“You’re not doing that right,” Ted said, crowding up against my side, using his considerable bulk to nudge me out of his way. He opened the upper cabinet, swinging it so wide it almost hit the side of my head.
I moved a step to my right, pausing the round and round motion of the paring knife circling the potato in my hand. Taking a deep breath, I stared out the small window at the red sky cradling the late-evening sun sinking over the distant mountains.. A hot puff of desert air found its way between the two panes of roll-out glass, riffling the sweaty tendrils of fading auburn hair sticking to my cheeks. I sighed.
He thunked down a cup on the countertop, then snagged the carafe brimming with fresh brewed coffee, sloshing some onto the Formica I had wiped down not five minutes ago.
“You need to use the peeler like I do…”
And just when’s the last time you did that? I thought.
“…not a knife,” he continued. “You’re wasting too much of the potato. Why do you always have to do things the hard way, Lulu?”
“It’s not hard for me. It’s the way I’ve always done it, the way my mama done it.” Go away! Leave me alone! I focused on the melancholy saguaro cactuses dotting the landscape, their heavy arms raised in silent surrender.
“But you’d save time and potato if you did it my way.”
“I don’t know how in hell I managed to live all of fifty years before you came along to tell me how everything should be done.” Go away!
“Jesus, I’m only trying to help,” he whined. “Why do you always have to be such a bitch, Lulu. I just want to show you the right way—”
The right way…his way. Always HIS way!
The fiery sky poured into my eyes, painting my mind red. And it was hot…so, so hot. “My name is Louise, not Lulu, you sonofabitch! LOUISE! And I don’t need your fucking help!”
The sharp little knife sank into his cheek, right below a startled blue eye. The coffee pot hit the floor, hot liquid splashing my bare legs…hot, but not near as hot as the conflagration that roared inside my head.
I pulled out the blade, struck again, lower, jamming the blade into the thin skin beside the mouth I hated, the mouth that didn’t know how to do anything but gripe and criticize. Blood weeped down his jaw. Twin crimson tributaries joined.
Shrieking, Ted stumbled back. And I struck again, stabbing into his unshaven neck. Pulled out. Struck again. Again. Again.
Hands over the fountain of blood pumping from his throat, he went down, landing flat on his back in the tiny kitchen, the impact rocking the old Winnebago.
I fell on him like an attacking dog, using my little knife to gouge and tear at his flesh, striking his chest, neck, and face. Mostly the face. A face I had come to loath over the course of the last five years.
I sat for a time next to his cooling body, thinking…
I couldn’t just roll Ted out the door and be on my way. He was my husband after all, and his body could be traced back to me. We didn’t have many friends and even less relatives, but still, there was that paper trail.
I’d just have to make sure his body, if found, would never be identified.
I got a cold Pepsi out of the fridge, took a couple swigs, then went to work.
First, I sawed off all his fingers and pitched them inside a small ice chest. I popped out his hateful blue eyes, and dropped them in too—not that I needed to, I just wanted to. Then his dentures, thankful that he didn’t have teeth to pull. I wrapped his head in an old towel, and slid two trash bags over it. Using a hammer, I beat away at his skull, paying particular attention to his face. And damn, did it ever feel good.
After a time, I checked under the bags and towel. Satisfied there was nothing recognizable in the bloody pulp and bone shards, I tied it under his chin. I checked all his pockets, removed his wallet, and after pulling out the money, cut up his driver’s license and other cards, and put the little scraps and the wallet into the ice chest. I stripped off his clothes, leaving him with only the towel and bags on his head.
Along about midnight, I dragged his body out into the Sonoran, and buried it beneath three feet of sand next to a big saguaro with four arms.
The digging was easy-peasy, the desert quiet and peaceful except for the hissing thwack of shovel meeting sand. A quarter-mile distant, an occasional vehicle passed along the highway we’d turned off of earlier to camp for the night. Other than that, I had the night to myself.
And a damn fine night it was.
It took me three hours to dig the hole, then fill it in on top of Ted, and another two to clean up all the blood. All that work and I wasn’t one bit tired. I had more energy than I’d had in I didn’t know how long. I didn’t want to rest. I didn’t want to sleep. I wanted to drive.
And I didn’t have to ask that sonofabitch if it’d be okay.
I got behind the wheel of the Winnebago, wallowed out to the highway, and turned left onto the now-empty highway. The right way. The way I wanted to go.
When I crossed out of Arizona into Southern California, I plucked a finger out of the ice chest, and lobbed it out the widow.
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