“Ice-fishing,” he barked back. The thump of a plastic bucket confirmed what he said.
“Not in that jacket,” she snapped. “It’s too light.”
He mumbled something she couldn’t hear.
“You’ll freeze to death.”
He peeled off the thin jacket then swished into a heavier fabric.
“Don’t forget your cap,” she said.
“Where did’ya put the damn thing?”
“It is where you left it last.”
Silence followed the bang of the door. Those were the first words the house had heard in days. Rose tried to remember the last time she felt affection for the man but it only reminded her of how long it had been.
Mostly, these days, all she felt for him was irritation.
He retired years too early. Now they lived separate lives in a very small place. They seldom got out and when they did, they did so without each other. She shopped the malls. He fished alone.
They would have been a typical couple enduring a low-spot in their relationship had he not gotten so unbearable. He was not abusive or mean. Far from it. What he was — was there. All the time there, annoyingly there and she wanted him gone.
She thought of divorcing him but thought better of it because they could not divide their meager resources. What she wanted was him gone permanently. As in dead. At least then she would have a full pension and the insurance money. But she didn’t know how go about it.
Rose knew from years of watching Murder, She Wrote and CSI that you didn’t just bump someone off. There was always a lingering trace: a thread, a fingerprint, a molecule of DNA. The police eventually figured out who did what and how. And the spouse was always the most suspect.
She couldn’t imagine keeping her composure under interrogation. They could smell culpability, so if she was going to murder Jerry, she would have to do it without guilt.
She tried to think of ways of accomplishing that but her mind would not move in that direction.
This was a very hard thing for Rose. Murder was not something that good people did; and she was good people. To kill Jerry would require that she be angry enough to be not good and that for her was not possible.
She spent the morning in the living room, determined to rid herself of Jerry. Not only did she did not know how to go about it but she did not even know how to begin thinking about it. As she thought about how to begin – a key scratched at the side door, followed by the faint tick of tumblers and a bolt gliding almost soundlessly open.
She startled. Was that Jerry? It was far too early for him to be returning. What if he was thinking the same thing as she?
She might be afraid to do something like that – but not he. Even if he couldn’t do it himself, the kind of people he hung out with could. Had he hired a killer?
The door hissed across the carpet as it swung slowly open. Footsteps. The creak of weight shifting across the sub floor. A muttered obscenity; it was Jerry.
Why was he sneaking around?
He headed into his room, taking pains not to make a sound. The door clicked closed, muffling the sound of his television.
What was he up to?
Rose waited a few minutes before making her way back to his room. She stood in the hall by the door.
“I thought you went ice-fishing.”
“Too damned cold”
“You forgot your cap, didn’t you?”
She let herself in.
He sat tilted back in his leather recliner looking only at the television, an old checkered blanket covering his legs, a beer and a sandwich on the nightstand.
“Did you come in here to nag me?” he accused.
She started to speak but held her tongue. His crassness appalled her. He was picking at the remains of a tuna salad sandwich she had prepared for herself the evening before. It had been on his nightstand uncovered, unrefrigerated for far too long. She doubted the cat would risk eating it.
She felt a wave of inner-peace. Even a few hours ago, she would have scolded him. Told him that tuna and mayonnaise could be lethal if left out overnight but after all the fretting about how to guiltlessly rid herself of a husband, the solution had presented itself as something so simple.
“You know what?” she finally said.
“I’ve nagged you for the last time.”