre jester costume. His attention and thoughts are lost in a hypnotic gaze at a vague point where sky meets sea. They certainly didn’t notice his unexpected start as they passed that caused a sudden shift of his gaze that began following them.

The costumed man wore a chalk white mask that hid frequent ticks that flashed across his face, a silvery ruffled collar and a gauzy blouse with pastel spots that hung billowing to his knees. The ridiculous blouse didn’t look as if it possessed any sleeves because the man’s hands weren’t visible. The most peculiar aspect of his vaudevillian attire was a red, tied-on nose as long and pointed as a carrot. He also wore a pointed cone hat and red pointed shoes to match the nose. He made a glaring sight even to a blind man, yet the obtuse couple failed to notice him. But the garishly dressed man took intense notice of them. He stood watching, petrified, like a rabbit being hunted by a wolf. The jester’s tense body already seethed with anger, depression, pain, anguish, jealousy… hatred. Behind his mask, he gnawed at his dry lips as rancid emotions churned in his body like snakes trapped in a feed sack. 

His stomach wretched when he recognized the woman fanning herself: his former lover Patrice, who cruelly and abruptly jilted him. He began to pant as he realized the man strolling beside her was Curtis, once his close business associate, a cad who callously ruined him and stole the only person in his life that brought emotional stability and a glimmer of happiness. Their twisted betrayal forever changed his conflicted existence. Seeing the two of them now, after three agonizing years, reanimated dark, tortuous memories.

The jilted jester stood transfixed, a breathless wax museum figure. The long pointed nose tied to his face suddenly felt unbearable—hot and humiliating. A strong metallic taste invaded his mouth as he ground his teeth. He followed the engrossed couple until he was almost upon them. At a point so close he would have reached out and touched their shoulders, his hands materialized from under his comic blouse. One held a heavy military revolver and the other a wicked oriental knife. Quickly and without hesitation, he drove the knife to its hilt into the back of his ex partner, dropping the scheming socialite in mid-stride. The woman turned—their eyes locked. Once hopelessly in love with her, his seething, viper-eyed glare now drained her face pale in horror. At the very moment she recognized him, he pulled the powerful revolver’s trigger. The deafening explosion sounded like a cannon fired across the vacant beach. 

Simon Weatherly—math professor—still entranced studying the starfish, was jolted from his detached musings by the thunderous report and brought back to reality. He mechanically turned his head toward the origin of the gunshot, and noticed farther up the beach, someone in a jester costume removed a mask and long, fake nose. He observed the jester bow slightly at the waist and studied what appeared to be two bodies whose arms and legs crumpled into an entwined star shape—suddenly lifeless. 

Weatherly couldn’t know then the twisted, psychological intricacies that churned inside the tortured jester, or the events that compelled his actions. From that distance, he could only speculate on the murderous scene. He peered confused at the man’s garish costume, the heap of bodies and the smoking gun. Simon applied the same mathematical precision he used to study the starfish. After a moment, the academician thought he recognized the costumed man as one of his former prized students. Misty salt air stung his eyes as he squinted, trying harder to bring the distant man’s face into clarity. A chilled breeze ruffled his grey, thinning hair. Recognition struck without quarter and the professor fell to his knees. He recognized the anguished killer’s face. It was Samuel, his latest lover—who accused Simon of stabbing him through the heart because of repeated emotional neglect. The starfish lay abandoned in cold sand. Weatherly slumped, no longer interested in mathematical intricacies as Samuel, still holding the revolver, slowly approached. 

Bio:

I have written off and on for thirty years while maintaining careers in music, art, and education. My short stories are told with an improvisational narrative and usually set on a surrealistic stage. Over the last ten years, I’ve developed many ideas and stories covering everything from prose to quirky pulp short stories. Most of my work falls within the Fabulist genre. I’ve published short stories online, in magazines and written for a podcast. Recently I’ve promoted my stories to understand my prospects in the literary marketplace. My objective is to write original and entertaining content for readers everywhere. 

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