by M.C. Neuda
He's afraid now
whenever I approach the bed. Sometimes I do nothing. I just lift the bedclothes
away, look him all over, rest my finger on some body part, watch his eyes widen
and his mouth fall open, twisting his lips around the word “Please.”
Sometimes I go
away without doing anything . . . only to come back to watch his head start to
shake, the terror creep into his eyes. I can almost see his heart jumping
through his ribs.
No one guesses.
That's the kicker. After all, everyone knows how devoted a wife I've been,
feeding him, sitting and reading to him aloud from a favorite book, and
refusing to put him in a nursing home, though there's money enough to do so.
It isn't hard, the
torture, either to do or to hide. I tape his
closed, for example, before threading his catheter. I take my sweet time and
make oh, just an awful mess of the job. Or I twist his arm something short of a
spiral fracture. Or simplest of all, I leave a heating
pad, a little too hot, a little too long next to a tender spot. Nothing spectacular. Things, if it came to it, I could always blame on
the aide. I never worry about that really, because I pay her plenty to look the
Although . . . At
the beginning, once, out of the corner of my eye, I saw her pick up his wrist,
look at it carefully, then look at me. I took a moment and then turned swiftly
and brightly to her and said, “What is it, Nina?”
She didn't know
how to broach it, and I continued, “Are you unhappy? Don't I pay you enough?”
“Oh yes, no no,
I'm not unhappy.”
“Good. I wouldn't
be happy if you weren't.” I went on, “Don't you have some grocery shopping to
“Yes, right away.”
She dropped the wrist and hurried off.
And that was the
end of that.
In any case, Nina
would have plenty of reason to doubt her suspicions, since friends that come
over say to her, pointing at me, “She's a saint, you know that, don't you?” And
I demur and shush them quietly. Of course, the more I do that, the more they
protest how good I am to him.
Some of them, I
know, suspect what happened in the house before he got ill. I always denied
it, because there's nothing worse
than friends pitying you. I'd invent plausible excuses for the black eyes where
he'd punched them closed or the bruises where he'd slammed my body into the
wall or the breaks that occurred when he'd send me flying onto the cement
basement floor. “A walking disaster,”
about me in explanation to his friends. Once, when I came to, in the hospital,
I wished I hadn't.
How plausible can
excuses be, though, when “accidents” keep occurring? Of course,
my friends suspected, how could
Which made them
think the more that I was a saint—or maybe
sap—when I insisted on keeping him at home after, ironically, his real accident.
It never occurred to them that I might want
him right where I could do the same to him.
The thing is, I
understand it now, the pleasure in seeing the pain. Yes, I do. Oh yes, I do.
And yet . . . I've
come to the point of diminishing returns. Too much work for the satisfaction
and, hard to believe, I’m tiring of the thrill. Maybe I could arrange for him
to fall and hit his head and end it all for him.
It dawns on me
then how maybe that last “accident” he was trying to arrange when I dropped to my
knees out of sheer desperation and he fell over me down the stairs, breaking
his neck and paralyzing his body, wasn't in truth supposed to end it all for
M.C. Neuda explores the darker side of the
human comedy in short story form, whatever the length or genre. Stories have
been published online by, among others, Shotgun Honey, Flash Fiction
Press, and Near to the Knuckle, and in print by Flash: The
International Short-Short Story Magazine, and Crimespree.