…went to work and divulged her darkest intentions to a piece of harmless paper. After she’d finished besmirching it, she took it to the shredder and fed it in extra slowly.
The week went by. Jerry left his longseat to do a few things: use the bathroom, replace the batteries in the remote, eat something, watch the phone as it rang.
“Hi Mom, it’s May. Yes, I went to church this morning. No, Jerry didn’t go. He’s tired from all the work. You know how it is. No, he isn’t a pagan. He’s just tired and needs to rest. Yes, I cooked him a roast chicken with turnips and french fries. Yes, he liked it. He always likes my food. No, I’m not pregnant, and no, I don’t sound strange, and yes, maybe you should turn the hearing aid up a notch, and of course, of course, I thought about you this week. I always do. What?
“No, he didn’t get fired. He’s on vacation.”
May watched Jerry sink deeper and deeper into his chair. She calculated that it would take five years for him to vanish completely into the folds of the longseat. She tried to show him the calculations, because she knew that would please him; but he wanted no part of them. MASH was on. A show about the war.
“Those damn doctors had a hell of a time in Nam, didn’t they?” he chortled, putting down a half a bag of chips. He wasn’t drinking soda pop anymore. May didn’t know why.
“Korea,” she whispered. “Korea.”
May watched him more closely that second week. Sometimes, he seemed just about to explode into action, as though he were genuinely thinking about doing something. Occasionally, he got excited about shaving or showering or taking a hand at the garden or biking in the sun. The sparks were there.
May watched a spider try to paddle its way out of a dishwashing soap puddle in a glass in the kitchen. The spider was used to skidding across the surface of water, but this fluid was too heavy and slippery to be any good for those long thin legs.
“Sucks, doesn’t it? You hate it, don’t you?” She got out some Tilex, and made sure the bony broken hand was on the label. In two squirts, the spider knew he was in trouble. It stopped moving after a while.
“Gonna get some nails and shore up the roof one of these days,” called Jerry from the family room. “One of these days. What do you say, May?”
She washed out the glass but decided instead to throw it away. Much easier. When Sunday rolled around, Jerry still didn’t want to go to church. He only had one week of vacation left, after all.
“Next week, for sure. Promise, honey. I won’t let you down again. Know I’ve been a lazy ass this little while. But I need the rest.”
Later that Sunday, she found out the Wild Safari Park and Ride was closing its doors forever and moving out to the northwest. May didn’t know a damn thing about the northwest.
She sat on the couch, trying.
“Why don’t we go out for dinner? It’s not healthy to be staying in so much. Jerry, you barely leave that seat. It’s not like you to be like this.”
He pointed at the television. “Look, the lepers of Borneo have a story just the same as mine. Sure, I don’t fall apart day by day: my fingers are still here. But they gotta be known just like I gotta be known. Even lepers need a rest. Even lepers don’t want to be bothered all the time. Do you know that if they get cut, they don’t feel it, and can bleed to death or get an infection? After this week, I’ll never get the opportunity to know that…”
“Okay,” said May, “I’ll go by myself.”
She left a half an hour later. He was watching Murder She Wrote, and his last words were poignant:
“Bet that bitch killed them all herself, and pinned it on other people.”
May drove to the pharmacy first, because it was having a sale. She bought five cases of soda pop, the maximum allowed for any single person. The lady at the counter was cleverly disinterested in anything. May tried.
“But all those people confess, so how’d she get away with it?”
The lady behind the counter smiled while handing over change. She looked like someone who’d had her pocket picked a few too many times. “I don’t watch that show. But honestly, it must be hypnotism. It’s all the rage. It happens every day.”
May got home and went right to bed.
Monday morning came sparkling like a bear. She went down and kicked the longseat. Jerry barely stirred. “There’s some pop on the counter. That’s all I’m going to cook for you today. You can handle the rest. I have to go to work.”
When she got home, there were dirty pots and pans everywhere. Jerry had cooked. She could smell the useless char throughout the house, could see it on the white paint of the kitchen. She plugged through the dishes.
The food was running out.
Jerry realized that on the last Wednesday of his vacation.
“But there’s nothing left.”
“Go and get it yourself tomorrow.”
“But it’s my vacation.”
“Don’t you like to eat on your vacation?”
“I don’t want to go out.”
“I’m eating at a restaurant tonight, or maybe at Jenny’s place.”
“Can you bring me something?”
“No. Go drink the pop.”
Jerry’s eyes widened, but he was defeated. May threw away some of the older food, lest he be tempted by stuff that she knew was inedible.
After work on Thursday, May was sorry for all of it. Jerry was on the longseat, in the same worn boxers and loose t-shirt he’d worn for days. There were rings around his…