Your Loving Husband, Alonzo P. Winterbottom ~ A Short Story by Allen Kopp
Adele Winterbottom had the best custom-made draperies for the living room that money could buy. When her husband, Alonzo Winterbottom, received the bill for them, he was not happy.
“Ten thousand dollars for curtains!” he shrieked. “Have you lost your mind?”
“They went a little over the original estimate,” Adele said.
“How much over?”
“Four thousand dollars.”
“What are they made of? Spun gold?”
“No, just regular brocade.”
“You have to send them back and ask for a refund,” Alonzo said.
“I can’t do that. They’re special made. Nobody else would want them. Just look at them. Don’t you think they’re smart?”
He ran into the living room and started pulling at the curtains. When Adele saw that he was tearing them to pieces with his bare hands, she began tugging at his arm to try to get him stop, but he pushed her and knocked her down. She screamed and threw a statue of the Buddha at him but missed.
She had seen him angry before but never to such an extent. She was going to call the police to get them to come and calm him down (or arrest him for domestic disturbance), but she had a better solution closer to hand. She went into the kitchen and picked up her old cast iron skillet that had belonged to her mother and, coming up behind, hit him on the side of the head with it just above the right ear.
He staggered and fell. Afraid she had hit him a little harder than she meant to, she ran to him and placed a pillow under his head. His eyes were opened but unfocused.
“Are you all right?” she asked, slapping his cheek.
“What did? What did you?”
“Do you want me to get the doctor?” she said.
“I’ll get the doctor for you on one condition. And that is that you don’t tell him I hit you with the skillet. If you tell him the truth, I might be in trouble.
“Is that a ‘yes’ or a ‘no’?”
“Yuh, yuh, nah.”
“Are we agreed, then?”
He closed his eyes then and seemed to go to sleep. She figured he just needed to lie still for a while, so she went into another part of the house and put him out of her mind for the time being.
After a couple of hours he was still lying in the same position. She touched him on the arm and he opened his eyes.
“Are you all right?” she asked.
“You know you had it coming, don’t you?”
“I couldn’t just stand by and let you tear up our lovely new drapes. I had to stop you.”
“Hit me,” he said.
“Yes, I hit you in the head with my mother’s cast iron skillet.”
“B-b-bitch,” he said.
“Yes, I’m sure that’s what I am, but still it’s not a nice name to call a lady. That kind of behavior is what has brought you to this pass.”
“B-b-bed,” he said.
“You want me to help you to the bed?”
She got him to his feet and half-carried, half-dragged him to his bedroom. She got him undressed and into bed, where he immediately began to snore.
“You’ll be all right in the morning,” she said. “I’ll fix you a nice breakfast.”
The next morning he was dead.
She called the police and told them her husband had taken a spill on the stairs and hit his head. She tried to get him to see a doctor but he refused, saying he would be all right in the morning. She helped him to bed, after which she retired to her own room. When she went to get him up in the morning, she found that he had expired sometime in the night.
Her tears, while she was telling the story, were real. The police never suspected there was anything other than the truth in what she was saying. The death was ruled accidental. Case closed.
She was sorry in a way to have killed Alonzo but happy also to be free of him. He had never been what she would call a good husband. She thought back to when they first met and the first years of their marriage. Had she ever cared for him at all? Really, she wasn’t able to remember.
So, she would carry her guilty little secret around with her for the rest of her life. She was sure there were plenty of other wives who had killed their husbands and husbands their wives, with nobody any the wiser. Life isn’t like detective dramas on TV where no murder ever goes undetected and unpunished.
With the life insurance money, along with Alonzo’s stocks and bonds, she was comfortably set for the rest of her life. She traded her three-year-old car in on a more expensive, sportier model; had her hair styled in one of the trendier, more youthful cuts (telling the hairdresser to cover up the streaks of gray any way he could); bought a whole new wardrobe of flashy, colorful garments that made her look like a college girl.
