Act X, Scene I
This above all: to thine own self be true, and it must follow, as the night the day, thou canst not then be false to any man. ~ Hamlet, Act I, Scene III
Marge stood in silence, staring in awe at the homicidal maniac who had terrorized her family for years, now rendered as helpless and naïve as a small child.
He stared back, clearly confused. "Who is Bob?" he said, slowly raising a hand to his face. Gingerly he touched the swollen, discolored area below his blackened eye, wincing a little. The elegant contours of his high cheekbones made the bruise stand out even more. His long, slender fingers traced the curves of cheek and nose and jawline, trying to relearn the features of a face no longer familiar.
"And… who am I?"
Marge gave a worried grunt, wringing her hands together nervously. "Bob is… is you. You're Bob," she answered hesitantly.
Was this a trick? If so, what did he hope to gain by it? If not… She almost wished it was a trick. The thought of dealing with a Sideshow Bob who'd lost his memory seemed far more unsettling than dealing with a Sideshow Bob who'd lost his mind. The latter she knew how to handle, what to expect. More or less. She and her family had expert-level experience in battling a deranged Bob. But an amnesiac Bob? Hoo, boy.
"Your full name is Robert… something… Terwilliger," Marge explained, unable to remember the Underdunk surname he got from his mother, or any middle names he might have had. "Robert Terwilliger," she repeated, with confidence this time. "But I think most people just call you Bob."
Sitting up in bed with a curious expression, he looked so harmless and trusting that Marge began to let her guard down. Bob hissed in pain and cupped a hand over a bandaged scrape on his brow. Seeing this, the mother in Marge caved in and she sat beside him on the bed, raising a tentative hand to his face.
Bob nodded and lowered his hand, turning his face toward her more so that she could inspect the wound. She brushed a fluffy auburn lock aside and leaned in close. Blood had seeped through the bandage, some quite recently, from the look of it.
"I'll change some of your bandages after lunch," she said, rising. He started to get up too, but she gave him a gentle push back into bed. "No, no, you stay in bed and recuperate. You've been through a lot and you need your rest. I'll bring you your lunch. Just give me ten minutes. If you do need to get up and, er, take care of business, the bathroom's just down the hall on the right."
Marge hurried out of the room, hoping he would stay in bed. At least until Homer returned from work. The thought of Sideshow Bob wandering around her house, mindless or not, was a troubling one. She had been nervous enough to be left all alone with him that morning after Homer left for work and the kids for school.
Well, not ALL alone. Maggie and Grampa were there too, of course, but a baby and a senile old man were about as helpful as a burnt-out light bulb in a broken lamp on a blind man's writing desk – that whined and wet themselves frequently. On top of that, a third helpless person (with a homicidal streak, no less) would be like having a poltergeist haunting the blind man's house.
* * *
In the kitchen, Marge set about making lunch. Being as unsure as Bob was on what he would like, she decided to fix a variety plate. First a ham sandwich, with lettuce, tomato, cheese, and just a little mayonnaise and mustard. If he wanted more, she could easily add to it, but if he didn't, it would be a lot harder to remove excess condiments. She placed all these ingredients between two slices of bread, one white and one whole grain, hoping he would like at least one of the two.
Fresh pear slices, a glass of orange juice, and a small box of animal crackers joined the sandwich on a tray. The final course, a bowl of chicken noodle soup, had just gone into the microwave when the doorbell rang. Marge wiped her hands on a dish rag and went to answer it.
Selma stood on the doorstep, a cigarette in her mouth and her adopted daughter Ling in one arm. "Hello, Marge. Mind if I come in?"
"Of course!" Marge replied, with more enthusiasm than was usually reserved for a visit from her sisters. Her relief at Selma's arrival confirmed just how unnerving Bob's presence was in her house.
As Selma stepped into the house, Ling looked around eagerly for her favorite cousin and playmate.
"I'm afraid Maggie's taking a nap right now," Marge explained to both her sister and her little niece as they settled at the kitchen table. She went back to making lunch for Bob while Selma griped and gossiped about the latest goings-on at the local DMV where she worked.
While the soup was still heating, Marge added a few more things to the food tray, including a single-serving yogurt cup, a small bag of chips, and celery sticks with peanut butter.
"Homer off his diet again?" Selma asked with a smirk.
"Yes," Marge replied hesitantly, "but that's not who all this food is for. It's for Sideshow Bob. He's –"
"Sideshow Bob?" Selma repeated, bolting up out of her chair.
