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"Twice Dead" by Joe Prosit
Funny thing about me, I love fancy coffee. You wouldn't think it knowing me. The guys at the shop swear by black coffee, no cream, no sugar. I've never told them I drink the fancy stuff. Don't get me wrong. I can drink a thermos of plainjoe like a baby with a bottle. Drink it all day at work. It's after work that I drink the fancy stuff. Macchiato mostly. Angela introduced them to me. Before she died, that is.
I made the decision to murder her about three months before she died. She took everything from me. Not material things, I mean. She was good at buying and accumulating things. She took my soul. So, in this state, with no death penalty, I figured I could off her, surrender myself to the police and live the rest of my life in prison. I wouldn't hurt anyone other than her. Wouldn't resist arrest or give the cops any trouble. Hell, I'd be polite. They got a hard job.
Or maybe I'd just swallow the barrel after I'd dumped all but one bullet into her stupid, empty, pretty head.
I got my fancy coffee from the local place in town, Caffeine Dream, right next to the mall. I'm a union guy, so I always try to support the little guys when I can. Small business and all that. Plus they make killer macchiatos.
That's where I was going to kill her. At Caffeine Dream. She brought me there years ago and insisted we meet there after work on Wednesday nights. Don't ask me why she wanted me to be there with her. She hated me. She never said it, but I could see it in her eyes when she looked at me and hear it in her words when she talked to me. She'd come to the shop during lunch, rattle off a bunch of sh*t she said I needed to do, call me names in front of the guys. Treated me like garbage. It's hard to get any respect when guys see your wife treat you like that. I had ambitions at work. I wanted to be a leader. A department foreman or maybe the union rep for the guys. I wanted them to respect me, but with her around there would be none of that.
Look. I'm not that great with words. Angela was smart like that. Some of the things she'd say, I'd have no comeback for. She was witty, you know. Not funny witty, at least not to me, but witty in a way that cuts and leaves you without something to say back. She made a fool of me.
That wasn't the worst of it. At home... Do I have to talk about what happened at home? I'd rather not if I don't have to.
So yeah. I meant to kill her. Right there in that god damn coffee shop. I liked the workers there and all. Probably would've liked the owner if I had a chance to know him. But the people?
The thing is, none of them really noticed anyone else. Even the people they walked through the door with. They were friends but not really. It was like how me and Angela would sit there drinking our fancy coffee and exchanging talk that meant nothing to either of us, pretending to care what the other one said but really just wishing the other was dead. I think it was like that for everyone there. No one there would give you the shirt off their backs. The most anyone gave was their spare change into the tip jar, and only then if the jar had something cute written on it. Nobody gave a damn.
So I wanted to do it there. I wanted to kill her and show all the rest that I did care. Things mattered to me. I wanted them to know that I needed more than smart aleck signs, polite conversation and fake smiles. I couldn’t take the fake smiles.
We met there every Wednesday at five, right after work. The Wednesday she died, I brought a gun. I have guns at my house. Rifles. Shotguns. My dad, God rest his soul, he'd bring me hunting every fall. Duck. Grouse. Turkey. Deer. You name it. This was my handgun though. Bought it years ago. A Colt 1911. A forty-five. I knew it would do the job. So I waited for her to show up and then I'd do it. Like I said, I'd made the decision months ago. It just took me that long to build up the courage.
I was nervous. Sick to my stomach even. God, that gun felt like a ton of bricks in my coat pocket. Felt like everyone in the place could see it through my clothes, like everyone wanted to look me in the eyes and accuse me before I even did anything.
But I made my decision. I was dead set on killing my wife right there in front if all those fake people. Then she goes and runs a red light and get t-boned in the middle of the intersection, right in front of the place. I saw it happen! Right in front of my eyes she plows through the red and gets nailed by a garbage truck. Couldn't believe it. DOA, man. Dead on arrival.
I ran to her as soon as I saw it happen. Left my macchiato and my wallet right on the table. My wallet had a note it in, telling the cops and anybody else why I did it in case I had any courage over to do myself. Anyway, I left that sh*t at the table and ran to where the garbage truck was crammed into the driver's side of Angela's Elantra. I had to crawl in through the passenger side. The door wouldn't open, but the glass was busted out so that was how I got in. Imagine how hard that hit must have been. The glass on the opposite side of the impact was busted out, for no reason other than sheer inertia. She was goners. Killed instantly.
