Monday, March 30, 2009

Luke and Rebecca

Not thrilled with this one, but... oh well.

The lights shining on the stage seemed hot enough to make the devil sweat, but Luke was frozen still. He stood, holding the sword in one hand, holding the fake wound dripping blood down his waist with the other hand. He couldn’t believe this. He’d done this scene 100 times before; how could he forget the lines now? He looked over at Cindy for help, but she was hunched over a chair drawing her character’s last breath. He turned toward Eric, but he just stared back, waiting for Luke to continue. He looked like he was fighting a smile. Figures - he would find this funny. He knew it was something about poison. “The poison... the sword...” Aw, screw the lines, thought Luke. It was time to get off the stage, and fast. He raised his sword, took a stumbling step forward, and shoved the sword into Eric’s heart.
Eric grabbed his chest, “O, yet defend me, friends! I am but hurt.”
Luke dropped his sword and fell to one knee. From across the stage, he heard a whisper, “The cup, you moron!” Crap! He struggled back to his feet, lifted a cup from a table and forced Eric to drink the grape juice. He fell back to his knees, clutching the wound in his side. He was supposed to say something here. He was supposed to say a lot of somethings here. He fell to his side and slowed his breathing. He was dead. And his director was going to kill him.

From her seat in the audience, Rebecca fought back her tears. He’d done it again. Every time he had a chance, he ruined it.
“Professor Morgan?” Rebecca looked up at the students standing in the aisle next to her.
“Why would the director choose to leave out the final lines like that?”
Rebecca shook here head as she gathered her purse and jacket and stood to leave. “I don’t think he did, Josh, but we’ll talk about it in class tomorrow.”

The phone ringing woke Rebecca from her sleep. She looked at the clock - 2:45. She picked up the phone and spoke into the receiver, “This better be important.”
“I got fired Rebecca.”
“No kidding. What did you expect was going to happen, Luke?”
“Well, he could’ve given me another chance!”
“That was your other chance. You can’t blow the final scene of one of the most famous plays in the world and expect to be let off easy.” She heard a sigh on the other end. “Luke, what happened? I saw you perform that part perfectly last year.”
“Yeah, but it was my first time back after I’d been sick. I was nervous.”
Rebecca rolled her eyes. “Sick” was three months in rehab.
“It had been a long time since I’d done it.”
“What do you mean ‘It’d been a long time’? What about rehearsals?”
“Aw, I knew the part. And the director knew me; it was okay.”
“If the director really knew you, nothing would’ve been okay. Are you saying you skipped rehearsals?”
“Not all of them. But Chris got this sweet deal on a boat and-”
“Luke! How stupid can you be? How stupid can the director be? I can’t believe he let you go on tonight.”
“Well, the understudy was sick...”
Rebecca stood up and walked towards the bathroom to get some aspirin, then headed to the kitchen. She put the phone on speaker and began to make some toast.
“Luke. You have to stop doing this. You’re twenty-eight years old and you’ve never had a job over three months.”
“No, I’ve got it together this time, Rebecca. Chris told me about this company-”
“You need to stay away from Chris.”
“He’s my friend, Rebecca. And it’s not up to you to run my life.”
“Fine. It’s late, Luke. I’m sorry you lost your job, but I still have mine. I have a 9 o’clock class in the morning, so I have to go.
“Rebecca, wait. Can I crash with you tonight? I was rooming with one of the actors, but I couldn’t get the rent together last month, and now... well, I just need a place for a couple of days, that’s all.”
Rebecca closed her eyes. The aspirin wasn’t helping yet. “I’m sorry, Luke. Not this time.”
“What? You’re joking, right?”
“I can’t keep saving your butt. You’re going to have to do it on your own this time.”
“Where do you expect me to go? You know I can’t afford a hotel right now.”
“It’s not my problem, Luke.”
“Not your problem? Of course it is. I’m your brother and you’re just gonna leave me out in the street to die.”
“Don’t be so dramatic. You’ll find a place. What about Chris? If he’s such a good friend?”
“Thought you wanted me to stay away from him? Can’t have it both ways, you know. C’mon Rebecca. I’ll make you pancakes in the morning. Remember how we’d make them into shapes and stuff. We can catch up... laugh and talk and stuff. It’ll be like old times.”
“Luke, I have a class in the morning.”
“Well, we’ll do lunch or something. C’mon. I miss my big sister. You know I love you.”
“Fine. Fine, Luke. Try to be quiet when you come in, please. I’m going back to bed.” She hung up the phone before he could reply. Why did she always give in to him like that? She knew she was just enabling him, but he was right. Where else was he going to go? She couldn’t just give up on him.

When Luke got to Rebecca’s house, he discovered the sofa bed was already made up for him and there was a clean towel and washcloth folded neatly on the corner of the sink. She treated him too well, and he knew it. He figured he kind of deserved it, though. He was only fourteen when both parents died in a car crash. She was already twenty-five, living on her own, and catching lucky breaks on the stock market. She had a good job as an English professor, was rich, and didn’t have anybody else she needed to support. Why shouldn’t she help him out? He was trying as hard as he could to make things work, and it was the least she could do, every now and then. Lately though, she’d been less willing and eager. It used to be that he could just turn on the brotherly charm, push the right buttons, and she’d write him a check, give him a place to stay, find him a job, anything he asked. He worried that she was starting to say no too often.

It was after 12:30 in the afternoon when he woke up. There was a note on the counter from Rebecca saying she had a break between 1:30 and 2:45 if he wanted to do lunch. He called her cell phone and left a message, saying he’d meet her at the usual café at 1:30.

Rebecca waited at the café until 2:30 before ordering her sandwich and eating it on the way back to campus. She opened her phone again. No missed calls, no new voice mails, just four unanswered calls to Luke. That boy better be lying in a- she caught herself before letting the thought continue. She’d never forgive herself if he really were in trouble. She went through the rest of her classes before calling again. There was still no answer. She stopped at the grocery store on the way home to pick up some groceries and a salad. Lord knew the boy didn’t eat right on his own; he was at least going to eat healthy when he was with her.

