"Oh, did I wake my sweetie? Com’ere, sweetie."
He came to me and I petted his back and gave him smooches on the
head. He was warm all over, probably just got up from his window ledge.
"Oh, precious sweetheart. How’s my sweetie?"
He took a leap and settled on my lap. He loved me more than anything
else in the world, including food. You couldn’t say that about any dog,
or dog’s best friend.
I started down the Spam awaiting my attention, deleting the hundred
or so about Viagra, penis enlargement, and the latest assortment of
sleazy sexual promotions. "Masturbate to dilated teen rectum movies,"
"Mature lesbians rubbing their vulvas," "See me playing with my rectum."
Christ. Rectums? I couldn’t really understand the attraction. Nobody
would have believed this five years ago, or twenty years ago, when Jack
tried to woo ML.
It was bad luck that she’d turned up now, when adultery seemed minor
compared to the popular sexual perversions. ML wasn’t gorgeous, but
different from me. Neither of us was a spring chicken at forty-five. I
was stocky and muscular with a round face and dark hair, while she was a
tall blonde, thin, and sleepy eyed, with narrow shoulders and dangling
arms that seemed to lack solid bone or muscle, the feminine kind of
woman Jack always looked at. ML had a slight edge that gave the
impression she was only interested in what life could do for her, and
the world could go fuck itself otherwise. I might’ve enjoyed her
attitude if she wasn’t enjoying Jack.
I closed off the e-mail window and started typing up a list of Jack’s
new behaviors and the times and dates of the calls when he’d walk into
another room to talk. I realized that lately, he’d mentioned going on a
diet. Damn, that made sense. Bony ML wouldn’t like sweaty flab
interfering with her breathing, and Jack was smart enough to figure he’d
better get rid of some before the newness of the sex wore off. Of
course, he hadn’t yet managed to cut his food intake. I could probably
end their relationship if I just kept cooking his favorites, but it
wasn’t a sure bet, and could take a while.
Had he started getting haircuts more often? Tweezing the hairs from
his nose and ears? I wasn’t sure, but in general he was a little more
attractive these days. It didn’t look good for him.
I made a note to keep track of the crossword puzzles. It occurred to
me that I hadn’t seen Jack with his pencil poised over the newspaper in
weeks—so romantic for the two of them, fact master and wordsmith, the
I had counted the condoms, the stash in his nightstand. I was sure
he’d bought a full dozen in the month when I’d forgotten to take my
pills, and his sex drive hadn’t been that strong. Now there were only
three left. He was thrifty enough to finish up the open box rather than
buy a separate supply for ML. I hadn’t had the sense to check the
quantity before I confronted him about the phone calls. Since then the
three hadn’t been touched.
I went back and continued to delete Spam. It was comforting to know
that if I ever needed sex, of any kind, I could find it easily.
I’d put dinner in the oven earlier, lasagna, rich with cheese and tomato
and bechamel sauce and it began to send its aroma my way. I’d also
gotten in a couple bottles of good Chianti. Italian food was Jack’s
favorite. I planned to start over that night, convincing him that my
suspicions were gone so he’d be off guard. I wanted to catch him for
pure shock value and to show him how smart I was, in spite of what he
thought. Then maybe we could restart our marriage on more equal ground,
him being in the hole he dug with his guilt.
I used to think Jack was cute and funny when he got into a rant, but
now I realized that most of the joy he got from our marriage was by
emphasizing my stupidity, and more than that, he enjoyed the company of
somebody on his own level. I began to resent his intellectual monologues
and use of words I didn’t know. He was a professor of history, with his
endless stories and details about wars and slavery. On a weekly basis, I
listened to repeated critiques of Dee Brown’s bad writing and poor
research in Creek Mary’s Blood. ML was, no doubt, impressed that
Jack knew the facts better than the guys who wrote the books.
I hadn’t attended college, but my life never lacked for it, until
now. I had my restaurant and made a much better living than Jack did
teaching, but I knew deep down that he was only concerned with facts,
how many he knew and how many I didn’t. He’d always thrown me crumbs
about how our differences made us so good together, but being smarter
than me was what puffed him up, besides eating the great food I cooked.
