The Printer

I remember that night like it was yesterday, it was a cold, snowy night, and the wind did not blow. The snow fell in big, soft flakes, straight to the ground, which was already covered in a soft blanket of the stuff. There was a half moon glowing so bright that you could see it behind the clouds , the kind that was so big that you thought it might collide with the earth, if it wasn’t careful.

I was sitting on the front porch – what an odd place to be on a cold night – and staring up at the flakes, and I remember it looked like they came from a black hole because they fell from so high up. I rocked in an old rocker, the very same that you would expect to find on a front porch in rural Maine, and thinking…thinking…thinking.

I had a family then, two children, Annie and Joseph, and my wife, my beautiful wife, Jacqlyn. I worked as a printer, and wrote in my spare time, although I was never really good enough to be famous like the authors who’s books I printed for a living. My shop consisted of myself, old man Arthur, who ran the place, and a young 20-something named Jim, who was new to the printing business, but a fast learner nonetheless.

I should have been happy, I paid my bills, I had a good family, and I had a warm house. but something was nagging at the back of my brain, it shouldn’t have been much, but it was, something I simply could not let go.

You see, I was a pretty particular fellow back then, the kind that would keep all his shoes in a row by the door, and do things in a particular order, and I had a pretty good memory as to what was where and what belonged where, if you know what I mean. Not much escaped my eye, and not much moved without me knowing, if you catch my drift.

I had come home late that night, for there was a large order of books to be filled for a New York publisher, and I was the main man at the shop, so naturally, I stayed. I’d say I stayed til about oh…11 o’clock, and when I went home the children were in bed, and my wife as well. When I walked into the door that night, I did my usual routine: I took off my hat and hung it on the coat rack by the door, shook off my coat and hung that, too, and stomped my boots lightly, to get the snow off on the front mat. I walked over to the kitchen table, and took a look at the mail. Bills, the day’s paper, and a letter from our church. I walked over to the sink to wash my hands, and froze.

You see, sometimes, my wife would leave the dishes in the sink, when she couldn’t get the children to bed until late, and would wash them in the morning. Now that’s all well and good, and I’m pretty used to that, but when I say that not much escapes me, and that I pretty much know what should go where, I mean it. And tonight, as I stared into that sink, I knew something was out of place, maybe more than just what was meeting my eye.

In the sink there were four glasses, four plates, and what’s more, two wine glasses, which is just a ridiculous thing because my wife only drinks wine when she’s with me, on special occasions. And on account of there being only four of us in the family, and account of me being at work so late, there was absolutely no reason for there to be four of anything in that sink. There should have been three.

I stepped back from the sink, and realizing that I wasn’t breathing, let loose the breath I held in my chest. I tried to collect my thoughts, much to my dismay. And here I found myself sitting on that chair on my front porch, rocking, and thinking.

My thinking did not last much longer than a quarter hour before it gave way to rage…the rage – the rage boiled as a pot of milk does: quickly, and out of control. And just as the pot of milk does, it crept up quickly, bubbling with suspicion.

I went back inside, and taking my boots off at the door, began creeping slowly towards the bedroom. There was a pounding in my chest like I’ve never felt, I could not control my own movement, and I passed through the dining room as if I was in a trance. I stopped and took up the poker from the fireplace, staring at it for a moment, and then continued to the bedroom, in a much more rushed state now.

My hands, my hands were numb. My face, too. My mind as well. Everything was numb, save the burning rage that had built in my chest. I passed by my children’s room, pace quickening, without so much as thinking about them. The rage had invaded every square inch of my thoughts, and finally I came to the end of the hallway, and burst through the bedroom door. My wife, my beautiful wife, sat up, alarmed. And as she stared at me with those bewildered, wide eyes, I swung the poker directly to the side of her head.

She sat there, never breaking her gaze, while I watched the life drain from her confused, horrified eyes. A single tear rolled down her soft, perfect face, and with her last breath she whispered the words, “Happy anniversary, darling”.

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