Once, a married couple of ghosts haunted a yellow house with white trim in a suburb of a Northwestern town. She sat in a rocking recliner and smoked endless cigarettes, her eyes riveted on the tv. He sat similarly adjacent to her, but drank bottomless beers and listened to classical music on his stereo via a pair of headphones. He was mostly oblivious to her presence, being absorbed in his Khachaturian or Debussy, and also with his mind on another woman. At one juncture, the wife crushed out her cigarette and made as if to rise to her feet. She glanced at the husband, who was sitting motionless with eyes closed. She got up, a little unsteadily, righted herself, then shuffled into the kitchen.
It was late afternoon in mid April. By the kitchen window she leaned forward and gazed at the sunshine playing about her planted begonias, geraniums, and daffodils in their backyard. A hummingbird flew to the feeder and sipped the nectar. House sparrows, finches, and chickadees flitted here and there, heads twitching mechanically. The wife smiled a little ruefully at the life in the backyard, tapped her fingers on the sink basin, then edged toward the refrigerator. She knew her husband couldn’t hear her voice, so without asking she pulled out another Hamms for him. Pausing at his chair side, she tapped his shoulder and handed him the beer. He took it from her gratefully and plashed open the can. He adjusted himself in his rocker and tilted the substance to his lips, never missing a beat of the exquisite music that lullabied him. Then she returned to her seat, springs squeaking, and lit another cigarette. They then sat amusing themselves with their separate occupations.
At around four thirty, the bliss was disrupted by a loud knock on the front door. The woman heard it and started violently, losing the ash tip of her cigarette. She looked across at her spouse, who had heard nothing, and whose closed eyes had failed to see her agitation. He was absolutely oblivious to everything but his paradise. The knocking came again, and so the poor wife creaked up out of her chair and began waddling toward the front room. The tv blared away without a spectator.
One baby step at a time. She looked out the bare front window, seeking a sign of who it might be before answering. To her horror, she saw on the porch two men in khaki green with badges: deputy sheriffs. They waved and gestured for her to come out and talk. She forced herself to obey, making her way to the door, the floor snapping. She unlocked the brass knob and flung the portal open. But she didn’t go out to meet them. Instead, she waited nervously, smoking her pacifier in a blue cloud.
The more affable officer mounted the top step and peered within the doorway. He discerned a middle age woman who once may have been attractive. He observed her habit and decided she was a nervous wreck. “Good afternoon,” he began too loudly. “I’m Deputy Jones and this is my partner Deputy Smith. We got a call from a tech who was here earlier today. He was concerned for your safety and well-being.” The woman stood there taking this in. She remembered the repair tech, a young man named John. He had said something judgmental and left rather abruptly. Apparently he had reported her and her husband to the sheriff’s office. She dragged on the white cylinder and blew a cloud. There was something about the deputy she didn’t like. Perhaps it was the blunt bulge showing below his belt, directly in front.
“You are insufferable,” she pronounced suddenly, eyes on the young man’s crotch. “You only came to rape me and rob me. Jesus, what are you doing now? Dropping your trousers and uncoiling your prick? George, George,” she turned and shouted to her husband, “I’m being raped and you’re being robbed!” She heard no response from her spouse.
The officer’s face colored like a radish and he said, “I’m afraid we have to take you to the emergency room.” He nodded to his partner, who produced a pair of handcuffs from his belt and advanced to the top step. “Come along, ma’am. We’ll make it comfortable for you.”
The woman screeched, “But there’s nothing wrong with me! You can’t take me against my will!”
“Then I’m sorry, ma’am, we’ll have to take you by force.” And with that, the man pulled open the screen door and moved to seize the wife, who screamed raucously. There was still no response from the husband in the other room, his eyes still shut in bliss as he soaked in suds and the dulcet tones of Ravel.