“What about a household accident? You know—Death by Toaster, something like that?” My best friend asked, chewing on the cap of her pen. Her husky voice, barely a whisper, held a hint of laughter. So it had come to this—we had finally resorted to guerilla tactics.
I sat on the black leather sofa that took up most of my living room. A painting of a bridge resembling the one from Beetlejuice hung behind me. Every time I looked at it, I expected to see Michael Keaton staring back at me.
“No, too domestic. I need something fresh.” I stood and walked to the bay windows that covered the wall facing the street. The windows gave me a perfect view of the front yard and the porch swing I’d purchased last week. The cool wind blew what leaves remained on the trees, sending a flurry of red and orange dancing across the lawn. Street lamps illuminated the block, showing an array of family vehicles and children’s toys in every yard but ours. Staring outside usually calmed me down, allowed me to think more clearly. Today it just depressed me.
The clichéd suburban atmosphere leaking from every town house and minivan in the area was one of the reasons we chose the neighborhood. It was common to see the local kids playing a game of street hockey in the evening, bellies full of a home cooked meal, completely oblivious of what lived next door.
Before we moved in, the most nefarious entities to visit the block was the barrage of Girl Scouts who would attack out of nowhere with their sinful Caramel DeLites in tow, promising bliss for the small price of your soul.
As I stared out the window, I could imagine a troupe hiding in the bushes across the street, waiting for the next poor, unsuspecting person to happen by.
Elle’s voice thankfully broke through just as my mind was manifesting a shape in the shadows.
“Okay, let’s see…you can have him accidentally fall down a flight of stairs. Gruesome, but tasteful, you know?” Elle took the pen out of her mouth and made a quick notation in her blue and green spiral notebook.
The notebook she carried was filled with information similar to mine and was separated into sections for each of her husbands. They contained short backgrounds, habitual activities, and pictures from the weddings and honeymoons. Unlike mine, hers also included dossiers on various other men who’d caught her eye. Where I was more spontaneous with my picks, Elle insisted on researching her prey four or five at a time, just to help ensure a successful mission.
“Oh please! That’s never been done before!” I began to pace around the living room, mindful of the cat lounging on the rug. The black and white tabby stretched to reach my legs in a playful movement. She followed as I made my way into the kitchen. Surely a room full of sharp objects would lend some sort of inspiration.
“Well, fuck. You can always use my favorite—Man Killed by Pack of Wild Feral Children. It’s creative, innovative, and appeals to people of all generations.” She flicked her auburn hair and batted her too-long lashes, adding to her innocent appearance.
I lit another cigarette and poured another round of coffee. It was your typical Friday evening at the Reed residence.
Picking up my little pink notebook, I slowly skimmed through the pages. The most important pages of the book held my husbands’ obituaries, each dated a short time after the nuptials. Near the back of the book was the section for my current husband, Marcus Reed. It listed all of the standard information: birthday, parents’ names, siblings, education. Where the obituary should have been, there was one word scrawled across the page: FAILURE. After three months of marriage, Marcus was still amongst the living.
Trying to kill my husband had become a game of sorts. Elle and I would plot for days, perfecting our plans until we were sure of success. Then the unexplainable would happen. For example, the week Marcus and I got back from our honeymoon, Elle and I decided to repeat one of our easier methods of disposing of husbands: we’d sabotage his car. We’d first used this method a few years ago with my second husband, Zane Reynolds.
Zane was a Mechanic. I don’t mean he made a living by fixing vehicles—I mean body and soul he was a Grease throw-back Mechanic. He slicked back his short black hair in true T-Bird fashion and even kept a pack of cigarettes in his rolled-up shirt sleeve. At first it was cute. What woman didn’t want a piece of John Travolta after seeing that movie? And it was fun role-playing as a Pink Lady. Of course that was a few pounds ago, when the sight of me in black leather didn’t blind strangers and send children screaming for refuge.
