A Snap Decision

by Daniel Davis
I shot him.  I still can’t believe I did it.  Seventeen years, two kids.  My mother told me it would end badly.  Thank God she didn’t live to see this.

The kids were out of town; I hope I wouldn’t have done it if they were there.  We’d sent them to their paternal grandparents’ ranch for the weekend.  Todd and I needed to talk; we still hadn’t discussed things.  I wasn’t mad, though.  Not that weekend.  The previous weekend I’d blown up at him, but that weekend I was calm.  I wanted to talk.

I saw the kids out the door; they couldn’t wait to leave.  Neither Todd nor I had told them anything about what’d happened, but they knew something was wrong.  Todd and I had both been distracted that week, at home and elsewhere.  I’d gone to the office, typed my forms and filed my papers, fetched the coffee and sorted out payroll fiascos—but by midweek my boss asked whether I was sick, and on Friday he offered to send me home.  I would have taken him up on it, except Todd had Fridays off.

As soon as the kids were gone, Todd went upstairs to take a shower.  You might figure he would’ve done that after the fight, but Todd was a fastidious person.  The way he died, he would’ve hated it—the blood spray that dotted the walls, his face.  I didn’t aim.  I didn’t have time to think it through.

The gun had been in our house for a year.  We’d had an attempted break-in, and Todd was sure we needed to arm ourselves.  I’d conceded to a small gun; I learned later it was a snub-nosed thirty-eight revolver.  Todd wasn’t supposed to keep it loaded—the guy at the gun store told him so, and I’d told him so—but he had; the break-in had unnerved him.  His sense of neatness had been thrown off-kilter; for a month, he’d acted as though he’d been soiled, as though the violation of our home was really a violation of his spirit.

He dressed in the bathroom; he’d started doing that shortly after Timothy was born, but not because Timothy was born.  I never knew why; he just started doing it one day, and I never asked him about it.  At first, I thought there was something physically wrong—a mole, a blemish, something.  Eventually, after I’d seen him enough in bed, I decided to take it at face value.  It was one of his quirks.  I continued to dress in front of him, and for his part he never complained.

When he stepped out of the bathroom, I’d already pulled the gun from the nightstand, though I hadn’t raised it yet.  His short dark hair was wet but perked up with a comb; his white cotton shirt clung to his slightly sagging frame.  He’d shaved, too, and his skin seemed polished.  He looked so handsome that the surprised expression that crossed his face when he saw the gun broke my heart almost as much as shooting him did.

He started to say something.  I would like to think it was “Christie, please don’t,” or “Christie, I love you,” or even “Christie, I’m sorry.”  I wish he could’ve smiled; I wish he hadn’t seen the gun at all.  I didn’t raise it until he started to speak.  Maybe I shot him so I wouldn’t have to hear what he said.  I don’t know why—I wanted to talk to him, this weekend had been my idea.  I wanted to know why, after seventeen years of marriage, he’d taken his secretary out on a date; why, after four years of working with her, he finally found her more attractive than me.  What had he seen in her?  What hadn’t he seen in me anymore?

But I never got to ask those questions, and he never got to tell me.  The gun fired; he was hit in the gut, they tell me, that’s why there was so much blood, that’s why he moaned for so long.  Gut shots take a long time to kill you.  He couldn’t speak; the blood in his throat prevented him, or maybe it was the shock.  I sat down in front of him and put the gun in his lap, as though offering him the opportunity to hurt me back.  He didn’t.  He didn’t even look at me; he kept his head back, moaning, his eyes rolling around.  Perhaps he was examining the peeling paint of the ceiling; just a couple weeks earlier, we’d discussed repainting the entire house.

During the interrogation, one of the officers said that if I'd shot Todd anywhere but the abdomen, it would've looked like an accident or suicide.  The crime was so sudden, so unpremeditated, that I could've gotten away with it.  I wanted to tell him that I'm just not the type of person who plots out her husband's death.  I wanted to tell him that I'm no good at spontaneity, that I have no idea where it came, and that if I'd had a moment to think about it, it would never have happened.  But I couldn't think of the words to express my regret, my confusion, so I just offered a wan smile and looked down at my lap.  I could tell that the officer didn't understand it any better than I did.
Daniel Davis recently received his M.A. in Literary Studies from Eastern Illinois University, and is discovering how impractical such a degree is.  His work has appeared in various online and print journals.  You can find him at www.dumpsterchickenmusic.blogspot.com

© 2011, Daniel Davis