See Dick . . . Less (2)
Now she could hear a muffled Jimmy Buffet on the other side of the bathroom door. He was singing Why Don’t we Get Drunk in the bedroom. She was never a huge fan, not a parrot-head so much, but even William Hung would have sounded good right now. They didn’t play pop music at the hospital. Not real pop music. It was always that watered down Muzak. They didn’t want any residents getting riled-up with The Stone Temple Pilots or The Dixie Chicks, after all. Even at Christmas time they played Christmas songs, but it was still the androgynous Muzak.
She pulled a brown towel from the bar on the wall over the toilet. The light blue towels she had hung there, when it was still her house, were gone. Her towels were softer. She pressed this one to her face. It felt abrasive and she grimaced, how apropos. She dried her skin, wrapped the towel around her body, and went to the vanity. A corporeal suggestion of Janie Trupper Strictland hid behind the fog in the mirror. A ghost. It’s probably what he thought when he saw me here. She wiped her hand across the mirror. There I am. Jane Trupper--lioness. The image in the cloudy glass seemed surreal, as did the bloody knife in the sink.
She knew he’d be surprised to see her, especially in the house. It would have been strange enough bumping into her in a convenience store, but finding her standing in the bedroom, naked . . . For whatever it was worth, though, she got the response she needed. It was worth a lot. It was worth everything.
Janie opened the bathroom door. Her eyes took a moment to adjust to the darkness. The cooler air in the bedroom gave her goose-bumps. Jimmy sang as if the whole world was one big, drunken beach party. She went to the bed, stepping over the body on the floor. Her towel nearly came apart and dropped when she twisted to avoid the blood that soaked the carpet. The burgundy stain was much bigger now in the ecru berber since she’d gone into the bathroom to wash.
She didn’t hear Richard make a sound. She wondered if he had finally bled out. She still couldn’t bring herself to look at his face. Familiarity was a risk, at least for a little longer. The light from the bathroom shined upon his back, but his face was enveloped in shadow. She didn’t see that his eyes had frozen into a vacant stare at something across the floor only he could see now. She did see that his shoulders quivered, just a little. She scrutinized and saw that his ribcage expanded slightly. He’s still breathing. But it won’t be for long. It can’t be for long. They’ll be here soon. That would be a problem. She was ready for it to be over. It was now a matter of letting the universe unfold as it should. She hoped that Richard would be dead by the time they arrived.
Janie placed the towel on the bed. She shivered now as she’d expected to when she stood in the same spot earlier, naked then, as well, and waited for him to come home. But she didn’t even quiver then. In fact, she’d felt surprisingly comfortable, as if she’d never left her home and still belonged in that bed. Even when she had taken the knife from the kitchen drawer and tucked it between the mattresses at the foot of the bed, she didn’t so much as tremble. She was scared, of course, but an invisible muse of determined rage inspired her. Her severe purpose did not allow her to settle with letting Richard treat her like a piece of crumpled toilet paper to be flushed and replaced by the next convenient piece on the roll.
Janie had waited on the bed for him to arrive, in her old spot closest to the window that faced the trees in the back yard. The window framed the motionless tops of mature pines she’d come to know so well over the years, pinned against smoky clouds smeared across a sky of hazy pink from the setting sun. Only the ebony flash of a passing crow broke the still scene.
Any man’s a sucker . . . she repeated to herself. She lay there until the sun fell behind the trees, and then she heard that same venue of sounds Richard made when he returned home every day: Door opens; shoes clop into foyer; door closes, and keys go into the glass bowl on the console table; briefcase on the floor. Shoes clop, clop up stairs, and he’ll loosen his tie then, looking forward to putting on his khaki shorts and an old, but tidy, polo shirt.
She went to the foot of the bed and turned her back to the door. Janie placed her hands on the bedspread and stood up on her toes, trying to get her backside as high in the air as she could. It was Richard’s favorite position. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw the door open and Richard’s feet halt suddenly like a dog reaching an abrupt end to its leash. “What the fuck are you doing here?” he seethed. His voice didn’t echo in the room the way it used to. She didn’t know if he was angry or just surprised, or both, but she noticed something disturbing: her body began to tremble. She hadn’t expected his response, and it threw off her groove. She hadn’t considered any other reactions at all, and this, she realized, was not good planning. All she had to keep her going played in an endless loop in her mind: Any man’s a sucker for a piece of ass! It was her mantra. It was her safety-chute. If Patty’s crucial theory failed here, Janie would have to resort to sheer strength, something with which Richard easily had the advantage. Janie could only stare at the bedspread and anticipate his movements, pray for the desired response, and she fought to stay in character. This was after all, only an act. She stared at Richard’s shoes, “I’m doing you here, that’s what the fuck,” she said, tilting her backside toward him, trying to sound submissive and seductive, but adamant and decisive. And it wasn’t all-out lying, was it? Her intention after all really was to do him here, just not quite the way he thought. But that didn’t matter, because what he thought then and there was all that counted. And he proved the theory; Patty was right: Any man is a sucker.
