My life was one bad break after another. What I thought was going to be a marriage of bliss and splendor, turned out to be nothing short of poking one’s eye out just for the changes it would cause.
I must admit to being somewhat implicated with it’s failing, having not given it my utmost attention. Yet I could not foresee it’s awful turns and the tiring repetition of its daily life. The endless fear of coming home to retire on the couch, sucking air from the room with a mouth gaping open to emit yet another boredom filled yawn. Another night of remaining there until our finances allowed us an infrequent foray into the night with other people, yes, other humans.
I had taken to stopping at the tavern to relieve my friends of the few cents necessary for a cool, and hopefully inebriating drink. Once in a while I would pilfer a few dollars here and there while at the office, but this little amount could never make it home, lest it be put away for whatever designs she might have on it. Even though I detested her greed, and the fact that she would never fail to quiz me on how it came to me, I never could carry out the deceit. I would always end up confessing where I had gotten it.
Once given, it never would be returned, honesty never carried us so far as to do that, so instead it seldom made it home. She always knew of my stopping at the bar, but whether I spent a few dollars, or several dollars, I doubted that she could ever tell, so it was easiest to spend it before she ever knew about it. It was simpler and to my own benefit besides.
So it came to be on such an occasion that I had found a virtual fortune. I call it a fortune, according to my standards, but what it really allowed was for me to spend it in a single night, getting a good stagger, and paying back a few debts to the friends who befriended me the most times of all the people I owned for their generosity. And it may not have been generosity anyway, undoubtedly some were satisfied to get me to leave them alone. I only paid back a few though, as I didn’t want to spend more than what was necessary to ‘salt the mine’ for the next time I was seeking their support.
While spending my hours cajoling them for liquid refreshment, and avoiding any timely return to home at most any cost, I developed quite a reputation for spinning tales and telling jokes. The line began to blur as to whether I was stealing their money, or whether they were legitimately paying me for their entertainment. Self-interest would win out and I decided it was the latter.
While I could stretch a tale out of the most ordinary of everyday happenings, I began to tell more and more of the wretchedness of my home life, and especially that directed to my wife.
These were the easiest to embellish since the others had no knowledge of the reality that even I was already pulling from my own mind and somewhat believing. A simple scolding became an all night berating, a curse became a threat of my very life, a thrown dish became the razor sharp broken edge of a glass with which she had intended to sever my jugular vein. I had only escaped with my life with just seconds to spare on the night before, many times.
My tales quickly became a succession of moans and fantasies about the depressing life I had fallen into, and less time was spent dispensing humor to my clientele. Their numbers began a slow decrease, and the share of drinks paid for by myself became larger and larger. While my personal funding had improved over time, less of it found its way home, and more of it became an alcoholic cushion that blurred my brain and vision of the rest of the miserable world.
In the years of serving myself a good life over the bar, I allowed the good woman I had married for love to diminish into a knarled, twisted hag. She became one that sought nothing less than to drive me to an early grave for her own financial benefit. I was unable to tell the truth from my illusions.
Already I could see her dancing on my grave site, throwing her head back, sending her cackles echoing through the surrounding woods at my expense. Then her and her lover would walk back towards the car, him holding her up while she bent double with laughter. I could see it very clearly in my mind. I had seen it many times. I bit down on the can hard enough to cut my lip. The taste of blood served to carry my thoughts in an even more deranged direction.
On the nights when there was nobody around to cajole, I drank alone and envisioned countless versions of her having the time of her life while I slaved during the day. Many times I convinced myself to hurry home to catch her entertaining her lover during my absence. But the call of the coins rubbing against my leg through the thin pocket of my pants held me in place. I didn’t want to see the truth either.
I could not drive myself out of the bar while I still had some money to drink. And I couldn’t look forward to seeing that well worn face shoving all the guilt back at me. I already knew that I would once again see in her eyes the disappointment that my late arrival had caused. I assumed her deeper thoughts on how to rid herself of me, freeing her to enjoy her daylight activities. I clenched my jaw, ground my teeth, and threw back my head to drench my throat with another nearly full glass. A little stream trickled from the corner of my mouth, but using the back of a hairy hand for the spill, emitting a loud belch, and the thought cleared from my mind, as it had many times before. The cut on my lip burned, but it only encouraged my thoughts further.
