Blown Away

The perfect killing: Everyone thinks it’s about not getting caught, but that would still leave an imperfect mess, wouldn’t it: a bloody sack of putrid flesh on the floor, brains bone and bullet fragments in the back of the armchair with a stained permanent hole in the upholstered leather, not to mention the man’s grieving mother—and his children, who would then never grow to see him as the selfish son of a bitch he was, would permanently enshrine him in memory as their fun loving but hard working father who on that Saturday when for the umpteenth time he couldn’t manage to get there at the hour he told them, showed up eight hours later “to tell them a story and tuck them in.”

Getting away with it? Easy. Just put a bullet right in the middle of his damn forehead where he has that stupid liver spot that should have tipped me off about his flawed character twelve years ago. Then run outside by the window alongside the house where I couldn’t be seen from the street, shoot into the room shattering the glass, wipe the gun off and drop it out there, run back in, scream and call 911. Hardly a perfect crime, as I say, leaving a mess like that. No, the way I did it – now, that was perfect. No corpse, no blood, no hole in the upholstery, no poor defunct Dad to idealize, no detectives suspecting me (what sane mother of three kids would do herself out of child support?). And I set a new standard for perfect murders: The victim never knew he’d been eliminated.

I guess that’s usually the case, when you put a .357 round through the center of their damn forehead—but that’s not what I mean. I’m saying the son of a bitch got up and walked out the door and back to his bimbo girlfriend’s apartment without ever knowing I’d just blown him away. I didn’t have to go to the trouble of chopping the body in small pieces and flushing them down the toilet, or getting my mother and sister to help wrap him in garbage bags and heavy chains, borrow our uncle’s boat and give him a Lake Michigan burial at sea. The law didn’t have to go to the trouble of looking for a corpus to habeas.

It was a long day. I’d been up since four with Wilma Tell dropping her litter in the bathroom. It’s off our bedroom and of course when she went in there on my new braided rug and started having them, I woke up. I’m not that light of a sleeper and she didn’t make much noise but a St. Bernard going into labor, trust me, you’d wake up if it was anywhere in your house. We’d only had her two months, since the week after Matthew moved out. The guy who’d put the ad in the paper said she wasn’t old enough to breed. All I’d wanted, for the kids—okay, for myself too—was one big dog to take up the space their father vacated. Wilma Tell did make an improvement over Matthew, until I saw she was in the family way. When I called the guy to find out if he at least had papers on the father, the woman who answered said he’d moved, no information, she denied even knowing the asshole.

Eleven of them—one dead, ten living. All St. Bernards, too; without papers, but at least the bitch had used some discretion in mating, more than I can say for myself. And I figured to get $30 or $40 apiece for the cutest of the puppies. Those I couldn’t sell, I’d have to give away or drop off at the Humane Society, though I hate knowing what they do with the ones they can’t find a home for.

They kept coming, for hours, my sister and me helping Wilma, the kids squealing and bringing in neighbors to see them before she’d even finished producing them all; us making sure each one started suckling okay, all but the dead one, which I had to get rid of without Virgil seeing it—not, unfortunately, without Benjie, the oldest, going on about “Virgil, man, you shoulda seen the dead one, man. Mama, don’t bury the dead one, I want our Dad to see it. Where’s the dead one, Mama? Whatcha gonna do with the dead one?” and Sarah, she’s our middle one, seven, going “How you know it was dead? It looked the same as the other ones, Mama. None of them got their eyes open, what if it’s not dead?” All this going on while they’re back and forth to the window in the front room looking out for their father, though it’s not even the time he said he’d come, which was one o’clock, and he’s always late. I’m saying, “He won’t be here till after one. Might be two, might be three, might be never, you know Matthew, he hasn’t ever showed up at the time he said, even once, so why’re you sitting up in the window all dressed up looking so excited to see him?” They sat there—Benjie did, anyway, all day like a dog whose master died. I could have killed the bastard then only he didn’t show up to give me the opportunity until nine thirty at night.