Richard dropped his jacket to the floor and paused. Janie froze. Any man . . . Any man . . .. “Oh, I get it,” he said, “I know what this is all about; one last fling, right?” He slipped his belt free from around his waste and moved toward her. “Okay. I’ll play along. You want to be my little whore, huh?” She braced herself, familiar with his violently pragmatic uses for the strip of thick leather, but she never released the naughty smile, and she found herself uttering a tiny silent prayer behind the façade. Please not the belt, not again. Let him drop the belt. God, let him drop it.
Her arms shuddered more, in spite of herself. She tried to focus upon subduing his mean streak by appealing to what was in his pants. She could picture his face breaking into a devilish grin. Her mind wanted to attach shark’s teeth dripping with fetid saliva to his expression, but Janie forced the image away, already fearing she’d founder if she strayed from the glimmer of success she noticed pushing against the inside of his fly.
The belt dropped to the floor, a snake strangled and blackened by his touch. Oh, thank you, God . . . but whatever relief she felt was short lived at best. He ripped his pants open and kicked-off the cloppy shoes. She gasped as his voice broke her thoughts, but quickly disguised it with what she hoped was a seductive moan. “You’re quite the ballsy bitch, aren’t you?” he continued, pants off now. He kept his shirt and socks on.
She found his lust palpable before he even touched her. No distinction existed between which was stronger: her wanting to wretch or to cry. She held fast, now gripping the bedspread and kneading, trying to appear like a cat having her back scratched. He slapped his hand on her buttocks so that it stung. He grabbed her hips and leaned over her back, his face near her shoulder and said, “Don’t worry, baby. I’ll be done before you know it, and then you can get out of here before anyone finds out.” His breath was hot on her skin. She grunted but pretended to enjoy, using the pain to fuel her ambition. “I’ve been needing this for a long time,” she whispered, deceiving him with her own truth. Then she let him play.
For a few seconds she tried to reproduce the ridiculous faces and sounds from the one or two porn movies he forced her to enjoy with him.
She felt disgusting. Even letting the orderly have her was a mere inconvenience, a minor obstacle at best, compared to this. At least it got her out of the hospital’s back door. But now, she felt a subtle animosity toward herself. She didn’t even know the orderly, but she loathed Richard. He was vile. And all she could do was keep telling herself that it was all for a purpose; it was almost time. Janie pulled herself from him slowly, seductively indicating a change, flipping to the next page but not closing the book.
She almost looked at his eyes, but averted her focus and looked only at his obvious point of interest. She couldn’t look at his face. The last thing she wanted was to see something in him, some flicker of the man she remembered and loved that might make her hesitate, or even break down. She knew that if she let herself quit, she really would be nothing more than worthless, filthy slut—a crumpled bit of shit-ticket, used and flushed. She was afraid she may have appeared awkward, suspicious. He was a bastard, but he wasn’t stupid. She regurgitated that smile, prodding herself; I can do this. I’m different now, stronger—realistic. She recovered her missed beat by feigning intense interest, and she sank to her knees, sexy, seductive, and grabbed on to the convenient handle that he offered. It doesn’t matter anyway. I don’t need to look; I know what I’d see. I’d see emptiness and no sign of the man I thought I knew and devoted myself to for more than eight years. I’d see the eyes of a creepy, life-like doll that I wouldn’t want in my bedroom at night—no emotion, no compassion. There’s been no love for me in his eyes for years.
Richard’s hands dangled at his sides. She noticed his wedding ring was gone. He couldn’t get rid of me fast enough, could he? I’ll bet he had some new slut in my bed before I even had a room at the hospital. If she was angry before, now she’d become fucking ballistic. But instead of feeling thwarted, she felt empowered. She turned her rage into strength and she listened to his sounds of savoring as she teased and played. This time she was the cat, toying with its prey. And she grinned when his head lolled back, and he let her play-act to her hearts desire. He wouldn’t have cared if they were in a Broadway play or at an office board-meeting as long as she kept doing what she was doing. But while she stroked with one hand the other reached behind her and between the mattresses.
