The second time I killed my husband was the hardest.
It happened on Saturday 19th October 1978. The second time, I mean, not the first. No, the first time happened a month earlier. To the day.
Perhaps it would make more sense if I explained how the initial occasion went down, on the nineteenth day of the ninth month of the seventy-eighth year of the twentieth century.
That September had been unusually warm. Truth be told, it still felt like summer for the most part, except for the nights drawing in earlier and earlier. There was a light breeze in the air – a sign of what was to come, I suppose. Because the hot weather had overstayed its welcome for so long, I knew that the transition into autumn would be all the more sudden.
I was sitting in our living room, knitting. I love to knit. There’s something to be said about a hobby that keeps your hands busy but doesn’t require that much attention. It allowed me to watch the television whilst clickety-clacking away. I was making a jumper for the nice young boy down the road. It was navy blue with white stripes.
Dave came swerving into the driveway. He was drunk again, I could tell. It was partially wifely intuition; Dave had been getting drunk every day that year. It was also obvious to anyone who didn’t share a marital bed with him as well; he took out the post-box again, for the third time that week. I’d stopped resurrecting the poor thing. Better to let in rest in peace, I thought. But every morning, as he nursed his hangover with coffee and too much bacon, Dave would go out there and act all surprised. “How’d this happen?” he’d mutter to himself, with his hands on his hips. As if it were some grand mystery or conspiracy.
So, after ploughing down the poor structure again (in my mind I had suspicions that the mailbox was slowly giving up on life), Dave came tumbling out of the driver’s seat, onto to the concrete. He landed on his ass with an audible slap. I couldn’t help but laugh, but I quickly stifled the sound when my husband’s head swivelled around like a hawk. Had he heard me? Probably not, but best play it safe, regardless.
The car – a disgusting, mustard-yellow Ford Capri that Dave had bought several years earlier – was still running. He staggered to his feet and slalomed his way towards the house, and I thought he might forget about the turning off the ignition, but he stopped dead in his tracks, swaying.
I was watching him from the living room window, whilst the adverts played in the background. I was in the middle of watching an episode of Coronation St. It was pretty awful, granted, but I found myself drawn to it every week. It was inexplicable. Then again, you could probably describe my marriage using that very same word. Inexplicable.
I’m quite confident Dave hadn’t seen me by this point; his eyes were glazed, and he looked deep in thought. He must’ve stood there for a good thirty seconds or so, before spinning around on a dime – he shocked me with his drunken agility – and marching back towards his pride and joy, to kill the engine.
The car spluttered and farted, then settled.
I remember that after the car was turned off, there was this awful silence. Even though the T.V. was playing not two feet from me, there was a momentary hush.
Then Dave platted his way down the driveway to the house.
The front entry slammed open, and I remember cringing. I was always cringing back then. The first thought in my head was: Careful, you might damage the wall. Dave came barging into the lounge, the door thudding into the side of the sofa and rebounding into him. He shoved it aside, as if it were a fellow drunk, squaring up for a fight.
I remember he stood there, looking at me for a moment, as if deciding which way to torture me today. The rancid smell of beer was emanating from him in waves. Along with the odour of sweat. And urine.
Dave stood there, wobbling, eyes on me. Eyes down to my knitting. Eyes to the T.V. Coronation St. was back on, but I had no idea what was going happening. He rolled his glassy eyes and grabbed the remote control to change the channel.
“Dave!” I remember whining. “I’m watching this!”
He drunkenly swore at me, swatted a hand at my face, and muttered something about snooker. God, I hated snooker. It was so slow and dull. And the voices of the commentators… bloody hell. They droned on and on and on, like my old geography teacher, Mr Sandfred.
I stood up, holding my knitting to my chest like a shield. I don’t know why it bothered me so much. I didn’t love the show. I think it was the principle. All of those years of being slowly ground down. Always being the one to roll over and give up. I want to say something inside me snapped, or that I finally flipped, but that makes it sound much more heroic than it was.
“NO! You absolute—” It’s important to note here, that I used some very colourful language. I never swore at Dave. Never. I shocked myself, and immediately clamped a hand over my mouth and ran out of the room, cheeks turning red.
There was a second of stunned silence.
Then the bull charged.
“Kathy, get back here!” His enraged voice chased after me. I could hear his temples’ throbbing veins in that roar. That was bad news. His anger was like a flame that never fully went out, and his alcoholism was like petrol.
There were heavy footfalls behind me.