Before Rebecca even opened the door, she could hear the music pounding from inside. Oh, Lord, she sighed. When she entered the house, she was greeted by four men she’d never met, a few guys and girls she’d seen once or twice, Chris, and Luke, all of whom were drunk. Beer cans and bottles were littered across the floor, pizza boxes were stacked up on the coffee table, an overturned slice of pizza was resting on the recliner. Rebecca closed her eyes, not wanting to see the rest of the mess.
“Hey sis! How’s it going?” Rebecca didn’t answer. She turned toward the kitchen, took two steps, stopped, and turned back around.
“Luke, turn the music off and get these people out of my house right now.”
“Aw, c’mon...”
“Now!” At the sight of Rebecca’s anger, a few people had already started sneaking out the door, but some of the more brave – or stupid – ones were still lounging on the couch. Luke looked over at them and shrugged.
“I can’t be a bad host. We’re gonna watch the game tonight; this is just the pre-game party.”
Rebecca shoved the grocery bag into Luke’s hand, spun on her heel and stormed towards the couch. “You get out of my house right now. The party’s over; the game’s been cancelled. Out! Before I call the cops.” In a few minutes, Rebecca was left standing in the middle of the living room, glaring at Luke. From the corner of her eye, she could see that Chris was still there, but everyone else had left. “Clean up the mess, Luke.”
“Yeah, I will. Gonna watch the game first.”
“No, you’re going to clean it up now or you’re going to have to find someplace else to watch the game... and sleep tonight. Damn it, Luke, we’ve talked about this before. If you’re going to stay here, you have to show some respect and you have to look for a job.
“Give me a break, Becca. I haven’t even been here a day; it takes time to look for a job. Hey, maybe you can talk to that manager-guy you know...”
“You have three weeks to find a job, on your own, or you’re out. And,” she looked pointedly at the dirty bum on her couch, “Chris and the rest of your friends are not welcome here. Dinner will be ready in forty minutes; have this place cleaned up by then.”
Luke placed an empty box on top of the pizza slice on the chair and sat down, throwing his leg over the arm of the chair. He watched his sister storm out of the room and heard Chris give a low whistle. “Dude, that bitch thinks she’s your mom or something.”
“You let her talk to you like that? You’re an adult, dude. Stand up to her; fight back.”
“Yeah, maybe I should.” Luke stood up to go talk to her, but ended up falling into the coffee table. Chris laughed and opened another beer.
“Yeah, man. Break her table; that’s fighting back.” Neither said anything for a while, but then Chris spoke up again. “You know, if that bitch were dead, all this would be yours.”

Luke walked into the kitchen where Rebecca was cutting chicken for dinner. She could smell the alcohol on him. “Well, I’m glad all that money for rehab was well-spent.”
“Aw, it’s just a party, Becca. I’m not falling off the wagon or anything.” She raised an eyebrow at him, but kept cutting. Luke reached into the refrigerator for the last six-pack, and Rebecca peeked around the corner to look into the living room.
“Luke! The place is still a wreck and Chris is still here. What is going on?”
“Well, we’ve been talking about it-”
“Chris and I.”
“Oh, brilliant.”
“Well, I don’t think you have any right to tell me what to do anymore.”
“Any right?” Rebecca slammed the knife down on the cutting board. “Any right? I gave you a home for eight years, I paid your way through college until you flunked out, I’ve given you more money that I count with no expectations of you paying it back, and now you’re staying in my home again, rent-free. I have plenty of right. I’m not telling you how to live your life, Luke. I’m telling you rules for behavior in my house. If you don’t want to follow them, you can leave.” She picked the knife back up and returned to making dinner.
“Look, you can’t kick me on the street. Mom and dad expected you to take care of me.”
“You’re not a kid anymore, Luke. I’ve done my duty.”
“Is that all I was to you? A duty?”
“That’s not what I meant and you know it. You were my baby brother and I loved you. I still love you. The problem is, you still can’t do anything on your own. You’re still a baby.”
“I’m twenty-eight years old!” Their voices began to escalate until Chris could hear every word from the living room. “I’m a grown man.”
“Then act like it! I’m not going to keep bailing you out of trouble. From now on, if you want to act like a baby-”
“I told you, I’m not a baby.”
“Fine, you’re not a baby. If you want to keep acting like a loser, be my guest, but don’t expect me to keep bailing you out.” Luke rounded the corner and grabbed the knife from Rebecca’s hand.
“I’m not a loser!” He lowered his voice to a whisper and pointed the knife at her. I’m not a loser, Rebecca. I’m not a baby; I’m not a screw-up.” Rebecca glanced from the knife to the glazed look in his eyes and took a step backwards. She knew Luke wasn’t a bad person, but alcohol had always had a violent effect on him. She took another step back; Luke took one step forward. She stepped again, and he stepped again.
“Luke, c’mon now. Put the knife down. Go watch your game; I’ll bring you dinner when it’s ready. Okay? We’ll talk about this later when you sober up a bit, alright?”
“Stop talking down to me like that! You’re patronizing me now. I told you; I’m not a baby!”
“No, no you’re not! I’m sorry I treated you like one. I won’t do it again.” Luke lowered the knife, but wasn’t through making his point. He leaned forward, attempting to look large and menacing. He moved to take one more step, but instead bumped into the corner of the counter and fell sideways. He didn’t even realize he’d lost the knife, but when he recovered his balance and went to set the knife on the counter, he realized it was no longer in his hand. Then he heard the gasps. He looked up and saw Rebecca, shock on her face and blood on her chest. She looked down at the bloody knife on the floor and then back at Luke.
“Luke...” She began to fall and Luke reached out to catch her, sinking to the floor with her in his arms.
“Becca - no, Becca. I’m sorry. I’m so sorry. I didn’t mean to.”
“I know you didn’t.” She slowly reached up and wiped the tears from his face. He lifted her up and held her body close to his chest.
“I’m sorry. I don’t know what to do. Becca, what do I do?”
“I can’t help you this time, Luke. I’m sorry.”
“Becca, please. I’m so sorry. I fell. I’m sorry...”
“Remember that line you were looking for? It’s ‘The point envenomed too! Then venom, to thy work.’” Luke nodded and cried, not really understanding. “I love you baby brother.” The last words were barely audible before she stopped breathing. Luke choked out a sob and buried his head in her hair.
“I love you, too. I’m so sorry.” He sat on the kitchen floor, cradling her lifeless body. He heard the front door open and close as Chris left. He heard the sirens getting closer and the door being broken in. He felt them pulling him off her and heard them discussing the situation. Words like “dead,” “murder,” “drunk,” ‘silent,” and “attorney” filled his head.
“Sir? Sir!” Luke looked up at the police officer placing handcuffs on him. “Do you understand these rights as I have read them to you?” Luke nodded as he watched her sheet-covered body being carried by on a stretcher.
“Help her,” he whispered.
"Ain't nobody can help her now, buddy." Luke nodded. There was no one left to help him now either.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

More Than Merely

Sorry, crazy week - you get a poem instead of a story.

Dark mahogany shelves line the walls,
Tall guardians of a valuable treasure.
Pages of discovery, romance, and fantasy
Battle for coveted space
Amongst history, comedy, and adventure.
Disguised as common objects,
They present rare and priceless gifts:
The entrance to knowledge,
A refuge from life,
Opportunity to escape,
Advice and assurance,
Consolation and encouragement,
The motivation to dream.

