Two Years Ago, Today

WHENEVER I THINK ABOUT KILLING MY HUSBAND, I have to remind myself that I’m not a bad person. I mean, technically, I know good people don’t do that. But sometimes I think there are exceptions to the rules. Things that anyone, no matter how wholesome or righteous they were, would just understand if they knew. Plain and simple. No questions asked. As if instead of going to jail for murder you’d get a reward, or something. Or at least a firm handshake.

I’ve thought about it a lot, to the point that I know exactly what I’d need and how I’d do it. I’ve even predicted how I’d get caught–imagined my mug shot, and everything. But sometimes I have these moments where I believe I’d actually get away with it, and that’s when I think I’m most dangerous. I picture myself smiling, and (God forbid) laughing again. And not because he was dead, but because once it was over, and everything calmed down, I might actually have reasons to smile and laugh again. So, it’s tempting.

Psycho bitch. I know.

That’s what people like you, call people like me: people who think like this. Or more like, people who admit that they think like this sometimes. But I’m not crazy. I’m too normal to be crazy. And I know this because I spend way too much of my time wishing that I actually were crazy. Because that would be great, wouldn’t it? Being crazy. Having a built-in excuse for doing stupid things. Awful things. Illegal things. I could stand there in the courtroom after the deed was done, twitch a little bit, shout some incoherent words, and then the shitty lawyer I can’t afford might actually stand a chance with my case. He could call me insane. “She didn’t know what she was doing–” that’s what he could say. And then the real-estate agent and soccer-mom jury wouldn’t send me to jail. No way. They’d just look at me, frown, and think,”The poor, poor thing,” then lock me up in the mad house.

It’s almost 7 AM. I lean forward against the glass of the sliding back door, and watch silently as my dog takes a piss. First on the lawn, then again on the lawn chair. The one that’s closest to the pool. The one I always lay on.

I cross my arms as I wait, and look over my back yard as if it’s some type of metaphor. A twisted, fucked up metaphor. Everything in shambles, all that shit piling up, and nobody  around to help me. I picture myself scuttling about, bent over, eyes fixed on the ground, hand covered in a plastic bag to pick it up. I feel the slimy texture of it between my fingers.

A scratch at the door wakes me up. I look down and see Doug.

Doug is the dog. He has a human name because I guess we thought it would be funny–Sean, and I. He probably doesn’t remember that now, but we spent a lot of time on it. We used to lie on the couch, throwing out names of our (then non-existent) dog, and we would laugh and laugh like it was some sort of contest. The challenge being to find a funny name, then to find one that was even funnier.

Ultimately, we both thought that regular names were the funniest. Brian. Gary. Doug. Wes. We thought about how great it would be at the vet, or how odd we would sound at the dog park. We dreamed up silly scenarios for how we could mess with friends who invited us to dinner, how we would throw them by asking, “Can Doug come along?” We’d laugh at the hypothetical look on their faces. In our dreams, they all laughed with us.

When I let Doug in, he spins around in circles until his black and white patches look smeared. His tongue flops out of his mouth, and he barks. I open the jar with his treats. I give him one.

When I turn, Sean is sitting at the table, staring with a big smile on his face. His eyes dart back and forth between me and the dog. He taps his fork on his plate with excitement, and yells, “Doog!”

“Yes,” I say. “Doug.”

It’s unclear to me if he actually means Doug, or if he really means dog. But I guess it doesn’t matter; they both mean the same thing. Doug is the dog. The dog is Doug. Who knew our little joke would ever be so convenient?

I take a napkin from the table and wipe Sean’s face.  His glass is full, plate empty. I clean the eggs he spilled from off the floor.

“It’s Michael’s birthday,” I say, clearing the dishes from the table. “When Chelsea gets here, I’m gonna go get him something. Any requests?”

Sean looks at me blankly, his face nearly covered by a shaggy, overgrown beard. I tried to shave it once, but he squirmed too much. I stopped when I cut him, and he started bleeding. Now they just shave him whenever they cut his hair, which hasn’t been for a while. It costs money.

“A basketball, maybe?” I put the plates in the dishwasher. “There’s some at Wal-Mart for, like, twelve bucks. We could swing it.”

“Shoo,” Sean says, and he nods.

Of the few responses my husband has left, this one is, by far, my favorite. It means sure, I think. Though, I’m not actually sure. He says it a lot. Whenever  I’m talking to him. Probably because he doesn’t know what I’m saying. Shoo, we can have spaghetti for dinner. Shoo, he’d like to wear his red shirt. Shoo he still loves me. Of course he does.

