Murray Oxe was a normal and pleasant man that arrived in town directly after graduating from college. He had spent several years on the road for a regional CPA firm and finally, once firmly established on their partner track, he insisted on being located permanently in any mid-size city in the territory. Murray had many friends, but none close, so he decided to leverage his flexibility to gain a foothold in the company. After paying his dues, the firm relented and had Murray placed in a mid-sized office and put him to work as soon as he arrived. Technically competent but socially limiting, Murray worked hard and through his dull but diligent manner, quietly ascended into a partner role with the firm. A specialist in audit, Murray was always busy and as such, quietly lead the office in hours billed. He had no family but no one ever ventured the effort to find out whether he was an orphan, an only child of only children or just a victim of circumstance; no one had the energy or interest to ask.
At first (and second glance), Murray was a generic, pleasant man with no specific or memorable features. He dressed in a timeless but forgettable style and his personal skills were limited to a few "good mornings" and several "excuse me's" as he navigated himself from his remote office back and forth from the coffee room and bathroom. No one had any negative things to say about him but the cruel fact was that no one had anything at all to say about him. Always the first to show up for office parties and similar social obligations, Murray bumped along for several years until he met Stella Doll. Stella was the daughter of the most influential man in town and had a strained but pleasant features about her at all times. Coached by her mother, who was the first to see her limitations, Stella was presented in the most favorable light, most flattering clothes and always put together in the most positive way to highlight her limited qualities while downplaying her overall plainness. The citizens of the town had been fooled for years into thinking Stella was a beautiful girl (and the woman) but when an outsider visited, Stella would be described as that "homely girl with the tiny head." Locals would roll their eyes and tell their friends that they had it all wrong but smart money had placed Stella in the unfortunately looking category many years earlier. His true hometown technically did not exist anymore: the high school merged with another one and the township was absorbed into a growing suburb so this place was as good as any to stake a claim.
Whether it be her rarified standing in local society or some subtle defense mechanism, Stella was thirty-three years old and showing all the signs of a single life. The local men had steered clear and new blood was hard to come by in that day and age. This was the time when Murray had hit town and started to display his two most important attributes: his age (35) and his martial status (absolutely single). Stella's friends started hearing about this new man via friends at the CPA firm and a plan was struck to get Stella hitched. Stella's mother, as usual, championed the entire campaign and within a few weeks, a happy Murray Oxe asked a relieved Stella Doll out of a first date. They had been thrown together at a contrived social gathering that grew from the cabal of married women that took the challenge as a personal crusade to help their friend. By the time the first date question was asked and answered, the same group began tentative discussions on a marriage date complete with a few discrete inquiries on venue availability. No names were offered up but local retailers knew Murray Oxe was already an acquired target.
Through the efforts of the nameless and faceless, it wasn't long before Murray Oxe began courting Stella Doll. The town being small and well-connected, the townsfolk took it upon their collective selves to help support and supervise the courtship. Every place they went, someone would see the couple and send a confirmation to the rest of the town. As the relationship evolved into harmless romance, discretion tried to become the rule of the day, but the demand for details usually won out. This evolved into group anxiety as engagement opportunities became to come and go: her birthday, Christmas, their unofficial anniversary all went by without a hint of an engagement. Mr. Kuhlman, the town jeweler, was bombarded with questions on whether or not Murray had begun reaching out to him for some engaging (pun intended) conversations. As the months went by, the town fell into a funk not unlike a frustrated spinster waiting for the call.
Finally, in the middle of the week, unannounced and completely under the radar, Murray Oxe descended to one knee and asked Stella Doll for her hand in marriage. She answered so fast that she appeared to be choking which forced Murray to interrupt her long dormant response to inquire about her health. Back and forth like an old episode of Who's The Boss, the couple finally deciphered their questions and answers to declare themselves actually engaged. Murray, now aware of the collective town's interest in his love life, had purchased the ring from another town and had sworn the jeweler to secrecy. If the news of the engagement had leaked, he would have returned the ring back to the jeweler and begin a one-man campaign to denounce the discretion of someone whose business depended on it. The jeweler agreed to the terms and a few weeks later it happened. The town was thrown into hyper-drive as Mrs. Doll began her calling tree one minute after hearing the news and within one hour, the entire population of the little town had formally heard the news: Murray and Stella were going to get married.