Silently waiting to be opened,
To be allowed to speak.
So much more than merely books.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

A Guitar Story

I had to figure out a way to change Momma’s mind, but how? I wouldn’t say she was smarter than me, but she somehow always seemed to know what I was trying to do. Still, I had to try – kids didn’t come out of The Fink’s house alive.
“Momma, you and Daddy can’t go out tonight. You have to stay home.”
From inside her walk-in closet, I heard her reply, “Why not, Sweetheart?”
“Um, because... um, Daddy said the car was making funny noises, remember?”
“Jeffrey, that was two weeks ago. The car is fine. Have you seen my black shoes?”
I threw myself across her bed. “No. And I don’t feel good. I think I’m sick.”
“Oh dear. I’ll have to get you to bed right away then, and maybe I should call Steven’s mom and tell her you won’t be able to come over tomorrow.”
Well that didn’t go the way I had hoped. “No, it’s okay. I’m feeling better now.” I heard a thump coming from the closet.
“I’m glad to hear it, dear.”
I rolled over into a sitting position and let my feet hang over the edge. I sat there, thinking about what to do, listening to the sound of hangers scraping over the bar and boxes being shifted around. I sighed. I had to tell her the truth, but I knew she wouldn’t believe me.
“Momma, you can’t go out. You can’t send me to The – to Mrs. Fink’s house. She’ll cut me up and feed me to her cats!”
“Jeffrey Morgan!” Her head momentarily emerged from the closet to glare at me. “You know better than to talk about people like that.”
“Honest, Momma, Chris told me. She’s got a hundred cats and she–”
“That’s enough, Jeffrey. Mrs. Fink is a very nice woman.”
“Then why did she bury her husband alive?”
“Chris said–”
“I don’t care what Chris said. You keep that kind of talk up and you’re losing you’re TV privileges for a week. Mr. Fink died in a car accident years ago, and Mrs. Fink would never hurt anyone. I want you to be nice while you’re over there.”
“What about Becky?” I asked.
She sighed; it was always a sure sign she was getting annoyed with the conversation and wasn’t going to give in. “I’ve told you twice already. She’s out of town this week, and Daddy and I have to go to this dinner with his boss.” She finally exited the closet and looked down at me. I guess I looked pretty pitiful because she tousled my hair and sat down next to me on the bed.
“Look at me, Sweetie,” she said. “I love you. Do you think I’d let something bad happen to you if I could stop it?”
I shook my head. She gave me a kiss on the top of my head before asking, “Then why do you think I’d let a murderer baby-sit you?”
I thought about this for a while before coming up with an answer. “Maybe she put a curse on you?”
“Oh Jeffrey. I don’t think anyone could ever rival your imagination. You’ll be fine tonight. Now, go get your bag and pick out which books and toys you want to take with you. We need to leave in twenty minutes.”

As we drove to The Fink’s house, I sat staring out the window, planning my strategy for survival. It was raining – I took that as a bad sign. I had always imagined that the front of cars were faces, the headlights being eyes. Tonight, every face I saw was evil looking or sad. I took that as a bad sign too. I decided that if I didn’t bother the lady, maybe she wouldn’t bother me. It seemed like a long shot, but it was the only thing I could do. I resolved that’d I’d just sit quietly and not say one word... until I needed to start screaming for help.

My mom knocked on the door and I stood behind her, holding onto her coat. When the door opened, I was surprised that the hinges didn’t squeak and no fog came out of the doorway. Momma motioned for me to go in first, but I shook my head. She sighed, gave an apologetic glance towards The Fink, and led me inside. The house looked normal enough, like any other house I’d been in, but I figured she kept it like that so company wouldn’t be suspicious. The chains and knives and torture machines were probably in the basement.

I sat down and tried to make myself as small as possible against the arm of the couch. I studied The Fink as she and Momma talked about some stuff. No one really knew how old she was, but I’d heard anywhere from 45 to 127. She had a large scar down the left side of her face and a second one across her forehead; they met at a corner right beneath her hairline. Chris said it was from where she had once peeled back the skin of her face to frighten a child, but I didn’t really believe him. Why would someone only peel half their face off instead of taking it completely off? Steven said it was where her husband had hit her with the shovel while trying to fight her off. I figured that made more sense.

Momma came over to say goodbye. “Be good, Jeffrey. I love you and you’ll be fine, I promise. Daddy will be here around ten to pick you up.” She gave me a hug, but when she tried to stand up, I kept hanging on. I felt a little silly – I wasn’t one of those sissy momma’s boy types, but I just couldn’t let go. She removed my arms from around her waist, kissed my cheek, gave me a wink, and walked out the door. I wondered if that was the last time I’d ever see her.

The Fink, who’d been standing in the doorway of the room, came in and sat down in a chair across from me. She looked almost as nervous as I was, and I wondered why.
“Hi Jeffrey.”
I looked at her.
“How are you doing tonight?”
I shrugged. It struck me that her voice was quite normal. I’d never heard her speak before, but I always imagined it would be kind of low and growly-like or squeaky like the witch on the Wizard of Oz. She spoke again.
“Is there anything particular you’d like to do tonight?”
I shrugged and looked down at my tennis shoes.
“Alright then. Your mother said you brought some toys and books? You’re also more than welcome to watch TV. I’m afraid I really don’t know much about little boys; I had two girls.” She sat down on an old rocking chair, picked up some sort of needlework thing, and began humming as she worked. I looked hard at the needles. There didn’t seem to be any blood on them, but she could’ve washed it off. They seemed like a perfect weapon for murdering innocent little children. Just then, something furry ran across my leg. I screamed and jumped up on the back of the couch. The Fink’s needles froze as she looked up in shock, first at me, then down to a small, grey cat rubbing its head on the corner of the couch, and then back at me.
“I’m sorry, Jeffrey. Are you afraid of cats? I can put him in the basement if you’d like.”
The basement! I knew it wouldn’t take long before she tried to get me down there. Well, she wasn’t going to be opening the door on my account. I shook my head no and reached down to pet the cat to let her know it didn’t bother me. I wondered if all the other cats were in the basement too.

We sat in silence for a while before she put down her knitting. She looked at me. I had taken one of my books out of my bag, but it was lying unopened on my lap. I couldn’t afford to be distracted – that’s when she would make her move. She spoke again. I don’t know why that made me jump a bit, but it did.
“Well, I’m a bit parched. Would you like something to eat or drink?”
I shook my head hard and fast. Even if I had known what parched meant, there was no way I was eating or drinking anything this woman had. She’d probably drug it or use it to turn me into a frog... or a cat! Maybe that’s how she got all those cats.
“Okay, I’m going to get a glass of water. I’ll be right back.” She left the room with a backward glance at me. When she walked, one leg was dragged along, never leaving the ground and she hunched over a lot. That proved she was a witch; normal people didn’t walk like that.