Here's the weird part. I cried, man. Cried like a baby. I guess there was a part of me that still loved her, that wanted her to be safe and happy and not all busted up and leaking blood and this orange Tang-looking fluid out of her skull and on to the leather interior. I held her head but it just dangled limp, flopping from side to side whenever she shifted in my arms. That sh*t was hard to see. Harder yet to get out of my head. Seeing something like that... I don't know, man. It messes with a guy.
But here's the weirder part. The whole time I was inside of that wrecked up car, holding her dead body and crying like a baby? I was angry too. Real angry. And not because I loved her or would miss her or that some guy just killed her. No, man. I was angry because I wasn't the guy who did it.
This is probably the part I'll never be able to explain. I needed to kill her, just to be whole again, to reclaim myself as a human being. She broke me apart for so long, the only way I knew I could put myself back together was to blow her apart. I needed that. I needed that revenge.
And now some asshole in a garbage truck had taken that away from me.
Do you understand what that was to me? It was everything! I was ready to spend the rest if my life in prison just to be the one to put a bullet in her head. My house, my job, my place in the union, my ambitions... All of that. Hell. I know they don't serve the fancy kind of coffee in f*cking prison. No sir. No more macchiatos for me. But I'm telling you right here and now, it would have been worth it.
But what could I do? I put my gun away back in the closet. I kept my confession slash suicide note in my wallet. It was my sick little talisman of what I wanted to be. See, at the wake and the funeral and all that, people went on about how much I loved her, how good and kind I was to her. Her family loved me more in those few days than ever before. The whole time I had that note inside my wallet, right in my back pocket. I wanted them to know, but a funeral is no time to bring up the faults of the dead. You have to respect the dead, regardless of how much of a cunt they were in life.
I tried, man. I tried to forget about it all. Tried to repaint the past so I could be the properly grieving husband. I mean, I should have been happy, you know? That damn garbage truck had solved all my problems, right?
Only it wasn't like that. I was fooling myself if I thought I could let it all go. Dead or not, I still wanted my shot at paying back everything she’d done to me. Now, it felt like she’d gotten off scott free.
Then the Woman walked through the door.
I still went to Caffeine Dream every Wednesday evening after shift. Still ordered my macchiato. Sat at the same table even. Nobody there noticed that I was missing my wife.
There was a god damn lethal car wreck right in front of the place. One of the regulars was killed right before their f*cking eyes, and nobody seemed to noticed! Not that I cared. I mean, if they didn't care, why should I?
But like I was saying, the Woman walked into the coffee shop maybe two or three weeks after Angela was in the ground. This woman, you'd swear Angela had crawled out of her casket and dug her way up through the dirt. One quick trip to the salon and a shower to wash away the dirt and rot and she was ready for an espresso.
She wasn't Angela. I mostly knew it after first seeing her order a caramel cappuccino at the counter. There were slight differences. The Woman was a little more homely than Angela. Less make-up and designer clothes, but prettier for it. I mean, she was beautiful in that plain sort away. She looked like the lone real person in that sea of Barbie dolls and action figures.
She sat alone and read from her phone. Maybe she was texting or on Facebook or playing one of those games. I don't know. But she looked perfectly content there with her coffee and phone. She didn't fake anything with anyone else. She was brief with the kid behind the counter and quiet besides that. She tipped him well. Paper money and not just change.
My coffee was cold and almost empty, but I stayed there longer than usual just to watch her. I suddenly found myself trying to look inconspicuous. I mean, I'd sat there for a half hour before, not giving a damn what anyone thought of me. After she sat down, I started wondering if she saw me, if others noticed me watching her, if I was staring too long. I worried about what I should do with my hands, or if anyone could tell that my cup was empty and I was just pretending to take sips from it.
After a while, she got up and took her cup to the garbage. She threw away the cup and left the coffee shop. Angela always left her cup on the table, and following her example, I always left it on the table too. Are you supposed to throw away your own cups at places like that?
Huh. Well, I left my cup on the table when I followed her into the mall.
She walked like Angela. Had the same kind of stride. Same kind of figure. I'm telling ya, it could have been Angela. I knew Angela was dead, but god damn the mind can play tricks.
She worked at Mike's Sports in the mall. She wore khakis and a polo with the shirt's logo on it. A manager or something. She didn't work the till and spent most of the time talking to other younger employees or in the back where I couldn't see her. It made sense that she worked there. She had that sporty kind of look to her. Angela was always business-professional. The Woman was more, well, sporty. I told you I'm not good with words.
Anyway, I've never been the kind of guy to go up and hit on women at bars. Angela had to approach me, and that was a lifetime ago. But this Woman, I had to get closer to her. I had to talk to her just to know she wasn't Angela come back from the dead, because if she was... Well, I still had the note in my pocket and the gun waiting at home.
