Two MonstersM. Stanley Bubien
There are two monsters that scare hell out of me.
First, Frankenstein. Nope, not because he uses his bare hands to tear people apart for no other reason than that they piss him off (a quality any self-respecting male like me secretly admires). But because he gets all weepy and sad around flowers. What is that?
Frankie, though, has the distinct advantage of being obviously make-believe (3am nightmares notwithstanding). But the second? Real as they come, this monster was colloquially known as "the little woman." Undeniably corporeal, even after the accident: my wife, Jenevera.
I gazed up at our marriage certificate, framed by vows spelled out in Jenevera's flawless cursive. Not "till death do us part." Oh no, I don't mince words, not me. I'd been so enraptured at the time, I convinced my then-fiancee to run with "forever."
I slapped my forehead.
"Be down in a second!" I cried, collecting yesterday's dirty clothes, strewn about the bedroom floor in whatever random locations my "little woman" had cast them. Keeping the garments---underwear especially!---at arm's length, I held my breath as I bounded into the washroom.
"Breakfast is ready!"
As I exited the washroom, the door slammed and I stiffened. Shaking my head, I marched toward the kitchen. But before I reached my destination, she popped out from behind the bureau and cackled, "I made your favorite!"
I jumped and stifled a scream. Hand against my racing heart, I swallowed several times in succession. "I told you never to do that!"
She bit her lip, which cracked so badly I had to close my eyes. "I'm... sorry honey," Jenevera quivered. "I was... just... so... excited..."
Eyes still closed as I tried to eradicate the vision of her patchy black hair, and that blanched, skull-drawn expression, I replied, "Okay."
At my usual spot, Jenevera had set the only meal I would let her cook. Scrambled eggs, fried into a single, solid mass of rubber, and bacon, the color and consistency of industrial-grade coal, throwing out enough smoke to set off the alarm---had I not disconnected it after her accident.
"You like it?" Jenevera asked from the opposite end of the table.
"Sure, uh huh," I mumbled between chews---bacon and eggs being edible in almost any form. Usually. Applying thumb to molars, I scratched off a stray piece of carbon. "And you used to be such a good cook."
Jenevera's brow wrinkled and her cheeks sagged halfway down her neck
I held up my hands. "No, no, I didn't mean..." My sentence trailed into a sigh of relief as her expression lifted. Of all damnable things a falling piano would leave completely intact, it had to be the ears!
I shoveled the rest of the food down, only gagging once, a tie for personal best. Pushing the plate aside like it was my marriage, I had a sudden urge: three simple words, "I'm leaving you," and the jig'd be up. But before I could even clear my throat, Jenevera rasped, "I'm thinking of inviting the Lasseters to dinner."
"Look, um, sweetie," I coughed loudly into my fist. "Ahem. No one comes over any more."
"It isn't my cooking, is it?"
"It is my cooking!"
"No!" I blared, the strength of my voice aided by the fervor of complete and total honesty. "That has absolutely nothing to do with it!"
She thrust her gaze toward me with a bone-snapping jerk. I cringed. "Truly?" she looked as hopeful as dilapidated eye sockets ever could. "I was afraid... So you think I should call them?"
"Why the sudden interest in entertaining?"
"Oh honey, don't you know what day it is?"
I froze, and slowly lifted my watch. I read the date off the little square at the three o'clock position: 31. "Halloween," I breathed.
"Our anniversary!" she exclaimed. "Don't tell me you've forgotten."
"Um... uh..." I stammered, unable to offer a defense---I had forgotten, doubly stupid, as I'd just been looking at our marriage certificate. And as earlier, I slapped my forehead. Doubly---
"To think," Jenevera said, waving a dishrag at me in her fit. "It's twice as special for us."
"Well," I squared my shoulders. "I wouldn't say---"
"Not again!" she screeched. "How often do couples get a second chance? I mean, I should have died."
"You did die, darling," I corrected. "I was there, remember? The piano crushed you." No need for details; we both understood the accident. It was the part after the accident we had trouble with.
"I know!" she shrieked, jabbing an accusing finger my direction. "It was your idea get married on Halloween!"
Again, I could offer no defense. And if my theory held true---it being a twisted mishmash of our wedding date, our unique vows, and the accident occurring on our seventh anniversary---it was as much my fault as anyone's.
"Here's to lucky number seven," I growled. And the next thing I knew, I was wearing the dishrag.
"You think I wanted to end up like this?" she waved her hand. "All stinky, and... decaying and..." Her voice cracked, and she began to cry.
"Ahhh," I stammered.
"And..." she continued. "So... ugly!" It sounded just like the first time I'd heard her cry. It always did. I swallowed, lifted myself out of my chair, and stood there, staring.
"And I was happy to just be... just..."
I hunkered over and put an arm around her---knowing I'd have enough time to add my shirt to the wash. "I'm sorry, honey," I whispered. "C'mon, tonight's the one night nobody notices. Let's go out."
I brushed her cheek---as much for comfort as to rub away a sliver of hanging flesh. "You know you always win the costume contests." That got a grin---it was true, death makes one helluva costume. Her tears finally slackened, and she buried her head in my shirt. Instead of plugging my nose, I pulled her close, and breathed sweet-nothings into her ear. Still, I caught a whiff of desiccated flesh, which awakened a single, unbidden thought.
Curse that Frankenstein and his damnably weak will!
Copyright ©2000 M. Stanley Bubien. All Rights Reserved.
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