782 words (3 minute read)

If I had a hammer

WIP revised 10092017

Downstairs in the kitchen she sits. My wife. Her eyes are glazed already as she gives a me a perfunctory smile. She appears pleased, satisfied with me, with her circumstance, with the whole world—tout le monde, she would say in her high school French accent—as she spreads today’s news pages on the table.

She’s an attractive woman. Stunning even. But no one knows her like I do.

There’s a hint of morning displeasure. Her face is puffy with sleep and haggard with hangover. Yet still she’s delectable with tanned willowy limbs, slim curves under a chiffon peignoir, candy-tipped toes housed in fluffy slippers.

An earwig refrain crawls through my head as I fill the coffee maker with fresh grounds from single origin beans.

In the basement is a toolbox where I reach for a claw hammer…swinging it in a slow motion arc, her eyes widening into hazel pools of horror as she tries to escape the heavy-duty steel with an instinctive jolt of fear…impact as her forehead crumples like an egg on the edge of a cast-iron pan. The blowback spatters me in a baptism of bright blood. Her body falls and jerks on the floor, her death spasm painting an abstract of torture on the tile as her sewer smell fills the kitchen.

“Would you like your coffee, dearest?”

I offer the pot, steaming with the barest hint of cinnamon in her mug. The way she likes it. Rumored to help regulate the blood sugar.

Fair warning now. This is no Walter Mitty daydream.

“Oh, thank you. What a treat.”

Eyes glued to the newspaper, she takes the mug, tops the coffee with cream and two bags of artificial sweetener as I dream of better ways to start my day.

“Of course, my darling.”

I toll her death knell with that bell on her bedside table. The one she uses to signal when she needs pampering. She jingles it for more ice, more vodka, more tonic, more lime, more cheese and meaty bite-sized tidbits with snack crackers and where’s the remote? I duct tape her hands to her thighs before I wrap her head in plastic to watch her turn blue, her eyes bursting a red Fourth of July on white sclera.

“Hey!” Her fingers snap in my face. “Where’d you go? The toast is done. And you’re humming that stupid song again. Please stop it.”

“Sorry, my sweet.”

Guess we’re both in a distracted mood today. Ah, but the toast. With wooden tongs I fetch thin slabs of crunchy gluten and spread them evenly with buttery-flavored spread.

Singing my song while sawing off her head with a serrated bread knife as her tiny dog licks the edge of pooling blood. His chittering claws dance a paw-print tango on the tile floor to avoid the crimson flood.

“Where’s the blueberry jam?” Her lips tighten, her temper always quick to rise. And she’s already beginning to boil.

“We used the last of it yesterday. Sorry, I was too busy to stop at the Gourmet Shop before it closed. Here, I’ve started a list.” I hand over a recycled envelope used to make a list. “Here’s a pen.”

She takes the list, takes the pen, munches her jam-less toast and continues her shuffling through the newspapers. I watch her face soften as it does under retail fluorescence—she is the only person I know who looks good in fluorescent light—where I suspect she imagines the cornucopia of goods filling the shelves of our already well-stocked cupboards.

It’s the same with her lists of all things to do, to buy, to enhance her daily routines. Clothes, Christmas presents, furniture, yard implements at the huge home store full of refurbishing refinement.More is always better, less the ultimate evil.

“I have free time this afternoon. I could swing by, pick you up, steal you away—”

“Hair appointment at two.” She studies her fingertips and my fantasy bubble pops. “And these claws need work.”

Lost opportunity. Just as well.

“Well, I’m off. No rest for the wicked.”

I smile. Her cheek is offered for a dutiful kiss. Her face smells slightly rancid as expensive perfume wages a losing battle to her ethanol-laced muskiness. I take her child-like scribbling and wonder what murky song is in her head. “Until this evening, my sweet.”

She returns to her papers, coffee, and dietary toast. Her little dog I refuse to call by name yaps at my ankles, escorting me out.

“Shut up, Fluffy,” she says.

I peek through the window as she tosses him a crust, her other hand going for the ibuprofen.

In my car mirror an image smiles back with eyes bright, blue, pellucid.

Next Chapter: excerpt from chapter 2