Chapters:

Oh My Darling

Downstairs in the kitchen she sits.

My wife.

“Good morning,” I say.

She looks up with her morning-after eyes (as in morning after too many vodka tonics) and gives a me a perfunctory smile before returning to her newspaper.

“Up early today?”

I fill the coffee grinder with fresh beans set for the French press and breathe deep the smoky tang of single origin beans as they reduce to a rough-cut powder.

She’s an attractive woman. My darling wife.

Stunning even. But no one knows her like I do. She appears pleased, satisfied with me, with her circumstance, with the whole world—tout le monde, she would say in her precise French accent—as she spreads the newspaper pages on the table.

Who even reads the newspaper anymore?

Her face is puffy from sleep, a little haggard with hangover. Hence, the ice pack. It hints of her morning displeasure. Still, she’s delectable with tanned willowy limbs, her slim curves under a chiffon peignoir. Those delicious candy-tipped toes peeking from fluffy slippers. A familiar ear worm crawls through my head as I fill the press with coffee grounds, and refill the kettle with purified water before turning the fire up high underneath it.

Oh my darling, oh my darling

In the basement is a toolboxapproaching her from the side, swinging the hammer in a slow-motion arc. Her eyes widening, blue pools of horror, she turns into it, an instinctive jolt of fear galvanizing her to escape the heavy-duty steel…too late…pivot to avoid her face…

Impact!

Back of her head crumples like an egg on the edge of a cast-iron pan. The blowback spatters me in a baptism of bright blood. She falls, jerking on the floor, her spasm painting an abstract of torture as her poo smell fills the kitchen.

“Would you like your coffee now, My Darling?”

I offer the carafe of steaming fresh-brewed coffee and her mug with a splash of aromatic cinnamon. The way she likes it. Rumored to help regulate the blood sugar.

“Oh, thank you,” she says. “What a treat this is every morning.”

“Of course.”

She tops the coffee with cream and two bags of artificial sweetener as I dream of better ways to start my day. Tolling her death knell with that bell on her bedside table. The one she uses to signal me when she needs pampering. A jingle for more ice, more vodka, more tonic, more lime, more cheese and meaty bite-sized tidbits with snack crackers and where’s the clicker? I would duct tape her hands to her thighs, wrap her head in plastic and watch her turn blue, those beautiful 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 song again. Please stop. It’s way too early for that.”

“Oh My Darling, I am sorry.”

Guess I’m in a distracted mood today. But the toast. With wooden tongs I fetch the crunchy gluten-free slabs and spread them evenly with butter-flavored spread.

Singing my song while sawing off her head with a serrated knife as her tiny dog licks at the edge of pooling blood, his chittering claws dancing a paw-print tango in the crimson flood.

“Where’s the blueberry jam?” Her lips tighten, her temper quick to rise. And now I see she may begin to boil.

“We used the last of it yesterday. I was just too busy to stop at the Gourmet Shop before it closed. Here’s the list.” I give her a recycled envelope used to make a grocery list. “Here’s a pen.”

She takes the list, takes the pen, munches her jam-less toast and continues shuffling through the newspapers. Her face softens as it does under retail fluorescence—she’s 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 cupboards. It’s all the same with her lists of 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 better, less is not better.

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

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

Lost opportunity. Just as well, I suppose. “Well, off I go. No rest for the wicked,” I say, smiling.

Her cheek is offered for a dutiful kiss. A mild odor lingering while expensive perfume wages a losing battle to her ethanol-laced muskiness. I take the envelope with her child-like scribbling and wonder what murky song is in her head.

“Until this evening, My Darling.”

She returns to her papers, coffee, and dietary toast. Her little dog I refuse to call by name yaps at my ankle, escorting me out for our morning walk of shame.

“Time to head for work. Love you,” I say, casting it out there as a token.

“Fluffy, shhhh” she says, inviting the little black and white pug-faced bugger into her lap.

I close the door behind me, peeking through the window as she feeds the dog a crust, her other hand going for the ibuprofen. The day is hot already. The air feels claustrophobic, like being wrapped up tight in something like a large Persian rug? I’m late by the sun’s bright reckoning threatening mass murder with ultra violet exposure. I get in the car and the rearview mirror smiles back with eyes bright, blue, pellucid. It’s another day in the shire, and the wonder of it all.

…lost and gone forever, oh my darling…Holly Parker