I think those were the reasons he was keeping me around, since he’d
found ML again.
I tried to pay the phone bill online, but I was so upset I kept
misspelling my password. I pictured her and Jack together in the library
at school, fondling each other under the table, her reciting poetry or
him explaining how the Indians ate six pounds of meat a day in winter,
because they had no vegetables--Indians as thin as her, he’d say, and
poke her in her flat stomachIt would be his dream to have a woman who
enjoyed listening to all his factual crap. I poured the empty teacup
full of Wild Turkey, chugged it. I wondered if they snickered together
about all the things they figured I couldn’t understand.
Purrzie stretched and jumped off my lap. I followed him into the
kitchen to heat his rotisserie chicken. I shredded it into tiny bits so
he wouldn’t gobble big pieces and choke. He wasn’t piggish by nature,
but I wanted to make his life safer and more enjoyable in any way I
I looked into the oven. The lasagna was beautiful, but couldn’t
compete with ML. Besides being an intellectual who shared Jack’s tedious
book interests, she was the lost love of his life, and now he had a
chance to regain his self-esteem. Years before she surfaced, he’d told
me they’d once smoked dope and had sex. Now he probably didn’t remember
telling me, or more likely never realized I would put together the name
with the information after so long.
I’d made the salad and was just sliding the bread into the oven when
the keys rattled in the door. I reminded myself to keep a lid on
conversation about M L.
Jack came in and gave me a big hug and kiss, and I sniffed his
mustache and neck for any unfamiliar scents. I wasn’t sure. He started
to sniff too, maybe at the Wild Turkey, another thing he was always on
my case about.
"Lasagna, your favorite," I said. "Garlic bread on the way."
"Yum. I don’t deserve you, Georgia."
He kissed me quick and headed into the bathroom, his mind already
The Wild Turkey had a kick. I realized I’d better calm down. I wanted
to ask him if Mary Lou could cook, although I knew it didn’t matter to
him anyway. It’s one of those things you list when you’re judging your
pros and cons, but it doesn’t weigh a feather against that hot rod of
wild passion. I’d been riding the hot rod less and less.
I was pulling the pan of lasagna out of the oven when the phone rang.
Jack was still in the bathroom. I shoved the pan on the counter and
"Is this Mrs. Brown?"
"There is no Mrs. Brown," I said. Telemarketers. Shit.
I’d been pretty harsh and I could hear apology in her tone. Maybe she
thought Mrs. Brown was dead, or else that I wanted to be Mrs. Brown and
couldn’t get Jack to marry me. The truth was I’d never changed my name.
Whatever she thought, she hung up fast--something to remember for future
Jack yelled from the bedroom. "Who was that, sweetie?"
"What were they selling?"
"I don’t know. They asked for Mrs. Brown and I said there wasn’t
"Yeah. She hung up."
"Good job." Jack came strolling out in his jeans and ivy-league
shirt, looking his casual academic self, his face a little too happy for
a weekday. It could have been because I was pouring the wine, and the
lasagna was browned perfectly and bubbling in the center of the table,
but I started to think. We’d had a telemarketing call a week earlier,
and about an hour later he went to the gym and didn’t come home until
near midnight, after supposedly meeting friends and having a few beers.
I fell for it at the time, but now I realized the call could be a trick,
in case I answered the phone, or a signal that ML was waiting for him.
I remembered something else too. Jack had been keeping his cell phone
turned off while we were together. That way he could get back to her at
his leisure. Fucking asshole. He thought he had it made because I was
such a dope.
I set the garlic bread on the table, sliced out a chunk of lasagna
and put it on Jack’s plate. It was oozing cheese and red sauce and he
licked his lips. He was so good at this. Getting ready to chow down and
enjoy his dinner, then take off for some poetry and wild sex, leaving me
with the mess.
