Bucket of Water–Fish Included

March 26, 2008

 Well, hold on a minute!  I must explain that it wasn’t any one thing she did which kept me up nightly that made me do it.  It was all of them combined, I think.  I think, I just got to the breaking point.  Yes, yes. I believe it was a combination of them all.  No, no, you see, I tolerated her cold feet that she tucked beneath me nightly, and the now-and-again sear of a hangnail ripping against my ankle after she decided to move quickly.  I tolerated her heavy, robust snoring that was taken in through her nostrils and then out of her flapping lips in four and a half second intervals that I would only count in hopes of falling asleep.  Even the horrible breaths she gave way to, which seemed to come from the bottom of her innards, as if she had eaten her own excrements, I tolerated.  And the fumes!  The fumes of a sopping menstrual, or the heavy, grotesque methanol rolling out from underneath the covers after a swift toss of her body couldn’t alone have made me do it.  No!  Not possible.  Not even the grinding of her loose, decaying teeth would have done it for me.  I beg you to believe me.  She was all I had.  Daily, I found myself holding my tongue.  I could hardly muster up enough strength to go off to work, holding a chainsaw all day.   The guys, they made fun of me behind my back, and I could feel them laughing at me as they watched me barely catch the saw’s kickbacks that my tired mind and body almost begged for.  And the wind chimes!  Who would’ve bought his loved one wind chimes for her birthday?  Why had he ever thought of doing such a thing?  Long wooden ones with carved heart-shaped holes, and two pink plastic disks distanced perfectly from each other for a smooth, rhythmic clapping that sounded like ten happy Pinocchios dancing on the patio.  It was the perfect sound to allow one’s body to drift off into a deep, deep unconsciousness sleep.  I just cannot see the rationale you hold me to!  Though, I must admit, I was a bit upset after arriving home one day and finding that she had not only cut the branches of one of my most favorite pines up ten feet in order to make “a little sitting area for her girlfriends,” but that she had also used her birthday gift for little candle holders.  Separating them from the fine, crafted twine and hammering them into the ground in a circle around her area, cutting the tops an inch or so down with rose-bush trimmers “in order to get the thicker candles to fit into them.”  Believe me, I didn’t say a goddamn word about it.  It was the sleeplessness that made me do it.  I needed my Pinocchios, and I knew she wouldn’t have it.  So I did what had to be done.             I started telling her about a month ahead of time that we were going to Dayton Lake for a little camping vacation.  She didn’t like camping that much because of the bugs, but I told her I’d buy another set of wind chimes to put candles in so the bugs would stay away.  She seemed to like the sound of that, but I never did buy another set.  The month’s notice was so no one got suspicious; so that the neighbors and friends wouldn’t think that we just got up and left one morning.  I had it all planned out.  I knew where I was going.  I had firewood in the back of the truck.  I brought the tent out of storage and set it up in the backyard to make sure it had no holes and had all its parts.  I got out all my fishing gear and tackle and made sure to pack plenty of heavy trash bags.  I even bought her a new pair of used hiking boots and a flannel with buttons.  I brought the idea together nicely and made it all seem real.  You should’ve seen it.             The day before we left, a couple of her candle-happy friends stopped by to tell her to have a nice trip and a good time.  I was busy upstairs making the bed and finding out that the thick plastic laid down nicely.    “Well, Marge, you haven’t been on vacation in such a long time.  It’s about time you got away for a while to relax, blah,blah,blah,blah,blah,blah,blah,” one of her friends, I’m sure, told her.  We both retired early that night, for we had a long day ahead of us.  I made sure I was in bed before she was in order to tighten the plastic beneath the sheet so she didn’t hear it crinkle during her climb into bed.  I must admit that I was a bit nervous at first, but I assure you, I had my fingers wrapped tightly around the butcher knife, which I had stashed under my pillow earlier that day.  But she didn’t hear a thing.  She lay down, glanced at me out of the corner of her eye and said, with a resonating sound only her triple chin could help make, “What the hell you looking at?”  “Nothing, my beauty queen,” I smiled pretentiously, before giving her a kiss on the right side of her scalp, my lips passing easily through her thinning hair.  She rolled over and within minutes her roaring snores echoed off our small bedroom walls, making me confident that my plan would work beautifully.  