For the next six months, the town talked of only one thing: the wedding. Stella's age and family positioning caused a combination of relief and fear as the oldest newlywed in the county was preparing for her big day. In the most pessimistic calculations, Stella had been a bridesmaid over forty times and had caught an even dozen bouquets. She had also been enlisted as scripture reader (15 times), cake cutter (20 times), personal attendant (eight times) and groomsman (one emergency) and felt her day had finally arrived. She wasn't head over heels in love with Murray but she did enjoy his company and felt he was a gentle, but finite, soul that would never break her heart. The marriage proposal, while expected, still took her by surprise on that afternoon. They were meeting for lunch, as they did many times before, in the park outside his office. She stopped thinking about engagements but when he finally proposed, she had an out-of-body experience and was convinced that she had experienced some kind of earth-bound rapture. Once the emotional smoke cleared, she realized that she was excited but everyone else around her seemed more excited.
That level of self-analysis passed and as the date grew closer, Stella forgot about all the trepidations and jumped into the adventure without qualification. She was done over-thinking and wanted to drown in the pomp and pageantry of her marriage: if anyone deserved some well-earning adoration, it was Stella Doll.
The day of the wedding was beautiful: a late summer day which was a magical combination of cool and warm breezes that allowed everyone to feel comfortable throughout the day. The wedding went off without a hitch: the vows were appropriate and clearly stated, the ring bearers were cute and efficient and the pacing of the entire ceremony was solid. Murray and Stella had also took the time not to quote anything from Corinthians 13 so the general crowd had to politely pay attention to the overall message, which was thought-provoking but still refreshingly wonderful. The crowd, which represented almost every inhabitant of the town, was collectively bathed in love and good spirits. The only thing left for the group was a kick-ass reception at the high school auditorium. Mr. Doll was the town's official rich man and his money and the additional ten years of collection of wedding money guaranteed a good time for all. The small town had a few nice weddings over the years but this one was catered with both waiters and bartenders.
The meal was great and the speeches began. Between the clinking of glasses and rounds of applause, one person after another grabbed the microphone and gave heartfelt and sincere speeches with loving stories of the couple but the emphasis was on Stella. Stella broke from tradition and took the microphone before Murray and spent ten minutes thanking everyone in the world. She thanked her parents, her close friends, not so close friends and ended with the city council. As she talked, she began drinking champagne and finally began to decompress from the decade of wedding-based frustration. At that moment, she was the most beautiful thing in the world.
"I finally want to thank my husband, Murray" mumbled the now Stella Doll-Oxe. "He is a great guy." Just as she finished, she saw extra desserts enter the room. She thought of Abraham Maslow and wished he would have come to the wedding. She wanted to grab him by the hand, point to the cake and food on her plate and tell him that she knew what he'd meant. However, she needed to focus on her husband and hear the speech one more time. She was relieved that it was almost over: her body quietly convulsed as her nervous energy left her.
Murray was now summoned to stand next to the glowing (the kind description but to all attendees, the term "sweaty" was more accurate) Stella. The music rose and Murray walked to the microphone and surveyed the room. He only had a few friends (none close) at the event; it was her room but he felt that he finally belonged to something. He looked at Stella, who had just sat down and began polishing off a few extra pieces of cake. She was now moving onto re-connecting with her oldest and best friends, carbohydrates and sugar, and was somewhat oblivious to Murray's next moves. He reached into his rented tuxedo and pulled out some recipe cards and nervously began organizing them one final time. He took a deep breath, looked out across the auditorium and smiled. He opened his mouth to begin his well-rehearsed remarks but no words would ever come.
Just as his mouth opened, he let loose the loudest and wettest sounding fart ever heard, anywhere. The volume of the fart was only overshadowed by three other metrics: the long duration, the low timbre and the almost non-human reverberation which literally echoed in the auditorium. The crowd was already politely silent in preparation of his upcoming remarks but the shock of the fart caused them all to remain mute and attempt to comprehend what had just occurred. The fart was so gigantically loud and impressive rich in audio texture the explosion was forever etched into the minds of all attendees. Much like the witnesses of the first atomic weapon, the collective shock and awe caused the room to remain silent and still. The only movement came when Stella stopped eating and looked up at Murray with a look of complete confusion. She had been so close to ground zero that she felt the fart vibrate up through her legs and envelope her in a vortex of methane and mystery. She had a blank look to go along with the surprise; she literally could not get her brain around the incident. The standard descriptors were weakly inappropriate for the fart: words like loud, deep and thunderous paled in the reality of this event. Paul Tibbets and Oppenheimer had nothing on this fart: it was literally the destroyer of worlds.
