By G R Emery.
Blessed silence…if only for a moment. Madeline Armbruster sat in a pink rocker facing the window. She rocked slowly to the sound and cadence of her husband Harold’s snores, just next door. She could abide the rumbling staccato of his olfactory symphony more easily than his mouth; that stinking pie hole of his which rambled on and on in a never-ending litany of nonsense, scarcely stopping for breath, expelling an endless torrent of noise that assailed her every waking moment. He seemed to have a limitless supply of commentary on everything from topical news to the latest perceived insult by their neighbors, the Sweeny’s, who lived in the house behind them. “Did you hear what the Sweeny woman had to say?” or “They’re at it again with one of their ‘Sweeny’ parties.” But did Harold ever do anything about it? No. It was just talk, talk and more talk. A continuous babble that had begun to engulf her, almost burying her. It went on day in and day out, sunrise to sunset, over dinner, before dinner, after dinner. She had tried to escape to the bathroom, but Harold followed her inside. She was a prisoner in an uninterrupted sea of drivel. There was a time when she had considered suicide. But, no… just the thought of leaving that creature to wreak havoc on some poor unsuspecting soul was unconscionable. There had to be another way.
Madeline looked across the back yard at the Sweeny house. Their party was still going strong. She couldn’t remember when it had started. Was it yesterday? Knowing them, it could have started mid-week. They never seemed averse to having a party. And of course, Harold had to get involved–he called the police. For the nth time! Madeline felt that she was becoming personally acquainted with the entire compliment of police officers who showed up at the house at least once per week. Once when the Sweeny’s were having a particularly raucous time, Harold decided to fight fire with fire. Yelling “I’ll fix them!” He ran up to his cigar-stinking office and returned with a CD of African Tribal Chants which he loaded on to the music system and then hit the play button. After adjusting the outside speakers to hearing destroying levels, he sat in his recliner waiting for some kind of response. Oh and did he ever get one. Someone knocked on the front door with such gusto that it almost came off the hinges. Harold, with an evil grin on his face, marched to the foyer and forcibly opened the door, about to visit whoever stood behind it to a verbal tirade of biblical proportions. He was stopped cold in his tracks at the sight of the two police officers standing behind the door. “We have a complaint from one of your neighbors about the noise, could you please turn it down, Mr. Armbruster?”
Harold was livid once the door closed and lambasted Madeline for not coming to his aid. That little discussion lasted until the next Sweeny party. God, where do they get the money for such extravagances?
She continued to rock—back and forth, codifying in her mind all the times Harold had either blamed her for some perceived hurt or used her as a sounding board. The more she thought about it the angrier she got. Then, there was the Target incident. It was Easter week…Passover and…
They had just driven up to the crowded parking area. “Don’t these people have homes?” Harold, it seemed, had gotten up from the wrong side of the bed. But, truth to tell, there was no good side to Harold’s bed. He was in rare form, impugning every group and everyone. Harold, on that day, had even out ‘Archie Bunkered’ Archie Bunker. “Why do they have to come here and gum up the works? We should stop them from coming here. Whatever happened to Ellis Island? That was a great system. Some do-gooder lefty probably shut it down. Hey, keep voting lefty, people!”
Madeline had raised her eyes, shaking her head. “Harold, shush. You’re making a scene.”
“That’s what’s needed here, Madeline, a scene, a discussion, a confabulation of like minded people…” and on and on into the Target entrance, in between the food aisles, over by the electronic section, down by the pharmaceutical department. On the way, he had accosted a poor clerk, “What is this?” He pushed the bottle under the poor woman’s nose. “How many different types of hair shampoo are necessary in this benighted country? Why, when I was a boy there was just one…good old soap. Why can’t we have more soap instead of this overpriced slush?” Harold went on and on, his voice rising in pitch. Madeline tried to interject to save the poor worker, but Harold pushed her aside. “Stay out of this, Madeline; you neither have the intelligence nor the expertise to discuss this travesty. So just shut up!” Madeline, embarrassed and red faced, had turned away and walked quickly out of the store. Once at the car she calmed down, realizing that she had nowhere to go and had waited for Harold to return.
Madeline continued to rock, soothed by the gentle creak of the aged wood of the chair. She looked across the back yard noticing that the Sweeny party was beginning to wind down. There would soon be silence, even with Harold’s snoring. Silence, now there’s a concept. Why just last week we had driven out to my sister’s house and…
“Will you shut the…” Two hours and Harold’s yammering had finally gotten to her. The expletive resounded like an exploding canon shell within the confines of the little Ford compact. Harold, in his shock, lost control. Madeline, sitting in the passenger seat, watched wide eyed as the car caromed off the left lane guardrail and zigzagged its way across the highway, narrowly missing two other cars and a UPS truck until it finally skidded to a stop on the grass and gravel shoulder. For once Harold sat in silence with the air bag draped across his lap and his mouth hanging open. If it stayed that way much longer, Madeline was sure that someone in the dental arts would have to be retained to shut it for him. Amazingly, Harold was quiet for the rest of the day, even when they were taken to the police station—he had gotten a ticket for reckless driving. To Madeline, all that quiet was a gift from the Gods. Which she relished for as long as it lasted—which wasn’t long. Once they arrived home, Harold was at it again, blaming Madeline for the entire affair.
Madeline continued to rock, back and forth, holding onto the heavy metal pan sitting on her lap. It was a fifteen-inch heavy restaurant pan, one of Madeline’s favorites, that she used for cooking stew. The noise from the party across the way seemed to quiet down. Ah, their party is coming to an end…All quiet on the western front. Madeline quietly rose from the chair, careful not to drop the pan on the floor. Hefting the heavy utensil, she walked slowly into Harold’s room. Standing above him, she watched as each breath forced itself out of his rotund body to mix with the already fetid air of his room. “Oh Harold, you fat, dumb, stinking pig of a man, wake up. I’ve got something for you.”
“Wha…can’t you see I’m sleeping, woman?” Harold raised his head off the pillow. “What’s that you’ve got in your hand?”
“A present for you.” Madeline raised the pan above her head and brought it down on Harold’s unsuspecting head. Whomp! Not content with just one blow, she continued to hit Harold. Whomp! Whomp! Whomp! She stopped at thirteen, an unlucky number—unlucky for Harold. “Oh my goodness, look at all that splatter.” She shook her head back and forth. “My my, we’ll have to replace that coverlet and the bedding. Maybe even re-paint the room!”
Madeline left the pan where it was, covering what remained of Harold Armbruster’s head and walked back to her own room. She sat in her pink rocking chair and picked up her princess phone, dialing the emergency number. “Hello, is this 9-1-1?”
“Yes ma’am, what is your emergency?”
“Oh, I’m so glad to have reached you, what is your name?”
“Cartright ma’am. What is your emergency?”
“Oh Miss Cartright, thank you for taking my call. I’d like to report a murder…”
“A murder, you see I’ve just killed my husband Harold, with a pan that I use to cook his stew…”
“Oh yes, I killed him for a very good reason. He never stopped talking, so I shut him up for good and…” Madeline continued talking, scarcely taking a breath. Long after the police arrived and handcuffed her, she was still talking, even as they led her downstairs and into the police car…
G R EMERY lives in South NJ with his wife and Plott Hound AJ. He has been writing short stories for the past twenty years and has been previously published with A Long Story Short. “Quantum Needle” garnered years best for 2010. He is currently writing his first novel.