Raconteur Magazine Vol. I, Issue I.
A Good Wife
by Tevis Shkodra
Eyes locked on the single strip of asphalt slicing through a sea of evergreens, Mary clutched the side door panel, her grip taut. Their vision extended only as far as their headlights, the beaten Chevrolet slicing through veils of fog. Brisk October air, moist with dew and raw with the tang of conifer terpenes, engulfed her lungs. Mary shuttered.
David gripped her hand, caressed it in his own, and kissed it fervently. He squeezed with a firm grip as he often did to reassure her nerves and her mind immediately conjured memories of the beach. She reminisced on the sweltering June Wednesday when—eyes still flaked with sleep—they rolled out of bed, voices still croaky as they called in sick, only to pop the top of their ‘76 Chevrolet convertible, and drive three short hours down the coast to Sunnyhill Beach. How happy they had been then, she thought, gaze transfixed on his profile, jaw rigid and firm, his piercing eyes fixed on the winding road ahead. He cocked his head and winked, the grin on his lips hinting the flame of their first love had not quite sputtered out.
“You’re somewhere else,” he said. “Everything okay?”
“I’m fine,” she responded with a nervous chuckle.
It’s stress, Mary reinforced in her mind in such moments, as she often did when the desolation of their love became deafening to her ears. Ever since he ditched the bottle. Adjusting’s tough and we all must cope. God knows you’ve tried.
Her mind wandered not to the man who’d once surprised her with a spontaneous vacation, but to the one who’d treated her more a stranger than a lover. Memories of Sunnyhill giving way to ones of her battered against a wall like a rag-doll, to the humility in his apology, and her self-loathing in the accepting of it. A voice inside her, one she swallowed, wanted to shriek at the thought.
Couples fight, she assured herself. It’s a part of marriage.
Except this time, when his apology was accompanied with the offer of a getaway, a road trip like the old days, she had agreed immediately, wondering whether they could recapture a sentiment long-ago abandoned.
“You sure you’re okay?” David asked, grinning.
“Mhmm.” She nodded, cupping his cheek. “This trip is really nice is all. I love you.”
The words hung in the air for a moment, before fading.
“Look, Mary . . .” David pursed his lips, brows furrowed. “I’ve been meaning to talk to you. It’s just . . .” He sighed deeply, his hand moving in one swift motion from the steering wheel to her cheek. “When I drink . . .” He stroked her hair, his eyes wide and apologetic. “I, well—"
The thud came in a sudden flash.
The windshield burst into a million shards of glass.
The tires screeched. The little Chevrolet spinning wildly out of control.
David gasped and Mary unleashed her deafening shriek. When the tires halted, they sat to the sounds of their own panting. In the piercing winter air, neither daring utter the first word.
Mary’s heart thumped wildly against her chest. David’s face, still white with shock, was aghast. They stared at one-another in disbelief.
“A-are you okay?” David asked, running his trembling hands along her hair, kissing her cheek and hugging her. “Mary, are you okay? Mary?”
“I . . .yes, yes, I-I think so,” she responded, her face numb to the tears running down her cheeks. “W-what was that?”
“A . . . I-I, a d-deer, I think,” David said, though neither of them seemed convinced with that answer.
“Should . . . should we go check?” Mary’s throat tightened. She turned back. “David . . . Maybe it was a . . .” her voice broke.
“No, no, no baby no,” he muttered, shaking his head, stroking her hair. “It was just a deer. Let’s forget about it and just go home. Huh Mar . . . Mar?”
She reached for the door when she felt his nails digging into her forearm, his grip taut. “No,” he said, eyes white and wide, face red with terror and anger.
“David, you’re hurting me,” she whispered.
He released her, the lines on his face strained. “I . . .I’m sorry. Baby listen to me, please.” His hand moved up to her cheek, brushing her disheveled hair. “Just two hours. Two hours and we’re home free. Let’s . . . let’s . . .” He swallowed hard at the unmoving look on her face and let slip an exasperated sigh.
Mary caressed his hand in hers, only then realizing the chill of his frozen fingers. She had seen him wear many faces, but never in her years waking up beside him had she seen his face so drained of colour.
“We should just call for help. It was an accident.” We didn’t mean any harm by it. We’re good people. The police will understand.
