“My friend Sherry was the one who… she… How do I put this?”
He stopped and waited, watched her. Everyone else watched too, but especially him.
She continued. “Sherry was married to this great guy, Roger, who had been friends with Ned when we were stationed on this one base…”
“Yeah, so… Well, Roger, he, uh, he had some health problems. Severe cases or a severe case – whatever – of meningitis…”
“The thing where your, uh, your teeth fall out?”
“Huh? Oh… no. No, ha ha. That’s gingivitis, I believe. No, I’m talking about meningitis. It’s just… bad. They had to amputate… some of his limbs.”
“Yeah,” she bit her lip, thinking back on it. There was the sense of swimming in her eyes, as if she was doing laps in the memories, then she continued. “And it was driving poor Sherry crazy, you see. She was constantly having to wait on him, hand and foot, right? And giving him shots all the time. And he was always in pain, and always miserable, and always making her miserable.”
“Yes, it is. It was. For her.”
“Yeah, so we got to talking one night, just her and I… Ned was with the kids and she had someone watching Roger and she and I went out to some wine bar and listened to sad songs and shared shitty tales of married life. And we got to talking, and I can’t remember the movie, but… Uh, who was it? The fat British guy?”
“Uh… no. Close, though. But he was a director. He made that movie… Psycho?”
“Oh, right. Yeah. I know who you’re talking about. Yeah.”
“No, no, no.”
“No, I mean… Yes! Him, but,” and she paused to laugh, then said, “Sherry says to me – out of nowhere, out of the blue! – she says, ‘You’ve got no reason to kill Roger, have you?'”
He laughed, and leaned closer, probably without realizing it. He kept watching her. She was caught up in the telling of the story and it was a fascinating sight to behold.
“And I’m looking at her like, like… I don’t know what. Like she’s insane,” she said, continuing. “But I knew one thing: We’d need more. So I ordered another bottle of wine. And when it came, I said, ‘Sherry, what in the hell are you talking about?’ And she smiled and just said, ‘And I have no reason to kill Ned, do I?'”
“And I told her that no, of course she didn’t have a single reason to kill Ned. I did, though. I had a hundred million reasons to kill the son of a bitch. I was his wife after all. She laughed at that and said, ‘You should kill Roger for me and I should kill Ned, okay?'”
“It would be nice to have a woman who loves you so much that she’d kill for you, huh?”
“Strangers On The Train,” he said, smiling.
“So then, years and years later… Ned… He… Ned died on a Sunday… night, I think. Or morning. It was late, whatever night it was. The sun was coming up as his eyes were closing…”
No one said anything in the room and just watched her. The ocean and the swimming in her eyes is gone. It’s turned into a sun, big and bright, but it’s setting with the memory. Her head lowered, then lifted again. A brand new day.
“And on Monday, Sheila and Lance took me out, to some shitty diner or something, just to get us out of the fucking house, you know? Or, me, me out of the fucking house. And the food was terrible. And I was angry at everything.”
“When he was alive, Ned didn’t do a whole lot. He was busy, and in addition to taking care of the kids, I had to learn all that stuff. I never considered myself a feminist, because I didn’t need a label to tell me that a woman can do anything a man can do, just probably better. Better because she has to do it better. And he always said, ‘You know, I can fix the dishwasher, if you’d let me.’ Or, ‘I can mow the yard, if you’d fucking letting me,’ the asshole…”
“Well, he wasn’t really an asshole, right?”
“Oh, sure he was. He was a right son of a bitch. And believe me, I know that better than anyone. I was married to and most days of the week I was in love with the asshole.”
“Oh… good. Right. Yeah, you’re right.”
“Of course I am. Anyway, so that Monday, the Monday right after he died, the dishwasher broke. And then there was a burnt out fuse in the power box. And a water pipe in the back yard burst. And there was a crack in one of the walls. The phone bill hadn’t been paid! And the fucking grass needed mowing… And I was so frustrated, and I just screamed out in front of all of these people that were there, I screamed out, ‘SO IS THIS HOW IT’S GOING TO BE, YOU PRICK? YOU’RE GOING TO HAUNT ME JUST TO PROVE A POINT?!'”
Everyone laughed, including him. Including her.
“And I wasn’t laughing then, of course, and everyone just thought I lost it. And maybe I had, I don’t know. Who knows if I ever found it again, but so Sheila and Lance took me out to eat that night. Just… just shitty food. So terrible. I was tired and sad and had just had it. And I was so angry and so I went home and told them to leave me alone.”
“And they were worried, but I snapped at them and told them to just give me a night alone in my empty, possibly haunted house. I wasn’t so fragile that I’d break after one night alone. And I was going to have to be alone in that tomb of memories at some point, right? But, so… I walk in the door and the phone rings.”
“And for a moment, I think that maybe it’s broken or something, but that’s just the whole ghost thing from earlier…”
“Right. Ha ha.”
“Yeah, but no, it’s a phone call. And I’m tired of talking to people but I figure, eh, what the hell, so I answer it. And it’s Sherry.”
“And,” she paused to smile as big as she can, almost laughing already, and said, “no hi or hello or anything about being sorry for my loss or any of that bullshit, not from her, oh no, she just says to me, ‘So, let me guess: this means you’re not going to kill Roger for me now, huh?'”
Marco Sparks is a writer living in California.