A Quiet Evening at Home ~ A Short Story by Allen Kopp
Eunice and Bitsy gave each other an unfeeling peck on the cheek and sat on opposite ends of the couch. Squeamy sat in a chair across the room, crossed his legs and looked down at the floor.
“How have you been, Squeamy?” Eunice asked.
“I have this terrible pain,” he said.
“I think I know what you mean.”
“We didn’t come here to talk about Squeamy’s pains,” Bitsy said.
“Would you like a drink?”
“No, thank you. We didn’t come here to drink, either.”
“What are you here for, then?”
“Now that mother has been dead for six weeks,” Bitsy said, “I think it’s time we discussed some practical matters.”
“I’ll just come right out and say it. Since she left the house to you, I think I should get all the money in the family annuity, instead of half.”
Eunice laughed. She and Bitsy had had these conversations before, many times, going back to when they were small children.
“Both our names are on it,” Eunice said. “That’s the way mother wanted it.”
“We both know that mother could be very unfair.”
“Why didn’t you talk to her about it before she died?”
“I did. We got into an argument.”
“What is it you want, Bitsy?”
“I want you to agree to remove your name from the family annuity so only my name is on it.”
“Why would I do that?”
“Because I deserve it.”
“Maybe I don’t agree.”
“You get the house and everything in it. Don’t you think it’s only fair that I get everything else?”
“I’ve never thought about it.”
“No, doing the fair and right thing would never enter your mind, would it? Or mother’s, either.”
“The annuity is worth almost four hundred thousand dollars,” Eunice said. “Isn’t half of that enough for you?”
“Why so greedy?”
“It’s not greed. It’s fairness. And I have my reasons for wanting the money.”
“If you can’t be more specific than that, I’m afraid we have nothing to talk about.”
“I’ve seen a lawyer.”
“I can take you to court. I can also get you to sell the house.”
“Why would I sell the house?”
“Because half of it should be mine. You sell the house and give me half the money.”
“Mother left the house to me so I would have a home after she died.”
“You can buy yourself a smaller house that doesn’t cost as much.”
“I was the one who stayed her and took care of her,” Eunice said. “Do you know how horrible she was? She used to scream at me and call me names and throw food at me.”
“Go ahead!” Bitsy said. “Tell me how miserable your life has been. I’ve heard it so many times before.”
“Go to hell, Bitsy!”
“Yes, that’s a fine way to talk to your sister, isn’t it?”
“You left home right out of college and married Squeamy. I stayed here and assumed all the responsibility.”
“My life has certainly been a bed of roses, hasn’t it?”
“If you’ve had an unhappy life, it’s your own fault.”
“If I end up taking you to court—and believe me, I will—all the money from mother’s estate could be eaten up in court costs. Then nobody gets anything.”
“You’re being childish, Bitsy.”
“Yes, it’s easy to say that, isn’t it? It’s easy to ridicule and call me names.”
“What are we going to do with her, Squeamy?” Eunice asked with a little laugh.
“You can’t laugh her away,” Squeamy said. “I’ve tried.”
“Both of you are against me!” Bitsy cried. “You always have been!”
“Did you forget to take your meds, dear?” Eunice asked.
Bitsy buried her face in the sofa cushion and wailed.
“We should try to get along,” Eunice said. “We’re all that’s left of the family.”
“What does that matter to me now?” Bitsy said.
“Squeamy and I are getting a divorce.”
“I don’t love him. I’ve never loved him. I don’t want to spend another day married to him.”
“Is this true, Squeamy?” Eunice asked.
“Oh, he doesn’t know anything,” Bitsy said. “He doesn’t even know that New Mexico is a state. He’s never read a book in his life.”
“You’ve been married to him for a long time,” Eunice said.
“Time lost. Never to be regained.”
“I thought you and Squeamy were happy.”
“I’ve never been happy. That’s why I want the money. I’m going abroad.”
“What does it matter? I only want to get away and live in some other country. I’m going to renounce my American citizenship.”
“That seems drastic.”
“I want half of everything mother had so I can leave this country for good and never look back.”
“Do you plan on writing when you get to where you’re going?” Eunice asked.
“No! I want to sever all ties.”
