Bad Day at Work by Jake Hinkson

The victim was sitting at his kitchen table. He wore a forest green robe, gray boxer shorts, and a bloody t-shirt that said: I CAN’T HELP MYSELF, I JUST LOVE TITTIES. Just above the words on his t-shirt were a couple of bullet holes. The exit wounds between his shoulder blades had blown off some of the kitchen chair, so he was slumped back like a bored teenager.

On the table in front of him sat a bowl of soggy Cap’n Crunch and a copy of a tabloid magazine. He had died reading rumors about Tiger Woods having gonorrhea. On the table next to a cold cup of coffee, lay a black .38.

I stood there for a while looking at the victim, and then I let the MCU technicians take over. I walked into the living room. The dead man’s wife was sitting on the couch holding an empty coffee cup. She was skinny, with feathered red hair and bad teeth. She wore jeans, a plain red t-shirt, and no shoes.

“I need to ask you a few questions,” I said.

She gripped the cup and looked up at me. “Why don’t I just tell you what happened?”

I sat down on a cheap wicker chair across from her. “Okay.”

“He hit me,” she said. “He did before, about a year ago. Three days after we got back from our honeymoon he kicked the shit out of me. It was over nothing really. He had broken down on the side of the road, and he had the car towed to a mechanic. But it turned out he’d just run out of gas. I thought that was funny, but when I laughed at him he smacked me across the face. I hit him back, and that just set him off. He beat the crap out me, busted up my lips, bloodied my nose.

“I always knew he had a temper. He’d get frustrated really quick over nothing. I always knew that, but I didn’t think he’d beat me up. I was…” she smirked “surprised. Let’s put it that way.”

"Did you call the police?”

She shook her head. “No. For a week, I was in a daze. Not from the beating, but from the fact that it had happened. When I was a kid, my mom dated a guy who used to knock her around, and I always said that wouldn’t happen to me. Then when it did, I was just stunned. It was like finding out you caught a disease.”

“So what happened today?”

“A couple days ago we got into a fight—about money, like most our fights. I was ragging him about not finding any work.” She shrugged. “I probably was being too hard on him. He’s been looking for a job, but he couldn’t find anybody hiring machinists right now. I was yelling at him, and he took another whack at me. Smacked me in the face. This time, I didn’t fight back. I even said I was sorry and told him I deserved it. I wanted to see what he’d do. You know what he did? Nothing. Didn’t feel bad. Didn’t apologize like he did last time. He just forgot about it. Just like that. The next day he acted like nothing had happened.

“And I got to thinking. For him it was nothing big at all. I got out of line, so he knocked me back in line. See? It had already become okay for him to hit me. It had already become normal.

“So this morning, I got up and made coffee. He came in and sat down at the table. I gave him his coffee, and I poured his cereal for him like he was a little kid. Then I went in the bedroom, got his gun, and came in here and shot him twice.” She tightened her grip on the coffee cup. “He just died. Just like that. I shot him and he was dead. It was over in ten seconds. He was alive, and ten seconds later he wasn’t alive.”

“You waited two days to do it?”

“Yeah.”

“Why?”

“Had to think about it.”

“And having thought about it, you decided to murder him.”

She nodded.

“That’s some delayed self-defense,” I said.

She looked at me like I was stupid. “Self-defense? It wasn’t self-defense. It was revenge.”

I just stared at her. Whatever small trust I ever had in the human race was poisoned by my job a long ago time ago. Normally, I just assume people are liars, and people never let me down. Everyone lies—to themselves, to strangers, to the people they love the most. They lie about the smallest, most insignificant bullshit imaginable, and they lie about the most important things in the world.

This lady, though—she was telling the truth. She was confessing—if that’s the right word—to cold-blooded murder. True, as a woman claiming domestic abuse her chances of being executed were slim. But she was copping to straight up revenge-fueled murder. There was every chance she’d spend most of the rest of her life in jail.

“I have to arrest you now,” I told her. My stomach felt a little queasy when I said it. Odd. I hadn’t had stomach issues since I was a rookie.

She nodded and looked at me with disconcerting focus. She stared straight into my eyes. “How you feel about that?”

“About what?”

“About arresting me.”

“Just doing my job,” I said. “Can’t go around killing people, even shitheads.”

She sucked on her bottom lip and looked toward the kitchen. The dead guy was leaning back in his chair, head slumped forward like he was trying to see down the small tunnels that had been blasted through his chest.

“But how do you feel about arresting me?” she asked.

I started to answer her, but I caught myself.

I told her she could remain silent.

I hoped she would.

11 comments:

sara said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Jimmy Callaway said...

Those last two lines are solid gold.

Shannon Schuren said...

Very nice work. Personally, I think that t-shirt is the only defense she needs.

Paul D. Brazill said...

Nicely sharp and nasty.

Christopher Pimental said...

Thumbs up.

Glenn Gray said...

Liked this too. Nicely done.

Bill Baber said...

Nicely done...gave me the chills.

Bruce Harris said...

Tough spot for everyone. Sad story. I can picture their conversation. Excellent story.

randallmarx said...

This is an issue that can not be written about enough either through fiction or non fiction or through efforts for it can help put a stop to it. One of the keys is to get people talking about it and fiction and non fiction are some good ways to do it.

This is also another good example on here of stream of consciousness and how it explores through concise dialogue the inner conflict of the cop he does not want to arrest her but it is his job.

The author could have been a cop for this story shows he seems to have a good understanding of what they feel inside.

However, I think it could have worked if the cop just walked away after she told her story and it ended with her asking him "Aren't you going to arrest me, sir....sir?"

However, it was a twist ending all the time, for he does arrest in a lot of other stories, they let the woman get away but I have read some where they did arrest them anyway, so it is unpredictable for they have not followed just one direction. Nice work.

randallmarx said...

I concur with Shannon, the shirt is enough but also just what he did to her. Those situations are hard to escape from and in her position, women just feel trapped and have not another choice but do what she did in the story and the story illustrates it perfectly in a very subtle and indirect way.

One thing that was original is how the woman does not try to cover up what she has done or refuse to answer questions but she confesses to what she has done.

Jake Hinkson said...

Thanks to everyone who's commented! I appreciate the feedback.