She worked more in the shoe department, so I shopped for shoes. Some pudgy kid asked if I needed help. I shook my head no and walked away. I just had to wait a little longer for the Woman to notice me. I bet I picked up a hundred different shoes. I twisted them and bent them. I squeezed them and fiddled with the laces. I didn't know what I was looking at. I hadn't owned a pair of shoes that weren't work boots since high school.
"Can I help you find something?" I heard her voice, Angela's twin sister if she ever had one.
I looked her eye to eye and wondered if she'd recognize me from the coffee shop. I cracked a smile. "Yeah, I guess I'm a little overwhelmed here," I said. That much was the truth anyway.
"Well, what kind of activities are you into?" she asked.
Here's where the lies began. They came to me easier than I was comfortable with. "I guess I'm looking to get back in shape. Maybe do some jogging."
"Okay. Then let me show you some of our runners and cross trainers." She was a great salesman. Made me feel like I was the only one in the store, you know. The way she smiled and talked it reminded me of before we were married. Me and Angela, I mean. She had a name tag pinned to her shirt that said what her real name was, but in my eyes it said "Angela."
We found a pair of shoes, expensive ones, but by that point she could have sold me half the swamps in Florida. Anyway, she went to help me try on the shoe we picked out. I was sitting on one of those little stools with the angled mirrors. She started undoing the laces on my boot. I made some joke about smelly feet, or being out of shape or something. I'll be damned if I can remember what I said but it must have been good cause she laughed. She boxed up my new shoes and sent me to the cashier. She told me to let her know how my new endeavor in fitness went. I assumed she was just being polite, but no, she remembered me later.
That night, in my house, I wore the shoes and broke them in. I have to admit, they were comfortable as hell. Like walking on pillows. But really, I wasn't thinking about the shoes. I was thinking about the Woman.
Gorgeous. Nice. Real. I'm telling you, she really looked like Angela in every way. I mean, not like identical twins, but they had the same kind of face, same kind of body, same kind of voice. Only where Angela was cruel and sharp, the Woman was friendly and soft. I wondered how much of it was her sales pitch. Maybe she was like that just to sell shoes, you know. It worked on me, right?
So I sat at my coffee table in front of a TV show I wasn't watching. I had the shoebox on the table, and the gun, and my wallet opened like a spilled taco. The shoes were on my feet. The note was in my hands. My note was no Shakespeare. It just said, "I did it because she took everything from me. I had nothing left and no one to give me anything to replace what she took. She had it coming."
I had to know if she really was different than the rest. I had to know if she was real when she didn't have something to sell.
I knew I couldn't approach her again at her work. I had to find her again at the coffee shop. The worst part was the waiting. I went back to Caffeine Dream every night after work, hoping she'd show up.
Each night I positioned myself so anyone who ordered a drink would see me as they waited for it. I knew I had to let her see me. I had to give her the chance to find me. That way I'd know she cared. I'd know she actually remembered me and it wasn't just another load of fake-person bullsh*t. Each evening I changed into my new shoes and waited until my macchiato got cold, then waited a little longer. Each night I went home alone and thought of her until I fell asleep. Some nights I jerked off thinking about her. Other nights I just laid awake.
I told you already that whatever I said while I was trying on those shoes must have worked, because she no-sh*t remembered me. I waited a full week, had all but given up, was starting to think about swallowing that barrel again. Then low and behold, she came back the very next Wednesday and ordered another caramel cappuccino.
She stood there right in front of me. I pretended not to see her. I watched her order and wait out of the corner of my eyes. I looked just past her so she could recognize me and believe that she was the one to spot me and not the other way around. My heart was pounding just as fast as it had the last time I waited at a table for my wife. I didn't have a gun tucked into my coat this time, but I might as well have. Then we caught each other's eyes, just as naturally as when you spot a friend somewhere you don't expect to meet them.
"Hey there," she said. "How goes the jogging?"
"Oh, hey. Didn't think I'd see you again," I lied.
"I see you're still wearing the shoes, so I guess they must be working," she said. She got her coffee from the kid behind the counter and said thanks. She tipped more paper money.
I lifted my foot up so she could see my shoe, just dirtied and scuffed enough to look like I'd been running a mile each day. "Yeah, they're great. Thanks for helping me find them."
She sat down at my table. I couldn't believe it. She had her phone in her hand but tucked it away in her purse. My heart was beating so loud in my ears I thought they could hear it across the street. She drank some of her cappuccino. It was my turn to talk. I was sure I'd f*ck that up.
"I had to start out slow, but it gets easier every time I run," I said. That's something someone starting out jogging would say, right?