I sat on the couch and wondered how long she’d drag this out. I preferred that she just get it over with and kill me now. I glanced to the right and there, leaning up against the corner, was an open guitar case with an old, worn guitar sitting inside. I don’t know why, because I’d always wanted to be a drummer, but something about this guitar caught my attention. I stood up and listened for any signs that The Fink might be returning. I didn’t hear anything, so I walked over to the guitar for a closer look. The case was ragged and parts of the brown cardboard were showing through under the black covering, but there were stickers covering a lot of it and there were some pictures stuck to the inside. The guitar looked like it was a hundred years old. It had scratches and dings all over it. It looked like it belonged in the trashcan instead of showcased in a living room. I was certain that it wouldn’t even work anymore, but nevertheless, I reached out and ran my finger across the strings. A perfect sound came out of it, followed by my name. I jumped backwards in fear and ran right into the legs of The Fink.
“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to startle you, Jeffrey.”
I never thought I’d be relieved to see her, but since a talking guitar was more than I could handle, I was glad to know it was her who’d called my name.
“I see you discovered Jenny’s guitar. You know, there’s a novel written on that guitar.”
“What?” I hadn’t meant to say anything, but I’d seen the guitar and the only writing on it was a few words and a name scrawled in the corner.
“Every sticker, scratch, and mark on that instrument tells Jenny’s story. Would you like to hear it?”
I shrugged. Maybe telling the story would keep her too busy to feed me to her cats. She picked up the guitar and case and carried it over to the couch and sat down. I think she expected me to sit down next to her, but I chose the chair instead. The Fink held the guitar on her lap and plucked a few strings. The music sounded familiar, but I didn’t know what song it was. Then she began the story.

“Well, back in the late 1950’s, this guitar belonged to Miss Jenny Garson. She was a singer and her dream was to the play the Grand Ole Opry. Do you know what the Grand Ole Opry is, Jeffrey?”
I shook my head.
“It’s where the best of country music sing. It’s very old and it was a great honor to be asked to play at the Grand Ole Opry. People like Little Jimmy Dickens and Porter Wagner play there. Jenny was a waitress and she saved up all her tips for a year until she had enough to buy this guitar. When she got home, she took a piece of duct tape and wrote her name on it and then she stuck it inside the sound hole. You see? It’s a bit faded, but you can still read it.”
I leaned forward in the chair to see the name. I could make out most of it, but the last few letters were pretty light.
“Well, Jenny lived in Texas and the Grand Ole Opry was in Tennessee so she had to keep waitressing to earn some more money, but she played this guitar every free moment she had. You can tell by how worn and scratched the fingerboard and neck are. She played a lot of the Carter Family – there’s some of their sheet music in this pocket. If you like, I’ll play you some of their records later so you know what they sound like. Well, one day, while she was working at the diner, this rich man came in and sat at one of her tables. He started sweet-talking her and asked her to dinner. She was a cautious girl so she told him no, but he kept coming in every day and sitting at her table. If her tables were full, he’d wait for someone to leave. He wouldn’t sit in anyone else’s section. And every day, he’d ask her to dinner. Well, after a few weeks of this, she was flattered and finally said yes. So they had dinner and, after that, he began courting her. She thought he was very nice and he treated her proper, but she couldn’t really say she loved him very much, not the way her folks had loved each other when they were alive. Still, when he asked her to marry him, she said yes. I guess she figured that he’d take good care of her and, since no one else was asking for her hand, she might as well marry him. You see this picture? That’s them at Niagara Falls on their honeymoon. She’s torn his head out of the photo, but I’ll explain that later.

“Well things were alright for a while except she had to put her dreams of the Opry on hold because he didn’t like country music, and he said he didn’t want to go to Nashville. But they traveled a lot, and she got to see all sorts of places. She’d buy stickers of where they went and put them on her guitar case. There’s a sticker here from the Grand Canyon and from New York. She’s also got them from Virginia and California too. They were mostly business trips and she spent a lot of time waiting for him in the hotel, but she didn’t really mind. She’d just take out her guitar and start singing and playing. She started writing some songs of her own, too. They’re in a folder here in the pocket, next to the sheet music. Each song she wrote got a little better and some of the ones here in the back are actually quite good. I’ll play some of them for you when I’m done with the story... if you’re interested.

“Unfortunately, after a couple of years, things took a turn for the bad. He lost a lot of money in his business and he began to get angry and mean. He yelled at her a lot, and she was scared of him. You see this big gash in the back of the case? Well, one night, she was playing her music and he got mad at her so he picked this up and threw it down the stairs. When she went after it, he grabbed her arm and shoved her against the wall. He told her he didn’t ever want to hear that guitar again. That night, she got a suitcase full of clothes, all the money she could find, and her guitar, and she left. She went down to the bus station and bought herself a ticket. See here? She saved the stub and it says Nashville, Tennessee on the midnight bus. I’m not sure why she saved the ticket, but I guess it was a turning point in her life, and she wanted a memento of it. Anyhow, you can see now why she tore his head out of the picture. Now, would you mind getting me some more water? The kitchen’s right down the hall there.”

I was a bit surprised at the abrupt change in the story, but I nodded my head and got up to venture down the hall. It was dark, and I kept glancing over my shoulder to see if this was a trap and she was sneaking up on me. So far, she seemed nice, but I figured that’s what she wanted me to think. As I got closer to the kitchen, the light over the stove cast a glow on some pictures hanging on the wall. I stopped and looked up at a serious looking man standing behind a younger-looking Fink, sitting in a chair. She looked pretty, and she didn’t have the scars on her face. Another picture was a little girl holding a different guitar, playing and singing. Was this another kid that she had told the same story to? I wondered what happened to her... if her bones would ever be dug up by a wandering dog in the back yard. I had just started thinking if her mother would be sad or relived to discover what had happened to her little girl when I heard The Fink’s voice calling my name. I looked up to see her walking towards me. She held something in her hand; in the darkness, it looked like a knife. I began to shake and stutter as I took backward steps away from her.
“Pl-please, d-don’t–”
“You left the glass in the living room. Are you alright?” She walked into the light and then I noticed she was simply holding the glass in her hand, not a knife.
I nodded, blushing, and looked up at the girl in the picture. I wasn’t positive, but I thought I saw her laugh at me. Following my gaze, she looked at the pictures and smiled.
“That’s my daughter, Michelle. She was a natural talent with music, but she wasn’t really interested in it. She was interested in math and science. She was valedictorian in high school.” The Fink turned around to face the other wall. “That’s my other daughter, Megan.” She pointed to a picture of a slightly older girl, sitting on a swing and smiling at the camera. “She was a natural talent with boys; she always had at least one trailing after her. She was always real kind and sweet, though.”
“What happened to them?” I knew they were dead, but I couldn’t help asking.
“Megan’s married and lives with her husband in Colorado. Michelle works in some big, fancy office in New York. I don’t get to see them very often, but they’re happy, and that’s what’s important.”
I frowned. Of course she wouldn’t tell me if they were dead; she wouldn’t admit to killing them. I looked up at The Fink; she was smiling at the pictures. Well, maybe they weren’t dead. There was no way for me to really be certain.

