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Death in the Outhouse

by Ron Van Sweringen

It was midnight when Marge Knowles unlocked the kitchen door and stepped cautiously onto the back porch. The air was cold and a full moon hung frozen between the garage roof and a bare oak tree.

Marge didn’t like being outside late at night, too many bad things were happening in the world. Just pick up the paper: murderers were everywhere; who knows, maybe next door!

She felt a chill as she took a wet sheet from the laundry basket, pinning it securely to the old wire clothesline.

* * *

It was not her usual custom to do the laundry at midnight, but on the occasional night when she couldn’t sleep, she found it relaxed her. The swishing sound of the old washing machine was hypnotizing as she leaned against it in her nightgown, feeling the vibrating warmth of the hot water. She enjoyed watching the mounds of semi-transparent soap bubbles ride to the surface and get sucked under again.

She noticed absent-mindedly a pinkish hue in the water. Good, she thought, the blood was washing out, maybe she wouldn’t have to throw the sheets away after all. Of course she still had the problem of the body and how to dispose of it. If he weren’t so large it would be easier. She considered cutting him up, but then there wasn’t a decent meat knife in the utensil drawer.

Luckily there was all day tomorrow to figure it out. Things always looked different in the morning with a cup of hot coffee and a bowl of oatmeal.

The alarm on the dresser went off at seven-thirty the next morning and Marge sat up yawning. She would normally have been up an hour ago, getting Fred’s breakfast, but last night’s events had changed all of that forever. Marge lifted the sheet from her husband’s face and happily concluded he was definitely dead.

The hot coffee and oatmeal were especially good. She sat at the kitchen table looking out of the window. The small back yard had an old garage, a large oak tree and a slightly leaning outhouse. It took her a while to come up with the idea, but when she did, she couldn’t help smiling. After all the crap he had given her over the years, it was about time she gave him some back — literally.

She cringed when the kitchen clock struck eight, remembering the daily ritual of her life for the last thirty years.

“Cleanliness is next to Godliness,” Fred would lecture, picking up his brown paper lunch bag, when leaving for work.

“You know what happens to slackers,” he often remarked, the cold eyes in his round face boring holes in Marge. Yes, she knew what happened to slackers. The blue fist marks covering her arms and shoulders reminded her of what to expect when the house didn’t pass Fred’s nightly inspection.

Crumbs on the kitchen counter could bring his heavy work shoe down on her foot until she screamed in pain. A loose lid on the mayonnaise jar, brought a squeezed hand until her fingers were colorless and numb.

Fred had chosen her carefully. She was weak and from the beginning, did as she was told.

Yesterday’s punishment was the last straw. Marge realized she either had to kill him or lose her mind. She had not rationalized it as murder, but as self-defense when she took the large claw hammer out of Fred’s toolbox in the garage.

The rest of the day passed uneventfully with Marge doing housework and making sure everything was in its place.

“You’ll soon be in your place,” Marge mused to herself, running the vacuum around Fred’s bald head resting on the bedroom floor. His body was wrapped in a large beach towel that read “Stay at the Light House Motel, Atlantic City, N. J.” It was a reminder of the only vacation they had taken in over thirty years.

She was surprised at how easy it had been to kill him and wondered why it took so many years of pain and desperation to get up her nerve. One good whack on the head with the hammer did it. Of course, she used both hands to be sure. His skull cracked open like a walnut, with just a small amount of blood on the pillowcase and sheets.

The only thing left for her to do now was to get rid of the body. That would be taken care of tonight after dark; the neighbors wouldn’t see her dragging Fred across the yard to the outhouse. She had already poured a full bag of lye into the cesspool that morning. Nature would take its course and in a few weeks Fred would be a fading memory each time she paid her respects. What could be nicer? She smiled.

It was after eight when Marge finished the dinner dishes and dried her hands. Fred was already downstairs, lying in the hallway, ready for his final journey. “Serves him right,” she said to herself, slipping on her dark bathrobe. “He would never have paid for a hearse anyway.”

Luckily there was no moon when Marge dragged Fred onto the back porch. It was so dark that she stumbled on the steps and his bare feet flew up into the air. It would have been funny if Marge had possessed a better sense of humor.

Halfway across the yard, she had to stop and drop his legs again. A one hundred and ten-pound woman dragging a one hundred and ninety-pound corpse was not easy. It required real stamina and a good bladder, neither of which Marge had.

“Its only a little farther, I can hold it until then,” she said to herself, pulling Fred by his bare feet. Finally exhausted, she reached the outhouse door and managed to pull Fred through. With one final jerk, they landed inside on the wooden floor, Fred’s bloated corpse sprawled on top of her.

God, how she hated lying under him. Marge had put up with that for over thirty years and she swore this would be the last time. As she struggled to free herself from the mountain of dead weight, she heard a terrifying sound: the screech of rotting wood giving way under three hundred and fifty pounds of stress.

When the two fell, Marge thought she saw a smile on Fred’s lips as the lye-covered ooze sucked them both under.

“Sh—,” she whispered with her last breath.

Copyright © 2009 by Ron Van Sweringen

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