"Uhh. I run in the morning, and some mornings, it's all I can do to just get out of bed," she said. "Are you still running from those ghosts?"
"Huh?" I said like an idiot.
"You said the only time you ran before is if someone was chasing you, and the only one chasing you now were ghosts, remember?" she said.
She remembered. I didn't remember. Was it witty when I said it the first time? It must have been. I chuckled like I was cool. Like I knew I was witty and funny. "Not as much as before, but yeah, those ghosts are still out there," I told the ghost chasing me.
She laughed. "You're funny."
"If you say so," I said.
She laughed again.
And just like that, all the bullsh*t faded away. I wasn't a creep anymore. I was just a guy this gal thought was funny. We talked about work and the weather and normal sh*t, you know? My heart was still beating like I had been jogging for a mile, but it wasn’t in the pending doom sort of way. It was more like exercise or excitement or sex. I even told her how I'd lost my wife- not about everything, but about the accident and all that.
She mewed over me like a wet dog she found in the rain. She told me how she was divorced and how lonely she'd been and how she knew how bad I must be hurting. I didn't tell her how I really felt about my wife. She didn't want to hear about all of that.
"I'm glad we bumped into each other again," she told me. "It's hard to be alone."
I smiled. "Yeah. It can be."
I didn't want to lie to her anymore. She was being so honest. No one had been that honest with me in my whole life. I started with the simplest a truths.
"I actually saw you here last week, before I bought the shoes," I said.
"Oh my God, what a coincidence," she said.
"Well, I mean, I saw you here and followed you to the shoe store. I mean, I was going to buy shoes anyway," I said. Already my truths mixed with fiction. "I mean, maybe I wouldn't have if you hadn’t been the one to help me in the store. I'm just saying, I thought you were beautiful before we ever met."
Her smile was fading. Her face twisted slowly like someone had put vinegar in her cappuccino.
"Let me explain. It's not like I was stalking you. I just, after I saw you and after we met in shoe department, I wanted to see you again. I needed to see you again..."
More vinegar in her coffee. Less sugar and cream.
"It's just that, you remind me of her. Of my wife. I mean, you're different than her in all the best ways. You're kind. You listen. You laugh when I tell a joke. You smile when you look in my eyes."
Only she wasn't smiling anymore. It was too late now. I had to tell her everything.
"I mean, before my wife died, I hated her. I was going to kill her. Honestly. I was. But you... You're not like her. Only you are, but in every way she was terrible, you're beautiful. You've been in my head ever since I first saw you. I've been waiting here every night for you."
I forced myself to make eye contact with her. At that moment, her smile was gone. Her warmth had frozen. Her beauty had turned into cold rejection.
"I said too much," I stated the obvious.
"I don't think I'm comfortable here anymore," she said and got up.
"No, Angela, wait," I said.
We were both standing now, me chasing this ghost. She turned on me. "What did you call me?"
"I... No. I meant..." I stammered.
She spun away and headed for the door. Over her shoulder she said, "I'm sorry. I'm sorry for your loss. This isn't what I thought it was."
"Wait," I said too late. She was out the door. No sense chasing her, shoes or no shoes. I went back to our table and threw away our half full coffee cups.
I left Caffeine Dream like it was any other day. No one noticed my heart break for the second time. No one paused their endless pointless pseudo-conversation. All the fake people just keep on jabbering with all the meaning of a dog chewing peanut butter for a movie camera.
When I went home that night the shoebox and gun were still on the coffee table. I opened my wallet and found the note. I didn't bother reading it. I knew what it said. But I fiddled with it like a worry doll. I folded and crumpled and smoothed out the small sheet of paper, and then I'd do it over again. And again and again and again.
Angela had abandoned me and robbed me of the one thing I wanted from here. The Woman had abandoned me and robbed me of everything else. Between the two of them, they took everything. My brain ran hot. I was furious. I was so angry, you could never understand just how pissed I was.
Thursday night, I didn't bring the gun to Caffeine Dream. I didn't Friday or over the weekend either. Each night, work or no work, I went to the coffee shop and ordered myself a fancy cup of macchiato. It didn't taste the same anymore. I might as well have brought my thermos full of Folgers and let that get cold in front of me. It would have been cheaper. Not that money mattered anymore.
She might as well have taken every penny I'd ever earned. I wasn't an employee worth keeping on the job anymore, let alone a guy they’d promote to foreman or union rep. The guys started to keep their distance from me. The Women had even taken them away from me, that hard earned brotherhood of my co-workers. How could they take everything and then just walk away?