He held out his wine glass and toasted me for the nice dinner. It
started to gnaw at me, the way he was so cool. I used to admire that in
a man, but now I saw the down side. They never flinch, no matter what
you do. Teflon personalities. Nothing sticks--until the Teflon gets
I got involved in my plate as he started up a lecture about slaves.
Topics were always swimming around in Jack’s head. I nodded and chewed.
"I was reading the other day about cat-hauling."
"Cat-hauling?" The word cat caught my attention. "A service to
take Purrzie to the vet?"
"No, the slave owners did it before the Civil War as a form of
punishment, to make examples of the tough, hard-to-coerce slaves. It’s
in Charles Ball’s slave narrative.
"Were the cats all right?"
"I guess. You might not want to hear about this during dinner."
"As long as the cats were fine."
"The idea was to tie a man down on his stomach, naked, with his arms
and legs staked out, drop a big tomcat on his back, and pull it by its
tail. The cat clawed and ripped into the skin and muscle, trying for a
foothold to get away."
"I can imagine."
"They would do this until the slave was unconscious from the shock.
Of course, there were no antibiotics so the infection was often deadly.
"Holding the cat by the tail. Ooh." I cringed. "Brutal." I looked
over at Purrzie on the windowsill, who was licking his asshole
peacefully. "God, that’s horrible."
"Certainly was. Imagine getting ripped to shreds then left to get
infected and die."
"The cats were probably scared to death." I took a big slug of my
wine to get past the vision of an agonizing cat, screaming and being
yanked, not having done anything wrong, not knowing why he was being
punished. I shivered. "I didn’t know cats were kept as pets back then."
"I don’t think they cared for them like we do." He looked at Purrzie
still licking himself and shook his head. "Not like His Majesty. Cats
were kept to kill mice."
I ignored his cut at Purrzie, but it registered in my brain. He
started up about some Civil War battle tactics, where the Union army
made tunnels like mice, but there was no further mention of cats so I
lost attention. When he stopped talking, I smiled. Now I was just
waiting to see how long he’d hang around.
"There’s ice cream for dessert."
"No thanks. I’m stuffed. I’m going to head over to the gym after I
digest this great dinner."
It was an hour and a half between the time of the telemarketing call
and when he left the house. I figured he didn’t want to jump up from the
table immediately and risk trouble. I thought of telling him I was going
along to the gym, but I hadn’t worked out in two years and I knew he’d
be suspicious. I didn’t want to follow and risk getting caught. I was
biding my time to figure out a better plan.
He came home late again that night and said the guys wanted to make
racket ball and drinks a weekly thing. He had showered, so there wasn’t
any evidence to sniff. These were guys I hadn’t met, so I couldn’t call
to check anything out. I didn’t bother objecting. The jig would soon be
The next morning he made love to me, pay back for the lasagna, no
doubt, so he wouldn’t feel guilty. I started to think maybe I was making
too big a deal out of all this, and I could win him back.
"I was thinking we could take a long weekend and go to Cancun or
somewhere to get away from the cold," I said.
"I don’t know. I have to keep up with my syllabus."
"Oh, take a day or two! The students will be happy. My treat." I knew
ML, being a teacher, couldn’t compete when it came to money.
"We practically just got back from Christmas. How can you take more
time off from the restaurant?"
"I trust my new manager completely." I studied his face to see if the
word trust made him flinch, but it didn’t.
"I’ll think about it. It’s true we have Mary Lou to take care of
Purrzie now. She still hasn’t gotten another cat." He smiled. His whole
demeanor brightened up at the thought of ML watching Purrzie. So why
didn’t the cunt get a new cat? I bet she couldn’t wait to have Purrzie
to herself again.
He was off to school early. Said he had papers to grade and had
forgotten to bring them home. I bet they were meeting for coffee. My
stomach started to burn as his car backed down the drive. So that was
it. Purrzie was his ace in the hole--working better than what he had in
the hole during his younger years. He knew I’d never let Purrz go, but
ML didn’t. ML knew a one-of-a-kind cat when she saw it, and Jack was a
I couldn’t take it any longer. I wasn’t a wimp who could live like
that, waiting and hoping. I took another day off at the restaurant so I
had time to work out my scheme. I sat down at the computer and looked at
my e-mail. All crap. Not a single note from a friend or relative. Nobody
I could talk to.