When we got back to the living room, I took a seat on the other end of the couch. I could see better from there.
“Okay then, where was I? She’d just gotten on the bus to Nashville, right?”
I nodded when she looked at me.
“Okay. Well, when she got to Nashville, she didn’t know what to do. She’d always dreamed of being on the Opry, but she had no idea how to go about making that happen. And, she’d used a lot of her money on the bus fare. Since the only thing she knew how to do was waitress, she started asking for a job at every restaurant she could find. The first couple of days she didn’t have any luck. At this point, she was getting really worried because she could only afford one more night in the motel before she’d have to sleep on the street, and she hadn’t had anything to eat in almost two days. Well, she passed by a church and, without really knowing why, she went inside and sat down in one of the pews. It was a beautiful church with a huge stained glass picture of Jesus sitting with some lambs and sheep. She was in awe of that window. She didn’t have the time to waste, but she probably sat there for forty minutes, just staring at it and asking Jesus to give her a hand because she was scared. When she left, she took one of their tithe envelopes with their name and address on it and stuck in here inside the guitar case. She planned to send them some money after she got famous. Well, Jesus must have been listening because that very afternoon, she found a waitress job at an old club. And, if that wasn’t good enough, another woman who worked there said she was looking for a roommate and that Jenny could stay with her pretty cheap. See, here’s another sticker. This one’s the club where she worked.

“Now, this club had a stage where young, aspiring musicians could come sing, and Jenny thought that was the best part of her job because she could hear them while she was working and, on slow nights, the manager would let her get up there and do a few songs herself. People seemed to like her and one person even wrote her a letter on a napkin. It’s right here; see, it says, ‘Young lady, you sing real pretty. Keep it up.’ One night, after a couple years, a woman came in to sing, and Jenny was blown away. The woman just had a beautiful voice. When she was finished with her set, the woman came over and asked for something to drink, and Jenny started talking to her. Well, she found out that this woman was going to be playing at the Grand Ole Opry the following night. Well! You can imagine how excited that made Jenny! She told this woman how it was her dream to play at the Opry. The woman said, ‘Well, honey, us girl-singers have to stick together. Let’s hear what you got.’ The manager said okay and, even though she was real nervous, Jenny got up on stage and played and sang her heart out. After she was done, the woman smiled and said, ‘I shouldn’t encourage you because you’re going to be some tough competition, but I think you’ve got what it takes.’ As you can imagine, Jenny was overjoyed. Since this was the first person she’d ever met who was playing at the Opry, she asked the woman to sign her guitar. Now, look close here, can you read what that says?”
I scooted down the couch to get closer and looked at the writing in the corner of the guitar. “Um, it says, ‘You’ll make it there. Patsy Cline.’”
“Yep! Patsy Cline, can you believe it?”
I must have given her a blank stare because she just shook her head and said, “Never mind, I’ll play you some of her records, too. So after another year or so, Jenny got remarried, and this time she knew she was in love with the man. This picture is of them looking out the back window of the car on their wedding day. See the ‘Just Married’ sign there? She didn’t do anymore traveling and there’s not much added to the guitar or case after that. So that’s pretty much the end of the story.”
She smiled at me, and I smiled back. I was just about to thank her and tell her that I’d never seen a cooler guitar, but before I could, a cat sauntered into the room and jumped up on the couch. I looked closely; it was the same one I had seen earlier, which got me thinking. I wasn’t so sure there were any others, but I need to know.
“Mrs. Fink, where are the rest of your cats?”
“Oh they’re in the basement. I just fed them a young boy this morning so they’re not too hungry right now.”
My eyes grew big and I was about ready to jump up from the couch and run when she started laughing.
“Jeffrey, this is the only cat I have, but don’t think I don’t know what people say about me.”
I felt really ashamed right then. I couldn’t bring myself to look at her, so I focused on the flower pattern covering the couch. She put her hand on my shoulder. I looked up and she winked at me.
“When I was growing up, ‘The Dragon Lady’ lived at the end of the street. She had pet rats the size of alligators in her basement, and they only ate human flesh.”
I was relieved she wasn’t mad at me, but I still didn’t want to face her right away. I looked over at the guitar again and noticed something she hadn’t mentioned. I pointed to it and asked, “What about that Grand Ole Opry sticker? Does that mean she got to play there?”
“Oh goodness! I didn’t mention that? Well, she never did play at the Opry. She went and saw the show one time though, and that’s when she got the sticker. I can’t believe I forgot to mention it because, well, that’s where she met her husband. He was in the seat next to her in the balcony. Both their ticket stubs are in here somewhere. They’re little, and they tend to fall down in this pocket so they’re hard to find. Oh! And here’s the baby bracelets, too.”
Mrs. Fink held out two pink little bracelets so I could read the names: Barnett, Amy and Barnett, Kristen. “That’s why singing at the Opry wasn’t so important to her anymore. She was very happy with her life and was content. Her husband loved to listen to her sing in the evenings, and she played lullabies for her babies so she had the best audience she could ever dream of.”
“Mrs. Fink, how did you meet her? And how come you have her guitar?”
“Well, I never actually did meet Jenny. I bought this guitar in a pawnshop a few years ago. See, I was in a car accident, and I had a lot of rehabilitation to go through, and I didn’t want to leave the house much, so I bought this and a couple of books, and I taught myself to play. I just kind of pieced together her story based on what was here in the case. I filled in the gaps using my imagination. Sometimes though, when I’m playing this guitar, I can feel Jenny here with me. I think she’s glad someone else is playing it now.”

By the time Daddy arrived to pick me up, Mrs. Fink and I were singing along with “Crazy” and munching on the best chocolate chip cookies I’d ever tasted. Daddy smiled as he helped me get my coat and bag.
“It looks like you had a good time?” he asked.
“Uh-huh. Maybe Mrs. Fink can watch me again the next time you and Momma go out?”
“We’ll have to see if Mrs. Fink is up to that. You can be quite a handful sometimes.”
Mrs. Fink tousled my hair and replied, “Well, I’d love to have you over anytime. We’ve got a lot more records to listen to.”

