Oh, for the Good Life

by Ron Van Sweringen


Mildred Wright took her last peaceful breath on Saturday evening, as Lawrence Welk’s champagne bubbles floated through the living room. A pillow held over her face from behind quickly smothered her weak screams. The television screen continued reflecting in her wide-open glassy eyes, until William Wright turned the set off.

“It’s about time,” he smiled, examining her at close range through his thick spectacles.”I won’t have to sleep next to your cold feet again tonight.”

The fluffy mound of black fur curled up in Mildred’s lap did not move. The cat’s grape-green eyes watched William shuffle down the hallway in his undershirt and suspenders. A slight hiss escaped the animal’s open mouth as its claws dug into Mildred Wright’s lifeless body.

At exactly eight o’clock the next morning, William dialed 911. When the operator answered, he calmly informed her, “My wife has died. I think she had a heart attack after I went to bed last night.”

Within half an hour of his call, William answered a knock on his apartment door. An overweight detective with a cigar stuck in his mouth flashed a badge at him. “Where is she?” he asked in a cold, detached manner.

“In the living room, in front of the television set,” William replied, pointing the way. His eyes were blood-shot and his eyelids red and puffy from the Tabasco sauce he had rubbed on them a few minutes earlier.

“How old was she?” the detective asked, talking into a small tape-recorder.

“She was 66,” William replied with a sigh. “Ten years older than me,” he continued, reaching down gently to put his hand on hers. “She was a dear soul, I don’t think I can go on without her.”

Suddenly the black cat in Mildred’s lap hunched up its back and with hair on end screeched as its claws dug into William’s hand.

“Damn!” William screamed at the cat, cradling his bleeding hand. “I should have killed you too while I was at it!”

The silence was astounding as William ended his outburst. He looked up slowly to find the detective’s eyes boring holes in him.

“What can I say?” William sighed. “I smothered her. I needed the one hundred thousand dollar insurance money to start a new life on the beach in Mexico, sipping piña coladas and chasing hot señoritas. It was my last chance for the good life.”

“One hundred thousand,” the detective replied, “that’s a lot of money.” He dangled a pair of shiny handcuffs in front of William.

“Oh God,” William moaned, his spectacles fogging up, “what have I done? Now I’ll spend the rest of my life behind bars.”

“You got that right,” the detective replied, chewing on his cigar and shaking his head. “Unless you think fifty thousand apiece would be enough to swing it, that is.”


Copyright © 2010 by Ron Van Sweringen

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