Deadline

 

He wrote from experience but this time was different. His hand quivered as he checked his watch. His chest burned. ‘Running out of time,’ he thought. ‘Better hurry.’ His fingers fell to the keyboard, typing quickly:

Jill, slammed the front door – hard. “I’m home!” she announced.

John called over his shoulder, “I’m in the study…” Then under his breath added, “working.” His friends called him “John.” Stan at the ad agency, and Jill, his wife of six months, called him “Jack.” He quickly opened his work file.

“You better be working, Jack. You finish that thing for American Airlines yet?” She rummaged through a drawer in the kitchen.

He sat back and took a drag from his cigarette, blue-gray smoke twisting in the soft light of his laptop. The cursor blinked at the end of the sentence.

He knew he didn’t have time, but it didn’t matter. He gulped a mouthful of whiskey and closed the American file. It seemed inconsequential now. He typed:

Jill bounded up the stairs and into the study. She looked past him to his laptop.

“Working on the American project?” Her eyes narrowed to slits as she studied the writing on the screen.

He waited for her eyes to meet his, but she only stared at the screen.

“What the hell is this? She pointed an angry finger at the screen. “One of your stupid stories? You finish American?”

“Not exactly. I was taking… taking a break.”

She stepped closer, looming over him. “You better get it finished. The deadline is tonight.” She turned to the door and added, “Oh! Daddy talked to Mr. McGintry at the Mercedes dealership. I’m picking up the CLS Monday! Forest Green Metallic.”

He started to speak, but she cut him off. “Daddy got me a deal. Besides, it doesn’t affect you anymore.” She laughed dryly. “You just put that nonsense away and finish your assignment.” Her voice went shrill on “nonsense.” She stopped at the door. “You understand?” Her eyes narrowed. Bright veneers, new and menacing, gleamed through her smiling lips. “Get. To. Work.”

He thought of the airline ticket in the glove box of his car. He waited until she was gone, then went back to his story.

He reached for the whiskey but the pain in his side nearly stopped his hand. The Percocet was wearing off. The glass trembled against his lip as he slipped his other hand into his armpit. It was warm and wet. He washed down three more pills and continued typing:

He leaned back and admired his story, stretching his hands over his head, pleased with himself. He heard her blouse rustle an instant before the mule kick exploded against his side and white-hot pain shot through his chest. He took a ragged breath and heard gurgling under his shirt. Jill stood beside him. He coughed, then collapsed.

He came to, slumped at his desk, his face on the keyboard. Jill stood next to his chair, the steak knife in her gloved hand dripping red blots on the desk. Blood pulsed from the slit between his ribs. Each breath filled his chest with fire. In the glare of the pain, her teeth looked yellow, her lips cracked.

“I found your suitcase, you piece of shit.” Her tone was eerily calm. “You think you can leave me? Oh no! I could never let that happen.”

The screen slipped out of focus and he blinked his eyes. He had to keep typing.

“Where did you think you were going to go? Remember the prenup you signed, genius? I called Daddy. He already transferred your accounts. Go ahead. Write your stupid fiction, your stupid fantasy stories. Daddy was right about you; you’ll never amount to anything. And now it looks like you never will.”

The white came back to her teeth and she grinned, “You’re dying, asshole.”

He shook his head. She lay in the corner of the room, her head twisted awkwardly, a brilliant, scarlet gash across her throat. White powder dusted her hair. He typed:

He whirled around and leapt from his chair, grunting hard against the pain ripping through his chest. He clamped both hands on Jill’s wrist and drove her across the room and hard into the corner. Her head hit the wall in an explosion of plaster and her knees buckled. She dropped the knife and he straddled her as she screamed, “What the fuck do you think you’re doing. How dare you? You fuck!”

He reached for the knife. She stared at him, her lips pressing hard together. Her pupils were almost red. “You fucking…” He slashed the knife across her throat in a vicious backhand. Blood sprayed the wall. Her lips continued moving and mute breath gurgled from her neck.

He gulped air in short, agonizing breathes. His heart pounded. His vision went dark with each stabbing pulse that echoed in his temples. He dumped her purse and grabbed the Percocet, shook four pills into his hand, and struggled to his chair.

The dial of his watch slipped in and of focus. Blood ran down his thigh and pooled on the carpet, wet and matted under his feet. His finger smeared blood as it traced the words on the screen.

I just wanted to write… His lips moved but the words were only in his head.

THE END

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13 thoughts on “Deadline

  1. Tania Tome de Castro

    A story that interested me a lot!
    It reminds me a bit the stories of John Updike about couples. I really like the novels of John Updike.

    Liked by 1 person

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