The Lockhorns (Short Story Month #10)
Comic strips, usually viewed as a relatively light-hearted art form, can on occasion bypass the comedy altogether and plum the Stygian depths to which the human soul can sink. Welcome, The Lockhorns, the comic page’s answer to Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? Although even that great titan of the American theatre, Edward Albee, never dared to gaze into the abyss for so long a time.
Leroy and Loretta Lockhorn are trapped in a time loop of despair, forever “locking horns” through bitter verbal conflict (this now being the closest the two may ever come to forming the semblance of a meaningful relationship). The pair now subsist purely on hatred; parasitic lamprey that feast on bile, ingesting each other’s suppurating rage as others do a tasty bowl of gazpacho.
Here, we are silent witness to a quintet of exquisitely executed tableaux vivant. So exhausted is the duo from their decades of emotional combat that they no longer are able to summon the energy to tear each other down anymore; indeed, they are barely able to utter nonsensical bon mots that exhibit only the merest semblance wit. Drunkenly mumbled remarks on weight problems, lechery, finances, and mothers-in-law are no longer barbs with which to incite warfare, but simply reminders that misery is a fathomless pit.
Their remarks are metahumour at its most cruel and cutting. The once-loving couple have given up on life itself, leaving the reader a silent witness to the crumbling edifice of their existence.