that Robert wear his swim trunks in the shower.
She liked to kneel before her neighbor,
the water sluicing over her lithe body, and remove them herself. Robert was
more than happy to indulge her. He enjoyed the ritual, Janet knew, as much as
she did, and the trunks were wet anyway.
Still, it was with an encroaching
sadness that she had embarked on today’s tryst. Autumn would put the kibosh on
their afternoon swims. And winter would mean dreary snow days in which Norman
would stay home all day.
thought with abhorrence.
It was high time
they dispensed with her husband.
gradually warming to the idea, and Janet felt confident that he would
eventually cave. Just today while frolicking in the pool they had discussed the
best way to do it. Janet was partial to poison. Robert thought it best to hire
Either way she
wanted her husband out of the picture by Christmas. Norman always took an
extended vacation—sometimes a whole month—during the holiday season and she
could no longer bear his dull company for that length of time.
Now Robert soaped
her shoulders and back and said, “It’s too bad your snake didn’t give him a
heart attack. Talk about convenient . . .”
“Did you hear that?”
“I didn’t hear anything.”
“I think it’s the front—”
Janet. Norman’s at work. And he always—”
late,” she finished Robert’s sentence.
was true of her husband, especially with Halloween right around the corner.
the foyer of his house, keys jangling in one hand, his sample case dangling
from the other, Norman grinned like a shark.
The setup was perfect.
Taylor made, he thought, for one of his
best pranks yet.
a good thing I came home early . . .
As husband and wife Norman and Janet
were constantly playing tricks on one another; theirs was a perpetual sparring
match minus the fists and feet, a battle of wits to see who could devise the
Just last weekend Janet had gotten him
good with that rubber snake. Norman had been sunning on a chaise lounge when
the damnable thing had fallen from the weeping willow tree and landed on his
thigh. Scrambling with panic, he had dropped his mojito and screamed to high
heaven before realizing that the snake was a fake. Laughing hysterically, Janet
had emerged from her hiding spot behind the shrubbery. Her self-satisfied smirk
had said it all. Take that, Norman! Take
it and top it!
Now he closed the door quietly and crept
through the house, homing in on the master bathroom where his wife was taking a
shower. She must’ve gone for an afternoon dip. He had heard the water running
as soon as he opened the door, the prank blossoming inside his ever-scheming mind.
The new masks had arrived today.
Halloween was just two months away. Norman had a quota to meet and damned if he
wasn’t going to surpass it and win Salesman of the Year for the second year in
a row. Last year’s award had netted him a substantial bonus, which he had used
to finance the pool. The new masks were impressive and Norman felt confident
that he could place them in most of the major chains, certainly TG&Y and
Zayre, perhaps even Woolco.
But work was work and for the moment he
was in play mode.
Norman crossed the threshold of their
bedroom and placed his case on the queen-sized bed. He didn’t waste time making
a selection. His favorite among the new samples was “Demented Witch”—a hideously
wrinkled crone topped with a wild mop of grayish hair. Standing before Janet’s
vanity, he slipped the rubber mask over his head and regarded his ghastly
reflection in the mirror. Payback’s a
Norman’s heart hammered with excitement.
He started for the bathroom.
Then he stopped.
knife. You forgot the knife . . .
The rubber accessory had been included
with the masks. It wasn’t retractable like an authentic stage knife, but at
first glance the replica looked real enough, a large butcher’s knife of the
kind Janet used to carve roast beef.
Gripping the plastic haft, Norman
entered the bathroom, fancying himself a movie stalker as reached for the
Raising their hands to ward off the
attack, Janet and Robert screamed in unison. Norman screamed, too. The shock of
seeing another man with his wife battered his senses.
The shock of seeing another man with
his wife battered his
senses. Searing pain lanced down his left arm. The knife clattered to the
floor. He clutched his chest with both hands and fell to the floor.
stood there aghast. Robert hastened from the tile
stall. He crouched beside the body and felt for a pulse.
“My God,” Janet said. “We scared him to
Robert wrapped a towel around his waist.
“I’ll call the police.” He hastened to the bedroom and used the phone on the
The water was still running when Janet,
the first traces of a smile creasing her features, emerged from the shower. She
had intended to remove her husband’s mask, had gone so far as to bend over and
reach for the deranged visage before changing her mind.
It was better this way, she decided,
easier if Norman was the monster.