I grinned a little when I recalled the secret that I had been withholding from her for years. It made me happy to believe that I would win out in the end. Even in my stupor I realized that it would be satisfaction rather than happiness. She would be the loser when my health would finally give in to the barrage of alcohol I had given my body over the years. I would die and leave her nothing. I had never believed in insurance, though I told her many times how well I had covered her. I laughed at my wickedness as I recalled how I had convinced her that money spent over the bar was being used to increase my coverage.
I was covered at work, but only while I worked. I was no good to them dead, and they would pay accordingly. I would be no good dead to her either, but she would never know until it was too late.
A wave of guilt ran over my sloshing brain as I thought about how horrible I had been to her while I was still here, but my ever quick, inventive brain turned quickly to repeating the best and cruelest excuses I had for behaving the way I had. Besides, she would have a younger, doting lover who would console her during any momentary grief she might have shortly after my demise.
The thought of seeing them embracing sent red bolts of hot blood surging through my brain. A stabbing pain flashed behind my eyeballs. I brought the heels of my hands slapping against the eyebrows just over my eyes.
When I awoke, I was picking myself up from the ashes and other residue on the floor. I halfheartedly swung at the trash on my coat, but as usual, I missed both the coat and it’s clinging garbage. I blinked my eyes and stared to see the location of the glass before me. Taking only one hand away, I reached it and dumped it into my open mouth once again.
I spat and fumed as the solidity of the cigarette butt bounced down my throat, it’s horrible taste gaging me until I almost vomited. But I had nothing in my stomach but alcohol, and it had long been absorbed into my system. I bent over and hacked repeatedly until I was almost to my knees. Not even the cigarette butt would come out of my throat. I fear for a few moments that I would choke to death before I could complete my ideas, but finally I swallowed it with a harsh gulp of air. I was immediately sickened but held it down where it could do no harm.
Somehow my mortality had penetrated below the surface crust that I held everything else behind before. Perhaps I would not win after all. I would be dead. She would be living. It whirled in my mind. They would both be living. They would both be living nearer to each other!
I returned to the thought that I must win, I must be the last survivor. I had to come out ahead. It had to be the final showdown. The pain in my head bounced around inside, causing spots of intense, dull knots that all but caused my sight to fail entirely. I stumbled back to my feet, absently brushing off the garbage from my knees that had stuck to them from the multiple spills that had coated the floor where I had knelt.
“This must end, and I must end it.” I declared to myself. “I cannot wait until they stand over me laughing at my writhing body lying on the floor.” Already I could look up at them, seeing the holes beneath their noses staring down at me while their glistening mouths dripped in anticipation of my death, with saliva wetting their lips and bubbling in the corners.
I ducked to avoid a droplet falling at me. The bartender then asked me if something was wrong. I muttered, but I was perhaps the only one to hear it, as I had been the only one to see the droplet of spit also.
I got a bottle out of him while he was convinced that I truly sick, and clothed it in a paper bag on my way out of the bar. The pity was strong and obvious as he squeezed his bar rag ,between his hands while watching me as I left with my only dear possession
The bright sun blinded me, sending more pain around the inside of my skull. I shielded myself with the booze carrying arm, the bag dangling in front of my eyes. The cap was quickly off, and a couple of mouthfuls encouraged me along to carry out my mission.
The walk wasn’t particularly long, I knew roughly how many stops would have to be made in order to finish the bottle before I got home. A few stops under the trees became long pauses while I dozed briefly. My stance, long practiced while off balanced, kept me from falling most of the time.
Ahead I could see the front corner of the garage. I would have to stop there if I were to hide the remainder of this bottle. It was hidden from the house by trees, and I knew that I could probably get into it without being seen if I was careful not to go in front of it. Having taken as much as possible from the bottle during the short walk, I realized that I could not finish it in time. I cursed the rotten cigarette butt for taking up room in my stomach. After a long drink, I tucked it into my back pocket, and started walking cautiously towards the garage.
As I walked, I began questioning why I was hiding, incensing me further to be submissive when I had intended to be heartless and cruel, according to my plan.
I kicked the door twice, while trying to open the handle. It bounced back in my face twice, or rather, I ran into it, and finally slammed against the wall when I coordinated the turning of the knob and the pressure against it, and it opened.
I somehow crawled up the ladder into the attic, and was reaching for the highest rafter when I heard her footsteps under me. My neck tightened, my shoulders pulled back from their usual forward droop.
I don’t know what she was saying, it was nothing more than the endless shouting. I could only shriek, then climbed down and jumped from the the final step. I fell headlong into the corner behind the door.