He’d disappointed them so many times before, you’d think they’d know better. But he said be ready at one sharp like he was the most punctual person in the world, talked about what movie they wanted to see and everything: the IMAX, down at Navy Pier. Even so, I didn’t make any plans to go anywhere—and as it turned out I was knee deep in puppies anyway, doing obstetrics with this primiparous St. Bernard half the day and then running a dog nursery and a neighborhood zoo. Benjie saw the kids next door playing in the rain and called them in, dripping and muddy, to see the puppies; then they went and brought their parents, and later half a dozen other kids showed up from down the block. Sarah gave each puppy a name right away, which Virgil enumerated to each visitor like his sister was God’s appointed name giver: Puffy and Fluffy were two I remember. Through all this they had their shoes on and their raincoats by the door so the minute Matthew’d pull in front and beep his damn horn they could run out and tell him to park and come in and see our puppies. Whenever one or two of them would come back to the bathroom or bedroom to check on Wilma and the puppies, they made sure somebody’d stay up front to watch for Dad. It broke my heart, how Benjie wouldn’t give up believing in him. Even when the little one, Virgil, started saying things like “He’s not comin. Let’s do somethin else.”

I called him three or four times, got the bimbo’s voicemail each time, told her “pick up damn it, I know you’re there,” and the last time I said something like “Tell my asshole husband his kids don’t want to see him any more and he better never show his face back here or I swear to God I’ll kill him.” Which might have been an intemperate thing to say if I’d been planning a murder and wanted to keep suspicion from falling on me, but I wasn’t concerned about that at the time.

I told my sister, too, I was so mad at that prick I could kill him. “You should,” she said, “I told you that a long time ago.” Of course she hadn’t ever told me to actually kill him, she meant she’d been telling me for about five years I should get divorced (a subject she had more experience with than I did). She was right.

It was obvious Matthew hadn’t forgot. What happened, he must have sprung it on the little white bimbo at the last minute that he was spending the day and night with his kids and they were going to sleep over. And she must have said this is my apartment, asshole, you have to ask me, not tell me. And not the last minute. I know how his mind works, once they started fighting and it was too late to go to the two fifteen show he’d say to himself, well the next show’s at four so I don’t need to get them until three, but he wouldn’t feel it was necessary to call us since if they were ready at one o’clock they’d still be ready at three o’clock. And if they were ready at three they’d still be waiting two hours later, and two hours after that. Since he had his new bitch yelling at him he certainly didn’t need to call the old one to get yelled at by her, too, would be how he’d analyze the situation, if the thought of calling crossed his mind at all.

Meanwhile, it rained all afternoon and then a thunderstorm around six, with lightning booming so close we thought it hit the house, all three children turning white and diving for the sofa where my sister and I were trying to relax with a bottle of Merlot. I went to check on Wilma and found her tucking the puppies all up under her as though she knew about thunderstorms and what a mother should do. I said “You’re a better mother than I am, Wilma” and that was when the phone rang and it was Matthew.

I was so angry I didn’t say anything. Just waited for the bullshit. He started in on how he knew he should have called—as if that was the issue—but Priscilla had this last minute emergency in her family, and blah blah; I said, “Save the bullshit for your children, Matthew.” I didn’t even want to get started about them sitting in the window all day, their little hearts breaking—and then I didn’t have to.

He said, “How ‘bout I come over and read them a story at least, and tuck them in?”

“Whatever,” I said, and hung up. Then I went back to my sister and asked her if the kids could sleep over at her place. All she has is a stepson who’s in high school, so she’s with mine a lot but she lives so close they hadn’t ever slept over there before. We said, “Kids, you’ve got your bag all packed for a sleepover and Priscilla won’t let Matthew have you over, so who wants to sleep at Aunt Helen’s tonight?” They all went along with that and we had them out of there in five minutes, running the two blocks to her place in the pouring rain. I gave them two umbrellas but the wind was too strong, they must have been soaked before they got to the corner.

Then all I had to do was go and get that .357 magnum my thoughtful husband left in the bedroom closet so I could blow the head off any home invader who might try to hurt his children while he was off humping bimbos. The stupid bastard, it never occurred to him there was only one person I’d use it on. Of course, I never shot a gun in my life. A home invader would have probably taken that thing out of my hand before I found the trigger. But I’d seen Matthew check the magazine, I knew how to do that and how to take the safety off, and I brought it in the living room and stuck it down in the cushions of the sofa. I took Helen’s and my wine glasses to the kitchen and brought out two clean glasses and set them out on the coffee table next to the half full bottle of Merlot.

Sure enough, as soon as I told Matthew they’d gone to Helen’s so they could at least have the sleepover they’d been looking forward to all day, and he saw the bottle and glasses I had obviously brought out for the two of us, he hung his wet parka on the hook by the door, sat right down in his leather armchair and grinned his damn supercilious grin, like “So everything turned out okay then.” He was wearing jeans and the blue Polo shirt I’d bought him for his last birthday at Marshall Field’s. I actually complimented him on it—shows you how much I’d already calmed down.

