This story is by Angela Largent and was part of our 2017 Fall Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
I was making apple butter when I decided to kill my husband.
My sister-in-law has apple trees, and she drops several bushels on our doorstep every fall. One year early in our marriage, I let some of the apples rot. My husband, lets call him Ed, had a fit. So, my yearly Fall Ritual became making vats of applesauce, then turning the applesauce into apple butter and canning it. At Christmas, I give it to everyone I can think of. I am known far and wide for my damn apple butter. The rest of the year I can’t so much as look at an apple.
Ed was upstairs napping and I was in the kitchen, peeling and chopping apples. I turned on the little television and found one of those true crime shows that I adore. The episode was about a woman who had been arguing with her husband and bludgeoned him with one of his golf clubs. She then broke the window in the back door, knocked over some stuff in the living room and called the police. When they arrived, she was sitting on the floor cradling her husband’s body, thus explaining the blood on herself. Her story was that she had heard a loud noise downstairs. When she went to investigate, she surprised an intruder, who ran out the back door.
She made three major mistakes. One, she broke the window from the inside. Two, the blood spatter on her clothing didn’t match her story. Three, she had told a group of girlfriends at a tipsy brunch the previous weekend that she was tempted to beat her husband to death with one of his precious golf clubs.
People always make those sorts of mistakes. They can’t keep their big mouths shut, or they get caught on surveillance buying the murder weapon. They forget about their EZ-Pass or the GPS in their car. My personal favorite is when they dispose of the clothes they were wearing when they committed the crime but they aren’t willing to throw out their favorite shoes or their expensive jewelry. If you’re going to kill someone, take off your grandfather’s antique watch first.
The narrator concluded the show with some pithy comment about how you can’t get away with murder, and I thought, “I could.”
At first it was just an intellectual exercise to alleviate the boredom of peeling apples. I watch those true crime shows all the time and I have read thousands of detective novels, so if I were going to kill Ed, how would I do it? Poison? Household accident? Those methods wouldn’t require me to get my hands so dirty, but they were complicated. And I couldn’t exactly do research on my computer. That’s another dumb mistake that people make.
We don’t own any firearms. Even if I managed to get my hands on a gun without getting caught, I would have to learn how to use it. “Stand still right there, Ed, while I figure out which one of these little doohickeys is the safety.” No.
Stabbing? Often people who use a knife end up cutting themselves, leaving blood evidence and injuries that can’t be explained. Blunt force trauma seemed like the best route. There was an ugly lamp in the living room, a wedding present, that had a good heavy base and a top skinny enough to grasp easily.
Ed often forgets to lock the front door. He also fails to close the blinds when it gets dark, so anyone who passes by our house can see inside. His complacency has always driven me crazy, and several of our friends know it, so the intruder’s entry would be easily explained. The problem with a staged break-in is that intruders are usually after money and valuables. Getting rid of our electronics and Ed’s wallet would be too problematic. Luckily for me, there are plenty of people out there who hate Ed. He works for an insurance company and has often been responsible for denying claims, thus ruining people’s lives. He has gotten threats before. Anger would be a feasible motivation for my intruder.
The next problem is blood spatter. If there is going to be blood then you are better off stripping down nude, like Lizzie Borden. We are past the point in our marriage where nudity signals amorous feelings. If I walked into the living room naked Ed would simply be puzzled. I would have to sneak up from behind, anyway. It needed to be quick. If he had the chance to fight back then he could overpower me. And if I had to look at his face, I might lose my nerve.
Menopause hit me hard. My doctor prescribed sleeping pills to help with the raging insomnia. Those little beauties always knocked me out cold. After I finished with Ed, I could shower the evidence away then wash down a sleeping pill with a glass of wine and go to bed. Then I could “discover” his body in the morning. I would be fuzzy and bleary-eyed from the wine and pill, so shock wouldn’t be hard to fake. The extra hours would also ensure that Ed was dead for real. I could just imagine the paramedics finding a weak pulse and whisking him off to the hospital where the doctors would work valiantly to save him, with me standing by saying, “No heroic measures, please.” Not suspicious at all.
In the aftermath, I would have to tell my story and submit to questioning by the detectives. I work in a pediatrician’s office. I am the nice lady at the desk who smiles at the cranky children and anxious mothers when they check in. I answer questions patiently and hand out lollipops. I also sing in the church choir and volunteer on several committees. I would remind the detectives of a favored aunt, or the neighbor lady who gives out the best candy at Halloween. I could give them some apple butter.
There is excellent life insurance in place. Ed opened the policy many years ago, so that wouldn’t seem suspicious. I could take early retirement and sell this albatross of a house, then buy myself a little condo with a maintenance and lawn care package included. I could even move to a different city. Or a different country. I could be on House Hunters International.
I had stopped peeling apples. My heart was pounding. I could really do this, I realized. The kids would be sad, of course, but they are grown and gone. They have their own lives now. We hardly ever see them. Don’t I deserve a life, too?
When I was a sophomore in college, I was filling out applications to do a semester abroad when I found out I was pregnant. Ed and I loved each other, so I quit school and we got married. He finished college and went on to get an MBA. He has always been the breadwinner. I worked part-time and took care of the kids and the cooking and cleaning. By the time the kids got older and I could take on a full-time job, the pattern was already established. I am stuck with all the housework.
Every time Ed makes a sandwich, he always leaves bread crumbs and a smear of mayonnaise on the counter. Thirty years ago I thought it was cute. I don’t anymore. He doesn’t even notice when I clean up after him. I could fill a composition book with all the things that he doesn’t notice. I have spent over thirty years now washing his disgusting laundry, eating in the restaurants that he chooses, fanning the covers when he farts in his sleep. This is not the life that I was picturing when I walked down the aisle.
Ed wants to buy an RV when we retire and drive all over the country, visiting every state. That sounds like six shades of hell to me, but it’s his big dream. He gets downright giddy when he gets another RV brochure in the mail. All I can think is that at least it would be a smaller space to clean.
Of course, this has all just been in fun. I couldn’t really kill him. Sure, there are some things that I would like to change, but our life is mostly happy and comfortable. That’s what you want to hear, right? She wouldn’t really kill her husband over a mayonnaise smear, would she?
Ed came downstairs, yawning and stretching. I picked up the knife and began chopping apples again. He popped a couple pieces in his mouth and gave me a goofy grin. I smiled back.
Do you know what your wife is thinking right now?