Linda stands over the bathroom sink, brushing her teeth. Her eyes traces every line that she’s sure someday will become a wrinkle. Her face will become an atlas of stress and disappointment, she fears. Fighting time is the most futile fight one can pick; she spits into the sink. The mixture of saliva and pale blue foam slide ooze toward the drain until they are washed down by a blast of water from the spigot. Linda washes her face, the rubs it dry with a hand towel. She turns off the bathroom light as she steps into the bedroom.
Mark lies in the bed. The sheets cover all but his shirt-clad torso. A faint red spot on the white shirt is all that remains of a dropped meatball from earlier in the evening. A laptop rests in his lap and the television plays an innocuous news story about a family who reclaimed a lost Christmas through the kindness of a stranger. Linda walks to the television and touches the power button. Silence fills the room.
“Mark,” Linda’s hollow voice cuts through the air. Mark looks up from the glowing laptop screen to Linda. Her back is to Mark. “Make love to me like you used to.”
Linda’s nightgown drops to the floor. Mark’s eyes widen with delight and wonder at this surprise sexual adventure. What he had accepted as a part of their relationship long forgotten – eroded to nothing by the numbing grind of an supposedly eternal partnership – had materialized just ten feet from the foot of his bed. A silky, white angel stood before him; though he could not see her face, Mark could see Linda just as she was the first night they made love, years ago.
“I need this now more than ever,” Linda looks over her shoulder to Mark. Mark looks down to his laptop screen. He drags his finger across the track pad and clicks.
“Yeah, baby! Yeah!” A voice bursts from the laptop speakers, smothered in enthusiasm and an English accent. It was a mysterious voice, an international voice. It was the voice of Austin Powers.
“Please,” Linda whispers to herself, “not this time.”
“Am I making you horny, baby!?” The cockney accent that launched a worldwide phenomenon spanning two millennia (1997 – present) filled the room.
“No, God dammit!” Linda whips around, tears streaming down her cheeks. “I don’t even know who you are anymore!”
Mark eyes wander away from Linda, gazing forlornly into the ether. He sighs. His index finger presses down on the track pad once more. “Danger’s my middle name.”
Linda grabs her nightgown from the floor. She walks to the closet and hastily puts on a sports bra, a worn button down, and a pair of old jeans. A suitcase sits in the corner of the closet. Linda stuffs the suitcase full of whatever clothes she can grab. She extends the luggage handle, dragging it to the bedroom door. Linda stops at the threshold.
Memories flood her mind. Memories of a couple who would go walking around downtown at night without a plan. A couple who would make love in the park under soft moonlight, feeding off the crisp night air. No one was around. Only Linda and Mark. They wed shortly thereafter, both of them knowing this was perfect. This was their life. Months passed. Calendar pages were torn from the wall.
Then came The Fall. May 2nd, 1997. The impressions followed. Austin Powers. His arch nemesis, Dr. Evil. The henchmen, Frau Farbissina and Mustafa. Even the occasional Basil Exposition.
Two years passed and Linda thought Mark’s fanaticism had finally subsided. Then the summer of 1999 arrived. The two went to the theater on June 11. They returned home with a new addition to the family: Fat Bastard. His gruff Scottish accent and love for Chili’s® Baby Back Ribs permeated nearly every facet of their life. Dinner parties were made impossible by Mark’s insistence on showcasing his “talents” at every lull in conversation. Linda found her head in her hands whenever the couple went out to eat and Mark would order a “Mr. Pepper.”
“One Dr. Pepper,” the waitress would write down. “I said ‘Mr. Pepper,” Mark would respond.
Over the following three years, the impressions once again faded away. Linda could breathe easy for a brief period.
July 26, 2002. Mark returned late that night. He was ranting in a Swedish accent about bongs and blintzes. Goldmember had debuted. The titular character was now a mainstay in their household.
Around this time, Mark and Linda had decided to upgrade their internet service to a high-speed provider. Had Linda known what she did now, she might have insisted they stay off the grid completely, instead. The instant gratification that came with a cable modem allowed Mark to break new ground in Austin Powers-based communication. The soundboards had arrived.
Over the following ten years, Mark spoke less and clicked more. Linda was unsure if Mark even knew how to speak anymore. The laptop traveled everywhere with him; and if there was no Wi-Fi, there would be no response from Mark. He started working from home around 2005, buying up Austin Powers t-shirts from Hot Topic then marking them up and reselling them on his online store, http://www.shagadelicmerchwarehouse.net.
Ten years. Ten years since Linda had last heard her husband speak.
“I should have done this after the first MTV Movie Award.” Linda stepped out the door. Her life in a suitcase.
Mark sits in the bed. The room is empty, silent. He runs both his hands through his hair, then sets them back on the keyboard. He types a little, then clicks the track pad. A new voice breaks free from the speakers.
“Throw me a frickin’ bone here!”