Your husband made tri-tip roast last Sunday night. Normally, he would barbecue the huge slab of meat. But it was 115 degrees outside and the grill was out of propane, so he used the broiler instead. The scent of caramelized onions and the sour/sweet stink of his orange juice-ginger marinade clings to every surface. Over the last four days you've scoured the kitchen top-to-bottom. You scraped the oven stainless steel spotless with harsh cleaners that made your eyes water and a putty knife you borrowed from your husband's tool box. You wiped the cabinets waxy with lemon scented furniture polish and flooded the white tiles with pure bleach. But the rancid meat smell still hung heavy, like an invisible monster hiding in a high corner of the ceiling, its decaying breath polluting the air.
Or maybe the smell was completely gone, and you were finally losing your shit?
It had been eleven days since the last time you smoked. It was a habit you picked up when you were thirteen and you would swipe your grandmother's Kents when you would stay with her after school. You were never a heavy smoker. You liked the burn down your throat and how the burning stick of paper and dried weeds looked in-between your fingers. But over the years—as it does with most smokers, even casual ones—is that the cigarette became a companion. It became a reason to step outside with your girlfriends at parties, or escape from a boring conversation at company Christmas parties; it was equal parts sword and shield, and an invitation to intimacy.
And, of course, they tasted damn good after a couple of vodka and sodas.
But then you met your husband in junior year. He was funny and smart and a pre-med major and exactly the type of man you were sent to college to meet. Most of your friends were going to college to begin careers who only thought of their boyfriends as temporary, men they would discard as soon as they graduated or moved on to graduate school. But not you, you came to college to meet a man. Your mother had scrimped and saved for the exact purpose of you marrying well.
"You don't want to end up with someone like your father, trust me," she would say as your father sat just a few feet away reading one of his books.
She was right, though. As much as you loved your father, he was worth more to you and your mother dead than he was alive. Thankfully he dropped of a heart attack while delivering Christmas cards and other holiday related junk on his route the year you turned sixteen. At first, your heart was broken, but then the two-million-dollar life insurance policy came in and both you and mother forgot your grief. But your overall goals remained in place. You knew that your mother would blow through the money within five-years and you would be financially frozen out. Yes, there was enough for you to go to school, but there wouldn't be much after, you needed to stick with your plan of finding a husband.
You spent years brokering potentials bank accounts. Mostly frat boys who needed to have their friendships bought for them, which meant that they not only had high income potential, but that they came from money as well. Most of them were too aggressive, most American boys—whether they came from money or not—were largely taught that the world was there for the taking, especially women. Women were toys, something meant to be roughly used for a night or two and then forgotten about. The only time you held onto them is if one of them got pregnant and refused to have it taken care of, or they were nothing more than eye candy, a perfect status symbol. You aspired towards status symbol, although most of them only wanted you as a toy. But that was true of all the girls in your sorority where most were more than happy to be nothing but toys until someone finally settled for you, or you battered them into sexual submission.
You remained a virgin until you met and married your husband. This was not entirely your choosing, mind you. Your husband was, in a way, cut from the same cloth as you, except his was a far more righteous piece of cloth. He was Mormon, or as he preferred to be called, a member of the Church of Latter Day Saints.
When you first met, your arrangement was ideal, he wanted to touch you, he wanted to rip your panties off and thrust himself inside of you, but he wouldn't because of his morals. You lied and agreed with him, but mostly it was because you found the whole idea of sex—either with a man or a woman—to be repugnant. It wasn't that you found him unattractive, but he reminded you more of a brother than someone who would eventually be the father of your children. Your biological needs began to take over as your relationship wore on. You had spent the previous three years fighting off young men who were much better looking and far wealthier than your husband, and there had been more than a few times where you almost gave in. Those primal urges stuck with you, but buried deep away, a slight tickle in your budding ovaries.
The urge became so overwhelming, however, that you agreed to marry your husband in your senior year, to your disappointment.
Your husband was a kind and loving man, and his penis was more than adequate, albeit short lived, which was fine with you—you still found sex repugnant even after you had committed the act—but to marry him, you had to convert to Mormonism. It was an idea you toyed with when you first started dating, but only thought of in the most abstract terms as the months of your relationship advanced. Even when you began taking the conversion courses, it all seemed surreal, as if your soul was hovering above your body witnessing your body pay attention what was being said. It all hit home on their solidary day at the temple. It was only the two of you and his parents; not even your mother was allowed inside because her spirit was considered unclean.
Fortunately, your husband wasn't a very good Mormon. Since you had married, you'd only gone to church twice, both times on holidays. Of course, it wasn't like you had the time attend with your husband's internship, which his family completely understood. He also drank with you virtually every night and you'd even talked him into smoking a little pot with you a few times. But where his beliefs completely invaded your life was his aversion to your smoking. When you first started dating, you lit up in front of him a few times, but you saw the look of disgust bend his pale face into a judgmental mask. After you were done, everything would be back to normal, but it was in those brief moments in which you knew his one prejudice.