I deleted more rectal Spam as I formulated the details to catch Jack
and ML. I closed my AOL and used Jack’s password to open his account.
Sure enough, there was e-mail from mljonson45. What luck! It had to be
Mary Lou, and she was on AOL too. I wouldn’t have to pay for another
The mail wasn’t anything interesting, just a fast note:
Don’t worry. I have a great idea. Will talk to you at school.
It didn’t sound like good news for me. I deleted it. I’d heard about
setting up false accounts where the address was one letter off from the
real address. If I used a capital I instead of a small L,
and pretended to write from Mary Lou, Jack would never know the
difference, and I would receive his reply. I went back to my account and
added a new screen name, mIjonson45. Only the computer could tell what
letter that line stood for. I was damn smart.
I decided to keep the note to Jack plain and mysterious, since I
didn’t know their little love names, or what fancy expressions an
English professor might use.
Come to my place at 8 pm tonight. I have a secret surprise for you.
I thought about the word secret. Was it too much? Surprise
sounded too ordinary. I wanted him to build up anticipation so when I
answered her door, his balls would shrivel into prunes.
I also wanted to be sure ML was home that night or I wouldn’t have
any way of getting inside. It was complicated. Jack’s e-mail address was
historybuff1860@aol, which I changed to historybutt1860@aol, and sent
the message to ML:
Busy with grading today. I can come to your place tonight at 7:00.
Let me know if it’s okay.
The address change was little risky, but it was too cute to resist.
If ML thought it was a hoax, she might still be home anyway. At worst, I
was wasting my time and would have to try something else.
I knew Jack would check his e-mail a few times from school. I
sometimes left him messages there instead of calling. I was a little
worried that he might say something to ML, but she was in a different
building, and if they thought they had secret plans for later, they’d be
unlikely to look for each other. Worst case, he would mention the e-mail
and they would figure it was some kind of mistake. It might give them
the creeps, but they couldn’t trace it to me.
I took the gun from my panty drawer and tucked it into my big purse.
My brother had given me the Glock when Jack and I moved to the big city.
Jack didn’t know I had it. He’d never have let me keep it. My gun in his
face would show him I was serious, and teach him a good lesson. He would
see how smart I was and never try anything again. I found a roll of duct
tape to use on M L. I loved it. A dope like me teaching two professors a
ML’s reply came back to historybutt within the hour: Okay. I’ll be
home tonight. See you!
She was already excited, the tart. I checked the other screen name at
noon and still nothing. I needed to know whether my plan had worked, so
I could beat Jack to her place, surprise ML, and get her out of the way.
Finally, at 3 o’clock Jack’s reply was there. It was also brief: Why
so mysterious? See you there.
I had defrosted homemade minestrone soup and bread from the
restaurant for dinner. I wasn’t in the mood to cook. Jack came home
acting normal, as he was so skilled at doing, and we ate and he talked
some facts about the Seminoles’ turbans and jewelry. I couldn’t really
pay much attention. I thought I heard the name Mary Lou, and almost
questioned him, but then I realized it was my imagination playing
tricks. My mind kept racing over my plan and my feet were in a nervous
jitter under the table.
Jack ate two full bowls of soup and I thought he’d never get done.
When he finished, I said I had to help out at the restaurant for the
evening. Actually, since I hadn’t been there for two days, there was
plenty I should have been doing. I slugged down some Wild Turkey in a
corner of the kitchen, and then put Purrz in his carrier. Jack knew
Purrzie always sat on my lap while I did bookwork.
It was 6:45 when I left. I’d be a little late to ML’s but she
wouldn’t expect Jack exactly at seven. He seemed relieved to see me go,
so I knew he was planning to keep his date at eight o’clock.
It was dark when I arrived. I walked to the porch, set the cat
carrier down, pulled out the gun, and rang the bell. Footsteps started
up immediately and ML opened the door. She gasped. Her face was
I had the gun pointed at her skimpy chest. "Keep quiet and move
backwards into the house."