However, Murray could. He carefully placed the microphone down and walked out of the auditorium. He walked about two blocks to his now-rented bachelor pad and grabbed his two suitcases, representing all his clothes and walked to his car and tossed them into the backseat. He walked upstairs and grabbed several boxes, representing everything else he owned and walked to the car and put them in the trunk. As he drove away, he realized that his tux was rented so he stopped at the men's store and quickly changed into some comfortable clothes and carefully hung the tux on the door handle of the store. He got back into his car and drove into the night: he was not planning on coming back.
Murray drove through the night and made a conscious decision not to think about anything. He knew that he must get as much distance between himself and the auditorium. The night was a blur; no need for any coffee because the images which were playing in his mind provided sufficient adrenaline. Murray played the evening out in slow motion but still had no idea were the fart originated. The sheer nature of it was so intimidating and fantastically large that it could not be understood yet. Murray had no plan except escape: he called the national office of his bank and created a new account with one-half of his savings. Stella and he had not yet created their joint checking and savings accounts but he felt that he needed to leave half of his net worth behind. He left a phone call to his employer that "he was not able to return to work" and to "treat his two week honeymoon vacation" as his two weeks notice. Satisfied that all the secondary cords were cut, he got back into his car and drove without a plan.
The whole incident kept playing in his head and as he drove, he knew there were three inalienable and brutal truths facing him: 1) He was never going back. 2) His marriage was over. 3) His name/reputation were literally and figuratively, forever tarnished. After several days of driving and sleeping in his car, he pulled into a medium-sized small town and parked his car. The downtown area was well developed and appeared busy so he decided that this was going to be his new home. He started going through the Yellow Pages and noticed there were many businesses and a nice collection of accounting firms. He found a generic one-bedroom apartment and set out bright and early the next morning and started knocking on doors. Murray knew that most states will grant CPA status under reciprocity to a CPA licensed in another state and they didn't, it would only be a short time for him to qualify. He may have been the world's worst husband but he had embraced accounting principles with both arms. He made a fairly good impression but did not elaborate on his reasons for relocation. He was careful to give references that had not yet heard of the wedding fart and within three days, he was gainfully employed.
Murray had no life so work was pushed to his forefront: his output was that of three people and soon, Murray became a partner at the small firm. He avoided conversations, did not attend conferences and did not travel anywhere near his home state. He wanted to work under the radar and knew that any recognition or mention in a trade publication would bring his old history crashing down onto his new life. Every time he thought of complaining, his mind would wander back to that night in the auditorium. The memory had not diminished; in fact, the fart became even larger, richer and more triumphant in his memory. As the years went on, the tsunami of sound and fury continued to grow until the whole memory overwhelmed him into submission. When asked about where he had come from, he was always accurate but rarely truthful. He answered the questions in a polite way but did not elaborate: he never knew anyone from anywhere else and always skillfully avoided any connection which would have placed him anywhere near the incident or location. His natural dullness aided him in his desire to remain unnoticed but even the most curious people stopped asking personal questions after a few months.
A few months grew into a year and soon, the years grew into ten. Murray always fought the urge to google Stella's name, visit the town's online newspaper or inquire about his past life. The short-term pleasure of the new knowledge would quickly overwhelm him into the long-term pain of revisiting that night. The event although slightly cloudy, remained officially crystal-clear in Murray's head. He knew where everyone was: Stella's dad was returning from the bar, the maid of honor had just passed behind him, Stella was in mid-chew of her fourth piece of cake and the band was quietly setting up on the opposite end of the gym. The wall of sound literally knocked down both Stella's maid of honor and father while the waves of echoed sound tormented the inner circle of attendees. The high school auditorium was built with choir and orchestra presentations in mind so the slightly raised thrust stage, the epicenter, pushed out the fury with extreme efficiency.
