AND THEN, SHE WROTE ME A LETTER • by James C.G. Shirk

Sometimes doors open, sometimes they close. On occasion, one will slam in your face while another will hit you in the hind-end — at the same time. Like, just today….

My wife, Adele, taped her announcement to the refrigerator where I’d find it (she knew I always grabbed a couple of cold ones on the way from the garage to the den when I got home late from work). She’d left notes there before, but never one in an envelope. Odd.

I tore it off, opened the fridge door, and noticed right away there was nothing inside except two beers. Being a bright guy, I immediately thought that might be a bad omen, so I looked around the kitchen. All the cabinet doors were open and the shelves were empty. No pots, no pans, no food, nothing. That definitely got my attention.

I grabbed the two brewskis and closed the door.

After popping a top and knocking back a few big swigs, I leaned against the island workspace and opened the letter. “Dear John,” it began. That almost caused nose bubbles, especially since my name is Frank. For a moment, I thought I might be in the wrong house. Of course, upon reflection, I realized I wasn’t — the garage door opener had worked.

She continued. “I’ll be gone by the time you read this, although, if for some reason you don’t find it when you come in, you probably won’t miss me until dinnertime.”

That much was true. We didn’t usually talk much until after I’d caught up with whatever game was on ESPN and relaxed with an inebriant or seven. A guy had to fortify himself to be in her company for very long, which reminded me….

I took several more long pulls on the can, emptying it.

The letter went on, “I’m taking Startles (that’s the cat — so named because he always looked at you like he couldn’t believe his eyes. That got annoying after awhile), but you can keep Mr. Poo and Alphonso (our two goldfish).”

She loved fish but hated those guys for some reason — don’t know why; I gave them to her for our first anniversary present. She got me a watch, so in retrospect, I think maybe she expected something… bigger.

I looked over at the tank. It was gone; something must have happened. Maybe it exploded and drenched the whole kitchen. That would explain a lot; however, I couldn’t fathom why it might explode. Oh well, stranger things… as they say. I also noticed that she left the two fish lying on the counter. They looked a bit dried out. Adele did have a mean streak, although she must have been in a good mood today, at least she didn’t let Startles eat them. I decided to give their remains a proper send off in the bathroom after my two beers settled a bit — no sense in making multiple trips; the water bill was too damn high as it was.

I popped the top of the second beer and checked the wall clock. Still about five minutes until game time. I continued reading. “Of course, you know why I’m leaving you,” it said. Actually, I didn’t. I thought she had taken Startles and gone out to buy groceries or get a new fish tank, not leave — as in never coming back — but I assumed I was about to find out why. She was nothing if not forthright. “You are a thoughtless bastard who never considers my feelings or what I want.”

Now that was harsh.

Just last week during breakfast, after she complained (vociferously I might add) about my Wednesday nights spent smoking cigars, getting drunk, and losing money at Eddie’s weekly poker game, I told her that he offered to move the game to Thursday night… if that worked better for her. See. I tried to accommodate.

She continued her own thoughts. “You take me for granted, and never give me the least bit of attention UNLESS (and yes, she did write that in capital letters) you want to get you-know-what from me.”

I had to read that part again. There were a lot of yous and mes in that sentence. What was she going on about? And then, I got it. Oh, yeah, I got it.

How dare she! I gave her plenty of attention. I mean after two years of marriage what did she expect? Hugh frickin’ Hefner? Once a week seemed normal enough. Granted, it was usually when I came home from Eddie’s, but half the time, she just turned away like I had leprosy or something. Why would she do that? So, don’t tell me I’m non-attentive. No sir, don’t tell me that.

A final line ended her rant (thank goodness, the kick-off was moments away). It read, “One last thing; I took all the money in our joint account. Have a good life, asshole.”

Actually, that was two things and a pejorative comment, but who was I going to quibble to about that? Thing is, they struck me very differently. We only had about three hundred bucks in the checking account, so the first thing was no big deal. That “Have a good life” thing, however, sucked.

She’d slammed the marriage door shut right in my pie hole. But, okay, I could live with that. Stuff happens. But then, the sensation of the second door ricocheting off my butt kicked in. I felt my knees weaken with the realization. There wasn’t anything left in the house to eat or drink, and worse… there wasn’t any way to get to the grocery and back before kick-off.

Talk about a real disaster.

I took a cautious sip of my sole remaining beer and glanced miserably at Mr. Poo and Alphonso. I wondered, Had anyone ever tried goldfish sushi?


James C.G. Shirk lives in the beautiful Pacific Northwest, between the Cascades and the Olympic mountain ranges, where he writes various genre short stories and labors on novels that satisfy him (if no one else).


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