After you married, you never smoked when he was home. You kept it to just after he left for work and after your lunch. But then his comments started in. At first it was about the money, and then it was the smell, and then he threatened to cut your allowance. That was the final straw. Without your weekly money, you were stuck entirely at home. No money for Ubers, no trips to the mall, no lunches with friends. You reluctantly agreed to quit within a timeline, and you used that spare two months to squirrel away as many packs as you could along with stockpiling travel bottles of mouthwash. But your husband was a human lie detector. As the two-month stop-gap closed, he diligently searched the house. Turning over drawers, checking in the overflowing bathroom cabinets; he even found a pack of Kools you had stashed in an old box of raisins back from when you were still packing his lunches.
All-in-all, he'd discovered thirteen packs, but he hadn't discovered the fourteenth. A fourteenth pack so well hidden that you didn't even remember where you'd stashed it. Over the last two days, you'd torn the house apart from top-to-bottom (that is except when you weren't scrubbing the kitchen) and not being able to find the errant pack of cigarettes was driving you up the wall. Except, you'd finally remembered where you'd hidden it: in the garage, right under your husband's nose. The realization was like a bolt of lightning and your body surged with energy as you grabbed a handful of kitchen matches from the junk drawer and rushed out the kitchen door to the garage. The stark heat of the day hit you as you stepped outside, beads of sweat began to course through your thick, disheveled hair; you didn't know if the sweat was from the 110 degrees or the anticipation of sweet, mentholated smoke filling your lungs.
You went to turn the knob and found it locked.
The garage wasn't so much a garage as it was a workshop. The both of you parked in the carport that connected the house and the garage, and your husband used the bunker-like space as his woodshop (most of your furniture had been made by your wonderfully industrious husband) and whenever he wasn't using it, he, of course, kept it locked up. For a moment, you panic and then chuckle quietly. As intelligent and practical as your husband is, he wasn't exactly what you would call imaginative. You bent over, flipped over the black rubber welcome mat, snatched up the spare key with your trembling fingers, pushed it home before you had even fully straightened, and rushed through the door towards your husband's large red toolbox. You jerked open the bottom drawer where he kept his rarely used and broken tools, and there it was, the near mythical final pack of cigarettes.
The soft green pack was open, and one was already missing since you first bought it three weeks ago. You gently tapped one out between your fingers as you slowly made your way back out into the heat. You close the garage door behind you, putting the butt between your lips, and striking a match with your thumb, inhaling deeply, and then blowing out the match with a rich plume of smoke. Your head goes light and watery as the nicotine hits your bloodstream and you almost feel like you're going to cry when you notice the Missionary riding towards you on his bike and waving. It's the fat one, the one called Ben or Bart, something with a B.
The fat kid typically rode with Evan. Both were from Omaha and had the misfortune of being placed in Phoenix instead of a foreign locale. Virtually every serious Mormon boy dreamed of being sent on their mission to another country. A good portion of them—such as your husband, who had gone to Brazil—will be sent to South America or Europe if they have language skills. But if they don't, they're sent to some dumpy American city or shithole town. You supposed Phoenix wasn't such a bad place to be sent? At least it was a major city with a large Mormon population to begin with. It was the type of city where Missionaries could feel safe and welcomed into the homes of thousands of people, including yours and your husband's.
Most likely, Bart or Burt was stopping by for a little air-conditioning, a glass of water, and a chance to ogle your tits. Normally, you didn't mind the tit ogling, especially if it was Bill or Bo and his partner Evan. Over the past few months, anytime your husband forced himself inside you, you had begun to think of Evan and his thin muscular body underneath you, riding him, slapping him across his stunned face and then taking a shit on him once you'd cum. The fantasy made your husband's tired two minutes of baby making jack-hammering bearable. But Evan wasn't with the fat kid today, still you were trained to be polite to the missionaries when they stopped by, and you waved back to him, not realizing you still had your smoldering cigarette between your fingers as you did it. For a brief second, the boy's eyes widened as large as tea saucers, filled with disbelief that a fine Mormon woman was smoking.
And then the F-150 hit him.
Most of us picture a body flying when it's hit by a vehicle. It's one of those things Hollywood has lied to us about. Sure, occasionally a body will fly through the air, smash against the windshield, roll over the hood, and come to rest on the pavement in a bloody patch of death. But that's nothing but drama, a visual effect to make the audience gasp and cover their eyes. Most of the time, a body will always go under the vehicle, which is exactly what happened to the fat kid.
He was there staring at you in disbelief, and then you blinked, and he was being dragged under the bumper of the speeding truck. Another blink, and the fat kid was screaming, piercing and girlish, his face a mass of ragged cuts and slowly boiling blood. For some reason, you focus on a thick piece of gravel wedged into the boy's right eye and the jagged bones of his left wrist weeping something clear along with all the blood. For a moment, you think the truck has stopped, that the driver is on the phone calling 911. But then a minute passes, then another two, and all there is are the boy's screams and the smell of him baking on the hot asphalt.
Suddenly, a pain radiates from between your fingers, your cigarette has burned down to the filter. You drop it, crush it under your foot, and tap out another. Before you light up, you consider going inside and calling an ambulance, but it's only a passing thought. Surely someone else must have called 911 by now? And if not, you figure he can wait another five minutes until you finish your smoke, it's not like he's going anywhere.
Copyright © 2018 Keith Rawson.
Keith Rawson is the author of hundreds of short stories, essays, interviews, and articles under both his own name and several pseudonyms. He is a regular contributor to LitReactor and Gamut Magazine. He lives in southern Arizona with his wife and daughters and you can see THOUSANDS of nude photos of Rawson at his website: