Arsenic and the Truckers Wife
By Cleve Sylcox
The day started out like any ordinary Saturday for Mister Potter. He got up early, six a.m., ate a good breakfast of eggs, toast, and coffee. Then he got the leash to walk his dog and that is when he noticed, it was raining.
He could not go on his usual Saturday morning walk with his cayenne colored Basenji. This rather annoyed him. Saturday is his only day off really, and it is not much of a day off, with him needing to prepare for the road. He leaves the next day for where ever, so his clothes need washed, his food for next week bought, and he needs rest. He works six days a week as an over the road trucker. With Saturday, his only real day off and the other six spent on the road, he tries to cram all the things he likes to do into this one day, Saturday.
However, it is raining, and not just a light rain with a splatter here and there throughout the day, no, it is pouring and according to the weatherman on TV, it will be like this all day and through the night. Frustrated, annoyed, and furthermore disgusted at this he sits down on the stoop beneath an overhang and watches the rain pour.
To him it is a symbol, a symbol of his life. Always, and never at the same time is his life. He is neither happy for long, nor is he ever sad for long. He is, depressed always, melancholy, with a touch of regret and fearsome worry about the future and the past. That is his mind set. The rain as it pours out of the gutter splashes onto the brick driveway and spills out into the yard. “The rain,” he mutters, “…it is like my life, a wet, dreary collection of events that rush through me. They blend in with the rest of the garbage my life has become. Like the rain, it simple blends after awhile, one event no different from the other. Just another thing to make my wife unhappy is all.”
He gives the outward appearance of being clam, of having it together, while not letting anything bother him. While in fact, inwardly he is a collective gathering of jumbled nerves ready to severer and dissolve into mush. To start with, he has health issues. Not many and not major, just annoying enough though, that daily he wishes his life to end and then he would not suffer through another day. Everyday without fail his lower back aches and pains him. He must use a back support in a chair and cannot stand to long before his lower back begins shooting knife sharp pangs throughout his lumbar. Then it is his neck, an old whiplash injury, which can at times stiffen and freeze his neck into a rigid, almost immoveable position. This can occur without warning and with some effort; he can free himself by quickly turning his neck in one direction or the other.
He also has a bad right eye. A childhood-infected sty on his eyebrow caused a scar to form on his retina in the macular region. He has a blind spot that up until recently, his left eye was able to compensate. Age, though, has caught up with him. He is after all fifty-three. The scar has developed scar tissue over the years and now the blind spot is larger. He is worried that his driving days maybe over. They certainly will if his boss ever finds out. He knows the right thing to do is to quit and find another job. At his age however, and with unemployment at all time highs, he fears the thought of prolonged interruption of income. After all, over the past twenty years or so his employment record has not been the best, which his wife routinely reminds him.
His sons worry him. Like most fathers, he has no real reason to worry but he does. “That is what parents do,” he tells them, “…they always worry their children do not get the things they need or do the things that are right.” Most do, and his are not any different. He raised them well.
Then there is his wife and her constant fretting over finances. He pictures her sometimes squeezing a nickel to get an extra penny out of it. She works as a teller at a local bank. He sniffs at the thought of it, “Suits her…I guess.” He only wishes her to be happy. Over the years they stuck together despite their differences in child rearing, house keeping, money, and beliefs in the here after. Through it all, they maintained what he calls, an agreement to disagree. He does love her so.
Lighting crawls across the sky in a brilliant flash, and then the sound of thunder explodes sending a torrent of rain with it. He stands with some effort and pats his dog on its side, “Maybe next week old boy, maybe next week.” He turns and leads the dog through the front door and into the house. Closing the door behind him, he takes the leash off the dog and goes into the study. He will read the weekend paper and later do his laundry and go shopping.