I began by nuzzling up tight next to her, slowly snaking and wiggling my left arm beneath the nape of her neck.  Oh, it must have taken me at least twenty minutes to get it all the way through, for my plan would’ve been squashed had she awakened.  After that I, ever-so-gently, pulled my right leg up and over her hip, slowly steadying it just above the slightest touch, and left it there, shaking, as my muscles twitched in excitement. Then I reached my right arm behind my head and under the pillow, a position most cumbersome.  It would have never had the ability to do such a thing if the mission had not been so important.  And I grasped hold of the wide-bladed butcher knife, and cautiously brought it to rest just above her neck.  Controlling my breathing, at this point, was imperative, and I balanced the entire weight of my body upon my left hip and shoulder.  My left hand was cupped just above her mouth, and I waited for the ideal time to strike.                     Readying myself for the perfect moment, her heavy breaths, which began to create moisture on my palm, sickened and disturbed me. My body was now in full quiver.  My arm muscle, beneath her neck, began to quake madly, my leg trembled above her hip, and my own breathing became raucous.  The time was now, I thought!  I had to take her!  I could hold on no longer!            Then WHAM!  As if shock paddles had exploded on top of her chest, she opened her big brown eyes, just before I dropped my body, clinched her scream, and sunk my blade deep in her neck. The only sound I could even hear was the gurgling of blood and air through the gash in her windpipe, and I watched as life sank away from her eyes, which were still fixed on mine.              I gave it a good thirty seconds before I removed my hand from her mouth (I didn’t want to be premature about anything at this point), after which I immediately jumped up to gather the plastic around her in hopes of catching all the blood.  I never expected there to be so much.  I even had to use the sheet to wipe my arm, which had blood dripping off of it like syrup.  Using the blankets and pillows to soak up the blood, I placed them around her head and neck and heaved her side of the plastic up over her to contain the spill.  The mess was intense, and as I sat back to wait for the blood to coagulate, I watched the blankets slowly saturate.  It was the first time that I hadn’t heard anything out of her in years, so I rested my tired eyes.              When I woke up(about six hours later), I realized I had only a little time to do what was necessary.  I quickly pulled the plastic on my side of the bed over a bit more so that her body was in the middle.  Then I rolled her over so that she was lying on her back again and placed the blood-covered blankets into a heavy black trash bag.  When I removed the last one from around her face, I noticed that her eyes were still open and looking up and to the right.  I giggled a bit and said impishly, “I’m not over there anymore; I’m over here.”  Before I went on, I pulled a few extra blankets from the cabinet, strategically placing them around her, spreading her arms and legs apart before finding the butcher knife again.  After sizing her up for a couple seconds, I delivered three hard blows to each of her shoulders and about five or six to each thigh, right near the groin.  The first slash for each of them made me nauseas.  It made a popping sound as if I were going through a tightly sealed plastic bag of uncut Italian bread.  I soon overcame this disgusting sound.  When I found out that a couple of blows to her appendages weren’t enough to package her up nicely, it forced me to push her legs up over the top of her body forming an X.  I really had to put a lot of weight into it, which caused a terrible crunching sound from her legs tearing away from her body.  It was kind of like the sound you hear when a storm pulls a tree limb away from its trunk.                     When I had her all bundled up, I tied the loose plastic ends with nylon rope, just as someone would a bag of candy, and carried her awkward corpse down the stairs, out the back door, and into the garage, heaving the massive mess onto my truck’s passenger floorboard.  It was a bit tricky at first but after a few solid kicks, she seemed to lie well.             I looked at my watch, “3:40.”  I gleamed.  Ah, you should have seen my delight at knowing how well my time was working for me.  “Plen-ty of-time to-get cleaned-up,” I said to myself, as I skipped back into the house.              After I finished cleaning up, I grabbed an extra pillow and blanket, tied up the kitchen trash bag, and tucked a spoiled cantaloupe under my arm.  This was in case there were any weirdoes peeking out of their windows at such hour.  