Dave frequently slapped me across the face, and this is what I had been expecting. Instead, he grabbed my arm, spun me around, and punched me square in the nose. My head rocked away violently. I stumbled backwards, and almost landed on my derriere, the way he had done moments earlier. I, however, was stone cold sober, and caught my balance. I remember standing there, staring at him, tasting my own blood as it trickled down my upper lip and into my mouth. There was an unspoken communication between us; we both knew a line had been crossed. He was a brute, but this was the first time he’d hit me with a clenched fist. Whether or not he’d remember in the morning was a different matter entirely.
I’m not quite sure how my knitting needle ended up in his right eye. Or was it his left eye? His left, my right. Anyway, one minute the implement was in my hand, dangling by my side, the next it was lodged firmly in his fleshy orb.
He didn’t scream, which seems odd looking back on it, just grunted, surprised. I’m not sure if I managed to land the attack due to his intoxication, or because I broke character and caught him off-guard.
“DUUuuurrrnnnggghhh?” Dave let out a confused, almost sorrowful groan. He didn’t even raise a hand in self-defence.
I was still holding the knitting needle. I pushed it further in. I didn’t think about it, I just did it. I pushed until I felt the pin touch something with a different, thicker consistency. Somewhere in his dumb, drunken head, there was a squishy pop! He exhaled heavily, and he dropped backwards onto our carpet – also heavily.
My first thought was: I hope the bugger doesn’t get any blood or gunk on the carpet. I’ll never get it out. Perhaps that seems mean, but it was an expensive carpet, and I liked it a lot.
I leaned over his body – his eyes (eye) were still open wide – and retrieved my pin, which had Timmy’s jumper and the needle’s twin brother still attached. The tool came out with a wet, sucking sound (thwuck!) and a fine spray of something warm went raining over me and most of the room. I gagged in revulsion.
There was blood, some pus-like yellow substance, and bits of other stuff I couldn’t name. It might have been bits of brain, but I’m still not sure. It was on the walls, on the ceiling, and on my carpet.
Worst of all, there was some gooey, jelly-looking stuff on the jumper I’d been making. There was no way I could give it to Timothy like that. With a resigned sigh, I knew I’d have to scrap it and start again.
I buried his body in the garden. Oh, I know, it’s an old cliché to bury your murder victims in the garden, but I’m no practiced serial killer. I did what I thought would be the best thing. I’d have struggled to drag his body into the car because he was so big and fat, plus there were all the neighbours who’d be watching. And even if – if – I had managed that, where the hell would I take him?
No, if all my body disposal ideas were to occupy the space on a Venn diagram with two ranges, Easy and Likely to Succeed, Plan: Bury the Bugger in the Garden would appear smack bang in the middle.
It turned out to be very good for the patch. I later found out that grass and nitrogen-fixing plants love the nutrients that are released from composting a corpse.
Additionally, I thoroughly cleaned the house.
If I hadn’t been hardened by enduring the gauntlet of murdering my own husband and disposing of his portly, lifeless corpse in the garden that homed the carnations his mother bought us as an anniversary gift, the sight that met me in our living room in October may well have killed me. How ironic. Wait, is that irony? I don’t know, I don’t think I ever really understood irony. Dave thought he understood it, but I knew he didn’t. He always used to guffaw and mutter, “Ironic,” at things I knew for a fact weren’t ironic. Like us running out of coffee on a workday. I might not understand what irony is, but I sure as hell know what irony isn’t, and it bloody well isn’t that. Maybe you can tell me, later, once you’ve gotten the whole picture.
Anyway, I was coming home from shopping at MacDillan’s – you know, keeping up appearances and all that. I wasn’t particularly sad about the incident, I had come to realise, just incredibly worried about being caught. Does that sound bad? I think it probably does. But yes, my main concern was being discovered as a killer.
Everyone knew about his spiralling-out-of-control drinking habit. And I mean everyone. From his mother to the chief of police. They all knew, and they didn’t say a goddamn thing. I suppose they all knew how he treated me at home, too. Monsters.
The fact that they all knew he was an alcoholic meant that nobody suspected foul play. Even if they knew he liked to knock me around, I sincerely doubt that they’d suspect me of killing him for revenge. I had always been so quiet, so polite, so… so… so bloody wifely.
So, yes, there were no problems there. I thought there’d be no problems at all, but of course, it turned out that I was very wrong.
I came down the driveway carrying my shopping – past the recently unused Capri – when I noticed that the post-box was lying on its side.
I frowned. Perhaps it finally gave up and died? It had been fine since Dave had stopped his regular hit-and-run routine, but still… I made a mental note to right the poor thing once I had my hands free.
