Shuddersome Shorts

Tales of the Eerie


A little change of pace, kiddies and palls, as today's tale is a little less macabre than some, but sidles a little into Twilight Zone-ish territory. How to fix a broken marriage? Go to some who can figure out why it's broke. Some like...


The Marriage Magician

By Sean Gilbert

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"WELL, LOOK AT THAT piece of action!” my uncle Pete exclaimed as my aunt Margaret and I looked on. The woman turned halfway toward him, scowling as she exited the waiting room with her boyfriend.

“Uncle Pete,” I cautioned. The boyfriend had been scowling at us, too. And he was big. Luckily, he left without doing anything; maybe Pete and I didn’t look too threatening. A skinny old man and his spindly, bespectacled nephew don’t arouse much jealousy, I guess.

“Marriage Magician my eye,” Pete complained, returning to the subject he’d been harping on for the last half hour. My uncle scowled at his wife, who was sitting across from him.

“Marg, the only magic this marriage needs is a few months of aerobics and some antifreeze.” He smirked and reached over to pinch her thigh.

“Oh, Peter,” she sighed.

It was a familiar refrain. I didn’t know how Margaret stood it, really. This man had been sniping at her for the better part of thirty years, his sharp crow’s voice often condemning her stiffness and the size of her backside, but regularly harping on her choice in friends, lack of cooking expertise, and anything else that came to mind.

And the most she ever came back with was a resigned “Oh, Peter.”

I didn’t think she looked too bad, personally. Sure, she’d aged since Pete had first brought her in to the family, a warm, sunny woman fifteen years his junior, but that’s life, right?

According to Pete, though, she was anything but warm.

“Twenty-six years this Saturday,” Pete said with a grunt, as if reading my thoughts, “And we could’ve gone to Barbados for this kind of money.”

“Oh, Peter.”

He did have a point. From what they’d told me when I picked them up from their apartment, this appointment had cost upward of seven thousand dollars. I looked again at the framed poster on the wall behind the receptionist’s desk.


Our attention was aroused by the departure of another lovely young woman and her companion. Although embarrassed by Pete’s leer, I had to admit she was quite a looker.

Margaret followed Pete’s (and my) gaze before we turned back inward to face each other. Margaret’s eyes seemed to have narrowed slightly and I felt a flush rising on my cheeks. She noticed my discomfort and smiled at me, shooting me a quick wink.

“Well, if he can’t hook me up with something like that, then I don’t see what this doctor’s gonna do for me,” my uncle said, crossing his arms.

“He’s supposed to be able to work miracles,” Margaret ventured.

“Yeah, yeah. It’s the hardest you’ve pushed for anything in years. We could’ve gone to Jamaica.”

“Oh, Peter. That’s nonsense.”

I rolled my eyes, silently agreeing with her. Pete hadn’t taken his wife on vacation in over ten years. They just weren’t all that interested in each other anymore…if they ever had been.

“Mr. and Mrs. O’Brien?” a nurse had come into the waiting room from the back. “The doctor will see you now.”

“Swell.” Pete rose, as did my Aunt.

“Wait here, kiddo.”


I leaned back in my chair and again glanced at the poster with the fancy lettering.


I smiled to myself, shaking my head and leaning back in my chair. Miracles? It’d take a doozy to fix that marriage.

* * *

“Brian?” It was Margaret’s soft voice. I started slightly, jolted out of my nap.

“Aunt Margaret,” I said, rising to my feet. “Ready to go?”

As I stood, I caught sight of another vision of a young woman loitering at the receptionist’s desk. Her skin was smooth and clear, and her black hair fell around her shoulders fetchingly. She turned my way quickly, catching me staring.

“What do you think you’re gawking at?” the vision demanded. My mouth dropped open as I heard a sharp, familiar voice come out of the woman’s perfect mouth.

“Uncle…uncle Pete?”

“Well, what’s the matter? Never seen a babe in a man’s suit before?”

“What’s going on here?” I managed, in a strangled voice.

“He does work miracles,” my aunt murmured.

Margaret looked -- well, she looked the same, really, but with a certain glow hadn’t been there before.

And she was devouring the new Pete with her eyes.

Pete noticed me watching her and nodded.

“I had no idea, either,” he admitted. “Women, huh? Women and their secrets. But the Doc knew.”

“I need a drink,” I said, feeling faint.

“Good idea – and after that, you can drop us at home.”

Margaret nodded eagerly.

The new Pete grabbed his jacket off the coat rack and noticed the men in the waiting room looking him up and down. His eyes darted around the room nervously.

He grabbed his wife’s hand and dragged her toward the door.

“Come on, Margie, let’s get out of here. And stay close – there’s a lot of perverts out there, and I’m spoken for.”

The End.

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This story is copyright Sean Gilbert. It may not be copied or used for any commercial purpose except for short excerpts used for reviews. (Obviously, you can copy it or print it out if you want to read it!)