Marge mistook this reaction for fear, remembering how Bob had nearly succeeded in killing Selma on their honeymoon. She promptly explained the situation in order to put Selma's mind at ease. It certainly worked, but to what extent, Marge could hardly imagine. The wicked grin on her sister's face should have tipped her off, but the microwave chose that precise moment to ding, calling Marge's attention back to preparing Bob's lunch.
She set the steaming soup bowl on the tray and carried it through the living room toward the stairs, past Grampa snoring ferociously in a recliner. Marge climbed the stairs slowly, careful not to spill anything. Selma followed with Ling in tow. As if psychically attuned to her cousin's nearing presence, Maggie woke up and started crying.
Marge groaned. "Check on her for me, will you?" she asked Selma before heading toward the guest room at the opposite end of the hall.
Bob was in bed, flat on his back, lying perfectly still, eyes closed. Marge stared. The pallor of his skin in the warm sunlight streaming through the window made his bruises look darker by contrast. Was he always that pale? She stepped closer, and for the first time ever she began to notice little things about the man that had terrorized her family for the past few years.
The high cheekbones, the circles under the eyes… even a light sprinkling of freckles across the bridge of his nose that lent credence to his being a natural redhead. She'd always assumed he wore a wig. After all, who on earth would have such bizarre hair? She shook her head, causing her own blue beehive 'do to sway back and forth.
As if sensing her presence, Bob slowly opened his eyes, one still puffy and black, and turned his head to look at her with a serene expression. If you had asked Marge what color Sideshow Bob's eyes were before now, she could never have given you a confident answer. From a distance, they looked brown, sometimes hazel. Up close, devoid of their usual malice, they were a deep but dazzling olive green. Like jade with a touch of amber. They were really quite beautiful. Marge couldn't help thinking that he was actually a rather handsome man – when he didn't have that stabby look.
She cleared her throat. "Here's your lunch. I didn't know what you'd like, so…" she set the tray down across his lap after he sat up. Bob stared at the small feast, speechless.
She watched as he picked up a celery stick and nibbled it experimentally. He made a face and Marge stiffened. Oh God, he's not allergic to peanut butter, is he? He tried it again, and although it was apparent by his expression that he didn't like it, he proceeded to eat it anyway, casting his hostess an approval-seeking look.
"You don't have to eat it if you don't like it," Marge assured him.
Bob promptly set down what was left of the celery stick and swallowed with a grimace. "I apologize, but I don't particularly care for these crunchy green things."
"It's called celery, and don't apologize. Just eat whatever you like, and what you don't like, I'll give Home – my husband – for dinner."
Bob nodded. "Thank you," he said with a smile. It was amazing how charming his smile could be when it wasn't connected with something sinister.
Marge nodded back, her own smile a tad nervous. "You're welcome." She turned toward the door. "If you need anything, just give a holler."
She went to Maggie's room next, where she found Selma watching Ling and Maggie play on the floor. "I have to go downstairs," Marge said. "Can you watch the kids while I clean up the kitchen?"
"Sure," Selma replied, pulling a cigarette and lighter from her purse. Before Marge could protest, her sister opened the window and leaned against the sill as she lit up. The ceiling fan drove the smoke from the room. Marge smirked, but let it go. Selma may never win Mother of the Year, or even qualify as a contestant, but at least she had enough maternal sense to smoke away from babies. Sort of.
"Oh! One more thing. Bob's in the guest room recuperating. If he calls, could you take care of him for me? He won't try to kill you or anything," Marge promised. "In fact, I'd be surprised if he even remembers you, what with the amnesia and all."
"No problem," Selma purred, with a grin more sinister than Sideshow Bob could ever manage. She took a deep drag on her cigarette, exhaling a cloudy puff that framed her smile in an ominous haze. "I'll take good care of him."
* * *
It had been over half an hour since Marge had descended the stairs, leaving Selma to watch the babies and Bob to eat his lunch in peace. She'd only meant to wipe the counters and wash a few dishes. Maybe pull something out of the freezer to thaw out for dinner. But sometimes one chore leads to another, as it often did in her case. Not having to worry about Maggie took a load off her shoulders, allowing her to heap on a whole new load, composed entirely of housework.
Marge paused in re-grouting the downstairs bathroom floor when she suddenly realized how quiet it was. Too quiet, in her opinion. She peeked into the living room, where her father-in-law lay limp in the recliner. He'd stopped snoring, so she watched him for a moment until the subtle rise and fall of his chest confirmed he was still breathing.