She was good at taking orders. I kept the door open with my foot as I
picked up Purrz and stepped inside. I set him on the couch and closed
the door behind me.
"We’re going to play a little trick on Jack," I said.
She started to disagree, but I poked at her small tit with the Glock
and directed her to sit on a chair. She didn’t put up a fuss, not that I
gave her much chance. I pulled a piece of tape off the roll and slapped
it over her mouth. She knew it was her own damn fault for starting up
with Jack. I made her tape her own legs and one wrist to a wooden chair
so I could continue to hold the gun. I put the gun down, wrapped the
last wrist and tightened up the rest, then scooted her into the bedroom
and moved Purrzie into the kitchen.
It wasn’t long until I heard a car pull up. I got into position
behind the door, expecting that Jack had a key, but he rang the bell—as
formal as ever. I opened the door. He started sputtering something when
he saw my face behind the Glock, but I barked my order, "Not a sound.
Get in here or die," and he moved fast. I kept the gun on him and told
him to march into the bedroom. He acted like he didn’t know where to
move, but I mentioned that the gun was loaded, and he backed up till he
nearly fell over ML’s chair. He looked at her all taped.
"Why are you doing this, Georgia?" he said in a controlled scream.
"You know damned well why!" I yelled back.
"No, I don’t. What kind of stupidity is this? Put that gun down. You
don’t know how to use it."
He couldn’t resist bringing up my "stupidity" and that set my head on
fire. Any regard for him or my own good burned up with those hateful
words. At this point I would have expected him to be begging my
forgiveness, so I would put the gun down. I couldn’t believe he would
continue to insult me and play out the lie this far. I was going to get
a confession, one way or another.
I pointed the gun toward his chest. "Sit."
He sat on the bed and I tossed him the roll of tape I’d been wearing
on my wrist. ML’s bed was perfect for the job, kind of old-fashioned
like I expected a poetry reader to have. "Lay down and tape your ankles
to the bed posts," I said. I glanced back at ML wondering if the word
should have been lie, knowing she would catch that kind of error,
but she just looked terrified. Jack gave me a look like he was humoring
me, but he started unreeling the tape. It was a double bed, so his legs
reached okay, but he was slow at taping and the result didn’t look too
secure. I wouldn’t dare let go of the gun to help, so I pointed it at
"Hurry up, and tape it right, or your girlfriend’s gonna git it." I
was starting to enjoy my role.
"Girlfriend? What?" He looked at ML, blank for a second. "She’s gay!"
ML started to squeal behind the tape, like she wanted to tear him to
pieces for calling her a lesbian.
I had to laugh. "Good try. Keep it up, asshole. What are you doing
"I told you I was stopping by."
I could see him searching his head for another lie. His mouth moved,
but despite his intelligence, nothing came out of it. Finally, he took a
breath. "Look, we can clear this up. Put the gun down so we can talk.
This is ridiculous."
"Oh, Mr. Information can’t come up with a lie fast enough!" I pointed
the gun back at him. "Tape your wrist to the top post."
He followed orders clumsily, and the time he took enraged me more. He
was muttering that he didn’t deserve any of this and that I was insane,
but I ignored him as usual.
"This is nothing compared to what they do on the internet," I told
him. I had him tear off a long piece of tape so I could hold the gun and
finish the last wrist. Finally I set the gun down, slapped a piece of
tape over his mouth, double taped the wrists, and then went back over
Now that he was taped up solid, I realized I had wanted him face
down, but there was no way I was about to start over. Face up might even
work better to get a confession. However, it was impossible to get his
shirt off like that.
I went into the kitchen to look for scissors and also found a bottle
of Cuervo Gold. Two quick shots and I felt adequate to the job. Jack
went white as the bedspread when he saw scissors in my hand. The shirt
was an ugly striped golf shirt, so I enjoyed cutting straight up the
front, watching his chin quiver. I pushed both halves back over his arms
to expose his chest. I opened his zipper and slid his pants partially
down his thighs and took my time snipping off the Fruit of the Looms.