I placed the trash bag on the passenger seat, set the cantaloupe on top, and while holding the pillow up against the passenger window, I knocked the trash bag into place allowing the melon to roll comfortably next to it.  Boy, how it looked exactly like my tired old wife.  God, it was perfect.  You just had to be there.  And the blanket, oh, it was the icing on the cake.              The houses were dark and the streets quiet, as my little cantaloupe and I headed out on our journey toward Dayton Lake.  On the two-hour drive from our quaint neighborhood, I was glowing with satisfaction.  I needed to get there before sunup (timing is critical in these situations, you know) so I could figure out what to do with the body, and as 6:30 rolled around, I made my turn onto the lake’s entrance.  As the sun came up, I felt the need, so no one thought I was crazy, to knock the cantaloupe off the bag and to remove the blanket and pillow.  To my surprise and relief, I was the first one there, so my dear cantaloupe stayed exactly where she was.                I drove around a while trying to find a secluded area, because I knew that by noon not much of anything would be private.  I headed to the side of the lake where most of the visitors preferred not to go.  It was the side that wasn’t really meant to be camped on.  I was marshy, near the edge, thick with cattails and trees, and with a lot of bugs and critters, but it wasn’t off limits.  People were allowed to go where they wanted, and I had to keep that in mind.             I parked the truck in a little thicket off to the side, and I got out and began pulling my now stiff wife out.  She had managed to find a real comfortable spot, and I figured the drive must have settled her in quite well.  I tried kicking, pushing, and rolling her, but I just couldn’t seem to find the right leverage.  But, I wasn’t out of luck.  Oh, no!  I always have ideas.  Even the guys at work are always saying things like, “Boy, I wish I was as smart as Jim.  Nothing gets past that guy.”    I took a length of rope I had brought with me and wrapped it underneath the plastic bag.  I wrapped it up, around and back, tying it off in a slip-not, as if it were a life-saving tourniquet.  Holding on to the rest of it, I walked backwards about ten feet (letting out slack when needed) and around a strong maple.  Then, I brought it back to the rear bumper of the truck and tied it off with a clove-hitch leaving no extra rope between the tree and the bumper.  Getting back into the truck, I knew I couldn’t just step on the gas (as much as I wanted to) because, I was concerned that I might not only ruin my bumper but remove it from the truck all together.  So, I backed up and got the vehicle onto the dirt path, and then I slowly eased her forward, in first gear, until I saw and felt the resistance in the rope.  As I pushed forward a little more, I heard the engine start to whine a bit, and I felt the back tires begin to jump.  Then the noose began to wring tighter and tighter around the plastic liner my dead wife was in, a steady crunching emanating as her body constricted closer and closer together, but there was still no give.  I gave the engine more gas and felt the tires spinning more loosely, creating two ditches, which one would expect from such friction. When I heard the engine teeter on the point of expecting a new gear, like a race car driver, I jammed the clutch, put her in second, and, for a split second, I saw the plastic bag stand upright, before it zipped out the door.  The truck must have gone nearly fifteen feet before skidding to a stop, and after stepping out of the truck, I noticed the plastic liner was now empty.  A slit, perfectly straight, as though it were intentionally cut by scissors or a razor, was now gaping at the bottom.  After looking around a bit, I noticed my wife’s carcass hanging grotesquely loose and distorted from a branch of a maple, nearly twelve feet from the ground.  I needed to get her down that very instant!  People, I thought, would soon be arriving at the lake, and I couldn’t have anything, or anyone, spoil my plan.  My sanity depended on it.  Her right arm and leg, which dangled from thick yellow tendons, hung closest to the ground as her body draped over the strong branch like a dead worm does a hook.  I tried hopelessly to jump for one in an effort to bring her down.  Remembering practicing lay-ups in my high school basketball days, I moved back about ten feet, got a running start, and when I was about a foot away, leapt from my left foot, both arms stretched out, ready to snatch at the first thing I felt.  What I found out after doing this were these three things:  I was at least a foot and a half too short; I should’ve been practicing lay-ups for the last few months; and the trees in front of me were not going to let me get away with such a stupid stunt twice.  