By Leigh Collins
He stomped around the cluttered yard, kicked the cat, wishing and pretending that it was his wife that felt the edge of his boot. Instead it was some pitiful yellow stray, looking for a meal. He knew his wife was looking through the darkened window of the house, knew she was watching him, could feel her eyes on his back. The neighbors might be too; he was yelling loud enough for anyone within shouting distance. But he didn’t care. He was glad for the witness of other ears and eyes. How dare his wife sneak food to strays when she damn well knew he couldn’t stand the smell or sight of the fucking things. He wanted the neighbors to know who was boss, who ran the show. Let them hear about his wife’s stupidity. They would understand his hardened rage at the cats, his wife, the fucking neighbors themselves for listening. There was no sneaking around his house, no challenging his right to relax in his own home.
He liked his wife just fine, most of the time. Most of the time she listened. When he spoke he expected her to listen good and hard. He could tell if she wasn’t; her eyes would drift off, distracted by some damn cat, and he would have to call her eyes to attention again. Attention to him—the one talking, the one who had something important to say. He would have to remind her, like an indolent child, to look at him. He didn’t care if she never really spoke; an affirmative nod of the head or a small “yes” was usually enough. After all, he didn’t need to hear her two cents, he knew what he was talking about.
The only time the silence bothered him was when he had finished yelling. She stood mute except for the occasional “yes I understand,” her stupid face looking like it was ready to burst open. He wanted her to yell back! Get angry! Say something about how fucking sorry she was for the cats pissing, shitting, starving, dying in his yard from dog bites. Anything that would give him more reason to yell other than the fucking nothing expression on her puffy streaked face. Instead she went inside, shoulders hung. He made sure she was watching, peeking at him, when he yelled.
He knew the night could stretch. He sensed the dark weight of his anger on her back. He decided that he would speak to her only if he needed something. There would be no niceties. No asking her how her fucking boring day went. He really didn’t want to hear about it anyway. After all, what did she do? Cook, clean, blah blah about her mother, the neighbors. Usually it was all fine, if she didn’t mention any problems. Why the hell did he need more stress in his life hearing about other people’s business? He had his own shit to deal with! Home was his place to relax. Why should his bitch wife bring more problems in than he needed? Especially if they weren’t his! She was enough to deal with as it was, sneaking behind his back with those fucking straggling pissy cats.
She peeked through the slits of the brittle yellowed blinds, positive that he couldn’t see her. His face was a throbbing red verging on purple. His movements were erratic, almost comical, as if directed by an external force. He reminded her of his father, a larger than life, foul-mouthed man, a vile drunk who complained more than he liked to work. His yelling continued, garbled cuss words spattered with spittle, arms flying hysterically. The gangly sixteen-year-old she had met twenty-odd years ago was lost. Back then he would adamantly declare he was going to be different, could see all the flaws, the cruelty, was ready for a change. So convincing was he, they had married not long after.
The abrupt kick of the cat caused her to jump away from the window causing the blinds to rattle from the sudden slip of her fingers. Moving swiftly, she went into the kitchen, fingers searching blindly behind the cupboard tins to make sure it was still there. She could feel the soft edge of the envelope, tucked in safely; she had finally saved enough. She hurriedly left the kitchen before he came through the backdoor, not wishing to feel the blast of his words. She knew that hunger would soften him up or she would apologize, make the peace, at least until morning when she was setting to leave. Engulfed by relief, she would long be gone before he got home from work. The only remorse she felt was for the cats.
He knew that he would eventually come around, be nice, maybe after she had gotten up the courage to say sorry. She was weak-natured after all. It could take all evening, but he didn’t care. He didn’t want the burden of trying to talk to her anyway. After he had made up with her, maybe he would tell her he loved her. He would have to say again, just a few times to get through, how much he hated the fucking cats. He wondered if she could actually understand how he felt? He decided that he would apologize for yelling when he was getting hungry . . . if she hadn’t already. That way she would cook his supper and he could relax in front of his favourite shows while she cleaned the dishes. Yes, that was the routine that always worked. Like he told everyone, he loved her just fine. She was the luckiest woman in the world to have him. He worked hard to support her and give her a nice home, a home without fucking cats.
Leigh Collins currently lives in Corpus Christi, Texas.