by Joseph Isaacs
“I don’t understand,” Robert said. “We were having fun.”
I chuckled. “I’m still having fun.”
The water had begun to boil. I ignored it.
It was time for something less comfortable, I thought, slipping off the night gown. I stood for a moment, completely nude, regarding my unremarkable body in the mirror, before donning my wedding gown. I had become quite proficient at putting it on and it hardly took me anytime at all, all the while Robert pointlessly screaming for help, his voice harmonizing with the boiling kettle, as he squirmed against the ropes.
I turned off the burner. “Stop struggling,” I advised him. “It will only make the ropes tighter. You’ll get those awful red lines in your wrist. Now how many creams and sugar would you like?”
I’d drawn the curtains almost fully closed, but I left it open a crack. Where was the excitement if no chance that I might get caught? A sliver of sunlight blinded him.
“Why are you doing this, Susan?” he cried. They always cried so much! It was part of what made it fun.
“Call me Mother.”
“You need help, Susan. This isn’t right.”
I shrugged. “Why do people always say that? I’m just different. Everyone leads their life the way they choose. This is how I choose to lead mine.” I poured the hot water into the french press carefully. I had to be careful. I already had a number of stains on the dress from previous weddings. I turned the dial on the timer for five minutes. It clicked away.
Robert was squirming, trying fruitlessly to untie the knot. Part of my hoped he would. Part of me hoped the police would burst in and stop me. Part of me knew what I was doing wasn’t right. Yet I couldn’t stop. I opened the curtain, just a little more.
Then with a sigh, I went back to murder.
“I’ll give you your coffee black,” I said. “We all drink black coffee eventually. We try to hide it with milk. With sugar. But it’s all black in the end.”
I liked philosophy. But my guests were always too scared at this point to have proper conversation. It was a shame, because Robert had quick wits. I had enjoyed talking to him about Zen Buddhism. He was into Mindfulness. A good practice to be sure. I took a deep breath now, savoring this moment. Then the timer went off. I plunged the coffee and poured it into my black Darth Vader mug. It had been a prank gift from my sister, but it was my favorite mug.
Father took us to see Star Wars the Empire Strikes Back seventeen times when we were children. It was his favorite movie. He didn’t like the first and third ones. “I tire of the constant need to pretend that the heroes win. Death wins in the end, children. Death.”
My father liked philosophy too.
I added no cream or sugar. Just a little bit of Mother’s special powder. It would bring on the sleep. It didn’t matter if he screamed. The kitchen was sound-proofed.
I brought the coffee toward him. I tried to give him a sip but he kept his lips sealed and bucked so the black liquid spilled burning his chest. He screamed as the boiling hot liquid hit his bare skin. He was quite muscular and handsome. Almost a waste to do this one.
“Will you stop making all that noise?” I asked. “You’re hurting my ears.”
“I don’t want this,” he said. “I too have a right to lead my life the way I want don’t I?”
This stopped me short. He had an excellent philosophical point. I liked death, he liked life. Who was to say which of us was right?
I sighed again. I was I was getting tired of the game. It was too easy. There were so many bodies in my basement and the stench was unbearable. And you couldn’t even go down their without tripping or slipping on something.
It had gone on for far too long. I had hoped the police would have arrested me by now, but they were too stupid. I missed my old prison. I considered releasing Robert but then shook my head. No good would come of it.
“Just drink,” I said, trying once again to let him drink.
He refused again, bucking and screaming as more of the coffee hit his chest.
The coffee was all spent so I put another kettle on. I opened the curtain a bit wider. I could now see the neighbor’s house. Old Cynthia was looking at me.
Then she disappeared. I imagined her calling the police on me. Maybe they’d get here in time to save poor Robert? I doubted it.
I stared at a picture of my father, sister, and I at the lake. I used to fish when I was a child.
“Let the small ones, go,” father used to say. I missed father. He had been a good man when his mind was straight. He couldn’t help what he did either, any more than I could.
Or could I? We are all in charge of our own destinies, he used to say. Was it true? I doubted it. I opened all the curtains fully now. Why? I’d never done this before. But I liked it! I felt the thrill of getting caught. I imagined the police thumping on the door, demanding to be let in. What would I do then? Offer them some coffee, mayhaps?
Light now streamed into the living room. Robert was crying softly. I felt a pang of sympathy. He did indeed like his life.
I dumped the grounds from the French Press in the sink and prepared a new batch.