On the way home, I mentioned to Daddy that I wanted to learn to play the guitar.
“You do, huh?
“Yeah, can I get one?”
“Hmm. Maybe we can borrow one and get you a couple lessons. If you still like it and want to keep learning, then we can go to the music store and get you one.
“No, Daddy. I really want one from a pawnshop – one that’s kind of beat up and stuff.” Daddy just looked at me as if I was crazy.

The next day, Chris and Steven were shocked to see me still alive. They wanted to know everything about the “Witch’s Lair,” as they called it.
“Did you see all the cats? How many were there?
“There was only one.” I could see disappointment in their eyes, and I got the distinct impression I’d really let them down. I sighed, then continued, “Well, only one that I saw, but I heard all sorts of scratching and clawing and chewing sounds coming from the basement, so I think that’s where the rest of them were.”
Chris smiled. “I knew it! How’d you keep her from feeding you to them?”
“It wasn’t easy. There were a coupla times I didn’t think I was going to make it...”

Mrs. Fink became my regular baby-sitter after that. We’d come up with crazy stories to tell Chris and Steve about how I escaped unscathed. She taught me a love for music and storytelling, and she taught me how to play the guitar. When I finally got my guitar from the pawnshop, it didn’t have as many clues to its former life as Jenny Garson’s, but Mrs. Fink and I still managed to come up with some pretty good stories.

As time passed, she got older, smaller, and weaker. I cried the night she asked me to play and sing at her funeral. When the time came, I choked up a bit the last verse of “Amazing Grace,” but I’d never been more honored in my life. She left me Jenny’s guitar in her will. It has a place of honor in my living room, but there’s one new item inside the case – a photo of me and Mrs. Fink. We’re sitting on the porch, holding our guitars, and singing some song. I don’t remember which one but probably a Dolly Parton one since those were her favorites.

Some day, when my son gets old enough to ask about the guitar, I’ll have two stories to tell him – one about Jenny Garson, and one about me and The Fink.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

The Confession

She’s shaking so hard, she can barely hold on to the pistol in her hands. She relaxes her grip and lets go, not even registering the sound of the gun thudding on the carpeted floor or the fact that blood is seeping across the carpet and will soon reach the weapon lying at her feet. Her hands flutter around her face as she chokes back the building sobs and bile. Repulsed by the scene in front of her, but unable to turn away, she stumbles backwards until she hits the wall and sinks slowly down to sit on the floor. What have I done, what have I done? I have to call the police… they’ll never understand… I’ll be put in jail… Ohmigod, what have I done?

She draws her knees up to her chest, wraps her arms around them, buries her head, and takes deep breaths. So far, her breath has been rapid and shallow and she needs to calm down and think. The intakes of air don’t help. Ohmigod, ohmigod, ohmigod! This isn’t real… it can’t be happening. What… why? Oh, Lord, help me – what have I done?

She closes her eyes, trying to focus. She runs a still shaking hand through her hair and then rests her forehead against her palm. What am I supposed to do now? This wasn’t how my life was supposed to turn out.
She was sitting on the metro, willing the train to move faster and skip the upcoming stops. She just wanted to get home and spend a couple hours in a warm bath. She felt the presence of someone sitting down next to her and rolled her eyes. There were twenty empty rows on the train – why couldn’t this person sit in one of them?

“You’re probably wondering why I just didn’t sit in an empty row.” She wasn’t sure whether it was because he’d read her thoughts or because of the deep, warm voice, but she jerked her head up to look into the face of the perfect man. She knew that was cliché, but she couldn’t help it. She’d seen him before – not only did he work in her office, but he made regular appearances in her dreams at night. This man could have run Mt. Olympus with his dark brown perfect hair, his deep pool of chocolate eyes, and the defined muscles showing through his immaculately pressed shirt and pants that perfectly fit his tall – she had to stop… she made even herself sick with this nonsense. He had flirted with every girl in the office except her, and she never would have expected him to sit down next to her on an empty train.

He didn’t seemed put-off by the fact that she hadn’t answered but had, instead, sat there gaping at him. In fact, he seemed to enjoy it, and he looked like this happened to him every day. Apparently he was perfectly comfortable with women looking at him like hungry lions. She managed to close her mouth, but she wasn’t sure she wanted to open it again to try to speak. Somehow, he knew that too. “Honestly, I considered sitting in an empty seat, but you looked so beautiful that I had to come talk to you.” She wanted to act cool, roll her eyes, and laugh the remark off as a lame come-on, but nobody had ever told her she looked beautiful. She wasn’t ready to throw away the first compliment she’d received. She glanced away before tentatively asking, “Really?”
“Of course, really. Why would I make that up? Hasn’t anyone ever told you that you are beautiful?”
How did he do that? Everything she thought, he put into words.
“N-no. I don’t think so.”
“Well then, it’s obvious you need me because I plan to tell you that every day for the rest of your life.”
“The rest of my life?”
“Of course, don’t you believe in love at first sight?”
“Um, no, not really. I mean, no one would fall in love with me at first sight.”
“I did. Now how about you have dinner with me tonight?” She looked at him for a long time. This wasn’t right. It couldn’t be right… could it? And she couldn’t go to dinner with him... could she? He was too smooth. Her friends would probably say he was corny, but it was having an effect on her nonetheless. But men like this didn’t ask women like her out. He had to have some ulterior motive.
“I don’t think–”
“You don’t think you could break my heart so you’re going to say, “Yes’?”
She nodded. “Yes.” Where had that come from?
He smiled. “Good. My name is Doug, by the way.”
She’s still sitting against the wall when she feels a brush of something against her leg. She jumps a bit before realizing that it’s her cat rubbing his head against her, looking for attention. He begins to walk towards the body face-up in an ever-growing pool of blood on the floor. The cat stops at the outer edge of the ring of blood and bends his head to sniff this unknown substance.