Relieved, she allowed herself to breathe again, and looked toward the stairs. No sound from the upper floor either. Had the babies fallen asleep? Maggie had already had her nap, so that was unlikely. And what of Selma and Bob? She climbed the stairs, curiosity getting the best of her.
Marge checked Maggie's room first. The two little girls were playing quietly with dolls in Maggie's playpen. Selma was gone. Worried, she headed down the hall toward the guest room, but just as she got there, the doorknob turned and Selma stepped out of the room with a bowl of sudsy water, a sponge, and a look of pure smugness.
Marge took a step back, staring at the items in her hands. "What…" it took her a moment to put two and two together, and when she did, her face went livid from a confused mixture of outrage and embarrassment.
"You gave him a sponge bath?!"
"You said to take care of him."
"Yes, but I didn't mean… that isn't what I… you know that's not…" Marge stammered, scandalized. "Did I ask you to give him a sponge bath?"
"You didn't need to," Selma answered coolly.
"He's not helpless, you know!"
Selma grinned again. "I know."
Marge growled. "I think you've done enough," she said, dismissing her.
"Oh, you don't know the half of it, sister. All I can say is, I'm gonna need a cigarette now." Selma gave her a wink and walked away.
Very hesitantly, Marge opened the guest room door. Bob was lying in bed, eyes on the ceiling, his face a perfect portrait of the thousand-yard stare. It didn't take a genius to figure out what disturbed him so.
"I'm awfully sorry about that," Marge said, looking down at him worriedly. "My sister means well… in her own way."
Bob said nothing, just continued to stare at the ceiling. Marge fidgeted.
"Ummm… maybe you'd like to take a real bath? Or a shower?" she suggested. "On your own?"
That got his attention. His gaze shifted to hers and he nodded.
While Bob showered, Marge tried unsuccessfully to scold a shameless Selma for taking advantage of him.
"For God's sake, Marge, he's my ex-husband. We were married for two whole days, and we spent most of that time in bed. He may have been blind stinking drunk during our honeymoon, but at least he consented! Most of the time." Naturally it didn't occur to Selma WHY Bob had drank himself stupid each night.
"And I'm not talking about an innocent little cuddle. Oh, no," she chuckled wickedly. "We rolled around in those sheets like there was no tomorrow!"
Sitting across from her at the kitchen table, Marge's face went pink and she glanced away. "I didn't need to hear that."
Selma took a long, slow drag on her cigarette. It might have looked sensual if someone else was doing it. "If it makes you feel any better, my Bobby's the biggest act at Springfield Stallions. And I do mean the biggest."
Marge went bright red this time. "How is that supposed to make me feel better?"
Selma smirked, exhaling a wisp of smoke. "He obviously likes the attention."
Before Marge could go any redder, Bob's voice called out from upstairs. "Er, Mrs. Simpson? Could you come up here, please?"
Marge got up quickly, thankful for the opportunity to escape such an awkward conversation. She hurried up the stairs, thinking Bob needed her help re-bandaging some of his wounds. The sight she met on the top landing stopped her dead in her tracks.
Bob stood before her, spirals of wet hair dripping black dots on the dark green carpet. He wore nothing but a single towel – draped loosely about his shoulders.
Marge gasped, her face even redder than Selma could have made it. Bob just stood there, with neither a clue nor a care in the world, as though au naturel was truly natural. There was certainly no doubt left in her mind that he was a natural redhead. Not after seeing firsthand that the carpet matched the curtains.
"It didn't occur to me until just now that I have no clothes," he said calmly. As if THAT wasn't the understatement of the century!
It took an incredibly long moment for Marge to stop looking him in the crotch, and even longer for her to look him in the eyes again.
"Er, yes, well, I suppose… go on back to the guest room and I'll find you something to wear," she replied, addressing the banister instead of Bob.
Selma came up the stairs just as a very red Marge handed Bob a pile of clothes through the bedroom door without looking at him. She smirked. "I guess you know the answer now."
"Answer to what?" Marge asked, unable to look at her sister either.
"What they say about men with big feet."
Marge hurried into the bathroom to splash some cold water on her hot face. As she reached for a hand towel to dry, she glanced down and saw the empty bottles in the waste basket. Her Estee Lauder shampoo and conditioner for extra volume and sheen – all thirty-two ounces of each – had been completely used up by Bob before she even got a chance to open the bottles.
ACT XI: [link]