By Monday I lost track of who was who. Angela was the Woman. The Woman was Angela. Who was I kidding? They were both the same. That was when I started bringing the gun. I brought the gun and the note, and I wore my new shoes. The Colt 1911 didn't feel so heavy those few days. It didn't feel like the middle school erection I had to hide from the rest of the class like it had before. I was comfortable with it there, jabbing into my ribs. I was set. Determined. I knew my fate. I just had to wait for Wednesday.
When Wednesday rolled around, I was mostly worried that she wouldn't show up. I didn't want to have to go into Mike's Sports to find her. I would if I had to. But I wanted it to happen here, right in front of all the people who watched my soul die in front of their eyes so they could see me physically die too. It was only fair.
She showed up that night just like I knew she would. This time I sat towards the back so she'd have to look to find me. I figured that would be her last chance. If she came through the door, looked for me and smiled when our eyes met, it would all be forgotten. We could forget how things ended last time and start fresh. Everybody deserves a second chance, right?
When she came through the door of Caffeine Dream, she didn't look up from her phone. She'd forgotten about me. It was like my second year of marriage all over again. Only I saw it coming this time. I controlled the situation, and I wasn't about to let her torture me again for another five years.
She walked through the door, eyes on her phone, engaged in whatever text or Facebook or game was on the screen. She was still beautiful, in that sporty kind of way. Khakis and work polo. Hair in a ponytail. Just a little bit of makeup. Everything Angela was not in all the ways that didn't matter. Sure, she looked happy and nice from a distance, but inside, they were all the same.
She ordered her caramel cappuccino. I abandoned my cold macchiato and got up from my table in the back of the shop. My hand went inside my coat and gripped the big Colt 1911. My plan was simple. My note was already laid out on the table with my cold fancy coffee. All I had left to do was point the gun and dump all but one round into her stupid, pretty, empty head. I took big strides straight for her. She still didn't notice me.
"Angela!" I called to her.
Finally, she looked my way. I pulled the gun out of my coat. Her face turned sour. All I had to do was lift up the barrel and finish the job, but the forty-five felt like a brick again. Worse. A boat anchor at the bottom of the ocean. As long as I looked into those eyes I couldn't lift it.
This Woman, she was my last chance at anything decent in my life. She was hope and love and joy. How could I kill her? How could I hurt the only thing I had left? I thought for one brief moment that maybe it wasn't too late. Maybe we could still be something together.
I didn't notice what she'd taken out of her purse. I just felt every muscle in my body clinch all at once. I felt cold macchiato turned to warm piss leak into my pants. I felt the gun tumble from my fingers. I felt the back of my head smack against the hard tile floor.
I had no idea what happened. People were screaming. Someone yelled “Gun!” Two big guys dog piled on top of me and pinned me down. One of them put me in a full Nelson. The other called me a motherf*cker. Maybe they knew me better than I thought.
It didn't take long for the cops to get there. The Colt 1911 lay on the floor a few feet away from me. Angela stood at the other end of Caffeine Dream while I was held down and hogtied. The taser she’d used on my sat on the floor in front of her feet. She kept looking at me and shaking her head no, no, no. I remembered seeing her dead in the Elantra after the accident, and I remembered how her head lolled from side to side, limp and indifferent. She didn't look much different now than she did then.
I didn't really break down until the cops told her she could leave. They called her ma'am and said she could follow them. That she didn't have to worry about me ever again. Other cops were tightening my cuffs and hauling me to my feet as they led her away from me. I tried pulling away from them but they were too strong. I called out to her. I had to say something. I had to let her know how I really felt. I called to her, "Don't leave me again! Angela! I love you!"
She glanced back just one time. I saw the cold judging face of my dead wife, and then she was gone forever. That's when she died to me for the second time, right in front of my eyes. So go ahead. Lock me up and throw away the key. Either bring me her head or take mine. Just don’t let me die in here while she’s still living out there. Is it really that much to ask for a little justice?
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+1 ... A very nice bit of writing. The narrator gives us a glimpse into the mind of a psychopath, made all the more eerie by the matter-of-fact way in which the story is told. The reader finds himself both pitying and abhorring the narrator at the same time. This is not an easy device to pull off successfully, but in my opinion the author succeeds in this instance.Melanie_Page wrote:This is seriously good, congratulations.
This is an excellent example of why I thought this new forum would succeed. For as long as I have been coming to this website I have talked about, and heard others talk about, the writings of published authors. I was absolutely certain that among so many erudite readers there were sure to be found excellent writers as well. This is the first story of this new forum I have read and I already feel vindicated that my beliefs were on the mark.
― Steven Wright
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