With the Knife in Her Hand (James Lucas)

With The Knife in Her Hand


With the knife in her hand, time froze and for an instant the entire width and breadth of her life was visible, the past that was and the future that would be, as though some unseen force had pulled back the curtain, revealing in panoramic majesty her flawed and tragic existence.  She could replace the knife in the wooden stand along with the rest of the mostly complete set (one small knife went missing a few years ago) or she could calmly enter the living room where her husband sat, watching television, the first of many beers in his large, hairy hand, his dull eyes ignoring her as though she were no more than a dust mite, and plunge the knife into his skull watching blood pour from what a few years ago had been his hairline.  He would constrict, his teeth grinding, his eyes bulging while she simply stood back, hands folded neatly in front of her, and waited for him to die.

Undecided, she held the knife.

It was a simple knife, designed to dice up vegetables; its cheap wooden handle was beginning to splinter. She could not recall if it had been a wedding present, an heirloom, or one of those household things that magically appear one day. “House fairies,” her mother called them, invisible beings that exist only to make your home happier. She wondered if she took the knife into the living room and stabbed him, would she get a splinter from the handle? She imagined the homicide would feel like carving a pumpkin, that same hollow sound as the blade tore the orange flesh of the vegetable. Gleefully, she envisioned circling the blade around his skull, and removing the brain like a mad scientist in a black and white movie.

How did it come to this? How did she evolve from a young woman accepting a man’s quiet and half-assed proposal to a middle-aged hausfrau conjuring images of murder?

That night he proposed, she had allowed herself to have a beer, one of only a handful she had ever drunk. Did she even finish it? They sat on the couch in his trailer, the rusty, roach-ridden aluminum box that would soon become half hers. The television was on, it was always on. Only when he went to work would she turn the blasted thing off. Waiting for a commercial break, he turned to her and said, “Well, I think we should get married.”

They had been dating for barely a year, she dated him not out of love or even deep attraction, but because there were no other suitors. He would take her to dinner while most men would not give her a second look. He wasn’t romantic, not by any stretch of the imagination.  He never gave flowers (“They’re just gonna die.”) or birthday cards (“You just gonna throw ‘em away.”) and almost never remembered birthdays or anniversaries (“Is that today? Oh.”) And so, with a high-pitched jingle for dog food playing in the background, she consented to be his wife.

Now, after all this time, she was little more than an utensil, kept in a random drawer with the coupons and matchsticks, only brought out when she was needed. She tried to combat his indifference, like the time two or three years ago, when she bought some lingerie and met him in the bedroom. Looking at her reflection in the bathroom mirror, about to make her grand entrance, she felt sexy, marveling at how the silk clung to her curves (and let’s face it, her fat in some places).  Stepping into the bedroom like she was Cleopatra, she was met with dull eyes.

“What the hell are you doin’ wearin’ that?” he asked, hardly looking up from Field and Stream.

He might just as well have slapped her, kicked her like a disobedient dog, force d her to march down Main Street so the entire town could ogle her ridiculous getup.  She raced back to the bathroom, crying. From the room, she heard him mutter, “Aw, hell,” then the sound of the bed squeaking, indicating he was getting up. He came to the bathroom door and apologized, eventually coaxing her out and back into the bedroom. They made love that night, but it wasn’t the romantic fantasy she had spent all afternoon dwelling on, rather, it was the usual, him on top, grunting until he was done, then rolling over and asleep before she finished cleaning herself up.

She had felt passion before, and in her mind it was magical the way most people view their summer cruise or trip to Paris as magical, something that happened once, never to be forgotten. It was not with her husband that she had felt this, rather, with a young boy, back when she was just a girl herself, seventeen with big eyes, homemade dresses and a tendency to look at her feet when talking to boys. His name was Mike, and he was handsome, save for a forehead that was just a little too big, making him look a little like Frankenstein’s monster.

With some people, one day you wake up and realize that you are in love, with others, it’s a collision, the instant your eyes meet a shock wave is sent across the universe. That’s how it was with Mike. She met him at a high school dance; he was the cousin of one of the boys in her geography class and lived in the next town over. They danced and talked, and for the first time in her life, she wasn’t viewed as “Poor little Gloria.” There was no pity in Mike’s eyes, and for that, if nothing else, she loved him.

It was their second date, after the matinee and the ice cream shop, as they sat under a tree in the park that he told her about the Army. In ten days, he would report for basic training, and from there, who knew? She didn’t want him to go and said so, hanging off his neck attempting to physically stop the draft. He kissed her, and she melted on his lips. When she felt his hands on her breasts, she knew what he wanted, and with only a moment’s hesitation, decided to let him have it.

She never saw him again, nor were there any letters from the front. Now, with the knife in her hand, she wondered where he was. Had he been killed in action, shot down in some country she couldn’t locate on a map? Was he married now, with a pot belly, two rambunctious boys and a wife with a secret drinking problem? She smiled at the image in her head, a Christmas card photo with Mike sitting on the couch, his arm around his wife, boys in matching shirts and ties seated on the floor before them, all looking into the camera, all smiling. Not a care in the world. Merry Christmas. 

She stared at her distorted reflection on the knife’s blade. There, in her blue-green eyes, for the first time ever, was a tiny flame. Her reflection told her to free herself, either with the knife or with a bus ticket. So simple, it reassured her, go in the bedroom, pull down your suitcase, the one with three inches of dust on it, pack some things, leave everything you don’t want. Leave your refrigerator, with its sour milk and fresh beer. Leave his stack of Playboys on the nightstand, the ones he never even tried to hide. Leave the incessant television, the monotony, the boredom, the horrible drudgery that has become your life. Find yourself. Go to a party. Wear a dress. Buy one of those fancy frozen fruit drinks that have three kinds of liquor in them. Go to a movie that you want to see. Have an orgasm. Just go.

Just go.

She tightened her grip on the knife and began grinding her teeth. Her skin glowed bright pink with heat, but her chest and stomach felt carved from a block of ice.  No one would miss him, not this shiftless, hairy lay about. His employers saw him as just another man with his name sewn onto his shirt. His family, those who still acknowledged his existence, viewed him as an embarrassment. Even his beloved drinking buddies knew him only as That Guy Who Usually Sits Over There. To kill him would not be a crime; it would be a benefit, like pulling a weed from your garden. I have removed this weed from our lives so that we may bloom, she would say at her trial, assuming she even had one.

Trial, hell, they’ll probably give me a medal.

She grinned. In her reflection it was the impossible and sadistic smile of an evil clown, stretching from ear to ear, with eyes full of murderous mirth.

“Gloria!” The soon-to-be victim called from the next room. “Bring me another beer, would ya, babe?”

She sheathed the sword in its wooden stand with a loud clack! “Coming, dear,” she sing-songed.

The knife would still be there tomorrow.


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