After a few months, though, it started wearing heavily on my nerves. Zane would throw a bitch fit if I didn’t dress the part when we went out or if we were around his delusional friends. That’s probably why he didn’t last longer than a day after the honeymoon. It was a bit of poetic justice that we had used his beloved car against him. I wanted to do the world a service and take care of the other T-Bird fanatics, but Elle said that would be excessive and draw far too much attention to us. Not doing it is one of my few regrets in this life.
The steps we used to send Zane to the big garage in the sky were repeated meticulously to ensure the same results with Marcus. He always kept his Firebird in the garage, so no one could see Elle and me tinkering in the wee hours of the morning, loosening the bolt attached to the steering column. Imagine my surprise when I awoke to a phone call from Marcus. Apparently he’d taken my Corsica to get the oil changed and wanted me to swap cars at the garage.
“Remember, Jill, the spare key is in the tool chest in the garage.”
So much for that bright idea….
Surely there had to be a fool-proof way to kill my husband, I just wasn’t thinking clearly.
Who was I kidding? There were thousands of ways to take Marcus out of the picture. I was just too chicken shit to go through with any of them. I’d broken the cardinal rule, and had actually fallen in love with my husband. It was purely accidental, of course. Love wasn’t something I was interested in. There was no plausible reason I could think of to waste my time on such a useless emotion.
Now hate, hate was an emotion you could sink your teeth into. Changes have been made because of hate. America became a country because a group of people hated being ruled by someone else. Women clawed their way out of the kitchen because they hated being told they couldn’t do something. Jehovah’s Witnesses don’t come near my neighborhood because they hated being doused with water as I screamed, “The power of Christ compels you!”
My breath escaped in a loud sigh. I took a seat and huddled against the arm of the sofa, hugging my knees to my chest. “My brain is starting to fry. I think we should call it quits for a while. Marcus will be home from poker night any minute.”
Disdain showed itself proudly on Elle’s normally stoic face, causing her ice-blue eyes to shine even brighter. “Do you remember when we used to stay up until four, five o’clock in the morning, brainstorming? It’s only eleven, Jill! Suck it up!” She puffed out her cheeks and squinted her eyes, trying to look put-out but only making herself look constipated.
“We’re not kids anymore. I need my beauty sleep.” I did my best Scarlet O’Hara impression, laying my hand limply across my forehead.
In retort, Elle chucked her lighter at me. “Not yet. I have a surprise for you.”
Interest newly piqued, I slowly let my hand fall away from my face. “If it’s not Gerard Butler wrapped up as the sexiest late Christmas present ever, I’m not interested.”
“Psh. What makes you think I’d give him to you? He’d be my Scottish sex toy. Mmm…Gerry…” Her eyes glassed over for a moment before she shook herself out of the same X-rated day dream she had every time we mentioned His Godhood. “Where was I…that’s right! Know what I found today? The Merry Widow’s Handbook. It was buried at the bottom of my chest underneath the Rainbow Brite collector’s sheets.”
My head snapped up, all thoughts of Marcus and Gerard slipping to the back burner. “Tell me you brought it with you. Dammit, woman. Why are you holding out on me?”
The Merry Widow’s Handbook was Elle and my first attempt at serious writing. Unfortunately neither of us were focused enough to keep it that way. It started off pretty good—methods of reconnaissance, effective ways to guard your heart against love in all its forms, and different manners of avoiding family ties. Then we just got silly. Elle wrote a poem called Ode to a Butcher Knife and I wrote a heart-warming chapter on farewell sex. We decided—nix that, hoped—there weren’t enough sadistic fucks who would want to read it, so it became a creation for us and us alone.
The last time I’d seen it was when Elle had visited me in Chicago almost seven years ago. She told me she had burned it. I don’t blame her for lying; after what I did, I deserved it. I deserved worse. But now was not the time for self-martyrdom. It was a time for celebration.
“No, but I’ll bring it with me to coffee tomorrow.”
And that was the conclusion of the shortest celebration in recorded history.
“Just remember to bring your notebook with you. IHOP, 1:00. Don’t be late.” Elle gave me a peck on the cheek and started the process of gathering her notebook and various other papers. She had a serious problem with organization—loose papers lay sprawled across the floor at her feet, and more were hung out of her notebook. It took her a while to gather it all, dropping pictures and notes as she went, throwing them into whatever free space she could find. I don’t know how she did it. Constantly reordering everything would drive me insane.
