Listen, Harry, Listen by Francesca Casilli

It’s easy to remember when I first decided to kill my husband.

We were sitting around the kitchen table I had picked out at Pottery Barn last week. They had a great special on with White Glove delivery. I was hoping Harry would see the payment on his credit card statement and give me a stern talking to. It was the only talking we did.

“Abbey, we can’t afford this right now,” Harry would chide, exasperated. “How many times do I have to tell you that things aren’t great at work right now?”

These days he was noticing less and less. I’d even got a Hollywood wax for the first time in our twenty year marriage which was met with a residing, “Well that’s different, now isn’t it.”

One night I put on the first pair of earrings he had bought me and I almost choked on a particularly lethal piece of steak when he said, “Are those new?”

I’m sure you’re surprised but that wasn’t when I decided I would kill him. It was the following morning when I was flicking through the morning paper. Harry had already taken out the sports section and was meticulously going through it with an attentiveness I didn’t receive any longer. I had boiled two eggs for exactly seven minutes, just the way he liked them, and a toasted piece of rye, buttered and cut down the middle. He had barely touched them and I knew he hated eating anything at room temperature.

“Harry, eat your breakfast. It’s going to get cold,” I berated him.

“Right,” he muttered.

The papers rustled as he rearranged them so he could eat his breakfast one-handed and still glance over the golf.

“Do you like the table, Harry?”

“Honey, I’m reading the golf.”

I sighed and turned the page of my paper. There was an article about a woman who had stabbed her husband twelve times with a kitchen knife because he kept using his finger to taste her marinara sauce. When asked why she did it she said with marked conviction, “I kept telling him. He didn’t listen.”

“Harry, did you read this article about this woman who killed her husband because he wouldn’t listen?” I asked him.

“Sure,” he murmured under his breath. He licked his finger as he turned a page.

“It was because he didn’t listen, Harry.”

“I’m sure it was,” he said, not even looking up.

I looked at the mug shot of the murderous wife, still wearing her apron, and I swore she winked at me. That’s when it first happened. A kitchen knife I had been using on the counter flashed in the sunlight. I watched it splinter light across the room and Harry’s face. I pictured myself getting up, my chair screeching on the hardwood floor, and walking over to that knife. I pictured its familiar plastic hilt in my hand. I saw myself walking up to an unsuspecting Harry. I pictured myself saying his name, waiting for him to turn around. I saw his face, a mask of horror, as I drove the knife into his throat, then his chest, again and again and again. I pictured my face, dappled with Harry’s blood. I could feel a pleasant warmth swelling in my gut and it wasn’t because of the freshly brewed cup of coffee.

“Can you pass me the salt?” Harry said, splitting my daydream in two.

“Of course, honey.”

“And the pepper?”

“Anything else I can get you, darling?” I asked in a decidedly sugary voice as I passed over the second shaker.

“Some hot sauce would be good.”

I got up, my chair screeching on the hardwood floor. I walked over to the kitchen cupboard, the knife within arms reach. I opened the cupboard, which I had painted a tasteful beige called Canyon Echoes. The bottle of hot sauce had been shoved behind a jar of mayonnaise. I shook my head. I had told him three times already that he needed to put that in the fridge once opened. I looked at him over my shoulder with my eyes narrowed. I placed my hand on the plastic hilt, running a cautious finger along the blade. It was sharp. Sharp enough for –

“Here, honey,” I set down the bottle of sauce in front of Harry. He proceeded to hit the bottom of the bottle and liberally douse what was left of his breakfast with it.

I decided not to kill Harry right there. We had just had the kitchen renovated (real granite tops with Venetian Gold finish, a fresh backsplash, new cabinet fronts and a 35 by 22 undermount sink that I had picked out at Lowes) and I didn’t want to be cleaning blood out of the new grouting. It seemed like a shame to dirty the kitchen for the sake of a little mariticide.

“We need to buy some more hot sauce. We’re out,” Harry said, pushing the empty bottle away from him.

Harry left for work that day none the wiser that his death was in the works. I didn’t really know why I wanted to kill Harry. It’s not that he was deliberately unkind or cruel. I didn’t even think the man had one mean bone in his body. I suppose it was benign neglect. I was bored. In the past six months, I had rearranged the furniture in every room of the house, upholstered two sofas and an ottoman, ordered new drapes, reupholstered the two sofas and spent a small fortune on new throw pillows to match said drapes. I had fallen hopelessly in love with the bike messenger, the TV repairman, the landscaper and even the carpet salesman who always tried to sell me Persian carpets that I wasn’t sure I liked. They all asked me how I was, nodded when I spoke and even snuck a peek at my cleavage if my choice of blouse was just right. I would fantasise about us having long lengthy conversations about garden fertilizer and hand knotting. I bet each of them would have appreciated my experimental waxing.

I thought a gruelling spinning session might help me sweat out my homicidal ideations. I used one of the classes I had left on my ten class pack and checked myself into the nearest studio. I caught Janice Able in the waiting room, ordering an acai bowl.

“Abbey! How are you, darling?”

“Janice, lovely to see you,” I lied through my teeth (which I had luckily had whitened a week prior). “Couldn’t be better! How are you? How’s Rick?”

“Absolutely disastrous!”

“Really?”

“You will never believe it,” Janice leaned in a little closer, “I asked him to get tickets to the theatre and he actually booked them in the dress circle, for God’s sake!”

“You can’t trust them to do anything,” I shook my head, empathetically.

“I could just kill him!”