“NO!!!” she screams, lunging for the cat. She yanks him back from the blood and carries him into the other room. There are three chairs, but she returns to a sitting position on the floor, this time wedged in a dark corner. The cat in her arms squirms, but she tightens her grip and buries her head in his soft fur. She can’t let him return to the body. He can’t know what she did. No one can know what I did. They’ll never understand. They’ll hate me.
Dinner was wonderful. He had given her his complete attention. He hardly even glanced at the gorgeous waitress who had taken their order; he hadn’t even seemed to notice they way she touched his arm or leaned in close to hear him order, even though she seemed to hear Emily just fine from where she was. He had chosen the restaurant, held her chair, ordered her meal for her, and never took his eyes off her. He was completely in control; she liked that because she was never in control. He made her feel taken care of. He made her laugh. He told stories of his childhood, his family, his work, and hobbies. Although she couldn’t believe she told him, he managed to draw out of her how she had always been shy and overlooked, how no one had ever asked her on a date in high school, and how she always felt out-of-style and frumpy. She told him how her mother had died young so no one had ever taught her how to be a woman. When he told her that he thought she was “all woman,” she was hooked.
The first teardrops begin to fall. She had always been a good girl, always went to church, always obeyed the speed limit. Had she really just murdered a man? No! It’s a dream. It’s just a horrible dream. I’ll wake up and everything will be okay. I’ve been dreaming of killing Doug for four years so that’s all this is... just another dream. She stands up and takes a step toward the foyer. Okay, I’ll walk in there and everything will be fine. He won’t be lying on the floor. He won’t be there. Still, she doesn’t take the first step. She scratches the cat’s ears and picks at a piece of mattered fur. She studies the pictures on the mantle and wipes some dust off a shelf. Finally, she inches toward the doorway. A sob racks her chest – it wasn’t a dream. He’s still there, just as dead as he was before.
After that night, hardly a day went by that they weren’t together. They had dinners; they saw movies; they went on hikes in the mountains. She never had to plan or suggest anything. Every day, he knew what they should do and he made it happen. She had begun to worry that she’d never have a relationship, but now, she had a man who wanted to spend every minute with her.

They’d been dating for two months when they had their first disagreement. She’d wanted to go to a friend’s party, but he had other plans.
“I had dinner plans for us. You’ll have to see your friends another time.”
“It’s her thirtieth birthday. That only happens once. Can’t we do dinner tomorrow night instead?”
“No, we can’t do dinner tomorrow night; the reservations are for tonight. Just call her and tell her you hope she has a good birthday, but that you won’t be able to make the party tonight.”
“But, I want to go! She’s my best friend and I want to be there.”
He stared at her for a minute before whispering, “I thought I was your best friend.”
She sighed. “You are. I mean, you’re my boyfriend. I love you. It’s different though.”
“I don’t think it should be different. You’re the most important person in my life, but obviously I care more about you than you do about me.”
“That’s not true!”
“Then why don’t you want to have dinner with me?”
“I do want to have dinner with you. It’s just that it’s her thirtieth – ”
“So she’s making you do things you don’t want to do? If you want to have dinner with me, if you love me and want to spend time with me, then you should do it. I don’t think you should be spending time with these people if they don’t support your relationship with me. What kind of friends don’t want you to be happy?”
She looked at him blankly. What had just happened? He took her hand, pulled her to him, and wrapped his arms around her waist. He kissed her forehead and brushed her hair out of her face before continuing, “I want to spend every moment I can with you. That’s how much I love you.”
“That’s how much I love you, too.”
“Then you’ll go to dinner with me tonight?”
“I’ll call Julie and tell her I can’t make it.”
He smiled and gave her a light kiss. “I knew you’d do the right thing. It’s one of the reasons I love you.”
She begins to cry uncontrollably now. The cat tries to jump out of her arms, but she doesn’t notice; she just stares at the body, as if seeing it for the first time. She lets out a yelp as the cat digs its claws into her arms. She drops him to the floor, and he streaks up the stairs and out of sight. She follows him halfway up the steps and sits down, staring at the body. I can’t call the police. I’m not a bad person – I can’t go to prison. I have to clean this up.
Eventually her friends stopped inviting her to do things with them, and by the time she announced their engagement, the only person left to be a bridesmaid was her sister-in-law. The wedding was a small affair with his parents, a few friends, and her father, her brother, and his family. She’d always wanted to go to Hawaii on her honeymoon, but he preferred a mountain retreat so that’s what they decided to do. Just before it was time to leave the reception, her brother took her aside into a one of the church’s Sunday school rooms. He smiled at her, but he had tears in eyes.
“I love you. You know that, right?”
She nodded. Her family had never been vocal about their emotions, but she knew his wife had softened him over the years.
“I just wanted to tell you that you can call me. Anytime. For anything. Okay?”
Again, she nodded.
“I’m serious. Please call me if you ever need help.”
“I will, but I have to go now. He’s doesn’t like to wait.”
He gave her a hug and a kiss on the cheek. “You look beautiful.”
Tears filled her eyes and she smiled at him. “Thank you,” she replied and turned to go.
She moves down to the bottom step and sits back down. She has to get rid of him, but the idea of touching a dead body sends waves of nausea through her. She decides she needs to find some gloves, but as she begins to look for them, a knock sounds at the door. She freezes and ducks behind the kitchen counter. Who on earth is that? Nobody ever comes to our door; why do they have to start now? Oh Lord, what do I do know? The doorbell rings and there’s another knock, harder and louder this time.
“Police. Open the door.”
Ohmigosh! No, this can’t be happening. Why are they here? How do they know? Oh God. She makes no move towards the door. Will they leave if I don’t answer the door? She hears the doorknob click and realizes she never re-locked the door. The door opens a few inches before it bumps into the body lying in front of it. She hears a whisper.
“Sir, there’s a body here.”
They’d been married eight months the first time he hit her. She hadn’t meant to be late – there was an accident on the highway – but she knew she’d made him angry. It was a just a slap in the face, and he cried and apologized. She was sure it wouldn’t happen again.

But it did. She’d started talking to a woman at work; it had been so long since she’d had a female conversation that she lost track of time. It was her fault. He cried and apologized again. He decided that she should quit her job so that she’d always be able to be home to fix dinner. It would keep stuff like this from happening again.

She tried hard to keep him happy, but it wasn’t always easy. He got upset the night she burned his dinner and gave her a bruised arm and black eye. He got angry when she talked to the mailman and gave her a concussion and a bruised rib. He was furious the night he wanted sex, but she was on her period. He forced himself on her anyway and left bruises on her wrists and pelvic area, along with a new black eye and split lip. He apologized every time, but she never knew what would set him off next.

Her sister-in-law gave her a brochure about a woman’s shelter. When he saw that, he broke her cheekbone and her arm. The next night, he came home with a gun. He didn’t say anything... just set it on the table and began eating dinner. When the meal was done, he stood, picked up the gun, gave her a kiss on the cheek, and said, “If you ever leave me, I’ll find you, and I’ll kill you.”
When the first officer finds her, she’s still hiding behind the counter. He looks at her for a few minutes, obviously noticing her swollen cheek, shaved head and stitches, and the bruises on her face, arms, and legs.
“Ma’am, are you alright?
“N-no. I don’t... I mean I didn’t... ” She shakes her head, not really knowing what to say to this man. The tears begin to fall again. Between her sobs, she manages to get a few words out, “Please help me.”
When she found out she was pregnant, she knew things had to change. She couldn’t let him hurt her child. It was up to her to protect this baby and she wasn’t going to fail. She bought books on pregnancy, raising a baby, and being a single mother. She went home, packed her bags, found the gun he had hidden in the desk so he couldn’t use it against her, and left.

