She Was Always Right

He kept his pills in his night stand--cholesterol, hypertension, that sort of thing.

He rolled over to her side of the bed, her night stand. He pulled on the drawer and snatched a spool of thread from among her pile of socks. She liked to keep her socks by the bed. You don't want to be walking across a cold floor in the morning, she would say, for a lousy pair of socks.

He also kept a presentation pen on his night stand, a fountain pen sticking out of a little marble base. His wife allowed it to gather dust, and he left it there because he knew it bothered her. Thirty years work, she would say as she cleaned around it, shaking her head.

His wife was peculiar, they saw things differently. If you keep your socks in the night stand, then you might as well keep a spool of thread and needle handy. You get socks in your holes, after all. That's the way it was with socks, she believed.

And she was always quick about it, too. She'd close one eye, stick out her tongue just a bit, and then swoosh; she'd be pulling the thread out the other side.

He never expected threading the needle would be so difficult. Holding his breath, closing an eye for better focus, he tried for one final pass, but his hands were still trembling.

When he heard the door bell, he tossed the needle and thread over the edge of the bed. He didn't want to be found with the woman's work. It was silly, really, but his wife did all the sewing in their home. As the door bell continued to ring, he struggled to remember what it was he wanted to sew, but all he could think about was her pillow. Even though she always inhaled deeply when they embraced, she hated his smell on her pillow.

He passed a hand across his belly, stopping to finger the gunshot wound just above his navel. He used the .22, lurched forward after the first, and got off a second shot by mistake, two bullets, one little hole. He wasn't feeling any pain, just like, he supposed, what an epidural must feel like. His wife never used one, but she always whined and bitched about the missed opportunity. They had tons of children together, a brood, little girls and little boys. There were two boys, and three girls.

He had to think about it for a moment.

There were three boys, and two girls--all grown up and spread out across the country. He couldn't guess who would be ringing his door bell.

And she was bad tempered, too. It was all he could do to win every other fight.

They once had a huge argument about the lawn. It was a Saturday, and he was looking forward to crossing some tees, chipping a few balls against the shed, so he asked her to mow the grass.

He giggled, sending a rush of blood squirting out of his belly.

Now that you've gone and left me, he remembers whispering down at her, who will I fight with now?

They had to pull him away from her casket at the wake. He tried to start something there, but she won that argument as well.

He was having a hard time, couldn't think straight, something about the sheets. He looked over at his side of the bed; saw the pool of blood there. They were going to burn the sheets, her precious pillow.

Suddenly he wanted the spool of thread from the floor, the needle only his wife could thread. If she were here, he would tell her all about it. He would apologize for resting his head on her pillow, but you get socks in your holes. That's the way it was with socks, after all. Maybe she could thread the needle for him?

He heard a loud bang and the sound of splitting wood. They fucked up the door, he thought. He would tell her about that, too.

The fountain pen was on his night stand. It was always there, gathering dust. He found it dusty in the morning when he used it to write the letter to the kids.

Whoever was running through the house was making a lot of noise looking for him. So quick, he thought, as they swarmed into the bedroom, and then he remembered how he sent his letter five ways across the country by email.

He looked over at the dusty fountain pen on his night stand. She was right, he thought as they slapped his face, ripped at his clothes. She was always right.

About the author:

Antonios Maltezos has stories online at Verbsap, Slingshot, here, The Shore, and The Pedestal. In print, he can be found in Night Train, NFG, and Musings, forthcoming in Ink Pot. He hasn't submitted via the post in ages.