Mostly I wanted to freak him out, not hurt him too much. He wouldn’t
have the nerve to press charges once his lies were exposed. I looked at
ML to see how she liked the look of lover boy’s balls right now, but she
had her eyes closed tight. She might have thought I was about to cut
those balls right off.
I heard yowling from the kitchen and went to get Purrzie. I felt
terrible I’d left him in that carrier so long. I took a second to pour
myself another shot. When I stepped back into the bedroom with Purrzie,
Jack’s eyes popped. He knew what I had planned—we were going to do a
little cat-hauling. "See, I remember everything you tell me," I said.
"This form of torture comes from so and so’s slave narrative."
I slugged from the bottle of tequila that I found I’d carried with me
and lifted Purrzie from the carrier. Jack was squirming, a frown on his
face, and I knew he was itching to name the slave I couldn’t remember.
No doubt, he thought I was drunk too, and I’d taped him wrong side up in
my usual dumb-ass way. "We’ll be working on your chest, so you can
watch," I told him, to set the record straight.
As mad as I was, I couldn’t imagine grabbing Purrzie by his tail, so
I held him under his armpits. "Now we’ll see if you have something to
confess." I pulled Purrz down Jack’s chest noticing the evenly spaced
stripes that immediately began to bleed. Jack moaned. Purrz was
squirming and sure enough trying to get a grip with all four paws, just
like the history book said. I held him a little lower to extend the rows
of scratches and realized he’d got a foothold into one of Jack’s balls.
It was an accident. The son of a bitch moaned real loud. Purrzie was
yowling even louder in my face, but even as I pulled the claws from
Jack’s right ball one by one, not a single word of confession came from
those lips. I closed my eyes and gritted my teeth in frustration. "I’m
listening--whenever you want to start!" I yelled.
Purrzie dug his left front paw into Jack’s dick before I could lift
him to threaten again, and it took some time to detach each hooked claw
without further injury. I didn’t want to ruin Jack for life. I had just
pulled out the last claw when Purrz broke loose, scrambled up Jack’s
chest, and leapt to the floor. I watched him dash into the kitchen to
Jack was still quiet, the damn fool. I looked back. "Shit!" The tape
was covering Jack’s mouth and he couldn’t say a word.
He looked to be passed out, so I ripped off the tape and gave him a
few slaps. His mouth fell open and some minestrone fell out.
I gave him a few more slaps. "Wake up, Jack," I said. "Now it’s time
for your fucking confession." I decided to play it like I’d planned it
this way, rather than have him think I’d been too stupid to take off the
In a minute, I realized he wasn’t going to wake up. I didn’t figure
he’d lost that much blood, but he must have choked on those words I
wanted to hear. That minestrone had backed up and clogged his windpipe
and nose. My cooking had killed him. I felt a black mood come over me.
ML was conscious. I ripped off her tape and stuck the gun in her face
to think, but I knew I had to kill her to get away with this.
She started to cry. "Okay, she said. "I’m sorry. I confess
everything. Please don’t kill me!"
Her confession was meaningless by now. I was in big trouble, and my
gun hand fell down by my side. The deed was done. The victory was
I left her taped there sobbing and coaxed Purrzie out from under the
kitchen table. Cat-hauling was better in the telling than in the doing.
The facts hadn’t given a clear picture. I realized I would miss Jack
when the shock wore off, even his stories. I put Purrzie in his carrier
and drove home.
The food is lousy in prison and the restroom facilities are
primitive, but I’ve had plenty of time to catch up on my reading. I even
found some of ML’s women poets in the prison library. Come to find out,
they’re all lesbians. Thinking back to the look ML gave me, I’m sure she
was sizing me up in a different way from what I thought. It’s possible I
imagined all the evidence.
However, one thing is sure. ML came out on top. She wrote to me that
she adopted Purrzie from the animal shelter--at least he has a good
home. Despite my mistakes, I feel like the smartest person here at the
prison. Being smart just isn’t the daily thrill I expected.