I wrote this story a while back and have had it out on submission from time to time to no avail. The general consensus seems to be that it’s far too cute to be a horror story. So rather than keep going with it, I think I’ll put it up here for free. Have a Happy Halloween, everyone!
Image courtesy of thezartorialist.com
It wasn’t my idea. Murray from Accounting mentioned one day that he’d gotten his wife a puppy after the kids left home. His wife hadn’t handled the empty nest any better than my Martha. According to Murray it gives them something to love and suddenly the good cooking and the efficient housecleaning starts again. It worked for Martha too. Sort of.
I’d been miserable since the second of our two sons had gone off to college. Martha slept or wept or stared at the TV that wasn’t even turned on. She sighed and whispered about how quiet the house was. For me it was bland TV dinners and a growing pile of my dirty laundry. Not long after that I noticed how dusty and unkempt the house was. She didn’t cook my favorite meals; she barely noticed my existence. It was a far cry from the good wife she’d once been. She barely showered and it was a rare day that she even got dressed.
One day I couldn’t find my golf clubs. My repeated demands for them resulted only in Martha burying her face in the couch cushions. I knew it was time to take action. Yelling had no effect. She refused to go to the doctor. My threats to leave her were ignored. In the end I took Murray’s advice and went to the local pet store.
The thing was a hideous. I couldn’t believe I was paying good money for something so repulsive, but Murray had said something small and ugly would appeal to Martha’s overactive maternal side, just like it had his wife’s. I bought all the accouterments—dog biscuits, collar, leash—and took it all home, putting everything in the living room. I picked up the dog. It was small and warm and shivering, then deposited it in the crook of Martha’s arm. She ignored it— until a small pink tongue came out and licked her hand. Her eyes opened and she petted it on its bony head.
I went to bed hopeful that night, envisioning a clean house, a lovingly prepared meal, my golf clubs gleaming and propped up in a sensible place. I’d soon have my wife doing all the things she used to do and my life would be perfect again. I’d be able to focus on my work and my golf and my newspaper and my coin collection. Martha would take care of the rest. I slept well.
Things improved. The house was clean, at least. Martha still wasn’t speaking to me, though. I would hear her having long phone conversations with the boys or whispering endearments to that horrible little brute. It was all so unfair. The boys never spoke to me unless asking for money and the dog had taken a dislike to me. It would bare its teeth and growl at me any time I came near, then hide behind Martha’s legs as if I’d tried to hurt it. I decided to bide my time. Things were getting better. Soon she’d be tackling the laundry and cooking pot roasts and polishing my golf clubs again. Soon.
And then it happened. I came home from work to the smell of sizzling meat. I hovered over the stove, dipping my fingers in to steal a piece of the food. Martha appeared and smacked my hand. She smacked it hard. “Not for you!” she snapped. I held my smarting hand and looked down at the little beast that was rubbing against her ankles. I swear it was smiling at me, its tongue hanging out in a grotesque insult, its black eyes twinkling in self-satisfaction. I decided right then and there that the little monster had to go. Murray’s plan was a spectacular failure. I would get rid of the dog and find some other way to restore Martha to her wifely duties. Maybe it would get out and be run over? Maybe a bigger neighborhood dog could accidentally kill it? I would think of something.
I went upstairs. My dirty golf clubs had been tossed carelessly on my bed and my smelly laundry was all over the floor. And on my pillow, right there, on my pillow, was a brown coil of feces. A small yip made me turn around. The monster was smiling at me again, its stubby tail wagging. I picked up my five iron and advanced. It seemed to have lost its fear of me; it just stood there— waiting. I lifted the club over my head and brought it down as fast as I could towards that bony little skull, but it darted out of the way just in time. It retreated from the bedroom, still smiling, still wagging. I rushed at it, swinging the club again.
It all happened so quickly. The rush out of my bedroom, a sharp turn to the left, the damn dog basket in my way and the long, painful fall to the bottom of the stairs, my head smashing against every single step. I remember Martha calling the ambulance and comforting, not me, but the damn little monster, now trembling and whining as if in fear. But when she went to the door to let the EMTs in, that little brute smiled at me again. It smiled in victory.
I lived, obviously. If you can call my existence in this nursing home living. The shattered jaw, the broken spine, and the head injury left me paralyzed, speechless, but completely compos mentis. I listen to Martha when she visits. She smiles as she accuses me of driving our children away, of treating her like a doormat, of being a complete failure as a father and a husband. All the time the monster grins at me from her lap. It licks her hand as she tells me the boys are moving home and of how much she got for my golf clubs.
I lie here fantasizing about murder: first the dog, then Martha and, finally, and most painfully, that god damn Murray from Accounting.