After a suitable period of grief (three months), she threw out all of Alonzo’s clothes and personal belongings, keeping nothing for sentimental value. Then she had his bedroom painted and papered and took the room as her own since it was the largest and most commodious in the house. She bought all new furniture and had custom draperies made for the rest of the windows, laughing at the cost. She made little jokes to her friends about hearing Alonzo turning over in his grave.
With her amazing transformation, only one thing was missing: she was lonely and desired the companionship of a good man. She began socializing more and more and, at a bridge party, met a man named Wallace Lexcaster to whom she was instantly drawn. He was handsome—she didn’t mind that he wore a wig and a girdle and had false teeth—and he had the added attraction of being something of a celebrity because he was a TV weather forecaster.
She and Wallace Lexcaster began seeing a lot of each other. They found they had a lot in common and enjoyed each other’s company. He took her to the smartest clubs and restaurants, lavished her with expensive gifts. He told her stories about his former wives (a growing club); she hung on his every word and proffered just the right amount of sympathy. She told him the fiction of how her husband fell and hit his head and how he refused to see a doctor. How she put him to bed, thinking he would be all right in the morning and how he died sometime in the night.
“It’s good to die in your own bed,” Wallace Lexcaster said. “That’s the way I want to go when my time comes.”
Unable to speak, she put her hand over his as her eyes filled with tears.
She was having a good time with Wallace Lexcaster, but the important thing was that she was happy, maybe for the first time in her life. She began to think she would marry him if he asked her and, no, she wouldn’t be just one more wife in a continuing string of wives. She would be the last wife he would ever have or want to have.
On a Friday afternoon when she was driving home after a three-martini lunch with Wallace, she somehow became distracted on the highway and ran the car off the road. She righted herself in a few seconds, though, and was back on the highway, happy that nobody was there to witness her carelessness.
When she got home, her head hurt and she didn’t know why. She thought she must have hit it somehow without knowing. She took some aspirin and got into bed and slept the whole night through.
In the morning the phone woke her. She felt a rush of pleasure, thinking it was Wallace Lexcaster calling to wish her a good morning.
“Guess who this is?” a male voice (not Wallace Lexcaster) said.
“Um, I think you have the wrong number,” she said.
“No, I’ve got the right number.”
“Who were you calling?”
“I was calling you.”
She hung up the phone and lit a cigarette, her hands trembling. She was thinking she needed to cut down on her consumption of martinis when the phone rang again.
“Don’t hang up on me again, you bitch!”
“Who is this?”
“You know who it is.”
“Wallace? Is that you? Is this some kind of a joke?”
“No more Wallace,” he said. “You can forget Wallace.”
“Who is this?”
“I’ll give you a hint,” he said. “You recently bashed in my head with an old frying pan. I wasn’t the first person you murdered, either; only the most recent. When you were fifteen, you pushed your cousin down the stairs because you were jealous of her. She died later that day of massive internal bleeding.”
“If you don’t stop bothering me,” she said, “I’m going to call the police!”
“Hah-hah-hah! And a lot of good that would do!”
“If this is somebody’s idea of a joke, I don’t think it’s the least bit funny!”
“Now, darling, calm down. I’m trying to break it to you gently. That’s why I’m calling first before I come to you. That little dust-up you had on the highway was a lot worse than you thought. Sadly, you’re just a statistic now.”
“What are you talking about?”
“You bashed in your skull but you just don’t know it yet. Isn’t it ironic? Doesn’t it seem like some kind of crazy symmetry?”
“You’re not fooling me,” she said. “This is some kind of a practical joke, isn’t it? Well, if it is, I think it’s gone too far.”
“I’ll be there in two shakes of a lamb’s tail,” he said. “And don’t even think about trying to keep me out. I have my key.”
“Don’t come here!” she shrieked.
“Don’t be that way, baby,” he said. “You and I are bound together for all eternity. You can bash in my head every day and I’ll still be there the next day.”
“And don’t think I won’t, either!” she said.
Copyright © 2014 by Allen Kopp