Misses Potter awakens to the thunder and pouring of rain. Her mind is surprisingly awake for this time of day. She slept well, as well as can be expected sleeping next to him, the snoring machine. He hogs the covers and causes the bed to sloop to his side as he tosses and turns, pathetic excuse for a man. He is overweight, stays up late, and spends, spends, spends. Why does he even bother coming home? He is not making money here. At home, he consumes and he spends, spends, spends like washing his clothes with the detergent she so diligently shopped for? Eats the food she bought with her money. Then he packs it up in that box and takes it with him for the week. On the road, he calls it, please. He is out driving a truck, how hard can that be. After all, her friend tells her, she knows so and so that drives a truck and they make more money than this little man is making. He is useless. She throws back the covers and practically leaps out of bed. Her determination is clear; today she will make sure her plans succeed.
He is worth more dead than alive. This is true. He has an outstanding insurance policy from a national agency that will cover, not only his burial, but provide her and his sons substance over many years. In no means is it a fortune. However, it will be enough to pay off any debt he leaves them and plenty to see them through. She knows this, and so does he. What she does not know is Mister Potter as another insurance policy, not on himself mind you, but on her.
You see he often wondered what would happen if she were to pass away before him. He could not let the house go to the boys while he remained on the road, could he? No, he would sell the truck, and start a business of some kind. The policy is not even a tenth of his or what he would leave to her, but it is enough to pay off a few things, and start that whatever business. He turns the page of the paper to the financial section. He does love her so.
Misses Potter stands in the doorway of the kitchen, wearing her nightgown and hair in rollers, looking into the study where Mister Potter sits reading the paper. His short stubby arms hold the paper up in front of his face blocking it from her view. She sips her morning coffee while staring at him without saying a word. A smile rises from the corners of her mouth as a sparkle shines in her eyes. She can do it this morning. It will be quick and simple. No one will ever know it was she. A hard smack to the back of his balding head while he reads will leave him dead. “I can make it look like a robbery, a simple robbery. Everyone knows how he brags about having money stashed here and there. Maybe, some ill manner of a man over heard him down a Stubbs last night while he drank an ale, or two…yes, yes…that might work.” Messy though, the blood might stain her new carpet and the upholstery of the chair. Small price to pay but she still bites her lower lip at the thought of spending the money to clean them.
Mister Potter fluffs the paper keeping it upright to read. As he hears the footsteps of Misses Potter step away from him toward the kitchen, perhaps to refill her coffee, he lowers the paper and takes a sip from his coffee cup, “What a lovely morning this is going to be.” He thinks and with a smile, he watches his bride refill her cup. Then she approaches him carrying the coffee pot.
“Refill,” she asks.
“Yes, please,” his response is without hesitation.
She steps close to him and smiles, while pouring his mug full.
He smiles, “Thank you.”
“You’re welcome,” she smiles back then walks into the kitchen. On her face is a slight smile, almost un-noticeable, still the smile is there.
He also smiles in repose, as he watches her walk away from him. The paper has good news this morning; his stocks are up ten percent.
A clap of thunder rattles the nick-knacks on a shelf. The sky outside becomes thick with clouds casting the neighborhood in darkness, like night. Ran pours in buckets as Misses Potter steps outside to the detached garage. She is sure Mister Potter will not notice her absence he is busy reading.
The garage door is heavy and sticks a little as she raises it, then steps beneath it. The garage is dark, but she finds the old baseball bat easily enough It is covered in cobwebs and dust in the corner behind a pile of newspapers. She noticed it there a week ago while she was looking for a mouse that scampered in from the yard. She never found the mouse, but found the bat and toyed with the idea of using it to dispose of her problem. Last night when he snored, that hideous snore, she decided to utilize it. It feels good in her hands. The weight balanced as if made just for her. Without cleaning it, she rushes across the yard through the rain and into the kitchen.
She will make sure he does not suffer. One quick hard blow to the back of the head should do the trick. Quietly, she closes the back door and steps into the kitchen. Rain drips from her hair and runs down her face. She grips the bat tightly and grits her teeth as if all the hate in the world lived within her.
