He hasn’t come home yet


Brynn Schanski

Droplets of water balancing on blades of grass that obviously have nothing to hide

Today began with the sounds of torrential rains pounding on the roof, even though I hadn’t slept at all during the night. 

I had spent the time scrubbing myself clean of yesterday’s events. My skin was raw and pink despite my obsessive use of lotion. 

Every surface in my home seemed to gleam in the grey light of early morning filtering through the large storm clouds. 

Large buckets of soapy water were just dragged out to the back porch and my arms were aching from exertion. Their brushes and rags were already clean and airing out. 

I decided to go get ready for the day, so I ground up coffee beans and started the coffee pot before going into the bedroom.  

The smell of the strong fragrant liquid began wafting through the house as I pulled on my dress and hung my pearls around my neck. 

I waltzed back into the kitchen just in time to pour the steaming hot coffee into ceramic mugs. One for me, and one for James—my good-for-nothing, android of a husband. 

He should’ve been bundled under the covers, puffing on a cigarette, almost lighting the quilt on fire. 

Every day he does the same thing: manages to trudge off to his accounting job at a firm downtown, wanders into the local bar, drinks a bit too much, and stumbles home to nurse a cup of coffee between his naps. 

He should’ve pushed through the front door by then. 

He should’ve been bundled under the covers, puffing on a cigarette, almost lighting the quilt on fire. 

But he wasn’t.

He wasn’t mumbling about my outfit or how the kitchen wasn’t gleaming. 

His fumbling footsteps weren’t on their usual route into the doorway. 

I was adjusting my necklace and tying my apron around my waist when the doorbell rang. 

I took my time crossing the threshold before pulling the door open. I was met with a solemn-looking police officer.

“Mrs. Smith?” the officer pulled off of his head. “May I come in?”

“Of course, officer,” I answered. “Is something wrong?”

We walked over to the couch and sat down. 

“Can I get you anything, officer?”

“No, no, I’m just fine. I am here under unfortunate circumstances…” he began.

“Oh no! Has Jimmy been arrested again?” I sighed. “I don’t know if we have enough saved to bail him out again.”  

“Mrs. Smith…” he started, “I don’t know how to break this news lightly, so I’m just going to go ahead and say it… your husband… James Smith… he was found with a bullet wound to the chest. Unfortunately, he already passed when we found him. I am so sorry for your loss.” 

At that, the world seemed to freeze. 

Time stopped. 

The world seemed muted. 

I felt as he put a hand on my shoulder. 

“I’m going to figure out who did this. The murderer hoped we wouldn’t be able to discover him for a while; he removed the teeth. We already found the murder weapon in the dumpster near the scene, and we’re running tests on it to see what we can find. Do you know anyone who would want him dead?”

“No!”  I gasped. “He is… or was… a good man. I just can’t believe he’s gone.” 

Somewhere during our conversation, the pouring rain slowed to a drizzle. 

“I’m so sorry,” he said, “but I have to get going; this criminal isn’t going to catch himself.”

He left without another word, leaving me completely and utterly alone. 

I stepped out to the front porch to watch him pull out of the driveway and saw the daily newspaper. 

On the front page was my dead husband’s face with an article quickly pieced together after the discovery of the incident. 

When inside my spotless kitchen again, I peeled the soaking paper away from my hand and it left ink printed across my palm. Only a single word was legible: murderer. 

They would never know that, of course. 

No one would question the dug-up garden bed. 

No one would question the laborious scrubbing. 

No one would find fingerprints since I was wearing gloves. 

No one would suspect a woman.