If he got there about 9:30, we must have talked for, probably, a couple of hours. I told him about Wilma and he went in the bathroom, like it was still his house which technically it was, played with them awhile and came back. I said something sarcastic then, about playing with his own children. “You don’t want to know what I’ve been through today,” he said.

I was in no hurry to shoot him. I wanted to enjoy the moment. It wasn’t a matter of hesitation. I knew without a doubt that I was going to pull that .357 magnum out and shoot him, maybe in the head, maybe the heart, whenever I was good and ready. You’d think I would have been nervous, or afraid, but that’s because you’ve probably never been in such a situation. It’s not like that, at least for me it wasn’t. It was a feeling of complete satisfaction. The whole time he’s running his mouth, and relieved because I’m not yelling at him or telling him what a bastard he is or how much he hurt his children, and I’m just playacting. I’m being the soon-to-be-ex who’s forgiven and forgotten, we’re old friends now and he’s telling me how immature Priscilla is and I’m laughing, like, yeah Matthew, ain’t it the truth. I even teased him, “You wanted a younger woman, that’s what you got,” and would you believe, he thought I was flirting with him. I’m sure he never doubted I’d want him back—that goes without saying. When we’d emptied the wine bottle, he kept pouring, like, let’s see if there’s a few more drops, so I said, “There’s another bottle on the counter in there, why don’t you open it?”

While he was out, I stuck my hand down in the cushions and felt that steel piece nestled in there, and it felt great. Understand: I wasn’t planning, I wasn’t giving a thought to how am I gonna get away with this, I didn’t care about that. All I knew was I had his own gun ready to kill him with and all I wanted was to see his face when he realized it was happening and then blam—he’d be dead. I thought, it’s a shame to ruin that good shirt, but otherwise I didn’t care about the consequences. I didn’t go there at all. It was like, a woman’s gotta do what she’s gotta do.

I remember thinking it was so funny when he sat down again and filled our glasses and asked me about law school for the first time. I’m in my third semester but he’d never once asked me anything about it, because he was so threatened. That’s what attracted him to the bimbo, of course, she looked up to him. He couldn’t deal with me going back to school. He only had a couple years of college, and always talked about finishing but he never would. All our friends graduated long ago, some of my friends have professional degrees or they’re in graduate school, so he’d rather the subject of higher education didn’t come up at all. But here he is pretending to be interested, like chatting up some girl at a party.

By this time I had my right hand down in the cushions wrapped around the butt of the gun, my finger up feeling around by the trigger hole. It felt great. I never knew before why so many men like guns (Matthew never really did; he got this one from his brother and didn’t even think to take it when he moved out). I had the power to blow him away, end his life in a second. I looked at him and saw what a pathetic, insignificant little worm he was. I had loved him, hated him, analyzed and criticized him, but I never saw what a complete nothing he was until I had my hand on that warm steel and I could picture it. I saw myself bringing it out, aiming it straight at him with a steady hand, sudden terror in his eyes because of what he’d suddenly see in mine, then blam. Probably just one blam. Two if the first one didn’t kill him. Blam blam, and he was dead.

A feeling of well being came over me then like nothing I ever experienced before. I don’t know if it’s what they mean by nirvana, or total serenity. He was already dead, then. I had blown him away and he didn’t even know it. I simply said, “Matthew, you’re a contemptible shit. I won’t ever forgive what you did to your children today, and neither will they. This is the last time you’ll ever cross that threshold. I want you out of here, now.” There must have been something about my voice, cold and hard, something the big male piece of steel in my hand imparted to my whole manner, because he gave a start and then looked shocked, stood up quickly and walked to the door. He took his parka and looked back at me, tried to compose himself with something like dignity, and just walked out the door without closing it. I sat there for a minute almost amazed at how it went down. Every bit of feelings for and against the man had vanished like a cloud passing in front of the moon. I got up and shut the door, locking the deadbolt with a satisfying thunk.

The murder weapon was still down under the cushion. In the morning, before I went over to Helen’s for pancakes with the kids, I walked out Oakton Street to the middle of the bridge and threw it into the canal, eliminating the only evidence of a cold blooded, premeditated homicide.

By the time our divorce went through, Priscilla was history. He was with another girl, who I won’t call a bimbo because I’ve never laid eyes on her. He’s as late as ever when he picks up the kids—but he never gets out of the car.

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