by Alex Knight
I carried the plates to the dining room table. Normally on Wednesdays we would have meatloaf and mashed potatoes but there was something in the air and I had felt defiant all day. I wondered if there would be a ripple affect for changing the pattern of our existence and then decided it didn’t matter. He wouldn’t divorce me for serving meals out of order, would he?
Arthur eyed his dinner suspiciously although he had eaten my tuna casserole once a week for the last thirty-seven years. He had just never eaten it on a Wednesday.
“It isn’t Friday,” he accused.
“No, it’s Wednesday,” my sigh betrayed my impatience.
“I know it’s Wednesday; we always have meatloaf on Wednesday.” He made a disagreeable noise deep in his throat.
“Well I wanted to try something different.” It wasn’t something different; it was just out of the norm. Sunday was roast chicken, Monday was leftovers. Every meal, every night was the same as the week before. We never went out to dinner anymore; we hadn’t gone out to dinner once since our honeymoon. And so Wednesday became meatloaf night just as Friday was for tuna casserole. I couldn’t believe he didn’t see what a rut we had fallen into.
His eyes searched the table and then beyond. I knew what he was looking for. That was another issue; we couldn’t eat a single dinner without watching the 6 O’clock news. Tonight I had left the remote control on the coffee table instead of beside his cutlery.
“Where’s the remote control?”
My eyes gave away its location but I beat him to it; just barely.
“Put the News on.” He demanded; not even softened with a ‘please.’
“No! I want to enjoy a quiet meal for a change.” Perhaps if the squawk box wasn’t spewing out venom, thinly disguised as the 6 O’clock News, we could engage in a normal conversation. I tried to remember how long it had been since we actually talked to each other during our evening meal. How many years ago was it?
I saw Arthur eyeing the remote just past my right hand. I knew he wondered if he could grab it before I could stop him.
“Please, I can’t stand it.”
In that moment I couldn’t stand him. I had done nothing to be ignored like this and I had tolerated every mistreatment he had dished out over the decades. I dug in my heels.
“Arthur, the world isn’t going to come to an end if we don’t watch the 6 O’clock News.” A deep rumbling sound from outside kept me from saying anything else.
The house shook and we both grabbed at the control, sending it skittering across the table. When it hit the floor, the back popped open and both AA batteries flew out just as they always did. I found one and Arthur reached under the table for the other.
The lights flickered as he tried to insert both batteries. It took a couple of attempts but he was successful and he found the local news station. The news anchor looked terrified.
“As we announced at the top of the hour, we’ve never seen anything like this.”
“Like what?” we both yelled at the screen, not that it mattered; the power was out again.
The house shook again as my stalwart spouse crawled along the undulating floor to the front door.
“Arthur, please don’t go out there. We don’t know if it’s a terrorist attack, or what.”
“We’d have known if we’d been watching the news. Don’t worry, Beatrice, the world isn’t coming to an end.”
I shrank back as if physically struck and hated him more in that moment than I ever thought possible.
He pulled himself upright and swung open the front door. The shrieking heard from our usually quiet cul-de-sac was terrifying. The utter stillness that immediately followed was scarier.
“Arthur, what’s going on out there?” In a moment of madness I wondered if my defiant acts had been responsible for the chaos that ensued.
Obstinately, he refused to answer; it was so like him to punish me like this. Well if the world was coming to an end I fervently wished for him to go first, affording me some small pleasure at long last.
In the final seconds of my life I heard Arthur’s scream, cut off as quickly as it began and I gave thanks!