Peeking into the study she finds him sitting in his chair still reading with the lamp next to him turned on. Her focus is direct, her purpose without question in her heart and mind. He must die and she can go on living free from this useless incompetent. Her stomach twitches, turns hard within her. Bail lurches up her throat. She gags, returning to the kitchen. Her stomach twists hard. It feels as if it is folding inside of her. She drops the baseball bat where it clatters sharply on the ceramic tile floor. Falling to her knees, she gags holding her throat. She labors to breath then her mind goes numb and her sight goes black. Falling to the floor, she lay silent with her eyes open staring aimlessly at the ceiling. The baseball bat lay next to her with its cobwebs and spots of dust the rain had not washed away.
Mister Potter closes the paper and clammy stands. He folds the paper and sits it neatly on the corner table. He smiles as he looks into kitchen at his bride lying motionless on the floor. Her big brown eyes looking up at the ceiling and for a fleeting moment he almost regretted using so much arsenic. She must have suffered and he would not hope it lasted long. He does love her so.
He picks up the bat sittings it in the corner near the trashcan. Then he dumps both mugs and the entire coffee pot into a large trash bag, coffee grounds as well. He will dispose of them while out on the road, at a truck stop dumpster perhaps. Then he makes a fresh pot of coffee with an identical coffee pot and drinks a cup with an identical coffee mug. His plan is flawless, but he must hurry for it to succeed. One of his sons might pop in any minute and that would ruin everything. It must look like an accident.
Everyone knows how cheap she is and how absentminded she can be. His plan is simple. A few weeks ago, he discovered some arsenic based rat killer under the kitchen sink, a fine white powder that reminded him of powdered sugar. He simply replaced the sugar with the arsenic and made sure the two resided close together in the cabinet. He drank a small amount in his coffee to make it appear as if they both were poisoned but with her getting a lethal dose. He might suffer the same convulsions as she, but not deadly, a small price to pay indeed. He reaches under the sink, retrieves the rat poison, and places it on the counter next to the sugar bowl.
Thunder explodes and the lights go out. This startles him and he drops the coffee mug into the sink. As he reaches out to catch the cup, he knocks the bag of rat poison over in the sugar. Lighting flashes, but the lights remain off. In the dark, he gropes knocking the sugar bowl and the bag of rat poison completely over dumping its contents all over the counter. He pats the counter looking for a flashlight normally kept there but in so doing, he sends clouds of deadly powder into the air. In his panic, he pants like a dog in short, quick breaths. His patting becomes frantic, moving his hands around quickly in search of a flashlight stirring more dust into the air. Then the poison takes hold choking him, paralyzing his thoughts as paralysis consumes his body. He chokes then gags as his airway swells cutting off his air supply. He struggles for breath as his knees lock and he tumbles to the floor next to his bride. The convulsions do not last long, as his dose was much more than hers.
There, they lay next to one another, a peaceful scene of a man and his bride.
The clouds thin.
The rain lessens.
The house brightens.
The truckers Basenji curls on the floor next to them.
This would be the end of our tale but as it happens, they lay there on the kitchen floor for weeks. Rat poison has a tendency to dry up a corpse and inadvertently decrease the foul odor of decay. This lessened the chances of a passerby smelling anything and discovering the bodies. Also, their sons were both out of town. Neither one felt an overwhelming urgency when their calls went unanswered. Relief was the common feeling for both of them.
Henry Liter, a neighbor, found the bodies of Mister and Misses Potter. He found it odd that the garage door was partial open and neither Mister nor Misses Potter were seen for several days. He thought they were ill. So, he investigated and through the back door window he saw the dried up legs of Misses Potter.
Oh, and by the way, the dog lived. He had a large supply of dog food, and water he lapped up from the toilet bowl. Some of you might be thinking the dog lived off the remains of his master, but the arsenic made the bodies to dry for the dogs taste. Please no letters of animal cruelty.