“Just the perfect way to top it all off, huh, baby?” he said, holding no inclination of her intentions, head still back, interest still pointing. When she got a firm grip on the knife, she mirrored with a firm grip of his penis. She pulled him upward with a quick yank that put him on his toes. He gasped out of his reverie, but too late to react. Janie jammed the knife into his groin. It speared with little resistance, exactly as Patty had described. “That’s the sweet-spot,” Patty directed, emphasizing with a stubby finger jabbed into the air like dotting an invisible exclamation point, “below the hot-dog and between the beans. Anything else is pretty much bone.”
Janie knew that she’d only get one very lucky shot at this. If she missed, he would be on top of her, beating her before she could scream. But she was hot to gamble today, and it did work. She had Richard right where she wanted him, and it was easy enough to aim while he wasn’t looking.
His hands shot to his groin. The veins throughout his body seared, and he lost his breath. His eyes blew open, and he finally managed to scream, still pitched high-up on his toes and prancing as if the carpet had become a bed of coals. Her grasp did not relent but tightened instead with the urgency of survival. He grabbed at her, getting handfuls of her hair. He growled what she thought might have been an attempt at, “Bitch!” and he pulled and twisted, tearing strands from her scalp, making her screech and jarring her neck. Janie maintained that she had a distinct advantage. Her only focus—her drive--was upon his tool of betrayal that she squeezed in her hand, his lascivious implement that had made her a fool. She twisted the knife’s handle and threw her shoulder into his abdomen knocking Richard onto his back. He continued screaming in a culmination of shock, rage, and pain. His head bounced hard upon the floor, thumping like a bowling ball slipping from a child’s hands, but she knew that on the carpet it wouldn’t have been enough to knock him out. He sat upright and grabbed for her again, his legs thrashing, the knife protruding like a second, bloody appendage. Before he could reach her she leaned back, withdrew the knife, and sliced it upward underneath his scrotum. The blade angled upward and bit into her white, gripping fingers. She flinched, but she couldn’t stop, and she pulled his shaft downward to take the blade as she delivered another quick stroke. And these were the kinds of strokes she’d dreamed about giving Richard for several festering months. He screamed in a mind-splitting way that would have landed him a B-movie audition as his whole package, jewels within, flopped to the floor. He squirmed and tried to roll away, clawing at the floor like a wounded crocodile trying to flee in loose sand, but Janie didn’t let go—“taking the bull by the horn!” she grunted and spat, and she yanked him upward again, as if rip-starting a stubborn lawnmower. She wasn’t a mere cat now, but a lioness. She found herself savoring the experience of twisting and pulling, like a predator ripping at the flesh of its kill. She also found herself sporting a slightly sadistic smile. His hands flexed and slapped down on the floor at his sides as he tried to stabilize himself and regain some kind of foundation to push away. Janie stomped on his chest as if she were killing a cockroach and leaned into him. Then she continued to slice further at the underside of his beloved manhood and nearly severed it. She ripped upward again, and she could feel his flesh releasing. The ligament remaining at the topside of his shaft was difficult to free, but she managed with a gloriously bestial roar that erupted from the pit of her belly. With a final swipe she stood upright, panting, holding his disembodied penis, and she waited for the possibility that he might spring from the floor in a final burst of rage and attack her, rip her to shreds as she had done to him.
She watched Richard’s loins bleed and listened to him gurgle and sputter on the floor, like a fish out of water—but filleted. His hands grasped blindly at his vacant groin, and blood streamed from beneath his fingers over his legs and onto the carpet. Janie moved away from him now, her eyes glassy and wild and watched him convulse and cough. She couldn’t bring herself to look at his face, which bloated and turned purple with tension, tears trickling from bloodshot eyes as shock saturated him.
The blood flowed freely from his body, as freely as she imagined his semen had flowed on so many “business” trips, and she knew it would only be a matter of time. She could wait.
Twenty minutes passed, but it felt like seconds as she was so stoked with adrenaline. When he stopped moving, and she knew he was beyond dragging himself to a phone, Janie went into the bathroom and placed the knife in the sink. The drying blood made it stick to her hand. It was then that she realized she was still squeezing his dismembered penis in her other hand. It was purple at the head, just like his face. The limp slug he had cherished so much also stuck to her hand. She tossed it on the floor beside him, then turned and spoke at her reflection in the mirror, “I did you a favor, Richard. Those things are nothing but trouble anyway.”
