Editor's note: This is one of San Anselmo resident Susanna Solomon's many Marin Sheriff's log-inspired short stories. Solomon has had 13 stories printed in the Point Reyes Light Newspaper and Harper Davis Publishers will publish a collection of her short stories next year. including how she started writing the stories and that she studied engineering for seven years to earn a degree and job so she could leave her alocholic husband.
INVERNESS PARK: At 1:30 p.m. two people agreed to leave each other alone for the day. ---- Point Reyes Light, April 26, 2012
Mildred was delighted. Now Fred couldn’t bother her all day. She checked her chores: ironing done, kitchen clean. That left the garden.
On her way outside she picked up her tool bag and eyed Fred in his hammock. My oh my, he was getting bigger. His bottom was two inches off the ground. She’d been after him for years about his weight, but did he listen? Never. She lifted her 20-pound bag of tulips from Jackson Perkins, thought for a minute of asking him for help, but remembered. He was off limits.
She set her trowel and tulips on the dirt and crouched down ever so slowly. She’d called the sheriff for good reason. That doggone Fred had been pestering her to go out for supper and then said some ugly things about her cooking. Having just seen a BBC mystery where an older woman skewered her husband with a carving knife–she’d called the cops. And they’d agreed. She dug into the soft earth with a smile.
Fred, in his hammock, looked over at his wife with dismay. Forty years of marriage and he wasn’t allowed to talk to her? He’d only suggested a little respite from her cooking. Yesterday she barely cooked their chicken and the lettuce was wilted and brown. Then she’d yelled at him and pulled out the knife. He’d slept on the sofa.
He watched her bend over her little bulbs and talk to them as if they were people. Every year, it seemed, she became more and more of a nut.
Mildred couldn’t remember how deep to plant the bulbs--two inches or two feet. The dirt was soft under her hands, and she liked the feel of it packing her nails. Tulips reminded her of her mother. She dug deep with the trowel, and, pulling up dirt, saw something crawl onto her hand.
“Aaacckk!” She threw it off. It was a ghastly thing, at least three inches long, with horrible antennas and claws on all its joints. It looked like a lobster.
“Fred! Fred! It’s the most disgusting thing I have ever seen. Come here!”
“I’m not talking to you, Mildred–not today, not any day,” he replied.
“Make it go away. Kill it! Now!” Mildred shouted, falling over and scrambling back to her feet in terror. Her knee-highs crumpled over her brown oxfords.
“You’re the one who called the cops. You said, ‘Make sure my husband leaves me alone for the day.’ So, here we are. This is your problem, dear.”
“There are two of them now! Where’d you put the shovel?” She stood over a mound of dirt. Her bulbs were scattered on the ground. Those awful bugs were as big as her hands. She ran toward the hammock.
“N-no, get away from me.” Fred cautiously rolled one foot over the side, sitting up slowly.
“Off the ground, I’ve got to get off the ground,” she shouted and leaped.
It was too much for the hammock, which tore at the seams and dropped them both on the ground.
“Hey!” Fred cried. “Jesus, Mildred. First you call the cops, then you jump on me and destroy my hammock. Now, get off.”
“They were horrible bugs, as big as a taxi.” She held him around the neck, grateful for his bulk. “Please?”
“All right, all right,” he said. “I’ll go check.”
Fred stood up, thinking. “Not so fast. First promise you won’t call the cops on me--again. Right?”
“But you were being obnoxious,” she said, sitting up and brushing off her hands.
“Suit yourself,” he headed toward the house.
“I didn’t mean it.”
“Mildred,” he sighed. “What did you mean? You want me to go after the bugs or not?”
“Oh please,” she placed one hand on his arm. “Please protect me.”
“Now,” he narrowed his eyes. “What about that apology?”
“Sorry about the call,” she muttered, not sorry in the least.
Fred found two potato bugs crawling into the hole. He helped them into the neighbor’s yard. “You’re planting a little deep, darling,” he said.
“You think so?” she sniffed.
“You want me to finish this?” he asked, holding up a trowel and a few of the bulbs.
“Yes, if you please,” she answered. She eased back into her chair. “Thanks, Fred,” she mumbled. Another chore avoided. Even though it hadn’t gone quite as planned, the outcome had been worth it. She closed her eyes.