8 thoughts on “Two Years Ago, Today

  1. Jennifer Eller-Kirkham says:

    I really enjoyed this and would definitely continue reading if it were a book. The voice comes across clearly and you create good suspense. I automatically assumed that it would be some sort of domestic abuse story, so to discover that the husband is sick/disabled was a good twist. I liked the stuff about the dog. My only suggestion is introducing the name ‘Doug’ the first time you mention the dog – ‘…I watched Doug take a piss…’, but it is a minor suggestion. Other than that I can’t find anything that I think would make it better – it is really good.

    The shitty yard as a metaphor for life works. I especially like that you have given us a lot of information in one page without telling. We know the marriage used to be happy, that they have no money, that she feels trapped and desperate and thinks about killing Shaun. I hope to read more.

  2. Anonymous says:

    I loved your first sentence and the fact that I automatically assumed it was a domestic abuse husband (your hook, he’s an invalid, is great). I’m interested in reading more, but…I think it needs a good editing, because you almost lost me.

    Here’s why:

    You spend the first three paragraphs talking about being insane, and I found it confusing, boring, and off-putting, but mostly boring. It drags your story down and I found it unnecessary (Although these lines, “I picture myself smiling, and (God forbid) laughing again. And not because he was dead, but because once it was over, and everything calmed down, I might actually have reasons to smile and laugh again. So, it’s tempting.” kept me vested).

    For me, your story kicked with the paragraph that starts with 7 am. You had my attention.

    Good luck!

  3. Leah McKinnon says:

    I liked reading this, it was both clever and well written. Maybe (I haven’t decided yet) it was a little slow starting. I would like to know why the main character wants to murder her husband – is it simply because he’s a burden or are there other reasons? Or perhaps did the murder attempt go wrong? It would definitely keep me reading.

  4. Eliza Worner says:

    I skimmed the first four paragraphs because they waffled too much, but I kept reading. I found it jarring to be told what “people like you” think, because I immediately thought “You don’t know me”.

    You don’t lay on a chair, by the way, unless you’re laying an egg or something. You lie.

    I feel it will be a good story. I like the premise of a woman having to care for her disabled husband and how that has changed her life.

  5. 10penguins says:

    I laughed out loud (yes, I really did) at the beginning. It was because I loved the voice. Like the other people who left comments, I also thought about domestic abuse at first. The fact that her husband is disabled definitely makes it more troubling. I kept thinking, this would be a fabulous murder mystery, like Gone Girl or The Girl on the Train — something new and different — until I got to the part about the disabled husband. That took the air right out of me.

    I would definitely read more, but don’t know if I could handle it if it was all downbeat.

  6. cosiogirls says:

    I found this well written with a strong voice. I’d hope to learn more about why the MC thinks she would be perceived as crazy, so that’s well set up – but could perhaps be done more succinctly. Am I right in thinking they have a child? If so, it would be a bit harder to sympathize with the MC’s desire to kill her husband until I learned more. But you’ve done a good job of setting things up so that I do want to know more.

  7. allisonnewchurch says:

    Well you got me with the first sentence! Now to read more….

    OK, now that I’ve read the rest…

    Loved the opening. Really sucked me in. Stayed with that feeling for the first two paragraphs and the Psycho bitch comment.

    Then I started to lose interest. All of the stuff about people like you, people like me, the backyard, the dog, the names; didn’t move the story along.

    Then when we meet Sean, I figured he was a toddler so was quite taken aback to find it was her husband.

    I wouldn’t read any more, I’m afraid.

  8. English Tim says:

    For what it’s worth, this is my favorite full opening of Novel Boot Camp 2014 and 2015. Skilled, subtle and emotive writing with a few rough edges and a good title, but a tough sell. I’m struggling to think of a book or movie dealing squarely with these issues, familiar to so many people. Here are some observations.

    In my opinion the only words in print which merit full caps are: THE MISSILES ARE COMING. Everything else is lower case, domestic homicide included.

    I wasn’t thinking “psycho bitch”, so you could drop that. I did think: “Oh, is she going to swear?” In my opinion profanity doesn’t work outside criminal dialogue. I know this is conversational, but the structure is too loose and you’re repeating too much.

    Chatty intro over, down to business. Doug the dog is a very clever device and I like your use of his contrast to underline the essence of the scene. I admire how you use him to introduce the Seans and it works one hundred per cent. Heartbreaking. I started paying close attention, wondering what else I had missed.

    So I figured out that she gets serious now. It’s care time. Another, from your last line: she loves him to pieces. Maybe I worked that out too early, which would mean you gave a little too much away.

    With a good editor you can deliver a novel which people like me will read to the end. The problem is, I wonder if we’re a minority. An agent may think: “How can I sell this to a wider market?” Within your novel, help her as much as you can.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s