02 June 2016

Leave You Alone

{Supposedly, I support him as a runner by attending races. Supposedly, he supports me as a writer by helping me remember my ideas. Supposedly.}

So...I made it a goal to write some plain old fiction before my 25th birthday. I love reading fiction, but it doesn't come very easily to me as writer, so it's pretty rare for me to actually create any. But I said I'd do it so I did. Late last night, I mumbled to Angel, "Remind me in the morning, I have an idea for a funny story about a guy whose wife died."

He forgot to remind me, but I remembered anyways, and this is the resulting piece of flash fiction. I was going for dark humor--opinions vary on whether or not it's too creepy. And, since everything requires disclaimers these days, let it be known that I don't endorse ghosts, haunting, or jealousy. It's just fiction. Now that that's settled: 

Leave You Alone

You don't expect to lose your wife at 28.

Actually, I'm going to stop right there and rephrase, because unclear sentences like that annoy her to death.

You don't expect to lose your wife when she's 28 and you're 31. Better, Honey?

"Much better."

Our story is one of impatience and recklessness. Married her when she was right out of high school. I was a few years out, myself, halfway done with college. We went to school together, sharing a rented room in that creepy, creaky house downtown and walking to campus together, working 3rd shift, using flashlights when the breaker box overloaded yet again, shoveling the sidewalk for a discount on winter rent.

And we were still married when life got easier and we moved to that sunshiney place outside town. No more 3rd shift, she fixed up the master bedroom like a Bed, Bath, and Beyond showroom, and we even ate beef--and not the nearly-expired cuts, either.

We were married for 10 years. That's almost a third of my life. Riding the shopping cart in the grocery store parking lot. Hopping on the wrong public bus on that much-delayed Oahu honeymoon. Late nights with TV and smoothies and popcorn. Her calling to ask me to pick up a pizza on the way home. Doctor's visits and clenched teeth because suddenly we're not married anymore. There's that whole "till death do us part" section in the wedding vows. That kind of changes the relationship.

You don't expect to lose your wife when she's 28. But what I really didn't expect was that I'd still be talking to her when I was 33.

"Hey. I vowed I'd never 'leave you alone'...and I meant it!"

She really, really meant it. You'd think a widower could at least chill out after a long day of work in peace...but no.

I'm not crazy. I don't see ghosts. Nothing paranormal here. No curtain moves mysteriously, no unseen presence plops down on the couch next to me, but as I browse the internet, trying to turn off my mind for the night,

"Whatcha doin'?"

"Reading the news."
"What happened?"
"The usual. Dog bites man. Man bites dog."

"I'll never understand why you care about reading the news. It's only worth knowing about what's going on in the world if you're planning on doing something about it."

"Yeah, yeah."

"So what are you going to do about all the dog-biting?"

"You're impossible!"
No, this is. 

At the grocery store the other day she persuaded me not to buy a 3rd package of Oreos, even though they were on sale, and she reminded me I was out of frozen broccoli. Once, I got so distracted laughing at the story she was telling that I accidentally drove 35 in a 25 mph zone, and got pulled over and ticketed. She wasn't even sorry. Claims it wasn't her fault.

"Well it wasn't. There's no need to be a leadfoot--you should be able to chat and drive at normal speed limits at the same time. I can--could."

Nearly as awkward, but less of a financial hit, was the time when her comment about the pastor's wife's outfit of the day made me laugh out loud in the pews mid-sermon. A couple people gave me hugs after church that day. The widower's losing it.

Right now, late at night, as I scroll through the social network of my choice, I can almost feel her head on my shoulder, leaning against me, reading every message, every status update, as her curious mind always did. But of course she isn't there. She can't be. She's outside, far away, underground, just off of Elm Street.

"Hey, we need to talk." 

My fingers freeze above the keyboard. The words strike just as much fear in me as they did years ago.

"What? What about? Are you sure? How about a movie instead?"

"No. Talk. Now. Here's the thing we need to discuss: Who are you going to marry next?"

"Wha--Why would we need to discuss that? Why would you get any say in the matter?"

"Well...technically... I don't get any say in the matter, but I like to have my say anyways. We're not married anymore, but I think I would be a great relationship adviser because I know you so well AND I'm perfectly objective."

"Objective? You've never been objective in your life." 

"Yeah, that's the point. Anyways, here's who I'm thinking: Carly."
"Yeah, Carly. She who was a senior when you were a junior and broke up with you because she was going to college out of state. Back in that phase when you chased older women? I know you know who I'm talking about."

"You hated Carly. You've always rubbed it in that she's four years older than you and that she's still single."

"It was my job. I was your wife. I'm not anymore. Anyways, she lives across town now, so distance need separate you two no longer."

"How do you know that?"
"I haven't been dead THAT long. She moved back 3 years ago, it was in the alumni newsletter."
"This isn't going anywhere good, is it?"