“They’ll put me away, Mary.” The words sliced into her like a knife. “T-they’ll lock me up for life.” His lower lip trembled.
“B-but let’s just c-check. I-I-If it’s a deer, or . . .or a rodent, hmm? What if it’s just a stupid rodent, Hun? We can just drive home.” She stammered, horrified by the look in his darkened eyes.
“No.” His voice was distant, stern. “No, we have to check, you’re right. It’s the right thing to do.” He cleared his throat, composing himself. “I’ll check. You stay here.”
It was not a request; it was a command.
Through the dirt-speckled side mirror, she saw his figure fade into the night. She lingered uncomfortably, her fingers twitching with anticipation, her heart still thumping wildly.
Impatiently, she inched the door open. The overhead lamp flashed on, startling her at first. Stilled, she caught a glimpse of her weary reflection, haunted in the mirror, the lines on her face accentuated by the harshness of light.
The Chevrolet’s passenger door gave a squeak. Stepping out, the bitter winter air cut into her. David stood in the distance, hand over his mouth, face stunned and white. A dark, motionless figure lay sprawled at his feet. Realizing what they had struck, the weight of it lodged deep in her stomach.
It was not a deer; it was a man.
“I-I . . . D-D-David.” She murmured. “Is he d-d-dead?”
“God Dammit woman!” David bellowed, his chest swelling with pent-up frustration, before releasing an exasperated sigh. “God . . .damn it!” He buried his face in his palms in defeat.
“David.” She moved toward him with measured steps, her hand reaching out.
He slapped her hand away, echoing back a hollow clap. “He’s dead, damn it. He’s . . .” David ran his hands through his hair, pacing back and forth. “ . . . He’s fucking dead. We have to do something,” he muttered to himself. “We . . . w-w-we can’t just leave the body here, lying around in the middle of the road. We have to get rid of it.” He softened, his arms wrapping around her. “Mary, darling, honey, I can’t do this without you, baby. T-They’ll find the body and they’ll find us, love. They’ll find me, and put me away, baby, is that what you want? Hmm?”
“No.” Mary’s chest tightened. I don’t think so, at least.
For a fraction of a moment she entertained the notion of a David-less life—her moving back in with her mother, bearing the reproach of leering neighborhood housewives drunk on gossip, whispering backhanded slurs about her convicted felon of a husband, the murderer. In comparison to that, a little slap every now and again was a price she’d happily pay.
“Good. You grab the legs, and I’ll get the arms.”
Mary’s skin crawled, her body tingling. The fear of approaching car headlights brought with it a rush of adrenaline. The bloodied, mangled corpse already putrid with the iron tang of blood in the air, stinging Mary’s nostrils.
“It’s impossible.” She grunted, hands around the man’s cold ankles. “He’s too heavy, David.” The corpse’s legs thud to the ground. “I can’t do it.”
“C’mon Mar, I need you now.”
Attempting to lift the corpse a second time, she could not help but smile at David cheering her on. He had always been her rock, and she wanted to prove herself a loyal, loving wife worthy of his love.
Despite his shortcomings, he’s a good guy, she assured herself.
Tucking the man’s muddied boots under her armpits, she lifted him, swaying back and forth. “Can’t we just leave him here?”
“Mary. We have to bury him. Now hurry up.”
“Bury him? David, we . . . we’re kind hearted people who made a mistake. I’m sure they—”
Her husband silenced her with a darting glare, similar to the one her mother often flashed before disciplining her.
Mother had once warned her that pleasing her husband was her wifely duty. “You think your father and I raised four kids without a hitch?” she had said, scoffing. “You’re dealt what you’re dealt and you deal with it.”
Mary agreed, despite everything inside her urging her to run. “We will bury him.”
David marched toward the car, vanishing into the darkness, leaving her to wonder whether he’d abandon her on the side of the freeway with nothing but a corpse for company. When he returned, he carried a metal spade and a exasperated look, and she knew it promised to be a long night.
“You know it was an accident, right?” The spade’s metal tip scraped on the gravel and dirt as David trudged toward her. “You know that, right?”
Mary inched back like a startled doe. “I-I . . .yes, I know that,” she affirmed, though neither of them seeming convinced.