So, using the old noodle that God granted me, I found an exceptionally accommodating rock that He, undoubtedly, had buried half way down in the soil, knowing that I would be called on to use it that day.  The reason I knew this is because He had carved the words Dead Lady on it just for me.  Well, that’s not entirely true.  Actually, the letters D. L. were scratched into it, but I still knew it was a sign from Him.  I just knew it.            Using my pick-ax to dig the dirt out from around it and to heave it from its hole, I rolled the rock to the precise spot I knew I’d be jumping from and wedged a few smaller rocks behind it, so it would not roll from beneath me during my launch.  Then I backed up and calculated the maneuver.  Knowing that my time was running out and that campers would be arriving within minutes, I hesitated no longer.  I made a couple giant strides, and was soon airborne.  I caught hold of her right ankle immediately and felt myself swing for a moment before crashing hard to the ground, her leg still in my hand.  I think I heard a small snap when it ripped away, but it felt more like the elasticity of a rubber band that has been heated in the sun.      I didn’t quite think I could reach her arm on the next try, so I used a strong stick I found lying in the underbrush.  It didn’t have any carvings on it though (I just found it on my own), and I used it to push her other leg over the branch, until the rest of her body flopped down in front of me.     I quickly ripped her other leg off by stepping on her chest.  I remember thinking how lucky I was that she had such short legs.  The joint popped away from her hip, but I had to twist it many times over, because the skin was now like thin plastic, stretching and stretching.  Once the legs were removed, I pulled yet another heavy trash bag from the truck, tucked the rest of her inside of it, and shoveled three heaping piles of rocks and dirt from the surrounding area into it.  Then I knotted the top of it twice, poked a finger hole on each side, and, like an Olympic hammer thrower, flung her as far as I could toward the center of the lake, watching her disappear toward the murky bottom.              The bubbles seemed to amuse me at first, and I must tell you that I chuckled upon imagining all the sand and dirt that was, undoubtedly, filling every opening of her body.  But after fifteen minutes, when the enormous bubbles, which came in ten second intervals, seemed as though they would never stop, I became very concerned, and I wondered if the other campers, who were now making their way onto the grounds, would see them, become curious, and venture out in their canoes or rowboats to investigate.  I wondered if that evil bitch was sitting at the bottom of Dayton Lake just doing it to spite me.            At that moment, I realized I had little time for such foolish thoughts and turned my attention toward the two appendages that were lying in the ankle-high weeds behind me.  Pulling out a small hatchet from the bed of my truck, I kneeled down in front of each one and hacked off the feet, and cut the legs into fours.  Quickly, I found my pick-ax, dug the hole in which the rock had lain about six inches deeper, discarded the two feet into it, and, ever so carefully, rolled the rock back into place making sure it was exactly as I had found it, dirty side down, and Dead Lady facing the lake.  Using one more trash bag, I wrapped each remaining piece of her, knotted the bag, and tossed it into the back of the truck, waiting, again, to finish my work.                     After clearing an area, pitching the tent, and building a fire that was to last throughout the day, I unpacked the two folding chairs I had brought, and sat fishing (the one thing I love doing most) until early afternoon, relieved to see that the bubbles had finally stopped surfacing, a few minutes before I caught my first blue gill.  The empty chair next to me, as I’m sure you’ve caught on by now, was for show purposes only, in case a passer-by by wondered where my lovely wife was.  “Walking the area,” I would’ve said, as my mind mulled over countless scenarios that might take place.  “She’s been telling me she’s on a new health kick.  You know women and their ideas.”  Or, I would’ve of said something like, “Hi Bob!  How’s the family?  Did you come out here with your wife, too?  Speaking of wives, did you happen to see mine walking around?  She’s on this new diet, you know.  Women and their diets.  She’s been gone for a while, and I’m kind of getting worried.  No?  Well, if you happen to see her…” I practiced ending with a big smile, “tell her that her wonderful husband is requesting her company.”            I figured that two o’clock was the perfect time to reel in my line and start acting uneasy about her whereabouts.  I put the three fish I had caught into a bucket of water and began walking around the lake, calling out my beauty queen’s name every minute or so.  “Tilly, sweetheart!” I shouted, trying to find a sincere pitch, loud enough for the others across the lake to hear, and trying not to smile, let alone laugh.  “Tilly, dear.  Where are you?”              Before I reached the campers, I felt the need to take a deep breath and compose myself, which I did behind the cover of some heavy bushes.  I also made a point to make it look as though I was very upset, and so I rubbed my eyes with such a furry that anyone watching would have thought I was crazy.  I then, with a fast paced walk, moved to each family of campers within close proximity of my path, and asked, with pleading anguish, if they had seen my darling wife.  “She’s been out walking since this morning,” I beseeched.  “She said she’d be back by lunch, but she never came.”  When asked by the campers I questioned, I described her in such loving detail that not one of them would have thought my own hands could have done her harm.  “A quaint five-five,” I said, adjusting my right hand to the described height. “Adorably portly, flourishing brown hair, about sixty, but she looks much, much younger, wearing a stylish red and green flannel, frayed jean shorts, and hiking boots.”  The most important part was not to be too presumptuous during any of the inquiries, or act too hasty when listening to what each person said.  What I mean is, I stuck around to ask, “You’re sure,” and to describe her build again, and ask them to “keep an eye out” for me.  When I was through with my questioning, and I was certain they’d fallen for it, and each of them resumed exactly what it was they were doing before I interrupted them, I was sure each of them felt sorry for me and concerned about her disappearance.            I sat in my lounge chair for another hour or so, after returning to my site and acted impatient, constantly looking about, as if I were waiting for her to return.  After feeling content that I had done a sufficient job in this, I packed up the tent, gathered my tools, and dowsed the fire with the bucket of water, fish included.  I watched for several minutes as the fish tried jumping out of the hot, sizzling coals, and each time they succeeded, I kicked them back into it. And then a weird feeling started to rise inside of me, as I stood there and watched them die.  At first, I wanted to pick them up and toss them back in the lake, but for some reason I stopped myself and thought, It’s too late you goddamned fool!  It’s too fucking late.  I think I even started to cry.            My wife’s leg bones are my new Pinocchios now, and the sounds she makes dead are worse than any she made when she was alive.  You see, I boiled the meat off of them in a large rectangular cooker, my friend welded together for my use during the yearly clam-bake I throw for family and friends.  When the meat was off, and they were dry enough to carve, I whittled my own holes in them, removed the marrow, and hung them way up in the pine tree near my bedroom window.  Of course, I took care of all this during the first few days after getting back home, and that was two years ago today.  The police still come around every so often to ask questions, but my story remains the same, and it always will.  I’ve heard they dragged the lake a few times, but I was way ahead of them.  I got her out when fall came around and buried the bag deep in a hole, far back in the woods behind where I sat the last time I was there.  I had that weird feeling again when I was digging the hole.  I can’t remember exactly how I felt, but I thought about those fish again, and those thoughts have kept me sleepless many nights.  Sometimes, I find that my Pinocchios just aren’t enough.  I can’t give you a precise explanation as to why I didn’t just let the fish go, but I think it was an effort to show anyone, who might have wanted to look around, the sort of anger I was feeling, or that I wasn’t thinking quite right at the time.  I’m sure, I’ll never be able to explain it, even to myself, but my reason for doing such a thing is embedded deep within my thoughts, because I remember standing there with the bucket asking myself, release the fish or no?  Watch them flip-flop around in pain on the smoldering coals, or let them go, happy and free?  I’m starting to think that nobody even went to investigate the area afterwards and that the fish died for nothing.  When it all boils down, I suppose my decision was based on something I might not know about myself yet.  But for now, I’ll leave it at that.  I guess, I never thought I’d feel this way, but now as I lie on the side Tilly used to sleep on, the wind constantly making her dance, I no longer hear the Pinocchios I once loved, but only the pop and crackle of those three fish.  I suppose, I need to be reminded.  I suppose sleep will have to wait.                                   

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