“I know just what you mean,” I agreed wholeheartedly.

Though I left the class with burning glutes, I still had the burning desire to murder my husband. On the way out, my spinning instructor advised me to get myself a turmeric latte to get rid of any ‘bad vibes’. I drank one as I drove home, slightly annoyed that the cup didn’t fit in the cup holder and I had to hold it between my knees.

That evening Harry and I sat in front of the flat screen television he had bought on the advice of a friend. I didn’t like the thing and had told him several times before the purchase. It was a real eyesore and didn’t fit in at all with the Charleston Sofa and original fireplace. Harry had his thoughts buried in a show about Napoleonic history and I was bored stiff. I was flicking through a woman’s magazine when I came across an article about a woman who was ten years into a life sentence.

“Harry?” I pried.

“Mmm,” he said as means of replying.

“Have you heard of this woman who murdered her husband because he kept taping over her recordings of Good Morning America?”

“Sure,” he said, craning towards the television set.

“When they asked her why she did it she said – I kept telling him. He didn’t listen.”

I snorted out loud.  Harry grappled with the TV remote, trying to put up the volume.

“You know how she did it?”

“Honey, I’m trying to find out if he was poisoned!” Harry blurted.

“No, darling. She bludgeoned him with the recorder.”

“Napoleon was not bludgeoned!”

“Napoleon?” I said, confused.

“What are you talking about?”

“Nothing, dear,” I said softly, turning back to my magazine.

I studied the article. The crime scene was described in full gory detail. I pictured Harry’s brain matter and blood staining the newly dry-cleaned white rug (unfortunate colour choice in this case). She had bludgeoned him so brutally that it had taken the crime scene technicians two days to pull all the skull fragments from out between the sofa cushions. Now that just wouldn’t do with the recent upholstering. It had cost Harry a fortune and I had looked through six catalogues to find the right shade of blue. The article ended with her final sage words, “At least in prison they let me record my shows.” I raised an eyebrow in sympathy.

A week later, I lay next to Harry as I had done for twenty years. I had bought a fresh set of linens on sale the day before: 100 percent combed cotton, 261 thread count. Harry had hopped into bed like nothing was different. He had cursed under his breath as he moved two decorative pillows onto the chest. Fifteen minutes later he was falling asleep while reading a book on the Wall Street crash. I gazed at him fondly as I imagined using one of those decorative pillows he despised to suffocate him as he slept. He woke up with a start, placing his book on the side table and turning off the light.

“Harry?” I said to the dark.

“Mmm,” he said as means of replying.

“Did you hear about the woman who poisoned her husband because he never noticed when she put fresh sheets on the bed?”

“Sure,” he snorted, on the cusp of sleep.

“That’s me, Harry. I’m that woman.”

“Shhh,” Harry hushed me, sleepily.

“Listen, Harry, Listen.”

“Honey, I’m sleeping,” he grumbled.

“I’m going to kill you, Harry.”

“That’s nice dear,” he groaned as he rolled over.

I lay awake that night savouring every detail of my plan. I had spent all day reading up on the effects of antifreeze. I had seen some in our garage that morning when I got home after Pilates. All the pieces were falling into place. I pictured myself pouring just enough in his morning coffee, making sure it was sickly sweet like he liked it. I pictured them arresting me. I would say, “I kept telling him. He didn’t listen.” I had had my nails done and a fresh Brazilian blow dry in preparation for my mug shot. I pictured myself in the pages of a magazine telling my story. Finally, someone would listen. I already had the headline in my mind, “Till murder do us part.” No, that wasn’t quite right.

The next morning I put on the gown I had almost worn to Harry’s company fundraiser. It had a long slit that Harry had deemed inappropriate for the occasion and asked me to change. I wondered if Harry would find it appropriate for the occasion of his murder. I hoped so. The thing fit like a glove. I ran my hand down my bare thigh. It was the perfect outfit to kill a man in. I pulled the price tag off, knowing I would never be returning it. I had paid too much for it at a sample sale but, now, it was worth every penny.

Harry sat in front of the TV, watching the morning news. He was none the wiser. I could see only the back of his head. I glided to the kitchen. Harry had already made a pot of coffee and I was sure he would be ready for his second cup soon. I poured enough antifreeze to kill a horse into the tea set Harry’s parent’s had bought us for our 10th anniversary. It was an elegant set with gold trim. I carried the cup towards Harry like the living room was my stage and I was about to give the performance of my life.

“Harry?” I cooed.

There was no reply, not even a mumble, a groan or a dismissive wave of the hand.

“Harry?” I asked again, a little more loudly.

I carefully put the teacup down on the server behind the sofa. I marvelled at what a great piece it was, breaking up the feature wallpaper of the room. I placed a hand on Harry’s shoulder to get his attention. Instead of turning towards me, he fell forward like a lead weight and tumbled from the sofa onto the floor.

“Harry!”

I rolled him over onto his back. He gazed up at me, his eyes filmy and unseeing. I laid my head on his chest, searching for any sign of life. There was nothing, not even a flutter. I shook him desperately. The bastard had died on me and I hadn’t even killed him.

“You can’t die on me!” I yelled. “I was going to kill you. I told you I was going to kill you. You never listen!”


Francesca Casilli is a freelance writer and filmmaker. Most recently one of her short stories was published in the Michael Terence Anthology Turkish Delight. Her film work has been selected by numerous festivals including the Berlin Fashion Film Festival Online Showroom, The American Online Festival and the Florence International Film Festival.

 

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