It took him less than twelve hours to find her at her brother’s house. He asked to speak to her alone, but her brother refused.
“If she’s willing to talk to you, you’re going to have to do it with me in the room.” She agreed to hear what he had to say.
“I want you to come home right now.” She looked over at her brother. He shook his head and she replied, “No.”
“Why are you looking at him?” he asked. “Think for yourself for once. You’re my wife, and you need to come home.”
“I can’t.”
His fist tightened and he took a step towards her. Before he could take a second step, her brother had moved to stand between them. Through clenched teeth he told him, “I think it’s time you left. She’s not going with you.”
“I’m not going anywhere without my wife.” He stepped back to look at her. “Honey, please, you know I love you. I need you in my life... please, please come home with me.”
“I can’t,” she said, shaking her head.
“Why not? I told you I love you. I’ll try harder, I promise.” When he saw tears start to form in her eyes, he reached out and brushed her hair behind her ears.” “Sometimes I forget how beautiful you are, you know? I’m sorry for that. I won’t forget again if you just give me another chance.”
“I’m sorry. I can’t. I can’t just think about myself anymore... I’m pregnant.”
“What? P-pregnant? Oh sweetie!” He sank to his knees and put his hands on her stomach. You’re really pregnant?”
She nodded, “Yes, and I can’t let you hurt my baby... I can’t.”
“I wouldn’t! I would never hurt it, I promise you.” Tears welled in his eyes and his voice got thick. “Oh man... a dad! I’m going to be a dad. Honey, please, I can do this. I can be a great dad... I can be a great husband. Please, don’t take my child away from me.”
Tears were now streaming down his face. He moved his hands from her stomach to take her hands. He looked up into her face. “I know I’ve blown it again and again and again. I didn’t realize how badly until just now. I don’t deserve another chance; I know I don’t, but please, please give me one. One more chance, please. Let me be a dad. I’ll take care of our baby; I’ll take care of you. I’ll never hurt either you, I promise. I know how important this is now, Sweetie, I do.”
“Could I talk to my brother a minute alone please?”
“Sweetie, please – ”
“Just one minute.” He nodded. He caressed her belly one more time before standing and facing her. He leaned forward and kissed her cheek. “I love you,” he said, before turning and leaving the room.”
She turned and looked at her brother. “I’m going home.”
“No. Please, don’t do that. Don’t give in to him again.”
“Did you see him? He’s sorry.”
He rolled his eyes. “He’s always sorry.”
“It’s different this time. He’s going to be a dad and he knows he has to change. Weren’t you listening to him? He gets it now. I believe him.”
“Yeah, I was listening. All I heard was a bunch of lies. You can’t – ”
“I can. I am.”
He sighed. He could tell he wasn’t going to be able to change her mind. “I think you’re making a mistake, but I can’t stop you. I’ve still got the copy of the house key you gave me. Just promise me that you’ll call if you need help... anytime, okay?”
She nodded.
She tries to lie, but she’s never been good at that. She wants to tell them that she just found the body, dead already, but even she can see the holes in her story. It’s obvious the officer can as well. She takes a deep breath and plunges into the truth. “I did it. I’m so sorry, but I did it.”
“What happened?”
“My husband... I wanted to... I mean, he deserved to... ” How do I explain this to them? They’re not going to understand.
“Ma’am?” the officer prods, “you shot him?” She nods. “Why did you do it?”
It had been four months since she came back home and he hadn’t hit her once. He’d come close a time or two, but always managed to reel himself in before it was too late. This night, though, he was angrier than he’d been in a long time. She’d been having a lot of back pain and had taken a long, hot bath to help. He came home from a meeting with a lot smokers and wanted to take a shower. When he realized that there was no more hot water, he became furious. She was about to go downstairs when he grabbed her arm and began yelling.
“Are you stupid, woman? What is wrong with you? I work hard all day to feed you and that brat you’re carrying around. All I ask for is some respect, some simple courtesy when I get home, but obviously you can’t handle that. You ungrateful bitch!” He threw her into the wall and the plaster cracked where her head slammed against it.
She began to cry, “I’m sorry, I just wanted – ”
“Yeah, you wanted. It’s all about you, isn’t it?”
She began to edge away from him, but he caught her arm again. “Where do you think you’re going?” He jerked her back towards him. “Don’t you dare walk away from me.”
She took a step backwards to steady herself. Thinking she was trying to leave again, he stepped forward and slapped her face. She tried to catch herself, but the force of the slap knocked her off balance and she fell face forward onto the steps. She continued tumbling down until she landed at the bottom of the stairway.
“Do you see what you made me do?” She looked up to see him coming down the steps after her. “This is your fault. If you’d just be a good wife, this wouldn’t happen.” He stepped over her crumpled body, grabbed his jacket, and slammed the door behind him as he left the house.
She gently moved her arms and legs. Everything hurt, but nothing seemed to be broken. Blood was pouring from a gash on the side of her head. Slowly, she made her way to the telephone and dialed 911. While waiting for the ambulance to arrive, she began to feel an odd sensation and went into the bathroom to check. There was blood on her underwear.
Despite himself, the officer feels for this broken woman in front of him. He has two sisters and the idea of a man hurting one of them makes him sick.
“I had to do it. He... he...” She begins to sob uncontrollably.
“You shot your husband to keep him from hurting you again?”
She shook her head. “No, I’m used to that, but he killed my baby girl. Her name was Elizabeth.”
On her way home from the hospital, she called her brother. There was no answer. She tried to leave a message about the baby, but all she could do was cry.
She handed the taxi driver a fifty-dollar bill to cover the twenty-dollar fare. She didn’t even notice – the only thing on her mind was making her husband pay for what he’d done. She went inside and found the gun. She wanted to make him think she wasn’t home so she could take him by surprise. She turned off the lights in the house and hid in the coat closet, leaving a crack just wide enough for the gun to fit through. All she had to do then was wait.
“I knew where the gun was kept. I waited in the closet so I couldn’t be seen. When the door opened and he walked in, I-I... I pointed the gun at him. I-I never even shot a gun before, but I pointed it at him, and closed my eyes, and pulled... Oh God, what did I do? I did it, but I didn’t mean to. I-I... ”
When it seemed obvious that she wasn’t going to finish the sentence, the officer asked, “And that’s when you shot your husband?”
“No. My husband... my husband still hasn’t come. I thought he had, but... that’s not him. I... I killed my baby brother.”