I made my way to the front door and noticed that it was slightly ajar. Nobody around here bothered locking their doors; it wasn’t that kind of place. We were miles away from London and all its murders and depravity. Who on earth would enter my home without me present? Unless it was an emergency, part of me insisted. What if somebody needed to use my phone to call emergency services? I supposed that would have been okay.
Looking back, I realised I wasn’t scared in the slightest. But then again, I had officially joined the ranks of history’s executioners.
I nudged the door open with a boot, and that’s when I noticed the muddy footprints across the floor. My frown deepened. I was no hunter, but the tracks looked highly irregular.
I stepped inside quietly and set the shopping on the floor. I followed where my instincts were leading me. Part of me knew what I’d find before I found it, even though it was utterly preposterous. Somehow, I just knew.
Dave was sat on the sofa. He had soil and mud in his hair, and on his face. His skin was sallow and sagging and had a sickly yellow-green tint to it. And of course, one of his eyes was all wrong. It was sagging out of its socket, like the gut of an overweight man, and it was raggedly punctured and bloody. The ruined eyeball was dribbling its contents down one of Dave’s rotting cheeks – it looked like one of those jelly packets that you can make in a mug, if you haven’t given it enough time to set in the fridge.
The T.V. was playing. I glanced at it. He was watching the snooker, because of course he was. Then I looked back at Dave and took a step back when I noticed his glazed eyes (eye) were fixed upon me. Yet, they were still distant. Like he was looking at me and through me.
Dave was smiling.
His mouth opened, and soil came spilling out, dropping down his chin, down his gut, and onto the floor. Worms and bugs crawled in the dirt. My stomach rolled.
He tried to talk – I know he did, because his mouth opened and closed – but all I could hear was the sound of grinding dirt, of stones being churned… and a quiet, mournful groan.
And then he was moving.
He was faster than I had anticipated.
He raced at me, both arms extended, the gelatine of his eye wobbling on his rotten face. He was reaching for me, grasping for me. I saw that his hands were caked with dirt, and his fingernails (God, they’ve grown, do they keep growing, I heard they do, they keep growing after death) had a thick crust of grime beneath them.
And then I was being tackled to the ground.
His yellow teeth gnashed. His hands pinned me down. His derelict face got closer. His breath was death. His breath was decay. His breath was the air of a thing that should not be.
I grabbed the nearest thing – the remote control – and threw it at his face. It bounced off his forehead gently. Dave was undeterred.
He was trying to bring his face into contact with my own.
My hands scrambled.
The ironing board was barely a foot from where we writhed. I grabbed its supporting leg with one hand as I fended off Dave with the other. It swayed, it wobbled… and then it toppled, spilling clean and crease-free clothes onto us. The heavy-duty iron thudded to the ground.
Dave’s teeth clicked together inches from my face. His sorrowful groan had grown hungry.
My sweaty fingers slipped over the handle of the iron. I tried to get a hold but pushing Dave off me was growing tiring. He was getting heavier and heavier and closer and closer… And then I had it. I clumsily swung it at the back of his head.
The sound was thick and meaty, with a cracking, splitting undertone.
Dave rolled off me and stopped moving.
I stared at him for a second. I was victorious! But… Something was wrong. What was it?
And then I realised. Dave was still making noises. The groan slithered in my direction.
I dropped the iron and backpedalled to the corner of the room and crashed into my hobby bag. And watched. Slowly, Dave came to life again. Well, not life exactly, but you know.
He crawled towards me. His head utterly caved in. His ruined eye drooling down his face. Still grinning. “How do I kill you?” I asked, more angry than scared. “How do I kill you again?”
He was closer. Closer still. He could not, would not, would never be killed. Not again.
He was upon me. His teeth clicked. He would feast.
I grabbed the first thing I could find – it had a familiar shape – and lashed out with it.
“DUUuuurrrnnnggghhh?” The noise was identical to the last sound he had made whilst alive. And then he died. Again.
I remember sitting there, my twice-dead husband collapsing onto my lap, my knitting needle protruding from his face, thinking: Huh. Who’d have guessed?
I’ve finally started on version two of Timothy’s jumper. I suppose it was a good thing that the original got splattered with some of Dave’s gore, as little Timmy isn’t so little anymore – he grew over five inches since! Little scamp is now taller than his mother. He’d have grown out of that jumper in less than half a year.
I know now what to expect every month. I know what to do, and I make damn well sure that I’m prepared for it each time.
The third and fourth and fifth and sixth times got easier and easier, but I’m not looking forward to the seventh time. Who would be? Having said that, I’m glad I’ve gotten the worst behind me. The second time I killed my husband was the hardest.
2nd August 2019
Written for Reedsy’s weekly Short Story Contest