Halloween is over
If there is an opposite of blowing up a paper bag and then popping it, that’s how she opened the door.
She’d seen him approaching thanks to an app on her phone and he did not look like the type to be dropping off a package. A rough looking character to say the least. The word sinister popped into her head.
“Yes?” she inquired, giving off a sense of bottomless irritation. “At least he doesn’t look the type to want to introduce me to Jesus” she thought to herself.
The man stared at her. She stared back. The kind of staring that great fiction is built on.
“What do you want?” she asked him.
“I know your husband” he answered.
Her posture changed slightly. She thought she knew all of his friends and co-workers. “From work?” she asked.
“No. From earlier today. He picked me up while I was hitchhiking. I’d planned on murdering him.”
She gasped and took a step back. On a subconscious level she asked herself why she’d gone to the trouble of getting a camera installed at the door if she was going to open it despite there being an obvious felon lurking on her ‘I Hope You Brought Wine’ doormat. On a conscious level she realized in the flight or fight scenario she was definitely the former. Except her legs wouldn’t move.
“Can I come in?” the man eventually asked.
He walked by her and made his way to the couch, where he plopped down as if the next words from her mouth would be “Take a load off fella. Would you like a cold drink?” Those were not the next words she spoke. Those words were more along the lines of attempts at words. A garbled train wreck of snorts and sputters.
It began to get awkward, so he gestured for her to close the door and join him. She chose to stay frozen in place. He gestured again, this time his face clouded over. Dark clouds. The kind that hang on the horizon like a bruise.
She chose to join him.
“You see” he began, “After Halloween ends I like to treat myself to one random killing. I think it’s that damn Halloween theme song. Tubular Bells I think it’s called. It won’t stop running through my head until I’ve killed someone. Someone random. Random being the key part in not getting caught. So I stuck out my thumb on the side of the highway and your husband was nice enough to pull over and invite me into the car. Bingo.”
At no time during this opening salvo did she think to offer him a cold drink. If she would have had a gun handy, she would have definitely shot him. Or wanted to anyway. Based on the way she reacted at the door it’s anyone’s guess how that would have gone. Her hands were itching to show her feet that they would step up when needed.
Unaware of her desire to shoot him, although the idea wouldn’t have surprised him in the least, he continued on. “We hadn’t gone more than a mile when I announced my intention to kill him. Now, I’ve offed a lot of people in my time, but I’ve never had anyone react the way he reacted. He just looked over, resigned, and said he half expected it when he saw me standing on the road.”
If you’re beginning to get the impression that it was a one-sided conversation, you’re spot on. Occasionally her mouth would move in such a way that the casual observer might suspect that she was about to speak, but the words never materialized.
The man on the couch opposite her was not a casual observer.
“So why did you stop? I asked him. I had to know. He just looked at me and said the following… ‘eh.’ Eh. Then he shrugged. I’m telling you, it sent chills down my spine.”
She had trouble imagining anything causing the psychopath perched on the edge of her couch to get the chills. Not even if he was buck naked in Antarctica. She just assumed he’d sit down and take his hypothermia like a man.
“So I asked him if he was married and he said he was. I asked him if he was going to miss his wife. Well, I don’t want to get him in trouble, but he just said ‘eh’ again. Then has asked if I wanted him to pull over to do it. I mean… how fucked up is that. I knew at that moment I had to meet you. To see where… and how he lived.”
He looked around the room, at the pictures on the table and the portraits on the wall. The smiling faces.
She watched him look around and slowly her brain started to work again. She almost worked up the nerve to say something but then thought better of it.
“So… I told him that I might end up killing you instead.”
She started to tremble.
“Oh good. I was afraid you were going to say ‘eh.’ If you had… not sure how I would have handled it.” He laughed. “It would have totally skewed my opinion of suburban life going forward.”
The woman scooped up a Precious Moments figure, a boy and girl and a dog involved in some adorable caper or other, and began to wave it in front of her defensively.
“Now that is a Precious Moment. They really should make a figurine of this. The housewife fending off an intruder with a small porcelain nick-knack. I’m sure it would sell like hotcakes.” With that he let loose another laugh. A full-blown belly laugh.
“He said that you make him feel like the pumpkin that doesn’t get picked. Watching all the other pumpkins get sold, knowing they’re off to get carved and stuck outside the house for all the kids to see. I’m not sure getting carved up is all that it’s cracked up to be, but he seems to think it’s what all the pumpkins aspire to. I told him if he wants to know what it feels like to have a candle inside him he should try prison.” Another laugh. More of a chortle this time. “He said it wouldn’t provide the same glow. Your old man is an odd duck.”
Finally she spoke. “We’re all odd in our own way.” With that she straightened up and gave him a ‘present company very much not excluded’ look. She wondered to herself if ducks ever worry about being odd.
“Well, I really should be going now. I decided not to kill you or your husband. He’ll be in in a few minutes. I told him to give me fifteen minutes so I could talk to you. I took the keys so he wasn’t tempted to pull the car into the garage and leave it running. He’s sort of in that space right now. I’ll let the two of you talk things out.”
And with that he tossed the keys to her and left.
“Endings to be useful must be inconclusive.”
-Samuel R. Delany