“Let’s get this over with then.” David handed her the spade and slung the corpse over his shoulder like a deer carcass, before vanishing into the woods.
Leaves crumpled beneath his step. David only grimaced, his face pale, his mind elsewhere, leaving Mary to dwell on his thoughts. He’s probably craving a good, stiff drink right about now.
“This is far enough.” He dropped the body.
Blood glimmered black in the moonlight, pooling beneath the corpse. David planted his spade in the dirt, grunting. Mary wrapped her arms around her body, teeth clattering, eyes shifting between her husband and the hole he was digging. She heard a sound, a faint wheeze that could have been mistaken for rustling leaves in the whistling breeze. Mary startled.
“What was that?” she whispered.
“Huh?” He looked up. “Nothing. It was nothing. Just keep a lookout.”
Mary shrieked with all the volume her lungs could muster, a shriek that sent the crows scattering from the treetops in all directions, one loud enough to be heard from the main highway.
“What the fuck!” David scowled, nostrils flaring. “What are you doing, idiot? Do you want us to get caught?” He flashed an all-too-familiar expression of rage. “What? What the fuck is it?” He clenched his jaw, eyes twitching, hand curling into a fist. He managed to calm himself, chewing his lower lip. “What is it? Spit it out, you dumb bitch. What the fuck is it?”
Mary was paralyzed. “H-h-he he’s a-alive, David.” Her whole body trembled. “He’s a-alive!” She looked down to see the man’s blue eyes staring back at her.
“David w-we have to h-help him,” she stammered. “We . . . we have to.” She noticed David’s dirt-stained white undershirt, his face filthy with sweat, metal spade still clenched in his fist.
The man gasped for air, groaning, writhing.
“He’s alive.” David’s whisper was faint, his eyes wide. “ . . . Alive.” He scratched his head.
“Yes!” Her desperate, weary smile beamed as she reached to embrace David. “Yes, baby, he’s alive. We haven’t killed anyone. Just an accident, honey, just an accident.”
“H-help m-me.” The man reached his arm out, his fingers inches away from Mary’s ankles. “P-p-please h—”
The thwack came in a single fluid motion. Hot blood spattered on Mary’s face before could react. David towered over the body, panting, specks of the man’s blood spattered on his undershirt and neck. A second blow connected with the man’s jaw. A third blow soon followed. Mary shrieked, gasping in terror, her hands covering her mouth. David leered at her with the same bloodthirsty savagery in his eyes.
He’s going to kill me, Mary shrank at the thought. He’s going to kill me and bury us both in the same hole. She scolded herself. Her heart wanted to believe him still the man with whom she had shared half her life, a kind hearted man. Her mind suspected the truth about him. A stranger. A murderer.
“I had to do it, Mar.” David stepped toward her with his arms wide open. “He’d seen our faces. He knew. He-he would’ve turned us in, Mar. I know he would have . . .”
She flinched at his embrace, his touch making her gut churn. Beside her, thick crimson blood oozed from the man’s crushed skull. David wiped the blood from his chin and cheeks with the bottom side of his undershirt casually, as if it were sweat from a hard day’s work.
On his face, she caught sight of a battered, relieved smile on the brink of laughter. She swallowed hard.
“Let’s just leave,” she said. “Toss him in and let’s go.”
David’s body slithered toward her; his lips, still warm with blood, met her cheek. She resisted the urge to retch.
The first time might have been an accident, but the second time was murder.
Her fear was challenged by her irritation. Not only had David murdered a man, but he had done so with such hot, fervent passion, a fire long-gone from their relationship.
Before long, Mary was back in their little Chevrolet, silently peering out the window and thinking of the unmarked grave deep in the forest, and of the man who only hours ago drew breath.
“See?” David’s gruff voice startled her. “Just like it never happened.” The words hung heavy in the air. He caressed her hand in his, kissed it.
“Yes.” Mary swallowed hard, not daring look him in the eyes.
David was a stranger. A shell of the man she had once known and loved. One question lingered in her mind where all others faded: How long until he kills again, and who?
“I love you, Mar.”
Gazing into her husband’s darkened eyes, into what had awoken in them, Mary feared for her life.
“I . . . I love you, too,” she replied uneasily.