The Montreal Review, August, 2010
"Shoot him", she thought one day. "Shoot the bastard, then he'll shut up."
Her first thought was to aim for a shoulder or a foot. But she put that thought right out of her head. He'd be madder than hell if she tried something like that. She'd have to aim to for a vital. Her husband was still in the kitchen finishing his breakfast. She went to the hall closet, got out his 12-gauge, walked into the kitchen, and shot him in the chest. He bolted up, his eyes wide and his mouth hanging open and full of toast. Then he crumpled over onto the table. She picked up the cordless telephone and brought it to him, propping it up against his forehead. She watched her husband's face lying there on the formica, and she could see that he knew it was up to him to figure out his way out of this one.
She was working at a liquor store when she first met him. He came in one day wearing a black and red check shirt and a pair of white briefs with a ketchup stain on the crotch.
"Hello lady," he said, in a gargly voice. Then his right foot tripped over his left one and he fell down aisle 2.
Jimmy saw it from the back. He ran out with a price gun in his hand and said "Holy shit man. Are you okay?" waving his arms in the air. "Shit, Mary, help me check him over." So she went and crouched over him to have a look at his face while Jimmy bent one of the guy's legs at the knee two or three times to check it wasn't broken. He'd busted a front tooth and pissed himself but otherwise he seemed okay.
Jimmy said they had to take him to a doctor or Melvyn would have a shit fit. "Liability," Jimmy said. The guy was pissy and bleeding so Mary laid a garbage bag on the back seat and Jimmy helped her get him in.
At the hospital they asked her who he was and where he lived. Mary explained what had happened. "Not much more you can do then," said a nurse.
Two weeks later he came back to the store. He walked up to Mary, drew back his lips and pointed to the place where the busted tooth had been. "Smart work those dentists do" he said. He asked her what time she got off work.
They went to a motel. Their room had floor-model ashtrays and lamps with plastic crystals hanging from the shades. Mary was in the bathroom washing her privates when he came in without knocking. They did it in the bathroom. Then they watched some TV and he took her home.
After that he'd come into the store once or twice a week and ask her if she wanted to go to the movies or bowling or playing darts. He didn't drink anymore.
He was a big talker. He told Mary about his first wife, and about his hunting pals, and about what it was like out east where he was from, and about the sea air out there. He told her about his mother who had throat cancer and about his sister who was married and had two girls. He told her about his job repairing farm equipment. One day he gave her a ring and asked her if she wanted to get married to him. She felt a big rush of blood in her chest that must have been happiness. She said yes.
She quit the job at the liquor store. They bought a nice bungalow. They made friends with their neighbours, who invited them for drinks on Saturday evenings. They went on vacation to Victoria.
In the evenings at home they would sit at the kitchen table and have their dinner and Barry would eat and talk. What the problem was with the fan belt and what the weather was supposed to be like next week and what Bill had said about the lottery being rigged and how his mother put pineapple on the ham instead of cherries.
Mary told him some things too. She told him how her father drowned. Barry said he could have drowned once himself if it wasn't for his cousin Raymond. She told him about the time she stole a pair of earrings from a K-Mart. Barry said he used to steal money from his grandmother's purse when he was a kid. She told him about the time she won Redneck Sam's Karaoke Slam and she showed him the ribbon. He told her about the time he met George Jones.
"Swear to God," said Barry, "I was on a flight from Halifax to Calgary, and my seat was broken. Damn thing wouldn't stay upright. The stewardess said there weren't any extra seats in economy, so would I mind moving to business class. Would I mind? Imagine."
They sat him down next to a pock-marked guy in a suit and a pale guy with yellowy hair and sunglasses on. The pock-marked guy was talking to the pale guy, saying "I don't know, George," and "Well George, you got to understand."
As Barry took his seat the pock-marked guy turned to him and said "What's your name son?" Barry told him his name. The pock-marked guy said "What kind of music do you like?"
George said "Freddie, leave it alone, son," and "Freddie, don't be such a Goddamned prick."
But Freddie was waiting for Barry to answer so Barry said "Well I like a bit of everything." Freddie said "Do you like country music?" and Barry said "Sure I like country music." And Freddie said "And do you like George Jones?" And Barry said well of course he did. At this point, Barry said, George Jones took his sunglasses off and said "Fuck" and looked at Freddie like he was about ready to nail him.
"You didn't really meet him," Mary said, when he had finished. "He didn't even talk to you." But Barry was still laughing and didn't seem to hear her.
As she watched her husband dial 911 Mary lit a cigarette and sat down at the other end of the kitchen table where she would have a good view of the ambulance and the cop cars when they pulled up the drive. When she finally heard the sirens coming towards her street there was a small crowd of neighbours gathering out on the lawn. They were talking together and some of them were pointing and gesturing. Mary gave a little wave from the window, but no one waved back.
Ernestine Lahey is Canadian based in the Netherlands, where she teaches at a small liberal arts and sciences college and writes in her spare time.
Painting: Aron Wiesenfeld. Aron’s paintings depict enigmatic figures traversing desolate environments. Both the people and the places seem familiar, yet oddly out of place. He says about his personages: “They are refugees, pilgrims, and wanderers, trying to get to the other side of a river that is forever out of reach. I think they are answering a call that is not consciously understandable, but resonates somewhere inside them. It draws them to a place they forgot that they knew about, something like a return to Eden.”
Aron says about his paintings: "If something is going on behind the surface, people are drawn to it but don't know why. They've connected to something in it. And that is a constant theme through my work, the ability to paint something to suggest something that isn't shown."
Wiesenfeld's works can be purchased at
Arcadia Fine Arts
Gallery (51 Greene Street, New York, NY 10013). Wiesenfeld's website: www.aronwiesenfeld.com