It was finished. She accomplished her task, conquered the mouse within and became the predator that devoured its prey. She could do whatever she wanted now. She was liberated. And she wanted music.
She went to the CD cabinet near the closet. It wasn’t one she recognized. It had a glass front with a recessed display box in the door. The theme was a vignette of Tuscan flavor, with little wine bottles and wedges of plastic cheese on tiny shelves. Tacky. She opened the cabinet and left blood on the glass. Scanning the CD collection, many of which she could have sworn were hers—bastard—she found Jimmy Buffet, Songs You Know by Heart and put it into the CD player on the dresser. She had been craving something from her Billy Joel CD, but it seemed Richard had gotten rid of that, as well. This will do. She turned the volume way up. She didn’t hear Richard at all.
Janie laid the damp towel on the bed, about which he surely would have bitched. But she didn’t have to worry about that anymore, did she? She collected her folded-up hospital clothes and put them back on her freshly showered body. No identity in those clothes; only a generic resident. She sat on the edge of the bed and studied the man on the floor. Not really a man anymore, is he? The small bag of skin sat on the floor between his knees with its two tiny lumps inside. His small penis lay distorted and useless nearby. She chuckled to herself, never really was though, was he?
Janie settled back into her old spot on the bed and let the final dregs of adrenaline dissipate. She relaxed and breathed, coming down off a long anticipated high. She felt as though she’d just taken one of her cups of colorful little pills at the hospital. Her heart slowed and her mind eased into a peaceful satisfaction that it was over. She knew that she’d finally won. She’d finally released herself from the oppressive chill that lingered perpetually at her back and disturbed her sleep no matter how far away from him she could ever be. Richard would never hurt her again. She knew it, but she didn’t feel it. There was still something there, something inhibiting the long awaited closure she desired.
Maybe it all just hasn’t hit me yet.
Janie turned toward the phone on Richard’s nightstand. She leaned across the bed and reached for the sleek silver receiver. She pressed a series of digits she’d memorized for just this occasion. A woman answered. Janie said, “Attorney Bloom, please.” She was asked to hold.
Janie noticed that Richard kept a picture on his nightstand now. It was a shot of a young red-haired woman, probably late twenties; guys must think she’s a knockout. The girl sat on Richard’s lap and she held her hand out toward the camera, obviously flaunting her engagement ring. The diamond cast a substantial reflection of the camera’s flash. The girl was smiling, and she had her other arm around Richard’s neck. They looked happy. But all Janie could offer to the precious moment was, “Bitch.” She looked at Richard in the photo, expecting to see that smug son-of-a-bitch pretending to be happy and charming for the camera, just like he’d done for their own engagement party. She looked at his face, her mind already stocked with bitter emotion and scathing cynicism, but what she saw made her blood seem to run dry and instead snuffed any emotion in her soul. It wasn’t Richard. Janie didn’t recognize the man in the photo at all. An overwhelming sense of urgency forced her reluctant mind to accept that she needed to look at his face now. She needed to look at the man on the floor, really look at him. But now the fear she couldn’t stave away was not that she might recognize something familiar, it was that she wouldn’t.
Janie dropped the receiver onto the pillow. She couldn’t see him over the foot of the bed. She slid her feet to the floor, gripped the carpet with her toes, and stretched her lungs with a deep breath. Janie stood and looked at the man on the floor, his hands still cupped between his knees. He wasn’t moving at all now. She dragged her eyes up his torso. His chest was still. And then his face; Richard’s face was next. But it wasn’t Richard at all. It was the man in the picture with the red-haired woman—his fiancé. He looked like Richard, Oh, god does he look like Richard . . . but it was not her husband. She scrambled for his trousers and found a billfold in a pocket. The man on the floor smiled at her from his driver’s license photo. Alex Messier; 2447 Tamarack Heights.
Janie crumpled onto the floor. She buried her face into her hands. What did I do? But she didn’t cry. She waited for the heaving sobs to come, but she didn’t feel the slightest urge to shed a tear. Still, her chest did heave, but she found herself laughing. Somewhere inside, not even in the passenger’s seat now, but way back in the trunk of her mind, Janie was appalled. But she wasn’t driving today like she’d believed. Janie laughed and tears did come to her eyes. You killed the wrong man. You’re in the wrong fucking house, and you killed the wrong fucking man! But he was still a man, Janie. He still had a penis, and he was really no different from Richard, was he? You saved that woman, Janie; you did her a goddamned favor. Hell, you did all women a favor, girl. Men are pigs.
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Copyright © 2006 J Rychwa