“Yes, i’m listening.”
“Well say something then!”
Ben considered his options. None of them appealed. Ah well. “Sheila, what is this about? Did you have a bad day at work?” That never worked, but he was out of ideas, and the result would be the same no matter what he said, so what the hell.
She crossed her arms and glared at him. “A bad day at work? You think i’m so simple that that’s all there is to me?”
Oh good. How to get around this one? This was another version of “does my ass look fat in these pants?” Jumping out the window might be an option. “No, of course not sweetheart, it’s just that you’re…upset, and I was wondering if you wanted to talk about that.” He mentally patted himself on the back for that one.
She continued glaring, then turned and stormed out of the room, slamming the door behind her.
Ah well, he thought, some silence wouldn’t go amiss. He rubbed his temples and thought about it some more. How long had this been going on? At least a month. The change had been so sudden, so dramatic. She wasn’t the woman he knew and loved. There was something she was pushing down, he was sure of it, but all attempts to get her to talk about it came to nothing. What was he to do?
She came back in the room and sat down and turned on the television. He sat there apprehensive, unsure whether to make a move. In a minute she looked over at him.
“Oh Ben, look at the cute little marmosets. They’re adorable!”
Ben looked up, startled. Recovering quickly, “Yeah, look at that. Cute.” What the hell was going on now? She was acting like nothing had happened. Oh well, never look a gift horse in the mouth. He decided to go for broke. “Would you like to go out for dinner tonight? We could go to that little Indian place you like so much.”
She beamed at him. “That would be great, Ben. You’re so thoughtful.”
Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose, Ben thought to himself. Hopefully it would be smooth sailing the rest of the night and he could get some sleep.
The next day Ben sat working at his computer, deep into a file he was editing when the phone rang. It was her.
“Ben, what did you do with my cell phone?”
Uh oh. “Hi darling. What do you mean, your cell phone?”
“My phone isn’t in my purse Ben. What did you do with it,” she hissed.
“Sheila, I don’t go near your purse. You know that. Maybe you left it somewhere? I…”
“Damn it, Ben, I didn’t leave it anywhere! I need my phone!”
“Sheila, I really don’t know any…”
He jerked the phone away from his ear as she slammed it down on her end. Here we go again, he thought to himself. There has to be a way to resolve this. He picked up the phone and dialled.
“Sheila, honey, listen to me. We need to talk. You’ve been…out of sorts for more than a month now. Please talk to me. I want to help.” He held his breath and waited.
“I’m fine Ben. I just forgot I put my phone in my jacket. Its nothing. I’ll see you when I get home. Bye.”
He looked at the phone for a minute and then hung up. Something had to give. This couldn’t go on. He had had fantasies. Bad ones. Of course he would never leave her, but when she got like this…an idea came to him. No, it was crazy. Maybe, though, just maybe crazy was up for it’s turn at bat. By god, he would give it a try. She needed a shock. Something to bring her to her senses. Make her appreciate the man she loved, the man she had married. There was a novelty store not far away…
When Sheila got home she noticed the door was partially open, which was odd. She let herself in and put her coat and purse away. “Ben? Where are you?” No answer. God, he was probably deep into some book or the paper. Why did he tune her out all the time? She stomped into the living room and stopped in her tracks as her hand flew to her mouth. Ben was lying on the floor face up with a knife sticking out his chest, his shirt stained bright red. She ran to him and dropped to her knees beside him, feeling for a pulse. She leaned down and started crying.
“Oh my god, Ben, Ben, no! This can’t be happening! This…” She lifted her hand where she had touched his shirt and sniffed it. She continued wailing and moved to a chair and sat down.
“Oh Ben, who did this? I’m so sorry. I can’t believe this. Here I was coming home to tell you about the doctor appointment I had. Now you’ll never know about the brain tumor I have. I only have a few months to live. I guess it’s not so bad, now we’ll be together again soon…”
Ben sat bolt upright, his eyes popping. “Sheila! What? Oh my god, you have a brain tumor?!” He jumped to his feet. “A few months to live?!”
She smirked at him. “Did you really think you could fool me with this little faked death scene, you jerk?!” She was winding up big time. “What the hell is this about? Is this your idea of a joke? You’re sick!”
Oh yeah. He was supposed to be dead. “How did you know?”
“Ketchup? You used ketchup for blood?” She was fuming now. “Explain yourself!”
“Well, I…” He needed time. “What’s this about a brain tumor?!”
“I don’t have a tumor, you moron! I smelled the ketchup, I was paying you back!” She advanced on him, and he backed up and landed on the couch. “Why do you hate me, Ben? Am I such a bitch you feel you need to scare me to death? What’s the matter with you? I try and I try…”
Ben closed his eyes and put his hands over his face. It was going to be a long night.