My skin seemed aflame with anger. My sight was narrow and obscured by the red and white flashes shooting around my eyes like fireworks, the edges blurred by the alcohol. My hand felt a long round handle. I grabbed it instinctively.
As I turned, she was leaning down over me. I thought I saw her eyes go wide for a glorious moment as I swung the twenty ounce hammer up and around. Red was everywhere, jumping and splashing around and within my head. I fell down again. I tried hard to calm my breathing down as it was rasping and started me coughing and retching. My head whirled and I passed out on the floor.
I saw the body lying there next to me when I awoke. It seemed lifeless. I got up and pulled her up by the arms, draping her over my shoulder. I carried her to the house and put her down on a kitchen chair.
A bit of panic ran around inside me and I felt queasy for a moment. I glared down at her while her head and shoulders lay across the table. The clot of blood wasn’t much, but it had made a big mess of her hair.
After a brief smile, I wiped my hair back across my head and grinned at myself for the good I had just done for the world. I thought about the rewards of such a good job, and wondered about the bottle back in the garage. I turned quickly and went to find it. This enjoyment of success had my head clear and functioning perfectly. In fact, I couldn’t remember when it was so easy to think something through. It was like waking from hours of sleep, I was almost giddy.
It had remained atop the rafter when I was so rudely interrupted. My greatest fear was that I would find it laying on the floor, busted and useless.
The cap came off easily and I had my first drink to success. I thought about the hell she’d given me, the countless berating, the endless scoldings that seemed to last well into the night. Maybe they were actually less than an hour, but I no longer cared, it no longer mattered.
As I was finishing the bottle I walked back into the house. I tipped the last drop out and threw the bottle into the yard. Stepping back into the house, her body still lay on the table. As I walked around, I noticed that the tablecloth was wrinkled under one of her hands. I glanced quickly at her face, then relaxed when I found it still calm and flaccid.
The room’s light seemed to have faded slightly though it was still long before nightfall. In the corners of my eyes shadows moved slowly around me. I jerked myself around quickly once when I thought the shadow of someone was coming through the window. My own shadow was long and dark.
I thought about her face, and then another, that of the lover I only imagined her to have. The thought caused another swirl inside my head. I leaned against the table. My stupor was returning, but logical thinking was creeping back into my head. My crime passed my thoughts for an instance, but greed and selfishness forced it away quickly. I wondered where she might have some money stashed away.
It wasn’t hard to find the first cache. I knew it would be where only she tended to be, among the soaps and other toiletries in the bathroom. It stunk, but after wiping off the fragrant powder I held a handful of cash.
It was plenty. It would get me another bottle, and a couple of drinks while I was there. My appetite whetted, I cheered up considerably. It seemed to be a new brand of depression that ran across my thoughts now, different from that which I had lived with for many years. The search for money would continue when I had finished giving myself a good dose of medicine to end its annoyance.
On the way out of the house, I stopped by her and told her about how I had won by striking first. I mentioned the lover that was visualizing itself within my now aching brain.
For an instant I thought I had seen her hand clench. I put my face down by it and stared for as long as I was able to balance myself while bent over her.
Sure enough, it had contracted slightly, wrinkling the tablecloth once again. Moving around the table quickly, I leaned over her and pulled up an eyelid. A horrible sight faced me, the pupil had shrunken too small for my nearly closed eyes to see. I jerked my hand up and shook form revulsion.
I knew that strange things had happened before, so I knew what I had to do before I left. I thought first of hitting her again, but I nearly vomited at the thought of smashing her head with another splattering blow, besides, I had left the hammer out in the garage. It was too far for a spinning head to consider for very long and I quickly forgot the idea.
Putting a chair behind her legs, I tugged at her shoulders until she sat back into it with a thump. I grabbed as quickly as I could to keep her from falling out of it sideways. Then I tied one hand, went around the back of the chair with the rope, and around her other wrist again. “Just in case.“ I told myself.
I bent over again and nausea gripped my throat. Just by accident I opened the other eye this time. The pupil was large and dark. I had once loved this eye, I could no longer suffer it to be bludgeoned again.
I moved quickly for the drink that was needed to chase away the horror that threatened to overcome me. It would render me useless and ineffective and I couldn’t let that happen. There were too many things to do yet.