“Well, all right, then.”
“So, you’ll agree to remove your name from the family annuity so I can have all of it.”
“No. You get half, the way mother wanted it.”
“Do you want me to take you to court?”
“Do you want all of mother’s estate eaten up in court costs?”
“Bitsy, you sound like a vengeful child!”
“I’ve been looking to have her committed,” Squeamy said.
“You just try it!” Bitsy said. “Try having me committed. I’ll stick a knife through your heart so fast you won’t see it coming!”
“You would kill me?” Squeamy asked.
“Just try me, you son of a bitch!”
“Time lost for me, too,” he said. “Never to be regained.”
“You’re an ignoramus and I don’t know what I ever saw in you in the first place. I see now that I only married you to get away from my mother.”
“You’re always telling me how stupid I am,” he said. “What about the time you let yourself be swindled out of five hundred dollars by a slick-talking guy at the door?”
“It might have happened to anybody!”
“I didn’t happen to me,” he said.
“I paid for it with my money! It didn’t cost you a cent!”
“What about the time you drove the car through the garage door?”
“My foot slipped!”
“And the time you tried to get a stain out of my suit and made a hole in the material big enough to put my entire arm?”
“It was a cheap suit!”
“It was the only suit I had!”
“You’ve never had any taste in clothes or anything else!” Bitsy said. “You think pink and red go well together!”
“I like pink and red!”
“You think spaghetti is an appropriate side dish to go with turkey!”
“My mother always served spaghetti with turkey.”
“That’s because she’s a moron, too!”
“You leave my mother out of this!””
“This arguing isn’t helping anything!” Eunice said.
“Oh, what do you know?” Bitsy asked. “At least I have a husband. No man in his right mind ever showed the slightest bit of interest in you! You never knew how to dress or how to use makeup, and you were always so self-righteous and moral. Men hate that!”
“I think it’s time for you to leave,” Eunice said.
“Throw a bucket of water on her!” Squeamy said. “That’s what I do when she’s out of control.”
“You do not! Nobody throws a bucket of water on me and lives to talk about it!”
“Do you have your pills with you, dear?” Eunice asked. “Why don’t you take one of your pills and I’ll fix you a nice cup of tea?”
“Don’t you tell me what to do! I don’t take advice from anybody, but especially not from you!”
“You should hear yourself!” Squeamy said. “You sound like a crazy person!”
“Well, who wouldn’t be crazy after living with you all these years? I could kill you for the things you’ve done to me, and no jury in the land would ever convict me!”
“Why don’t you just try it?”
“I’m so glad now I never had any children with you!” Bitsy said. “If they had been the least bit like you, I would have taken them out and strangled them!”
“Squeamy, no!” Eunice screamed.
He had taken a small handgun from his pocket and from across the room shot Bitsy squarely in the forehead.
Eunice jumped up and covered her ears, expecting more shots.
Bitsy slumped over against the arm of the couch. Eunice’s first thought was to try to help her, but there was nothing to be done. It happened so fast, like a lightning flash.
Squeamy rested the gun on the arm of the chair in which he was sitting and covered his face with his hands. “The terrible pain is gone now,” he said.
“Squeamy, what has happened?” Eunice said.
“It was the only way I knew to shut her up.”
“You could have socked her in the mouth, which she deserved, but you didn’t have to shoot her.”
“You’ve always been decent to me. Your mother was, too. I couldn’t stand by and let her cheat you out of your mother’s inheritance. She’s been planning this for years. She was waiting for your mother to die.”
“I’m going to have to call the police now. They’ll take you away.”
“I know,” Squeamy said. “But before you do, might I trouble you for a drink?”
Eunice went into the kitchen and took the good wine, two hundred dollars a bottle, out of its hiding place and, with trembling hands, took down two wine glasses. She took the bottle and the wine back into the room where Squeamy was sitting and her sister lay dead and poured him a glass full, careful not to spill any on the carpet.
“A toast!” he said. “Here’s to happier times for all of us!”
He drank all the wine in the glass and looked up at Eunice and smiled.
“I’m not going to prison, you know,” he said.
He brought the gun to his temple and shot himself dead.
Copyright © 2017 by Allen Kopp