By the time she had everything piled together; the headlights from Marcus’ Camaro were shining through the window. Elle gave me one last wink before she was out the door and whistling at my husband.
“It’s about time you got that sweet ass home.” Marcus blushed at Elle’s cat-call. He waved good-bye as he stepped into the house.
Saying he stepped in was a bit of an understatement. At 6’ 2” and 235 lbs, Marcus towered through the doorway. He was a formidable sight. His jet black hair was worn shaggy and was greying at the edges. A former boxer, his body showed signs of age, but not many. His nose was a little crooked from being broken one too many times, adding to the character of his face. Crow’s feet were developing at the corners of his eyes, giving his smile that much more depth.
Though it annoyed me to admit it, he was worth keeping around for so long. Hell, I’d spent most mornings during our marriage limping out of bed, unable to walk let alone kill the man. Maybe that was his plan. Maybe he knew my intentions and was purposefully disabling me with phenomenal sex.
“You know, sometimes I just don’t know about that girlfriend of yours. I think she might be a bad influence on you.” He leaned in front of me, hands resting against the couch, a devilish smirk plastered on his face.
A sound very similar to a giggle escaped my lips. He tended to have that effect on me. “Yeah, you could say that.” I closed my eyes and leaned in to kiss him. My hands reached up to grab the back of his neck, fingers itching to run through the silky smooth curls that lay there. But there was no neck to grab. I opened one eye slowly, then the other, and found the space in front of me unoccupied. As I turned to the left, I caught a glimpse of him disappearing into the hallway that led to the bathroom. The little shit. Leaving me hanging definitely deserved a bullet to a very specific piece of his anatomy.
I leaned back and sighed loudly for the second time in under an hour, staring longingly at where his form had passed. My mind reeled from the emotional switch it had undergone. Going from plotting his death to wanting to rip his clothes off was almost as tiring as the sex would have been.
As sick as it may sound, joking about killing my husband didn’t bother me. The fact that I actually had to do it, though, weighed on my mind. It’s not like I hadn’t known when the vows were spoken last October they wouldn’t be forever. They never were. For me at least.
“Hey, Jill, I ran a bath with those bubbles you like. Hurry up before the water gets cold.” He poked his head out of the bathroom door and wiggled his eyebrows at me.
Oh, so now he wants to get friendly. I see how it is.
As soon as the bathroom door closed, I crept into the kitchen, grabbed a chair, and carried it into the hall. Propping the chair against the door handle, I smiled, hand flying up to my mouth to stifle the building laughter. I skipped into the bedroom and jumped onto the queen-sized bed.
Cuddling up with my pillow, I stared at the door in giddy anticipation. Pushing Marcus’ buttons was an excellent distraction. I couldn’t think about Marcus dying anymore. It made that nasty “l” word wriggle around in my conscious. Pissing him off was much better than crying over him.
Before long I heard the triumphant sound of the door smacking against the chair. A confused, “What the…” quickly followed, and then came the serious banging. Thwack! Thwack! “Jill! What the fuck is going on?” Bang! Bang! “Goddammit, open this door right now!”
It reminded me of the old Batman series. During the fight scenes, you never really saw the violence. You just heard the sounds and saw spinning words on the screen like Kapow! and Zonk! In this episode, instead of battling the Penguin or the Joker, the Caped Crusader was up against a most formidable foe: a kitchen chair. Holy warped oak, Batman! Inside my head I envisioned Marcus wearing a yummy pair of black tights, amplifying his natural…assets. Where, oh where, do you get those wonderful toys?
The image was just too much for me. I curled into a ball under the covers and tried to remain quiet. Small whimpers of laughter escaped, but I didn’t fully succumb until I heard Marcus break free of his prison and storm out the back door, muttering what sounded like, “It’s not like I asked for head.”
He could sleep in the garage for the night. I had a dream-date waiting with a certain actor in a kilt on a very windy day.