Ron Morelli

They didn't argue they simply finished off each other's sentences. She rose every morning at eight to make him a single egg and a piece of toast: wheat, light butter. She placed it on a blue plate, a gift his mother had given her with a warning of its value. She smiled and said thank-you, then locked herself in the bathroom and cried for half an hour.

He came down at a quarter past fixing his tie. He said hello and kissed her on the cheek, the right cheek. She smiled faintly and he sat down and unfolded the paper. She asked him if he wanted milk or juice, and he always told her juice. She smiled again and filled up his glass with juice, and then watched him eat his toast and drink his juice and pick at the egg as he finished the morning paper.

He kissed her goodbye and left in the station wagon. He'd be back at a quarter to seven; she'd already have dinner on the table. Tonight it was pork chops because it was Tuesday, and tomorrow it would be spaghetti, because Wednesday was Prince spaghetti day.

She went to the store, flirted with the butcher, made love to the milkman when he arrived, and changed the bed least her husband suspect her of being unfaithful, or a bad housekeeper. She brushed her teeth, washed her hair, put on some more makeup and got ready for the rest of the day to tick itself off the mantle-place clock. 

She did this every day, every day since they had gotten married twelve years ago, and did it with such a robotic perfection that even popping the valium as a mid-afternoon snack was a kept practice of devoted, pain-staking perfection to ride out the days which bled into weeks, which bled into months, which bled into years, until she woke up one day to realize she was completely out of blood and love, and that the body that was warm next to hers was nobody, nothing, no one in particular.

She answered the door on the first ring and looked into the eyes of the police officer, the valium tease waxing full-strength as he cleared his throat and told her about the "unfortunate" occurrence, and how he was sorry to have to be the one to tell her that her husband wouldn't be coming home tonight, or the next night, or the night after that ever, ever again.

When the officer left she closed the door, walked to the kitchen, sliced up her pork chop and laughed as she ate it.

First published: February, 2004