Monday, January 23, 2012

Abe Harding’s Wife (a sketch)

by RA Lindsey

There was a day some years ago when Abe Harding’s wife, Etta, found out he was spending a good-sized chunk of their hard-earned money on indecent favors with the neighbor’s wife.  It was the third strike – booze; gambling; and now, the neighbor’s nookie.  Etta immediately slammed the door on all that foolishness; leaving Abe with little doubt of the consequences should he stray again.  It was awkward, that fine summer morning when Abe had awakened, rubbed his crusty eyes until they focused, and found that he was looking up the barrel of his favorite twelve-gauge shotgun.  Etta was at the working end of it, saying they needed to talk.  So they talked. 

They talked about what a soulless culprit their neighbor, Sebastian Hunt was.  And what a nasty whore his wife was.  Then they talked about Etta’s troubles with the change.  And that was when Abe learned about another eminent change – he learned that Etta would no longer wrangle her hormonal inclinations to satisfy his manly needs; instead, he would be allowed to subscribe to one men’s magazine that he could keep in the chicken house.  And he learned that he would be allowed to tend the chickens as often as necessary. 

Etta also insisted that Abe buy a one-million-dollar accidental death insurance policy with a fraction of the money he’d been spending at the neighbor’s house, Etta making it clear that he should keep his eye out for a swift “accident” if he got anywhere near Missus Hunt again.  Abe decided it was a good arrangement.  Was thankful that nothing was said about Hunt’s two little girls.  Made sure the insurance policy premiums were paid in a timely manner, the actual policy in a safe deposit box down at the First National.

Etta Harding detested her husband with all her heart.  She had for years before she caught wind of what was going on with Missus Hunt.  She was not a proud woman, but she would suffer no fools.  She knew that she’d been no prize when Abe married her.  They had produced no children.  And there had been little joy between her and her husband for the endless days of their matrimony.  But Etta was a deep-rooted woman – a deal was a deal, and nobody was guaranteed a good deal in life.  So she rationed her detestation out a little bit at a time over the years to make it bearable, determined to hold up her end of the deal.  If need be, help him with his…

Abe never actually saw the insurance policy with his own eyes.  Never held it in his hand.  Never mentioned it to his wife.  Nor did Etta mention it, but it was in her mind a great deal.  Abe was, after all, an incautious man.  Ten years her senior, she figured it was money in the bank.  So when she heard the big explosion from the direction of Sebastian Hunt’s place she left her pie crust unmade on the kitchen counter and went to the front window to confirm that, as expected, her husband’s pickup was gone. 

His curiosity always had been insatiable.

Etta went to her easy chair and sat down.  The JC Penney catalog was there and she turned to a page that featured some fine curtains she had been admiring for awhile.  They weren’t on sale, but maybe that wouldn’t matter.  Her heart smiled at the thought of those curtains hanging on the living room windows. 

If this was grief, she figured she could live with it.

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