"No, hear me out. It'll read like a love story straight out of a cheap novel: Young, heartbroken (You are heartbroken, aren't you?) widower accidentally stumbles across a high school flame at the grocery store. She notices he's shopping for one. He notices that age and maturity have made null and void any differences their relationship had in the past. They're both different, and better now, and ballads shall be written about their love...."
"Have you had too much caffeine today or what?"

"...until the ghost of the widower's dead wife concocts an evil plan to sow seeds of distrust and jealousy into their relationship. The new/old girlfriend catches her love talking intimately with an imaginary figure and concludes that he remains obsessed with the memory of his marriage. She leaves him and vows to never again attempt to find love."

I stare blankly at my glowing screen, currently showing Carly's profile. Carly's a perfectly nice woman, if slightly uptight. I have no idea why she never got married. This is exactly the sort of plan my sweetly sinister wife would concoct. Doesn't mean I have any interest in participating in any  twisted scheme of hers. I have a history of holding a little more tightly to ideals of not causing unnecessary mental torture to my enemies. Instead, I just wave at the crusty guy with the unkempt lawn across the street and get my mail, same as any normal person would. 

This isn't normal.

"Hey," she says after I remain silent while the minutes tick by, "Don't stress. I won't be haunting anyone, I promise. As long as it's not Carly. I would haunt her. But you do need to have a little more fun. How about bowling? Mountain climbing? Meeting any woman in the world besides Carly? Taking a trip to New Zealand? We always wanted to go there."

"We? 'We' never wanted to go to New Zealand! I wanted to go--you said it was too expensive and you'd rather just do DisneyWorld."

"It's bad form to speak ill of the dead," she quips. "Fine, you're right. I never let you go to New Zealand...but I know you're dying to."


"I can't help it. Death jokes are funny as hell."

Not to me. They really aren't funny at all. But that woman--the woman I loved since she was little more than a nerdy kid taking AP classes long before she should have been allowed to take them--she has the weirdest taste in jokes. I used to tell her to stop trying to tell jokes, because she was terrible. She still hasn't stopped.

"Hey," she says, "You know how I promised I'd never leave you alone?"

"You never let me forget. Not for a moment."

"I just want you to know this case, I might have to amend the definition of 'never.'"

She was always amending definitions...twisting them to suit her own purposes. She used to swear up and down that "always" in the context of "You ALWAYS forget to take out the trash!" was designed to specifically mean: "You usually forget to take out the trash in time for the trash truck to pick it up." and should not be responded to with "No, sometimes I do remember to take it out!" How are the rest of us supposed to keep up?

"I'm never going to leave you alone--NEVER meaning, not until you're okay with being left alone."

I pondered this, wondering what it meant for me, for these conversations I was constantly embroiled in.

"And Adam? I think you're almost there. You're almost okay."

I fought for flippant words to throw back in reply. Being serious is hard. We never liked being serious. I don't like being serious. Death is serious. It's a bad fit for us. 

I find some: "Well it's about time!"

Silence. For one minute, then two. I blinked and tried to scroll again. Clicked mindlessly on an article. Opened and closed a favorited item in an online store--one that was just a bit beyond my budget. 15 minutes later I said, "Renn?"

It felt like I was talking to nothing. I was. Wasn't I? There couldn't be anyone but me in the room.

"Come on, man. Don't get all freaked out. I did say I would NEVER leave you alone. Just look up that workout gear one more time and see what I have to say about it."
iReview Global said...

I love reading fiction... Getting so wrapped up in it that you cant put it down! I personally couldn't do it... but you my friend, are great!

The Peculiar Treasure said...

hahaha, that is a funny story about a man's wife dying. I like it!

Anonymous said...

What a great piece of flash fiction! It's so fun and funny! I love to write fiction, but I'm a novel length writer. If you ever want any resources for writing, just let me know :)

Marissa said...

Funny and intriguing piece! :)

Paige @ Reasons to Come Home said...

I want more! It's a great piece!

The Lady Okie said...

I don't think it's too creepy. I like the part about him getting a ticket and then in the next part saying laughing in church was "less of a financial hit." :)

Pellerini said...

I think this is a great fiction piece! Are you going to write more?

Unknown said...

Very entertaining read. You truly have a gift for story telling, you should write more.

Unknown said...

Wow! This is pretty good! You should write fiction more often!

Melissa Blake said...

I'm always so impressed with fiction writers...truly talented!! Keep going! xoxo

Melissa | So About What I Said

Unknown said...

You should definitely keep writing fiction! I feel like this is a husbands worst nightmare hahahahahaha

Laura, The Start of a Good Life said...

I'm pretty sure i'm burning my dinner because i didn't want to stop reading! what i like about fiction is that it's yours. and once you start writing it, it's hard to stop. Well done and i hope to see some more!!

Laura Darling said...

Whoa, this was excellent!!! You are so talented! You definitely need to write more, I was sucked in right away. Definitely not too dark or creepy!

Danielle said...

You're such a great fiction writer! Do you have a platform for your fiction?