Murray continued to work, keep his head down, until he saw the 10th anniversary of the event begin to loom on the calendar. He couldn't believe it could have been ten years since it happened: he knew he had to do something but all those years of repressed efforts began to weaken. His options all frightened him but it was time to become a man again. Murray walked down to his bosses' office and motioned whether or not he could come in and sit. His boss for the last ten years had never seen Murray initiate a discussion and almost fell over himself waving him in to take a seat.
"Can I help you Murray?"
"Yes, I would like your approval to take a week of vacation next month. I am going on a trip."
In all the years that Murray had worked there, he had never taken a vacation, had a day off or called in sick. They stopped telling him ten years ago to take his vacation because he would just show up every day to work. It had been so long since someone discussed it with Murray, due to turnover and several management changes. it placed Murray's vacation consumption as a deep, long-forgotten piece of tribal knowledge. Some reference to his work ethic would occasionally fire off a dusty anecdote from the past but since Murray was so boring and plain, the facts refused to stick to him and quickly dissolve in his overall generic personality. People officially liked Murray when asked but it was apparent to all that Murray was someone no one spent any time thinking about in any way. Whether natural or by his own hand, Murray Oxe was socially and cultural invisible.
"Certainly, Murray. I approve your vacation. Please fill out one of these forms and return it to me once you return." The supervisor handed Murray a generic form and Murray rose to leave.
"So, Murray. It is business or pleasure?"
Murray smiled and completely ignored the question and said, "Thank you for approving it" and walked out the door.
As the day of departure grew closer, Murray began to pack. He had no idea what was going to happen so he had to pack more than usual. He might be welcomed home and need to bring dressy clothes for a fancy dinner. He might be embraced by the town and need to bring casual clothes just in case a picnic or two was thrown in his honor. He might need some athletic-type clothes in case a softball game or a volleyball game appeared out of nowhere. His mind was full of variables for the first time in a long time and it felt great to be away from GAAP and mountains of federal tax leglislation. He packed up his car and went to sleep early as this adventure was scheduled to start early the next morning.
Murray woke up before his alarm clock as usual, his heart racing and full of nervous energy. Lying dormant for two decades, the man which had left was waking up and wondering about his home. He had avoided all contact for so long that his mind was constantly flying through open questions and potential variables. How was Stella? The last time he saw her through the fecal mist, her face was frozen in mid-chew and it was devoid of all recognition. They were man and wife but that event completely severed their relationship; he had never seen divorce papers but felt an annullment occurred even before the auditorium was fully ventilated. How was the old gang? That queston was easier to assume because the old gang was a very loose fraternity of casual acquaintences and likely not an existing group. The group were invited but most of them had to struggle to remember Murray and it was also likely that many of them questioned whether or not to attend. Either way: there weren't many people wondering about Murray and Murray had to get past the cruel fact that he was fairly alone in this world but he was finally doing something postive about it.
The open road calmed Murray, the nerves were still evident but the motion of the car made them less noticable. As he drove towards his home town, familar sights bouyed his spirits and he felt that the decision to visit home was a good one. He was feeling good: his weight had not flucuated nor did he lose any hair. All in all, he has survived the last two decades fairly well intact and was looking to see how everyone was doing. "Of course," he thought to himself, "It's been over ten years, surely no one remembers."
He arrived into town when it was still light out. The basic structure of the town had not changed but he noticed a few old retailers had shutdown and some national chains had taken their places. He didn't recognize anyone from the car so he decided to park it on the main street and take his chances on the streets. As he walked down familar streets, Murray thought "What a wonderful feeling... being home." The town's vibe was just as he left it, caring, close and well-worn with memories from times past. As he wandered down the streets, he was mad at himself for waiting ten years to return to his roots, his people. He should have never left: this was his world and he finally felt connected after all these years. A feeling of peace came over him and he let all his anxiety and anguish drift away: of course no one remembered that night and of course, no one even cared about the event that happened so many years ago.
He stopped and sat on a bench in the park, content as a man could ever be. He became aware of a young child and his mother talking at the other end of the bench.
'Mom, try as I might, I can never remember my birthday," the young child complained to his mother.
'Don't worry Billy, it's easy to remember."
"It's the day after the anniversary of Murray's fart"'
"Now, I got it. That means my birthday is October 3rd!"
"Exactly!" said the mother.
Murray Oxe got up and left the town for good.
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