Short Story by Jeff Hill
I’m not the type of person who does this. At least, that’s what I keep telling myself as I wait in my dimly-lit office, nervously ironing the purple dress shirt my girlfriend bought me as a peace offering last week after the big fight.
Every thirty seconds, almost on the dot, I reach into my pocket and pull out my cell phone. Like I said; I’m not the type of person who does this.
A text from my son. He will not be joining the family for dinner tonight. Hot date. A text from my other son. He needs money. This is the last time. He promises.
No missed calls.
I’ve got nothing to worry about. If it all goes down the way I’ve planned, there’ll be absolutely no ramifications. Everyone’ll just go on with their lives, and no one’ll ever know. But still, my conscience keeps creeping up and throwing in its two cents. This isn’t me. I don’t do this type of thing. I am not this person.
Of course I am. Who the heck else would I be?
The office air conditioner’s broken, and I’m already sweating. It’s a natural occurrence for a person of my size. I get myself into these nervous fits, try to remain calm, but can’t, and the sweat always comes. It’s embarrassing, but I just can’t stop it. My girlfriend says it makes me more human and less intimidating. But that’s not what got me to this point in my life. I am intimidating. I am a formidable adversary.
The phone is set to silent, but it has been thirty seconds, so I reach for it and check again.
A text from my secretary. Party at nine. Don’t wear that stupid purple shirt. People are talking promotion. A text from my daughter. She is bringing her boyfriend to the party. Can’t wait. She loves me.
No missed calls.
I could still call this whole thing off. There is still time. No one would ever have to know. All I have to do is dial the number, go to the party, meet my family, and it’ll all be okay. But I know that isn’t an option. Not now. Not anymore.
As I finish ironing my shirt, the one my secretary hates, I put it on and walk over to the coat rack, where my blazer is hanging. As I reach into my pocket, searching for my wadded up tie, my keys drop onto the floor. I glance at the keychain my wife gave me the day I got my last promotion. The one that put us here.
The engraving is simple, lovely really. “SYLYBDC,” it says, something she always tells me when I leave for my long commute to the office. The same thing every morning. “See ya, love ya, bye. Drive careful.”
I pick up the phone.
A text from my buddy back home. The fishing trip next weekend is on. Should be a blast. Whole week off. A text from my girlfriend. She can’t wait for us to start our new lives together. She is so thrilled.
No missed calls.
I can’t do this…
I frantically dial the number I have dialed numerous times this week. I have to call it off. I have to.
It rings again.
No one answers.
I put the phone in my pocket, run out of the office and hail a taxi. I give the driver my home address. Sweating profusely, wearing the stupid purple dress shirt that will bring me nothing but grief at the party, and holding the keychain close to my heart, I reach for my phone for one last attempt to save my wife’s life.
And check the phone. One last time.
One missed call.
A voice mail.
Originally published in Eunoia Review in 2012.
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