I hobbled and leaned my way around the house, closing and locking all the windows and doors. It wouldn’t do to have some neighbors looking for her, or hear her scream if she would awaken. It wasn’t likely that they could hear her if she did, not with the house all shut up. Curtains would keep the lookers from seeing. I grabbed her keys as I went by her purse, momentarily fearing that perhaps she had given her lover a set. I couldn’t deal with that now in any case, so I passed over the thought, wishing for luck instead.
I laughed quietly, then said loudly to her that I would return shortly, then added with as much sarcasm as I could force myself to emit, “If I felt like it.” And laughed loudly. I locked the door on the house, then closed the door of the garage after kicking the hammer into the clutter on the floor.
On the way, I listened to the new money jingle and rustle in my pocket. Mixed with the visions of the drinking to come ahead, I thought of new stories I could tell the patrons at the bar. This could be the greatest one I had told them yet. For a while, I pondered telling them the truth. It would probably never be questioned, and the thrill I would get while telling it would bring immeasurable glee. But I didn’t want to risk that someone with big ears would hear me, and not know what a great storyteller I was pretending to be.
After a great night of storytelling I would reluctantly return to the house that would now be mine alone. No arguing, yelling, scolding, no fighting…
I even started on plans to fix the old place up as well. Not too much, but I would rid myself of the reminders of the past. Obviously getting rid of the body would be the first thing to accomplish, the first memory to erase. But that plan had long been worked out. He would bring her upstairs in the garage and let a candle burn itself down to its base. Nothing would be suspicious about it. It was the only way of getting light up there, and plenty of them were already waiting there, ready to be used.
But that was nothing that had to be done immediately. There was drinking to be done until then, and the bar was closing in with each step. I walked in and took count of the few people that were there. With the bundle of money that I had with me this time I could pay back all my debts, but only if I wanted to. Fortunately very few of the people present even knew me, much less my creditors.
Surprisingly I didn’t really feel all that generous, despite my newfound cash. I was thinking more of doing some self-aggrandizing storytelling. I was best at that anyway. However there wasn’t anyone around that was alone and ready for me to begin a tale. It was an easy thing to drink until someone showed up. He smiled at the irony that he wouldn’t have to perform for money, he could do it for gratitude instead of in trade for drinks, but there was no one around at the time to benefit from his wealth and generosity.
The corner of the bar fit his mood as well as it always had. He could observe anyone coming in, avoid anyone who might harass him for money, and pick out anyone who looked responsive for a good story with a slightly eager glance.
As a sign of his intentions, he put a twenty dollar bill on the bar. The bartender recognized the clue instantly and stood an open bottle before him with a single shot glass. He filled it quickly, leaving a small ring of alcohol around the base of it as he spilled it slightly. By the time the bottle was nearly empty a series of rings were spread across the shiny top of the bar, most of them smeared into each other.
He was greatly disappointed that no one had come into the bar that interested his sense of storytelling. Instead he drank each shot while thinking of the missed opportunity. Turning slightly on the barstool, he thought about leaving to finish his work at home. The amount of liquor had taken a firm hold of his brain, and the slight motion had sloshed it within his head after sitting fairly still for so many hours.
Looking up from the floor he saw the blurry faces staring down at him. Only the glaring nostrils were clear to his eyes, the faces behind them were hidden out of view. He was lying on his back and could see that one of them was wearing a dress. He could smell the perfume and thought about his hands covered with the scent of the bathroom hiding place. He wondered if his hands were near his face. He tried to roll over but he was just too drunk to move.
His eyes bulged slightly as he realized that this was not his ordinary drunken condition. In all of his past times of waking on the floor, he always felt a sore arm or knee that he had banged on the way down. He felt nothing this time, aside from the excruciating pain from the left temple of his head, and perhaps along the side of his neck. The nostrils continued to stare down at him, but were blurring into the rest of the two faces.
“He must’ve hit it on the bar on the way down.” The bartender was saying. He recognized the voice easily as he tried to move from the floor. “He’s been here since shortly after work.” He continued. He admitted that it would be easy for the server to determine, it had been his usual pattern for years.
A dribble of spit came down at him as he listened to the voice, striking him right in the eye. He had tried to avoid it, but hadn’t been able to move. It rolled down the surface of the eye and into the tear duct where it combined with the liquids already pooling there.
The widow nodded with agreement and resolution as the coat was drawn over the motionless face. The eyes still did not move, but more tears combined until they finally escaped and ran down the covered face. At least the horror was out of his eyes finally.
The bartender looked down at the woman with sympathetic tears of his own. He reached for her hand and held it tenderly, but perhaps, a little too long.