by Ray Valent
Steven Broshears never accepted his
wife's death. He was lost in a miasma of hallucination, not sure why his
imaginary spouse could not respond to him. His frustration began to build into
full fledged hallucination.
Steven sat in the old aluminum lawn
chair, the metal frame pitted and discolored from decades of barbeques and
dozens of outdoor family events.
A white wooden trellis archway
surrounded Steven with climbing vines of morning glories and roses. His small
garden held huge sunflowers bent over from the weight of their seed heads,
which Steven tried to prop up with sticks and kite string. A thick carpet of
pansies covered the ground, leaving a narrow path from the yard to his seat in
the garden. In this floral onslaught, off to his right, stood three or four
cherry tomato plants, easily within reach from his chair, which he picked and
popped into his mouth every so often.
wife, Eileen, had been cremated eleven months and three days before. Steven
mixed her ashes in the soil in his
garden. She was literally fertilizer. He
felt comfortable here, but he didn't know why. He could not recall her passing,
or what he had done with her remains. He just knew he felt close to her here in
Steven longed to be with Eileen again.
His life had become a shambles. He lost his job, his friends and some say, his
"Sometimes I think about bad
Eileen was quiet today.
Steven Broshears was sitting at his
dining room table staring at the plate of baked salmon and fresh steamed
asparagus on the plate at the end of the table opposite him.
His own plate was empty. He had finished
eating ten minutes ago.
Eileen’s was untouched.
“Not hungry again, Love?”
Steven stood and walked around the table
to his wife’s seat, pulled back her chair and picked up the plate of cold food.
“Maybe tomorrow. You never seem hungry
Steven walked to the kitchen with
Eileen’s plate, held it over the trash can and stared at the salmon steak,
wondered how long ago that slab of fish was swimming in the Atlantic, free and
“Shame,” he said, and scraped the food
into the garbage. He put the plate in the sink and ran some water over it.
“Go upstairs and get ready. I’ll draw
Steven playfully swatted the air behind
her, not connecting with Eileen’s behind. He frowned. He walked to the kitchen
again, opened a cabinet and took out two wine glasses and placed them on the
counter top. A small smile replaced the frown as he opened the refrigerator and
took out the bottle of chardonnay.
He poured both glasses three-quarters
full, re-corked the bottle and placed it on the top shelf of the refrigerator
and closed the door.
Steven stared at the two wine glasses on
the counter top. He tried everything he knew to get her to pay attention to
him; dinner, wine, poetry. Nothing seemed to move her. When they first met, she
was vivacious, sensual, full of the wonderment of new love.
Lately, she was quiet, reserved and
almost devout in her avoidance of him and any of his attempts at romance.
“You were the salmon, free in the
infinite ocean. Now, you’re like the salmon steak; dead, lifeless on the plate,
waiting to be consumed or discarded,” he said. He picked up the glasses and
started up the stairs to the bathroom. Eileen would be undressing in their
bedroom, and he might catch a glimpse of her if she left the door ajar. But as
he passed the bedroom, the door was closed, just as he left it.
He placed the glasses down and sat on
the edge of the tub, closed the drain and turned on the water. As the tub
filled, he stood in front of the mirror and opened the medicine cabinet. The
usual bottles of mouthwash, aspirin, band-aids, and assorted over-the-counter
nonsense filled the thin glass shelves. Steve’s eye caught sight of a
prescription bottle in the upper right-hand corner of the cabinet, a bottle of
pain killers he was prescribed over a year ago for a recurring back injury.
“Oxycontin,” he mouthed the word softly.
He took the bottle and stuffed it into a
pants pocket, downed one of the glasses of wine, turned off the tub and started
to walk downstairs to the kitchen with the empty wine glass.
“Be up in a minute Hon. Take your time.
The tub’s ready for you.”
Steven stopped halfway down the stairs
and fixated on a photo of Eileen on horseback that was framed on the wall. How
beautiful she was then. How full of life.
What had happened to her? To him? He
spent all his time trying to engage with her and she shunned him, ignored him,
as if he wasn’t there. As if SHE wasn't there,
He continued down the stairs to the
“Can’t live like this. Can’t, WON’T be
ignored any longer.”
Steven counted the pills that were left
in the bottle: eighteen. More than enough.
He placed them in a cup and began to
grind them into a powder with the back of a spoon until they were fine like
sugar. He poured that into the wine glass and filled it three-quarters of the
way with chardonnay.
He turned and began to ascend the stairs
to the bathroom, glass of wine in hand. He clenched his free hand into a fist,
a vein in his forehead began to throb.
“Done with begging. Can’t keep this up.”
Steven saw Eileen in the tub, submerged
to her neck in bubbles, which hid her nakedness from him. Steven placed the
wineglass on the vanity, clenched and unclenched his fists, and stared at
Eileen’s head. He grabbed the glass that was already there and downed it, wiped
his mouth on his sleeve, and stared at her.
“Why can’t you look at me? Why don’t you
speak to me? I’ve done everything for you and you act like I’m not even here!”
Eileen stared straight ahead, apparently
deaf to Steven’s words.
Steven clenched his jaw, opened his
fists and lunged at her. He went for her throat, meaning to hold her head under
the water, but his hands went through the air and into the water and came to
rest at the bottom. He found himself kneeling on the tiled floor, his hands
resting on the bottom of the tub, the spell broken, his imaginary Eileen
Steven was frozen for a moment, unsure
what to do. He swept his right arm through the entire bath, searching the
Steven wrinkled his brow, cocked his
head to one side.
He stood then, grabbed a towel and dried
His head was beginning to feel the
effects of the wine, so he sat on the toilet lid and tried to think. He closed
his eyes and realized what he had just attempted to do, and a tear rolled down
Then he recalled the coffin being
lowered, the flowers, the sobbing insincere well-wishers at the wake. The
friends who stopped visiting, stopped calling. The months of loneliness with
Eileen, trying to get a response from…
“From someone who was never there.”
He was ashamed. Steven stared at the
glass with the powder in it for a long time.
From behind him came a familiar whisper.
He turned, and there stood his Eileen, arm outstretched, beckoning him to hand
her a glass of wine.
Steven picked up a glass and turned to
give it to...no one. Just an empty bathroom wall. He stared at the wall with
the glass in his hand. Reality eluded him for months. Now it was all too clear.
Then after what seemed like forever, he
stood up, stripped off his clothes, and drank the last glass of wine, the one
with the drug in it. Enough to kill Eileen.
“You won’t need it,” he said. "See
you soon, Honey."
After a minute, Steven stepped into the
bath tub, sunk down to his neck, closed his eyes and waited.
Ray Valent has about thirty published
stories and is currently travelling the country with the love of his life in
search of inspiration.
He likes to write stories about the intrusion of the mysterious into
everyday mundanity. (Is that a word?)