Sometimes when I write a story, I look back on it for clarity. Are there typos? Did I tell the story I intended to tell? Is the main character coming across like I want him or her to? Is there a fuzziness surrounding the event that is actually happening in the story. Is it really murder?
Let me tell you a little story that happened not too long ago.
I'd had one of the most productive work days in a while. I admit, I stayed later at work than my wife expected me to, but she didn't seem overly stressed about her day when I spoke to her around noon. It was one of those late fall days where it gets dark outside before six in the evening. I told my phone to dial home when I was about half way there, but I got no answer. I considered that my wife was dealing with the chaos of the children and tried a few more times. Maybe she was in the laundry room or on the phone with her mother—God, that woman could talk an ear or two off. I hadn't gotten any alerts on my phone that anyone had gone in or out since a little after my wife picked up the oldest child from school. There were the usual door-opened buzzes and door-closed buzzes from the smart home alerts, but that wasn’t unusual when she made a grocery stop and then traveled in and out retrieving bags and boxes after getting the kids in the door and settled. It was no big deal. I'd figure out if she wanted me to run back out for dinner or had decided to cook when I got home. Going back out was a short trip for burgers and fries; and besides, all I had to do was ask the GPS for directions and follow that sweet voice to wherever I wanted to go.
I pulled up to the house and turned into the driveway. Everything seemed in order, except that the outsides lights didn't automatically come on. I asked my assistant to turn on the lights and she responded in a sultry voice: “Okay...” But no lights came on.
It was a fairly common glitch, I could probably fire up the laptop and resolve it later once I was under the covers. Either one of my home sensors was out, I had to restart the device, or reboot the whole network. It might even mean trudging downstairs, but that was par for the course. I sat in the driveway and checked my e-mail, a few social media accounts, and the world news sites. The system had most likely alerted my wife that I had arrived home minutes earlier—if the system was up. After checking my internet accounts, I opened the door to my truck and stepped out into the driveway. The kitchen light was on, but so was the one in the bedroom and the kids' playroom. Then I heard it.
The sound of a hammer was ringing out from inside. I don't mean the kind you hammer nails with, I mean a sledgehammer. The loud grunt of a woman could be heard preceding each strike of that hammer. I unlocked the door and walked in. The entry light was out, but I could see the glow from the kitchen as I walked through the foyer and down the length of the hallway.
I moved slowly along. I could hear the unusually loud sound of children's cartoons from upstairs. A squeal or two of laughter told me that my kids were enjoying the company of each other and the distraction of whatever they were watching. I had a pretty good idea that it might be a certain cartoon mouse. I thought I might try my usual friendly call into the kitchen. My wife had a tendency to slam things around when she was under stress, and she had been stressed as of late, mostly because she was working on an important creative project and had gotten virtually no sleep over the course of five days. I steeled myself for the drama. I used the assistive light from my cell phone to make sure I wasn’t stumbling over any toys or other domestic fodder.
"Honey," I called. No answer. The hammering continued. I rounded the corner and froze.
The scene was horrific. There were parts everywhere. But my eyes were confronted with the truth. There they were, pieces smashed and scattered with brutal intent: my mistresses (her title, not mine). She had warned me. She'd begged me to stop spending so much money on them and time with them. There they all were heaped on one another with trails and bits of debris thrown across the kitchen floor from the force of the smashing hammer. I yelled out my wife's name, and she stopped after slamming the hammer down one last time. Her hair hung in sweaty ringlets around her face. She glared at me and motioned at the mess she had made.
"Are you happy now?" She growled. "I destroyed you parroting magpies."
I looked at the floor in horror. Why would she do such a thing? My ladies had been annoying her for a while, and she always joked about how I spent more time in bed tending to them than her, but she had gone to extremes. There was no life left in them. They lay in ruins, their beauty savagely peeled away.
"What did you do?"
She pointed an accusatory finger at one of them.
"THAT one just kept saying the same thing over and over, and she wouldn't stop even when I told her to shut up."
She shot a second finger out at the mangled form of another one.
"And THAT one is silent most of that day, but then decides to spill her guts about everything that has happened all day at once…usually at the most inconvenient times when I am trying to either rest or work; she also cuts into my conversations without warning and interjects herself into all of my interests. The rest of them are just not reliable."
I was vaguely aware that my hands were on top of my head and gripping my hair in a gesture of helpless awe.
"We have to get rid of these."
She laughed. "I already did." I watched her walk around the pieces and open the refrigerator to pull out a bottle of wine. "Want some?"
I cringed and grabbed a broom. The more I swept, the more the carnage spread.
"We have to clean this up…the children."
She skirted around more parts and got a wine glass out of the cabinet, then shrugged and raised an eyebrow.
"Oh, they are busy, they didn't see anything, we can clean it up easy; no one even has to know. I won't post about it if you don't."
The clean up was messy: the bags, the time, the secrecy, the guilt,
the shame was tiring. My hands and conscience were dirty: the
sweeping, the vacuuming, the tears I cried while my wife helped
tidy up with a smug look.
Two weeks have passed since that terrible night, but my wife seems much calmer and reasonable. I was angry at first, but I don't hold it against her now. I am only just recounting this story to you so that I can get your opinion as a professional.
My IT guy glances into the bag and then fixes me with an incredulous stare.
“I can’t repair this; the devices are obliterated. I told you that if your wife was tired of the female voices, then replace them with like Darth Vader or something. You are lucky she just destroyed your inanimate tech.”
“But, I love my ladies.”
He rolls his eyes.
“Well, apparently she didn’t.”
I bow my head in silent repose as he chucks the bag filled with electronic destruction into the trash bin. I swallow and prepare myself to move forward with a resolute voice.
“So, tell me, should I get an upgraded automated home system now, or do you think it is too soon to get my ladies back up and running?”
He claps a hand on my shoulder and sighs.
“Say, man, have you ever seen the programming language for divorce?”